Sunday, 16 October 2016

Tea, Dragons And Problems

In "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson," Adzel conducts a tea ceremony, as did another large alien here. "How To Be Ethnic..." also displays some of the humor that was occasioned in "Day of Burning" by Adzel's bulk. In the narrow confines of his shack, his swinging tail nearly clobbers Jim a couple of times. Earlier, Jim had reflected:

"...take that fellow and set him on a campus, in his equivalent of the lotus position, droning 'Om mane padme hum' in a rich basso profundo, and see if you don't draw a crowd." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 188)

Humor is also occasioned by tri-personal interactions:

Betty Riefenstahl had hoped that Adzel could help them to relax whereas Jim had thought that they could help each other to relax;
Jim fumes during the silence of the tea ceremony.

Poul Anderson's heroes are problem-solvers. In this story, they have three problems:

How can Jim organize a Chinese contribution to the Festival of Man without losing necessary study time?
How can Betty's father, conductor of the San Francisco Opera, mount an appropriately Terrestrial musical event?
How can Adzel, with his massive body - "...about a ton of warmblooded mass..." (p. 187) - to feed, survive on Earth on his League scholarship?

When Adzel consults a book on Chinese art, Jim notices that the dragon could almost be Adzel. When Freeman Riefenstahl sees Adzel in the telephone screen, he thinks that he is seeing Fafner... Jim and Betty have a moment of realization:

"All at once Betty and I met each other's eyes and let out a yell." (p. 194)

This might be the only shared moment of realization in Anderson's works?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I think Adzel was only paid with food for parading as a dragon for the Chinese New Year, he might also have played Fafnir in Wagner's opera.