Friday, 30 September 2016

Gods And Men

How do gods interact with men?

In mythology, gods exist and either threaten or bless mankind. They reflect the duality of natural forces, either sustaining or endangering life.

In history, the ideas of gods reflect experience and affect behavior.

In many works of fantasy, including several novels by Poul Anderson, gods are imagined to exist as in the myths.

In the historical sf of Anderson's "Star of the Sea," the ideas of gods are shown to evolve from violence towards peace in accordance with social changes.


"The sound of their battle horns woke a killing rage in men." (Time Patrol, "Star of the Sea," II, p. 557)

- to:

"Hers are the trees, the vine, and the fruits thereof. Hers are the sea and the ships that plow it. Hers are the well-being of mortals and peace among them." (III, p. 628)

- and:

"'She did what gods are supposed to do, gave courage and solace, made men a little more decent than they might otherwise have been, and sometimes opened their eyes to beauty.'" (20, p. 634)

In this last quotation, the speaker is a modern secularist but she uses the same words as either a believer in the gods or a pagan for whom the question, "Do the gods literally exist?" has not yet arisen.

In the graphic fantasy of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, gods begin as dreams, then become real but fade away when they are no longer believed in or worshiped. Thus, there are strong parallels between "Star of the Sea" and The Sandman although they are historical sf and contemporary fantasy, respectively.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

One thing I thought of is that while Poul Anderson shows us some of the Scandinavian pagan gods in various of his books, most often Odin, we don't see him presuming to show us GOD. Aside, of course, a brief mention of one of Gaia's emulations in GENESIS mentioning Our Lord with His disciples.

Anderson does show us the Adversary in OPERATION CHAOS, but Satan is, after all, still a Being created by God.