Soldier of the Mist/Soldier of Arete Analysis

Gene Wolfe

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In Soldier of the Mist, a wounded soldier acquires a curious disability: When he sleeps, he forgets everything. The book is the diary he keeps to remind himself of his past. He also has an unusual ability, which appears to be connected to his disability: He sees ghosts and gods. He seeks his past, name, and native land. He calls himself Latro, which means “mercenary,” and fought for Darius the Great of Persia. He was wounded in the battle of Marathon, in which Darius was defeated by Athens and Sparta.

Latro is taken to a temple of Apollo, where Apollo visits him. Apollo cannot cure Latro but tells him that he must go to a shrine of the Earth Mother. She took his memory in punishment for some offense, which Latro has forgotten, and he must beg forgiveness. Only when Latro has been forgiven can he be cured.

Latro discovers that if he touches a god, people can then see the god. He is captured, along with four others, by slaves of Sparta. Captured with him are a slave girl, Io; a black mercenary whose name Latro learns much later is Seven Lions; a young Greek woman; and Pindaros, a wealthy Greek man. When the slaves discover Latro’s remarkable relationship to the spirit world, one of them asks Latro to help them seek aid from Gaea in a planned uprising. Latro believes that it would be unsafe to refuse. The prisoners, however, are later taken by Athenians led by the merchant Hypereides. Latro is bought by the madam of an Athenian whorehouse to serve as a bouncer.

Eventually, Latro visits a shrine of the Great Mother. There he meets her daughter, the Triple Goddess, and is granted one of the three things he desires: memory, friends, or home. He chooses friends, because, he says, they will tell him of his home.

The Spartans find Latro and take him to their city, where he meets Prince Pausanias, uncle of one of Sparta’s kings. The prince is interested in one of Latro’s companions, Eurykles, a spy for the Great King, because Pausanias hopes to gain power by making a deal with Darius. The spy, however, is also a servant of the Triple Goddess. It turns out that the Earth Mother and her daughter, the Triple Goddess (Moon Goddess, Huntress, and Dark Mother), are fighting, and both hope to use the hero Latro as a pawn. Pausanias also is interested in Latro. Because Latro and the gods can see one another, Pausanias hopes he can use...

(The entire section is 974 words.)