What's up with Enoch Root?

Update 2019: Twenty years later this question has finally been answered in The Fall: Or Dodge in Hell. The resolution of the Enoch Root mystery is not a major focus of that novel, but it is answered. Unfortunately The Fall is a truly bad book, by far the worst Stephenson has ever published. If you want to read it yourself I can't stop you, but if you'd prefer to simply find out the answer to the question without slogging through 900+ pages of info dumps, characters waking up and going out about their day, and random quest narratives, here's a spoiler.

One of my accomplishments over the Christmas break (2001) was to finally read Cryptonomicon from start to finish. It was fascinating page turner, as Neal Stephenson's books always are. But I do have one question.

How did Enoch Root come back from the dead? He dies in Sweden in 1944 on on p. 541 when "the only other people in the room are Rudolf von Hackelheber, Bobby Shaftoe, and the Swedish doctor." Then, 55 years later, Enoch Root shows up again on p. 784 in a Philippine jail. Now this could be a different person using the same name, but on p. 850 back in 1945, Rudolf von Hackelheber (who saw Root die) is informed that Root is alive and well in the Philippines and doesn't seem to be at all surprised. Others such as as Otto and Bischoff, who didn't see Root die but who were informed of his death, are equally unsurprised. Then on p. 860 Root shows up again, alive and well in 1945 at Shaftoe's funeral. On p. 878 et seq., we find out that Rudolf von Hackelheber is at that funeral too, and has been in communication with Root. If this is an imposter Root, this makes no impression on Hackelheber.

Does anyone want to take a stab at explaining this? How did Root come back from the dead? Was someone else killed in his place? Does he have a twin brother? Has he magically risen from the dead? Is there any clue what's going on here? Or did Stephenson just screw up and forget he'd killed Root off back on p. 541? None of the explanations I've come up with make any sense at all.

After you've finished this page and Cryptonomicon, you may want to explore some later thoughts based on the Baroque Cycle. Fair warning to people who've only read Cryptonomicon. There are quite a few spoilers on that page.


Almost everyone who responded seems to think that Enoch Root didn't die on p. 541; that it was all just a setup to avoid the need for a divorce. The claim is that he walked out covered by a blanket on p. 542. The problem with this theory is that p. 541 is quite clear that Enoch Root does in fact die. The text is

When Enoch Root dies, the only other people in the room are Rudolf von Hackelheber, Bobby Shaftoe, and the Swedish doctor.

The doctor checks his watch, then steps out of the room.

Rudy reaches out and closes Enoch's eyes, then stands there with his hand on the late padre's face, and looks at Shaftoe. "Go," he says, "and make sure the doctor files the death certificate."

In war it happens pretty frequently that one of your buddies dies, and you have to go right back into action, and save the waterworks for later.

Most importantly, this is told from the point of view of the omniscient narrator, not one of the presumably fallible characters. This distinguishes the statement that he dies from, for example, Shaftoe's story about the giant lizard earlier in the book.

Still, I'm willing to believe that a fake death is what Stevenson intended here; and chalk up the inconsistency to bad writing. One minor flaw is not too bad in a 900+ page novel.

One notable exception to the consensus was John J. Deighan, who agreed with me that something very fishy was going on here, and offered some tantalizing guesses as to what:

All of the above: granted.

It IS a glaring inconsistancy. Which means one of two things: Mr. Stevenson is a sloppy writter, or Enoch Root is a Plot Complication of the first order.

Given the following:
1) Enoch Root appears at "just the right time" in both epochs, and
2) Enoch Root obviously dies in the 1945 epoch, but is obviously alive (and gee-whiz "just in time": a coincidence? ;) )in the tras-2000 epoch, and finally
3) any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic (or a plot hole)

We have a whiz-bang tale of modern era espionage and corporate intrigue, written by a science fiction writer (TZ theme here, if you please). It has a plot hole big enough to drive a Mac Truck through. I have my theories, but expect Enoch Root to pop up in the sequels to Cryptonomicon. And be just as hard to "kill". And where do "you" go when you go to sleep? What if "you" woke up somewhere else. Would you still be "you"?

Also, a viewing of the Book of Enoch is enlightening. It deals with angels who take on the bodies of men, and the mayhem that ensues. I'm not a believer myself, but they tried to kill Jesus, and look where it got them. All it takes is "script approval" to appear in the sequel, no matter how many times you die.

very truly yours, and can't wait for the next installment
John Deighan

P.S. I'm not a Talmud scholar (hey! a new Internet acronym! INATS), but continuity of conciousness was not a prerequisite in the Jewish resurection: they seemed to expect to be re-constituted (like good Florida Orange Juice) on the "Last Day". Only the Christians seem to think that spending Giga-years until Judgement Day in a state of inneffectual conciousness is a Good Idea.

Just my 2 cents

James Uther also noted some interesting points:

Hi Elliotte,

Something is indeed very fishy with Enoch Root, and I put it down not so much to sloppy writing, but that anoying habit of Stevenson to *introduce the notion of an interesting plot device and then leave you hanging* dammit. I don't have my copy of cryptonomicon here, so you'll have to do with what I remember in what follows:

Root is obviously a member of some illuminati type of secret society. He says plainly that he's not really fighting for the allies, but 'is on the same side', and yet he is quite able to arange to be placed in whatever unit he likes, and has access to the NSA. Furthermore, my reading is that his 'cigar box' has some type of advanced medicine/medical technology. Was it Shaftoe that was healed by Root and had a dream about the cigar box with light shining from it? Also, Root was adamant that he needed the cigar box when dying in Sweden, and later he mysteriously cured Amy Shaftoe.

It's Stevensons refusal to explain such tempting morsals that makes him one of the most frustrating writers alive today...


Aric DiPiero found more evidence that the cigar box can resurrect the dead. On page 542,, Bobby Shaftoe sees (presumably) Root leave the doctor's office. "He understands, now, why he has thought of himself as a dead man ever since Guadalcanal." In other words, Shaftoe himself was resurrected from the dead by Root using the cigar box. (Can anyone find the page where this happened?)

Robert Houghton pointed out that the two Enoch Roots in the two different time periods could well be two different people, even if the original didn't die in 1944:

Basically, my strong suspicion is that an Enoch Root dies in 1945. The Enoch Root that appears later is not the same man, but the same character (afterall, different people can become root on the same system, in succession).

This is (sort of, perhaps) explained by Root to Randy in the prison, wherein he discusses the Societas Blahdeblah and explains the nature of recurrent archetypal characters, like the Trickster etc. Perhaps most telling is the description of recognising someone on the phone. If someone appears to be someone else in all but physical appearance you could for given for thinking they were the same person unless you could actually see them (as in the case of reading about a character in a book).

Indeed, the re-emergence of archetypal characters is something of a theme throughout the book; Comstock (Jnr&Snr), Randy/Lawrence, Bobby/Doug Shaftoe etc. Note, how particularly with Doug, Stephenson doesn't have to do too much character development, the reader inherits the idea of Doug from the fuller descriptions of Bobby.

Theres my little conspiracy theorem anyway!

Eric S. Raymond offered the following info from a dinner he had with Stephenson:

The story is not quite right. It was dinner, not lunch. Greg Bear, a computer scientist named Linda Stone, and my friend Nancy Tsai were also present. It was the day before I gave my road show at Microsoft, which I think was September 1999.

What Neal actually said was something almost exactly like this:

"Ahhhh. That was your clue that `Cryptonomicon' really *is* as science-fiction novel. You will find out more about what happened to Enoch Root in the next book."

He was clearly unwilling to be pressed for details, and I refrained.

I believe John Deighan and James Uther have it right. Something SFnal happened with Root, and it's tied up with the secret society of which he is a member.

The next book Stephenson is talking about is probably QuickSilver, volume 1 of the Baroque Cycle, which is due out in November 2003. According to Stephenson, "Quicksilver is set 300 years ago, and it's still a work in progress. Since its not done, I am still pretty reluctant talk about it in specifics. It is a continuing effort to go farther back into the history of these technologies and to think about how they formed the way the technological world is structured today." and "There are familial connections between the 2 books. It will take place a few hundred years in the past, and include some ancestors of Cryptonomicon characters."

