Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How King Magnus Went To His Weird

"In battle, he took the right wing with the Southern levies, Einar the Northerners on the left, while Magnus had the tip of the wedge: the "swine-fylking" which Odhinn himself had taught to men." (Poul Anderson, The Road Of The Sea Horse, New York, 1980, pp. 37-38)

Odin taught the wedge battle formation to men in Anderson's War Of The Gods. That was a book in which Odin was a real being. Here, we must regard him as a myth.

Here again, St Olaf does the next best thing. He cannot interact as a physical being but does appear to his son Magnus in a dream before a battle and offers a choice: follow me or become a great king but at the expense of committing a great sin. This is ominous since this second chapter of the novel is entitled How King Magnus Went To His Weird. Next day, Magnus spends a lot of time with a priest and I must finish rereading the chapter to learn how he meets his death.

Harald comments:

" 'Men get dreams and dreams and most of them mean naught.' " (p. 39)

Fortuitously, I have just reread Neil Gaiman's "August." There, no less an authority than Caesar Augustus, in whose reign the new God was born, informs us that:

"Many dreams come through the gates of ivory...and they lie. A few dreams come through the gates of horn, and they speak to us truly." (Neil Gaiman, Fables And Reflections, New York, p. 105)

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