Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Human And Other Beings

Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword is mostly about elves and trolls - and about a man raised by elves who fights trolls. War Of The Gods (New York, 1999) is more about human political and military affairs. But both presuppose a world where human and other beings coexist and interact. In War Of The Gods, Hadding, brought up by giants, sees light elves riding by and watches as a giantess summons the dead (as had also happened in The Broken Sword).

A king's life is threatened in infancy so he is raised in secret to claim his kingdom when he comes of age: Anderson's Time Patrol Series dismisses this story told of Cyrus and many others as a typical hero legend but Hadding's story, which is retold in War Of The Gods, is a legend or even, as Anderson suggests in the Afterword, a myth so, of course, this is what happens to Hadding.

Of the jotuns, it is said:

"Some were wise, with a lore that went back to the beginning of time." (p. 10)

And the jotuns who raise Hadding:

"...shared much of their lore, tales and verses going back to the beginning of worlds..." (p. 34)

A nice idea but, of course, impossible. Between the beginning of the world and the existence of beings capable of transmitting lore, a very long period of time had to elapse. But that is modern knowledge. Here, we imaginatively re-enter an earlier world-view.

As in some parts of the Time Patrol Series, Anderson, giving an account of people living and working closer to nature sometimes begins a chapter with the weather and the seasons:

"A wind out of the north bore tidings of oncoming winter. Rain slanted before it, mingled with sleet. Bare boughs tossed and creaked above sere meadows. Stubblefields were becoming mires." (p. 26)

"That year the fields throughout Denmark bore overflowingly, kine grew fat, and fishermen filled their nets. The Danes thought this was because they had a rightful king again." (p. 92)

Rereading, it is possible to pause and appreciate these details instead of rushing forward to follow the narrative.

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