Friday, 28 February 2014
The Knights Templar
Poul Anderson was asked to contribute to an anthology of original short stories about the Knights Templar. He thought that it seemed a good place for another Time Patrol story. I agree but would not have thought of that. A story about the Knights might be historical fiction or fantasy (I seem to remember that most in this anthology were the latter) but Anderson made his science fiction and made it part of an existing series and was commendably restrained in his treatment of the Knights.
He gives us a detailed history of the Knights as a secretive military religious order, pioneering banking and accumulating wealth, with a circular causality explanation of why their fleet escaped when most of the Knights were arrested. He does not make them a front for the Time Patrol. They are simply an historically important organization that the Patrol must infiltrate to gather intelligence.
He informs us that the idol that they are accused of worshiping is merely a relic believed to be Abraham's jawbone, although even this might be suspect since "'...the ancient Greeks kept the jawbones of heroes for oracles.'" (p. 755)
Religion in France, 1307, is extremely varied:
"'Everybody nowadays is superstitious. Heresy is widespread, if mostly covert; likewise witchcraft and other pagan survivals. Heterodoxy in a thousand different forms is almost universal among the illiterate majority, ignorant of orthodox theology. The Templars have long been exposed to Islam, not always in a hostile fashion, and the Muslim world is full of magicians.'" (ibid.)
Pagan survivals, Muslim influence and illiteracy causing heterodoxy: the Church used to pride itself on uniformity of doctrine throughout its membership. When betrayed by Christendom, most Knights go the Moors who disperse them among their forces. Could the dispersed Knights have influenced Christian heresies and Muslim sects (p. 749)? The Patrol must investigate. New speculations and fictions could proliferate.
In an introduction to this story, Anderson writes that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, co-founded and co-edited by Anthony Boucher:
"...was where the Time Patrol stories got started and most of them appeared. They have been collected in two volumes, The Time Patrol and The Shield Of Time." (p. 738)
Not most, the first five of thirteen, if we count the tripartite ...Shield... as three.