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Fifth Head Concordance

[All numbers refer to the Scribners Edition of FHofC. The Roman numerals indicate whether entry is first found in I, The Fifth Head of Cerberus; II, "A Story," by John V. Marsch; or III, V.R.T. The second listing denotes page number. See Conversion Table for alternate editions.]


abos short for aboriginals, the native humanoid inhabitants of Sainte Anne. There appear to be at least three different phenotypes, with further divisions being made on the basis of shape-changing ability--doubtless a Darwinian response to predation pressures, and where mimicry of other forms would have conferred a selective advantage. One form is still massively pleiomorphic; hence their ability to transform themselves into altogether different forms, both animal and vegetative (witness the anecdotal accounts relaid by Marsch about how various abos looked like dead wood; VRT's catgirl is another example). Another form possesses this ability to a much reduced degree, being capable of only small changes (e.g.,VRT's mother; the stone-colored abos). Doubtless, in a less predatory environment like the mountains, full pleiomorphism would be unnecessary and deviations away from it would not be deleterious. Lastly then are the Shadow Children, smaller-statured nocturnal abos, who by evolving size- and color-wise (they are dark, like the night) have not needed pleiomorphism to survive--or perhaps they have simply morphed to their present phenotype, since there is evidence to suggest they still retain shape-changing abilities. Unfortunately, neither the Terran colonists nor their descendants have been particularly circumspect in preserving either abo culture or lives, and the abos themselves have warred with one another. The abos, for whatever reasons, have little manual dexterity, which is how they may be discerned from genuine human beings. At least one human-abo hybrid may exist (though this too is suspect), so reproduction between both Terran and Annese may be possible, reinforcing the notion that an earlier, prehistoric wave of human migration has taken place in the galaxy (a theory cited by both Number Five and Marsch/VRT). Commentary: much of what Wolfe writes about the abo experience is consonant with the Australian model, including the concept of alcheringa or dreamtime. Other elements, in keeping with Wolfe's Celtic heritage, recall Druidic practices.

Annese the more politically-correct version of abo, though it too fails to distinguish between the different variety of abo; a native of Sainte Anne.

Augier a farmer on Sainte Anne, mentioned by the beggar Roy Trenchard (III, 192). Possibly after Emile Augier (1820-89), French dramatist.


back of beyond abo term for the more rural, less populated countryside. The outback.

black cat one of two Poesque visiters to make an appearance in V.R.T., both to "Maitre." The cat is a large black tom, one-eyed and double-clawed, and hails from a nearby cemetary (II, 161). Commentary: The cat, with its monocularity and blackness, is straight out of Poe's "The Black Cat," where its name is Pluto, playing off the cemetary aspect: i.e., a feline king of the dead. Still another semi-biographical note: Wolfe attended an elementary school named after Edgar Allen Poe.

Bloodyfinger an abo elder, and leader of John Sandwalker's little kinship group (II,125). Commentary: Since the resemblance of Sandwalker to Bloodyfinger is noted, he is obviously a relative. Father is my best guess, making him the "fictional" equivalent of Roy Trenchard (since Sandwalker clearly represents Victor). Blood being red additionally identifies Bloodyfinger with Roy Trenchard, whose hair and beard are red.

Mary Blount an 80-year old woman interviewed by Marsch near Frenchman's Landing. Mrs. Blount was born on the starcrosser Nine-Eight-Six just before it began its 21-year journey from Earth to Sainte Anne (III, 144), and grew up with children of both the defeated French and local Annese. Blount probably derives from blought, meaning swollen, plump (Mrs. Blount implies she's large.) Damian Broderick also reports there was an Edward Blount involved in the Colonial Office of Australia, who although a minor figure was in favor of Catholic Emancipation. Commentary: Mary Blount's account is extremely significant because it allows us, I contend, to deduce that Sainte Anne may originally have been a penal colony. This conclusion is mainly derived from the name of her ship, the Nine-Eight-Six. Blount tells us it is not the first of its kind to launch, but one of the earlier. She also mentions how she's heard that ships at one time had names, not numbers (which she believes would have been prettier). The only other association we have with numbers in VRT--and it's a frequently-repeated one--is used in conjunction with identifying prisoners by their cell numbers. (As Victor notes in prison, "We call ourselves usually by our cell number, which gives the location and is the most important thing, I suppose, about a prisoner, anyway.") Might therefore the Nine-Eight-Six be a single large cell? We also have the penal-colony association already invoked by the abo-Australia connection, as well as Mrs. Blount complaining somewhat bitterly about how the local French girls, who, despite their shabby clothes, were much more likely to draw the attention of boys than she did dressed in her finery--perhaps because she was child of penal colonists and early discrimination existed.

Burning Hair Woman a constellation in the abo skyscape (III,154).


Cassilla a slave used for sexual favors by two separate military officers at a garrison outside Vienne, (1) a major; and (2) the junior officer assigned to review Marsch/VRT's case. She and the latter fornicate while he listens to taped interrogations of Marsch (III, 143). Commentary: Michael Andre-Driussi hazards Casilla might derive from cassis, Latin for a metal helmet, and hence "little helmet girl," a name denoting that the person is a military camp plaything. Michael also keenly notes she appears to be of abo extraction (hence validating Veil's hypothesis). For starters she appears to be a sexual thrall, as was V.R.T.'s mother; she also possesses the same degree of minor pleiomorphy, able to alter her appearance to look older. In addition, the scene where the junior officer ablutes himself post-coitally parallels that of Victor doing the same in a wilderness pool, after he's trysted with his abo catgirl friend.

cats a veritable clowder of cats slinks its way through 5H, ranging from actual real animals (tire-tiger; cemetary cat), to metamorphs (Victor's abo catgirlfriend), to fairy-tale (Puss n' Boots), to ludicrous (a civic Inspector of Cats), to metaphoric (the house of prostitution as cathouse). Wolfe also describes Aunt Jeannine as a cat and resurrects the old saw about how "to a blindman, all cats are gray." Commentary: Why all the felinity? Cats have nine lives and the novel revolves around everyone having other lives.

the Cave Canem an alternate name for the establishment run at 666 Saltimbanque by the various generations of Wolfe clones, especially as used by schoolboys of Phaedria's acquaintance. Sometimes truncated to just the Cave (I, 40 ). Commentary: One of Wolfe's more delicious puns. While seeming perhaps to be merely an alternate name for Maison du Chien, it's Latin for "Beware of dog." 'The Cave,' in turns, plays off both sexual and plutonic imagery.

