Sunday, 29 May 2016

Legendary Stories

A work of fiction based on legendary stories can harmonize and explain elements of the stories but can also alter aspects of the legend for new narrative purposes. Thus, Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys explains why its new fictitious character Gratillonius came to be called both "Grallon" and "Gradlon" after he had become King of Ys but it also changes and enhances the legend of Ys in significant respects.

This Ys was not a Christian settlement founded by Grallon but a pagan Punic colony with a rich history, already a fable even before it was destroyed, and inspiring nostalgia even in someone who had never seen it:

"'I remember Ys, though I have never seen her...'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter VIII, section 3, p. 162.

The singer never will see Ys because she composed the song after the city's destruction. Again, this Ys does not sink intact beneath the waves but is leveled during a storm sent by the Sea God.

When mutually incompatible versions of a story are equally good, how can both versions be incorporated into a coherent narrative? Maybe one version can become a "play within the play." Thomas Malory incorporated different versions of what happened to Arthur by telling us what men say happened. Men say different things. Although I like both the "...had...into another place..." and the "HIC IACET ARTHURUS...," Arthur cannot simultaneously be both alive elsewhere and lying (iacet) in a tomb. CS Lewis emphasizes the physicality of the "other place" by stating that Arthur went there " the body..." I would be confident of Poul Anderson's ability to compose a coherent story out of these fragmentary hints about Arthur.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And of course the Christian settlement Gratillonius did found was Confluentes/Quimper. The Andersons seem to have transferred the idea of Grallon founding Ys to Gratillonius building Confluentes.

    I admit to being puzzled how anyone can say he REMEMBERED a place he never saw or visited.


    1. Sean,
      I understand it. We "remember" Ys from reading about it.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      I was perhaps being too literal minded! (Smiles)