Character Synopsis

Yes, even with the Claw and all bells and whistles, Severian can still blow it. Sometimes he does right all on his own, like refusing to kill Agia. At other times, just when he is about to blow it, deux ex machina saves the day: in the commotion at the gate of Nessus, for example, where he was about to grusomely kill the drover whose whip had struck Dorcas, <shazam!> drover killed by his own horses.

I suddenly realized one of the great problems in determining the answers to so many riddles. Severian's reaction to said mysteries is usually one of complete indifference. We will never know if Severian thinks that the constellation of the Swan is of Urth's or not. Even when faced with the bizare, terrible, or strange Severian merely takes it in stride and moves on. There are times when he understands less than the reader and other times where we are surprised at the revelations he has just spoken to us.

Actually, it's pretty easy to attribute it (within story context; outside story context, it's Wolfe's delight in torturing the reader -- "puzzling you is the nature of my game," as the Stones' Lucifer sang) to Severian's allegedly (and that is just the right word; I strongly suspect his memory is quite fallible) perfect memory by noting that Severian claims (no, I do not have a page ref handy -- not that it would do any good, I have the h/c) that his memory is so complete and intense that he sometimes gets lost in it, it becomes as present to him as the present; given this, it seems quite likely that he might simply forget(!) that he has not mentioned some detail, and _especially_ an important detail, which seems perfectly "obvious" to him.

Side note. Are we in fact certain that Sev and Thecla _were_ lovers? The first time I read those passages I was quite convinced that they were fantasies on Severian's part, or perhaps on the part of the Sev+Thecla combined personality. While I am no longer convinced that this is so, I am far from convinced that it is _not_ so.

Along this train of thought, some of my favorite lines come from Wolfe's use of irony and scenes where Severian misunderstands what the reader has grasped. The lines in question come from Severian's childhood at the Matachin Tower.

When Severian is in the Atrium of Time, Valaria is trying to comfort S over the loss of his dog and says: "...he too may have found hospitality. You love him, so another may love him. You love him, so you may love another." Beautiful! ...and Severian's answer? "I agreed, but secretly thought that I would never have another dog." Ha!

Severian also seems to misunderstand the nature of Katherine during his elevation. She most certainly is an automaton who is brought out once a year to play her part and then returned to her box at the end of the feast. Yet S comes up with elaborate reasoning and trickery that would explain the beheading. In his naivetee S has tried to explain what he has seen yet falls way short of the mark. The answer is much simpler, yet much stranger that S has imagined. There are many other times when S may be doing the exact same thing.

That is a good sequence between Valeria and Severian, and yes, it is true that the knowledge gap shifts between Severian and the reader. One of Hethor's critters at the gate is one of the more likely explanations (though it still seems ominously silent that nobody even says, "What the hell happened at the gate back there?" To which the other character could say, "Who knows, some kind of commotion." Just to acknowledge that hey, one doesn't always see a seven car pile up on the interstate highway). Still, if so, we wonder which one? The slug was used a couple times (slimed Jonas in the antechamber). When things get =that= quiet in a Wolfe story it usually means something very important.

The first 3 and a half books seem to deal with the theme of Severian becoming his own man and casting off other authorities' hold on him. Every authority that is, except that of the Increate. In each episode of Sev's life he pledges his loyalty to a vestige of authority which is later broken by him. We see shy this breaking of authority is necessary during the dream that takes place after the play near the wall of Nessus. In the dream Malrubius reviews the several types of authority with Sev. He illustrates personal loyalty to the throne is the strongest and most basic type of authority. He leaves his argument open ended but implies that Sev must forge a personal loyatly to the Increate himself. Thus we see that those who follow the church, or the crown, or the police, or those whoose loyalties lie indirectly with Increate are far more distant from Him. An example of this are those who consider themselves 'born again.' They have a much stronger faith having found God for themselves than those who have been brought up to believe the Church without question. Sev's life is a slow process of removing himself from outside authority and following what I guess should be called the 'True Path,' that of direct loyalty to the Increate. Sev states that the Conciliator, if he had weapons used them on himself and later makes alludes to the fact that he feels he is doing that himself. He is killing of the parts of him that will blindly follow false authority (all authority being false except that of the Increate) Earlier in this group we discussed Sev's turning point, which being a human and prone will not be black and white in Sev's life. The turning point is just before he attacks the castle of Baldanders when he pledges to follow the will of the Increate above all others. All other events have led up to this and in rereading the passage I'm sure you'll agree. He breaks ties with the Guild, the Archon, Voudalus, Dr Talos' Death name tag, Typhon's will, etc. etc. and finally forges his personal loyalty to God. The title Autarch as meaning 'self ruler' also alludes to this theme.

