Thursday, 8 September 2016

Meeting Myths

How often does a real person become a mythological figure? We don't know. Writers can imagine them and time travelers might meet them - unless time travel requires both a transmitter and a receiver? In the latter case, we would be unable to visit times earlier than the construction of the first time machine unless we were able to use receivers built earlier by extraterrestrials, as in Poul Anderson's The Avatar.

In Anderson's The Golden Slave, Eodan and Tjorr are the originals of Odin and Thor;

in Anderson's The Dancer From Atlantis, a time traveler from the twentieth century meets the original Theseus;

in SM Stirling's Against The Tide Of Years, Prologue, a time traveler from the twentieth century meets the original Agamemnon.

I read that Prologue late last night and sensed the presence of an Anderson parallel but did not recognize it until my sleeping brain had had time to process the information. The difference is that, in The Dancer From Atlantis, the time traveler merely learns what really happened whereas his counterpart in Stirling's novel changes the course of events beyond all recognition.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree with you about how the Nantucketers, good or bad, were inevitably changing out of recognition the world they landed in.

And, of course, the immensely important, real world figure of Charlemagne also passed into myths and legends. Such as THE SONG OF ROLAND and the other chansons de geste.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
Randall Garrett wrote a short story, "Frost and Thunder," about a modern man SOMEHOW transported to prehistoric Scandinavia and then back. The locals had trouble pronouncing his name, Theodore, and they mistook his customized .45 pistol for some sort of oddly shaped hammer.

And then the cannibal "frost giants" attacked, and "Tay'or" used his pistol -- (muzzle) flash, clap of thunder, dead "giant," and the "hammer" still in his hand although it seemed to the locals he must have thrown it to strike the giants down....

He overheard their awed comments, and when he got back to the present, he gave his pistol a name. "Mjolnir. Yah. The original."

One person on the 'Net, trying to track the story down by vague memory of the plot, explicitly compared it to "The Man Who Came Early."

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Of course I've heard of Randall Garrett altho, alas, I don't recall reading "Frost and Thunder." Interesting example of a time traveler becoming the origin of myths and legends. I was also reminded of Anderson's THE GOLDEN SLAVE, which shows how the stories about Odin and Thor may have started.

And, Poul Anderson's "The Man Who Came Early" gives us a story of a time traveler who FAILED to change the past in any noticeable way.


Paul Shackley said...

I have read that story but did not remember either title or author.