Update: Sometime on or before November 26, 2002, the final sentence of the above quote ("It will take place a few hundred years in the past, and include some ancestors of Cryptonomicon characters.") was deleted from Stephenson's web page. I do not know why. Perhaps the novel no longer involves ancestors of Cryptonomicon characters, or perhaps he thought he was giving too much away.

In a Locus interview, Stephenson revealed a little bit more:

Originally, I planned to have storylines in Cryptonomicon set in the present, past, and future, but I pulled out the one set a couple of generations in the future – more the kind of stuff that people are accustomed to seeing from me. Though it previously looked as though it was going to be kind of sparse, now it was looking like it could stand on its own, but it would take a lot more time and work. And yet the WWII and present-day timelines were done, and it seemed crazy to hold up the entire thing any longer for the future one to get done, so we could bring that out first. So we decided to take this approach. Besides, the book was already at the limits of size! The future scenario will be a later book.

I have two sequels to Cryptonomicon planned, but they're in different time lines. I'm trying not to give the idea that it's a tightly locked together set of books. They're supposed to work as stand-alones. There are always a few strange little corners of the story that may not make sense outside of the context of the full series, but 99% of it can stand on its own reasonably well, I hope. It's kind of a wink to the science fiction readers out there: "See, it really is a science fiction book!"

Nicholas Plummer submitted the following interesting thoughts:

Here's my guess: Enoch Root is an alchemist who carries the philosopher's stone around in a cigar box. He really did die in WWII but was re-vivified by the stone.


  1. Enoch's age is difficult to discern, and he does not seem to get older.

  2. The contents of the cigar box seem to have healing powers.

  3. When Detachment 2702 is in Italy, Enoch Root says that he can speak Italian but would sound like a "16th century alchemist" or something similar (don't have the book in front of me). At first, I assumed that he learned scholarly Italian, but perhaps he was telling the literal truth.

  4. The symbol on the cover of Cryptonomicon is one used by alchemists.

  5. FYI, Shaftoe's dream about the cigar box occurs in a basement in Sweden while von Hacklheber is explaining why he did not reveal what he knew about Enigma and 2702 to the Germans. von Hacklheber also reveals that his family has historic ties to Societas Eruditorum.

    Judging by its title, I expect Quicksilver will involve alchemy, and Enoch Root may be a character.


Bill Greve wrote in to note that the new paperback edition of Cryptonomicon contains an excerpt of Neal Stephenson's upcoming novel Quicksilver in which a character named Enoch Root is searching for a character with the last name of Waterhouse in Boston in the early 1700s. He's led through town by a 10-year old Benjamin Franklin. I'll have to get down to Barnes & Noble soon and check this out.

Meanwhile, Pedro Jorge Romero, the Spanish translator for Cryptonomicon, has written up his own thoughts on the matter (in Spanish). He seems to prefer the less science-fictional, "it's all a hoax" explanation and translated accordingly. Still he also notes parallels between Gandalf and Enoch Root; and as all good geeks know, Gandalf the Grey apparently dies in the first book of the Lord of the Rings only to be resurrected as Gandalf the White in The Two Towers. It's also never quite clear whether or not Gandalf is exactly human or not. Various of Tolkien's writings indicate that the five wizards may be a race onto themselves, and they certainly seem longer-lived than typical humans. Anyone know if Stephenson's a Tolkien buff?

Javier Cantero also has some comments on all this in Spanish. He points out that in the Ethiopian Book Of Enoch, Enoch is the father of the famously long-lived Methuselah.

December 2002 Updates

Some Enoch Root ideas that my last notes on this subject evoked. I had asked if Stephenson was a Tolkien buff (which might lend credence to the theory that Root is a Gandalf-character.) Jeff "Zippy" Quick recalled:

I don't know how much of a Tolkien buff he is, but given that Randy refers to himself as a "dwarf" and his ex-girlfriend's academic friends as "hobbits", the Gandalf idea just might fly.

Several correspondents also seem enamored of the whole Enoch=Angel idea. Continuity ties this in to the Gandalf hypothesis:

Re: Gandalf, I saw and purchased a book explaining various things about LoTR that states Gandalf is in fact an angel (of sorts). I can find it and paste the ISBN, or paste an extract or something, if you want.

MC Pike is also intrigued by the angel hypothesis, and adds the interesting supposition that there might be a hidden message in the book somewhere:

Just read your page about Enoch Root. I must admit, I didn't notice the inconsistency when I read the book, I thought there was a Enoch the Younger, or that Neal was jumping around in time, as he was prone to do. But reading the book it did occur to me that what with all the talk of 'Somebody's trying to send you a message' that the Author would be prone to do this too. I know I would, if I had written a book about secret messages, it would be too tempting not to encode one in it.

I can't think of any messages that Enoch Root could be sending, or this mysterious cigar box / alchemy business. But with a new book coming out, it's more evidence to add to the debate. Neal is prone to adding 'fantastic' elements to his works. That he says it *is* science fiction is interesting in that regard. Does an alternate history with angels on earth count?

Stephen Keller found another very suggestive phrase on p. 474, that fits the hypothesis that Enoch Root is an angel. Shaftoe asks Root "Enoch, why are you ... here?" Root replies, "Why has my spirit been incarnated into a physical body in this world generally?" Keller elaborates:

An interesting choice of words for what is essentially a smart-ass answer to Shaftoe's question. Doubly interesting if you take John J. Deighan's hypothesis that Root is somehow related to the book of Enoch -- could this be a subtle clue that Enoch Root is literally a spirit or an angel in the form of a man?

Simon Sharwood goes a step further and proposes that "Enoch Root is a God."

Later on in Cryptonomicon Enoch pops up in jail with Randy and delivers the long diatribe about Athena vs. Ares, and how each era seems to create the same set of gods. Well, I reckon Enoch is the deity of technology, or perhaps the deity of the sysadmin. This means he can die over and over in his corporeal form but still be "evoked" by the people.

January 2003

Adrian Hon wrote in with a report about a Neal Stephenson lecture he attended at Cambridge a couple of months back. Apparently, Stephenson is deeply interested in the old Newton/Leibniz controversy.

Also according to this report, Quicksilver, the prequel to Cryptonomicon, is scheduled to be out in August. Amazon now shows it out in September 2003. It's already 1,727 in the Amazon ranks.

Rick Osborne found one more possible reference to the cigar box. In the chapter "Landfall" starting on page 1057, Rudy tells Bischoff why they were late:

We were dismasted, and lost three men, and my left eye, and two of Otto's fingers, and a few other items, going around Cape Horn," Rudy says apologetically. "Our cigars got a little wet. It played havoc with our schedule.

Osborne hypothesizes:

Now, I may be reading too much into such a small reference, but I think this has significance here. Just on the previous page, it was explained that Rudy has also lost several teeth to scurvy. In all, he and Otto were not exactly the picture of health. I think was due to the fact that their cigars "got a little wet".

He may have been speaking of literal cigars (albeit with special properties), or just using them as a euphemism for whatever came out of the cigar box. Similarly, he may have been alluding to the fact that the objects don't work properly when wet, or he may have been being sarcastic and using "a little wet" to mean "sunk to the bottom of the ocean". At any rate, I think it ties into their ill condition. Whatever ER gave them out of his cigar box was supposed to help keep them alive on their long voyage to Manila.

May, 2003 updates

Somebody who identifies themself only as "56" is skeptical that there's anything deep going on here:

[1] We are barking up the wrong tree -- we are dealing with Neal Stephenson here
[2] We are barking up the wrong tree -- we are dealing with Neal Stephenson here (This is actually the same as point 1, but it's so important, I thought I'd better make it again)
[3] Nothing much is necessarily up with Enoch Root -- Cyptonomicon is a ((hard science) fiction) novel, rather than a (hard science fiction) novel. [Note to self: adjectives appear to be associative, while adverbs are commutative. Investigate.]
[4] All weird stuff involving the cigar box appears to occur in dreams. Root's death in Sweden is faked in accordance with the plan to get Julieta Kivistik a passport issued by an Allied nation plus survivor's benefits, as most have pointed out.
[5] So when Enoch is chatting to Randy in the prison cell in Manila about "Root reps", what's all that about?
[6] Has anybody besides me noticed this?

particle% grep -i Eno  /usr/include/sys/errno.h
particle% man 2 chroot

Enoch's name is part of a crossword puzzle, as either a clue or a solution.

