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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (whorl) Moses(es) of the Whorl
Date: Fri,  4 Apr 97 04:15:00 GMT

[Posted from Whorl, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]


"We cannot escape the impression that this Moses of Kadesh
and Midian, to whom tradition could even ascribe the erection of a
brazen serpent as a healing god, is quite a different person from
the august Egyptian we have deduced [mantis note: a refugee from
the court of heretic pharoah Ikhnaton], who disclosed to his people
a religion in which all magic and sorcery were moststrictly abhorred.
Our Egyptian Moses differs perhaps no lessfrom the Midian Moses than the
universal god Aton [mantis note: focal point of Ikhnaton's heretical
monotheism] differed from thedemon Yahweh [mantis note: Arabian volcano
god] on his divine mountain."

Two Moseses, one brazen snake on a stick.  But let's face it, that snake
has two aspects, too: healing/beneficial and destructive/frightful.  Oops,
and two gods, or names of God: Yahweh (focus of the "J Text") and Elohim
(focus of the "E Text").

Campbell breaks down the Moses story into the following elements:

 "1. a cruel, unnamed, fairy-tale pharoah, persecuting a people . . .
(Tyrant-Ogre motif),

 2. has a daughter, also unnamed, who finds a baby in a basket on the
waters of the Nile . . . (modified Virgin Birth motif, with inverted Infant
Exposure: from humble to noble household);

 3. a Midianite priest of Kadesh, who is to become the hero's father-in-law
(named Reuel in J Text, Jethro in E);

 4. has seven daughters (magical 7: seven celestial spheres,colors of the
rainbow, etc.),

 5. who are met at the well by a desert fugitive from Egypt whohas just
killed an Egyptian;

 6. he marries one and becomes the shepherd of his father-in-law. . . ;

 7. the voice of Yahweh in the burning bush commits to this shepherd
the cosmic task of rescuing his people from the clutches of the Tyrant Ogre;
after which there follows

 8. his magical contest, assisted by his suddenly present brother
Aaron (Twin Hero theme), against the priests and magicians of Egypt
(shaman contest), culminating in

 9. the Plagues of Egypt . . . and

 10. the Exodus (Magic Flight motif, Passage through Water, Dissolution of
Underworld Power at Threshold, Boon of Spoil from Underworld, etc.)."

These points match up to THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN in a fairly
straight forward manner.

1.  We will take pharoah in his strictly governmental aspect as
being the Ayuntamiento or Calde Tussah, rather than get messy
with pharoah's divine status (which links into the Nine).

2.  Nameless daughter of Viron, right.  Well that's clear--almost
paint by number. <g>

3.  Hero's father-in-law, interesting angle on the head clerk of
the Juzgado.

4.  Seven daughters.  Well, at this point, the original story seems to
imply rather special powers for Jethreuel . . . no matter, since our
clerk has only one daughter (to the best of our knowledge)--but she's
Hyacinth and very special.  (Maybe two-in-one, but not seven-in-one.)

5.  Ah, a fork in the road: Moses the adopted nobleman versus
Moses the outlaw.  Silk gets to be the adopted nobleman (with the
high-to-low social status in its usual mode) and Auk, he kicked a man to
death, once.  But I also want to interject that Father Brown has his
thief buddy, too (what was his name--Flammbeau?). Silk meets Hyacinth
at a well of sorts (at Ermine's) . . . does Auk ever meet Chenille at
a well?

6.  "Shepherd of his father-in-law"--now see, that implies that
Reuejethro is somehow kinda sorta standing in for something bigger,
ranging from "the People" on up to God Himself.  But for our purposes,
we'll just let it be "Silk for Calde."

7.  Burning bush into burning fig tree.  Check.  This element
also covers Silk's first enlightenment and probably a few other
scenes scattered throughout the series.  Note that the burningbush
tells of how when time to go comes along, just asking the
Egyptian women for jewelry will give the Hebrews the goods(forgive me
but I can't quite catch the meaning of this); whereas Comely Kypris
tells her Sun Street Irregulars to rob the Palatine, and they do, and
guess what--cards are needed for repairing the landers!  (Now =that=
I can grasp!)

8.  Hmmm.  Snake and stick tricks.

9.  The Plagues of Egypt is what they're gonna git on the Whorl if'n
they don't land sumbuddy rite kwik!

10.  Magic flight would be when the floater takes off.

Well, enough fooling around.  I think that Silk is one Moses, Auk
is another (and/or he is Aaron), and Quetzal is a third (since he dies
before getting to the promised land), but Q is also the snake
on the stick (and of the stick), healing and frightening at the same
time, since that brazen serpent god (healing totem/magical staff) also
died in Exodus, making way for the transcendent god.


Questions or problems to whorl-owner@lists.best.com

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