Cedar Branches Waving a woman of the Free People, who bears twin sons, John Eastwind and John Sandwalker (II, 79). Commentary: as there appear to be quite a few semi-autobiographical moments in "A Story," some aspect or attribute of Cedar Branches Waving may obtain to V.R.T. or the rest of the novel, but I have found nothing concrete.

Cerberus the three-headed dog who in classical Greek mythology guards Hades. A statue of him exists just inside the Maison du Chien.

Cinderwalker according to Dr. Hagsmith, an abo shaman who restores to life not only animals killed on the traintracks, but a cattle-driver's wife. The latter's tale is one of the few lighter moments in FHofC (III,150). Named for the abo's habit of patroling the railbeds.

Coldmouth a port on Sainte Croix, perhaps at a juncture of river and ocean (III, 241).

Constant Marsch/VRT's chief interrogator, never seen, but only heard on tape or via transcription (III, 197). Probably a military man. Alice Turner notes that constant has a number of specialized meanings, from math to physics, and cites Constant as an unknown man of the Jabez variety. I also feel its antonym is significant, i.e., variable--a quiddity the Wolfe clan is anything but. Commentary: At one time Constant seems to be on to Marsch/VRT, having perceived he's an abo in disguise. When Marsch suggests his scribbled writing could be photocopied, Constant replies, "Ah, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" (II, 140). Constant, however, never voices this suspicion elsewhere and apparently takes no action on it.

the Country of Friends one of several mentioned possible homeports from which Homo sapiens pangalacticus sailed out to colonize the stars. Commentary: I'm now speculating Country of Friends relates to the Aztecs.This is because Texas--where Gene Wolfe grew up--is derived from the Indian word "texia," meaning "friends." And since Texas was once part of Mexico, it's possible the Country of Friends generally refers to Aztecan civilization. This notion also plays to several other aspects. (1) It has the GW autobiographical element we see so often in FIFTH HEAD. (2) Many pseudo-scientific theories would have us believe that [a] the Aztecs, Toltecs, Incas et al. are all survivors of the Atlantean catastrophe, or [b] were contacted by, or are descendents, of prehistoric space-travelers. And (3) many of the MesoAmerican Indian tribes were also cannibalistic, as are the Annese.

Robert Culot There are two: a grandfather and early colonial, now dead, and his similarly-named grandson, who operates the finest clothing store in Frenchman's Landing. The latter is interviewed about the abos by the anecdote-hungry Marsch (III, 147). From culottes, French for short pants. Commentary: another of Wolfe's twins/doubles motif, this time involving names (it also recapitulates some personal history. (See VROYT.) Wolfe, via Constant, also seems to be cueing us as to how he uses names to describe some attribute of a person, in this case occupation, because Constant accuses Marsch of fabricating the name, using it transparently for just this purpose.


David blond-haired, blue-eyed half-brother to Number Five, and heterozygous son of Maitre. Hebrew for beloved, perhaps indicating he was a child of love as opposed to clonal decoction. Commentary: Several mysteries obtain to David and his linkages to various figures in the book. (See The Lady in Pink.)

M. d'F another of Marsch's interviewees, who tells the anthropologist about abo sacred places (III, 151). Possibly, suggests Michael Andre-Driussi, from Jack Vance's CHATEAU d'IF. Commentary: a most mysterious figure, having nothing attributed to him besides hand gestures (possible link to Mary Pink Butterflies?). He is, however, the first person to name Roy Trenchard and accuse him of chicanery in alleging an Annese heritage.

Dead Man a planet in the abo sky, perhaps more dully colored (II,81).

Dollo's Law an actual tenet of evolutionary theory, formulated by the Belgian biologist Louis Dollo (1857-1931), also known as the Law of Irreversible Evolution. It basically states that organisms cannot re-evolve along lost pathways, but must (because the same fortuitous train of mutational events, being totally random, will never repeat) find alternate routes. Whales, in other words, will never again walk on land with re-evolved pelvic appendages that derive from the current remnant structures that correspond in us to legs. They might however evolve appendages that derive from other biological provenance--especially if there were some pressure to do so, say, if the oceans began to dry up. While various non-Darwinian theorists have attempted to use Dollo to promote their cause, Dollo was simply seeking to explain convergence of form in diverse species (e.g., icthyosaurs, dolphins, fish). (III, 208). Commentary: Marsch/VRT uses Dollo's Law to explain how he learns to use a pencil, but it also plays an important role in decoding one of Number Five's dreams (I, 42). In the dream, Number Five is imprisoned in a courtyard, the paving stones of which are mortuary tablets featuring the names of his ancestors (a church like this exists in Port-Mimizon and it is probably where most of Number Five's family is buried), and with columns too narrowly spaced together for him to squeeze through.There are words written on the columns, but only one of them is discernable: carapace. As Wolfe makes sure to tell us in V.R.T, Dollo's Law is based on the study of fossilized turtle carapaces. Thus the dream combines elements of stasis, death and unattainable goals; possibly also implying that the various Wolfe clones, having forsaken their consciences, can never reacquire them.

Mademoiselle Duclose the landlady of the boardinghouse where Marsch/VRT resides in Port- Mimizon. Unflatteringly, selon Marsch: "An old, gray-haired lady with a fat stomach." (III, 173) close is French for closed, shut, finished, complete. Commentary: the instructions issued to Mme.Duclose by Marsch's arresting officers pertaining to the disposition of his room and effects are wonderfully Kafkaesque.

