Monday, 30 May 2016

A Post Of Two Cities

(i) The people of the city of Ys go forth into the Skippers' Market and the people of Lancaster go forth into Ryelands Park. (See image.)

(ii) We are two small cities...

(iii) ...on north west coastlines of the Empire.

(iv) Both need protection from high tides. Recently, Lancaster was flooded.

(v) Lancastrians also might have an ecological disaster because we have two nuclear power stations right on the coast.

(vi) Both cities are at the end of an Age...

(vii) ...and speculating about what is to come.

(viii) Seagulls circle around Ysan towers and also around Ryelands Park in seach of dropped food, in our cases chips and bits of burger.

I spent today at Ryelands Park. This is the 150th post for May and it is the 30th of the month so I will see you all here again in June.

Niall In Combat

"A hostile point struck into [Niall's] targe."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog and The Wolf, Chapter XI, section 2, p. 217.

"They rallied as before in the swale below...clustered around their tuathal chiefs." (ibid.)

"...the Romans, who worked together like arms and legs on a single man..." (ibid.)

A barbarian chief knows from experience about Roman military discipline and coordination but cannot match it among his own men.

"...the bravest among his men was prone to terror at night, when anything might stalk abroad. Let fear take hold of the host, and at best they would stumble over each other as they fled wailing back to camp." (ibid.)

Brave men afraid of the dark, wailing in terror? Barbarism was a mixture of what we regard as maturity and immaturity. When CS Lewis' Merlin realizes what his Pendragon expects of him, he loses his composure:

"It was horrifying to see that withered and bearded face all blubbered with undisguised tears like a child. All the Roman surface in Merlinus had been scraped off. He had become a shameless, archaic monstrosity babbling out entreaties in a mixture of what sounded like Welsh and what sounded like Spanish.
"'Silence,' shouted Ransom. 'Sit down. You put us both to shame.'
"As suddenly as it had begin the frenzy ended. Merlin resumed his chair. To a modern it seemed strange that, having recovered his self-control, he did not show the slightest embarrassment at his temporary loss of it. The whole character of the two-sided society in which the man must have lived became clearer to Ransom than pages of history could have made it."
-CS Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), p. 654.

The Andersons capture this two-sided society in The King Of Ys. Meanwhile, their rich vocabulary continues to amaze:

"...the lamellar cuirass told of senior rank." (p. 219)

"'I command the vexillation.'" (ibid.)

After Ys

In the concluding volume of their King of Ys Tetralogy, Poul and Karen Anderson must cast the net wide. The focus has shifted from the King of a city to the survival of his people and the reader may become disoriented.

Ys is gone. Time passes. Seasons turn. Ysans adjust - in different ways. Gratillonius reorganizes and rebuilds. His enemies plot. Rufinus spies. Corentinus evangelizes. The Empire recedes. Barbarians return. Nemeta lives by witchcraft. Midsummer rites become the feast of St John. Drusus, retired soldier, farmer and Christian, employs Tera, former Ysan inlander, because she is a good worker who knows the landwights. Inlanders had called on the local Gods, not on the Three.

Tera:

is reputed to be the daughter of a God but is really the daughter of an unknown human father;
knew a few spells but no longer uses them;
sees signs in wind, water or stars;
has seen Cernunnos three times;
moves in with Maeloch, the fisher captain, in Confluentes;
delivers Gratillonius' grandson;
accepts that her children will go to Christ;
says, "'They're ghosts of what They were, the Gods are.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter VIII, section 5, p. 169.

Ghosts of Gods! The awesome reduced to the eerie. Neil Gaiman, who is surely an authority on such matters, describes five phases in the life-cycle of a God:

the Dreaming;
the land;
back to the Dreaming;
the realm of Dream's older sister, Death;
complete non-existence.

Tera's Gods have entered the third stage or maybe the fourth. Maeloch no longer serves the Three but will not forsake the spirits in the sea. He will remember Dahilis and kindle a torch on Hunter's Moon eve. Corentinus' duty:

"...was to purge the observances of their openly pagan elements." (Chapter IX, section 3, p. 182)

I can only decry this. If there is to be monotheism, then I would prefer that it be an inclusive one on the Hindu model.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Big SF Sagas

When a book is published, some people say good things about it. For example, on the front cover of Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, Bowl Of Heaven (New York, 2013):

"Bowl of Heaven is the first installment of what will be the bigget sci-fi saga since - well, since ever."
-The Wall Street Journal

No. Such statements are not even meant to be believed. We make our own judgments about whether to buy or read a book and rarely check afterwards whether we agree with such extravagant reviews. Benford and Niven have each written at least one bigger sf saga and Poul Anderson wrote several.

Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years spans history before it tackles slower than light interstellar exploration and First Contact. Bowl... gives us a big artifact but so did Niven's Ringworld and there are some other examples. Big Artifacts could become a sub-genre.

If we turn from unhelpful comparisons to the book's contents, we find that Bowl... contains a by now familiar kind of speculative fiction:

the Bowl is profusely populated;
dinosaurs were imported from Earth;
parallel and convergent evolution operates;
avian forms fare better and grow bigger in lower gravity;
a grazer has ears turned upward to detect flying predators and is more vulnerable to human hunters;
some plants have D-amino instead of L-amino so they can be eaten but not digested;
some human explorers are captured by and communicate with the dominant species;
others run free and explore the environment.

This is fertile material for yet another multi-author anthology to which Poul Anderson could readily have contributed.

Legendary Stories

A work of fiction based on legendary stories can harmonize and explain elements of the stories but can also alter aspects of the legend for new narrative purposes. Thus, Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys explains why its new fictitious character Gratillonius came to be called both "Grallon" and "Gradlon" after he had become King of Ys but it also changes and enhances the legend of Ys in significant respects.

This Ys was not a Christian settlement founded by Grallon but a pagan Punic colony with a rich history, already a fable even before it was destroyed, and inspiring nostalgia even in someone who had never seen it:

"'I remember Ys, though I have never seen her...'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter VIII, section 3, p. 162.

The singer never will see Ys because she composed the song after the city's destruction. Again, this Ys does not sink intact beneath the waves but is leveled during a storm sent by the Sea God.

When mutually incompatible versions of a story are equally good, how can both versions be incorporated into a coherent narrative? Maybe one version can become a "play within the play." Thomas Malory incorporated different versions of what happened to Arthur by telling us what men say happened. Men say different things. Although I like both the "...had...into another place..." and the "HIC IACET ARTHURUS...," Arthur cannot simultaneously be both alive elsewhere and lying (iacet) in a tomb. CS Lewis emphasizes the physicality of the "other place" by stating that Arthur went there "...in the body..." I would be confident of Poul Anderson's ability to compose a coherent story out of these fragmentary hints about Arthur.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Giants

There is a saying that we see far because we stand on the shoulders of giants. Thus, we are not ourselves giants. We might adapt this saying and apply it to Poul Anderson by observing that Anderson stands shoulder to shoulder with giants and thus is himself a giant. Recently, we have compared Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys to very different works by:

James Blish;
Mike Carey;
Thomas Malory;
CS Lewis.

