Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Winter Of The World II

I have referred to Poul Anderson's The Winter Of The World as post-Ice Age, but the novel begins, "Once during the Ice Age..." (1)

In the novel, the Rogaviki, an entire population who turn out to be a new human species, live by hunting bison, moonhorn cattle, bronco, antelope, wild deer, caribou, moose and elk. This makes them sound like the most primitive of homo sapiens societies.

However, a multi-chimneyed, mostly underground Rogaviki dwelling surrounded by shed, smokehouse, workshop, stable, kennel and mews uses both a sunpower collector and a windmill manufactured in neighbouring urban civilisations and shelves hundreds of books in its principal chamber below.

The largest formal social group is a single family. Associations of families are informal. Households are self-sufficient in necessities but buy finely made goods either imported in exchange for metal salvaged from ancient ruins or manufactured at "Stations", where Rogaviki, frequently travelling alone, can swap ponies and self-employed postal couriers stay overnight. A Station is a set of independent businesses run by single women or misfit men.

Bullgore Station print shop can bind books but buyers usually do this in winter when they practise arts or enjoy idleness. One new pamphlet describes astronomical observations made by a man with an imported telescope and navigator's clock at Eagles Gather. Most paper is imported although Whitewater Station on the Wilderwoods edge has a paper mill. Rogavikian manufacture is expanding and innovative, e.g., a portable loom and a repeating crossbow. All manufacture and trade are private with no government, guilds or laws although no one would sell game meat or hides because they live by the game beasts.

Bullgore makes brandy and distils, from fermented wild grain and fruits, alcohol to fuel blow torches and small machine tools. Although there is a windmill, the main energy source is the solar collector sending water to a subterranean fired clay tank where pressure generates heat used for cooking and warmth. Domesticated horses, hounds and hawks are indistinguishable from their wild counterparts. Rogavikians live healthily on a mainly meat diet by eating the whole animal, adding fish, fowl, eggs, breads, mare's milk and cheese, fruits, herb teas, beer, wine and mead.

One Rogavikian seriously offended by another severs all relationship with the offender. Offenders of too many become Outrunners, vicious bandits.

A kith is a set of families traditionally sharing a single large hunting ground. Territorial herds define each kiths' territory which no other kith ever invades although individual travellers are welcome guests and may hunt en route. There are less than a hundred kiths and each has at most three thousand members. Rogaviki women can control their fertility. In a cross-kith marriage, the man joins his wife's. A Rogavikian woman decides whether to become a wife of several husbands or to remain unmarried but with other sexual outlets.

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Winter Of The World, New York, 1976, p. 9.

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