Headscratchers / A Swiftly Tilting Planet

  • Having read the book, I understand the following. Matt, who had presumably died of his illness in the original timeline, remained dead without children. Bran, who had married Zillie in the original timeline, now married Zillah. Gwen, who had married Gedder in the original timeline, now married Rich (whom Gedder had originally murdered). My question: where did Chuck and Beezie, and their father come from? All the Maddoxes and Llawcaes in the 1865 arc were either dead without descendants, or married completely different people, altering their bloodlines forever.
    • There seems to be some heavy In Spite of a Nail going on with respect to specific people, in that even if you change who someone's great-great-great-grandparents are, they still end up being basically the same person (unless they're not, like Madog Branzillo, although it's hard to tell what the extent of the change there was. He could be an entirely different person who coincidentally has the same name and office, or he could be the same person with a different temperament). There might also be some form of You Already Changed the Past although obviously that can't be applied to every part of the plot.
    • The Madeleine L'Engle reread on Tor dot com, led by Mari Ness, comes to conclusion that in the original timeline, Matthew married Zillah and lived just long enough to sire a son and publish two books before dying of his illness. Bran married Zillie and Gwen married Gedder. Eventually, the Bran/Zillie and Gwen/Gedder lines married again, only now the descendants had double the dose of the evil Gwydyr bloodline, thus leading to the maniacal Mad Dog Branzillo. In the new timeline, Matthew sends Zillah to South America, Zillah marries Bran, settling in Vespugia, and Richard, after killing Gedder by accident, marries Gwen. They move back to New England, and eventually one of Bran's sons joins them there, becoming the ancestor of Beezie and Chuck Maddox. Bran and Zillah's line leads to El Zarco Branzillo, and Zillie... becomes a nun? Or something? The conjecture makes enough sense... I guess.
      • OP here. As for Zillie, although the book does not discuss her ultimate fate, there is some indication that a Llewellyn Pugh was interested in her, only to be thwarted by Gedder. With Gedder out of the way, that relationship might have been successful. As for Matthew marrying Zillah, I read the Tor.com article too, and might have been persuaded but for the following. In my reading of the story, I noted that Matthew was considered, even by Zillah, as an ineligible marriage partner because of his injury. When I was younger, I simply assumed that this was due to prejudice regarding his disability; however, as an adult, I am aware that spinal injuries such as Matthew's are often associated with impotence, meaning that he could not have married Zillah, let alone fathered any children.
  • Why exactly is it a good thing for Charles Wallace to stop Harcels from learning about violence? If he was going to survive and his people would spread it might help but Gaudior implies that the entire tribe was later wiped out for their pacifism. It's entirely possible that Charles Wallace accidentally caused their genocide by preventing them from learning how to defend themselves.
    • It seems to be more that Gaudior wants Harcels and his people to do a culture-wide Dying as Yourself rather than see them be corrupted into learning the ways of violence and war.
      • So Gaudior has decided it is better for these people and their entire culture to be completely destroyed, precluding the possibility of them helping others or stopping other genocidal groups in the future, than for them to realize that they could use force to protect themselves. The 'good' option is for these people to be killed off. That's a heck of a case to make in a world where genocide has been stopped by force and the world seems to be a bit better for it.
      • To be clear, we're not talking about a tribe learning to defend itself (or not), we're talking about a child witnessing (or not witnessing) a violent act, and possibly being traumatized or corrupted by it. It is implied later in the story (and in An Acceptable Time) that the People of the Wind are capable of defending themselves.
      • Then what was the point of Gaudior's comment that they were 'a people of peace' and that 'your planet does not deal well with people of peace' when Charles Wallace asked what happened to them? Was the unicorn just being an asshole who wanted to suggest that they had been wiped out?
      • Gaudior is kind of a jerk. I wouldn't put it past him.
    • Note that Charles Wallace doesn't keep The People of the Wind as a whole from learning about violence—just Harcles personally. The Teller of Tales still knows about these things, and by the time of Madoc, it's pretty clear that the whole tribe is clear on the concept, even if they try to reject it. So if the People of the Wind are wiped out due to their "love of peace," it isn't due to Charles Wallace keeping one member of their tribe innocent/ignorant.
  • So by making sure that certain people win or survive Charles Wallace is helping alter a man from a military dictator into a peace activist. Is this book encouraging eugenics?
    • Seems to be more of a Set Right What Once Went Wrong, as Gaudior implies that the book actually starts in a timeline caused by a Might Have Been that the Echthros almost made come true.
      • Except that everything that sets things right involves making sure that the right person went on to have children. One of the pseudo-psychic characters even states at one point that it's 'wrong' for the people of one bloodline to mix with the people of another bloodline. We are effectively being told that if only a certain men had married the love interest instead of the other bad person hundreds or thousands of years ago the world would have avoided nuclear war in the late 20th century.
      • Having children is more than passing on blood or DNA. It's also passing on ideals, beliefs, and other intangibles. By changing the ancestry of a genocidal madman, Charles Wallace ensures that, in the corrected timeline, Branzillo is raised to respect life rather than to seek destruction. The warmongering Branzillo, raised by his violent ancestry, sought to impose his will militarily. However, when he is changed to the more moral and peaceful "El Zarco," raised by his more peace-loving ancestry, in the end he seeks to instead prevent a war that would cost millions of lives.
      • So we're to assume that every single person of that line was a horrible, unlikable, violent person who raised their children to be precisely the same? And that every single person of the other bloodline was raised to be a perfect person who loved nature and would never do something awful? That sounds an awful lot like saying that ancestry is all that matters and if you're born of the wrong bloodline you will be a horrible person no matter what your personal opinions or circumstances may be.
      • But Gedder and Zillie were adopted by a perfectly normal farmer. They have very little connection with their biological parents, and Gedder still turns out to be a power-hungry bastard, who mustn't be allowed to marry Gwen, and Zillie... is a pretty and nice girl who still mustn't be allowed to marry Bran.