Sunday, 16 September 2012

Questions About The Broken Sword

Why do we enjoy reading accounts of battles? I would not want to live in a society where invasion, conquest and plunder were accepted as the way to conduct public affairs.

The elves in Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword (London, 1977) are immune to illness and old age but can die by violence and lack immortal souls. Why then do they risk their physical immortality by organising for war and hastening into battle?

"The elf-earl cast back in his memory...it is not easy to keep thousands of years straight..." (p. 86)

Would it be possible to keep thousands of years straight? The mutant immortals in Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years must learn how to marshal their inner resources in order to remain sane and functional despite the burden of ever accumulating memories. The beneficiaries of "antithanatics" in Anderson's World Without Stars periodically have some of their memories artificially deleted.

The Broken Sword is a paperback novel of only 208 pages but its appearance is deceptive because its content is that of an epic or saga. In fact, it ends:

"Here ends the saga of Skafloc Elven-Fosterling." (p. 208)

Enmities between individuals and families are played out in the course of perpetual conflicts between powerful realms and nations - and, reading it, we know that this is only one of many such works by Poul Anderson. Although it is enjoyable to read, I cannot answer the questions posed here.

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