If we have not all heard of all these authors, this proves a point about diversity. The Andersons make the legendary King of Ys a heroic but realistically described fourth century Roman centurion whereas, in Lewis' treatment, Arthur remains the legendary King who did not die.

Two domestic points:

I must start switching the computer off earlier in the evening because it is keeping me awake;

a busy Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday stretch ahead with, for me, swimming, walking, an open air concert, a Superman dvd and the big annual car boot sale at Ryelands Park just across the River Lune so a lot less time for blogging.

Meanwhile, thank the gods and glory to the Emperor - both Norton and Molitor!

Grallon And Arthur

"BEFORE KING ARTHUR THERE WAS
"THE KING OF YS"
Poul and Karen Anderson, The King Of Ys: The Dog And The Wolf (Grafton Books, London, 1989), back cover.

Arthurian legend would have been an appropriate theme for a novel by Poul Anderson and we should compare Arthur with Grallon, King of Ys. However, Anderson did not write about Arthur so we must instead consult Sir Thomas Malory and his successor, CS Lewis.

Perhaps we should make a three-fold distinction between:

legendary figures;
fictional characters;
legendary figures who become fictional characters.

Usually, a fictional character is still alive and active at the end of the last volume of a series. Think of Anderson's Everard, van Rijn, Falkayn, Flandry - and Gratillonius who becomes Grallon. Hardrada died at Stamford Bridge in 1066 but he was historical.

Often, a legendary figure has a life that is, to quote Aycharaych, "complete," which means that he has died:

Odin and Thor, Ragnarok;
King Arthur, a last battle;
Robin Hood, the shooting of the last arrow;
Davy Crockett, the Alamo.

(Odin and Thor will die but, in the Prose Edda, the story is complete.)

What happened to Arthur and how might Anderson have written it?

"Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say that it shall be so, but rather I will say, here in this world he changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: HIC IACET ARTHURUS, REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS."
-Sir Thomas Malory, The Death of King Arthur (Penguin, London, 1995), p. 27.

And blow me down if CS Lewis doesn't identify that "other place," telling us exactly where Arthur is now:

"'The ring of the King...is on Arthur's finger where he sits in the House of Kings in the cup-shaped land of Abhalljin, beyond the seas of Lur in Perelandra. For Arthur did not die; but Our Lord took him, to be in the body till the end of time and the shattering of Sulva, with Enoch and Elias and Moses and Melchisedec the King. Melchisedec is he in whose hall the steep-stoned ring sparkles on the forefinger of the Pendragon.'"
-CS Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (Pan Books, London, 1990), p. 635.

Sulva and Perelandra are the Solar names for the Moon and Venus, respectively - very far removed from the scientifically accurate Moon and Venus of Anderson's hard sf. However, Anderson could have matched Lewis' fantasy about Arthur. Parallel universes where magic works are also encompassed in Anderson's canon.

Grallon And Nemeta

"Candlelight glowed warm, but the hue it cast over the girl in the bed was purulent, so white she was."
Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter VIII, section 3, p. 158.

"'I should go now and let you sleep,' Gratillonius said in his powerlessness." (ibid.)

He feels powerless. He is not a doctor, nurse or midwife - although he did deliver his eldest daughter. However, merely to be present is to be powerfully supportive.

Nemeta refers to her pregnancy, from rape, as a leech.

"'Hush,' he said, appalled. He must not let her speak hatred for this thing. Not among Christians. It was innocent. He must make himself accept his grandchild when it came." (ibid.)

Grallon knows that the unborn child is innocent and, on this issue, the prevailing morality supports him - but it might not have. If Nemeta were willingly both unmarried and pregnant and if the prevailing morality condemned her, then he would have to oppose it.

In fact, Nemeta does do something that goes against the new beliefs because her Ysan magic becomes the basis of medieval witchcraft.

The People Of The Transition

Evirion Baltisi, young Ysan sea captain says:

"'Christ must be real, and strong. Look how He's winning everywhere. For me it's like - like being a barbarian warrior whose chief betrayed him. Another, more powerful chief offers me a berth. Very well, I'll take it, with thanks, and be loyal.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter VIII, section 2, p. 155.

A fine upstanding chap! These are pagan reasons for conversion to Christ, typical of a transitional period. The next generation will think differently when there is no longer any question of the existence of other Gods. Later in the same conversation, Evirion says:

"'You're wrong, man, about there being no Gods - or demons, or whatever it is yonder...'" (p. 157)

The Beings are still present but their status is changing even in the course of a single sentence. Evirion has heard the siren sing and has even bargained with her for his life. (section 1, p. 136) Later, she will be exorcised by a minister of Christ.

Refugees

When populations are on the move, refugees turn their hands to any kind of work, then as now. Graduates drive taxis or work in factories. Gratillonius, former King and still accepted as a social leader, gains respect by working in the fields, where he is strong, skillful and helpful. Ysan commoners had not been used to such hard labor. Suffetes become hirelings on established farms.

The Ysan colony gains recruits from among Armorican tribesmen who:

"...had heard tales of opportunities for a fresh start under leadership that bade fair to keep off the barbarian raids that Armorica once again dreaded."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf (London, 1989), Chapter VIII, section 1, p. 149.

Gratillonius' career can be summed up as: determination in the face of any adversity; build, then rebuild.

Versions

We know from mythology, the Bible and the difference between the book and the film that stories exist in different versions. In Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys, a storm topples the towers of Ys whereas, in Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword:

"Things which mortal sailors only glimpsed or dreamed were plain to the cloudy slant elf-eyes and to Skafloc: the sea maidens tumbling in the foam and singing, the drowned tower of Ys, a brief gleam of white and gold and a hawk-scream of challenge overhead - Valkyries rushing to some battle in the east."
-Poul Anderson, The Broken Sword (London, 1973), Chapter V, p. 31.

All that I wanted to quote from The Broken Sword was "...the drowned tower of Ys..." but, of course, when I reread the passage, I had to include in the quotation the sailors' glimpses and dreams, the mermaids and the Valkyries. However, my point here is that we have two versions of Ys: many toppled towers; one drowned tower.

I think of Poul Anderson's many works set in the past as a single long chronological sequence:

BC;
Ys;
Vikings;
The Last Viking;
the fourteenth century
etc -

- and they do contain many cross-references. However, they are not a single series, comprising not only different genres but also, at least in this case, two different versions of a single legend.

