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Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2)
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2011 Reads > S&C: The Jungle Hut scene - theories (spoilers, shadow, ch 19-21)

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message 1: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 16, 2011 09:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
I couldn't make heads or tails of the scene in the jungle hut in the Botanical Gardens the first time I read Shadow. Now, with the help of Lexicon Urthus, I have a partial theory:

Before the climb up to the hut, Severian repeats Father Inire's lecture about how the mirrors and light are used to allow travel through hyperspace - shortcuts that allow travel between stars. The glass panes of the Botanical garden seem similar to Inire's mirrors. The jungle display is meant to re-create the past, but perhaps instead it allows actual time travel (hyperspace travel through time instead of space?).

The couple in the hut are Christian missionaries (the Christian God is renamed 'the Compassionating', but the passage the woman is reading is the Old Testament Jehovah showing Moses the Promised Land when Moses was on Mt. Nebo), the naked man a local tribesman they are trying to convert, the flier Severian sees out the window is clearly a propeller plane ('the mail plane') from roughly our time period, etc.

But if so -

* How much of the Jungle Garden is the actual past? Just the hut, or more? Agia suggested they would not find the hut there if they went back.

* Why do only the male missionary and the tribesman see Severian and Agia?

* Given the repeated mentions of people who linger too long in a particular Garden feeling drawn to staying there and their minds being warped to conform to the place, could the inhabitants of the hut actually be contemporary Urthians who have taken on the roles of people from the past?


message 2: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6189 comments I heard somewhere they were sections of a space ship?


message 3: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Cameron | 25 comments Interesting. I was thinking that when they enter a garden they are transported to either another section of Urth or to another planet. In this case the two 'missionaries' were (in my mind) two curators of the garden gathering information from one of the natives but I like the idea of time travel. That would help explain the craft he saw out the window.


message 4: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments It's fairly well stated that the interior of the Botanical Gardens seems larger than the exterior, so something unusual is clearly going on. I think it's like a museum, but one that allows you to actually visit the particular time and place that's on display. Time probably progresses at a different rate in the different time periods, so the travel through time in imprecise. That's why the hut wouldn't be there if they went back; Severian would be going to a slightly different time period (either years before or years later).

To me the hut sequence felt like Wolfe referencing Hemingway, but that's not quite right, I think. Probably an author with a similar writing style to Hemingway's.

I think you might be onto something with your theory that some contemporary Urthlings have lingered too long and that might explain why some of them see Severian and Agia and others do not.


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments My theory on the hut was it is a window to some other place or time. And as for it not showing again, I don't fully trust Agia but I always thought it might be more along the lines of the method for the travel was such that you can't visit the same moment or time again.

Why do people want to linger? Maybe it's an artifact of the method of whatever is happening, maybe it's a specific effect of the Botanical Gardens.


message 6: by Jared (new)

Jared (jared_king) | 51 comments Time travel is referenced many times throughout Shadow & Claw - the jungle hut, the green man, the House Absolute spans "distance and time" are some examples - when the mirrors are demonstrated by Father Inire, the image of the fish is slow to form; perhaps Severian and the other visitors are the mirror people and are slow to fully appear in the garden world.

Larry wrote: "I always thought it might be more along the lines of the method for the travel was such that you can't visit the same moment or time again.

I think may you can get close - where did Dorcus come from?

It may be worth re examining the desert garden and how Severain felt to get a better understanding of your third point, Josh. I should re listen...


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments Dorcas is special case, not gonna spoil it.


message 8: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Tamahome wrote: "I heard somewhere they were sections of a space ship?"

Tamahome, that makes me think of this:


(Battlestar Galactica)

and this:


(Silent Running)

I like the idea that just as the Fish forms slowly in the mirrors, Severian and Agia may only appear slowly to people in the time they're visiting.

Anyone have a theory why the desert scene is particularly compelling to Severian (why he strongly felt the urge to remain)?


message 9: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments Jlawrence wrote: "Anyone have a theory why the desert scene is particularly compelling to Severian (why he strongly felt the urge to remain)?"

I'm having a hard time coming up with a compelling theory. The best I can come up with is that it's perhaps some echo of Christ's 40 days and nights in the desert. Severian is being tempted to stay in the Sand Garden. The details (mainly Agia's presence) don't fit exactly though. The Conciliator is clearly an echo of Christ though. It's hard for me to avoid Christian allegory when discussing Wolfe's writing, knowing how religious Wolfe is.


Colin | 278 comments Well, i was under the impression he was drawn to the desert because it reminded him of the moonscape painting with the Astronaut. I believe something like that was hinted at when he was in hall of paintings (for a second time??) just before meeting his contact.


message 11: by Sgtdetritus (new)

Sgtdetritus | 9 comments the whole jungle scene, followed later by the scene where Severian reads a story from his brown book (I'm guessing it was a fudged story of Theseus and the Minotaur) were part of what really turned me off of these books. They made no real sense in the context of the plot. They took me totally out of the story and they seemed to waste a huge amount of time on nothing.


message 12: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 25, 2011 10:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
The hut scene totally confused me too when I first read the book, Sgtdetritus, but now it seems clear to me it was the series' introduction of time travel, which does play a role in the plot.


message 13: by Ed (last edited Feb 26, 2011 05:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments Sgtdetritus wrote: "the whole jungle scene, followed later by the scene where Severian reads a story from his brown book (I'm guessing it was a fudged story of Theseus and the Minotaur)..."

Close. The story of Theseus and the Minotaur has been mixed up with the history of the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac. Minotaur=>Monitor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_o...


Colin | 278 comments So i just posted in the spoiler-free Botanical gardens thread, and something struck me like a thunderbolt in giving the answer.

Since Sev had the claw on his person during the entire time, it is possible that the claw was affecting him into being drawn to the various different areas inside. Did the Conciliator visit locations like that, and the claw (whatever it is) remembers? It does do a lot of very strange things, from mesmerizing mutants, healing injuries, and rebooting damaged...hard/software.


message 15: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Colin, I do like that idea, and, even if it wasn't directly the Claw, that the pull of time travel is behind Severian's otherwise mysterious attraction to staying in the Gardens. The only thing that makes me think it's not necessarily the Claw is that Agia says that various other people (obviously Claw-less) have also been tempted to remain in the Gardens.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2844 comments The time travel through each window theory reminds me of a book I read as a child, called the Summer House, or something like that, about a gazebo where each entrance transported the children to a different world.

Anyway, I'm reading all of this analysis and it is pretty difficult to jump in as a first-time reader, not knowing the context or what clues to pay attention to, but just the same I'm learning from your conversation so thanks.


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