Sunday, 30 September 2012

Strange Gods

In Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), the witch-king worshiped "...strange gods..." which were never "...of much use to him..." (pp. 228-229).

Hrolf stops offering to the gods for two reasons:

he had never liked hanging or drowning men and had offered only beasts (in Anderson's Time Patrol, Carl, mistaken for Woden, allows only fruit to be offered at his leman's burial mound but, in War Of The Gods, King Hadding hangs himself in offering to Odin);

in any case, Odin has become an enemy - the king and his men now trust in their own strength.

Abhoring human sacrifice and trusting one's own strength are secular virtues but secularism denies the gods' existence. By acknowledging their existence but regarding them as enemies, Hrolf remains within a Pagan world-view. Under his kingship:

"Everyone could do what he thought best." (p. 229)

Thus, pluralism, another secular virtue. The king and his men still think best to offer at graves and " the little beings which haunt house and home-acre..." but no longer to "...any Powers..." (p. 229).

The White Christ who troubles the old gods in other Anderson fantasies is not mentioned.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

The "White Christ who troubles the old gods" is not mentioned in the text of HROLF KRAKI'S SAGA because the true God was not yet known in the Scandinavia of King Hrolf's time (circa AD 540). The Church still needed centuries before she seriously affected Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries after about AD 900.