In their Afterword to The King Of Ys, Volume IV, the Andersons summarize the legend of Ys while noting that it comprises different and disagreeing tales. King Grallon ruled Cornouaille from Quimper and built Ys of the hundred towers for his daughter, Dahut, who took a different lover every night, then had him cast into the sea! Under her, Ys became evil with the rich oppressing the poor. The Andersons give Ys four centuries of history before Grallon, their Dahut is not that evil, Ysan society under Grallon is just and Quimper is founded after Ys is destroyed.

There are also different versions of Christianity. A barbarian sacking the Ysan ruins says:

"'The high are brought low and the low are brought high, like Christ promised. We're here to claim our share.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter VII, section 1, p. 132.

Does Christianity mean a social revolution? The Church as an institution acquired property, accumulated wealth and taught that any social reversal must be delayed until the hereafter.

Friday, 27 May 2016

The Devil Speaks

The Devil speaks in:

parts of the Bible;
Paradise Lost by John Milton;
Magic Inc by Robert Heinlein;
Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson;
The Day After Judgment by James Blish;
Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle;
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman;
Lucifer by Mike Carey (see image).

A demon speaks in Perelandra by CS Lewis but Ransom does not ask which one.

Milton follows Genesis;
Anderson follows Heinlein;
Blish follows Dante and Milton;
Niven and Pournelle follow Dante;
Carey follows Gaiman;
Lewis follows Genesis and Milton.

Anderson's Adversary is actively malicious:

"...the end of every hope and every faith..."
-Operation Chaos (New York, 1995), Chapter XI, p. 75 -

- whereas Gaiman's Lucifer, as developed by Carey, aims only to enact his own will unimpeded by God or anyone else. After ten billion years spent ruling Hell merely because it is far from Heaven, he rejects the Adversary role and goes elsewhere.

Supernatural Changes

(The War in Heaven in Mike Carey's Lucifer.)

Recently, we compared Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys with James Blish's Black Easter/The Day After Judgment because both works describe changes in the supernatural realm. Today, I left this theme but returned to it. Instead of reading prose narrative, I watched screen drama. However, this included an adaptation of Mike Carey's graphic series, Lucifer.

In Carey's series, both Lucifer Morningstar and his Father retire from their positions so that replacements must be found. We have already compared Blish's account of such a supernatural change with Carey's. See Your New God I, II and III.

The Andersons' Christian miracle-worker, Corentinus, and their Witch-Queen Forsquilis must confer because of an imminent change in the relationships between the Gods. Doom for the city of Ys.

Blish's black and white magicians must confer as the released demons refuse to be recalled. Doom for the world.

Carey's Lucifer and Elaine Belloc, the new God, must prevent the disintegration of the universe after the departure of its Creator.

Can the stakes get any higher?

Past And Future

Poul Anderson wrote:

a few works set in the present;
many set entirely in the past;
many more set entirely in the future;
several that blended past and future in different ways -

time travelers can visit any period;
mutant immortals survive through history into an indefinite future;
some future societies regress and revert to earlier social formations.

Somewhere in Orion Shall Rise, women of a future age revive the paganism of an ancient past and the French setting recalls Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys. Thus, rereading Ys might lead to rereading Orion.

Do the Ysan Gods withdraw, cease to exist or become trolls or were they demons in the first place? On a previous rereading, I traced out the last flickers of activity from these deities and will not repeat that exercise this time. However, much that is said about the Gods is generated by the imaginations of the characters. On the other hand, since this work is in part a fantasy, it is not all imagination. The Ysan refugees do not imagine that they hear singing and see a white figure dancing in the sea...

Origins

Superheroes have "origin stories," not only how they got their powers but how they got their names:

in the first Superman film, Lois Lane says, "What a super man! Superman!" and this becomes a Daily Planet headline;

the Buddha, asked if he was a god, replied, "No. I am awakened (buddha)."

In The Dog And The Wolf, Poul and Karen Anderson present a fictional account of the origins of two place names. Building a settlement beside a river confluence, Gratillonius' men call it "Confluentes" which becomes "Kemper" in Breton and "Quimper" in French. The senator's daughter extends this to "Confluentes Cornuales," meaning "Dogwood Confluence." This gives the area its current name of "Cornouaille."

And one of the chief organizers of the settlement, Corentinus, will become its first bishop, then St Corentin whose Cathedral stands in Quimper. Thus, Gratillonius' period is succeeded centuries later by ours, then Poul Anderson's fiction take us from the twentieth century into the further future, sometimes referring back to the earlier history of France.

More Vocabulary

The Ysan marines wear "...flared shoulderpieces and greaves, loricated cuirassess..."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter III, section 1, p. 65.

A list description of the crowds in Mediolanum includes "...mountebanks..."
-Chapter III, section 2, p. 69.

"Hammers banged, saws grided..."
-Chapter V, section 4, p. 111.

A list description of items used as weapons includes "...billhooks..."
-Chapter II, section 3, p. 48.

"...the hills sheltered their halidom."
-Chapter I, section 2, p. 25.

I have googled these seven words but skipped past some others while rereading. Usually we at least recognize a word or infer a meaning from the context but this can be vague or inaccurate. I advise readers of Poul Anderson's works always to have a dictionary to hand although this can sometimes interrupt reading too much.

Addendum: to loricate, to enclose in or cover with a protecting substance. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.(This is crazy. I post the link but when I click on it the screen has moved somewhere else.)

"Complete Consistency Is Possible Only To The Almighty"

In Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy, Niall and Maeloch drank together in Ys but do not recognize each other when they meet later in Hivernia so here is a rare inconsistency in an Andersonian text. It is simply a reminder that any text is not a window into another reality but an artifact that can contain errors. In a revised text, this inconsistency might be removed by changing the identity of the Ysan with whom Niall drank in the previous volume.

Sean Brooks discusses a prima facie contradiction in Anderson's Dominic Flandry series here. Elsewhere on the blog, I discuss whether Merseians are mammals and which Vach Tachwyr the Dark belongs to. However, anyone who searches for inconsistencies in Poul Anderson's works will have to read many volumes before they maybe find an occasional error here or there.

Any text, even if published, is a work in progress. It may be revised by the author in later editions or might have been revised if the author had lived longer. Any well written text is also as close to perfection as its author(s) could make it and The King Of Ys is very close.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Good And Bad

Gratillonius' enemies list the powerful individuals and significant groups that support him:

Senator Apuleius Vero, tribune of Aquilo;
praetorian prefect Ardens;
Stilicho, dictator of the Western Empire;
army veterans settled in Armorica thanks to Gratillonius;
former outlaws transformed into forest rangers;
tribes people benefiting from the suppression of pirates and bandits and from the revival of trade.

