Friday, 28 September 2012

What Is Distasteful?

The text of Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973) is preceded, after the table of contents, by:

"The Doom of the Skjoldungs," an Introduction by Lin Carter;
"The Skjoldungs," a genealogy;
 "The History of Hrolf Kraki," a Foreword by Poul Anderson.

Anderson hopes that his readers "...will bear with...the midnight of the Dark Ages. Slaughter, slavery, robbery, rape, torture, heathen rites bloody or obscene..." (pp. xix-xx)

He rightly contrasts his reconstructed Saga with "...The Lord Of The Rings, work of a civilized, Christian author...," although, as he adds, Tolkien derived his Trilogy from similar sources. (p. xix)

Anderson does not really show us a lot of slaughter etc but one section that I did find distasteful was the kind of harm that it was imagined could be inflicted by magic. A very unpleasant imagination was at work there.

Anderson proves his case that, in the Dark Ages, the only way to have a period of peace was to have a strong king who began his reign by fighting some of his neighbors to establish which of them was in control. I agree with him that:

"...we today need a reminder that we must never take civilization for granted." (p. xx)

He also mentions "...what we today feel as a lack of psychological depth...," (p. xx) which corresponds to my discussion of the narrative techniques of sagas and novels. See here and here.

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