Talk:The Book of the New Sun

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This is a minor point, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that Wolfe did not actually invent any words for these books, although some were quite archaic. However, the article as it stands reads "...archaic, obscure, or even invented words..." Can anyone else comment on the accuracy of this statement? --Flyingspuds 05:30, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

I'm afraid I can't give any examples of outright neologisms, but I can give an example of invented meanings. See "fuligin", repeatedly defined as the "color darker than black", right? But my OED does not record that meaning at all, going for a "sooty" or charcoaly color, which most definitely is not fuligin as Wolfe uses it. --Maru (talk) Contribs 16:20, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Check out "Castle of the Otter", a collection of short essays by Wolfe himself about the content of the New Sun books. One of them talks about his choice of language, and if I recall correctly he freely admits to changing the meanings of some of the more obscure words (e.g. fuligin). Bear in mind he claims to be translating from a future language, so he's trying to find approximately equivalent words from current (and past) English. - KF, Feb 2/06

.. Wolfe has noted in interviews that he has not used any invented words in the "Book of the New Sun", but there are some typos [1]

What is "quasi-Lovecraftian"?[edit]

What is "quasi-Lovecraftian"? I don't like this discription because it's obscure enough to be meaningless. Is it even true of Wolfe's setting? --Heathcliff 21:30, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

