Sunday, 2 August 2015

An Effect Of Time Travel

On the third day of the arval (burial feast) for Tharasmund, the Wanderer attends. The following summer, he approaches the territory of the Teurings and asks, "'How fare Tharasmund and his kin?'" (Time Patrol, pp. 433-434) In astonishment, he is reminded that he had attended Tharasmund's grave-ale. Stunned, he claims to have misspoken and withdraws. Later, a cowherd relates that the Wanderer had met him and asked for the details of Tharasmund's death.

What does this mean? A Christian says that it shows that the old gods are fading. But sf fans with a knowledge of time travel have a different explanation. Or do we all? I met a reader of this story who did not understand why Carl had "forgotten" Tharasmund's death. After all, he was seen to attend the arval...

Poul Anderson expected his readers to understand a simple consequence of time travel. In terms of his own subjective experience, Carl attended the arval after the cowherd had told him about it. I expect that he missed the burial and the first two days of the arval precisely because he was told that he had not arrived until the third day of the arval. But, if at least one reader missed such a simple point, then there must still be a lot of confusion out there about time travel?

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