Dupont a lawyer mentioned by the scurrilous Roy Trenchard (III, 192). French for "of or from the bridge."


John Eastwind the Annese twin brother of John Sandwalker, who, though he appears to be washed away in the river just after childbirth, survives, and becomes a shaman of the marshmen (II, 79). Named so by Cedar Branches Waving because an east wind is blowing at his birth. Commentary: Eastwind is another of Wolfe's many twin/double figures.

End-of-Days a stream crossed by Marsch and VRT in the back of beyond (III, 157). Commentary: End-of-Days is the abo equivalent of what the French call the Rougette and the English Running Blood. The name, plus what happens at Running Blood, suggests a genocidal massacre of the Annese.

eoliths VRT: "By sisterworld's light I have been looking among the rocks for implements--eoliths. I have found none." (III, 239) Commentary: Eoliths are chipped stones of the late Tertiary Period formerly held to have been made by humans, but now known to be products of a natural, nonhuman agency (chiefly frost-abetted shatters.). I submit these are the so-called Annese artifacts Victor and Roy sell at their stand, and that the duo make an annual pilgrimage into the back of beyond to collect them every spring. I also believe the quoted entry above--which comes after the murder of Dr. Marsch-- suggests Victor may have returned to Roncevaux and not spend the entire three years he claims in the back of beyond.

Celestine Etienne a tall, attractive woman with blue-violet eyes who also boards with Marsch/VRT at Mme. Duclose's. It is she who is given a pass to visit Marsch in prison and later we learn she is a spy for the government (III, 173). Celestine probably relates to her eye color (there are several blue minerals so named) or there may be some connotation with 'heavenly.' Etienne is French for Stephen, which means "a crown." Commentary: I contend that Celestine Etienne is a major behind-the-scenes figure, being both the mother of David and Phaedria, and the mysterious "lady in pink." (See The Lady in Pink.) It's also more than possible that Celestine is an abo--witness her relative youthfulness (VRT speculates she is 27-28, making her rather young to be the mother of Phaedria/David), plus her association with prostitution. Possessing the ability to appear younger--something Celestine shares with her sister abos Three Faces and Cassilla--neatly resolves this difficulty. [My thanks to Sean Whalen for suggesting this.]

Evenstar a sailing vessal bound for Port-Mimizon. It carries the decision of the junior officer assigned to review Marsch/VRT's case: i.e., Marsch is to remain a prisoner of state (III, 241).

Eye of Cold a brighter star in the Abo firmament, used for navigational purposes and therefore probably fixed; a pole star (II, 102).


Fifty Mile Creek a stream crossed by Marsch and VRT in their journey through the back of beyond. Its abo name is Yellow Snake (III, 157).

The Fighting Lizard an Abo constellation, especially important to the Shadow Children: their creation myth pinpoints "a little yellow gem" in its tail as their original home (II, 88). Commentary: The "little yellow gem" we learn in V.R.T. is Sol, the sun of Earth.

the Fingers on Sainte Croix, a number of peninsulas that constitute the larger Hand (III, 241).

Fingers at My Throat a captive marshman's name for John Sandwalker, owing to the latter's stranglehold about his throat (II, 106).

First Finger the peninsula adjoining the Thumb on the Hand. Port-Mimizon is situated between the First Finger and the Thumb (I, 9).

Five Flowers an abo constellation (II, 81).

Five Legs a "bearded" abo constellation, perhaps implying nebular or interstitial galactic material (II, 86).

Flying Feet an adult male abo in John Sandwalker's kinship group. Possibly his father (II, 125). Commentary: Victor Trenchard's father Roy often advertises himself by his nom d'abo, Twelvewalker. Victor also tells a folktale imitating Dr. Hagsmith where the abo's name is Trackwalker. It's hard not to attribute walker with feet, and no doubt is a semi-biographical link between the fictive and real worlds of VRT.

Foxfire a Shadow Child, but only so named when his fellow Shadow Children number five (II, 125).

Free People how the hillmen abos designate themselves (III, 238).

Frenchman's Landing a city on Sainte Anne, built on the banks of the Tempus, about ten miles from sea, and used chiefly by farmers and stock-raisers as a port. Dr. Hagsmith notes whistfully the city never achieved any sort of greatness, despite the better wishes of its citizens (III, 179).

"Frogtown" Victor Trenchard's contemptuous name for a small French settlement in the back country (III, 155). Commentary: Victor may be expressing some hostility here about his father, who claims French descent (unless the town's actual name is Grenouille). It is also here that Victor and Marsch begin to be trailed by what Marsch believes is a stray farm cat, but who is actually a shape-changed abo girl that Victor both copulates with and kills.


Girl Running a small stream encountered by Victor and Marsch, aka Johnson River (III, 157).

ghoul-bear a terrible carnivore on Sainte Anne described as being part hyena, bear, ape and man, with powerful jaws and legs, and known to despoil graves in its quest for food (III, 222). Commentary: we meet the ghoul-bear (or its nearest cousin) again in Wolfe's New Sun series, where it's called an alzabo.

Gondwanaland cited by both Number Five and the Old Wise One as being the source point of Homo sapiens pangalacticus, which in prehistoric times colonized the stars, including the world of Sainte Anne. Commentary: Gondwanaland is the name of the giant hypothetical proto-continent from which our current continents derive, the latter having split off and drifted to their modern positions due to tectonic plate seismics.