Best look at points 1+2 again.

Nick Giordano wrote in to cite Genesis 5:22-24, relevnt to the Enoch is an angel hypothesis:

22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:

24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

John G. Vega proposes an even wilder hypothesis:

Having reviewed everyone's insights, I have a slightly different twist on what I believe has happened. I believe that Enoch Root dies in Finland in 1945. That he appears to have risen from the dead and appears in the Phillipines circa 2000 is caused by our perception of time as linear.

Like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five, I suspect that Enoch Root is spastic in time. Were we to follow Root's life from his perspective, his death would occur at the end of the story. From the perspective of our chronology, it occurs halfway through the book. Also note that he appears to leave the priesthood in 1945, yet is still a priest in 2000. This would be consistent with the thought that, from Root's perspective, 2000 occurred before 1945.

Unlike Pilgrim, I do not belive that Root lacks control over the timing of his appearances. Rather, presumably in connection with the Athenes, he chooses to be present when and where most needed to thwart Ares. This would be consistent with his statement that his Italian was antiquated. I do not necessarily see the cigar box as a mysterious healing device. Rather, it would appear to be the technological means to control his appearances.

I'm still working on the giant lizard. I don't think that it was simply the product of Bobby Shaftoe's morphine dream, and there was the (deliberately ambiguous) evidence of the Japanese soldiers bitten in half.

Jeff Bell suggests that it's a Unix pun:

Maybe it's an obscure latinate warning regarding unix system security.

"e no chroot"

Jona Israel ties this all into John Dee:

just bumped into your What's up with Enoch Root page. I read the book about two years ago but rembered having to re-read that page a couple of times as dead men dont walk, not even under blankets.

With Quicksilver about to hit the shelves, it is probably better to wait and see than to speculate. Nevertheless, I found Adrian Hon's report on Stephenson's interest in the Leibnitz/Newton controversy interesting; it, or rather Leibnitz, may just be more important than would appear at first sight.

* Rudy v H. appears to be involved in some hefty Leibnitz research throughout the book. As early as p. 12 there is the discussion with Turing and Waterhouse, and at pp. 503 and 505 Rudy refers to his Leibnitz research and the Leibnitz Archiv Göring collected for him.

* Leibnitz also ties in with Enoch Root. Enoch is a member of the Societas Eruditorum. As it happens around 1667 Leibnitz had argued for the creation of the "Societas Eruditorum Germaniae". Some sort of learned society aiming for the "universal encyclopedia", with a degree of autonomy from the state.

* There is a more indirect but perhaps also more intriguing link. One of Leibnitz' more philosophical works is his "Monadology", which is way out of my league but deals as far as I know with the "monad" as link between the material and the spiritual.

The monad also features prominently in the works of John Dee, the 16th century mathematician, magician, alchemist, Court Astrologer and confidant to Queen Elizabeth I. John Dee wrote a book called the "Monas Hieroglyphica" or the "Hieroglyphic Monad", a highly esoteric, ie incomprehensible, treatise on the "unifying symbol".

That both used the concept of "monad" is not that exceptional. It is derived from the greek "monas" simply meaning idivisible unit. It is also used by Euclid, well known by both Leibnitz and Dee (who first translated Euclid into English). What makes John Dee very intersting here, however, is the fact that he, together with his "assistant" Edward Kelly, is also the inventor of so-called Enochian(!) Magick: a set of rituals and symbols to talk to angels (like Enoch in the Book of Enoch did).

To be honest I havent got the foggiest idea what, if anything, this all means. But even a mere glance at the character of Dee and the time he lived in opens near limitless possibilities (e.g. Voynich Manuscript) for Stephenson and Enoch Root.

Richard Mosses also noted the Dee connection, just a few hours after Israel wrote me.

Just been reading your page on the Cryptonomicon, haven't re-read it recently but with regard to Enoch he is given a book written in the Adamic proto-language with all the sciences in it when he walks with God (see The Book of Enoch). The Adamic language is what everyone spoke before the Babel incident (see Snow Crash). This book is lost in the flood and recovered by John Dee in the 1600s via his scrying (which brings us closer to the Liebnitz era, also the scrying was more dictation by an Angel). Dee being both a mathematician and a magus is often thought of as also really being a spy, his works being written in a code, the letters being described as Enochian as he claimed this is the language the original Book Of Enoch was written in.

I'm not sure why Dee is on everyone's minds all of a sudden. And now I'm getting really paranoid because I'm wondering if Jona Israel and Richard Mosses might be pseudonyms for the same person, even Stephenson himself? or part of a stealth P.R. campaign for the next book? Googling around, they look like real people; but e-mail's easy to fake.

Israel replied, "like the paranoia, but i can assure i am really just me and not R.Mosses or somebody else though i must admit it is a weird coincidence." Both Israel and Mosses have responded to my e-mails, and they're e-mailing me from a real university and company domains respectively, so it does seem like this is at least not e-mail forgery. It's probably just a weird coincidence; but damn it, reading this book, you have to be a little bit paranoid! They both appear to be based in Europe. Maybe next time I'm over there, I'll try to meet them in the same pub at the same time. :-)

Finally, on a possibly unrelated matter, Johann Flett wonders about the gold punched cards:

the first time I read Crytonomicon I thought Root's death was odd but the second time i read it I took the view that it was faked for the benefit of his widow.

So I was discussing this confusion with my brother, in the pub one night and he goes "what about the gold punch cards".

On page 865 when the bullion is taken to Tom Howards house the second paragraph says...

A large plastic box thuds into the sand, breaks open, and spills out a mess of shattered coral. Randy strolls over to it and sees leaves of gold inside the coral carapace, tiny holes punched into them. To him the holes are more interesting than the gold.

...A message from the past encoded on uncorruptible format perhaps.

September 2003

Just collecting the last batch of posts before QuickSilver is released, which will presumably answer some questions and open up a batch of others:

Lee Harvey Osmond suggests I might want to check out https://www.eruditorum.org/ as well as http://www.eruditorum.org/. (no, they're not the same site. Look closer.)

Matthew Smith writes:

I'm finishing up Cryptonomicon for the second time around...what a great read. I came across your site when looking for more thoughts on how Enoch died and came back. I chalk it up to the Tolkien reference that Pedro Jorge Romero refers to.

At one point in the book, Randy tells Avi that he's met a "wizard" - referring to Root. This to me makes the parallel that he's like Gandalf in that he came back from the dead. Perhaps it was an elaborate scheme to fake his death that Neal didn't go into detail on.

I nearly shed a tear when Bobby Shaftoe landed on the antenna and jumped in after his grenade....

Bill Greve writes:

Just checked in for the May updates and must say there is some interesting data flowing around. Think I'll brush up on Leibnitz and John Dee before "Quicksilver" comes out. Should probably read "Book of Enoch" as well. Most likely an indepth knowledge of these topics/people won't impart any great insights into the plot, but with Stephenson he'll always reward you with little insider nuggets.

Personally, in regards to Enoch, my *hope* is with 56's third point. I'd be disappointed if all this turned Scifi with some otherworldly immortal being or similar. Cryptonomicon is believable fiction (alternater history) and I'd like to see the "Cycle" follow along. Saying that, my explanation for Enoch Root is that that's a title in the secret Societas Eruditorum (see, also, Robert Houghton's explanation towards top of your page) and is passed from person to person. Sort of like the Cryptonomicon is all the accumulated knowledge of cryptology, maybe the person titled "Enoch Root" is the human version of something similar. The "old" Enoch is responsible for passing all knowledge to the "new" Enoch. If we were to see a future Cryptononicon story, maybe Randy will have become the next Enoch Root.

