Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Gaia Atlantis

Something in Poul Anderson's The Dancer From Atlantis (London, 1977) is so complicated that I understood it only by carefully rereading the relevant passages, several pages apart, and writing a summary of them.

Reid, Oleg and Uldin use the futurians' mentator to acquire Erissa's linguistic knowledge. Thus, they learn her language, Keftiu, and another, as yet unidentifiable, language that is known to her.

After what sounds like a volcano (fire raging from beneath a bursting mountain), the sea destroyed her people, the Keftiu. Their island, Keft, was named in their language Kharia-ti-yeh, Land of the Pillar, or " '...on the mainland, Atlantis.' " (p. 41)

Reid knows that the story of a sunken continent is:

"Pure myth; geological impossibility, in any period less than millions of years." (p. 44)

But his knowledge of Keftiu informs him that the word "Atlantis" as used by Erissa does mean a happy realm taken back by the sea.

Later, the puzzle is solved in an instant. Erissa remarks that " '...the strong hand of the Minos...' " no longer restrains pirates (p. 47). Reid knows that Minos or the Minos, whether this word is a name or a title, ruled on Crete. So Keft is Crete, Erissa's second language is pre-Hellenic Achaean and in that language, which Reid now knows, "Land of the Pillar" is Gaia Atlantis.

The point that I was missing was that, thanks to the mentator, Reid's speech center now contains Achaean so that he can simply translate "Land of the Pillar" into that language and find there a word pronounced "Atlantis." It does not matter that the Greek word for "pillar" is stylos.

The Atlantic Ocean is beyond the Pillars of Hercules and the Greek hero Atlas is associated with pillars so that the words "Atlantic" and "Atlas" might be relevant but not necessarily. In any case, Reid is applying his directly acquired knowledge of prehistoric Achaean, not deriving "Atlantis" from classical Greek.

Addendum, later: According to Wikipedia, "Atlantic" is "Sea of Atlas" and "Atlantis" is "Island of Atlas" (so this Island need not be in that Sea) but the origin of "Atlas" is unknown.


  1. What's that picture supposed to be?

  2. Good question. It came up as an image for THE DANCER FROM ATLANTIS. Maybe it's not a very good one.