Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Saxo And Starkad

In Poul Anderson's Ensign Flandry, Starkad is an inhabited planet of the star Saxo. As sf fans, we are unconcerned about the origins of these names although we are very concerned about the fates of the two intelligent Starkadian species, land-dwellers and sea-dwellers, that have become pawns of the Terran Empire and the Merseian Rhoidunate, respectively.

However, names carry rich histories if we can see it. Saxo Grammaticus is one of Anderson's sources for his heroic fantasies and in one of those fantasies, Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), who should appear but Starkadh:

of Jotun descent;
born six-handed;
Thor ripped off four;
Odin fostered him;
and said he should have three men's lifespans;
Thor said he must perform an unworthy deed in each;
Odin gave him the best of weapons;
Thor ordered that he would never own land;
Odin said he would always have money;
Thor that he would never have enough;
Odin that he would have victory in every battle;
Thor that he would always be wounded;
Odin made him first among skalds;
Thor made him immediately forget what he had uttered;
he fomented strife at the wedding of King Hroar's daughter. (pp. 110-111)

I neither knew that such a convoluted story existed in Norse mythology nor suspected that such a rich history lay behind the name of a planet in Ensign Flandry.

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