Wednesday, 8 June 2016

"The Beginning Shapes The End..."

A long biographical novel should, in its concluding chapter, refer back to its opening page. Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys is not perhaps biographical. It begins in Gratillonius' adulthood and covers a mere twenty five years. Nevertheless, a lifetime has elapsed. He has been a King and is now a Duke, still hailed as a King. He has transferred his spiritual allegiance from Mithras to Christ and his political allegiance from Rome to Armorica. His oldest daughter has grown to adulthood and died but is not at rest.

Volume I begins:

"At noon upon that Birthday of Mithras, the sun blazed low in an ice-clear heaven. As Gratillonius looked south, he saw its brilliance splinter into rainbow shards amidst his eyelashes."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater, Chapter I, section 1, p. 13.

Very near the end of Volume IV, Gratillonius and Verania walk through snow and he remembers:

"'All at once I remember. Today is the Birthday of Mithras.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter XXV, section 2, p. 497.

Christians have not yet adopted 25 December as the Birthday of Christ.

"' seems to me somehow as though this, everything that matters to me, it began that selfsame day, five-and-twenty years ago. I stood on guard on the Wall...And soon, one way or another, it will end.'" (ibid.)

Mithras was described as a Watchman but Mithras and the Wall are in Gratillonius' past. This is an excellent reference back to the very beginning of the novel.

Which novel by Poul Anderson can more accurately be described as biographical? (Its opening phrase is the title of this post.) Which series can be described as biographical although it begins in its hero's teens?


  1. Paul:
    Based on what you've recounted, I'm guessing the novel is *Mother of Kings*. The series, I feel nearly certain, is the "Dominic Flandry" sequence.

    1. David,
      You score twice here. The series is Flandry and MOTHER OF KINGS is a biographical novel although not the one that I had in mind.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      I'm baffled! I checked the beginnings of THE WAR OF THE GODS, A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS, GENESIS, THE LAST VIKING (one biographical novel in three volumes), THE BROKEN SWORD, CONAN THE REBEL, STAR PRINCE CHARLIE, TAU ZERO, etc., and I did not find the phrase you used. I'm sure the correct book is something I should have though of right away!


    3. Ksot, Paul!

      I'll have to keep checking! (Smiles)


    4. Sean,
      I will give you a little longer. There will be time for you to find it.

  2. Paul:
    I saw what you did there.