I'm with those who thinks Root faked his death in Finland, however I'm undecided if the modern day Root is the same as the WWII Root - evidence is inconclusive and I could go either way.

Other points:
1. I also want to know what's up with the gold punch cards.

2. Why isn't there some recognition on Goto Dengo's part that he knew the WWII Bobby and Lawrence in WWII? As close as Goto and Bobby were, I can't believe this wasn't mentioned to the Shaftoes. Or that Randy didn't bring it up, since he had the correct decrypted cards and knew there was contact.

2a. On the other hand, there's a substantial time gap from the meeting in the restaurant to hacking thru the jungle for the primary. The absence of a number of characters is barely mentioned ("detained" somewhere, IIRC). Possibly we lost a couple hundred pages and a couple dozen more plot points.

3. I forget who tried to escape the sub, but was he successful? I think we're supposed to believe he was, but can't find any modern mention of him.

4. Israel and Mosses - yes, that is suspicious

5. For more of that paranoid, secret society atmosphere, I recommend reading Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco.

6. And for some  17th century scientific flava, take a look at Jenny Uglow's "The Lunar Men." Here's an amazon.com clip:

In the late 1700s, five gifted inventors and amateur scholars in Birmingham, England, came together for what one of them, Erasmus Darwin, called "a little philosophical laughing." They also helped kick-start the industrial revolution, as Jenny Uglow relates in the lively The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World. Their "Lunar Society" included Joseph Priestley, the chemist who isolated oxygen; James Watt, the Scottish inventor of the steam engine; and Josiah Wedgwood, whose manufacture of pottery created the industrial model for the next century. Joined by other "toymakers" and scholarly tinkerers, they concocted schemes for building great canals and harnessing the power of electricity, coined words such as "hydrogen" and "iridescent," shared theories and bank accounts, fended off embezzlers and industrial spies, and forged a fine "democracy of knowledge." And they had a fine time doing so, proving that scholars need not be dullards or eccentrics asocial.

PJ (a pseudonym) writes:

I just stumbled upon "What's up with Enoch Root" via google. I just finished re-reading Cryptonomicon for the 3rd time, in anticipation of Quicksilver.

A couple of thoughts spring to my mind regarding Enoch.

1. Enoch carries a British passport, has Germanic and Dutch roots (pardon the pun) intermingled with Aussies and, as has been pointed out on your page, some kind of tie to Rudy's Germain family and yet, after the war he goes to work for the most highly secret branch of the American government.

It's very odd that a Non-American would be involved with the NSA, especially considering the fact that the US government denied the very existence of the NSA well into the 1970's (and thus that particular agency was often referred to as No Such Agency). This seems to indicate some kind of high level influence on Root's part (or on his behalf)

2. Something I just picked up on the 3rd reading was the fact that Julieta's son, one Gunter Enoch Bobby (GEB) Krivitsky goes on to become an esteemed professor at Yale, the same person that Randy gets into a debate about the "Information Super Highway" at the dinner party early in the book, and the same person that Charlene ends up going to live with. This doesn't tie into the main question of your website, but it is never clear as to who exactly the father of that child was hence the child receiving the names of all the men Julieta happened to be sleeping with at that particular time, although given the child's academic future it's perhaps most probable that the child was Enoch's).

I bring this up only because one pet theory of mine regarding the What's up with Enoch Root question was that a particular "secret" knowledge has been passed down through the generations of Root family through time. I'm kind of making this up as I go here but lets look at the chronology of the story a bit.

In my readings, I have always pictured WW2 Enoch as older than Bobby Shaftoe. Shaftoe is mid-20's when he is shipped out of Shanghai in 1941 So, I would peg Enoch at at least 30 years old, if not older when they first meet on Guadalcanal.  If Enoch were 30 in 1941, that would make him 88 years old when he meets Randy in the Pilipino jail cell. Now, even if Root were 20 years old in 1941, that would still make him 78, and I don't know many 78 year olds who like to tramp around in the Pilipino jungles which Enoch later did.

So, either Epiphyte Enoch is a very healthy senior citizen, or Epiphyte Enoch is the 50ish son of WW2 Enoch and has had all of his father's "secret knowledge" passed down to him, which is very typical in these sorts of secret societies. (See the Priory of Sion in Holy Blood, Holy Grail - a good example of Initiates being culled from particular families throughout the ages/secret knowledge being passed down through certain family lines).

3. In Umberto Ecco's great Focault's Pendulum there is a character who is thought to be the Compte de St. Germain (I could have the spelling wrong there). The Compte de St. Germain is an ageless wandering Hermetic/Cabalistic/Alchemist who has wandered through-out the world passing secret information to secret societies throughout history. This character does not ever die (sort of in a Highlander-ish way, without all the swordplay and decapitation). Given the subject matter of Cryptonomicon (the secret society/Hermetic/Cabalistic/Alchem-Mystic background noise threads) it's quite possible that this is what Stephenson is going for with the Enoch character. And note that the Compte de St. Germain was only his name at that particular time in FP, he had obviously gone by different names throughout the years.

There is definitely something unusual going on with Enoch, because if you read the excerpt from Quicksilver ( http://www.baroquecycle.com/preview.htm ), it's pretty obvious from the description of THAT Enoch that all of these Enochs are at least blood relatives.

A few other notes:

the wizards in LOTR were indeed what you might call angels. The Valar (gods) sent the wizards (I believe they were Maia when they lived in the "God-realm") to the Middle Earth in human form to help the good guys (elves, dwarves, humans etc) fight Sauron. Once Sauron was defeated once and for all after 700 or 800 years, the wizards' work was done and they were allowed to go home. And Gandalf was the only one of the wizards that actually kept his eye on the ball and did his job. And Cryptonomicon had Tons of references to LOTR, so NS is obviously familiar with Tolkein.

What's up with this 56 fellow - isn't that a reference to the Secret Admirer's group in the book? (the Yamamoto reference?!?) Is 56 a prime number?!? Is someone trying to send you a message? LOL

Nick Tarleton writes:

In a preview of Quicksilver, there is a character called Enoch the Red, in addition to various Puritans. EtR seems to be a magician or "warlock" as they would call him. At first you think this would be an ancestor of Enoch Root, but in the "Conspiracy" chapter (the one with the golden light), Rudy (I think it's Rudy, at least) calls him "Enoch the Red."

I don't think there's anything mystical involved. The cigar box probably contains some mysterious remedy, but nothing beyond science - probably an old alchemical cure. The golden light is a hallucination, but Shaftoe recognizes that there is something interesting in that box. Root is interested in alchemy, but no more. He learned Latin because he was in the church (is it possible to get reinstated as a preist?), and Italian informed by Latin probably would sound sixteenth-century. As for the death, it was probably staged, after which Root was healed with the cigar box.

Random note: Societas Eruditorum roughly translates as Society of Knowledge. Presumably it is intended to prevent Ares from overpowering Athena. I think Enoch Root is right that Ares/Athena themselves do not actually exist but are just personifications of Root Reps. However, they exist in the form of warring groups. All this is well known. However, I think the Conspiracy (Root, Shaftoe, the Kivistiks, Rudy, GD, et al) is not truly designed to collect gold, but as an outgrowth of the Societas Eruditorum. GD recognizes this: "gold is the corpse of value."

Forgot to mention: as for "There are only three people in the room when he dies", I don't think Cryptonomicon ever has an omniscient narrator. Everything told in a chapter is/will be known to the star of that chapter.

Colin St. John suggests

I just finished Cryptonomicon last night, and had to immediately go online to see if anyone had an explanation for Enoch Root's unexplained reappearance. I found your web page a great help; some extremely insightful and well thought out theories for the big loose thread that I was expecting to be tied up by the end of the story. I did however come up with my own explanation for his reappearance while I was still in the process of reading the book.

