Friday, 1 March 2013

God And Dog

Back to the ballad of the battle of Brandobar: I said earlier that any screen adaptation would require one voice for the narrative lines, one for the repeating lines and one for the annotations. However, the narrative includes four speakers (Vorlak, Monwaing wisemen, Tarkamat and the wanderer chief) as well as a narrator so there should be seven voices in total.

Two of the repeating lines change.

"(New centuries scream in birth)" (pp. 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133)

- becomes at the end:

"(New centuries sing in birth)" (p. 133).

"(A bugle: the gods defied!)" (pp. 127, 128, 129, 131, 132, 133)

- becomes in the middle:

"(A bugle: the dogs defied!)" (p. 130),

but I imagine that this second change was a mistake?

There is one slight possibility that it makes some sense (but I don't think so). I characterised the alien races in After Doomsday as respectively avian, wolverine, arachnid, humanoid and centauroid. The Vorlakka, whom I called "wolverine" "...were supposed to be humanoid..." (p. 55). They are bipedal but covered in fur and their faces are "...bluntly dog-like, black-nosed, with carnivore teeth." (p. 55) So maybe "canine" would have been a more accurate description? - though not as implying quadrupedalism. So they might conceivably be the "dogs" that are being defied by Kandemir on p. 130?

A god-dog appears at least twice in European literature. Socrates, not wanting to take any god's name in vain, swore instead "by the dog" and was accused of introducing strange gods! He thus unwittingly introduced an anagram in English though not, of course, in Greek. (I remember a school acquaintance who would say, "I swear to God!", when all that he meant by this was, "I want you to believe what I am saying!" I prefer Socrates' caution against misusing divine names.)

I do not have this reference to hand but the hero of Aldous Huxley's Eyeless In Gaza, sunbathing on a flat roof with his girl friend, remarks, when a small private plane flies overhead, "They'll have a God's eye view of us," just before a dog falls from the plane. Spattered with blood, the character screams spontaneously, then, quickly recovering his customary ironic detachment, drawls, "Yet another reason to dislike dogs," thus souring his relationship with the girl friend.

When this novel was televised, my mother, who knew that I had read and liked the book, asked me, "What was the significance of the dog?" God's judgement on a shallow relationship? In any case, an ironic inversion of the hero's casual reference to God. The reader, or viewer, is never shown what had happened in that plane so that could be an incident in another novel.

But this has been a long digression from a probable typing error in Poul Anderson's novel so I will end it there.

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