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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) Roy Trenchard, Abo
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 01:10:55 

Now that I've had my bit of fun, it's time I finished the last of my major
essays about FIFTH HEAD.

This one will attempt to prove that Roy Trenchard, the beggar huckster
father of VRT, is not human, as everyone in the novel assumes, but a
full-blooded abo.

I'm going to do this differently than I normally do and use a semitemporal
approach. Certain assumptions will be made immediately at the start, but I
hope that you will come less to question them once you've completed the
entire piece.

PM = Annese years preceeding the arrival of Dr. Marsch from Earth at the
Roncevaux starport (1 year Annese= 1.3-1.4 years Terran.)

-17PM     In the back of beyond, a young woman of the Free People becomes
pregnant. She and the child's father debate whether they should stay in the
Annese outback where winters are harsh and half of all children die, or
attempt to find surroundings more conducive to survival. Perhaps additional
matters weigh in on their decision. Since there is evidence to suggest that
the father-to-be is a Wetlander--i.e., of a rival abo group--he and the
woman he's impregnated may not have been welcome by either group (the
Montague-Capulet scenario). Size and resource limitations may have also
played a part in the decision (the Donner's Pass scenario); Annese groups
in the wild seldom number more than 10 people, with an additional
restriction on males of fighting size (3-4), and so this might have placed
a burden on the survival of the overall group. 

For whatever reasons the young couple decides to do something many other of
the Annese have done over the past two hundred years: they decide to pass
as humans. It's easy enough to do; all you have to do is master their vocal
patterns and avoid situations which demonstrate your lack of manual
dexterity (a central conceit of the novel and undeniably a given).

Christening himself Roy Trenchard, the man and his pregnant girlfriend go
to Roncevaux, a sea-and-starport. Here Roy will attempt to earn a living as
a fisherman; while unable to work with tools, the Wetlanders are more than
capable, we are told, of manipulating nets woven from rawhide or vegetable
fiber (this same ability will later be seen in Victor, who is adept with

Before they take up residence, however, the Trenchards anthropomorphize.
Mom takes on a more traditional seductress form (Eve or Three Faces, which
is no doubt meant to recall the movie, since Three Faces of Eve is about
multiple personality and Victor's mother is allegedly an actress), keeping
her native large green eyes, but Roy, thinking it perhaps better to allay
suspicions (abo passers are probably more tolerated in cosmopolitan
Roncevaux than anywhere else; still, it's wise to know your place) opts for
eyes "little and blue."

[There is a parallel to this with the carabao-thing Marsch shoots, but
which doesn't die right away, prolonging its mortal coil shuffling until
mid-morph; hence its double-pupiled eyes, the surmised nictitating effect
speculated upon by Marsch being totally bogus.]

[We must also note that Victor's tiny blue eyes adumbrate where the former
light of his eyes will wind up by story's end; i.e., at that other little
blue place in the sky, Sainte Croix.]   

To better fit in with societal mores Roy marries Eve in a ceremony at
Sainte Madeleine. The marriage may also provide them with documentage akin
to baptismal certificates.

-16 PM    Victor Roy Trenchard is born.

Things appear to go well for the young couple and child during the next
year. Roy is able to make a decent enough living. Eve stays home with
little Victor, her darling green-eyed boy.

-15 PM     Here occurs the rowboat scene recalled by Victor from his
citadel cell. Earlier he explains how powerfully-subject to recall all his
memories are, even when they've pre-dated any foundation he lacked for
understanding them. 

Also please note what I've asterisked--they're important.

"...but the odd thing about my dream was that *I knew everything that I was
to learn later,* and I looked at my father, who seemed a red-bearded giant,
and *knew what would happen to his hands so that he could no longer follow
his trade.* My mother--yes, I am sure it was she, though 
*I have never understood how one of the Free People could bear a child to
my father*--had been buttoned into her yellow dress by him..." (p. 216)

Unbeknownst to the idyllic couple, however, much trouble has been brewing,
especially for abos who do not know their place.

Roy, after Marsch arrives <PM =0>, provides us with hints of its nature:

"Now you say, 'where are they?' but would they be wise to show themselves?
Once all this world of Sainte Anne was theirs. A farmer thinks: 'Suppose
they are men like me after all? That Dupont, he is a clever lawyer. What if
they engage him, eh? What if he spoke to the judge--the judge who has no
French and hates us--and said, This man you call abo has nothing, but
Augier's farm was his family's--you make Augier show us the bill of sale?'"

