Saturday, 3 September 2016

Serious Issues In Fantastic Fiction

Poul Anderson, Three Hearts And Three Lions (London, 1977).

Three Hearts... is a fantasy novel about a man who is transported to another world where he is already a hero. He is advised by a witch and guided by a dwarf, fights a dragon and outwits a giant. This could have been a children's story and some adults might regard it as such. However, such ideas can also be the subject matter of fantasies addressed to adults. And, whether it is juvenile or adult, fantasy can address the same issues as realistic fiction.

Any narrative about human beings - and about supposed supernatural beings - can address the nature of reality and morality. If there are parallel universes, should the force that unites them be called "God"? Fantasy often features a cosmic conflict between Good and Evil. In Three Hearts..., these principles are called Law and Chaos. Expressed in these latter terms, which principle did the Nazis represent? Such issues are far removed from witches, dwarves, dragons and giants. Yet a narrative about such mythical beings can powerfully address these issues.

5 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I would say the National Socialists and the Communists both stood for corrupt and debased forms of orders. A kind of Satanic "Law," in other words. But they were also in a very real way, chaotic, belonging to Chaos. Nazism and Communism did not encourage or bring out in human beings their best qualities.

    Sean

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  2. Paul and Sean:
    One argument I've read for classifying dictatorships as Chaotic is that the order they present is based solely in the will of the dictator. So if Hitler decides that Gypsies and Slavs are as bad as Jews, it becomes "Law" to kill them.

    The argument is that TRUE Law is binding on the leader as well as the citizens, and thus the Nazis were Chaotic because Law DIDN'T bind Hitler ... or his top men, so long as they didn't cross his will.

    (It might even have been an Anderson source from which I got this; I don't recall. It seems like something he'd say or write.)

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    Replies
    1. Kaor, Paul!

      You made a very good point and one I perhaps should have stressed more clearly in my recent "Political Legitimacy" essay. Hmmm, one reason why a regime, whatever form it takes, becomes accepted and legitimate is because it leaders accepts limitations and restraints on their powers? I agree!

      Sean

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    2. Correction, I should have addressed my comment immediately above to DAVID, not Paul! Drat it!

      Sean

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