Thursday, 20 December 2012

Northern Empire

Having served in Constantinople, Harald Hardrada in Poul Anderson's The Road Of The Sea Horse (New York, 1980) imagines that he will be able to build an Empire of all the Northern countries including:

"...even this mysterious Vinland the Good, with its dark-skinned Skraelings and limitless forests." (pp. 86-87)

Thus, the title character of Anderson's The Last Viking Trilogy, like the title character of the Andersons' The King of Ys Tetralogy (who is also the last of his line), envisages an American colony that really is way beyond what he will be able to achieve in his lifetime.

Harald asks too much of the Throndheim Thing. He wants taxes for:

another attack on Denmark;
a stone minster to Our Lady;
a new town.

If I were to address the Thing, I would argue that the attack and the minster are unnecessary and that the town is the sort of thing that we should pay for but the need for this particular town must be justified. The minster, if wanted, should be paid for not by taxes to the king but by voluntary contributions to the clergy.

After much opposition, he gets agreement to do what he wants but not enough taxes to pay for it without dipping into his hoard. He thinks that a country that stands by the old ways will become a backwater, then a province. But does a stronger, more modern state need aggressive warfare and an established Church?

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