Dr. Hagsmith an amateur, English-speaking folklorist interviewed by Dr. Marsch, who relates the tale of Cinderwalker (III, 149) Etymology: Uncertain. Constant believes Marsch's use of the name is fabricated and betrays Marsch's misogeny. (Marsch has just told him, "Most medical men seem to employ their skill mostly to prolong the lives of ugly women.") My best guess, however, is that hag relates to "the stump of a tree after felling" (OED). The abos believe they can be impregnated by trees and their religion has druidic/dryadic elements. They are also described by Robert Culot as sometimes looking manlike, sometimes looking like dead wood (the latter no doubt an attempt to escape detection via shape-change). Thus Hagsmith might allude to the doctor's folklorist background, where he's trying to keep alive tales of the semi-extinct abos, or quite possibly he has treated them in his capacity of a physician.

the Hand a handshaped landmass on Sainte Croix consisting of a series of dactylic peninsulae.

Hatcher a Shadow Child captured with Sandwalker, and one of the first killed by the Wetlander abos (II, 124).

Hotel Splendide the hotel in Roncevaux on Sainte Anne where Dr. Marsch first stays after splashing down from Earth (III, 198).

Hourglass a sandpit/sinkhole used by the marshmen to hold captives, the loose sand disallowing escape (II, 187). Commentary: obviously another image of time suspended, of future negated.

Hunter another Shadow Child killed by the marshmen (III, 124).


Mr. Jabez Marsch/VRT's other interrogator. He is apparently younger than Constant and wears "good civilian garb" (III, 231). Alice Turner reports that Jabez hails from the Bible and was quite common as a first name in 17th-19th America. Significantly, it means unknown (1 Chron. 4.9-10); i.e., we know nothing about Interrogator Jabez, thus he remains a cipher.

Aunt Jeannine A little, gray-haired lady, Maitre's heterozygous "sister," Number Five's putative aunt, madam to the prostitutes of 666 Saltimbanque; and amateur scientist whose nom d'academie is Dr. Aubrey Veil. Jeannine has withered legs and is confined to a floating wheelchair. She's quarreled with her brother in the past (probably about money) and now no longer has anything to do with him, but seems kindly disposed toward her nephew Number Five, his clone. She dies while Number Five is in prison, but leaves the Maison du Chien estate to him. Commentary: inferentially, Jeannine helps us to pinpoint Number Five's real first name (Jean/Gene), and she is also important in helping to resolve several other of the book's more enduring mysteries.

John according to "A Story," all male abo children are named John, which means "a man" (II, 78) Commentary: Alice Turner reminds me that 'john' also has sexual connotations, being slang for someone who patronizes prostitutes; videlicet the various such escapades of John Marsch at both Roncevaux and the Maison du Chien.

Johnson River the English name for the abo stream Girl Running (III, 157).

Mr. Judson the hotelkeeper of the Splendide in Roncevaux (III, 144).


the lady in pink a pretty woman Number Five sees in his father's library at a very young age and who tells him his father has written many of the books present (I, 7). Commentary: I contend that the mysterious lady in pink is a major backstage figure in 5HofC, being none other than Celestine Etienne, spy, ex-prostitute, and mother to David and Phaedria. (See The Lady in Pink.) Michael Andre-Driussi also reminds me there is a woman in pink in IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME by Marcel Proust, whose influence on FHofC is considerable (witness, for example, the opening sentence of each work).

LaFange the waterfront area of Frenchman's Landing (III, 179). French for "mud, mire."

Laon a coastal city south of Frenchman's Landing, and where Marsch/VRT first reappears after his murderous three year trek in the back of beyond. Here he is also noticed "by a special correspondent" to the government of Sainte Croix, an informer or spy (III, 203). Laon is an actual city in NE France, capital of Aisne department. Perhaps significantly its chief relic is a copy of the Veil of Veronica, a cloth-held image of Christ's face (in other words the Turin Shroud writ small, washcloth-sized). Commentary: the "special correspondent" angle may hint of massive espionage going on between the two planets.

Lastvoice an abo shaman, "the greatest of the starwalkers," and Eastwind's tutor. He is flailed to death by Eastwind and Sandwalker when the first three French rocketships land on Sainte Anne. ("When a star falls, the river must be clouded with his blood, so it may forget.")(II, 81).

Leaves-you-can-eat an abo man in Sandwalker's kinship group; their equivalent of a botanist, in that he knows which plants are edible and which plants are poisonous. Possibly a maternal uncle (II, 97).

Liev Marsch/VRT's alter-ego, the formulator of Liev's Postpostulate--sort of a tongue-in-cheek anti-corollary to Veil's Hypothesis (III, 230). Commentary: Liev of course is Veil backwards, and while to some extent Veil's Hypothesis about the abos having killed and taken the place of the human populace is true in his particular case (he's killed and replaced Marsch, after all), the more plangent opposite is truer still--the humans have nearly wiped out the abos.Wolfe's punning tendencies are also much evident here, as we hear Marsch/VRT declaim: "I am Liev and I have left."

Lost Wishes another abo constellation (II, 81).


Maitre Gene Wolfe III; the stern head of the house at 666 Saltimbanque; hawk-faced, brown-eyed, sharp-chinned; scientist, author, spymaster, pimp, and first-generation clone; father to Number Five and David; brother to Jeannine. His stated mission in life and the reason for all of his diabolical experiments (including cloning himself at least 50 times and interrogating his two sons with drugs) is to discover why the Wolfe clan of Sainte Croix has never achieved any sort of greatness, especially in regards to socio-political advancement. He is murdered by Number Five. French for master. Commentary: Maitre is an interesting character in several respects. Being obsessed with his work and bearing little love for his children, he totters close to being a mad scientist caricature, but it is also hard not to see him as simply the more adult, futurized version of Number Five (who, although he engages our sympathies, is clearly his father's son). He's also taken steps that seriously remove himself from previous generations, being the first to practice patricide, and there is evidence that he may have other biological (as opposed to clonal) children. (See The Lady in Pink.)

