Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Three Saints And A God

Reading Poul Anderson necessitates the use of a dictionary. Recently, I thought to google the title "Thalassocrat" applied to a ruler on a subjovian planet in "Esau." This is not an alien word because it ends in "-ocrat." (1)

I also suddenly wondered about St Dismas who is continually invoked by Anderson's merchant character, Nicholas van Rijn. Was Dismas, like the Jerusalem Catholic Church and the Galilean Order, a religious fiction by Anderson or was there "really" such a saint? Yes, there was. "Dismas" is a name given to the "good thief" crucified beside Jesus but pardoned by him in Luke's Gospel, thus appropriate for van Rijn.

In "Margin of Profit," van Rijn as usual invokes Dismas whereas his companion prefers:

"...St Nicholas, patron of travelers...In spite of his being your namesake." (2)

(Although, is the patron saint of travelers not St Christopher?)

Thirdly, van Rijn, catching an attacking ship on an energy beam, exclaims:

"Ha, like a fish we play him! Good St Peter the Fisherman, help us not let him get away!" (3)

Finally, having calculatingly used his ship, the Mercury, to capture the pirate, van Rijn reveals that Mercury was the Roman god of commerce, gambling and thieves. Thus, the good thief and the god of thieves meet in a van Rijn story.

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Van Rijn Method, compiled by Hank Davis, Riverdale, NY, 2009, p. 526.
(2) ibid., p. 159.
(3) ibid., p. 166.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Rather amusing, your comments about St. Dismas, St. Peter, and the Roman god Mercury. I think the conjunction in "Margin of Profit" of St. Dismas (the Good Thief) and the name of van Rijn's ship "Mercury" was not accidental on Anderson's part, but was quite deliberate.