A Lycanthrope in Wolfe’s Clothing: Gene Wolfe’s ‘In Green’s Jungles’


Horn resumes his account after obtaining new supplies of paper and ink from a stationer in return for work in his shop and the advert of Horn writing outside. About a week has passed since the end of his first account.
Horn finds himself in Blanko, one of four towns founded by landers from Grandecitta on the Whorl. His appearance – white hair, eye-patch, black augur’s robes and the presence of Oreb – leads the townsfolk to believe him to be a strega, a male witch. He is invited to dinner at the ranch/farm outside Blanko by Inclito, its leading citizen and its Duko in all but name. Horn invites Inclito to give him a name, and he selects Incanto, the name of his elder brother who died as an infant.
Inclito is worried about the neighbouring town of Sordo, whose Duko Rigoglio is fomenting war, intent of extending his rule. Inclito believes there is a spy in his household and wants Incanto to expose them. Apart from servants, who are trustworthy, the household includes Inclito’s 15 year old, heavily built daughter Mora, her small, dark-haired friend, Fava and his mother, Salica, who is ailing.
By custom, the party entertain each other with stories, competing to be best. Each are allegories of one sort or another to the teller’s situation. Horn tells of his time on Green, of being released from captivity on that planet by a Neighbour, who wanted Horn to use his sword to free a blockage in a sewer, consisting of corpses jammed in the pipe. Horn is attacked in the sewer by an old, blind man who is feeding on the dead flesh, and floats downriver.
It does not take Horn long to detect that Fava is not only the spy, but an inhuma, and that she is feeding off Salica.
Horn stays with the stationer for another couple of nights during which he is visited by Mora and Fava after their schoolday. He is invited to Inclito’s for another evening meal, and another round of stories. In some strange fashion, he is able to enter Fava’s story, which is very clearly set on Green, and change the course of it. His own story continues that of the previous night and recounts his recovery of the light given him by the Neighbour and his sword. However, he has released the blockage: corpses are flowing down the river.
Horn goes on to free the human prisoners, forming a rebel band that bases itself in Green’s near-impassable jungles. This includes his son Sinew, who for a time at least seems to be more accepting of his father than his has been before.
But Horn’s accounts of his time on Green are vague and elliptical, even with regard to significant moments, such as Krait’s joining the band, and his eventual death, alone with Horn, who has been abandoned after receiving a wound.
He is wounded twice more, almost dying on both occasions, but finds a lander in the jungle. He holds tight to the dream of repairing it and flying away, leading his dwindling band in raids on settlements for miles around, until Sinew betrays him by falling for a settlement woman, and going over to their side.
Eventually, Horn is abandoned by his last two followers, who steal the light and the sword. He believes the lander lacks only one part, but he is now dying. All he has left is Seawrack’s ring, into which he gazes. A Neighbour comes to him through the ring, offering the only aid he can: he can send Horn’s spirit into the body of a man on the Whorl, whose spirit is dying: this will leave one whole man in the place of two who are dying.
Horn consents, and finds himself beside an open coffin, occupied by a middle-aged woman, in a house almost destroyed. He is holding a knife on which is his own blood, there is blood on his head, arms, face and neck. He leaves the house, judging it to be midday by the remaining line of the Long Sun.
With war looming, Horn becomes Inclito’s adviser, Everyone believes him to be Inclito’s actual brother and despite his denials, they all believe him to be a strega. Horn sends Fava away without exposing her for what she is. He also arranges for messengers to take secret messages to the other two, more distant towns, Olmo and Novecitta, who are allied to Sordo. One of the messengers, Eco, is from Gaon, and fought in their war under their Rajan. He does not expose Horn.
Horn expects the messages to be intercepted, and intends this to undermine Sordo’s confidence in their allies, but Mora, who is embarrassed and self-conscious of her weight, and becoming aware that her suitors may only court her to inherit Inclito’s wealth, steals a horse and takes one of the messages herself.
