Saturday, 22 December 2012

Ulf

In Poul Anderson's The Road Of The Sea Horse (New York, 1980), King Harald Hardrada's friend and supporter, Ulf, is only nominally Christian:

he turns a blind eye to heathen practices among his people;
his understanding of the Fourth Gospel is " 'They tell me John the Holy wrote a saga about the Weird of the Gods...' " (p. 162);
he misses " '...old Thor, but St Olaf will do in his place...' " (p. 164);
he both offers candles and pays a witch when he is ill, thus possibly offending both powers;
he defends the old ways - odal property which must remain in the family, ancient laws, common men bearing weapons, women free to divorce whatever the Church says, close-knit families whose men will die to avenge their brothers;
he argues that, by centralising power and increasing taxes, Harald makes the North into another Constantinople.

Harald argues that the Northern countries must modernise or go under and Ulf reluctantly agrees. I would have preferred a stronger argument from Ulf for preserving the best of the old way of life.

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