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‘The Dilemma of Master Werenfrid’
Impressions of Chapter 33 of The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolf
Reading from pages 195-198 of Shadow & Claw
Five Legs
The narrator, the older Severian on his throne, spends some time justifying the relation of the next event in his life to the reader, continuing to use the artifice of analogies drawn from the lives of the torturers, one of whom, a certain Werenfrid who was so poor he accepted payment from the enemies of the condemned to make him suffer at the block and from his friends who wanted him to pass in dignity and that he managed to stage the execution so that each party was standing to either side and perceived a different event. This segment of the chapter is of great interest to the reader who is also a writer. The discussion delves into artistic expression in general, again with the executioner’s simile:
“…if he is to feel full satisfaction at the moment when Time lifts his head own severed head by the hair, he must add to the execution some feature however small that is entirely his own…”
Severian, sleeping under the stars with is companions, has a powerful dream in which the instructor from his childhood quizzes him concerning his faith in God and his knowledge of the “the seven principles of governance.” The entire dream reminds this reader of Emperor Constantine’s vision prior to his signal victory, suggesting that Severian the Autarch is presenting the dream as evidence for his political viability:
“Of what kind, Severian, is your attachment to the Divine Entity?” asks the ghost of his dead Master comes to him in dream.
The naïve torturer is being prepared to act on a larger stage than he can yet conceive. His waking moment is appropriately sentimental followed by the impinging invalidation of the waking world.
DoomFawn: Four Tales of Alienation
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