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From: tony.ellis@futurenet.co.uk (Tony Ellis)
Subject: (urth) Re: Trenchard, Abo: Part II
Date: Fri, 05 Jun 1998 16:24:06 +0100

Let's start by clearing up some misconceptions:
> Right. The abo tissue would reject the human transplant, but reproduction
> between human and abo is possible? Because this is what you're saying.

No it's not. I'm saying that the Free People are humans, from
Gondwonaland - a theory that is raised far too often to be dismissed out
of hand. (Or out of limb, come to that.) That's why abos and humans can
reproduce, that's why if anyone did graft a limb onto an abo it _would_
take. You, however, by saying that the abos can change shape and grow
new limbs, are saying that they are alien. If that were so then no,
grafting wouldn't take and interbreeding wouldn't work.

> Also reread Hagsmith's tale. Specifically note how the abo half of the
> second cattle-drover's wife would steal something, but the human half would
> put it back.

I have reread it. This is a story about a new woman that is grown from
an arm (by a third party). Notice too that the new wife is abo "except
for the one arm" - because the arm she has been grown from was a human
one. This is not a story about an abo who can regrow a lost limb, and no
such ability is implied. (As for its "purpose": among other things it
serves to show just how mythologized the abos have become. How large a
grain of salt we should take with every story.)

> Wait a minute. You can change your shape into a dead tree or a carabou,
> with the attendant wild morphing of form, but you can't recast the distal
> portion of a limb into the form of a hand or retransmogrify yourself
> altogether? If antlers, why not hands? If tree branches, why not fingers?

_Who_ can change his or her shape into a tree or carabou? When do we
_ever_ see one of the Free People doing this? This is why I say that
the whole shape-changing business is riddled with misconceptions. 

<deep breath>
To begin with, we should distinguish between actual Lon Chaney type
shape-changing and mimicry. We have clear evidence that the Free People
are great mimics. VRT can take off Dr H, and make himself look
older/younger at will. His mother can assume a number of guises. The
little French girls get the best boys. This may be a matter of voice and
the muscles of the face, as RT says, or a telepathic ability, but it is
a thousand miles away from the ability to change into an animal or a
tree. If the Free People could change shape, why didn't they change into
birds and fly out of the pit in "A Story"? Why didn't Sandwalker make
his escape by changing into a Goul-Bear, or a Fast Thing With Very Long
Legs? Why do the Marshmen have to tie their genitals off with women's
hair in order to lose them, instead of just reabsorbing them? (Why don't
they grow back?) Why don't any of the Hill People or the Marshmen even
-once- raise the subject of being able to change shape? Just once.

They don't because they can't. There may well be a form of indigenous
Annese life that can genuinely shape-shift, personally I'm sure there
is, but it has nothing to do with the Free People.

So where has the confusion come from? From people not seeing, and not
listening. We're shown this quite explicitly. M. Culot's grandfather
used to see Annese all the time. He knows that there are many different
races. "Others, he said, might think them to be all one, but the other
knew less than he. He would have said that to the blind, all cats are
black." When asked what one looked like, M Culot junior remembers him
saying "sometimes likes a man, but sometimes like the post of a fence."
Sounds like a shape-shifting human, right? Sure, except that a moment
later M Culot changes his story: "It may have been that he said:
'Sometimes like a man, sometimes like old wood.'" Now that is something
very different. That sounds very much like a Shadow Child, and even more
like someone saying "some of them look like us, but some of them are
gnarled and twisted, like old wood." Bear in mind that we have been
carefully told that M Culot senior was (a) angry at the time, and (b)
known to "speak the truth in such a way as to make it sound
impertinent". He's not going to spell things out to those who refuse to

Some Annese lifeforms can shape-change, some can't. But this distinction
has been lost in the re-telling, and in the mythologisation of the
unknown. What do you think we are being told when Marsch tells us the
following? "...the reports are very contradictory. Even in the
interviews I have, it's often difficult to believe that two subjects are
are talking about the same thing, and the reports of the early explorers
- such of them as have survived - show even less agreement."

Like I said, the issue of shapechanging is a debate in itself. Back to
your arguments:

> RT can read rather well? Did I miss something?

When Marsch hands RT his card RT reads it. "'Ah, you are a doctor! Look,
Victor, our visitor is a doctor of philosophy! ...Doctor, Doctor
Marsch'" He spent all his formative years in a mudhole, but he knows
"PhD" when he sees it? And a name like Marsch? Victor can read because
Victor went to school as a boy. His mother didn't and can't, so why
should an abo father fare any better?

> >We're shown that VRT lacks the manual dexterity to have made the fake
> >flint tools RT shows Marsch. That leaves RT. How did he make them, if
> >he's an abo too?
> Victor comes right out and says such tools are made with one's teeth

No he doesn't. He says "With their teeth." Like any sulky adolescent
confronted by the embarrassing stupidity of adults, Victor is getting
his revenge by providing the most minimal, unhelpful response possible.
He's saying two things. He's saying "You think my people made stuff like
that? What with, their teeth?" And he's saying "When they wanted to cut
something they used their teeth. You morons. "Only a few lines further
on, he clarifies this: "The Free People didn't use those things. ...if
they wanted to cut something they used their teeth."

You don't -seriously - think it's possible to fashion flint tools with
your teeth, do you Robert?

> Marsch later adds such tools require little manual dexterity to chink
> out.

Absolutely. That's why RT can make them with his arthritic hands. VRT
still can't because he's a hopeless ham-fisted abo. He doesn't have this
skill because none of his people have any tool-using skills. How many
times do you count Sandwalker using a flint knife? And the other Hill
People? And the Marshmen? Anyone?

> >"My mother...had been buttoned into her yellow dress by him." Buttoned
> >in because the Annese can't handle buttons any more than they can handle
> >tools or writing. How can Trenchard do that if he's Annese too?
> You ever see any old style frontier dress buttons or even a pea coat?

VRT's mother just happens to be wearing a dress that she can't button up
herself? In a story where the ability to manipulate human artifacts is
absolutely crucial???

> The 15 year figure is given on p. 147 by Mr. D...

Unfortunately your page numbers are different to mine. I've hunted up
and down for a passage resembling the one you imply, and the nearest I
can get is where M. d'F says "they have a son of fifteen or so". You're
going to have to give me a quote for this one.

> You're also not reading Dollo correctly... 

This is the least of my arguments, and I'm quite happy to bow to your
superior knowledge. (I may ask you for details later on, simply for my
own curiosity.)

> He would also like to quote Roy Trenchard from the testimony of Dr. Marsch.
> "It's all falsity. Everything is false, Dr. Marsch."

Uh, wrong again, sorry. It's Victor who says that. And he's playing at
being Dr
Hagsmith at the time.

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

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