One of Severian's quirks as a narrator, and one which makes it quite difficult to get a grasp of his character, is his sometimes withholding an important fact about a situation until long after he has seemingly finished narrating that situation. The most prominent example is his not revealing that he and Thecla had been lovers until long after Thecla has breathed her last. (I am ashamed to say that I completely missed this in my earlier reading of BotNS.) There are a couple of other important examples, also concerned with Severian's love life.

1) In Sword, ch. 25, very near the beginning, Severian discloses that Dorcas had had strong feelings for Jolenta and had been very depressed at her death, that he believes that Dorcas and Jolenta had engaged in "sexual play" at some time, and that he had been jealous of Dorcas's feeling for Jolenta, though not, he claims, sexually. I don't think that any of this had been mentioned at the time it happened: certainly not Dorcas's depression at Jolenta's death, and to my recollection no hint of any relationship between Dorcas and Jolenta beyond Dorcas's natural goodness and compassion on the one side and Jolenta's contempt on the other.

2) My other example I'm less sure of. In Citadel, ch. 2, Severian loses himself in his memories, and "Dorcas's voice whispered in my ears: 'Sitting in a window ... trays and a rood. What will you do, summon up some Erinys to destroy me?" The first of these sentences is close to what are almost the first words Dorcas speaks in the text (though not identical; another can of worms). The second I was unable to find. Severian's thoughts immediately following suggest that this sentence was spoken to Severian, and its juxtaposition with the first sentence suggests that it may have come near the end of their last conversation, in which case their parting was stormier than Severian let on at the time. Or it may have had something to do with Severian's jealousy, discussed above.

Having noted this recurring pattern, I have some questions:

1) Are there any other examples I've missed? (One may be his disclosure late in the book of the very high mortality rate among the apprentices, but I don't remember if Severian had mentioned this at the time.)

2) What does this quirk tell us about Severian? Other quirks in his narration have been explained by his allegedly perfect memory, but I don't see how that would account for this.

3) What explains, in particular, his suppression of the sexual relationship between himself and Thecla? (Severian's motives for the other two omissions are more obvious.) I can think of two, not necessarily exclusive, possibilities. Severian, as we know, has a rather unhealthy attitude towards women. He may not have wanted to contaminate the "purity" of his relationship with Thecla by admitting it had a sexual component. Or: Severian was ashamed enough of having "betrayed his guild" by giving Thecla a knife, but he had to narrate it because it was crucial to his story. He may have wanted to keep quiet about his earlier "betrayal" in having sex with Thecla against Master Gurloes' strict orders.

 Does Severian suffer from spatial dyslexia?  

He seems to have trouble distinguishing left from right, and prefers to refer to orientations in other ways, "good-leg" / "bad-leg" for example. On more than one occasion, he's given precise directions to reach some goal and remembers them perfectly, but gets lost anyhow. And of course there's the bit where he looks out the left eye of west-facing Mount Typhon and sees a battle to the north. We never learn whether his injured leg is the left or the right; we never learn whether his injured cheek is the left or the right. I think something's going on here that I'm not catching. I'd never noticed this, but it immediately made me think of the way you would see three dimensional things if you were looking at them from a higher than 3D viewpoint. Our left and right would be interchangeable. (If you find that confusing, consider that, if you're restricted to a plane then 'd' and 'b' are left-right opposites, but if you are allowed to pick them up in 3D, then one can just be rotated onto the other). OTOH, and I only just thought of this, perhaps Severian's memory makes it hard for him to conceive of general categories like 'left' and 'right', and he has to think in terms of concrete objects (Peter Wright makes this point in his 'God Games' essay in Foundation 66).

