Thursday, 30 January 2014

City And Field

Poul Anderson's "Interloper" IN Anderson, Fantasy (New York, 1981) contrasts city with countryside as perceived not by a human being but by an Elf. Because it is night, the city, New York, is said to sleep:

"...only the dull yellow lamps and an occasional furtive movement in the shadows and alleys had life. It was near the ebb time of the great city's life; it slept like a sated beast under the sinking moon." (p. 192)

By contrast:

"The fields and woods, hills and waters and sky, never slept. There was always life, a rustle of wings, a pattering of feet, a gleam of eyes out of the night, there was always the flowing tide of nervous energy, wakeful, alert. Life lay like a sea beyond the city..." (ibid.)

Because he senses life, Beoric the Alf, or Elf, has never been really alone until he enters the sleeping city where "...there was nothing wild to run in the fields and leap in the moonlit waters." (ibid.)

He does sense a few rats, a couple of cats, some insects, an occasional wakeful human thought and the sleeping human life force "...with all their pain and sorrow and longing turned loose to wander in their minds." (ibid.) The occasional waking thought seems " echo in the vast hollow silence of the city...alone." (ibid.)

I try to paraphrase but it is difficult to stop quoting Anderson's succinct words. These reflective passages are part of a story about the Elves defeating extraterrestrial invaders of Earth. Anderson gives us far more than we might expect to find in a story with such a theme.

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