Friday, 28 February 2014

The Knights Templar

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 737-765).

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.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    Don't forget how Poul Anderson also mentioned the Knights Templar in his 1960 novel, ROGUE SWORD. And that book IS historical fiction, altho I discovered an unexpected connection it had to THE HIGH CRUSADE. ROGUE SWORD depicts the Templars more harshly than we see in "Death and the Knight." My belief is later research by Anderson convinced him the complaints and accusations leveled at the Templars by their enemies had been, at the least, exaggerated. And ROGUE SWORD shows us, favorably, the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, an order which still exists.

    It would be more accurate to say of the Catholic Church that she preserved a "hard core" of Christian orthodoxy despite the ignorance and superstition to be found among a mostly illiterate majority. And we certainly still have lots of superstitious twaddle to be found even now: things like the widespread belief in astrology, the Enneagram, and many so called New Age cults and beliefs comes to mind.

    OUR age has no lack of foolishness and ignorance!


  2. Hi, Paul!

    Another thought of mine was wondering if Katherine Kurtz ever contemplated collecting an anthology called TALES OF THE KNIGHTS HOSPITALLER. I'm sure we both recall how Anderson regarded that order very favorably in ROGUE SWORD.


  3. Sean,
    But the Hospitallers do have the mystique of the Templars! Nevertheless, that could be a suggestion to Katherine Kurtz.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      Well, no, the Hospitallers were never "secretive" as the Templars were. That alone would prevent the Hospitallers from getting the kind of "mystique" the Templars got. But, I do like the Hospitallers, both from what I read in ROGUE SWORD and reading other sources. They seem to have been, by and large, decent, kindly, well meaning, loyal and devout Catholics. Brave fighters and charitable to this day to the poor and weak.

      Maybe I should ask Katherine Kurtz if she ever thought of a book called TALES OF THE KNIGHTS HOSPITALLER.