Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Winter Warriors

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

The Paleo-Indians believe that their dead may "'...join the Winter Hunters.'" (p. 153)

Initially, this is an unelaborated passing reference. A war-like hereafter sounds like Valhalla but these are Siberians of 13,212 BC. Then, when tracking their enemy, Aryuk of Alder River, two of the Wanayimo see the Winter Warriors:

"Above the northern horizon, the Winter warriors were kindling their fires.
"In billows and rays, light shivered aloft, brighter, higher, brighter, higher, until it licked at the roof of heaven. Cold had deepened and all sound lay frozen. Only the sheen of light on snow was alive. Awed beyond terror, the men stared. There danced the mightiest of their forebears, ghosts too strong for earth to hold them." (p. 230)

Red Wolf prays to them. The dead properly tended are strong enough to help their descendants but, if stronger, they leave the Earth. Interesting belief. Broken Blade thinks that they have come for the killing of Aryuk.

And here is another parallel with Neil Gaiman. In Gaiman's graphic novel, The Sandman: Brief Lives (New York, 1994), Chapter 4, p. 1, panel 4, as the Alder Man watches the Northern Lights, which the reader of course sees also, the first caption reads:

"The Lapps believe that it is unwise in any way to attract the attention of the dancing Northern Lights, or they will carry you off into the sky, to be one with them forever."

- but the second caption begins:

"The Alder Man is old enough to know..."

- that this is untrue?

"...how rarely this happens."

Two fascinating mythologies of the Northern Lights.

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