Friday, 7 December 2012

The Peat Bog

Continuing to reread Poul Anderson's short stories set in the past, we pass from the prehistorical to the historical; from "The Forest" in the Old Stone Age to "The Peat Bog" during the Roman Empire in the first century AD.

From other Anderson works, we recognize:

place names, Colonia Agrippina, Frisia, Gesoriacum, the Suebian Sea;
the barbarian Longobards;
the Cimbrian horde that had almost overwhelmed Rome a century and a half before;
the Roman middle name Valerius;
the goddess Nerthus;
the Romans' "...naive identifications..." of their gods with other peoples' gods (p. 205);
dolmen and standing stones on the Armorican coast.

We also recognise the names of important Romans, "...divine Julius...," Claudius, Nero (Anderson, Homeward And Beyond, New York, 1976, p. 190). Marius is not mentioned by name but it was he who had defeated the Cimbri.

Again, Anderson shows us the passage of time by describing the seasons:

"...trees were ablaze with autumn, stubble fields golden..." (p. 190)

"Spring-time...sunlight and greenness..." (p. 194)

"The midsummer festival lifted hearts..." (p. 222)

"...summer waned, days shrank before nights, hasty clouds and spilling rains warned of oncoming winter." (p. 228)

"...we watched the autumnal equinox being celebrated in a tiny fisher settlement..." (p. 228)

"This was at the end of September." (p. 229) 

"...day was turning to the shortest of glimmers in the middle of night." (p. 234)

"A day in late November or early December..." (p. 236)

"Now Midwinter Day was so near..." (p. 240)

"The day after was Midwinter." (p. 241)

"...the winter turned hard, winds whistled down from the Pole Star..." (p. 242)

As in Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy, harsh weather expresses the will of a god.

Not for the first time in Anderson's fiction, a man passing himself off as a trader is really an intelligence agent.

Thus, what had seemed to be an independent short story with an unappealing title turns out on closer inspection to be integral to Anderson's historical fiction.

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