They never ask why, if he has done all this good, they regard him as bad. What they do consider is whether to oppress the Ysan colony with increased taxation and then they pragmatically discuss whether a tax would be insufficiently ruinous or unenforceable or resisted. Dispersing the Ysans would humble them and save their souls, of course. It is possible not only to oppress a social group but also to feel pious about it.

Martin Luther King wrote that laws cannot change the heart but can restrain the heartless. Something similar happens to the anti-Gratillonians. Bishop Martinus, the future St Martin, knows claivoyantly that these three men are currently plotting against Gratillonius in the basilica so he sends his kinsman, Sucat, the future St Patrick, to command them not to afflict the Ysans. This would after all hinder their evangelization.

Sucat does not wait for an answer. The principle plotters agree between themselves to heed the bishop but only as long as he remains alive and only because they fear his political and supernatural power. Blinded by hatred, they do not suspect that they are agents of the kind of evil that they claim to oppose.

Light And Darkness

Corentinus needs help from Bishop Martinus. Apuleius advises:

"'Make haste. He can't have much time left in this world. Who shall carry the light he has kindled?'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter IV, section 4, p. 95.

This is immediately followed by:

"Darkness deepened." (ibid.)

We are unsurprised, by now used to pathetic fallacy. However, we might miss an irony when we turn the page. There is darkness indeed. Gratillonius' personal enemies continue to plot against him - and allege that his new village will be full of paganism and black sorcery! We know that Corentinus' angelic vision saved Gratillonius from drowning in Ys but his enemies agree that he could only have been rescued by Satan. Personal and political spite know no bounds.

From Atlantis To Quimper

Ysan spies gather intelligence from the most reliable of sources. Stilicho, the dictator of the Western Roman Empire, informs Rufinus of the destruction of Ys. Niall of the Nine Hostages, himself responsible for the destruction, informs Maeloch.

Before that, Maeloch had been startled to hear his beloved city described in the past tense when a woman asked:

"'Were you ever in Ys?...I hear it was magical. They say the Gods raised it and used to walk its lanes at night.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter III, section 3, p. 77.

That is a beautiful fable but we have seen the real Ys and it was wondrous enough.

Poul Anderson presents the last days of Atlantis, visited by time travelers. Both Andersons present the last years of Ys, lived through by a Roman centurion. Greece followed Atlantis or, at least, Plato wrote about Atlantis. Rome followed Troy and Greece. Ys followed Tyre and Carthage and interacted with Rome. What city follows Ys? Quimper.

Ysan survivors, led by among others their Christian pastor, Corentinus, build a city that will become Quimper with its Cathedral of St Corentin. When Corentinus says that the new city must avow Christ, this is not as narrow as I thought at first. It was generally acknowledged that a city must avow some deity and this city will align itself with Roman civilization. The leader of the former Ysan vestals agrees.

In The Empire

(The map shows the partition of the Roman Empire in 395 AD.)

The Empire was split between East and West and the Western part was ruled from Mediolanum/Milan so was it a Roman Empire any more? In Mediolanum, another historical figure, Stilicho, dictator of the West, comes on stage to inform Rufinus of the destruction of Ys.

Meanwhile, the other Ysan agent, Maeloch, has met and killed Gunnung, who boasted about his dealings with Dahut. Her reckless dealings with five different men were bound to lead quickly either to the success that she wanted or to complete disaster. Of the five men, four are now dead and Niall will be killed in this concluding volume, The Dog And The Wolf.

The King of Ys Tetralogy shows events not only in and around Ys but also in other parts of Armorica and in Hivernia, Mediolanum and the Islands of Crows (the Channel Islands), combining historical and legendary geography.

Uncertainties About Gods

Runa says that the Ysans' Gods have disowned them. Nemeta retorts that the Gods of the land must still live. Meanwhile, Maeloch, negotiating with Scoti and Dani, drains a goblet to Lug, Lir and Thor.

Gratillonius feels that all Gods are gone and wonders whether they ever existed. His hostess urges him to call on Christ but then amends that to what God he will: Mithras? She confides that she sometimes invokes one of the old Goddesses.

This is quite a list. In times of social upheaval and uncertainty, people become uncertain about their Gods. Ninian Smart suggested that, in Religious Studies (not in Mathematics), 1+1=7!

Two religions: A and B.
Each influences the other to some extent. Thus: Ab and Ba.
Some propose a complete synthesis: AB.
Some on both sides react against any external influence. Thus: AA and BB.

That does total seven. I was worried that it would not work out right.

Addendum: In fact, Nemeta invokes "'Cernunnos, Epona, Sucellus, almighty Lug!'" (Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter II, section 2, p. 46)

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Our Fantastic Past

Fantastic events occurred long ago but were not recorded or are not understood. Marco Polo did not record his meetings with the Doctor (Doctor Who) because they would not be believed. A clever TV adaptation of The First Men In The Moon squared Cavor and Bedford with Armstrong and Aldrin.

In Poul Anderson's Works
Many events in the Time Patrol timeline are down to the presence of time travelers.

In another time travel scenario, an anachronistic galleon sailed near Atlantis but was destroyed.

In Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys
Julius Caesar did not record his visit to Ys.

Niall of the Nine Hostages felt obliged to destroy Ys in revenge for his son and fleet but was not proud of the underhand means that he had had to use so he forbade people to talk about it and poets to celebrate it. The flooding of Ys will become at most a folk tale without Niall's name attached to it. So it is.

We want fiction often to be fantastic and usually also to be consistent with the known facts.

Foreshadowing

Every major event in Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys is foreshadowed earlier in the text. Dahut says:

"'Oh, Niall, death itself cannot quench my wanting of you.'
"The wind keened, the sea rumbled."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XIX, section 3, p. 432.

Our old friend, the wind, returns. As for the sea, when it has destroyed Ys, the drowned Dahut will persist as a siren who sings of vengeance to Niall:

"Someone sported in the surf, white as itself, like a seal but long and lithe of limb..."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter I, section 3, p. 35.

The siren also sings of her love for Niall, stronger than death. Dahut had said that herself, before her death, but we probably do not remember unless we reread.

Keeping Track Of Time

How did people in the past keep track of time? In fact, how do we do it now? Whenever I asked my old boss when something had happened, he invariably replied, "Ooh, a very long time ago!"

Here are two examples. It is alleged that:

Gratillonius' commission as a centurion ended automatically after twenty five years;

that period had terminated the previous year;
after that, he had no right to continue leading Roman soldiers;
therefore, he is a rebel and a bandit.

The accused's head reels. He tries to count:

one spring, Una told him she must marry another and he joined the army;
the following year, he was on joint manoeuvres with the Twentieth;
the year after that, the Visigoths crossed the Danuvius;
unless they did it the year after that again;
the years in Ys are tangled together...

