Monday, 15 October 2012

Origins II

I am still rereading Poul Anderson's The Golden Slave (New York, 1980) but have been too busy with work and other activities to read it much. The text continues to contain concealed origin stories. (See earlier post, "Origins".)

"Eodan...thought...that if he built himself a boat in the North...open-decked, so a young man could pull his oar beneath the sky...." (p. 159)

That is the origin of the Viking long ships.

At the very end of the novel, Eodan, asked how he had lost an eye, replies, " 'I gave it for wisdom.' " (p. 279) That is the origin of the myth of Odin at Mimir's Well which is retold elsewhere in Anderson's works. Remembering my first reading of the novel, I expect also to find an origin for Valhalla.

(Before this, we have had Eodan wearing a hat and cloak, carrying a staff, and Tjorr fighting with a hammer, " '...a good weapon, though a little too short in the haft.' " (p. 141) If I remember the myths correctly, there was a reason why Thor's hammer was slightly too short.) 

Meanwhile, an interesting moral question arises. The escaped slaves become pirates. They attack a merchant ship, kill some of its crew and steal its cargo. Is this a wrong thing to do? Yes, we would usually say so. However, on the captured ship, they not only steal wine and get drunk but also free slaves. Killing men who transport slaves might not be such a bad thing? Barbarians could regard themselves as permanently at war with the Romans who enslave them. This issue is compromised by the fact that Eodan was enslaved while attacking Rome.

And, of course, personal enrichment, not human liberation, was the motive for the pirate attack. A higher minded approach would have been to hail the merchant ship, demand that it release the slaves and only to attack if it refused.

Finally, for now, after twelve Chapters of Eodan's point of view, we have the surprise of a change to the point of view of one of his companions, Phryne, in Chapter XIII. Since that is currently as far as I have reread, any further comments will have to wait. (Tomorrow, Tuesday, 16 October, I will drive my son-in-law to a medical appointment, then study some Latin. We are reading a text about a fire in a Roman tenement of the kind that Eodan saw on entering the city.)

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