Horn is haunted, frequently, by the distant sound of Seawrack’s singing. It is also apparent from other’s comments, that he is eating very little, far lss than a man of his age would normally need to eat.
Inclito is captured whilst in pursuit of Mora. As Incanto, Horn takes over direction of Blanko’s campaign. Exploring a possible ambush site, Horn discovers a Soldo party composed mainly of Gaon’s former mercenaries. He persuades many of them into changing sides. They imprison their commander whilst they debate the issue. The mercenaries have Inclito and his ‘daughter’ who turns out to be Fava.
Horn updates Inclito (and thus the mercenaries) on Blanko’s progress. Though their force seems weak, Horn is confident it will destroy Soldo in a fight. The mercenaries produce their officer, Sfido and attribute magical powers to Horn. Tempers rise and Horn points out how easily he can destroy them by their dissension. He offers himself in exchange for Inclito and ‘Mora’, though the mercenary leader Kupus releases only the former. He and Fava are bound hand-to-hand and his staff is taken.
It snows that night. Horn awakes to what he believes is a dream: impossible as it seems, he, Fava and the mercenaries are on Green, in the cellars under the city where he was imprisoned. Fava has turned into a human woman. The mercenaries ask to be taken back. Horn tries to draw his staff and Oreb to him: the bird appears, transformed into a four year old bird-child. For the moment, the mercenaries remain loyal to Soldo, so Horn shapes his old black sword, and uses it to raise the flagstone covering the steps. He descends with Fava and Oreb: the hole closes behind them.
Fava finds a man in the sewer who tells of coming to the mercenaries’ camp to scout, and finding everyone in an unnatural sleep, and now finds himself in this sewer. Horn theorises that the inhumi used to prey on the Vanished People and thus became somewhat like them: the combination of Horn and inhumi somehow triggers such episodes. He asks Fava to think of the quarters of the Duko of Soldo: they transfer there.
Horn seeks Duko Rigoglio, to sue for peace for Blanko. They are taken to Rigoglio’s bedroom. Horn surrenders his sword, but immediately recreates it. Rigoglio explains that he intends, in time, to claim all of Blue. He was a sleeper from Urth, who recalls Nexus and the light of green Luna. He will offer peace to Blanko if it surrenders all its weapons – then he can do as he chooses. His sentry enters: Horn and Fava concentrate upon returning to the hillside. As they do, the mercenaries break in: one shoots at Rigoglio but the slug hits the wall of the sewer.
Horn and Fava halt when they hear the mercenaries in the sewer. They had lifted the stone in the cellar, found a sheer drop below and landed on a street in Soldo. The mercenaries see the human corpses. Horn tells of his attack on the city with 100 rogues. Now he will attack with troops, and promises they will go home when the last inhumi is dead. The next day, the mercenaries clear the city professionally.
Subsequently, the party returns to the hillside on Blue. Two men, killed in the sewers, are alive but mindless and dumb: Fava is dead, (probably killed by the cold and the snow). Horn conceals that she is an inhuma and buries her there.
Horn returns to Blanko to raise money for the mercenaries. When the leading men of the town talk of how to cheat the mercenaries, Horn leaves, disgusted. He assembles a Horde, of old men, women and children, who he arms. A courier from Olmo brings news that Soldo has attacked and is besieging them. This ensures Blanko will be supported by Olmo and Nova Cittia.
He is visited by Sfido, who has tried to persuade Duko Rigoglio to bribe Incanto over to their side but instead the Duko wants Incanto killed. Sfido has escaped imprisonment and confiscation of his lands. He believes Blanko will lose, being militarily inferior, but also that Incanto is a strego: he seeks employment, wanting only the return of his lands in Soldo.
Horn and Sfido start training Blanko’s Horde. The war is going badly and Sfido is critical of Inclito and Rimando’s tactics. Horn however has a plan. He moves his Horde into the cornfields, where they dig ditches and build sandbag walls, to create defences. Inclito’s wounded are retreating, with Soldese prisoners. Horn bivouacs at a house occupied by an old woman, about whom something is familiar. Whilst he sleeps, it begins to snow.