Severian's Memory: Somehow in the course of reading the series I became convinced that the method of Severian's time-travel is based on his "perfect" memory. I can't recall a specific statement of this, other than the hierodules commenting that it was important. He often refers to getting lost in his own memories. If what he says is true and the unfolding of memory is tantamount to re-experiencing certain events, it's not much of a stretch to imagine that this could potentially lead to branching. Not necessarily significant branching of the sort that would lead to either the new sun or the "entropy" future, but minor branching within those two possibilities/parallel universes. At a certain point, perhaps the alternate timelines simply reconverge, and nobody really notices any minor differences. I'm thinking here of the cases where Severian's memory is inconsistent. I can only call to mind the "manskin" to "leather" bag transition offhand, but there are others. Perhaps this is simply too obvious to merit any serious discussion, but I find it interesting. It's always seemed to me that the question of how many times Severian dies is an open one. At the end of UotNS he seems to try to kill himself every couple of pages! Note, in fact, that the series opens with Severian nearly (or, if the branching hypothesis proves true, actually) drowning...

And on an unrelated note, has anyone yet compiled a list of known inconsistencies in Severian's perfect memory? I mentioned one recently, the material of the claw's sack changing from "leather" to "manskin" at some point (of course "manskin" would be a form of leather, but more on that moentarily). I don't have the specific citation offhand, though I'll attempt to locate it. What I *do* have is another example:

Book 1, Chapter 9 "The House Azure"

"The person who admitted us wore thick-soled shoes and a yellow robe..."

Book 4, chapter 24 "The Flier"

"He was robed in saffron, as I had always seen him..."

Given the somewhat symmetrical construction of the series (at least before UOTNS), it seems significant that this first (I believe) mention of the robe having been saffron (which is of course a shade of yellow, though "saffron robes" usually refers to the almost orange color favored by Hare Krishnas, indeed, this is how many people refer to such robes) occurs at Severian's final dealings with the Autarch, which matches up nicely with the first mention, back when they were yellow.

What does it mean? If Severian's memory is truly perfect, it might suggest a parallel-but-not-that-different reality hypothesis wherein each Severian has a perfect memory and it's the indivisual realities themselves that vary. At the symbolic/semiotic level, does the shift from yellow to red reflect on the change in the sun? Does the fact that it's red mean that Severian is coming dangerously close to the possible future of ice? It's certainly a crisis point, where the whole thing could have gone wrong and he could have ended up as that other Severian buried in the Necropolis (who Severian tells us did in fact go through most of this stuff and end up meeting the Autarch). This is of course wild speculation.

>When does [Severian] find his humanity?

We might better call this "Severian's sense of Mercy"; but even so, it is (still) a tangle. Each act Severian performs can be qualified.

Severian's relationship with Triskele is that of human and animal. Severian's "mercy" in giving Thecla a knife, while on the one hand a testament of his love being so great that he would go against his own guild, is largely a result of his spiteful desire to avenge himself of her "inadequate" degree of love for him. Severian's release of Cyriaca is less tainted. Giving half a whetstone to the Green Man is relatively clean mercy. Severian's lack of mercy is instrumental in getting little Severian's family killed. (In the same sort of pattern that leads to Valeria being killed.)

But when he gets inside the castle of Baldanders and sees the vivisectioned woman, he himself notes the change within himself. So this is a benchmark of sorts.

It seems much easier for Severian to use the Claw on strangers; he prudently (and masterfully) avoids killing such clear and present enemies as Agia; yet people closer to his heart have a much harder time--another reason for Catherine to keep her distance (Merryn, too)!

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's been pondering this. The moment in Baldanders' castle is a "benchmark", when Severian notes his own unease at the sight of the eviscerated woman, and observes that once this would not have disturbed him at all.