Pontifex/Root is Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse. My main reason for thinking this was the fact that Root(1) was dead at that point, and Pontifex/ Root seemed to know a lot more about WWII cryptography than your average Catholic priest should know. It's also interesting that he shows up in the cell in Manilla next to Lawrence's grandson Randy. As I see it, Enoch Root is a job title for whoever is the current representative ( Root rep? ) of the Societas Eruditorum. One Root dies in Sweden, there's a second one in Manilla who Lawrence Waterhouse spy on ( the chapter "Cribs" P877 paperback ), and Lawrence, after presumably working for the NSA in the 1950's developing computer technology, has an poorly explained "untimely death" and takes over the Root rep position himself. I think of it as a kind of combination of a "Men in Black" disappearance from normal society to join a ancient secret society like the "Priory Of Sion" in the book "Holy Blood Holy Grail"

Jeff Root (if that's his real name) finds some evidence for the mystical angel hypothesis:

I found your page on Enoch Root fascinating. I read Cryptonomicon when it first came out, but never paid much attention to the death of Enoch. I just assumed the death was staged, since he's alive soon after.

I re-read the book with the notes from your page in mind. I noticed something that I don't think has been mentioned.

When Enoch and Randy are in jail, Randy asks about his "ignoti et quasi occulti" badge. Randy defines 'occult' in terms of one body hiding behind another so that it's not visible. I think this ties in with the Athena and Plato's Cave expositions. Enoch (and Rudy, et. al.) is the 'external cause of the internal representation' for our gods. (Although I doubt Neal would be quite so obvious -- the real answer is undoubtedly more complex.)

I think this also feeds into: 'Root replies, "Why has my spirit been incarnated into a physical body in this world generally?"'

It appears that the real Enoch (not the RootRep) is hiding behind (and occulted by) his physical body.

And perhaps that glow Bischoff sees when leaving the U-boat is not simply a match, since Rudy seems to be tied up with Enoch in some hidden (occult) way.

Thanks for turning Cryptonomicon into a whole new book for me.

Sander answers a few questions with page references

Hi Elliotte!

Very interesting page you have there, I stumbled over it while searching if that Soc. Eruditorum is a real thing or no (it isn't, sounds like a good idea though...), a question that bugged me while rereading the tome once more. I'll just unload a collection of thoughts observations and rebuttals, you're welcome to post them.

A couple of things worth mentioning (page numbers from the English trade paperback edition -- I see they fit some of the ones you and your correspondents use here), and another couple of wild-eyed theories:

- Enoch Root is alive in Manila just after the end of the war in the Philippines. He keeps bumping into Goto Dengo. He has grey hair and a red beard (p. 860). Root turns up in the narrative of Detachment 2702 in Algiers in 1942 with an Army blanket draped around him (for it is in a meat locker the size and temperature of Greenland that this takes place); Bobby thinks of him as Blanket Man. He's clean-shaven and has very short grizzly hair (p. 154). Bobby recognizes him as the priest who saved him on Guadalcanal, who had silver hair buzzed close to a tanned skull, and a red beard (p. 95). The physical resemblance seems clear enough to assume we're not talking about different bodies representing, or acting as conduits for one Root-personality; I think we are supposed to pick up the suggestion that these manifestations share a body that is easily recognizable as the same as last time, so let's go with the assumption it is in fact the same body, rejuvenated or otherwise reconstituted with the help of the cigar-box. (The bit about Root-reps (p. 800) is not meant to explain how we recognize slightly, or even vastly different-looking people as being the same person (as would apply in the case that Root is an angelic or otherwise spiritual being or alien inhabiting different human bodies), instead I read it as being about how we recognize the same person from its expressions or encodings in wildly different media.)

- Randy and Enoch swap the stories of their lives in jail (p. 815). The narrator narrates that Enoch "speaks vaguely of some wartime events". I'm not so paranoid (that is I don't assume a level of contrariness on the part of narrator) that I doubt whether this Root is telling the truth, while swapping anecdotes, about the events he witnessed. Thus I assume this Root has some sort of continuous existence from "wartime" until Randy's present. But it is possible that these wartime events comprise only the ones after 1943, when he died -- whatever that means in this context! Sure, we can decide to trust the narrator as always telling the truth, but evidently the narrator is not going to tell the whole truth at once, after all there is a story to convey. A bit of ambiguity about the meaning of the verb "die" doesn't mean the narrator is untrustworthy.

- Rudy and Waterhouse sr. meet in the jungle (p. 880), and wonder how Enoch decides who to trust (they suspect Enoch had been causing the conspiracy (the one that aims to steal Nip gold back in order to do good) to coalesce by compromising some encrypted messages); Waterhouse says: "I guess he figures if you're smart enough to break hard codes, you're automatically going to be on his side"; this implies Root is some sort of patron saint of smartness himself, maybe a bit like Metis, but taking into account his home-making skills (viz. that jungle-community thing, the healing powers etc.) and his frank opposition to evil, a lot more like Athena. Root not only explains how a personage in a tale can be a personification of a trait (when talking about this with Randy in jail (p.799 et seq.)), he might himself of course be a personage in a tale who is a personification of a trait.

- During the rendez-vous in the cove, Bischoff tells Rudy he "renewed his acquaintance with Enoch Root" (p. 850). They talk about this as if there was a plan for Root to get to Manila they weren't sure would succeed. Either Root communicated this plan to them after having died, or this was planned along with all the other details involved with the conspiracy, before he died.

- I conjecture that
1. Root has to be seen to die (and does, at the very least as far as rural Swedish medicine circa 1943 is concerned), in order to assure Julieta of financial support.
2. The cigar box contains "magical" medical technology.
3. The man with the blanket over his head who comes out of the doctor's office must be the body of Root, there was nobody else left inside. The whole bit with Bobby loitering outside surveilling the street, Rudy poking his head out to check if the coast is clear etc. heavily implies they are conspiring to keep something secret. They are in on it, and "it" is that what just seemed to have happened (Enoch died) is not so cut and dried, in other words, Enoch is not as dead as we suppose men in his situation to be. Either he isn't even a man, or he is a man with unusual abilities or technology (the cigar box). (p. 541-542)

- A few people who've written in here seem to think that Root died in 1945. Again in the Landfall-chapter (p. 851) which takes place early '45 around the liberation of the Philippines, it's clear from Otto's re-emerging memory of loading the crates that this rendez-vous takes place one and a half year after the events in Sweden, so that must have been fall of '43.

- Concerning the Tolkienish taxonomy it struck me that in one of the final scenes, Andy Loeb limps in leaning on a wizards staff. Andy is an evil Wizard (p. 892). Goering on the other hand is described in ludicrous and lurid detail, almost like a troll or wight, but isn't clearly indicated as such. It seems he is too evil to be assigned a pigeonhole in such a fanciful system.

- The gold sheets with holes in are punch-cards carrying the data of the Leibniz-Archiv. Rudy seems to quite clearly suggest this on p. 852.

- Concerning Osborne's cigar-theory: Enoch's cigar-box is Cuban, while Rudy produces Honduran cigars out of the box he brought with him on the Gertrude. (p. 851) I think Rudy's remark is meant as stoic humor on his part, but the way Stephenson uses the association with the other cigar-box seems to me just a gratuitous and elegant little joke. That magical medical technology should be quite a bit more impervious to some of that rough weather around Cape Horn to qualify as magical.

- One final note: if Root is playing the role of Athena, he should appear suddenly, the way she sprang from the forehead of his creator fully formed. Waterhouse sr. thinks about his intuitions like this: "Good ideas are just there all of a sudden, like angels in the Bible." (p. 878) Just like Root keeps appearing when neither reader nor protagonists expect him.

September 2004 Updates

Russell Nelson reminds us "that the immortal man must needs die from time to time. Or, rather, stage a death. It's either that, or disappear."

Michael Alex Wasylik, finds more proof that the character of Enoch Root in Cryptonomicon is one man:

Many of your readers have made important points about Enoch Root already (no one left in the room where he "died" after the man comes out under the blanket, Randy calls him a "Wizard" in the Tolkien tradition...) but there's one that clearly is missing.

Towards the end of the book, Enoch Root tells Randy et al. that he had known the coordinates of Golgotha for fifty years.