When Soldo’s army appears, Horn goes out under flag of truce to speak with its Colonel, Terzo, who mocks Incanto’s efforts and offers him a means of escape from the forthcoming slaughter. Horn refuses, and Terzo leaves in anger. The attack does not follow immediately. When the cavalry attack, they fall foul of Horn’s trip-ropes – pairs of roped boars in the corn-fields. Those that get through, founder in snow-filled ditches. Horn offers a truce to Terzo, who is wild with anger at the breach of the ‘laws’ of war. He threatens to shoot Horn, who invokes the singing of the Neighbours, opening Terzo up to hearing Seawrack: he runs in fear.
Soldo’s final attack ends in defeat. Horn has seen a young man, Cuoio, who reminds him of Hoof and Hide. The farmhouse appears to be occupied by two women, one old, one young, both named Jahlee.
Duko Rigoglio has been captured, with General Morello and Colonel Terzo. Horn talks to Rigoglio, learning he was a sleeper, like Silk or Mucor: his real name is Roger and he wants that on his tombstone. Mucor appears: Babbie has returned, does Horn still want him? Horn assures her he does, which is good as Babbie misses him.
Horn sends Oreb to find a stone table, i.e. an altar of the Vanished People. Horn leaves the return column to pay his devotions. The altar is harder to reach than he expects, but is very impressive. He plans an experiment in reaching Green for that night, to try to locate Sinew and learn the location of the altar on Lizard Island. He believes he should sacrifice to the gods, but has nothing to offer. He ‘shares’ bread and wine with the stone, and finds himself in the presence of the Outsider, though he cannot and must not turn to see him. He tries to explain the experience, as being as if he was in a picture that existed eternally, but only for a moment.
Returning to the column, he takes Cuoio aside: it is his son, Hide. Hide is reluctant to admit he is a foreigner after his experiences on the way here. He describes his father, Horn, as totally different from the man he is with, but agrees to call ‘Incanto’ father. He describes his attempts, and those of Hoof, who has gone north, to find Horn or Pajarocu. He calls his father a good man, and clearly genuinely loves him. Nettle drove both away to hunt for Horn.
They shoot game and drag it into camp for everyone to eat. Horn is taken ill and is taken back to the farmhouse, where he is taken care of by the inhumi Jahlee, who disclaims any feeding off him. Horn will not betray her. Instead, he intends to use her presence to experiment with a return to Green. He calls in everyone present, prisoners, troopers etc. But there are too many, and Mora, arriving with her new husband, Eco, clears the room for Horn’s safety. She is dreaming nightly of Fava as a little girl. Horn can stop the dreams but Mora decides to keep them.
Horn still plans to try to reach Green, limits his party to the three Soldese prisoners, Rigoglio, Morello and Terzo, with Mora and Eco, Inclito’s coachman and Jahlee in her youthful guise. He hopes that if he can show the people of Blue the state of affairs on Green, they will understand that their future benefit lies in joining together, in being co-operative and helpful, rather than engaging in war and suspicion.
Instead of arriving on Green, the party finds itself in an ancient city on an immensely wide river, beneath a massive red sun beyond which the stars are visible in daylight. Horn refers to it as the Red Sun Whorl, but we recognise it as Nessus on Gyoll.
Jahlee has become a beautiful woman, obsessed with a sexuality that, as an inhuma, she has often pretended to but never been able to express. She strips off to admire herself. Horn reveals to Hide that she is an inhuma, to protect him: Jahlee has not yet understood their relationship.
Rigoglio recognises his old house. He is freed to enter it, but inside he is attacked and stabbed by an omophagist. He is badly wounded. Horn can return them to Blue, but Rigoglio would have a knifewound to his soul: they are ‘spirits’ here.