Two things are important to note here.

All the records involving bill of sales and other documentage have gone up
in smoke when St-Dizier, the capital of Sainte Anne, was "fused" in the
war. (I'm speculating laser armaments rather than nuclear; the former we
see in a military craft patroling Frenchman's Landing. It's also here, when
Victor starts to wave at the craft, his father yells him, saying "Faitez
attention. *You are supposed to be* Francais." In the actual passage the
*words are missing because Marsch does not comprehend French, but given the
nature of Roy's "the judge hates us French" riff, it is not overly
difficult to imagine what he might be saying. It's also stated during
Marsch/VRT's interrogations on Sainte Croix that the French hate the
government of Sainte Anne, so not waving is important to their cover.

So what might we assume from these new facts? That perhaps some uppity Rosa
Parks type abo decided to take such a case as Roy outlines to court?
Perhaps Rosa Abo even wins. Horrors, it's not bad enough the French have
lost the war and have no representation in the government. Now they want to
take our land from us too. (South Africa comes to mind here as a parallel).
What are we going to go?

Let's kill all of the abos we can find.

And they do, either covertly a la the Klu Klux Klan or with the
government's full cooperation. It doesn't matter.

A slaughter or series of slaughters takes place at a ford Dr. Hagsmith
calls Running Blood. Only later do we learn the French name for the river
(Rougette, 'rosy') as well as its even more telling abo name: End of Days.
Both English and abo names omniously invoke images of slaughter and

[The account of Mr.D on p. 147 dates the Running Blood incident back 15
years, which would mean Victor was still only one year old. Hence my

And how do the French know that whoever attempts to ford the Rougette might
not be human since shape-shifted abos appear indistinguishable from the
genuine article?

According to Dr. Hagsmith everyone who comes to the ford--it is probably a
major crossing area for both human and abo, and probably near abo sacred
sites or required crossing to get there--must pass the Shovel Test.

If the challenged forder can dig with it, he/she's human. If he/she can't,
they're not, because abos don't have the manual dexterity: in other words,
it's au revoir, a deadly litmus. 

No big deal, though. The abos aren't people, they're magical animals.

But what if there are abos in our beloved cities, ask the blood-crazed,
land-loving killers. We must devise ways of ridding them too.

So lists are drawn up. Anyone with green eyes is immediately suspect.
Anyone with known abo skills like fishing is also suspect. Perhaps only men
are questioned, the French thinking if we kill all the stallions, we won't
have to worry about the mares and foals.

Roncevaux being a port to livestock breeders, its peoples are used to
screams of dispatched animals and blood in the streets.

Roy, for whatever reasons, can't get out of town. Either he's heard the
word too late or the baby's sick or the only avenues of escape they have
are all patrolled by the shovel-wielding French.

There is only one way he can beat the test.

He has to show a reason why he can't handle the shovel or perhaps delay the
test for another day.

Recall to mind now Dr. Hagsmith's story about the cattle-drover's wife, who
loses her arms to a train when she collapses drunkenly on the tracks.
Remember how these little abo tales have lots of ingrained semibiographical
truths, even when refractive.

Roy, doing his best imitation of a drunkard (a role he will perfect over
the next decade-and-a-half), collapses on the tracks before an oncoming
train and loses both hands. Yes, it hurts, but he loves his wife and child,
as well as his own hide, and in the wild many of his kin lose limbs to
feral beasts all the time. No big deal; he can slough off the transplants
they provide him with from the cryobank (the same as those that avail the
cattledrover's wife), then regenerate his own. That's basically what
shape-shifting involves anyway--contouring and directing your own flesh
however you want--as if you're both pruner and bonzoi tree. 

Eventually Roy recovers, but now either his grafted human hands allow him
to take the test (conferred human abilities are implied by Hagsmith's
tale), or the evidence of his hands, which never quite properly recover,
can't be used against him. (Or he regenerates his own hands somewhat later,
after the scare passes). Poor drunken bloke; leave him be. He'll have a
rough enough time in life as it is.

Eventually the bloodlust passes or the courts issue a new verdict or
considered expert scientific opinon decides there's no such as a remnant
aboriginal race left on Sainte Anne. 

French 10, Abos 0.

