Saturday, 15 December 2012

Prologue And Chapter I

I have made little progress with Poul Anderson's The Golden Horn (New York, 1980) thanks to Christmas preparations and other reading. So far, this much is clear:

in the Prologue, the three year old Harald meets his half-brother, King Olaf;
in Chapter I, the fifteen year old Harald fights for Olaf at that king's last battle;
fifteen Chapters and two further Volumes later, the fifty one year old King Harald will fight his own last battle. 

Olaf, later canonised, has imposed Christianity on Norway, accepts military service only from baptised men - even turns away five hundred on that account - and is opposed by:

"...common folk who did not like being taxed and fined and herded into a church they hardly understood." (p. 38)

I agree with them. Even if I were a church-goer, I would oppose, and indeed would believe that I also was oppressed by, any law that made church attendance compulsory just as, although heterosexual, I would be oppressed by any criminalisation of homosexuality. My religious observance and sexual preference are my business only, not the state's.

Harald, a man of his time, sees things differently:

"...the regrowth of heathendom that he had seen during Olaf's exile had angered him - that men should do what their rightful lord had banned." (p. 34)

Two less serious observations:

does Harald's friend eat a meat sandwich?

"Rognvald Brusason was ripping flatbread and salt flesh with his teeth." (p. 32)

Anderson sometimes smuggles a scientific or even science fictional perspective into earlier periods:

"Harald Sighurdharson went to sleep with the feeling that this whole earth was a ship, plunging through a foam of stars to an unknown port." (p. 29)

It is, but how can Harald sense that?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I too disagree with the methods King Olaf II used for converting Norway to Christianity. Far better for him to have been patient and debate and persuasion. And indeed, in his later years King Olaf himself seems to have come around to this view. At least that is how Anderson seems to show him as thinking in THE GOLDEN HORN.