Thursday, 28 April 2016

Foreign Kings

The King of Ys:

"...must always be a foreigner, lest grudges fester and feuds flame in Ys." (Roma Mater, p. 152)

That principle sounds familiar. In Britain, the new Headteacher of a school never rises to that position from within the school but is always appointed from outside. That has a unifying effect on the staff. All the staff-room factions, from the National Union of Teachers to the Christian Union, can agree in criticizing the Head. I knew one guy who spent his entire working life within a single school where he rose to the position of Deputy Head but could only have become a Headmaster by moving to another school and was happy where he was. I think that the same principle is applied to captains of ships? We see Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry, as part of his training in Naval Intelligence, taking command of a spaceship and having to prove himself to the men which he does despite losing the ship. They capture a rebel ship with its codes and thus abruptly end a civil war.

Flandry's space operatic predecessors include a certain Flash Gordon whose adventures make an interesting political point. Ming the Merciless rules Mongo by divide and rule. The various oppressed humanoid species cannot unite against Ming because none of their factions can accept leadership from within any other faction - but they can accept the leadership of a hero from off-planet... And, on Barsoom, John Carter alone was able to unite Thark, Warhoon and lesser green hordes against Zodanga, the enemy of Helium.

So we can make some comparisons between these disparate characters:

John Carter;
Flash Gordon;
Dominic Flandry;
the King of Ys;
British Headteachers.


  1. Paul:
    H. Beam Piper's Calvin Morrison, in *Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen*. He led the small principality of Hostigos to victory against invaders and began building a "Great Kingdom," or empire, of "Hos-Hostigos." But when he explained that Prince Ptosphes of Hostigos would become Great King of Hos-Hostigos (while Kalvan would be Ptosphes' subject Prince of Hostigos), Ptosphes raised the point that other princes wouldn't accept one of their own number "jumped-up" to rule them. Kalvan, however, who'd come to Hostigos by mysterious, "magical" circumstances ... as Piper punned, "that was a Hos- of another color."

  2. Paul:
    I should have clarified, by the way, that "Hos-" was not just the first syllable of "Hostigos," but also the prefix, throughout the local nations, for "Great."

    1. David,
      Fictional languages are a law unto themselves, mainly in Tolkien.