Monday, 26 September 2016

An Eye For Wisdom

Odin sacrificed an eye for wisdom. See here.

" did it happen you lost your eye, Lord?'
"Eodan smiled. It was a wry smile, not ungentle, but wholly without youth. He had known too much ever to be young again. He said, 'I gave it for wisdom.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Golden Slave (New York, 1980), XX, p. 279.

The Golden Slave is a historical novel and we have realized while reading it that Eodan is the original of Odin. Eodan, like the title character of Anderson's sf novel, Ensign Flandry, has lost his youth. Therefore, he has matured? Therefore, he has gained some measure of wisdom? Maybe.

SM Stirling's William Walker tells a barbarian chieftain:

"'I don't miss the eye. You see, I sacrificed it for wisdom.'"
-SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Time (New York, 1999), Chapter Eighteen, p. 281)

This novel is science fiction. Far from being the original of Odin, Walker is a time traveler who knows well how to exploit the power of myths. The barbarian steps back and shudders. Here, "wisdom" would mean not only insight and understanding but also supernatural power. Walker and his fellow time travelers will prevent the history that led to the myth of Odin but Walker himself might well initiate a myth of a one-eyed demon. His companion, Hong, already claims to be an avatar and not of anything good.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

It's interesting to contrast THE GOLDEN SLAVE, a relatively early novel of Poul Anderson, with the middle period PA novel HROLF KRAKI'S SAGA. In the former we see the legends and myths about Odin having remote origins with an indisputably human being who learned wisdom the hard way, thru bitter experience. The latter shows us Odin as we know him from the Eddaic legends: wise but sly, tricksy, even treacherous.

And your suggestion that William Walker might become the core of myths about a demon-god was interesting and all too plausible. And Alice Hong is all TOO willing to be Walker's consort as the Lady of Pain.