Monday, 17 February 2014

Living With The Seasons

Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991).

The King of Ys Tetralogy by Poul and Karen Anderson and some of the Time Patrol stories by Poul Anderson are set in past societies where seasonal changes mattered, were an over-riding feature of people's lives.

For this reason, passages or entire chapters would begin by telling us what the seasons were doing before proceeding to human affairs. In The Shield Of Time, the chapter headed "13,211 B. C. I" begins:

"Days dwindled away into winter, blizzards laid snow thick over earth frozen ringingly hard..." (p. 187)

Next the sentence strays a little way into mythology:

"...the brown bear shared dreams with the dead but the white bear walked the sea ice." (ibid.)

- but this just means that brown bears hibernate whereas polar bears don't. The second sentence shows the impact on humanity:

"We spent most of the enormous nights in their shelters." (ibid.)

The second paragraph gives us spring:

"Step by step, slow at first but faster and faster, the sun returned. Winds mildened, drifts melted, streams brawled swollen, floes ground each other to bits, calves of horned beasts and mammoths tottered newborn over steppe where flowers burst forth as many as stars, the migratory birds were coming home." (ibid.)

Those two sentences could have been several: sun, wind, melting snow, streams, ice, calves, flowers, birds...

Next, again, is the impact on humanity:

"For Us it had always been the happiest of seasons..." (ibid.)

But at last the text returns us to specifically social issues - although not "political," society has leaders but not yet rulers. The sentence ends:

"...until now." (ibid.)

The We are being oppressed by invaders and at last our attention must return from natural seasons to social changes.

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