Cryptonomicon, p. 874

"I know where we're going, Randy." And Enoch quotes a string of digits.

"How did you know that?" Randy asks kind of hotly.

"I've known it for fifty years." Enoch says. "Goto Dengo told me."

So clearly, the Enoch Root in the "modern era" is the same one floating around the Philippines in 1945. Judging by the reactions of Bobby Shaftoe, Rudy, and the others, that's the same Enoch Root that was in Sweden in 1943.

Harrison McQuivey found another passage that might suggest Enoch is supernatural, though this one's also in a halluciantion so it's far from certain:

Something's moving in the corner of Randy's eye. He turns his head quickly. A coherent, wraith-shaped cloud of smoke is drifting away from Enoch over the surface of the river, just coming into the sun where it is suddenly brilliant. Enoch is just standing there holding a great big old .45 and moving his lips in the unsettled cadences of some dead language.

"Incantation? Prayer? Wizard? Angel?", McQuivey asks. "All of the descriptions of Enoch Root are essentially the same, curious. The above passage admits that Enoch is the 'Root' of arithmetic. Perhaps that is what Ol' Neal is getting at, perhaps not."

McQuivey also provided some background on the whole Enoch-Angel issue:

Enoch-Metatron--the patriarch Enoch, on his translation to Heaven (Genisis 5:24), became Metatron, one of the greatest of the hierarchs, "king over all th angels." Cf. the Assyrian legendin the Epic of Izdubar. On earth, as a mortal, Enoch is said to have composed 366 books (the Enoch literature). Ledgend has it that Enoch-Metatron is twin brother to Sandalphon (q.v.); that when he was glorified he was given 365,000 eyes and 36 pairs of wings. [Rf. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews I. ] The spectacular mode of Elijah's conveyance to Heaven, as reported in II Kings 2, had, it seems, an earlier parallel in the case of Enoch, for the latter was also whisked away "in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery chargers," as related in The Legends of the Jews I, 130; however, a few pages farther on (p.138) it transpires that it wasn't a horse or team of horses, but an Angel (Anpiel) who transported the antediluvian patriarch from earth to Heaven. But that may have been on a different journey. To the Arabs, Enoch was Idris (Koran, sura 19, 56). In the Pirke Rabbi Eliezer the invention of astronomy and arithmetic is laid to Enoch. ..." (Rf. Gustav Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels)

Perhaps Stephenson's book/series really is sci-fi. Last time I checked Angels can't really be killed (at least not by men).

Several people noted that "Enoch Root is very close to "cheroot", a word meaning "cigar". Jill Dinneen was the first to mention this to me:

Just read the enoch root page and had to chime in with this:

Has anyone commented on Jeff Bell's Unix pun "e no chroot"

Chroot --> cheroot --> cigar

Etymology of "cheroot" somewhat intriguing, too: From the Tamil for "to be spiral." Wheels within wheels. An enigma wrapped in a mystery.

But, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, after all.

Rich Olcott asks, "How come no-one's mentioned that, in German, 'Enoch the Red' becomes 'Enoch der Rot' -- not that far from 'Enoch Root,' especially when spoken in 17th Century England. As to the cigar box -- no cigars in it, because 'Enoch Root' anagrams to 'no cheroot'." Hmm, OK. So it's not a Unix pun after all? It's a subtle hint that the ciagr box really isn't a cigar box? And I thought Ulysses was tough!

Dena Bugel-Shunra offers a Hebrew interpretation of Enoch's name:

Here's another couple of Lego blocks for your construction: by profession, I am a translator. I work in Hebrew<>English, both directions. A note you might want is that 'Enoch' means 'self' in modern Hebrew ('myself' - 'anochi'; 'selfish' - 'enochi'). The entire novel is in some sort of dialog with modern Hebrew, and Israel (the entire anti-Holocaust movement is very much apropos in current modern-Hebrew dialog). Possibly the Enoch Root is the superuse-self character of the universe, ie, god's incarnation as the Son (another clue: his father made him learn Latin... ...the language of the church...)? The word 'Avi' means 'my father', and is also a *very* common name.

Is Root the Wandering Jew?

Brian Hicks comes up with a new theory:

Well, I know that with modern medicine, it's very possible to be legally dead but still end up living, and I'm certain that could happen to an extent back in WWII.

But that's not the main point I want to make. I recently read Quicksilver and I noticed that Enoch's red hair color is referred to repeatedly. I never really pait much attention to it in Cryptonomicon, but I realize now it was mentioned then, too.

Of course, the importance of red hair and longitivity will strike you if you've read Time Enough for Love, in which Lazarus Long mentions that both he and the Wandering Jew were redheads. For those of you who aren't familiar with either story, Lazarus Long was a (fluke) result of a selective breeding experiment with a natural lifespan of several hundred years. The Wandering Jew, on the other hand, is a mideval story of a Jew who for some reason or another offended Jesus and was cursed to walk the Earth until His return.

Can anyone confirm the reference in Time Enough for Love?

October 2004 Updates

Tuomas Värjö writes:

Just a little comment on your continuing discussion about Enoch Root in "Cryptonomicon": when Randy receives the first e-mail from root@pallas.eruditorum.org (p. 302 in my Avon paperback)(Pallas of course being a reference to Athena), he seeks information about eruditorum.org and receives the folloving information:

"eruditorum.org (Societas Eruditorum)

followed by a mailing address: a P.O. Box in Leipzig, Germany"

and then, later on the same page:

"Scrolling down, Randy finds:

Record last updated 18-Nov-98.

Record created 1-Mar-90.

The "90" jumps out. That's a prehistoric date by Internet standards. It means that Societas Eruditorum was way ahead of the game. Especially for a group based in Leipzig, which was part of East Germany until about then."

Leipzig, now, just happens to be the town in which Leibnitz was born and where he started his university career. There was even a journal in Leipzig, called the "Acta Eruditorum" (established in 1682), in which Leibnitz published some of his papers.

Lucas O'Bryen supports the angel hypothesis:

I just finished Cryptonomicon and found your page about the Enoch Root death and resurrection. The angel hypothesis seemed to make the most sense to me, considering all the angel/wizard symbolism and references in the book. One thing that I'm surprised no one mentioned is the bit at the end when Andrew Loeb comes back as Gollum. When he approaches Randy, Amy, and Enoch in the cave.

"Enoch Root has become a column of smoke with a barking, spitting white fire in the center. Andrew Loeb has become a red, comet-shaped disturbance in the stream, marked by a single arm thrust out of the water, a French cuff that is still uncannily white, a cuff link shaped like a little honey bee, and a spindly fist gripping the huge knife... A coherent, wraith-shaped cloud of smoke is drifting away from Enoch over the surface of the river, just coming into the sun where it is suddenly brilliant. Enoch is just standing there holding a great big old .45 and moving his lips in the unsettled cadences of some dead language."

What's up with that? It could just be the flash from the land mine Loeb exploded, but it's unlikely that it would travel far enough to make a cloud of smoke around Root. Also, the bit about Enoch being a white fire, and Loeb being a red disturbance seems kind of biblical. Maybe that's far fetched. Is there any significance in the bee cuff link? Also, it says that he's muttering a dead language. If it were Latin it probably would have been recognizable and specified as such, and most people haven't even heard of any dead languages beyond Latin. This seems like the hardest evidence of Enoch Root's possibly being an angel in the book, aside from the resurrection.

Will England thinks the lizard was a Komodo dragon:

Regarding the lizard that Bobby sees on the island; well, it's a lizard. A Komodo Dragon, or such; not discovered till well after the war, and not common knowledge till the last 20 years or so.

To see a lizard as large as a man would be quite unsettling.

Also, the gold punch cards - were they not the punch cards the Japanese dropped when crossing the island?

Actually, this is flat out wrong, at least about the lizard. Komodo dragons have been common knowledge for a lot longer than the last 200 years, and were discovered by Europeans circa 1910, 1912. The Stephenson Wiki suggests this could have been a Megalania prisca rather than a Komodo dragon.

