Sunday, 23 September 2012

Saga And War II

In Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), when a king is killed in battle, the foster father of the king's two sons hides them with a wizard on an island. In Anderson's War Of The Gods, when a king is killed in battle, the foster father of the elder of the king's two sons hides them with a giant in the hills.

That is the sort of thing that happened in those days, apart from the giants. Kings were killed in battle and a young son of a slain king was immediately in danger. To be brought up in secret and to claim the kingdom on coming of age was part of the heroic legend.

The Saga has a narrator who, introduced in the very short, one and a half page, Chapter I, "Of The Telling," reminds us of her existence in the course of the text by addressing King Aethelstan's court, and thus also the reader, in the first person:

" '...long after the tale I will tell you...' " (p. 7)

" 'I have spoken of jarls. They are not the sames as English earls...' " (p. 11)

A dramatic or graphic adaptation would be able periodically to show us the story-teller addressing the court.

In Anderson's fantasies, we expect to find verse either alternating with the prose or concealed within it. On pages 8-11, the narrator recites a lay which is laid out on the page with a peculiar long gap between two of the words in the middle of each line. I do not know the reason for this except that it must reproduce the presentation of the verse in the original texts.

For concealed verse, we find this when the wizard addresses the king's sons:

" 'I heard them whisper in the dark, I hear them still in the gray. Rise up, Hroar and Helgi Halfdansson, and keep to my woods this day!' " (p. 20) 

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