"Maitre" the only name we have for the junior officer who reviews VRT's case, utilized strictly by the two slaves he abuses, Cassilla and a "high-shouldered, sharp-chinned man with a shock of dark hair," who is on loan to him (III, 137). Commentary: Wolfe frequently employs the "sharp-chinned" attribute, but whereas sometimes it's used simply to describe the planetary face possessed by most Croixians (whom, we are told, are all descended from a relatively small population base), he also uses it to identify members of the Wolfe clan. Used here conjointly with the "Maitre" designation, I believe we are meant to assume the slave in question is a sold, outsourced Wolfe clone. As for "Maitre" himself, Sean Whalen boldly suggests he is none other than David Wolfe, Number Five's brother--an idea I both applaud and fully support. For starters, the fact that Gene Wolfe never identifies "Maitre" leads me to believe we're meant to ferret out who he really is. There's also the Maitre/"Maitre" father/son association. David, we're told in the title novella, has gone to the capital after his father's death, portrays a "dashing captain of the chasseurs" in the first summer play (foreshadowing his eventual military career), and as a child "preferred languages, literature and law." "Maitre" being David also helps to explain the kindnesses he shows to the unnamed slave--actually his own long lost brother. Lastly there is the trumpet vine reference that closes the third novella; David, we recall, used to carve flutes from the trumpet vine.

Maison du Chien popular name for the house of prostitution run by the Wolfe clan (I, 14). French for "House of the dog." Commentary: Number Five tells us the name probably derives from the iron statue of Cerberus guarding the front entrance of the house. It also, he confides, "may have been a reference to our surname," further clueing us in to his never-mentioned patronym, but which can be deduced to be Wolfe.

marshmen abos who dwell in the meadowmeres of Sainte Anne; aka Wetlanders.

Dr. Marsch the young anthropologist from NYC, Earth, who comes to Sainte Anne to work on his master's degree, wanting only to study the abos, but who is murdered and then later impersonated by one (I, 34). Marsch = marsh. Victor Roy Trenchard, Dr. Marsch's murderer, is an abo of the marshman tribe. Commentary: What we know of Dr. Marsch (as opposed to John V. Marsch, his murderer and impersonator) comes from his notebook entries in V.R.T. I contend he is a homosexual, and this plays a factor in his murder. (See Marschian Sexuality.)

John V. Marsch the second of two similarly named characters, this one being distinct by virtue of the John V. (as opposed to the plain Dr. Marsch). John V. Marsch is actually the abo boy V.R.T., who murders the real Dr. Marsch, then takes his place. Marsch = marsh, which plays off VRT being a marshman abo. John = all Annese males are called John. 'John' is also slang for a customer of a prostitute. V = Victor, signifying VRT's subsuming of his identity; V may also equal volf (how wolf is pronounced auf Deutsch) and/or Volturnus, the Roman god of the east wind [thanks to Sean Whalen for bringing the latter to my attention]. Commentary: The Dr. Marsch we first meet in the title novella is actually John V. Marsch (i.e., VRT), who has come to Sainte Croix looking for his prostitute mother after having murdered the Terran Marsch on Sainte Anne. Thus the figure frequently designated or identified as Marsch is actually the abo VRT impersonating him. This is why I've chosen to designate the latter as Marsch/VRT all through this compendium. I contend that not only is the original Dr. Marsch a homosexual, but that Victor Trenchard, his murderer and replacement, is a latent homosexual--a sexual dynamic Wolfe perhaps borrowed from Alfred Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (See Marschian Sexuality and Hitchcock and Wolfe).

Marydol a companion of David, Phaedria and Number Five, "a slight, fair-haired, kindhearted girl" who participates with them in plays and the botched warehouse robbery. Number Five also mentions becoming fond of her, but unlike Phaedria, she is sold by her parents (I, 50). Perhaps from Mary + doll, indicating her status as future plaything/sexual toy? Possibly another handmaid figure derived from Literature?

Mary Pink Butterflies green-eyed infant daughter of Seven Girls Waiting, an abo Sandwalker encounters at an oasis (II, 91). If 'John' means 'a man' in Annese, 'Mary' may mean 'a woman.' She's called Pink Butterflies because her hands are always waving. Commentary: I believe that Seven Girls Waiting's relationship to Jeannine Wolfe is analogous to that of Pink Butterflies to Seven Girls Waiting. I.e., daughter/larva to mother/imago. Only whereas Pink Butterflies will metamorphosize into an adult woman, Seven Girls Waiting will morph into Jeannine Wolfe. Sean Whalen also astutely points out that there may be a link between Mary Pink Butterflies and Celestine Etienne, "the lady in pink"--i.e., Celestine herself may be of abo origin. Since abo women can somewhat control how old they appear, this may help explain her youthful mien, but still allow her to be mother to David and Phaedria.

Marquis of Carabas when VRT's abo catgirl brings him a small animal to eat, Victor first offers the morsel to the girl, but she refuses it, saying, "My master, the Marquis of Carabas, sends you greetings." (III, 239). Commentary: French fairytale writer Charles Perrault's Puss in Boots called himself Marquis of Carabas. One of his adventures involved tricking a shape-changing ogre into assuming rodent form, whereupon he ate him.

meadowmere the wetlands of Sainte Anne, perhaps akin to our Everglades, and nourished daily by the 15-foot tides generated by the companion world, Sainte Croix. Commentary: the meadowmeres tinge Sainte Anne, giving her a green color as seen from Sainte Croix.

Mr. Million the robot tutor of David and Number Five, a mechanical simulation of the very first Gene Wolfe, the Terran-born patriarch who first begins the cloning experiments, and who, though now corporally dead, lives on in robot form, where his brain is core-imaged. Thus, as he admits, the face we see in his screen is Number Five's great grandfather. He is also a suicide in that the neural replicating process is fatal--hence he could not have been murdered by the first cloned GW (I, 5). Mr. Million derives from M.Million, which is stamped on the main cabinet. Number Five first thinks it stands for Monsieur, but later he realizes the M is a Roman numeral and stands for 1000, the dot is a multiplication sign equivalent, and that M.Million refers to the robot's 1000 million (i.e, billion) core word capacity. Commentary: Mr. Million is one of more sympathetic characters in all of FHofC and we can glean much about the novel's themes and avant-scène from an extended discussion of him. He is also a Virgil figure to Number Five's Dante in addition to being the Tin Man from Oz. (See Tin Man.)