October 2006 Updates

Jon Paul Henry is still holding to the Enoch faked his death hypothesis:

I think a purely literary point might have been missed here.

One of the early commentators states that Enoch died in Finland because the passage which so states was written by an "omniscient" narrator. But that isn't quite so. There is a type of third person narration which is sometimes called "third person major." It's where the grammatical third person is used, but the writer deliberately restricts the angle of vision to a particular character. (Elmore Leonard uses this all the time; many modern writers do.) It's a uniquely flexible mode in that you get the benefits of a first person focus, without the limitations.

If you look again at almost every chapter in the book, you will see that this is the mode Stevenson is using. Occasionally, a narratorial voice speaks that is clearly a step above one of the characters (e.g, the ruminations on stupendous badasses in chapter two), but almost the entire novel is written in third person major. So, in Enoch's Finnish "death" scene, the angle of vision is Bobby's (in war your buddies die sometimes), not that of the classic, nineteenth century omniscient narrator.

People consistently under-rate Stephenson purely as a writer, as a guy who knows his craft. But look again at the amazing pastiche of genres and styles, some of them based on seventeenth century originals (plays, journals, broadsheets, satires, etc.) which he uses in The Baroque Cycle. This is a writer who knows his literary history, and uses it to advantage, and does it well. He's also got less cafeinated with his prose over the course of the four novels, and his style is much more at ease with itself. What I wonder is, will any subsequent novels (the future section, which he long ago said he had written a large chunk of) revert to the more hyper style, given that that might be appropriate for a future world.

What all this means, of course, is that there is no real death of Enoch, only the fake one put on for Bobby's benefit, so that he can tell the higher command of unit 2072 that chaplain Root has met his end. So the Enoch Root who worked for the NSA, wherever he got his credentials, was most likely an "American."

James Commins chips in:

1) Enoch Root does not exist at all and is merely the manifestation of part of the other narrating characters. arguably, the smart part. He rarely interacts in groups in any big way, for a start. There is the other clue that "the only people in the room" quote, from his wartime death, did not include him on the list as such. He is essentially a cypher part for a part of Shaftoe's brain, in the same way he is for the smart part of Randy's brain later. this idea comes to me in part because of a book written by Lawrence Miles in the late 1990's (a New Adventure...being a sort of spin off of the TV series and book series Doctor Who...the books in particular would be of interest to you guys) called "Down" throughout which a character exists (the book also includes Nazis, a jungle, giant lizards, and a treasure hunt, as well as diary entries) that is revealed in the end to not exist at all, he was merely a cypher for aspects of Bernice Summerfield's character. (the main character, an archaeologist) who doesn't wish to, or cannot, acknowledge her own actions. It is possible that drugs also could bring this into being (Shaftoe uses various narcotics, Randy takes up smoking as a new hobby if memory recalls....) This would also explain why Bobby Shaftoe goes steadily more from being a fairly intellectual person (interested in poetry and sushi etc....) to more of a gung ho 'jarhead' as the story proceeds. I think that Root may be a fictional construct within a fictional construct. Something the archetype theory also in essence explains. I can expound on this in another conversation.

Therefore I posit that the "angel" theory is in many ways correct, as Enoch Root is almost an idea, you could argue, encoded in exposure to various ideas. He is a 'root' memory, something in certain families' heads, that is triggered by exposure to certain stimuli. (this explains the genetics, why he doesn't age etc....)

That's the basics of a bigger idea I have about it, but I think it's far as I am gonna go with that one.

In relation to the doctor who thing...enoch is a very doctorish character, and I'm pretty certain NS would be familiar with DW (i think he may even have written something about it somewhere) but that's not a theory. Although the DW concept of "Blinovitchs limitation" effect describes about massive releases of energy if time travelers meet and specifically touch their former/future selves. Which may explain the no-nos to time travelers in the other book. That and the fact that possibly the characters are pivotal to human evolution, or indeed the creation of time travel, and as such temporal interference may result in a grandfather or other such paradox. That or they aren't real, and should be avoided by time travelers because they don't exist. Thereby avoiding disappointment.

2)the only other fiddly theory. Enoch Root is Merlin, or temporally anomalous, aging backwards, or experiences effect before cause. He would therefore logically have a bizarre effect on space time, largely due to his own nature with time. He could heal people by changing cause after seeing effect for example, and even create the illusion of his own death.

My final theory is a small contribution, and is merely that Root perks up Amy Shaftoe's own will to live by informing her that she is pregnant. Since given the women in the books tendency towards getting knocked up at opportune moments by members of the associated family (Rudy's line dies with him since he is gay and unlikely to have fathered a child) it is possible that she was feeling weird and sick because of that, and didn't put two and two together. After all, it was an imperial pint of Randy's genetic material that she...um.....internalized, in the car.

anyway, enough rambling, let me know.

oh...and i can confirm the "time enough for love" reference. it also includes a line to the effect of "men and women are the same height laying down" which wouldn't be out of place on Bobby Shaftoe's lips.

Dan Zabell notes

I'm re-reading _Cryptonomicon_ before I finally take the Baroque Cycle plunge. . .after checking out your string, metaweb, and a few other links, it seems like 'Nomicon is a retelling of the Flood story. There's a mountain holding a vessel, which contains the seeds for preventing mass destruction. Maybe it's a stretch, I dunno. It's just that the Enoch-as-ancestor-of-Noah connection seems too strong. It's like _Snow Crash_, where people learn how to hack the brain with pre-Babel language. Is this an example of a recurring theme in Neal Stephenson's books, where technology and reason allow us to more closely achieve the mythical, magical, and divine? I think I posited more questions than answers.

Michael Sullivan doesn't believe Enoch is a time traveller:

I thought I would note the following: the notion that Enoch is a time traveller is an interesting one, but it doesn't seem to fit Stephenson's MO to me. Same for the robot theory. These seem like the obvious options that would occur to Sci-Fi fans, but time travel and robots are two gimmicks that just don't mesh well with Stephenson's work, in my opinion. I suspect and hope that the real solution, whenever it's presented, will turn out to be more unexpected and more interesting.

A couple things that seem to discountenance the theories: as for time travel, a number of places in the corpus seem to imply that Enoch doesn't know how things are going to turn out. He has his own ends and wields his influence in purposeful ways--ends and ways that may be more clear to us than to the other characters--but doesn't seem to have advance knowledge of what will happen. This seems to be true, for instance, in the scene where he discovers the child Newton: both in the conversation with Newton's ward, in which he discusses the new intellectual movement he anticipates (where he seems to see the signs of rising quicksilver before anyone else, without knowing exactly what coming changes it will bring), and as regards Newton himself, in whom he recognizes potential without any clue that he knows who or what Newton will be specifically. A possible counter-example: how does Enoch know that Meteore is coming to assassinate William of Orange? I don't recall now if an explanation about that was given.

And as for Enoch being a robot: eating, drinking, copulating, etc. seem to argue against that well enough to make it an option to be embraced only if nothing else suffices. Also I note that in Enoch's discussion with Waterhouse on the night of the Glorious Revolution (in the presence of Locke), in which Waterhouse accuses him of being inhuman, although it's true that Enoch never admits to being human, neither does he ever admit to NOT being human (which is the accusation, after all). I think it's up in the air either way.

He also adds:

I think the mention of time travel at the beginning of the Dramatis Personae is a joke. Stephenson's meaning is clearly that if I intend to travel back in the past, I can't make my plans contingent on the existence of Jack, Eliza, or Daniel, as I could rely on the existence of Newton. His real point, I'm sure, is to point out that even though there is a vast amount of historical fact in the Baroque Cycle, it's also full of fiction and not to be confused (no pun intended) with a history textbook.

I don't know. They're a lot of ways Stephenson could have made that point without using the words "time travel". Although long life seems the more likely hypothesis, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see time travel fit into this puzzle in some way.

Nathan Summers thinks Enoch is the devil:

IMO, Enoch Root is Lucifer, the Light-bringer. Biblical canon's version of the trickster god. Loki, Kokopelli, etc. all fill the same bill. These trickster gods are also the liaisons between the realm of the gods and the realm of humanity. They are also generally the ones who are the masters of technology. We also are already well aware of Mr. Stephenson's infatuation with these gods (Enki in Snow Crash, Raven in The Diamond Age).

