Sunday, 30 September 2012

Skuld


In Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), Skuld, Hrolf Kraki's disaffected half-sister, mobilizes two forces against him:

(i) the socially and politically disaffected, "'...many who've no love for him, chieftains he's humbled, berserkers he's sent away, outlaws skulking hungry...' " and the people of other nations (p. 234);

(ii) " '...the Old Life...the brotherhood of Beast, Tree, and Waters...,' " threatened by man whose " '...works will cover the world - never again will it know freedom or wild magics...' " (pp. 232-233).

Here, Anderson writes fantasy but with modern knowledge as when, in another series, a Witch-Queen of Ys seems to sense the interstellar spaces. In his A Midsummer Tempest, the Fair Folk of Oberon and Titania are driven back by a premature Industrial Revolution. Skuld in effect foresees that Revolution centuries earlier and makes a pact with a Power from the sea - Aegir? She sells him on the idea that, motivated by hatred of Hrolf, she will not replace one human king with another but will use people against civilization. The disaffected will not come into their own but, manipulated by her, will also lose what they want. This is indeed a conflict of Ragnarok-like proportions.

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