Mountains of Manhood where abo boys become abo men in a rite of puberty that involves searing the hair off their heads with brands. On English maps, the Temporal Mountains (II, 81).

Mu cited by Number Five as possible source point of Homo sapiens pangalacticus, a prehistoric race of space travelers that colonized the galaxy and seeded Sainte Anne. Mu is the hypothetical Pacific version of Atlantis.


Nerissa tall, pretty, broad-shouldered maid/prostitute who assists Number Five in learning his new house role as greeter (sort of a junior maitre'd/host). Twice she conducts Dr. Marsch to Maitre's library, and when Number Five returns from prison she joins him in reopening Maison du Chien (I, 32). Nerissa, reports Alice Turner, is Portia's flirty handmaid from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice--one of several such similarly-derived figures from literature that Wolfe employs. The handmaid motif plays to the notion of women as chattel in the Sainte Croix worldview, where slavery is legal. Girls are bred to be sold and doubtless the more attractive ones are purchased for sexual purposes. Turner also reminds me that boys played female roles in Shakespeare's time, so given Nerissa's height and shoulders, her double association with Dr. Marsch (actually VRT) helps support my contention that Victor may be a latent homosexual.

the Nine-Eight-Six English colony ship that transports the neonatal Mary Blount to Sainte Anne. Commentary: I believe the Nine-Eight-Six is a penal colony ship.

notebook mystery When the junior officer assigned to review Marsch/VRT's case opens Marsch's notebook to what he thinks is the first page, he discovers the first three pages have been cut out, and even more cleanly so than his own dagger, which he notes has been kept sharp for him by a slave, can manage (III, 140). Who might we suppose has done the excising, and why? Marsch, before he was murdered--because somehow the material incriminated him in some way? The police--because the material exonerated him? Or was it someone else that had access to his notebook previously? (See Marschian Sexuality for my latest suppositions.)

Number Five the Proustian narrator of FIFTH HEAD (compare Number Five's first sentence with that of Marcel's in A la Recherche du Temps Perdue), whose written account of his life forms the title novella; the brown-eyed, brown-haired son of Maitre; half-brother to David; nephew to Jeannine, and second-generation clone. Of scientific bent, Number Five--his father's loveless appellation for him--is regularly drugged and interrogated by his father, suffers mentally and physically (he's frequently fugued out), but still manages, after patricide and a prison sentence, to become the new Maitre of the Maison du Chien. Commentary: Much can be written about Number Five, from the decoding of his real name as Gene Wolfe, to speculation about, if he's the fifth head of Cerberus, who constitute the other four heads (I configure two multiples of five--one horizontal, one vertical. See Config.), to how his ascent to Maitre parallels Dante's descent in THE INFERNO. Sadly, he seems destined to suffer the same fate as his father and grandfather, and his final sentence is chillingly ironic.


Old Wise One an ancient-looking, thought-melded ghost of the Shadow Children, perhaps psychically enhanced by the mind-altering botanical taken by the Shadow Children (II, 87). Commentary: an earlier version of New Sun's aquastors. Marsch/VRT, in one of A Story's several auctorial intrusions, calls the Old Wise One the Group Norm.

the Other Eye another name for the Hourglass (II, 126).


Phaedria the violet-eyed girl Number Five first meets in a park, and who comes to be both his and David's boon companion. She belongs to a family that hopes to either marry her off to a rich suitor or sell her, and has had plastic surgery to enhance her features. She, David, Marydol and Number Five stage three plays and also scheme to rob a warehouse. She has a broken-ankle when first met; she also initiates a series of petty pilferings before suggesting the warehouse caper, as well as perhaps killing Maitre. While she does eventually marry well, the marriage does not work and she comes to live with Number Five after he reopens the Maison du Chien (I, 38). From Spencer's FAIRY QUEEN, where Phaedria is a wanton handmaid to the enchantress Acrasia. As Alice Turner notes, the handmaid motif in FIFTH HAND helps reinforce the notion of women-as-chattel, with further exploitation of a sexual nature almost certainly to follow when the girl/woman is attractive. Given her family's intentions Phaedria is obviously a prime example of this. Commentary: I believe Phaedria is the sister Aunt Jeannine suggests Number Five has, and could be David's fraternal twin. (See Number Five's Sister.)

Poictesme cited as the possible original home of the Shadow Children by the Old Wise One, along with alternatively Atlantis, Mu, Gondwanaland or Africa (II, 116). Commentary: The fictional creation of James Branch Cabell, Poictesme is the setting for much of his 25-novel series BIOGRAPHY OF MANUEL, and purports to be a province in medieval France.

Port-Mimizon a city on Sainte Croix situated where the Thumb joins the Hand, and where Number Five, the fourth generation of his family to do so, lives. Called the worst city on two planets, perhaps due to its slave market and vice (I, 4). Commentary: Apparently, Mimizon is not, as I earlier speculated, French for mimic. As Marcus Weible of Nuremberg tells me, "Nowhere in the French language will you find the word 'mimizon' or any special meaning associated with it." Herr Weible's alternate theory: "If you look at a map of France--halfway between Bordeaux and Biarritz--you'll find the small town Mimizan, which is a lesser known Atlantic coastal village. It's situated on the Cote d'Argent and has a small harbour--le port du mimizan--where there also exists a citadel. In the 19th century Mimizan was a favoured holiday place of English aristocrats, while Wolfe's Port Mimizon has been settled by English-speaking occupants and the rest of the old French leadership (now poor or decadent). Of course "Port Mimizon" could be a fantasy name that was invented by Mr. Wolfe while he was writing his masterwork. But I think in the same way it is possible, and rather typical for him, that he studied a map of France and may have been inspired by Port Mimizan's historical repuation. Or could it be that he made a journey through France decades ago, passed this area, and by error mistook Mimizan for "Mimizon...?"

