ACROSS THE LAND
Your guide to Gene Wolfe's masterpiece The Land Across
12.16.13: I plan to add more to the existing entries, and add new entries below the Legion of Light. Eventually the plan is to be comprehensive. I am looking for advice from all quarters - I have only read the novel three times so far, so I have doubtless missed things, even obvious ones. Please help me by e-mailing me and I will credit you in the text here.
An agent working with Naala. Naala says operators work in pairs; Aliz
is her partner. She is lauded for her service by the Leader, but she
never receives a medal. She seems to have been watching Martya for quite
MARTYA: Kleon's wife. They have an unhappy marriage. She cheats on
him with Grafton. When Grafton is abducted, Martya goes searching for
him and meets Russ Rathaus when the Unholy Way sends her with the
witches' hand to kill Russ. They become lovers and she helps him hide
from the Unholy Way. She is already being punished when the novel
begins, probably for infidelity. She has the second sight - Volitain may have trained her in the arts.
VOLITAIN: Magician, ancestor of Eion Demarates. He is the man who has
a computer, but hides it behind a half closed door. He is the
descendant of Eion Demarates and an aristocratic family. He is an attorney, and
minor royalty. Does he suggest renting the Willows to Grafton in order to protect him?
NAALA: A senior operator for JAKA. She gives Grafton a bugged watch
so she can monitor what he does when she is not around. She lives on
the first floor, and takes extraordinary precautions with regard to her
security. She knows her apartment is bugged and takes great pains to
hold conversations outside of it. Who does Naala fear? I am not sure,
but the fact the she has no photos of herself or her family may indicate
that she was an undercover agent for a long period, possibly recruited
at a very young age. Her fears may date back to the time of the
communists, when she would have been only a girl. She also has good
reason to believe there is a mole in her agency.
BALDY: The director of JAKA. He is extremely intelligent, yet seems
to be caught in an internecine struggle in which he claims victory at
the end of the novel. Most governments manage two intelligence agencies
at least, and Baldy appears to be working both alongside and against the
regular police force of the country. He has a lot of confidence in
Grafton and Naala.
KLEON: Martya's husband. He has fruit trees, a sign of good luck,
but his neighbors steal the fruit and leave his nut trees. Both appear to be
political signs, which indicates Kleon had communist sympathies which
went out of fashion.
THE WILLOWS: The residence of Eion Demarates. The white witch was left to die behind a mirror in its
walls. She may have been left behind by Eion, who was of the magi, to
protect his home from intruders, even his relatives. Several people
instruct Grafton to cut down the house's distinctive trees, but he never
HAIR: I believe he is something like the commissioner of police, but I don't know.
AEGIS: Butch's violent partner. He speaks no English but he does speak German.
THE WHITE WITCH: She manifests as an old, gnarled, sentient hand.
She loathes Naala, probably because she harbors racist attitudes from
centuries ago. She is buried in a waterproof jewelry box. Papa Zenon
says he will bury her body above the ground in a suitcase, and later
says he did that. She may have been a maid.
PAPA ZENON: Magos X. Martya explains that he is a spy for JAKA in the clergy.
I believe her first inclination is correct, and we know that JAKA likes
to set several different people on a case; Naala even admits this is a
common, if messy strategy. He looks like a mouse.
MAGOS X: Magician, a major one.
He shelters Russ Rathaus in his home. He ordered dolls from Russ. He
speaks the same dialect as Naala. Magos X is not his real name. His
animal is the lion, suggesting his double, and probably his alter ego:
Papa Zenon. He was against the communists, and was probably an
intellectual persecuted by them. He is most likely a Jew, he is only possibly an American. His reaction to Grafton precludes him being Papa Grafton I think.
DOUBLES: As in all Wolfe, doubles abound in The Land Across.
Martya/The White Witch
GRAFTON: The protagonist of the novel. The question of why he travels to the land
remains open. It is suggested that he knew of Russ Rathaus before he
arrived in this place; possibly he knew of the Unholy Way as well. He
becomes the agent of Dracula after meeting the vampyr in his castle.
Vlad rewards him with a girl for his service. It's implied that he wants
to get out of the U.S. by the end of the novel, indicating he may be in
some danger there. He may be hypnotized several times in the novel,
first to trust and obey the leader, secondly as a means of giving him
second sight by Vlad.
EION DEMARATES: He left home after a quarrel with his father, and
became a rich man. He hides his treasure in his house. It is gold. Grafton says he found the treasure in the chimney, but there is reason to doubt this statement.
VLAD THE IMPALER: Former ruler of the land, vampyr. He lives in his castle and is the source of magical power in the land. The wolves belong to him. He wishes the Unholy Way out of his land, probably because he disdains human worshipers. He rescues Russ from prison and frees Grafton in the process.
ROSALEE: Magician, Russ' young wife, and stepmother to Papa Iason. Russ says
she is not very bright, but this is a cover. She was his accountant it
seems, and maybe at one time was his secretary. She has learned
something of magic from Russ, as when she hides as a mannequin in a nice
woman's store. It is possible that she made Yelena resemble her through
PAPA GRAFTON: We are told that Grafton's father worked for the State
Department, but it seems likely that this is far from the whole story,
and probably a cover. He is a magician himself, if his son got
any talent from the father. I suspect he was Russ Rathaus' original
partner in the Imprinting Doll business, and that he created the process
responsible for the exportation of magic. It is probable that both men
were working for the United States government in their endeavor, and
Russ may have been sent in to clean up whatever mess the program caused
in the land.
We don't know Grafton's father's
current whereabouts, but I suspect he is in the novel somewhere, and
Grafton just tells us he is dead so no one would go looking for him.
PAPA IASON: He is Russ Rathaus' son. He is a very ambivalent
character. Grafton alludes to a messy past, and calls him a bad man
trying to be a good one, then softens it with the idea we all are. His
housekeeper may be his mother. He is biased against Volitain, probably
because of some conflict between Volitain and Magos X, who is his friend
given that the first person he turns to after receiving the hand is
Papa Zenon. (Magicians' quarrels in Wolfe date back far indeed.) From
all evidence is a very good priest.
THE UNDEAD DRAGON: Grafton says the leader of the Unholy Way is the archbishop. Others seem to confirm this view.
ARCHBISHOP: I certainly believe that Grafton himself killed the
archbishop as Naala suggests (she is a very good detective). But the
idea of the archbishop climbing the stairs for no reason makes little
sense. He went up there to meet with someone, possibly a vampyr .
BUTCH BOBOKIS: The white witch's hand murders Butch because he is a
spy for the Unholy Way. She casts it into Naala's apartment to inform
them Butch was a traitor and there are spies within JAKA.
UNHOLY WAY: We know surprisingly little about the Unholy Way. They are
described by their leader as Satanists. They do horrible things, murder
and orgies, and they are probably vampyr worshippers.
THE LEGION OF LIGHT: The mysterious organization that abducts
Grafton. He betrays them to JAKA by announcing his location on the air.
They appear to be a dissident group with a pro-capitalist message. The leader of the Legion seems strangely perceptive.