Tuesday, 25 September 2012


At least three times, the issue of incest arises in Poul Anderson's fantasies.

(i) A Mithraist becomes King of Ys and refuses to marry his daughter when the gods of the city mark her to replace a deceased Queen. The embittered daughter, a devotee of the Ysan gods, conspires with the king's enemy who destroys Ys, as its gods seem to want. Like other pantheons, they withdraw before the new god of the Roman Empire.

(ii) Skafloc Elven-Fosterling unknowingly marries his sister but his dead brothers unwillingly reveal their kinship when Skafloc recalls them seeking other information. Skafloc, raised by feckless elves, does not respect the incest tabu but his sister does and withdraws from him.

(iii) In Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), the Danish King Helgi and his wife learn, when they have had a son, that they are father and daughter. She points out that to stay together would bring bad luck on their country. They anticipate:

"Blighted fields, murrain on the stock, sickness sweeping through a starveling folk, Denmark naught but the haunt of ravens and wolves, cutthroats and madmen, until an outland ax hewed down the tree of the Skoldjungs..." (pp. 81-82)

Since the Saga is a fantasy, such an outcome is possible. Helgi and Yrsa do not stay together.

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