I'm not too familiar with Lovecraft, but from what I know, the description is at least somewhat accurate. "Horrors of the deep" and all that. The "quasi" qualifier is important though, since I think Lovecraft deals more with mythological types of creatures, whereas Wolfe clearly builds his "monsters" in a more historical (or maybe even paleontological) way (from the perspective of the books, which are set billions of years in the future). Anyway, I agree that "quasi-Lovecraftian" is pretty obscure and (even worse) academic. — HorsePunchKid 22:41, July 27, 2005 (UTC)
I think it makes Book of the new Sun sound like it's in the horror genre which it is not at all. Also, BTW I don't think Book of the New Sun is meant to be set billions of years in the future though it is deliberately obscure about when it takes place. --Heathcliff 01:02, 29 July 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, there isn't too much of a horror aspect to BotNS. There are definitely a few monstrosities that are clearly intended to appear horrifying, but not in an "unspeakable horror" way; more of a "horribly unfamiliar" way, perhaps. Hard to describe. And I believe (unfortunately, after only one reading!) that it's set when the sun is literally running out of fuel (hydrogen fuel, at least), which is at least roughly billions of years in the future. There are many things he's left very unclear, but at least his description in the book gave me the impression of that order of magnitude, anyway. I need to read them again, though; Severian even tells you to toward the very end. :)HorsePunchKid 04:21, July 29, 2005 (UTC)
In Book of the New Sun it is said that a worm is inside the sun. I think this is supposed to be a reference to a small black hole consuming sun from the inside, but I don't remember if it's made clear anywhere or not. In any event, I'm pretty sure the sun is not dying of natural causes. The story is set in the far future, but there are too many traces of old myths and legends for the story to be set billions of years in the future. I'm currently in the middle of my first reread (just started Lictor again) so I'll pay special attention for anything particular about what's happening to the sun. --Heathcliff 22:39, 29 July 2005 (UTC)
From what you've re-read so far, would you recommend re-reading BotNS before moving on to Long Sun or Short Sun? I had been assuming all along that the Sun was simply dying naturally, so this could easily have caused me to try to fit evidence into that when it wasn't appropriate. (Sort of like how things work out with Baldanders; I've heard that on a second read-through, it's very obvious what the relationship between him and Dr. Talos is. You just miss the clues because you think you understand it.) — HorsePunchKid 01:10, July 30, 2005 (UTC)
I've yet to read Long or Short, but I definately recomend that everyone who likes BOTNS re-read it at some point. It's amazing how much I missed the first time through and I suspect I'm still missing a lot of it.
As for Dr. Talos and Baldanders' relationship, like you I didn't realize it until it was revealed out right the first time. The second time through I'm not sure I've noticed that many more hints. The only two the stood out to me this time were Talos not taking a share of the money and a comment by Dorcas. But like I said, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm still missing a lot.--Heathcliff 01:31, 30 July 2005 (UTC)
It's not necessary to re-read BotNS before Long Sun and Short Sun. The connection between them is pretty tenuous: the character Typhon is really the only significant connection, and he's an equally minor character minor in both works. However, Long Sun and Short Sun are very closely related. There is definitely supposed to be a black hole inside the sun, and in Urth of the New Sun he's supposed to bring a "white fountain" to counteract it. — Wahoofive (talk) 17:29, 16 November 2005 (UTC)
Sevarian and Nessus do show up briefly in the Book of the Short Sun. There are other tie-ins which are not tenuous, however they are mostly to the first fifty pages or so of the Book of the New Sun. Toiyabe 20:28, 11 January 2006 (UTC)
There is another mention of the non-natural failure of the Sun, during Severian's conversation with Typhon. Typhon goes over the events that preceded the failure of his empire and mentions his scientists detected a much greater than expected decrease in the Sun's output over the course of a year. This led to crop failures and other unrest which left him trapped on Urth. I read this as being divine punishment to humanity. For my 2 cents, it is probably a lot less than billions of years in the future, maybe a million. 18:05, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
In The Sword of the Lictor, ch. XIII, Severian recalls being taught that "in ancient times" the hearth of Urth was alive, and created new lands and new seas; now it is dead and cold. The implication is that the Earth has cooled so much that plate tectonics have shut down - an event hundreds or thousands of millions of years to our future. Or perhaps just that Master Palaemon wasn't qualified to teach geology.
Regarding the "worm" in the Sun being a black hole, I don't think the Prophet's description in Dr Talos's play (Claw, ch. XXIV) leaves much doubt: "Yet even you must know that cancer eats the heart of the old sun. At its center, matter falls in upon itelf, as though there were a pit without bottom, whose top surrounds it." He also says of it: "We know it to be far more, for it is a discontinuity in our universe, a rent in its fabric bound by no law we know. From it nothing comes - all enters in, nought escapes." Orcoteuthis (talk) 19:58, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
Something else occured to me - in Citadel ch. XXV Severian mentions the constellation of the Cross and the three stars called The Eight (ie. Crux and Octans). This would place his time in the astronomically near future, because bright stars like those making up the Southern Cross have life-times of some millions or tens of millions of years, and even constellations of long-lived stars are distorted beyond recognition by the proper motions of the stars on such time-scales. Orcoteuthis (talk) 10:50, 17 July 2008 (UTC)
"since I think Lovecraft deals more with mythological types of creatures" As he originally wrote the stories the beings were immeasurably ancient aliens, At the Mountains of Madness is the best example of this. It was only after his death with the countless re-writes and pastiches that they became mythological, a battle between light & dark, etc. LamontCranston 23:50, 15 December 2007 (UTC)
"You were correct when you said Erebus and Abaia are as great as mountains, [...] Their actual size is so great that while they remain on this world they can never leave the water - their own weight would crush them. You mustn't think of them battering at the Wall with their fists, or tossing boulders about. But by their thoughts they enlist servants, and they fling them against all rules that rival their own." (my emphasis) That sounds exactly like the behaviour of Cthulhu in At the Mountains of Madness and other unaltered Lovecraft. Cthulhu was supposed to be as big as a mountain too. LamontCranston 6:57, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
It doesn't sound very much like Cthulhu at all. For a start, Cthulhu is not an aquatic creature - he is famously trapped beneath the waters, and when the stars are right again he will take over the surface world in person. The purpose of his human servants is not to conquer the world in his name, but to open his tomb at the appropriate time. In At the Mountains of Madness we learn that Cthulhu and his spawn conquered the lands from the crinoid Old Ones and later divided them by treaty, whereas the oceans are the place the later retreat to. Orcoteuthis (talk) 22:04, 27 December 2007 (UTC)

Wolfe's subtlety[edit]

If Gene Wolfe had written The Sixth Sense, the twist would not have been revealed at the end. He would simply assume that his readers were smart enough to figure it out and if not, too bad. --Heathcliff 02:16, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

