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From: "Andrew Bollen" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Trees & transformations
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2002 16:01:21 +1100

> Doh! I hoped to be the first to reveal this connection between Silk and
> Llaw Gyffes. It's not the only connection between the two either. It goes
> and on.
> --Crush

Crush - I just came across your interesting site, and had a couple of
questions. In the intro, you say: "[Wolfe has] recreated Gwydion's riddle as
exegeted by Robert Graves in his The White Goddess.."  I assume you mean
"Gwion/Taliesin's" riddle, no? The one which goes:

"An impartial Chief Bard
Am I to Elphin.
My accustomed country
Is the land of the Cherubim.

Johannes the Diviner
I was called by Merddin,
At length every King
Will call me Taliesin.

I was nine months almost
In the belly of the hag Ceridwen;
I was at first little Gwion,
At length I am Taliesin."


Would love to here more on this! As far as I can recall, RG's (rather
tortured) exegesis is in terms of recreating the tree-alphabet from the
answers to the sections of the riddle, and finally a holy-name-of-god. A
fair amount of the imagery involved seems to be correspond with Wolfe's
imagery, but beyond that I am unclear on the connection. Ditto for the
connection between Llew and Silk?

Other Wolfean tie-ins to Graves at random:

- Jesus as "Balaam the Lame". The corresponding laming of Llew, as I think
you allude to.
- The primeval Adam as "Son of the terebrinth (tree)" and the earth mother,
which should interest Marc.
- Gwydion the magician is Odin (and Mercury/Hermes, at least for RG and
others), and hence maybe some connection to SilkHorn, particularly in his
magician aspect. Also, I seem to recall RG conceived of Gwydion in his
historical aspect as a major religious innovator, bound up with "The Battle
of the Trees", which RG sees as a poetic record of a major shift in Celtic
relgiious observance (whose details totally escape me - hopefully my
google-assisted memories are not too distorted). This would be fitting for
SilkHorn, of course, and the tree-stuff continues to speak in a rather
haunting way to Marc's thesis.  Is there anything about SilkHorn which
resonates with Gwydion's most remembered act - the creation of Bloedwedd
from flowers? Dunno.
- The whole tension between the ambiguous, female deities and powers of the
Sea & Wolfe's male heroes in the cycle, which is pretty damned Gravesian.
Googling RG once again, from the conclusion of "The White Goddess" -

"... there can be no escape from the present more than usually miserable
state of the world until a new Battle of the Trees is fought: "A renewal of
conflict / Such as Gwydion made,..." and the supreme Godhead thereby
redefined; until the repressed desire of the Western races, which is for
some practical form of Goddess worship, with her love not limited to
maternal benevolence and her afterworld not deprived of a Sea, finds
satisfaction at last."

It's possible (for me, anyway) to see a Wolfean debate - a respectful
debate - with that view, all through the work. Both SilkHorn and Severian
(assuming they are not the same entiity) are at least engaged with the
female powers of the Sea; and the ambiguity of the relationship is kind of
reminiscent of RG's Jesus' relationship with ancient female, sea-related
deities; at once beloved and enemy.

It's obviously possible to make too much of this. Wolfe may borrow or allude
to bits & pieces of imagery and thematic fragments, but I see them as mainly
"chrome" on the important things - the narrative, the characterization, the
moral issues bound up in them.


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