I don't think that his sparing of Cyracia is any sign of a growing sense of mercy, however. He is quite prepared to strangle her right up to the last moment, and only saves her to expiate the guilt he feels for not saving Thecla. In his own beautiful words "we strive to repay the debts of the past with the debased currency of the present."

It may be a mistake to look for a specific Road-to-Damascus moment when Severian changes, but here's a thought to play with: in Archetypal literary criticism one of the archetypes of character development and change is the Descent into the Underworld. The Underworld is the metaphorical dark underside of everyday reality, the place where the rules change, characterised by inversion. The protagonist enters it when he or she is at their lowest spiritual ebb, passes through a personal nadir, but then gains some sort of enlightenment and leaves the underworld on an upper path, a changed person. Marlowe's river journey in Heart of Darkness is often cited as an example, but I've always thought Bilbo's encounter with Gollum in The Hobbit was a good one too: he's literally in the underworld, and he's at his lowest ebb, having lost his friends and all hope of getting out. We have inversion in the form of the slimey, murderous Gollum, who is Bilbo's antithesis in every way. Before this encounter Bilbo was a useless, cowardly deadweight, after it, thanks to the talismanic Ring he carries out of the underworld, he is a hero and a better person.

My point: there is an episode between Cyracia and Baldanders' castle that fits all the characteristics of the Descent into the Underworld. It is the encounter with Typhon. Having just seen Little Severian fry, (which may be symbolic in itself: the death of his spiritually immature self?) Big Severian is at a personal all-time low. He is close to killing himself. Cue Typhon, who whisks Sev away into the dark interior of the mountain - the Underworld. We have inversion, too: when Typhon dangles Sev over the abyss he holds him by the ankles, literally turning his world upside down.

Behind this episode lies another story, of course: Christ's tempation by the Devil. That too is a Descent into the Underworld: Christ goes into the wilderness a carpenter's son, fasts, meets his own inverse in the Devil, and emerges ready to begin his ministery.


Physical Description

Wounds What is the purpose of Severian recieving his wounds all over again as the

New Sun? The cheek (or both cheeks?) when he's beaten by Typhon's troops, the chest when Valaria is assasinated, etc.

The "Multiple Severians" Theory

Is the first Severian powering the Claw?

Sev1: ProtoS, proto-Severian, Severian the Cruel. Goes to Thrax, War, gains Throne, goes to Yesod, comes back.

Why I guessed that Sev1 might have killed a prostitute.

(1) He would have been sent to the brothel even if Thecla wasn't in the tower--he is of an age. (And the thought experiment involves stripping Sev2 down to the bare minimum: no Triskele, no Claw, no Thecla, etc.)

(2) His companion explicitly warns him about using grips on the prostitutes. Red flag.

(3) He comes very close to becoming very violent with the prostitute. This despite the "softening" effects of being in love with Thecla and the direct warning from his "elder brother" of the guild.

(4) Sev2's carnal relations with women are usually marked by a degree of violence.

Or: The first Severian was not totally cruel. Severian writes (volume 4, "Resurrection") that the first Severian did indeed flee from Thrax and went to the war to escape the troops of the archon (which I guess could have been Abdiesus1). Why did Sev1 have to run? Perhaps in this iteration of time he too saved Cyriaca, or some other person the archon wanted killed, which would have been a sign of great mercy.
Or: Could Palaemon fill the role of some sort of "proto-Severian?"
Or: there's at least one passage that suggests that the first

Severian may not have even been a torturer:

Book IV, Ch. 36:

"He too was reared by the torturers, I think."

The "I think" suggests uncertainty

Sev2: the putative Narrator, the optimized Severian. Gets Claw; meets Apu; goes to Thrax; meets Typhon; meets Ash; gains Throne; gets on ship bound for Yesod--dies on ship.