"Enoch" is an obvious reference to angels. In the Bible, YHWH calls Lucifer his favorite, which could be where the "root" comes from - root meaning the base, bottom, the place from which the rest grows. He was the most powerful, most loved of the angels.

I had this inkling back when I first read Cryptonomicon for the first time (the immortality combined with the red beard and his "role" as a priest made the idea pop into my head), but when I learned the title for Quicksilver, I felt my hunch was somewhat validated. Hermes/Mercury is often cited as the Greek/Roman equivalent of the trickster/messenger god. Mercury being another name for Quicksilver. The astrological symbol for Mercury can be found on the first hardcover edition of the book, furthering this notion.

A random hypothesis: maybe Enoch is slowly trying to regain favor with YHWH by moving humanity away from Ares toward Athena? Maybe this centuries-long quest of dabbling in human affairs has the hopeful result of pleasing YHWH so Enoch/Lucifer can return home?

I know there are holes and inconsistencies in this overall hypothesis (his "death" being a glaring one), but I think it has a romantic, mythical elegance that lends weight and interest to an already compelling story.

Uri Klugman writes in

Enoch Root's background is explained quite clearly and in great detail in Cryptonomicon. Please reread the section where Randy Waterhouse and Enoch Root are in jail. Randy notices a pendant hanging around Enoch Root's neck (of Athena).

Quickly paraphrasing (as I don't have the book in front of me), Root reviews Chaos, the birth and fall of the Titans, and the rise of the Roman gods - especially Ares and Athena AND their followers. Enoch talks about this as if it is a (remembered) genealogical history, and not just ancient mythology. He is very closely connected with that story, and it reads like a personal account. Exactly which character he plays is not so clear - but he is definitely associated with Athena (goddess of knowledge and technology), and not Ares (god of war and discord).

Sometimes we mere mortals cannot understand everything around us - with Enoch Root, that is certainly the case. We can however get an inkling of what might be. The jailhouse confession is as close as we will ever get (or should get - if we want to be able to continue to think about it in upcoming books...).

Later he adds

Also, Red (Enoch the Red) in Hebrew is Adome. This word shares the same root (no pun intended) with the words adaam (man or human) and adama (earth). Enoch in Hebrew is Chanoch. The root of this name is used in the word Chanukka (for the word dedication - to dedicate). It is also in the word chinuch, or chanech, which is education or teaching. That certainly works well with Athena, goddess of wisdom, crafts, technology, and (some say) warfare.

There is also a fascinating glimpse of Enoch everywhere at http://www.answers.com/topic/enoch-ancestor-of-noah that briefly reviews the place of Enoch in each of the world's major religions - living and dead.

I think that NS found all of that stuff and worked it all in - just to play with us...

Other interesting points, perhaps not directly relevant

Emmett Barton called my attention to this passage on page 505:

"Enoch and I had never met. But there are certain old family connections," Rudy says, and "certain shared interests."

Bischoff mutters something in German.

"The connections make a very long story. I would have to write a whole fucking book," Rudy says irritably.

I suspect the book is QuickSilver, where exactly what Rudy's family (the von Hacklhebers)have done for Root is made explicit.

G.E.B. Kivistak

Eve Proper wants to know who G.E.B. Kivistek's father really is:

Any thoughts on Enoch Root's (legally, anyway) son, the pomo scholarly jerk G.E.B. Kivistek? Of course he could actually be a Shaftoe or a Rudy Jr., but I can't say that he turned out like those gentlemen, either. If he is in fact Root's son, though, I would say that would be a great deal more interesting.

Doug Jones notes:

Another possible thread- Gunter Enoch Bobby Krivitsky's initials are GEB, clearly a reference to Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach, Eternal Golden Braid etc. Stephenson does enjoy jerking us readers around, doesn't he?

Andrew Solovay agrees

One point that I didn't see anyone mention--the name of the academic prat G.E.B. Kivistek is almost certainly a reference to Douglas Hofstadter's book 1979 "Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid". Note that the initials of the book's title are "GEB:EGB", and in that book, Hofstadter frequently uses those initials as a joke (e.g. reffering to his fictional alter-ego, 'Egbert B. Gebstadter', author of "Giraffes, Elephants, Baboons: an Equatorial Grasslands Bestiary").

I don't know what Stephenson meant by it, except perhaps just a little in-jokey reference to a nonfiction book that shares a lot of his themes--but I can't regard it as a coincidence. And if so, it's quite possible that he chose the names Gunter, Bobby, and Enoch at least in part to set up the joke of those initials.

Who's 56?

In answering a meta question about this very page, Geoffrey Jost writes:

56 is Admiral Yamamoto.

In Japanese, the number 56 is normally pronounced "go-juu-roku", but a semi-obscure alternate pronunciation is "i-so-roku". Yamamoto's given name (what we in the states would call a "first name") was Isoroku. Japanese history books (and history sites--google it) say that he was given this name because his father was fifty-six at the time of his birth.

Before he became admiral, Yamamoto studied at Harvard for two years starting in 1919, and was the naval attache at the Japanese embassy in Washington in 1925. Stephenson mentions this in passing. I don't have the book in front of me, but it'd be interesting if those dates overlapped with Waterhouse's or the others.

Hidden Messages

Dayne May writes:

Not sure if you're still maintaining that page (http://www.cafeaulait.org/cryptonomicon.html), but for what it's worth, a couple of thoughts (fnie for you to post 'em, if the mood takes you) on MC Pike's statement:

"if I had written a book about secret messages, it would be too tempting not to encode one in it."

The same occurred to me. Particularly when Bischoff misunderstands Bobby's use of the word "gold" ("Geld? Money?"). Except that the German word for gold is "gold". I don't see the linguistically savvy Stephenson making a mistake like this - if he knows what the German word for money is, he probably knows what the German word for gold is, especially in a book about (among much else) gold.

So. Is this a signpost? A signpost to what? you ask.

Well, dunno. But the tribes that Goto Dengo hangs out with have, as their words for gold, "gabitisa" and "ulab".

Googling these two turns up nothing, apart from Cryptonomicon references. So are they real words for gold, in any language anywhere?

If not, perhaps these are part of the key to deciphering the (perhaps non-existent) secret message in Cryptonomicon.

What Happened to Bobby Shaftoe?

Austin Plunkett wants to know what happened to Bobby Shaftoe:

I don't have a lot to add, other than it always struck me as odd that Bobby Shaftoe so carelessly disposed of his own life, after being parachuted onto the base that was covered in aerials (don't have the book to hand, apologies for the vagueness). Sure, he wasn't the most joyful of characters, and he was in a real pickle. But it seemed to be a strange decision. I've often wondered if his association with Enoch had led him to realise something about death - that it wasn't The End? - or whether Enoch would somehow intervene. I've just recalled that Bobby tries to drown himself in Root's presence, just before their capture by Germans. I may re-read that page!

But then again, if you go looking for answers, you're sure to find plenty.

What Happened to Günter Bischoff?

Peter Klausler wants to know what happened to Günter Bischoff:

I stumbled upon your web page about Root while searching for an answer to a question that's been bugging me ever since I first read the book: namely, poor old Günter Bischoff's fate. Does he survive the bends when he escapes his sub? If so, does he ever appear in the modern timeline story? Stephenson gives me no clue that I can find, and I worry that I've missed something important and subtle. Have you a clue to share?

I still have this nagging worry that one of the modern-timeline characters is actually Bischoff and that nobody has ever realized it.


Interesting Links

After you've finished this page and Cryptonomicon, you may want to explore some later thoughts based on the Baroque Cycle. Fair warning to people who've only read Cryptonomicon. There are quite a few spoilers on that page.

Comments to elharo@ibiblio.org are appreciated. If you'd like your thoughts to be added here, please make sure your e-mail states that it's OK for me to post it. Thanks!

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Last Modified March 24, 2020
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