A Tyrian, noticing how precise a time traveler was about dates, decided that it would be profitable to keep better track of past time so he marked special events each year, then kept the events in order. Thus, he is able to tell a Time Patrolman that a shipwreck happened in the year between a venture to the Red Cliff Shores and the year when he caught the Babylonian disease. (Time Patrol, p. 317)

Another Anderson time traveler, asking what year he is in, is told that it is the seventh year after the great salmon catch. Our historical framework is not that of our ancestors.

Practical Politics

Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys contains theological speculation, philosophical discussion, mythological reconstruction, historical fiction, military strategy and practical politics. Local leadership is needed when Ys goes under. Refugees need food, shelter and longer term resettlement. Factions must put aside their differences in order to cooperate in an emergency:

Gratillonius is a tribune of Rome and a Father in the Mystery of Mithras;
Corentinus is a minister of Christ, known to Bishop Martinus in Turonum;
Senator Apuleius Vero is a Christian and the Roman tribune of Aquilo;
Runa leads the surviving Ysan vestals.

Together, they are strong. People must survive whatever their Gods are doing - in fact especially when the Gods wreak havoc.

Two Ysans were away on spying missions at the time of the flooding, Rufinus and Maeloch. They will return to help. Rufinus is a survivor type. He survived as an outlaw and even survived challenging the King of Ys! However, I seem to remember that he will come to an unpleasant end because of a certain other member of our cast.

The Void

Gratillonius asks:

"'Mithras, where were You when Ocean brought down Ys...?'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf, Chapter II, section 1, p. 44.

He reflects that the true God is wholly beyond:

"Unless none existed, only the void. But to admit that would be to give up his hold on everything he had ever loved." (ibid.)

Non sequitur. It does not follow. Gratillonius does not stop loving Dahilis if there is a void instead of a God. Living in a void does mean letting go of a firm hold on anything. But it is like swimming. We drown only if we clutch for support that is not there. In Buddhist teaching, there is a void or emptiness that is full because everything happens within it. We let go of the past and live in the present. In Buddhist mythology, the gods rise and fall on the Wheel and need to hear the Buddha Dharma.

Meanwhile, if we have gods, do we abandon them because of adversity? A Holocaust survivor suggested that God went into the concentration camps with His people and came out with them just as Christians believe that God went into a tomb and came out of that. Maeloch the Ysan fisher captain knew that his Gods gave life - and nothing more.

Gods Dead Or Withdrawn?

"'...the Gods of Ys are dead!' Gratillonius exclaimed. 'They brought Their city down on Themselves -' down and down into the deeps of the sea."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf (London, 1989), Chapter I, section 2, pp. 30-31.

I thought that they had merely ended their Pact and withdrawn. After all, Taranis is in the sky and Lir is in the sea. Neither was in the city. However, in this kind of context, people say different things and whatever makes sense to them. For Alan Moore's and Neil Gaiman's fictional accounts of what happens to former deities, see here.

Is there any practical difference between a God dying and merely withdrawing? James Blish's Satan says that God is dead:

"'Indeed our God is dead; or dead to us.'"
-James Blish, After Such Knowledge (London, 1991), p. 518.

- or maybe withdrawn:

"'Perhaps indeed Jehovah is not dead,
"'But mere retir'd, withdrawn or otherwise
"'Contracted hath, as Zohar subtle saith,
"'His Essence Infinite...'" (p. 519)

Satan has to quote a human document!

Wherever the Gods have gone, Corentinus says:

"'...we have come to the end of an Age, and everything is changed, and naught have we to cling to in this world unless it be our duty towards our fellow mortals.'"
-The Dog And The Wolf, p. 29.

Blish's white magicians face their new Age. Father Vance says:

"'Little that is in the New Testament, the teachings of the Church or the Arcana seems very relevant to the present situation.'"
-After Such Knowledge, p. 467.

They must abandon their monastic isolation, return to the world to work and witness and do it in the name of Christ even if hope is now all that they have. Father Boucher says:

"'I think it is all we ever had.'" (p. 468)

"Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be"

Gratillonius returns to Ys and tells his men that they are now belatedly retired with pensions and bonuses from the Roman Army but they want to continue marching with their centurion. Really they want not Heaven but Valhalla.

Gratillonius had lived in Ys for seventeen years but it is destroyed by a single storm and immediately begins to seem unreal:

"Had Ys ever been?
"Alone in the grey, Gratillonius wondered. It felt like a dream that glimmered from him as he woke."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XX, p. 467.

This is the last page of Volume III and there follows a nostalgic list-description:

rampart
gate
ships
tall towers above shadowy alleys
watchfires
heathrfires
temples
taverns
philosophers
fools
witchcraft
wisdom
horror
hope
songs
stories
friends
foes
Gods
the women
their daughters

In previous posts, I have tried to make these aspects of Ys seem as real as possible as they are in the texts.

Already, Gratillonius feels that he has been betrayed by Mithras but I am not sure why. Mithras, a soldier, fought for Ys and would surely expect his soldier to continue fighting for civilization. We must now read Volume IV in which Ys no longer exists. The gleaming towers seem like a dream to the handful of survivors and were already a fabulous legend to those who had never seen the city. Recently in the Latin class we read Aeneas' lament for Troy.

Some of my former teaching colleagues continue to play, and usually lose, amateur cricket in their retirement. They bought what they thought would probably be their last scoring book but it wasn't! This is their Valhalla: fixtures every season followed by food and drink back at the Punch Bowl.

Gratillonius And Dahut

When Ys is flooded:

"Houses gave way like sandcastles."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XIX, section 7, p. 462.

This recalls the child Dahut's sandcastle of Ys that was destroyed by the incoming tide. See also here.

Near the end of The King Of Ys, Volume III, a scene is described from Gartillonius' point of view. At the beginning of Volume IV, the same scene is described from Dahut's point of view. Briefly, he held her arm, then he saw her borne away by the water. Now we learn what happened to her after that.

She is trying to stay alive but the water closes over her. She is in the dark, breathing sea, no longer feeling pain. We gather that she has drowned. However, we are told not that her insensate body sinks but that she spins through a keening whiteness. Can she still hear and see? She comes forth into somewhere boundless where someone waits and transfiguration begins. Eerie, to say the least.

We return to Gratillonius' point of view.

The Temple Of Taranis

The temple is "...a majestic edifice." (Roma Mater, Chapter XII, section 5, p. 233)

It is on the Forum at the center of Ys.

Roman-built with colonnades but with an open courtyard as its temenos.

The south wing is used for worship.

Other wings hold offices, a hall, a kitchen for seasonal sacred banquets and the Speaker's conference room.

