Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Continuations And Conclusions

When an installment of a comic strip in the old Eagle comic ended "continued," there would be at least two more installments. When it ended "to be concluded," there would be just one more installment. When it ended "the end," there would be no more installments. Thus, I started to learn the meaning of the otherwise unfamiliar word, "concluded."

Although we are familiar with the term "the end," it is rarely printed at the end of a novel where it would in any case be somewhat superfluous. Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword (London, 1977) ends with an elaborate:

"Here ends the saga of Skafloc Elven-Fosterling." (p. 208)

Both the text and the later written Foreword strongly imply a sequel. Odin, taking Skafloc's and Freda's newly born son, says of the child:

" 'His weird is high and awful...Skafloc must fall and this child whom I wove my web to have begotten and given to me must one day take up the sword and bear it to the end of its weird.' " (p. 196)

That will be difficult because the Irish sea god casts the sword well out to sea although he knows that:

" 'The will of the Norns stands not to be altered, and the sword has not wreaked its last harm.' " (p. 207)

(In Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Prospero's book of magic is retrieved from the sea but it was close to the shore.)

Beyond the weird of the sword, is the end of the old ways. The elf-earl says:

" '...I feel a doom creeping up on me...that the day draws nigh when Faerie shall fade, the Erlking himself shrink to a woodland sprite and then to nothing, and the gods go under. And the worst of it is, I cannot believe it wrong that the immortals will not live forever.' " (p. 207)

At the end of Wagner's Ring, Valhalla burns in the distance. At the end of The Lord Of The Rings, the Elves return to the True West, the Third Age of Middle Earth ends and the Age of Men begins. In the myths and in The Broken Sword, Odin strives to delay "...the doom of the world..." (p. 196) He says:

" 'Not yet is this game between Aesir and Jotuns and the new gods played out.' " (p. 196)

With the benefit of hindsight, Anderson adds "...the new gods..." Since then we have lived in the age of one new god but, as they knew back then, all things end.

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