In Short Sun we are lead to presume that Silk cannot admit he is Silk because that would mean accepting that Horn sacrificed his life for him. Owing to the emotional/psychic dissonance accepting this would cause him, he presumes to be Horn, and tries to will away the fact of Horn’s death.

But Silk had already lured Horn to sacrifice himself to relieve his own distress. This occurred on top of the airship. Silk, ready to kill himself, finds that his own life can be saved if he lures someone who worships him to take his own distress into him and then kill himself — fall from the airship — a process known in psychoanalysis as projective identification, so that for a time, his own distress seems vanished from the world.

Horn, rather than being special, unique, is simply a type of being for Silk, one who is especially useful for this purpose. We know this because when Silk is feeling distressed in Gaon, he admits to thinking to get one of his worshipful wives — wives of the great hero Silk — to perform the same service for him: I am feeling distressed; maybe kill yourself so that I can feel at ease for awhile. Other wives he asks to kill him while he’s asleep, something they of course would never do, but in reacting in horror to this request, take into themselves the distress that Silk is currently feeling… so same purpose, thereby satisfied.

Most people would presume, like the highly astute Mint does, that Silk simply can’t admit that he is responsible for Horn’s death, and that’s the reason for the denial. But could it be simply a means of constructing people… manipulating, negotiating people, so they react to him a certain preferred way? The great Silk is similar to the great Able in that people seem to want to… with great respect, nevertheless carefully worm their way into him so that broader awareness might dawn within them. This starts early in WizardKnight, with Garsecg trying to carefully motion Able to be aware that his preferred truth of how a battle went — I didn’t do much, and then was injured and out of the battle — amounted to a thorough ignorance of how powerful a person he is and how crucial he was to the fight. It prompts people into a desire to nurse him, without this nursing seeming to mean he’s somehow beneath them, for it comes after he’s already established himself as irrefutably quite great.

Maybe because it would be shameful to admit to a need for nursing, he performs a kind of injury that identifies him as either modest or friend-honouring/noble… one that serves dual-purpose as actually a kind of prowess, so that others provide a nursing he requires, that really might deal with a deeper gross neglect he had once suffered. He can express a need, but only in a form where it looks like it’s tending an injury that will come from one being a noble person, something that comes in the bargain, so to speak. Wolfe himself admits to this sort of need, a need to be nursed and parented, but only when it serves dual purpose to advertise him as a young man who did his duty and went to war. The trauma he suffered in the Korean War, which he argues was the reason why he would spontaneously start screaming in the middle of the night, meant he had to go back to his mother’s care. He can admit to this, but probably not to a need for this sort of nursing in adulthood for perhaps not having received sufficient sourcing in his childhood.

There’s also this presumption that Silk was powerfully affected by Hyacinth’s death. I question this too, in that many of Wolfe’s main characters tend to lose interest in their wives when they’ve aged; middle-aged women become dominating, no longer worship, and their emotional sickness is no longer cute but simply scary (see Adah and Echidna, for instance). The complaint comes up, again and again, that their wives no longer look at them the way they used to, and so they go looking for that look from younger women. This applies to Horn of course but also Interlibrary Loan’s Dr. Fevre, Interlibrary Loan’s Ern (he is very wary of middle-aged woman as lady captains), Castleview’s Will Shields (as with Horn, we are specifically told that his wife no longer looks at him the way she used to when they were young), Sorcerer’s House’s Bax (Bax has a relationship with a middle-aged woman… the real estate agent, but she reveals herself as simply looking to use him, and so the fact of Bax’s terrifying weirdness works to scatter her so he doesn’t have to simply leave her), Home Fires’ Skip (the younger girl in this one is actually his wife, but his wife happens to be twenty years younger than the his long-time partner, his middle-aged mentally askew secretary who ends up going full Agia on him, whom he promptly dumps), Land Across’s Grafton (Grafton has to sexually service a middle-aged woman for awhile and perform as her son, but for this she relents to his being released to a college student) and more I’m sure.

Maybe it was simply — for no longer being young and worshipful — her time to die… or go away permanently in some way, and her death — for rendering her now harmless, and no longer in his presence — enabled him to convince himself he had only loved her? This after all is how another of Wolfe’s mains — Severian — reacted to the death of a character maybe similar to Hy, namely, Jolenta. When Jolenta dies Severian says how much he loved her; he mourns her; but of course previous to this his feelings concerning her were much more complicated, with his for instance suggesting she was at risk of making him in to a woman-hater, someone who enjoys inflicting pain.

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