In the conference room, there are:

the Speaker's chair of state;
an inlaid Sun Wheel;
hanging weapons;
a gold-trimmed Hammer;
a mosaic of Taranis victorious over Tiamat;
windows;
a writing table;
bookcases.

We are bound to find this a curious mixture of the practical and the supernatural but no more so than if we visited a modern Cathedral.

The Challenges

See here.

When Gratillonius challenges Colconor, the Speaker for Taranis says in Ysan:

"'Go forth...and may the will of the God be done.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater, Chapter VI, section 3, p. 113.

When Hornach challenges Gratillonius, we are not told what the Speaker says.
-Gallicenae, Chapter V, section 4, p. 114.

When Rufinus challenges, we are not told.
-Gallicenae, Chapter VIII, section 4, p. 187.

When Chramm challenges, the Speaker says in Ysan:

"'Go forth...and may the will of the God be done.'"
-Dahut, Chapter VII, section 1, p. 137.

When Tommaltach challenges, the Speaker completes the ceremony and adds:

"'May the will of the Gods be done.'"
-Dahut, Chapter XI, section 6, p. 261.

The addition startles Gratillonius.

When Carsa challenges, the Speaker recites the words and refrains from any remarks.
-Dahut, Chapter XIII, section 4, p. 288.

When Budic challenges, the Speaker says:

"'Go forth...and may the will of the God be done.'"
-Dahut, Chapter XVI, section 1, p. 350.

So why does Gratillonius regard what is said on the occasion of Tommaltach's challenge as a startling addition?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Grallon's Daughter

About to drown and meet Lir, Dahut screams in terror:

"'Father, help me!'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XIX, section 7, p. 454.

Corentinus' Christian advice to Grallon is:

"'No, you fool!...Leave that bitch-devil to her fate!...Take her with you, and the weight of her sins will drag you down to your death...'" (ibid.)

I must reply, "No, Corentinus. Like Grallon and unlike you, I am a biological father. If my daughter appealed to me like that, then I would try to save her life even if, which gods forbid, she had tried to kill me and even if she had (unwittingly) caused the destruction of our city."

How would Dahut have lived if she had survived Ys? In Corentinus' view, that was not going to happen because she was already under judgment. The true God had given her into the power of the Ysan Gods.

Soren Cartigi, the Speaker for Taranis, said:

"'...it could be that this is the last Council of Suffetes ever to be held in Ys.'" (Chapter XVIII, section 5, p. 406)

It was.

The End Of Ys

Ysans read Marcus Aurelius' (see image) Meditations in Latin translation. Why Latin translation? Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor. Yes, but he wrote in Greek.

When Niall, enemy of Ys, walks along the seawall to unlock the gate and let in the sea:

"A billow afar growled like the drums of an oncoming army."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XIX, section 5, p. 441.

And the sea will enter the city like an invading army.

"As it drew closer, gathered speed, lifted and lifted its smoking crest, the breaker's voice..." (ibid.)

A literal voice? Will Lir speak?

"...became such thunder as rolls across the vault of heaven." (ibid.)

Not a literal voice. However, Gods are associated both with heaven and with thunder.

"When it struck and shattered, the sound was as of doomsday." (ibid.)

Ysans are about to experience their doomsday.

When Gratillonius is roused from a slumber spell, he is compared to a fish pulled towards the light. We remember that the Apostles were called fishers of men and we might remember from previous readings of The King Of Ys that Gratillonius will convert to Christianity.

"On his second rising, he saw the grey-bearded craggy face." (p. 444)

A bearded fisher of men? God the Father? Christ? St Peter? Maybe but here and now they are manifested in the form of their minister, Corentinus:

"'Rouse, rouse, man!' the pastor barked." (ibid.)

Pulled up like a fish, Gratillonius is saved from drowning like most other Ysans. On pp. 444-445, Corentinus describes his warning vision in appropriately Biblical language. It is rather long but I will quote it in full if anyone wants me to who has not got access to the text. Thunders resound while the angel cries, 'Woe...' etc.

Wall and gate have protected Ys for four centuries - twenty generations? A long time. Everything ends but a time traveler who wanted to enjoy a full lifespan in Ys could travel back to an earlier century.

The Latest News From Hadrian's Wall

Archaeologists now have reason to suspect, and are digging to confirm, that the Roman fort at Lancaster was much bigger than previously thought, housing thousands of cavalry. Roman ships would have sailed up the River Lune and the fort would regularly have sent troops the short distance north to Hadrian's Wall, where we first meet Poul and Karen Anderson's Romano-British centurion, Gaius Valerius Gratillonius, who, in the course of their fictional narrative, becomes Grallon, the legendary last King of the city of Ys on the coast of Armorica/Brittany.

I was told this by Andrew, the tutor of our Latin class which meets in the historic Lancaster Friends' (Quakers') Meeting House. George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, was imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. Andrew, a member of the Choir of Lancaster Priory Church, was informed of the new dig at a Church Council meeting because the Church is right beside the Castle which was always known to be on the site of a castra (fort). This is what it is to live immersed in history. See here.

Myth, Legend And History In Fiction

How many mythical, legendary or historical figures are woven into the fabric of Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys?

Julius Caesar visited Ys although he did not mention it.

Augustus' engineers built the Ysan sea wall and public buildings in the Forum.

Magnus Maximus, Western Roman Emperor, sent the future King Grallon to Ys.

St Martin helped Grallon and counselled his cousin, the future St Patrick.

St Corentin became chaplain to Ys.

The Morrigu and Mithras appeared in battles outside the city.

Grallon sends a messenger to the dictator Stilicho.

The Sea God, Lir, Son of Chaos, remains off-stage but destroys the city.

Niall of the Nine Hostages is the human agent of the destruction of Ys.

Grallon's daughter, Dahut, unwittingly helps Niall, then haunts the sea above the sunken city.

The Andersons masterfully combine these elements into a single narrative.

Niall And Dahut

Niall of the Nine Hostages and Dahut of Ys are legends. Poul and Karen Anderson bring them together and make them major characters in a novel. Dahut, like Harald Hardrada (see also here), envisages an Empire of the North. (Dahut, Chapter XIX, section 2, p. 425)

Maeloch has gone to spy in Hivernia but it is too late. Niall is in Ys with Dahut. The Ysan Gods pound the city with Their sea. All that remains is for Niall to deceive Dahut and persuade her to steal the King's Key to the sea gate. The legendary flooding of Ys is almost upon us and will happen at the end of Volume III and the beginning of Volume IV of the King of Ys Tetralogy.

Niall's lie to Dahut is that possession of the Key will empower him, Niall, to challenge Gratillonius and win. Thus is the deceiver deceived.

Ghost Quay

Poul and Karen Anderson, The King Of Ys: Dahut (London, 1989).

