Friday, 5 October 2012

Retellings And Reconstructions

Poul Anderson retold the myths of two Danish kings, Hrolf and Hadding, as heroic fantasies. He also addressed the myths of Atlantis and Theseus but in a different way. First, in accordance with a particular theory of the origin of the Atlantis myth, he combined these two stories. Thus, Theseus conquers Crete in the immediate aftermath of the nearby Atlantean volcanic eruption.

Secondly, Anderson wrote not another heroic fantasy but a historical science fiction novel, The Dancer From Atlantis. Thus, the hero is not Theseus but Duncan Reid, a twentieth century man displaced in time and trying to return home. Theseus becomes a minor villain by conspiring against the Minos with the Ariadne (see below) who has the benefit of foreknowledge imparted in good faith by Reid.

Since the novel is not fantasy but historical sf, it presents possible sources for several elements of the Theseus myth:

not a king called Minos but kings whose title is "the Minos";
not a king's daughter called Ariadne but high priestesses whose title is "the Ariadne";
the Minotaur as the annual sacrificial bull, not a bull-headed man;
the Labyrinth as the Minos' palace, not the Minotaur's lair;
Athenian hostages not sacrificed to the Minotaur but indoctrinated and returned home.

 Anderson adopted both of these approaches to Odin, presenting the god's original in a historical novel and the god in the heroic fantasies about Hrolf, Hadding and the cursed sword Tyrfing.

Blogging while rereading, I must sometimes correct details. I said earlier that, apart from Chapter Two, which introduces Reid's traveling companions, The Dancer From Atlantis is narrated entirely as from Reid's point of view. Contradicting this, Chapter Fifteen returns to Erissa's viewpoint in order to recount what she does while separated from Reid.

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