Thursday, 27 March 2014

Icelandic Wisdom

Anderson, Poul, "The Man Who Came Early" IN Knight, Damon, Ed., 100 Years Of Science Fiction (London, 1972), pp. 1185-212.

The tenth century Icelandic narrator of "The Man Who Came Early" is "...a godi, a chief who holds sacrifices..." (p. 195). I was unfamiliar with this term. Googling reveals that some of the godis became Christian priests. Presumably, the similarity to the word "god" is accidental?

This godi says:

"Birth and life and death, these are the great mysteries, which none will ever fathom, and a woman is closer to them than a man." (p. 206)

Women are closer to birth and, in some societies, to preparing the dead for burial. We now fathom more than we did but not everything.

"I wonder if Gerald thought that the strangeness of his weapon would unnerve us. He may not have understood that every man dies when his time comes, neither sooner nor later, so that fear of death is useless." (p. 211)

That attitude helped them to face danger but I think we can say that a man who dies young potentially had decades in him if things had gone differently.

"...I look into the future, a thousand years hence...Maybe some of them, walking about on the heaths, will see that barrow and wonder what ancient warrior lies buried there, and they may well wish that they had lived long ago in his time when men were free." (p. 212)

We might.

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