Perhaps: Sev1 indeed met and loved Thecla in his own limited way, but did

not have the, um, benefit of the analeptic alzabo to bring her to life later in his own mind. Or, even more probably, as Sev1 didn't have the Claw, his memories of Thecla wouldn't last, which Wolfe points out later in the story. Thecla's direct influence on his mind is important in the "revisions" that make him succeed at his task.

Perhaps: I also find it interesting that Wolfe uses the same theme (of perfecting

one's self through changes made to another, or later, version of the present self) of "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" in TBotNS. If this was true then does Severian, more precisely Severian2, go back and make changes to himself and/or events in his earlier life? After all, if Severian1 attained the New Sun status and still went back and made life easier for ,essentially, himself (or Sev2, if you prefer), then Sev2 can and will do the same.

Sev3: Avatar of Change, The Conciliator. Goes to Yesod; <trigger point> creates the white fountain (not blood magic this time); returns to Urth as Conciliator; <trigger point> gives Claw to soldiers (then dies on Mount Typhon and goes independent of Severian the Narrator?); goes to the Deluge; dies in Deluge (go to Sev6).

Perhaps: there was an iteration of the Conciliator (Sev3.5, or thereabouts?) who was killed by the civil authorities and buried in the cemetary of Nessus, with funerary decorations provided by someone who was a wealthy sympathizer.

Sev4: the white fountain. Linked to Severian the Narrator. Enters new phase (not so closely bound to Severian) when it merges with the Old Sun to create the New Sun.

Sev5: the Claw of the Conciliator. Independent, but possibly has memories of Sev1's penitence in Yesod--this becomes the guide for miracles.

Sev6: Avatar of Culture. Apu Punchau. Goes as far back in time as he can; teaches civilization; is murdered; becomes independent of Severian the Narrator <trigger point>.

Sev7: the Sleeper God of Ushas.

Still unaccounted for: Severian armiger of the mausoleum in the necropolis at the Citadel of the Autarch. Best candidate for this soldier at the dawn of the Age of the Autarch would be a revived, independent sliver of Sev3, after the Narrative spirit had moved on.

<Still unaccounted for: Severian armiger of the mausoleum in the necropolis at the Citadel of the Autarch.>

The fact that people believe in Sev's time that the Conciliator died leads me to suspect they had a body as evidence. So, when Severian "stepped into a new place" from Mount Typhon, his new sliver left behind a body. Perhaps the people loyal to the Conciliator cold have taken his body back to Nessus and put it in the tomb then. However, this does not answer the question of what the symbols on the tomb mean.

Severin does seem to be an individual who may just be arrogant enough to design his own coat of arms - in that case, that the symbols' significance wouldn't mean anything to anyone other than to himself.

Or: While I am at a loss on how many Sev's there are and what they all did, (I would have to reread the whole series several more times!) I can add to your discussion. When 30,000 years elapses between the time you have disapeared and the next time you act on the world, people would automatically assume you had died. I don't think a body would be needed to lead many to believe he had died. Few people actually saw him dissapear and I doubt any would understand what had really happened. Do you really believe that the tomb of the Conciliator would remain unguarded, open and accessable. Maybe the tomb is really Sev1 who returns to Urth from Yesod (in the past of course), marries, has children, and lives out his days in defeat. (or do you die when you fail the trial?) If this theory is true, what a messed up circle it would make if Sev was his own ancestor!

Or:For those who have failed the trial (Ymar and the Old Autarch), the punishment was castration. I suppose it would be the same for Sev1. He wouldn't have had children.

Hypothesizing on which Severian is in that tomb is easy; what is hard is trying to explain why that Severian would pick those three symbols to put on the tomb (a fountain, a rose, and a ship volant).

Or: I got so muddled by all the talk of numerical Sevs that I went back to Shadow to check---and I'm still muddled. Doesn't anyone but me think he actually dies at various points, and the first is when he drowns? How can you talk of Sev1 as being such a jerk--he's just a kid, and how do we know what he would turn out like? Triskele, Vodalus, Valeria and Thecla are still to come in his hasty adolescence.


