Saturday, 17 November 2012

From Legend To Fiction

Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys Tetralogy combines four legends:

(i) the fabulous city, Ys of the hundred towers, protected from the sea by a wall with a gate opened to admit ships but locked against storms and high tides;

(ii) nine Witch-Queens, the Gallicenae;

(iii) a king who wins and defends his crown in mortal combat;

(iv) Ferriers of the Dead, fishermen whose sacred duty is to conduct not bodies but souls across water to their judgement or next incarnation.

Thus, the hero of the Tetralogy kills and becomes the King of Ys, husband of nine Queens, while Ysan fishermen ferry the dead.

In the legend, Grallon or Gradlon, ruling Cornouaille from Quimper, which he had founded, built Ys for his daughter, Dahut or Ahes, whose lover, the Devil disguised as a young man, got her to steal the key from her father as a sign of her affection although he really wanted it to open the gate. In the Tetralogy, Gratillonius, name later shortened to "Grallon" or "Gradlon," ruling Ys, later founds Quimper for Ysan survivors after Dahut's lover, Niall of the Nine Hostages, had got her to steal the key with the same result. Ys gains history and substance by pre-existing Gratillonius for several centuries.

In both versions, Dahut's mother had died in childbirth although her identity is different. The Andersons improve the story.

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