Monday, 17 December 2012

St Olaf

In Poul Anderson's heroic and historical fantasies, warriors can both pray to Odin and also, occasionally, meet him. In Anderson's historical novel, The Golden Horn, Harald Hardrada both meets and, later, prays to St Olaf.

In other words, Harald's kinsman, King Olaf, dies in battle and, later, is canonised. Thus, Harald and his contemporaries cannot meet Olaf after they have started praying to him - unless, indeed, one of them reported a vision of the saint? Visions are reported in history. Therefore, a report of such a vision could be incorporated into a historical novel without thereby automatically transforming the novel into a historical fantasy.

But Harald, unlike the Emperor Constantine, does not have visions. At least, I do not think that he does, although I have yet to read the third volume of The Last Viking Trilogy of which The Golden Horn is Volume One.

I think - I will find this on rereading - that, somewhere in the second volume, a character says that he misses old Thor but St Olaf will do in his place. (He would not have done for me but that is another story.) This sounds a bit like "We miss Connery as Bond but the present guy will do in his place" or "We miss the original Superman but the current version is OK." It's show biz - kind of.

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