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Melissa: Who Is Brother Theo?

Started by Evie, January 20, 2017, 11:18:46 AM

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Melissa: Who Is Brother Theo?

The most brutally truthful answer to this question is that there is no Brother Theo. He began his life as a mere literary device, the narrator of the Codex Derynianus; he exists only as words printed on paper imprisoned between the covers of the Codex.

But I don't much like this explanation. It sounds as if it should come from someone in a white lab coat holding a clipboard while looking severely at me over the rims of their spectacles. It's the kind of answer one would expect from a person who limits their perception of "reality" to what they can physically see and touch or view through a microscope.

At Westercon in July of 1998, Susan and I met and had dinner with Robert Reginald, Katherine's co-author on the Codex. Over dinner, we had a long, luxurious discussion of the Codex and on other Deryni matters. Originally, Katherine and Rob had intended the Codex to be a simple A-to-Z guide to the people, places and things of the Deryni Universe, told through the mouthpiece of Brother Theo. As he worked on it though, Rob found that the Codex soon became far more than just an Encyclopedia Derynianica, although it is that, too. Is it surprising then, that Brother Theo, the "author" of this work also burst past the limitations initially placed upon him?

In taking on a life of his own rather than being an omniscient narrator, Brother Theo does create certain problems for Codex readers. The consensus of our many discussions about him on the alt.books.deryni newsgroup is that no one person could possibly know everything that Brother Theo does. For an example, Theo appears to live in Kelson's time, and yet he knows that Camber assumed Alister Cullen's identity after the latter's death. As it's unlikely that Theo was hiding behind a tree at Iomaire watching Joram help Camber assimilate Alister's memories and physical appearance, how did Theo find out about something that must have been a closely guarded secret through the intervening centuries?

If there is only one Brother Theo, can we trust that he's an infallible guide to Deryni history? He does not deliberately mislead us, Rob told me once. What Theo has written in the Codex are things he has seen with his own eyes or information he has gathered from what he considers reliable sources. Therefore he prints the truth, or what he sincerely believes to be true. But in looking through old cathedral and castle records, damaged or made partially illegible through age, dampness or faded ink, it's possible that Theo has drawn incorrect conclusions about both minor and important events of the past.

As for information that comes by word of mouth, how can Theo verify that what he is told is the truth? His sources may not remember events accurately. They may know part of the truth, or the truth, but not the correct context. Sources may also omit or deliberately cover up facts that put them or people they care about in a bad light. Or the sources may themselves be merely repeating what they've heard from other people. Histories that are passed down solely by word of mouth have a way of wandering a little farther from the original version with each retelling.

Nor can we be sure that Theo's own memory is flawless. He has a certain over-fondness for mead, Rob tells us, hence the cup in his hand and the jug on the floor by his right foot in the picture. He may even occasionally allow his own feelings to interfere with the facts he sets down on paper. Most of his entries in the Codex are clear and even-handed, but his opinions have a way of shining through anyway. Imre's sister Princess Ariella is described as an 'evil witch,' Edmund Loris is a 'black-hearted cleric' but Stefan Coram is 'an illustrious and courageous seeker of the truth.' This occasional but clear bias evident in Brother Theo's writings does throw doubt on his credentials as an objective historian.

We do know that Theo is not the only narrator in the Codex Derynianus. He had help from the widely traveled Campbell de Broun and from the retired Torenthi courtier and historian, Count Berrhones. But there is no doubt that most of the text is the work of Brother Theo, or at least a collective group under the umbrella name "Brother Theo." The text of the Codex itself actually supports the possibility that there has been more than one contributor to the Codex. Entries for the major characters of the Deryni universe follow a set pattern: The date of birth is stated as is the date of marriage and the name of the spouse if any, as well as any children to come of the match and what became of them. These vital statistics are followed by a brief summary of the life of the main entry, finishing with the death date if the character is deceased, and the name of their successor if that is relevant. It would be a simple matter for each successive Brother Theo to keep writing in this prescribed format where their predecessor left off, making it appear that the Codex had only one very long-lived author.

For the present, I will assume that there have been many Brother Theos at work on the Codex over the years. As the Codex is principally involved with the lives of Kings, Princes and other heads of state in the Eleven Kingdoms, one assumes that each Brother Theo in succession would likely have had to be members of the nobility in their respective states. There is certainly no shortage of courtiers in the Eleven Kingdoms, but what narrows the field of possible candidates considerably is that each Brother Theo must also know of the existence of the Camberian Council. And not only the mere fact that the Council exists, but about the roster of members in their own time and know enough about each one to write a creditable biographical entry for them in the Codex. At very least, each Brother Theo would have to have close ties to at least one Council member either by blood or by long-standing friendship. It would be far simpler for them to be a member of the Council themselves. One absolute requirement is that Brother Theo must be a Deryni, as the Council would never divulge potentially dangerous information to a human, no matter how otherwise trusted.

We can only speculate as to the identities of each Brother Theo through the years. However, since the Codex contains a wealth of information about the Kingdom of Torenth and the Royal House of Furstan that was never brought to light before, I would be willing to wager that Count Berrhones was one such contributor. As he has mostly retired from Torenthi Court life, he may well have already passed Brother Theo's quill to the next person. There are still many possible candidates for the present Brother Theo. Laran ap Pardyce is a strong possibility as he has been a member of the Camberian Council for many years, and has an established reputation as a scholar. He has also recently gained access to the Royal Library in Rhemuth Castle, a valuable resource for any of the contributors to the Codex. However, I suspect the current Brother Theo is actually Richenda. She too, is a scholar and a courtier as well. Her husband is King Kelson's close personal friend, and by now Richenda too, must be Kelson's trusted friend in her own right. She has access to the Royal Library in Rhemuth whenever she happens to be there herself, and she has Camberian Council ties through Bishop Arilan, and with her Aunt Sofiana as well. Richenda's old friend and teacher Azim often sends her packets of information or brings them to her in person. Are we to believe she asks him to search for obscure records and scrolls out of idle curiousity? Alaric has actively encouraged Richenda to resume the scholar's life she loves, but he is a busy man. How much attention does he truly pay to how his wife spends her time at her writing desk?


Head, Department of Wishful Thinking.
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!