Unfortunately, Roy now can no longer handle even the minimal manual skills
he needs to work his nets. This is a corollary of Dollo's Law; while he
might regenerate his missing parts, the function of those parts would *not*
be reacquired. And so he's forced to prostitute his wife to earn a living.

[Cinderella interlude: look at the multiple shadings Gene Wolfe gets by
having Dr. Hagsmith say the abo shaman's name is Cinderwalker, but then
adding as if in clarification, "No, not Cinderella--I know what you're
thinking." Cinderella, after all, involves two different forms of
transformation: physical (mice to horses, pumpkins to carriage) as well as
personal (Cinderella the chargirl becomes the glass-slippered
debutante)--both types of transformation are seen in the Trenchards.
Cinderella also, at least for me, has tangents to the Holocaust with its
ash and chimney images.] 

-14 to -4PM     Things continue to deteriorate for the Trenchards over the
next decade. Eve must continue to prostitute herself, which is not only
painful to Roy, because he still loves her (but how can I love a woman who
sleeps with other men?), but erodes his self-esteem, since he can no longer
provide for his family.

When Victor is old enough, and it is summer, Eve takes her son into the
back of beyond and introduces him to the Free People and their ways.

Roy, unable to pimp Eve during these same months, relocates to Frenchman's
Landing, a prime spot to open up his
Abo-Wonders-of-Yesterday-Tour-and-Souvenir Shop. Here he sells "genuine"
abo artifacts that Victor has made, according to Vic, with his teeth. Roy's
becoming more and more deracinated, more and more marginalized by the
people who think he's little better than a
drunk-slash-conartist-slash-malingerer. Unfortunately, this is not a role
uncommon to many figures in all societies where two cultures come together
and one is adjudged to be more primitive or inferior (which usually means
less technically adept--a case that applies here). It's even questionable
if he could survive with his useless hands in the back of beyond, so this
makes him even more the man without a culture.

 [Note to mantis: you need to uplink your artifact speculations--they're
another point in my case, but yours to deliver.]

Victor too seems caught between two cultures, or perhaps it's better to say
he has two cultures to pick from, although he does seem to lean more
towards the Free People side of his heritage until he eventually leaves
Sainte Anne (witness how he cries when an abo shape-shifted animal is shot
by Marsch, but reviles the French with the "Frogtown" epithet). Victor must
also resolve the difficulties involved with having a mother who's a
prostitute and the attendant associations these are likely to chart on his
psychosexual development. (I maintain they contribute to psychosis and
possible latent homosexuality.") [Please note here I am not saying that
homosexuality is a malign pyschosexual response.]

Witness too how at one point Victor says he is half animal. While at
another juncture he declares "I am half the blood of the Free People." Many
readers might assume by this that he's implying the other half of him is
human, but notice that's not at all what he's saying. His father has turned
his back on his feral heritage (he can't even fish, the one vestige of his
Wetlander roots he at one time retained), and is therefore nothing. Of
course, Victor could still say "and the other half of me is marshman." But
that would be too telling by Wolfe in several respects. Note too this
explanation accounts for the I-don't
know-how-a-Freelander-could-bear-my-father's-child line earlier.

-3 PM    Victor, now an adolescent, though yet to shave, is witnessed by
his mother having sex in the back of beyond.
Eve leaves Victor for Roncevaux where she will somehow work her way over to
Sainte Croix--perhaps seeking to fulfill her actress dreams (we do have the
staged plays of act 1 to perhaps hint at a more aesthetically minded
planet). Her responsibilities as a mother are over; her son has been
"milk-weaned" i.e., he can take care of himself.

Victor meanwhile returns to Frenchman's Landing, where he joins his
father's tent-and-pony show, often playing Kaspar Hauser's feral boy to his
father's assumed identity as Twelvewalker (and perhaps it does reprise a
bit of family history), but otherwise reading as much as he can when
offstage. Having been abandoned by the Free People side of his heritage,
the stage now seems tipped for him to go the other way--which he does,
although it requires him to murder and leave his enfant sauvage days far
behind him.

Eve too fares similarily, winding up, as Tony Ellis has neatly
demonstrated, in the same cellblock as her later arrested son. 

Free People, right?

As for Roy Trenchard, for all we know he continues to thrive.

Perhaps there are lessons to be drawn here.

Some prisons are kinder than others.

Some dreams are worse.   

Robert Borski (who's trying to make amends for some of his weirder posts)




*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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