Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Krakis And Anachronisms

"...a kraki [was] a fir trunk whose stubbed-off limbs made a kind of ladder."
-Poul Anderson, Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), p. 17.

Is our hero named after a ladder or is the similarity between these words accidental? At this stage of the narrative, Hrolf is still two generations in the future.

Elsewhere, Poul Anderson gives us dates for the viking period:

"The period lasted some three hundred years. The first recorded raids on England and Ireland took place in the late eighth century."
-Poul Anderson, "THE NORSE" IN Poul Anderson & Mildred Downey Broxon, The Demon Of Scattery (ACE Books, New York, 1980), pp. 200-207 AT p. 200.

"The last Norse attack on Ireland was by King Magnus Barefoot who fell there in 1103." (ibid., p. 207)

It follows that Anderson's War Of The Gods and Hrolf Kraki's Saga, which place vikings in the third and fourth centuries, are anachronistic. Following his sources, Anderson writes heroic fantasy, not historical fantasy. In his Afterword to War..., Anderson writes that the background of the story:

" frankly anachronistic - not the Germanic Iron Age, in which the story ostensibly takes place, but the viking era. Societies, technologies, horizons, and doings belong, in an ahistoric fashion, to the ninth or tenth century, as they do in Saxo."
-Poul Anderson, War Of The Gods (New York, 1999), p. 302.

"'Shall I go in viking?'" (War..., p. 267)

"...Haven was a base for warcraft which lay out on watch lest vikings slip by to harry the Danish coasts." (...Saga, p. 23)

Thus, Anderson has eight Viking volumes, the first two anachronistic:

War Of The Gods
Hrolf Kraki's Saga
The Demon Of Scattery
Mother Of Kings
The Broken Sword
The Last Viking (3 volumes)

The title character of The Last Viking, Harald Hardrada, died in the fateful year of 1066. Our British monarchy is descended from William of Normandy, not from Hardrada. The eight volumes are a mixture of heroic fantasy, historical fantasy and historical fiction. Hardrada is a historical figure and Anderson's trilogy about him is historical fiction.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

While I have to take Poul Anderson's view of his own book, WAR OF THE GODS, as being anachronistic, I don't think that is entirely true of HROLF KRAKI'S SAGA. To quote from page xix of Poul Anderson's Introduction: "A greater hazard lies in the very spirit of the saga. Here is no LORD OF THE RINGS, work of a civilized, Christian author--though probably it was one of Tolkien's many wellsprings. Hrolf Kraki lived in the midnight of the Dark Ages. Slaughter, slavery, robbery, rape, torture, heathen rites bloody or obscene, were parts of daily life. Finns in particular will note the brutality and superstition to which the Scandinavians subjected their harmless people. Love, loyalty, honesty beyond the most niggling technicalities were only for one's kindred, chieftain, and closest friends. The rest of mankind were foemen and prey. And often anger or treachery broke what bonds there had been." So,I don't think fifth/sixth ANDERSON we re necesarily having a food celebration.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Darn! Weariness caused me to garble the last sentence of my note here. I meant to write: "So, I don't think the situation in fifth/sixth centuries Scandinavia was that anachronistic compared to the later Viking Age."


Paul Shackley said...

I did wonder. Thanks!

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Glad I cleared up that bit of muddle headedness! (Smiles)