Friday, 27 July 2012

The Queen Of Air And Darkness III

The fourth section of "The Queen Or Air And Darkness," in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977), returns to Barbo and Sherrinford as viewpoint characters and advances the narrative.

(i) As ever, Anderson celebrates human life and enterprise. Here, he colorfully describes the bustling life of a Rolandic city evocatively called Portolondon.

"The streets were crowded and noisy..." (p. 18)

Trade comes down the Gloria River and across the sea. As in other works, Anderson evokes urban and commercial dynamism by reciting unusually long lists: "...shops, taverns, restaurants..." etc; "...meat and ivory and furs..." etc; "...laughed, blustered, swaggered..." etc. As long as human beings remain active, Anderson and his readers rejoice. (p.18)

(ii) Sherrinford's Holmesian credentials are confirmed when we learn that he had helped the police in a murder case.

(iii) Sherrinford mentions cases where an outwayer family reports glimpses of a disappeared child, "...grown, not really human any longer..." flitting or peering. (p. 21) This should have been developed, with Sherrinford interviewing a distraught parent before the reader had encountered any Outlings.

(iv) A police detective discourages Sherrinford's investigation. The police are recruited from outwayer families who believe in the Old Folk/Outlings. This would have been much more sinister if we had not yet known that the Outlings existed and if we had initially been given some reason to suspect that Barbo's theory of a secret human organization kidnapping children was correct.

(v) When discussing whether a winged creature could have lifted the boy out of the camp, Sherrinford asserts that birds strong enough to do this exist both on Beowulf, where he is from, and on Rustum, of which he has read. Yes, a spearfowl threatened Dan Coffin on Rustum. Here at last is positive confirmation that this story belongs in the Rustum timeline.

The History of Rustum could be collected in one volume divided into three parts:

"From Earth to Rustum," four stories;
"Dan Coffin on Rustum," four stories;
"Other Planets," so far, at least one story.

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