Saturday, 28 May 2016


We know from mythology, the Bible and the difference between the book and the film that stories exist in different versions. In Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys, a storm topples the towers of Ys whereas, in Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword:

"Things which mortal sailors only glimpsed or dreamed were plain to the cloudy slant elf-eyes and to Skafloc: the sea maidens tumbling in the foam and singing, the drowned tower of Ys, a brief gleam of white and gold and a hawk-scream of challenge overhead - Valkyries rushing to some battle in the east."
-Poul Anderson, The Broken Sword (London, 1973), Chapter V, p. 31.

All that I wanted to quote from The Broken Sword was "...the drowned tower of Ys..." but, of course, when I reread the passage, I had to include in the quotation the sailors' glimpses and dreams, the mermaids and the Valkyries. However, my point here is that we have two versions of Ys: many toppled towers; one drowned tower.

I think of Poul Anderson's many works set in the past as a single long chronological sequence:

The Last Viking;
the fourteenth century
etc -

- and they do contain many cross-references. However, they are not a single series, comprising not only different genres but also, at least in this case, two different versions of a single legend.

In their Afterword to The King Of Ys, Volume IV, the Andersons summarize the legend of Ys while noting that it comprises different and disagreeing tales. King Grallon ruled Cornouaille from Quimper and built Ys of the hundred towers for his daughter, Dahut, who took a different lover every night, then had him cast into the sea! Under her, Ys became evil with the rich oppressing the poor. The Andersons give Ys four centuries of history before Grallon, their Dahut is not that evil, Ysan society under Grallon is just and Quimper is founded after Ys is destroyed.

There are also different versions of Christianity. A barbarian sacking the Ysan ruins says:

"'The high are brought low and the low are brought high, like Christ promised. We're here to claim our share.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter VII, section 1, p. 132.

Does Christianity mean a social revolution? The Church as an institution acquired property, accumulated wealth and taught that any social reversal must be delayed until the hereafter.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I have to disagree with your last paragraph. Our Lord was no socio/political revolutionary. He explicitly said we should give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and that His Kingdom was not of this world.

That does not mean, of course, that Christian teachings and ideas did not have social or political consequences. The Church's dislike of slavery, for example, led to it gradually dying out in Europe. And made it increasingly harder for Christians to justify having slaves in other parts of the world.