Popo Number Five's crippled monkey, the victim of his experimental machinations, but who still loves him (I, 60). Commentary: Maitre also has a crippled monkey, which besides reinforcing the twins/double motif, implies Number Five will recapitulate his father's life and work.


raven one of two Poesque visitors the junior officer receives while reviewing Marsch's case. Commentary: More semi-autobiography: Wolfe attended a school named after Edgar Allen Poe.

Roncevaux a coastal settlement on Sainte Anne, located 500 km SE from Frenchman's Landing, with which it connects by rail. Dr. Marsch first splashes down here; former homebase of the Trenchards (III, 140). IN SONG OF ROLAND, where Roland falls nobly in battle. There is also a pass named Roncevaux in the Pyrenees. French for thorn. Commentary: the first two sentences in VRT's school composition book appear to relate to the thorn bushes of Roncevaux. As Victor writes, in describing two birds: "One was a skull-shrike, and the other was a bird that the shrike had..." The ellipsis ends the sentence, but I feel the next word would be impaled if finished. The shrike impales its prey on thorns and moreover has a reputation for bloodthirstiness, often killing more than it can eat. At first I thought this scene symbolically recapitulated the death of Maitre by Number Five, who kills--impales--his father with a scalpel, but later, when the junior officer assigned to review Marsch/VRT's case, reads of Marsch's being scratched by thorns after an encounter with the tire-tiger, he interrupts his reading and goes back and rereads the two sentences about the shrike. I therefore believe the shrike scene may have additional significance. But what? See Dante and the House of Wolfe for my latest speculations.

Rose of Amethyst another name for the abo constellation Thousand Feelers and the Fish. Its hillmen designation (II, 86).

Rougette a stream in the back of beyond, aka both Running Blood and End-of-Days (III, 157). French for reddish.

R.T. Roy Trenchard, a scurrilous con-artist who plies his way between Roncecaux and Frenchman's Landing, and who claims to be the descendent of the last Annese shaman. He has an adolescent son, Victor, but his wife--an abo woman he's prostituted--has left him. Most of the citizens of Frenchman's Landing refer to him either as a beggar or a con artist.(III, 152) Trenchard derives from trencherman--a hanger-on, parasite (OED). Commentary: Trenchard's first name is never stated, but must be derived. (See VROYT.)

Rue d'Egouts a street in Port-Mimizon close to the bay, site of the attempted warehouse burglary (I, 51). French for 'street of sewers.'

Rue d'Asticot a street in the shopping district of Port-Mimizon (I, 7). French for 'street of maggots.'

Running Blood a stream in the back of beyond, and where, according to Dr. Hagsmith, the French stopped every man and made him dig with a shovel--the abos, of course, not being manually dextrous, could then be identified (III, 151). Commentary: the abo name for the same river is End-of-Days, suggesting that a massacre of some kind might have taken place here, possibly as little as 15 years ago.


sacred places abo holy sites; specifically the arboreal circular ruins ("woodhenge") at the mouth of the Tempus and the sacred cave further upriver.

Sainte Anne one of two planets locked in binary orbit around each other. It was colonized originally by the French approximately 200 years before events in 5H begin, but after a war in which the French lost, a new planetary government was installed (although a possible junta may now rule). Home world of the shape-changing abos, it appears green from Sainte Croix, owing to the presence of wetlands called meadowmeres that are nourished daily by a huge tidal bore. Both it and Sainte Croix have 402 day-long years; its days are also longer than the 24-hour Terran periodicity, but how much so is uncertain. Saint Anne was mother to Mary, mother of Christ.

Sainte Croix the sisterworld to Sainte Anne, and where the Wolfe family of the narrative has resided for four generations. It appears blue from Sainte Anne, suggesting it is largely water; but unlike Sainte Anne the planetary government (it too is military-based) has allowed the defeated French to help rule and maintain civil order. Slavery is legal here, but unlike Sainte Anne no humanoid indigenes populate the landscape. Croix is French for cross. (Wolfe also begins "A Story" with an epigraph from St. John of the Cross, a Christian mystic.) Commentary: despite their resemblance to the planets Blue and Green in the Long Sun series, Gene Wolfe has publicly disallowed this possibility.

Saint-Dizier a city on Sainte Anne where the log of the first ship to land on-planet was kept. According to RT, however, the log was incinerated when Saint-Dizier was "fused." (III, 187) Saint-Dizier is an actual city in NE France, on the Rhone River. (I believe Sainte Dizier is the Annese equivalent of Hiroshima.) Commentary: "fused" suggests nuclear armaments, and perhaps they were used in the war. Another possibility involves the use of laser cannon.

St. Madeleine a church in Roncevaux where VRT's parents were married (III, 214). Madeleine derives from Magdalene, the reformed New Testament prostitute and may allude to Victor's mother. It also certainly invokes the madeleine cake of Proust, with its memory-stirring powers. There's also a Madeleine in Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO (see Hitchcock and Wolfe. And Gene Wolfe himself has a daughter named Madeleine (See VROYT.)

Saltimbanque Street the street on which Maison du Chien is located, its address the Biblical Number of the Beast, 666. French for mountebank, charlatan.

John Sandwalker the protagonist of "A Story" by John V. Marsch; a rite-of-passage story involving Sandwalker, an abo adolescent and twin to John Eastwind, who befriends the Shadow Children, fights the marshmen lead by Eastwind, and witnesses the first landing of French rocketships on Sainte Anne (II, 78). Named so because he is born feet first while his grandmother is holding his brother--he's unexpected, so his feet touch sand before he's noticed. Commentary: Sandwalker is the partially fictive shadow of Marsch/VRT and may be based on tales Victor heard from his mother or the Free People.

Seeing Seed an abo constellation (II, 81).

