Thursday, 13 December 2012

Historical Heroes

What are the fates of the heroes of Poul Anderson's historical fictions?

Eodan builds a kingdom and is remembered as a god;

Gratillonius protects his people after the withdrawal of Rome and is remembered as the legendary last king of Ys;

King Harald Hardrada dies at Stamford Bridge in 1066 and is fictionalised by Anderson as "the Last Viking";

Lucas the Greek fights, survives and thrives in a turbulent period.

We could add that Dominic Flandry prolongs the life of the Terran Empire and ends his career as a respected Imperial adviser but in this case not only the character but also the entire historical background is fictitious.

Of the past heroes, only Lucas is created entirely ex nihilo, neither based on nor derived from any already existing figure. He is a transitional and modern man becoming neither a king nor a legend but using his wits and aptitudes to survive and gain what he can in an increasingly competitive environment while the old institutions change and go under.

Addendum, 14/12/12: Manson Everard protects the course of history while remaining unknown to that history and we are not told how his career ends although he will be remembered with honour by his peers and superiors.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I'm not sure I would call Lucas Greco "a transitional and modern man." He certainly used his wits and abilities to survive in an age of disintegration and chaos. But he did not enjoy anarchy and cruelty. What he longed for was to live in a reasonably decent state where he could hope to make an honest living and where his children would not have to cower under tyrants. Which rules out the dying Eastern Roman Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Lusignan Kingdom of Cyprus, etc.

I think you passed too lightly over the role played by Brother Hugh de Tourneville and the Knights Hospitallers of St. John. And their hopes of setting up a decent state of their own.


Paul Shackley said...

I am thinking of adding an addendum to this post.

Well, living in a decent state, making an honest living and bringing up children free from tyranny sounds like a modern agenda!

I agree Brother Hugh and the Hospitallers warrant more attention. I know that, however thoroughly I read thru a novel, I am highlighting only the points that catch my attention. I would, of course, publish a post from anyone else who wanted to highlight the role of the Knights...