Thursday, 14 July 2016
"A Town Of Merfolk!"
"'...offshore is a town of merfolk!'"
-Poul Anderson, The Merman's Children (London, 1981), p. 10.
This surprises us. We expect merpeople in a fantasy novel but do not expect them to be generally known about - unless this is another of Anderson's alternative histories in which magic works? No, it is our history but is also another case of fantastic events occurring in the past but being forgotten about in the present. The fabulous city of Ys was secluded while it existed, was totally destroyed by the sea and has since been forgotten except as a legend. Liri, the merfolk town, is destroyed by exorcism and its few survivors flee across the Atlantic.
The promise of a new world across the ocean is present in Poul Anderson's works set in earlier periods. St Brendan, Bjarni Herjulsson and an Ysan sailor reached North America and the merpeople will also.
In his Foreword to The Broken Sword, Anderson raised the unanswered question: what became of Faerie? The blurb on the back of my edition of The Merman's Children (Sphere Books. London, 1981) is worded as if to answer that question:
"THE FANTASTIC EPIC OF THE LAST DAYS OF THE FAERIE
"In the waning years of the Middle Ages, before Christendom had completely scoured the world of magic, both Faerie and Man lived on Europe's shores. This is the story of those last days: of how the Faerie were driven out of Denmark..."
Neil Gaiman has Auberon leading Faerie to another plane.