Soldier of the Mist/Soldier of Arete

by Gene Wolfe
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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437

The novels Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete by Gene Wolfe were published in 1986 and 1989, respectively. The third installment to the trilogy, Soldier of Sidon, was published in 2006. They belong to the genre of historical fiction. The protagonist is Latro, a Roman soldier who fights for the Persians on behalf of Xerxes and the Persian army. As a narrator, he suffers from memory loss owing to a head wound suffered in battle. The course of events that Latro describes are the aftermath of the battle, told through journal entries that were allegedly printed in archaic Latin on papyrus, discovered in the British Museum. Important quotations include:

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My name is Latro. I must not forget. The healer said I forget very quickly, and that is because of a wound I suffered in a battle. He named it as though it were a man, but I do not remember the name. He said I must learn to write down as much as I can, so I can read it when I have forgotten. Thus he has given me this scroll and this stylus of heavy sling-stone metal," (1).

This quote, from the first chapter, introduces the reader to Latro, so that the reader may appreciate the gravity of Latro's injury (amnesia) and also understand the reasons for the mode of discourse the narrator uses (i.e. his daily journal entries).

"The healer came after I wrote last, and I asked him where I had been hurt. He said it was near the shrine of the Earth Mother, where the Great King's army fought the army of Thought and the Rope Makers," (159).

This quote features an element of foreshadowing, as the reader later learns from an oracle that Latro's injury occurred as a result of having offended the Earth Mother. The "army of Thought" is the Athenian army, and the "Rope Makers" are the Spartans, as Latro reports their epithets as he hears them.

"'For them I am not here,' he said, answering a question I had not asked. His words were fair and smooth, like those of a seller who tells his customers that his goods have been reserved for him alone," (256).

Here, the reader understands Latro is able to see and communicate with gods. This god, Apollo, further tells him, "You shall have such gifts as are my time give. Hear my attributes: I am a god of divination, of music of death, and of healing; I am the slayer of wolves and the master of the sun," (256). This separates Latro from his fellow soldiers, as he has a special power that results from his injury.

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