Naw, that's not quite right. Now, what would be Wolfean is if you had a narrator who never mentions that he is dead, and never tells you why he is damned- oh wait. Never mind. --Maru 21:47, 31 July 2005 (UTC)


This needs massive expansion to do justice to Wolfe's work. There have been several published treatises on the subject, not to mention a whole culture of Internet discussion groups. References and citations, of course, are crucial here. We should aim for a structured description of widely-held interpretations rather than just listing any crazy theory some guy on Usenet cooked up. Some things that come to mind (and in no capacity am I knowledgeable on the matter) off the top of my head:

  1. Severian's parentage: The woman playing Saint Cassandra in the Seekers ritual is Severian's mother OR the Autarch is Severian's mother (yes, mother).
  2. Severian actually did drown in his childhood Gyol swim. ...etc.

Doubtlessly there are dozens more themes that can be relevantly explored in the article. Albrecht 17:50, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

I agree. I'd furthermore state that the "interpretations" currently on the page are little more than tidbits of possible information regarding specific characters/places/times within the text--when I think of interpretations I think of full-scale readings of the texts, a comprehensive lens through which to view the story as a whole. DeadWolfBones 09:15, 2 March 2006 (UTC)

As it stands, the interpretation section is little more than an advert for the published treatises on the subject. I suggest that a new section is made for the little tidbits (like how the towers are spaceships and such) and the interpretation section be reserved for actual interpretation. I had a look online for good sources earlier, but had little luck in finding a good forum or whatever. I know that there is a mailing list, but I found it extremely difficult to navigate when I checked it out a while ago.


Nowhere in Book of the New Sun does it say that Valeria is Severian's wife or give any clue that she is his maternal grandmother. The series end's with him finding his way back to through the place with the sundials then ends. There's no development of Severian's relationship to Valeria beyond that. Also, why is this tidbit in the Interpretation sections? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 22:45, August 21, 2007 (UTC)

The "extra" fifth book in the series Urth of the New Sun reveals that Severain and Valeria are married. The stuff about the maternal grandmother is a theory developed in one of the books

Peter Wright's Attending Daedalus, or Robert Borski's Solar Labyrinth (I can't remember which). Tomgreeny 23:23, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Whats the argument for it? LamontCranston (talk) 11:43, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

I've always heard the grandmother argument in reference to Dorcas, and paternal rather than maternal. We meet Dorcas's husband on the lake by which Severian gets his avern, the old man with the raft and pole. We meet her son in the tree restaurant near the Sanguinary Fields; he leaves a note that says, "you are my mother come again." That middle-aged man bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Severian, and at the end of Book IV, he says he got a woman pregnant years ago who was subsequently given over to the torturers. Severian's mother was necessarily just such a woman, so all of these facts taken together point to Dorcas being Severian's paternal grandmother. This page is the first I have seen that discusses Valeria as his maternal grandmother, and I do not see anything in the books to back that up. - Filo 16:24, 1 April 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Valeria being Severian's maternal grandmother was discussed a number of times, but I first read about it in Peter Wright's Attending Daedalus. I find it to be reasonably convincing. Without having any of the relevant material in front of me, the idea rests on the belief that the woman playing Saint Katherine at the torturers' ceremonies is Severian's mother, which is also a common theory. If I recall, Severian notes that she is always present at the ceremonies, so we can conclude that she does not reside far. Also, he notes that she seems to never age. Where do we know of that's near the Matachin Tower and is timeless? The Atrium of Time, where Valeria's family lives. Then comes the second part. When Severian was away for a decade, Valeria married someone else. My memory is hazy here but I recall that there is a pretty fat hint dropped that unlike when she was married to Severian, they had a child. Some character (Odillo?) comments that Valeria's new husband, the child's father, actually resembles Severian. If one combines that with the time-traveling Atrium and the fact that Wolfe rarely makes lightly the types of hints, you get that Valeria is Severian's grandmother. Note that my explanation here is far from perfect, recited from memory, to prove it's far from a crackpot theory. Dynamic1 (talk) 18:03, 31 March 2009 (UTC)


