Monday, 17 September 2012

Meeting The Gods

The gods are the celebrities of the Pagan universe. Would you expect to meet them in casual circumstances? Skafloc, the hero of Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword (London, 1977), returning from a hunt, sees a campfire, investigates, senses a Power, then sees that the large form before the fire is one-handed. His response is not surprise, still less pleasure at meeting the war god, but apprehension because:

"It was not thought good to meet Tyr of the Aesir alone at dusk." (p. 83)

It is as if the universe is a very small place. You might just as well meet Tyr as anyone else. The As (god) greets Skafloc by name, explains his own presence (war is brewing between trolls and elves and, in any case, the gods are troubled by the plans of the Norns) and advises Skafloc. Skafloc returns home not in any way impressed at meeting Tyr but simply puzzled and troubled by the content of the god's advice. I hope that I will be as casual as this if I meet a deity.

Skafloc's Christian lover, Freda, is more appropriately overawed when she meets a tall, old, bearded, cloaked, spear-bearing, one-eyed man in a wide-brimmed hat. She recoils, gasps, kneels and tells Odin that she should have no dealings with him. Of necessity, she accepts his help but, later, Skafloc's response is not awe at the intervention of Odin but merely suspicion because the god had asked such a low price for his help. This is not like him. What is he really after?

Of course, the reader is not surprised to encounter Tyr or Odin in heroic fantasy but it is interesting and amusing to notice that the hero is not very surprised either.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

And of course Skafloc was right to be suspicious of the "low" price Odin demanded for helping Freda and her brother. Anyone familiar with the Norse legends would be aware of Odin's reputation for treachery and double dealing.