The Map of the City of Ys on p. 10 shows Aurochs Gate at one end of Taranis Way. This gate opens onto Cape Rach where there is a Pharos Way on the map and a pharos/lighthouse beyond the ancient graves off the map. A side road descends to Ghost Quay at the foot of the cliff. Two craft are kept moored there in preparation for:

"...the next summons to the Ferriers of the Dead." (Chapter XVIII, section 4, p. 398)

From the Quay, there is a trail to a row of fishermen's cottages. Is this the same place as Scot's Landing or is that somewhere else? I will track that down but not tonight.

While Queen Vindilis visits the fisher captain Maeloch in his cottage, unusually foul weather delays King Gratillonius' return to Ys. The Gods need more time to prepare for the destruction of Their city.

Addendum: Yes, Vindilis refers to the cottages as Scot's Landing on p. 400. But now I am puzzled by Maeloch saying that he has only seen Niall from afar although they had drunk together in Epona's Horse.

Our Common Dwelling

In Forsquilis' secretorium:

a lamp made from a cat's skull;
a female figurine;
thunderstones;
acrid dried herbs;
mystically engraved animal bones;
old scrolls and codices;
images of owl, serpent and dolphin;
a wizard's rattle and drum.

Christian Corentinus visits Forsquilis to compare his visions with hers but, while he is in the secretorium, he averts his eyes, remains standing and refuses wine. Forsquilis suggests that they do share a dwelling, the world. He replies:

"'You are mistaken, dear. Earth has no roof or walls. It stands open to the infinite. We by ourselves have no defence against the business that walks in the dark.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XVII, section 3, p. 377.

There is much to disagree with here. Our roof is the sky. Our walls are the joining of earth or sea with sky at the horizon. We are at home in the infinite. We no longer fear the dark but banish it with electric light:

"'...the ghosts of night-bound peoples evaporate from their mythologies as soon as they're able to produce light even at midnight simply by tripping a switch.'"
-James Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981), p. 507.

"Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end.
"Methinks it is no journey."
-Tom A'Bedlam.

Walking across a field above Morecambe Bay, I suggested to a Wiccan High Priest that this was our temple, the sky and everything beneath it. He replied that some buildings do give a sense of a vast sacred space. I remembered that York Minster did not feel like being indoors. The same guy and I noticed a strange effect when sitting by a fire on the Bay at night. Seated facing the fire, we might have been enclosed in a cave. However, by simply standing and facing outwards, we became aware of distance, space and stars. We were at home in the cave and the space and they were the same place.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Emergency Conference

In James Blish's Black Easter/The Day After Judgment, also published as The Devil's Day, the black magician, Theron Ware, and the white magician, Father Domenico, try to cope first with an unprecedented conjuration of many demons, then with its unforeseen consequences: Armageddon and the breaking of the Law that decrees the prior appearance of the Antichrist. Comparable characters in Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys are the miracle-working Christian minister to Ys, who will later be called St Corentin, and Forsquilis, one of the Nine Witch-Queens of Ys.

Corentinus and Forsquilis, both anticipating a disastrous intervention by the Three Gods of Ys, share the visions that they have had. No one doubts the existence of these Gods but:

Forsquilis thinks that They are beyond good and evil;
Corentinus thinks that They are demons, thus entirely evil;
Gratillonius, King of Ys but a Mithraist, thinks that They are creatures of Ahriman, thus essentially agrees with Corentinus.

No one doubts the existence of Christ. The only question is how powerful He is - but other Gods have already withdrawn before Him. He has displaced the Olympians in Rome.

Forsquilis confirms that the Three want Gratillonius' daughter, Dahut, to be the priestess of their new Age. The Three wanted Forsquilis to assassinate Gratillonius so that the Ysan Suffetes would appoint a new King who could marry Dahut but Forsquilis would not do this. Corentinus asks, in these extreme circumstances, whether Dahut's death would help but it would not: the Gods, who want Gratillonius dead, would avenge Dahut on Ys. Can Forsquilis cope with her Gods before they destroy Ys? No.

Corentinus and Forsquilis face the destruction of their city by the Triad just as Ware and Domenic face rule by demons.

Dahut's Other Dimension

For quite a while, Dahut continued to surprise us by plunging to lower levels of depravity. Now she surprises us even more by showing another side of herself.

First, despite the snarling, spitting spite to which she is reduced, her understanding of her divine vocation is quite coherent:

the first Brennilis saved Ys from Rome and the sea;

the Gods want Dahut, Their second Brennilis, to save Ys from Rome and Christ;

"'I am the destined mother of the coming Age.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XVIII, section 2, p. 389.

Since Roman rule has become Christian rule, we can see her point.

Secondly, she is capable of genuine feelings towards another human being. She set out to manipulate Niall as she did with the three previous challengers but has instead come to love him and is even prepared to go to Hivernia with him, abandoning the Ysan Gods. When Niall points out that the vengeance of the Gods would pursue them, she tells him to go alone. This is a changed Dahut. If Niall's intentions had been honorable, then he could have become a suitor acceptable to Dahut's father and Sisters. Instead, like Gunnung, he promises to challenge Gratillonius while really planning something else.

When Niall Met Dahut

In the atrium of Dahut's house in Ys:

Niall walks across a mosaic of seals and dolphins;
pillars are marmoreal;
the ceiling is gilt-trimmed;
panels bear pictures of the Gods, including -

- Cernunnos,
Epona the Rider,
She of the Teeth Below (Nan?);
Taranis of the Hammer;
Belisama of the Evenstar;
the many-armed sea monster, Lir -

- furnishings are sumptuous;
there is a hint of incense.

Niall is a barbarian but also a King and knows how to bear himself like one. The deal between him and Dahut is as good as sealed.

Storms And Epona

The goddess Epona gives her name to an Ysan inn, Epona's Horse:

the taproom is like "...a snug cave..." -Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter VII, section 1, p. 368;

a hypocaust warms its tiled floor;

kitchen odors sweeten the stench of tallow candles and blubber lamps;

there are vivid murals;

there is a wide choice of drinks and good food;

furniture is plain and heavy but well made;

the landlord's four large sons keep order;

this inn is frequented by Ysan commoners and moderately prosperous foreigners like Niall from Hivernia who drinks with the fisher captain, Maeloch.

Outside is rain, sleet, wind and Ocean roar. Hooting gale rattles shutters. A stormy year - and more pathetic fallacy because the reader knows that Niall spies in order to bring about the, to us legendary, inundation of Ys.

Tragedy

(This is a British first class postage stamp.)

Classical tragedy is about the downfall of a great man with a fatal weakness. Poul and Karen Anderson's Gaius Valerius Gratillonius, King of Ys, is a great soldier and leader and has a fatal weakness, his inability to believe any evil of his eldest daughter. He expects investigation of Dahut to prove her innocence, not her guilt.

