Friday, 19 October 2012

The Golden Slave: Conclusion II

To understand and cope with their environment, people count observed objects, recount remembered events and try to control future events either magically or technologically. Alan Moore suggested that some words still reflect a primitive period when enumeration, narration and divination had not yet come to be differentiated as distinct activities:

we cast spells, spell words and divide time into spells;
we tell tales but a teller counts money;
a narrative is an account but accounts are financial records;
a story or a vote can be recounted;
we write with grammar and wrote gramery in grimoires.

Odin is associated with witchcraft and wisdom. (Witches were "wise women.") In Poul Anderson's The Golden Slave (New York, 1980), Eodan, the original of Odin, denies that he knows magical arts but insists that he thinks. Eodan's faithful follower, Tjorr, suggests that:

" ' think is a witchcraft mightier than all others.' " (p. 260)

Without thought, we would not be able to think of witchcraft or of anything else. And, for Tjorr, reasoning is mysterious, therefore magical. His hammer is lucky and holds lightning.

North of the city Tanais, they join Tjorr's people, the Rukh-Ansa, warriors and horse-breeders whose chiefs reward bards with golden rings. (This last practice is familiar to readers of Anderson's Viking novels; The Golden Slave is pre-Viking.) They lead some of the Ansa north where, according to Snorri Sturlason, they brought long ships, horse-breeding, runes, military skills and wise laws. We have seen Eodan learn all this, and lose an eye " '...for wisdom...' ", during the novel (p. 279). All that remains is to die and become Odin.

Strengthened by this heritage, the folk left the forests, built nations, overthrew Rome, peopled Europe and shaped England - and, although Anderson does not add this here, the USA.

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