Sunday, 16 December 2012

Chapter II

By the end of Chapter II of Poul Anderson's The Golden Horn (New York, 1980), after three years in Russia, the now eighteen year old Harald has travelled to Constantinople and joined the Varangian (Northern barbarian) Guard.

We have by now seen Harald aged three, fifteen and eighteen and know from history that he will die at fifty one in 1066, the single most memorable date in British history, although Harald's last battle at Stamford Bridge (see image) is overshadowed by the more famous "Battle" that same year at the opposite end of England.

Earlier in the Chapter, newly arrived in Russia, Harald had presented the complicated family history to a younger relative. Of one king, he says:

"He planted Christendom firmly in the land, killing whoever would not be baptized." (p. 57)

- not only unfortunate but also unnecessary since Christianity was spreading and displacing Paganism for social and historical reasons in any case. But this single comment reminds us to what extent all the traditions change over the centuries. Killing those who refused conversion would, thankfully, now be unthinkable.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I agree the harsh methods used by Olaf II was wrong and unnecesary. And many Christians before Olaf's time disapproved of using force.

And Christianity was displacing paganism not merely for historical/social reasons (which I agree also played a role) but also because many ex pagans came to BELIEVE in Christ.

But I disagree with your last comment: "Killing those who refused conversion would, thankfully, now be unthinkable. It is not unthinkable in ISLAM. The Koran, after all, commands the use of force for spreading Islam. And Muslim persecution of non Muslims in places like Egypt is all too common.


Paul Shackley said...

Sure. I should, of course, have said that killing those who refused conversion to Christianity is now unthinkable.