The character list is entirely from The Shadow of the Torturer and should be expanded to those introduced in the rest of the series. --Pokeyrmb 05:56, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

There are a few problems with the characters list, and descriptions should probably be expanded (no mention of Baldanders's giantism?) One description for example seems misleading -- the one of Jolenta as "a member of Dr. Talos' troupe, a stunning woman." In point of fact, she was an unremarkable-looking waitress who was made beautiful by the ministrations of Dr. Talos. -- teh l4m3 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:14, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Influences &c.[edit]

I have deleted User:Geanwolfe's contributions in this area twice now. While I am certain they are good faith additions, they are a mess of original research along with unsourced claims. The body of the most recent deletion is as follows:

Although, Wolfe admittedly took the Idea of a future dying earth from Jack Vance, the similarities end at the atmosphere of the two novels. The author that seems to have had the most subtle and intricate influence on Wolfe is Jorge Luis Borges. In fact, the most perfect description of Book of the new sun appears in Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius the first short story of Ficciones. Where the narrator, possibly Borges himself, is having a discussion with Bioy Casares as to " the composition of a novel in the first person, whose narrator would omit or disfigure the facts and indulge in various contradictions which would permit a few readers - very few readers - to perceive an atrocious or banal reality." Not only is this not a coincidence, but in another story in the collection, Funes the Memorious features a character with eidectic memory like Severian. And also the names Baldanders and Talos appear in another Borges's collection titled The Book of Imaginary Beings. To top it all of, Borges himself appears in the form of Ultan the librarian, an unmistakable sign of importance Wolfe placed on Borges.

Other obvious influence is J.R.R. Tolkien to whom, Wolfe had written a fan letter in his youth. Wolfe also has admitted a strong influence by the kabbalah and the Bible.

Which as I am sure you can see would be too much of a nest of {{fact}} tags to make it up to quality, as it stands. There are certainly threads to be teased out of it that have value, & I don't mean to seem like a dick about deleting it-- it just isn't up to snuff, yet. --mordicai. 15:57, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

Not sure what to do with this. Some of these are very obvious, but short of digging through the books on Wolfe like the stuff Borski publishes, how do you show that Wolfe knows Borges' work intimately and Ultan is an obvious reference? Similarly for Jack Vance - I know I've read sources saying that it is very obvious that Vance's Dying Earth influenced TBotNS, but I don't have them. --Gwern (contribs) 04:01 20 May 2007 (GMT)
Which is really why I pulled it out. I mean, I'm sure there is crit to be found on the Borges stuff, interviews, whatever. We just need to get that & reference the statements before including them. --mordicai. 13:35, 20 May 2007 (UTC)

This page/interview contains reference to the influence of borges: (talk) 19:48, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Correction about Loyal to the Group of 17[edit]

Ascians can all speak Ascian; Loyal to the Group of Seventeen was unusual because he understood and spoke the language of the Commonwealth (while still only expressing himself with the direct translations of approved Ascian phrases), and the female soldier in the hospital believes this is because he was an interpreter for the Ascians. -Father Inire 05:56, 4 December 2007 (UTC)


Is it really necessary to spoil the book in the first paragraph? Usually that kind of thing is kept in the synopsis. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:23, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

OK, I think the lead paragraph is de-spoilified now. I left in the bit about Severian becoming Autarch, because that's revealed in the first chapter. Father Inire (talk) 09:31, 3 June 2008 (UTC)


