Sunday, 7 May 2017


Poul Anderson shows us the horrors of war (see here) but maybe does not go into quite so much detail as some of his colleagues.

In SM Stirling's The Sunrise Lands (New York, 2008), Chapter Fifteen, Rudi Mackenzie feels the "...ugly soft-heavy resistance..." (p. 357) which means that his lance has penetrated his antagonist's stomach. That contradictory phrase, "...soft-heavy...," (penetrable but resistant?) seems authentic, almost as if written from experience. Rudi's horse, Epona, downs a man, then deliberately stamps on him hard. A body caught between hooves and hard ground pops, crunches and crackles. Epona also bites.

I could quote a few more details but readers can seek them out for themselves. The sounds made by wounded horses are always harrowing. Presumably Epona knows what can happen and fights like a demon to ensure that it always happens to another horse, not to her. In fact, she dislikes people, except Rudi, and wants to harm them. Rudi thinks that he and Epona have met in past lives or in the Summerlands. What can this mean? What part of Epona existed before her present body? Why do so many people unquestioningly accept such an idea? Ideas that seem to make sense of life tend to be accepted but either life has no sense or its sense requires much deeper enquiry. In the chaos of combat, any remembered comfort or word from a chaplain acquires greater significance.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

While I don't think Poul Anderson usually went into QUITE as detailed an account of up close and personal combat as Stirling gives us, he can still be specific. I have seen mention in Anderson's works of that "soft/heavy" feel of knife or sword penetrating an opponent's mid parts.

Yes, I remember quite well how Rudi's horse Epona does NOT like people, aside from him. There were times when Rudi had to watch carefully to make sure Epona did not hurt people near her. I would put the reason for that down to Epona being badly treated as a colt, before Rudi obtained her.

And like you, I do not in the least believe in reincarnation or the pre-existence of souls before conception. The Catholic belief is that God creates souls at the moment of conception.