When he is to be absent from Ys for a month, he thinks that the investigation must be delayed for that time and that no further evil can happen in his absence. Why not? The reader knows that Niall can arrive. In any case, Dahut can continue to plot and Gratillonius could find a queue of new challengers awaiting his return. However, like Hamlet, he procastinates.

We have traced several connections or parallels with Shakespeare.

The Death Of Budic

There are many fight scenes in Poul Anderson's works but for different reasons. He wrote much action-adventure fiction in which, e.g., the hero regularly escapes from the villains by attacking a guard and grabbing his sword/spear/gun etc. But he also wrote historical fiction that necessarily involves battles including some that were real.

Single combat is integral to the plot of Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys. The King must face challengers and their fights in the Wood must be described realistically. I described how Gratillonius defeated the younger Carsa. Now we have an all too plausible account of how he kills Budic.

When they face off during a pause, Gratillonius asks whether Dahut will accept her father's murderer. In Ysan law, Gratillonius' death would be legal and thus not murder. In any case, Budic reveals too much:

"'She's ready for me.'"
-Dahut, Chapter XVI, section 1, p. 354.

That should surely tell Gratillonius something whereas he merely finds it puzzling. However, it enrages him so much that he quickly dispatches Budic. He momentarily immobilizes the trained soldier by shouting, "'...atten-TION!'" (ibid.) This gives him the chance to drive his sword into his opponent's throat.

Good work for a man, isn't it?

What Do We Really Believe?

When Gratillonius realizes that he must fight Budic - in a snow-bound wood (see image) - he reflects that his own death would solve problems for Dahut, for Ysans and even for himself because it would enable him to:

"...just sleep forever."
-Dahut, Chapter XVI, section 1, p. 350.

Almost immediately, he realizes that he had forgotten the postmortem pilgrimage of his soul towards Mithras. I think that this is authentic. How real to them are most people's beliefs about a hereafter? Personally, I find the continuation of my consciousness after my physical death so implausible that I will be astonished if I find out that it is happening.

A Catholic curate in Ireland said that his parishioners simultaneously believed what ancient pagans, their own Church and secularists have said about death:

all of the dead are in an underworld from which they resent and want to harm the living;
the dead are in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory;
the dead no longer exist.

I have always valued consistency and I challenge people when they seem to believe both that there is a hereafter of whatever sort and that the dead no longer exist. People do unreflectingly says things like, "Oh, that's religious belief. It's different..."

It is late. I will have to postpone reading about Gratillonius' and Budic's combat in the Wood until tomorrow. We thank the Gods for the Andersons.

The Downfall Of Budic

At last Dahut succeeds with Budic. Her lies become even more depraved:

that she loves Budic;
that Gunnung raped her;
that it will be impossible to keep it a secret that she and Budic have now made love.

She has kept it a secret that she made love with Tommaltach, Carsa and Gunnung.

Budic intends not, like Carsa, to become a Christian King of Ys but instead to embrace the Ysan Gods. Something has been happening inside Budic in any case. When Maeloch told him to ask himself what Christ had done for him, he:

"...leaned for a minute, agape, as if the unspeakable had at last found words."
-Dahut, Chapter XIII, section 1, p. 282.

And he tells Dahut that he has wrestled with this question. (p. 346) We must credit Budic with having a mind of his own and thinking for himself, not merely being misled by Dahut. But he says that he will be damned so he is still thinking in Christian terms. Ideas contend inside our heads. One way to cope with great stress is to break from the past and to a make a sudden reversal in personal belief. People are converted in prison. St Paul switched from persecuting to propagating Christianity. Budic will fall fighting Gratillonius and thus will have no further time to reconsider his position.

Signs

Niall of the Nine Hostages plots against Ys. He approaches an oakenshaw, seeking a sign:

"Suddenly upward from it flapped a bird."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter XV, section 4, p. 341.

We are hopeful because we know that Queen Forsquilis of Ys spies afar in her Sending as an eagle owl. And Niall is apprehensive:

"Knuckles whitened on his spearshaft, breath hissed between his teeth." (ibid.)

However, he is immediately reassured:

"But this was no eagle owl such as had gone by on an unlucky eventide. This was a raven, eerily belated for one of its kind and huge." (ibid.)

The eagle owl had flown by at sea. This raven is seasonally late and oversized. So that there can be no doubt:

"Thrice its blackness circled above Niall's spearhead, before it wheeled and winged away south." (ibid.)

Niall accepts the sign joyously and his men make signs against the Morrigu. That Goddess had helped the Hivernians to escape from Ys just as Mithras later helped the Ysans to scatter the Franks. Gods are on the move.

In Ys, Niall, who wants the destruction of Ys, will pose as an inoffensive trader. He is bound to attract the attention of Dahut, who wants the destruction of the Ysan King. She will suffer the same disappointment that she did with Gunnung but on a vaster scale.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

After The End?

Everything ends, to be followed by the unpredictable.

Dahut says:

"'...I'll be Queen, true Queen, foremost of the Nine, and the name I take shall be Brennilis!'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Dahut, Chapter X, section 5, p. 225.

Will the Age of Brennilis be followed by an Age of a Second Brennilis, in which Ys is a world power? No. It is to be followed by the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages and the Modern Age in which Ys is a powerful myth and Dahut is remembered only by her birth name.

Ages begin and end everywhere. In Bowl Of Heaven (New York, 2013) by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, an alien race moves its star with a large inhabited artifact through the galaxy, encountering many other intelligences. When the Bowl is invaded by explorers from Earth, one of its rulers thinks that:

"She was on the cusp of great era; of that, she was sure." (p. 121)

Like Dahut?

Is anything left after the end of a world?

"When a world ends, there's always something left over. A story, perhaps, or a vision, or a hope. This Inn is a refuge, after the lights go out. For a while."
-Neil Gaiman: The Sandman: Worlds' End (New York, 1994), p. 141.

Only for a while? But Shakespeare says that "...the great globe itself...shall...leave not a rack behind." Poul Anderson quotes that passage from The Tempest in "Star of the Sea," which is about mythological changes and the legacy of Veleda, a more beneficent influence than that of Dahut.

Northern Allusions

(St Corentin.)

St Corentin forgive me for saying this but the old gangrel Corentinus with his staff reminds me of that other old gangrel, Wodan the Wanderer.

And here is another Northern European allusion. I like the style of the Scandian sea captain, Gunnung Ivarsson, who has secret sex with Dahut, procastinates, promises to challenge Gratillonius the following day, has sex again, then robs her and leaves Ys very early in the morning. The duper duped.

Her clandestine wrong-doing is by now writ large for all to see except her deluded father who even strikes his friend, Corentinus. No good can come off this. However, I must be about other activities for the rest of today.