I feel I need to be the Doubting Thomas on the little theory of the 13 Severian's. (remember now, I have not reread Urth of the New Sun yet) I think we cannot look at Severian as Sev to the 13th power or anything like that. I don't understand why the White Fountain and the Claw should be considered seprerate entities all their own. The Claw is merely a focus of Sev2's own power that as he says himself he draws from the very earth and sky around him. We don't need to quantify this energy into newton's, or wonder what type of energy Sev is tapping (whether its Solar, Ocean, etc) The power is that of RENEWAL and CREATION and is present in all things because everthing has passed through the hands of the Increate (as Sev points out himself on the Beach) Sev was able to tap this infinite energy and funnel it through the Claw. The Claw does not have a mind of its own. Why does the Claw sometimes act and sometimes doesn't? (Good question but I don't think the answer is that its a seperate Severian) To make a Science out of Sev's powers is to act like Baldanders, thinking everything should be rational and quantifiable. And we saw what his thinking leads to, Ragnorak!

I see the first Sev as being a part of the second Sev. It is Sev1 who Sev2 feels standing next to him at the Sang. Field. It is Sev1 who Sev2 finds he is praying to in the temple of the Pelerine's near the lazeret. Sev1 is like a higher soul who has percieved the future. There is a religion (it smacks of Shirley McClaine but bear with me) that believes that we are higher beings who have sent a part of our soul down to Earth in order that we may learn certain lessons. Our Higher soul stays in heaven and gives us strenght and guidence and knows our fate. This religion believes when you have a clairvoyant dream, or contant a guiding angel you are actually contacting your higher soul. Because Sev's higher soul exists their is no need to go spliting him into infinity ("Sev 203 took the door on the right, but Sev 204 took the door on the left). Sev's higher soul, et al, is responsible for all the little miracles that directs Sev2's life, there need be no more. This is all with in the first book. I understand things are different when you start to configure Apu and the sleeper into the picture, and other anomalies in the sequel.


Merryn is "almost certainly" Severian's sister.

Catherine, mother of Severian, was a pelerine who fell

Overview: we know Severian has a sister, because Severian/Severa is a set of names you give to twins. We know what happens to male children who are born to prisoners; female children go to the witches.

So Severian's sister is a witch, of his age. My guess (and Wolfe confirmed this in the chat) is Merryn, the Cumaean's companion at the very end of _Claw_.

Mother: Well, Ouen names her Katharine at the end of _Citadel_ and says she was given to the torturers (which matches our theory for Severian's origin). We do meet one woman in the Guild's care named Katharine...

But on the topic of names, switch over to Urth. Given twin names Agilus/Agia (AGI+), Severian/Severa (SEVER+). Can we hazard a guess at familial naming conventions, at least for the upper classes? Thea and Thecla, half-sisters: it seems that they are named after their commonheld parent (THE+). Valeria, armigette, is possibly named after ancestor (VALOR) or (VAL+). Vodalus (VODA+).

Are ethnic roots of names reflected in their bearers? Abdiesus, archon of Thrax, is assumed to be an exultant because of his role as archon, and he might be as Persian as the saint he is named after. But is blonde little Dorcas as Semitic as Tabitha? Oh wait, "Dorcas" is the Greek form of Aramaic Tabitha (gazelle), so okay, she's a golden haired Achaean. Well, if =that's= true, then "Abdiesus" is also likely Greek, no?

Roche is French. Merryn is a boy's name. Malrubius is Latinized Irish "Maelrubba" (and has a sense of "red"); Palaemon is Greek (with a sense of "white"); Gurloes is French?. Vodalus is Latinized Scottish.

Back to families: Becan (Irish) + Casdoe (Persian?) = Severa/Severian. Ouen (Welsh) + Catherine (Greek) = Severian/Merryn ("Severity"/"Mercy," or so I like to think).

Quick--who is the armiger formerly buried in Severian's mausoleum (early chapters of SHADOW)?

Just for fun, let's say he is VALOR. Note that the tomb has =five= coffins, two of which are empty (presumed looted, suggesting that they were the parents). One or more of the three offspring form a family which ends in Valeria, the last of her line.