  • Severian: main character, an apprentice to the Guild of Torturers on Urth
  • Roche: young man in the Guild of Torturers
  • Drotte: young man in the Guild of Torturers
  • Eata: young boy in the Guild of Torturers
  • Vodalus: the high-born leader of the rebellion against the Autarch
  • Master Gurloes: a leader of the Guild of Torturers
  • Master Palaemon: a leader of the Guild of Torturers
  • Master Malrubius: a deceased master of the Guild of Torturers
  • Thecla: an exultant chatelaine, condemned to be tortured, and with whom Severian falls in love
  • Agia: a shopkeeper
  • Agilus: a shopkeeper, twin brother of Agia. He wears masks -- perhaps more than one
  • Hildegrin: an excavator and agent of Vodalus
  • Dorcas: a girl whom Severian finds in the Botanic Gardens
  • Dr. Talos: a traveling actor/playwright, described as "vulpine" in appearance and demeanor by Severian
  • Baldanders: a giant companion of Dr. Talos, his gigantism caused by artificial means
  • Jolenta: a waitress recruited by Dr. Talos for his troupe, and made into a great beauty via his skills in cosmetic surgery
  • Hethor: Agia's elderly suitor, a former sailor
  • Thea: Thecla's half-sister, Vodalus' lover
  • The Autarch: ruler of the Commonwealth
  • Father Inire: advisor to the Autarch
  • The Green Man: a man with green skin who purports to be from the future
  • Jonas: a space-farer with a metal hand
  • Typhon: revived former despot who had ruled all humanity
  • Piaton: Typhon's servant, a man with great strength
  • Pia: slave girl freed by Severian
  • Little Severian: child who accompanies Severian for a time
  • Ymar: called "The Almost-Just," historical former autarch
  • Ossipago: Heirodule who encounters Severian traveling backwards in time
  • Famulimas: Heirodule companion of Ossipago
  • Barbatus: Heirodule companion of Famulimas, possesses a martial nature
  • Ouen: Servant at inn near the Sanguinary Fields who sends a warning letter
  • Triskele: Loyal three-legged dog that Severian rescues from Bear Tower
  • Valeria: Aristocratic young woman Severian encounters in the Atrium of Time, of an armiger family. Described as having a heart-shaped face
  • Ultan: blind, ancient, wise librarian of the Autarch
  • Rudesind: elderly painting cleaner who instructs Severian
  • Cyriaca: Wife of minor landholder near Thrax
  • Winnoc: self-sold slave of the Pelerines
  • Guasacht: leader of cavalry troop joined by Severian in the north
  • Miles: soldier encountered by Severian in the northern woods
  • Daria: female cavalry soldier
  • Loyal to the Group of Seventeen: captured Ascian soldier who is exceptional in that he is fluent in Severian's language
  • Mannea: Pelerine elder who gives Severian a special mission
  • Ash: wise observer who lives in a strange house above a canyon

I moved this list here to allow removal ofthe cleanup tag, and because i agree that it is crufty and daages the article. These books are too important and meaningful to require list of minor characters like those fan-boys for lesser books make.Yobmod (talk) 21:23, 31 July 2008 (UTC)

D&D influence[edit]

Mike Mearls writes of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition that the Avenger class:

"Avenger: Ripping aside the ethereal nature of Wolf's Book of the New Sun and treating it as a comic book of sorts, Severian the torturer was a major influence on this class's initial feel and direction. Obviously its divine roots steered in a different direction, but I can easily see playing an avenger based on fantasy's most famous torturer."

--Gwern (contribs) 03:05 4 August 2009 (GMT)


The interpretations section is woefully inadequate.

It doesn't state why any of the listed ideas are important. One of them is actually objectively false. While The Fifth Head of Cerberus is thematically similar, Gene Wolfe has stated in interviews that it is not part of the Sun Cycle.

I would like the interpretations to be about how the solutions to these strange underlying mysteries all contribute to the work.

When I next get a chance, I will revisit the book and consult the mailing list (and interviews with the author) for the meaning to these mysteries. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tulpa (talkcontribs) 18:35, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

The Biblical Angle[edit]

What's the deal with this again...Severian is Jesus, and one of the core themes of the story is that God's message is difficult to understand and arduous to experience, something like that? It's been bandied about the mailing lists for years, the scholars who study the series have written about it, and I am sure there are referable interviews with Wolfe where he explains the spiritual story he is trying to tell. The article should have SOME mention of this. Transentient (talk) 13:50, 14 May 2010 (UTC)

Picaresque novel?[edit]

Why is this given the category of picaresque? I find it equally puzzling that such is mentioned in the Picaresque novel article with a citation needed tag, but that's not germane to this talk page.

