Saturday, 3 September 2016

Problems And Tests

Poul Anderson's heroes solve problems. They are problem-solvers. Problem-solving sf and fantasy is akin to and can overlap with detective fiction. Thus, in Poul Anderson's Three Hearts And Three Lions, Holger Carlsen, by a process of elimination, deduces which of four suspects is a werewolf. So far, Holger has solved problems by:

throwing water into the mouth of a fire-breathing dragon;
outwitting a riddling giant;
identifying and neutralizing a werewolf.

Is some Higher Power testing Holger by sending fantasy threats in succession? Or are Holger's enemies causing his problems? Or are these two ways of saying the same thing? Are his enemies unwitting agents of the same Higher Power? If, by Higher Power," we mean the author of the novel, then, yes, they are.

In any case, should we be able to deduce what will come next - after a dragon, a giant and a werewolf? I cannot remember, even though I have read the book twice before. The plot so far has also involved:

a witch
a demon
a dwarf
a swan-may
an animated suit of armor
Elf Hill
Morgan le Fay -

- so what has not been covered yet?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Your listing of Elf Hill interested me. The arrival of Holger Carlsen in the Carolingian world was VASTLY inconvenient to the leaders of Faerie (even if Holger himself didn't understand why he was so important for a long time). He had arrived at a crisis or nexus point in the struggle between Law and Chaos. So one attempt at neutralizing was getting him into Elf Hill. A few "hours" would see the passing of a hundred years OUTSIDE. More than enough time for the crisis point to pass without Holger taking a role in it.