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‘The World-River Uroboros’
Impressions of Chapter 15 of Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer


Reading from pages 95-101 of Shadow & Claw

Baldanders

Reminiscent of Ishmael’s entry to the Spouter tavern in search of a bed in Moby Dick, Severian finds himself with an outlandish bedmate. There is no real introduction to the giant bedmate known as Baldanders. Rather the author’s protagonist learns of the world of the ocean in a dream, a dream populated by the massive sea nymphs known as the Brides of Albia, with breasts like battering rams and posteriors that would break the backs of bulls, Albia being an aquatic being from the far stars that was once brought back and released in the deep, from whence legend has it he will rise to devour Urth, continent by continent.

Severian questions the veracity of his dream even as he bobs like a sea horse in the depths:

“You dream; but were you to wake from your making, I would be there,” spoke the internal avatar to the once-drowned boy become a man.

The dream transforms and continues as a vison of a wooden man dueling a marionette boy on a tiny stage as combative effigies in miniature dancing across a kerchief-sized stage in his mind, apparently a divine revelation that he unwittingly served and contested great forces.

At last he is awakened from his dream by the entry of an eccentric figure, his bedmate’s master, one Dr. Talos., who has a knack for drawing into his manipulative orbit—being a vaudevillian style stage manager himself—those lost souls, such as giants and executioners, who might serve his manifold purposes, saying to Severian:

“You have humor! That’s excellent! There are few advantages, I tell you, that profit a man more than humor. Humor will draw a crowd. Humor will calm a mob or reassure a nursery school…”

Now fallen into companionship with a worldly man, the twice-orphaned torturer takes time to reflect on that man’s slave, the giant Baldanders, “I’m awake, Doctors,” His face was large and course but sensitive and sad as well. “Have you decided to kill me at last?”

Diction of note

-punk, smoldering tinder

A White Christmas

https://www.amazon.com/White-Christmas-Tales-Ghetto-Cheer/dp/1541304713/ref=sr_1_110?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511041369&sr=1-110&refinements=p_27%3AJames+LaFond

https://www.amazon.com/White-Christmas-James-LaFond-ebook/dp/B0764FQD24/ref=sr_1_70?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511039445&sr=1-70&refinements=p_27%3AJames+LaFond

Add Comment
I need an aliasApril 10, 2019 5:17 AM UTC

I think I need to reread The Book of the New Sun novellas. It was long enough ago that I feel that missed so much... and I never did read the books that came after.
responds:April 12, 2019 8:32 PM UTC

Your alias should be The Knew Son, I think, and I also missed much on earlier readings.

Wolfe is a treasure.