‘Joyce described [Finnegans Wake] as a downwards parabola into sleep, or as a tunnel going through a mountain. As HCE moves through the dream, the “thunderwords” track his movement. There are 10 thunderwords, the first 9 of 100 letters each, the last of 101, for a total of 1,001–tales of a thousand and one nights, appropriate for this book of sleep.
As each thunderword leads into another part of the book, it fits into Joyce’s usage of Vico‘s philosophy to tell the story. Each thunderword leads to a new cycle and a deeper part of sleep, and a deeper, more muddled state in HCE’s mind (where the “mudmound” of his body fades from view and even the acrostics for HCE become muddled, as hec, ech, etc.). Thunder itself was important in Vico’s philosophy as a motivating force and a symbolic marker of events in history.
“There are ten thunders in the Wake. Each is a cryptogram or codified explanation of the thundering and reverberating consequences of the major technological changes in all human history. When a tribal man hears thunder, he says, ‘What did he say that time?’, as automatically as we say ‘Gesundheit.’ ” — Marshall McLuhan.’ (FinnegansWiki)
Here are the ten thunderwords, hyperlinked to their places in the FW text:
- (shut the door):
- (Norse gods):