Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Root Of Paganism

I think that Poul Anderson in The Broken Sword (London, 1977) uncovers one root of Paganism. Thunder is the sound of "...great wheels across the sky..." and Thor is mentioned (p. 23); "...a brief gleam...and a hawk-scream...overhead..." are Valkyries (p. 31).

"Sprites whirled in the mists above waterfalls; their voices rang back from the dell cliffs...graceful shining bodies haloed with rainbows..." - dimly seen (p. 26).

The elf-earls voice "...was like a wind blowing through trees far away..." (p. 19). The voice of an As (a god) "...was as of a slow storm through a brazen sky..." (p. 84). A witch sees a tall, bearded, one-eyed man with a cloak, a spear and a wide-brimmed hat but "...she had not really seen him clear - it could have been a trick of the starlight..." (p. 39). Sailors glimpse or dream what elf-eyes see, "...sea maidens tumbling in the foam and singing, the drowned tower of Ys..." (p. 31).

Our ancestors heard thunder and wind, saw storms and waterfalls, and in these they heard Thor's chariot and elven voices, saw sprites, sea maidens and the gods. If the sound of the wind in the trees evoked elven voices and if storms evoked gods, then, yes, the elf-earl's voice will resemble the wind blowing through distant trees and Tyr's voice will sound like a storm in the sky. Anderson has authentically imagined what it would be like to meet an elf and a god.

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