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Date: Sun, 1 Dec 2002 20:26:41 -0800
From: Dan Rabin 
Subject: (urth) Nodding trees

Marc Aramini writes,

>  Also, remember that the trees take part in the cannibalistic ritual
>of Vodalus: " the trees nodded, and I nodded with them". THE TREES PARTICIPATE

Severian is under the effects of a powerful psychoactive drug 
(alzabo) at the moment narrated.  He is hallucinating.  I can't count 
this as an instance of Wolfe intending the trees to be understood as 

>Also remember that there is a big
>section that talks about Vodalus hiding the forests of Lune - sentient trees
>there, maybe?  The trees of Green?

Not a big section.  From _Torturer_ chapter 5:

>This was done before they got it irrigated.  See that gray-brown? 
>In those times, that's what you'd see if you looked up at her.  Not 
>green like she is now.  Didn't seem so big either, because it wasn't 
>so close in-that's what old Branwallader used to say.  Now there's 
>trees enough on it to hide Nilammon, as the saw goes."
>I seized my opportunity.  "Or Vodalus."
>Rudesind cackled.  "Or him, that's right enough.  Your bunch muyst 
>be rubbing their hands waiting to have him.  Got something special 
>If the guild had particular excruciations reserved for specific 
>individuals, I knew nothing of it; but I endeavored to look wise and 
>said, "We'll think of something."
>"I suppose you will.  A bit ago, though, I thought you was for him. 
>Still you'll have to wait if he's hiding in the Forests of Lune."

OK, so there's this once-arid Moon that's now a big forest.  It's 
hard to find things even in a little forest full of ordinary 
non-sentient trees, because you can't see very far.  So this really 
big forest is so big that it can hide Nilammon, who was trying to hid 
from a mob (thanks to _Lexicon Urthus_ for the reference).  So 
Severian thinks it a chance to work in a mention of Vodalus, who he 
presumes to be hiding from all the Autarch's horses (or destriers) 
and all the Autarch's men.  Forests don't need volition or sentience 
to hide things--they just stand around being composed of zillions of 
opaque trees, and human lack of x-ray vision does the rest.

If Wolfe does have a thing about sentient trees, it's certainly much 
more muted in his works than concerns with memory and identity.  You 
want sentient trees, read _The Lord of the Rings_, which has them in 
abundance, right out in the open, with raw explicit scenes like Old 
Man Willow trapping hobbits, Huorns making Orcs disappear, and Ents 
tearing down the stronghold of an evil wizard.  Great material, those 
sentient trees--too bad that slacker Wolfe had them all over his 
major works and never got any good action out of them!  Instead, his 
readers have to settle for tired old stuff such as vampire popes, 
robot nuns, giant time-travelling sailing ships, false gods who 
appear on giant vision screens, monarchial succession by practical 
cannibalism, splendid giant underground palaces with coextensive 
secret passageways, maintenance crews that strap on wings to tend the 
sun, all kinds of shallow showy stuff like that.

   -- Dan Rabin


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