"Catherine" the fallen pelerine seems related to Thea/Thecla. But how? Maybe she is the khaibit of their mother. Kept young in the Atrium of Time.

As for Sev's mother, I prefer using "Katharine" for the patron saint of the torturers and the role played at the feasts of the torturers, "Catherine" for the mother. Just to make a distinction, if there is any real difference in the metaphysical/time-travelling, loop-the-lupine-loop sense of things.

 Dorcas + "Charonus"
      Ouen + Catherine (an exultant or of exultant)
         Severian, Merryn

Dorcas: an optimate (see TBOTNS appendix re: social classes). She is the only representative of this class in the text.

"Charonus": the old guy dragging the Lake of Birds, probably a former commoner who tried to become optimate and fell hard.

Catherine: as a fallen Pelerine, she is presumed to be exultant or optimate (see Ava talking about the Order in volume four). However, she doesn't seem very tall, so she might not be an exultant; yet Severian's biological background suggests, if not requires, that there be an exultant back there. One solution bandied about is that Catherine is (1) a runaway khaibit (2) from the same exultant family that has the half-sisters Thea and Thecla (see the undetailed "family arms" on one of the critically important books Sev brings to Thecla); said exultant family might, in turn, (3) be one of the "northern clans" (Thecla's family has holdings at Lake Diuturna, quite northern), (4) perhaps even the very same family whose crest one of the other torturer apprentices draws above his bunk (but NOT NOT NOT the detailed crest of Severian's mausoleum, I don't usually think, at least--at one point we are told the exultants, like the autarch, is always buried elsewhere--but at another point there might be a line about Severian's mausoleum housing an exultant family).

In "The Feast" of Shadow, Severian describes Katherine (and the maid who plays her) as tall and slender, dark of complexion and hair. And he says "hers was such a face as I have never seen elsewhere, like a pool of pure water found in the midst of a wood." He is tall, with dark hair, and with very fair skin. A pool of pure water found in a wood would reflect the face of one who looked at it. GW seems to be telling us that Severian looks like Katherine.

But we are also told that the annual observance of Holy Katherine's feast has been going on for 300 years. "No one from without the guild has dined with us at the annual observance of Holy Katherine's feast for more than 300 years, when a lieutenant of the guard (so it is said) dared to come for a wager." It would seem logical that such an important ceremony would have a long history. If it has been observed for over 300 years, how can Katherine be Severian's mother?

Re: Cath as Severian's mother. It hinges mainly upon: the revelation that Ouen the waiter at the Inn of Lost Loves is Severian's biological father, who had met and loved a woman named Cath, said woman disappeared from his life when taken away by authorities for some unknown crime. This meshes nicely with the bits that Severian tells of children in the Matachin Tower (born of prisoners), as well as what he tells of his own mother (nursing Sev in a cell). The link between this Cath and that Kath is the passage you've already alluded to--Clute and everybody since him has used the "pool = mirror = maid looks like Sev" line of reasoning.

Re: the historical Kath (i.e., Patron Saint of torturers). First, I'm not claiming that the same maid has been working the feast drama for a chiliad--I'm all but insisting that the same woman is playing the role for the duration of Severian's apprenticehood, and after the feast of his elevation she vanishes, never to be seen again. This is pretty much the facts given in the text. Where I spin off is to speculate that Cath vanishes into the corridors of time and winds up becoming the historical Kath in the same sort of way that Sev winds up becoming the historical Conciliator--hundreds or thousands of years in the past.

Re: Merryn as his sister. Well, Merryn shows up very few times. If you look at these scenes you will notice that Merryn and Severian are the same age: 23 years old. And, back to those notes about children among the torturers, you recall that baby girls are handed over to the witches. Finally, there is the issue of twins--Severian and Severa are well known twin names (witness the twins at the pioneer hut in the mountains), and a few times Sev is asked if he has a sister; the last time, with Ava in volume four, he says that if he does, then she is a witch. Well, this repetition leads many to believe that Merryn is Sev's sister.

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