Seeking a physician for Rigoglio, they meet a sentry who asks if they are taking the omophagist to the peltasts. No-one understands. The sentry believes that Horn’s black cloak marks him as a Torturer. Jahlee offers herself to him and he gives her his cloak, to claim her. The sentry escorts them to his lochage, who sends the party to the Bear Tower. Horn recognises the Towers – including the Matachin Tower of the Torturers – as landers, but incredibly ancient, as is everything in the Red Sun Whorl.
Rigoglio receives medical treatment at the Bear Tower but dies in any event. A promise is given that he will be buried in the graveyard, though Horn and the party return to Blue without knowing if this actually takes place. Jahlee rejoins them, having assisted in the treatment of the doomed Rigoglio: she has been beaten by the sentry.
Horn and Hide leave to seek New Viron. Hide asks questions, about the inhumi on Green, and why the Vanished People abandoned Blue and Green to them? Horn can only guess. Hide compares ‘Incanto’ to his real father: only now does the boy realise this is his father, and something has happened to totally change his appearance. Jahlee joins them. She claims to have a human spirit, which Horn says she has stolen. She wants to come with them to New Viron but Horn drives her off, complaining that she has travelled 30 leagues to offer her love and friendship, in vain.
In dream, Horn finds himself on Green, with Hide, the half-human Oreb and a human Jahlee. Hide has found Sinew’s village, well fortified with wooden palisades. They are examined at the gate before being allowed to enter: Jahlee gives their names as Incanto and Cuoio but Horn gives their real names.
Sinew – the village’s rais-man – is away hunting. The group are taken to the Maliki-woman, the township judge, a former woman of the Long Sun Whorl, who recognises Horn as Caldé Silk, and challenges him to recall her name. He identifies her as Trivigaunti, but only after the return to Blue does he name her as the former Colonel Abanja. She had gone to the lander as a spy, but having failed to prevent it landing, she has taken charge: Trivigaunti are the best organised on Green.
Maliki, who openly distrusts Jahlee, takes them to Sinew’s hut, and his wife Bala and children Shauk and Karn. The village has prisoners in its cellar, humans who were slaves of the inhumi. Hide goes to clean them out, in Sinew’s absence, whilst Horn discusses with Maliki how Patera Quetzal got to the Long Sun Whorl in the first place.
The prisoners include a woman who ‘recognises’ Hide as looking like someone she used to know: Horn. She is Chenille, and the big male leader is Auk.
The group ‘returns’ to Blue. Jahlee disappears for two days: she returns to talk with Horn, who admits to liking her, whilst still not trusting her. She wants to return to Green. Horn wants to return to Seawrack, a desire he has not known until he says it.
Hide awakens, having dreamed of being on Green, but only a dream this time. He asks about Sinew, and whether the inhumi will kill the humans as they did the Vanished People. Horn is convinced they will not, though he cannot be sure. Because of something they have done? Not Horn and Hide alone, but Sinew, Bala, Maliki, everyone. The Vanished People would never have asked consent to return to Blue if humans were to become slaves of the inhumi, or exterminated.
Horn admits that, on the lander, descending on Green, he thought Pas had made a mistake, that Green was a death-trap of inhumi. It is not quite so. The inhumi do not have overwhelming numbers. Sinew and the colonists will kill many, and every human the inhumi kill is one less slave they can work.
During the night, the Neighbours visit Horn. They debate the possible errors of Pas. Horn and Hide maintain he was right to send colonists to Blue and Green, Jahlee that it was a mistake. Where Pas did err was in allowing other gods. Humans erred by allowing the Outsider to be removed. He was not one of Pas’s children, but they did not understand he may be Pas’s father.
The Neighbours will not answer when asked who are their gods. Horn asks about Seawrack and her ‘Mother’. A week of rain and snow passes, during which Horn does not write. He and Hide set out again. In mid-morning, they overtake a woman swaddled in furs, who seeks their company. At sunset they reach an inn, the last for 10 leagues. The Innkeeper offers rooms, taking Horn and Hide for the lady’s servants: when she speaks, Horn recognises her and names her his daughter, Jahlee.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.