Seven Girls Waiting an abo young mother John Sandwalker encounters at an oasis, mother to Mary Pink Butterflies (II, 91).

Shadow Child an abo constellation that has two bright stars in it (II, 81). When Marsch attempts to find it later in the same evening, however, he cannot (III, 154). Commentary: In V.R.T. the constellation is pluralized to Children and it features two pairs of bright stars. Regardless of whether the paired stars are single or double, it's suggested they move, perhaps implying that the star Sainte Anne-Sainte Croix orbit around may be part of a multiple star system.

Shadow Children another aboriginal race of Sainte Anne, chiefly nocturnal and smaller statured, perhaps akin to our pygmies. The Shadow Children have different names for themselves depending on how many they number as a group. When there is only one Shadow Child, he is Wolf. When there are five, then one of the group is Swan. At stages in between one and five there are Foxfire, Hatcher, Hunter.(II,83) The Shadow Children partake of a narcotic herb that dulls their pain and hunger, and produces mystical visions. They believe they come from a small yellow gem in the Lizard's Tail, which we later learn is Sol, and hillmen attempt to frighten their own children with tales of them. By pooling their mental energies, the Shadow Children can conjure up a group eidolon who acts as their elder statesman. [I also contend Aunt Jeannine calls up similar projections (See III, 230)]

nameless male slave "a high-shouldered, sharp-chinned man with a shock of dark hair" who tends to the desires of the junior officer assigned to review Marsch/VRT's case. When the slave--who is on loan from a superior officer--agrees to tell his master that the junior officer has been working all night on the case, he's met with a smile--which because of the duplicity involved (the junior officer has interrupted his mission with sex) the slave assumes will allow him to escape the carding looms of the silk factory, where death from parasitic mites is almost certain. (III, 137) Commentary: The slave is almost certainly a sold Wolfe clone, and for me, his escaping the silk factory invokes notions of temporal grace and release, of rising above destiny's chains (or helical chains) to a somewhat better fate, comparatively, than being gnawed to death from within by tiny mechanized dandruff (or chromosomal bytes, if you will). Not exactly Bodhisattva or New Jerusalem, but still better than his isogenetic kin back at the House of Wolfe. So, yes, not everyone's fate is predetermined and those who attempt to live within the boundaries of their universe, as opposed to going the poseur or attempted master-of-the-planet route, might yet survive. Salvation is possible. A small grace note of hope in an otherwise fugal dirge.

Slough Desmond a sailing vessal anchored at Vienne (III, 241).

Snow Woman another abo planet, perhaps with a high albedo (II, 81).

Swan a Shadow Child's name when his group numbers five (II, 125). Commentary: perhaps another nod to Proust.

Sweetmouth abo girl, possibly adolescent, possibly daughter of Leaves-you-can-eat (II, 97). Commentary: It's possible Sweetmouth is the name of Victor's abo catgirlfriend.

Swift another abo planet, its name perhaps suggesting an inner planet, with a faster transit across the sky (II, 81).


Tattered Mountains site of the prison labor camp to which Number Five is sent for the murder of his father (I, 69).

Temporal Mountains mountains on Sainte Anne, source of the Tempus. Called the Mountains of Manhood by the Annese (III, 203)

Tempus a river on Sainte Anne (III, 158). Latin for time.

Thousand Feelers and the Fish an abo constellation consisting of a nebula flowing toward a single bright star; aka the Rose of Amethyst (III, 154)

tire-tiger a large feral feline of Saint Anne (III, 157).

Three Faces in a tale told by VRT imitating Dr. Hagsmith, an abo woman who paints in clay yes! and no! faces on her right and left breasts, respectively. She sleeps with a cattle-drover, and the faces transfer via body heat to the drover, but are reversed. The abo woman rejects the drover's love and flees, but the drover has the faces tattooed over, so he'll keep them forever (III, 225). Commentary: Three Faces may be the true name of VRT's absentee abo mother (I also contend her alternate name is Eve, both names deriving from the movie, THE THREE FACES OF EVE). Victor calls her a great actress, but his father has been prostituting her. As a shape-changer, with the ability to change her appearance (Victor says she could look like a young girl or an old woman if she wanted), she would be appositely named as Three Faces. Victor also believes she migrated to Sainte Croix and goes looking for her there. For a while I thought it possible RT murdered her--look at his son's two murders, and Victor does bear his father's name--but fellow Wolfe fanatic Tony Ellis of the British Isles has neatly deduced her to be the female thief locked up in Marsch/VRT's very own cell wing at the citadel.

Thumb the first peninsula of the Hand (I, 9).

Thunder Always a deafening, waterfall-filled gorge John Sandwalker visits (II, 79).

Trackwalker an abo shaman named by VRT in his Hagsmith parody (in Hagsmith's original tale his name is Cinderwalker). (III, 225)

trumpet vine a silver trumpet vine is mentioned at the beginning of the novel (the source of David's whittled flutes) (I, 4); an angel trumpet vine closes it, being the final repository of one of VRT's interrogation tapes (III, 244). Commentary: besides the notion of cyclicity, perhaps meant to invoke notions of the Last Judgement, when, according to both the Bible and the Koran, trumpets will sound and the dead will rise again, which is consistent with the descent-into-hell Dantean angle. I also believe its occurance at the novel's end is a recursive link to Number Five, suggesting the male slave we meet in V.R.T. is a sold Wolfe clone.

Twelvewalker Roy Trenchard's alleged/assumed Annese name (III, 178).


Aunt Uranie a stern, poorer, maternal cousin of Phaedria, assigned to watch over her as governess. She initially tries to prevent her from having anything to do with Number Five, but later allows all the contact she wants--according to Phaedria, probably because Number Five's family is thought to be wealthy (I, 39). From A REBOURS or AGAINST THE GRAIN by Joris Karl Huysmans, where Miss Urania is reknown for her prudishness.

Entrance Introduction Essays Appendices Links