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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Severian's Christianity
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 1997 13:50:27 

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

On Mon, 23 Jun 1997, Peter Cash wrote:

> Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net> (Nutria) wrote:
> >        I don't want to get into an Alga-Nutria war, but once again I need to
> >bring in Gene's own statement, to me, that Severian is not a Christ figure
> >but a Christian figure. That's from the horse's (pardon, wolf's) mouth. 
> With respect, I flat-out don't understand how it can be so. A Christian
> is, by definition, a follower of Jesus Christ. (This is the minimum
> criterion, you can pile on as much theological baggage as you wish.)
> Christ is unknown in Severian's universe, so Severian cannot follow him.
> Therefore, Severian is not a Christian.

Perhaps Wolfe is thinking of something like this:  If a character can be
said to be a "Christ figure" by playing a role in the story analogous to
the role Christ plays in the Christian story, then a character can be a
"Christian figure" by playing a role in the story analogous to the role a
Christian plays in the Christian story.  

The most literal definition of the word 'Christian' is 'little Christ', so
Wolfe may be saying that Severian is a 'lesser replica' of Christ rather
than a 'conscious believer and follower of Christ.'

Others have pointed out that Severian seems to fill the "Christ figure" 
definition in several ways (working miracles, saving the world), but the
things that most often cause a character to be compared to Christ are
sacrificial death or suffering for others and some form of death, burial,
and resurrection.  Using those two criteria, I'd say Silk (ObWhorl!) fits
the bill for "Christ figure" more than Severian, and neither one fits as
well as, say, Tom Joad in _The Grapes of Wrath_ (trying to dredge up a
"Christ figure" from high school English classes and probably getting the
name wrong) or Tolkein's Aragorn.

Wolfe may also be thinking that, to be a "Christ figure" in the Urth
multiverse, one would have to literally be the Increate (aka the Outsider) 
Incarnate.  Maybe, as a Christian, Wolfe dislikes the idea of any
character but Jesus being called a "Christ figure". 


MoreObWhorl: Interesting how stories about the Outsider found their way
into the religion of Viron which Scylla had created as a parody. 

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