Cloud Atlas Wiki
Previous Life: Yosouf Suleiman
Appears Chapter 6
Relationships Zachry, counselor
Appears Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After
Actor Susan Sarandon
Relationships Zachry, tribesman

The Abbess is a character appearing in the novel and in the film adaptation. Each Abbess is elected by the Valleysmen to be the tribe's leader. Zachry mentions that if the future had played out differently, his sister, Catkin, could have been the next Abbess.


The Abbess is the chief religious official and educator in the Nine Valleys. She is seen by the village people as a highly respected source of knowledge and wisdom about both the past and future. She lives in a small building connected to the schoolry. The Abbess is in possession of one of the last functioning clocks on Earth and teaches the children to speake "Clock tongue".

When Zachry was 14, he slept in the Icon'ry for Dreamin' Night. When he awoke he went running to the Abbess so she might interpret his dreams. The Abbess is able to have "visions", which she believes are sent by Sonmi. One such vision is described in the book (and the movie) where she receives three lines of advice for Zachry:

One: Hands are burnin', let that rope be not cut.

Two: Enemy's sleeping, let his throat be not slit.

Three: Bronze is burnin', let that bridge be not crossed.

The Abbess then admitted to Zachry that she did not understand the meaning of Sonmi's message, but claims that he would when the time was right. She then forces him to memorize the "augurin".

It is known that after Zachry's father was murdered by the Kona, that the Abbess asked the Prescients at the next gathering for weapons to defend the Valley against the other tribes. The Prescients refused. At a later visit, the Prescient chief, presumably Duophysite, asked to speak with the Abbess in private. The Abess called a gath'rin' and announced that one of the Prescients wished to live among them for half a year and learn their ways and customs. She said that the Prescients would pay the Valleysmen double everything they had gotten today on the condition that one family would take the Prescient woman into their household. She eventually decides that Meronym would live with the Baileys, and brought the woman over later that evening. At one point, the Abbess asked Meronym to point out Prescient Isle on her map, but Meronym only pointed to empty ocean and claimed that the island only appeared on maps created long before the Fall.

Zachry later went to the Abbess with his suspicions about the Prescient's intentions. But she dismissed him and his claims saying, "Bring me ev'dence Meronym's plannin' to murder us all in our beds, I'll summon a gath'rin'. If you ain't got ev'dence, well, hold your counsel." Zachry recognized from her tone that the discussion was over.

Meronym later asked the Abbess for permission to enter the Icon'ry and examine some of the icons. The Abbess gave her assent.

When Zachry and Meronym are ascending Mauna Kea, he asks the older woman if the Abbess's belief that the Hole World flies around the sun, rather than the other way around (a belief of the Men o' Hilo). Meronym confirms the Abbess is correct.

When the Valleysmen arrive in Honokaa for batering, Zachry notes thay the other tribe's chief, the Senator, has more power than the Abbess. The Abbess later tells the children thay the bart'rin' hall was once called a church, where an ancient god was worshiped by the Old-Uns, but all knowledge of this god was lost in the Fall. When the Kona attack the gathering, the Abbess is presumably killed or captured in the ensuing chaos.

The Abbess' previous incarnations were Madame Horrox (Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing), Ursula (The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish), and Yosouf Suleiman--the creator of the chemical used to spur a fabricant's ascendance (An Orison of Sonmi-451). The Abbess' fate is never specified in the film, and she does not appear after her prophecy to Zachry.


"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
—The Abbess, as a spiritual leader, can be heard quoting Sonmi, passed down from those who came before.