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Friday, September 1, 2017

Patterns for the Abbess

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:15 PM

On Ursula K. Le Guin's short story
"The Rock That Changed Things"
(in A Fisherman of the Inland Sea ) —

From https://www.academia.edu/9496639/
Study_Guide_for_the_Stories_Collected_in_
Ursula_K._Le_Guins_
FISHERMAN_OF_THE_INLAND_SEA

By Richard D. Erlich, December 2005

…  And at this point a wise, old nur, so excellent at maintaining patterns that the obls let him live even after he was maimed, enters the discussion to do some pattern criticism.  For a first-order approximation reading, he suggests "It might say, 'The nur places stones,'" and others fill in that the nur would be Bu.  Ko corrects them with "patterns aren't ever about nurs!" and Bu counters with "Maybe patterns made of colors are."  Looking with all three of his eyes, Ko reads, "—'the nur places stones beautifully in uncontrollable loopingness …. foreshadowing the seen.'"  Un suggests "The vision" but cannot figure out the last word.  Bu is very excited, inferring that "the patterns of the colors …. aren't accidental.  Not meaningless.  All the time, we have been putting them here in patterns—not just ones the obls design and we execute, but other patterns—nur patterns—with new meanings."  Amid the straight lines of the obls' designs they now see, "other designs, less complete, often merely sketched or hinted—circles, spirals, ovals, and complex curvilinear mazes and labyrinths of great and unpredictable beauty and significance. ***  Both patterns were there; did one cancel the other, or was each part of the other?  It was difficult to see them both at once, but not impossible."  Had the nurs done this all totally unconsciously "without even knowing we were doing it?"   Un admits to having looked at colors, and so did Ko, plus "grain and texture."  Un warns them to keep word of their works from the Professors: "They don't like patterns to change….  It makes them nervous"— and nervous Professors are dangerous to nurs (62-63). 

Bu, however "was so excited and persuasive" about colors of stones "that other nurs of Obling began studying the color patterns, learning how to read their meanings."  And the practice spreads.  Soon, all sorts of nurs were finding "wild designs in colored stones, and surprising messages concerning obls, nurs, and blits" (64)  Conservative nurs— "Many nurs," we're told—resist the trend.  "If we start inventing new meanings, changing things, disturbing the patterns, where will it end?"   It is unclear just how many of the nurs believe «Mr. Charlie treats us real good»—or, as we soon see, Ms. Charlie—but certainly not Bu; she "would hear none of that; she was full of her discovery. She no longer listened in silence.  She spoke."  Bu goes up to the Rectory Mosaic, wearing around her neck a turquoise that she calls her "selfstone."  Up at the Mosaic, Bu crouches before the Rectoress and asks "Would the Lady Rectoress in her kindness answer a question I have?"  

["The Rock That Changed Things" was first published in Amazing Stories , Vol. 67 # 6, No. 574, September 1992, pp. 9-13.]

For an alternative to the Rectoress, see the Abbess of the previous post.

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