To whit:

  • The antagonist is not an antihero.
While he is raised and trained in an unpopular and unpleasant profession, he does not revel in the darker aspects of it, keeping in sight the more "noble" aspect of the ingrained necessity of such a function (which he later comes to question). To him, the job is little more than a job that someone must do and for which he is trained. Many pains are taken to separate the joy and pleasure he associates with his career is that of doing a job well and the comradeship of his guildmates. This is merely the swineherd who would be king had he been raised by a guild of torturers instead of a pig farmer. He retains all, not just some, of the heroic nature expected of one to make such an elevation along with the human capacity of making mistakes.
  • travel
This is probably the strongest aspect it shares with a picaresque story; however travel in and of itself is not enough. In many ways, this story arc has much more in common with the likes of the Arthurian legends or the story of Odysseus than picaresque stories in that his travels generally have the purpose of fulfilling a goal and not the aimless wandering of some rogue poking his nose into whatever he can.
  • satire
Mayhap I am dense, but I cannot recall any point in the story that can be considered satirical without considerable mental gymnastics.
  • episodic
Eh, in the sense that it was a framed narrative aware that sequels would follow (which well could be a function of the publishing industry's practices and not any artistic decision), then yes; however within this story there is far more continuity through the "episodes" such that they are more scenes than episodes, but this just may be my interpretation of the difference between the two.

tl;dr, I believe picaresque novels is the incorrect category to have this in. Now, I'm going to go cross post my objections to it being discussed on that page as well. (talk) 21:42, 29 February 2012 (UTC) (edited to fix title) (talk) 21:44, 29 February 2012 (UTC) A sentence without verbs __ not a sentence. (talk) 22:05, 29 February 2012 (UTC)


"What about" means does anyone know? does anyone have a useful source re any point? what should we say in this article? all that and more!

Science Fiction[edit]

What about classification of New Sun as science fiction and/or fantasy? either in general or specifically for the Locus Awards? Locus recognizes best F and best SF novels separately. The first four volumes scored as fantasy novels and Urth as science fiction. Is that clearly right or wrong? explicable or in-?


What about classification of the first four books as one novel or as four? either in general or specifically for the Locus all-time polls? Locus ranked The Shadow of the Torturer number four all-time fantasy novel in 1987; The Book of the New Sun number three in 1998. Many series were considered single entries in 1998. Is the criterion evident?

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were separate entries in both polls, and ranked one–two in both. As far as I know they are universally considered distinct novels, and the former is universally considered one book rather than three or six. The Fellowship of the Ring was separately reviewed when separately published, and it may have been considered for awards. Is there a useful analogy? Back to Urth, is there a difference in tone that warrants a distinct science fiction label? --perhaps as a difference in tone warrants a distinct children's label for The Hobbit? --P64 (talk) 18:02, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

Missing plot or story summary?[edit]

This article lacks the information needed for a reader to decide whether s/he would be interested in reading this series. There's lots of talk about how many books, or volumes, in the series, prizes, etc., but there's nothing to indicate what the story is ABOUT, only that it's set in some distant future with a dying sun.

Is it fantasy (not to my taste) or science fiction? Is it about humans? Does the same character appear in all of the books, or does some other element tie them together? Is there any romance? War?

Can someone give potential readers some clues as to whether these books are worth their time? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:16, 27 April 2012 (UTC)

No clues in this article, eh?
One short answer is, follow the links in column one of the table. (The third and fourth volumes need the same coverage, i explained a couple days ago, and created Talk: The Sword of the Lictor, Talk: The Citadel of the Autarch).
A long answer must include that this article lacks A, b, 3, iv, and yadda yadda yadda ...
See also articles on the later sub-series Long Sun and Short Sun, whose volumes do not and may never have their own articles. --P64 (talk) 13:33, 27 April 2012 (UTC)

Repeated paragraph[edit]

The paragraph beginning "Since the original four-volume novel, [..]" in the section New Sun series is almost identical the paragraph starting Solar Cycle (except for a reference to that section). I'd suggest getting rid of the first instance, since the forward reference is a little superfluous. NelC (talk) 03:01, 2 July 2016 (UTC)

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