Saturday, 28 May 2016

Grallon And Arthur

"BEFORE KING ARTHUR THERE WAS
"THE KING OF YS"
Poul and Karen Anderson, The King Of Ys: The Dog And The Wolf (Grafton Books, London, 1989), back cover.

Arthurian legend would have been an appropriate theme for a novel by Poul Anderson and we should compare Arthur with Grallon, King of Ys. However, Anderson did not write about Arthur so we must instead consult Sir Thomas Malory and his successor, CS Lewis.

Perhaps we should make a three-fold distinction between:

legendary figures;
fictional characters;
legendary figures who become fictional characters.

Usually, a fictional character is still alive and active at the end of the last volume of a series. Think of Anderson's Everard, van Rijn, Falkayn, Flandry - and Gratillonius who becomes Grallon. Hardrada died at Stamford Bridge in 1066 but he was historical.

Often, a legendary figure has a life that is, to quote Aycharaych, "complete," which means that he has died:

Odin and Thor, Ragnarok;
King Arthur, a last battle;
Robin Hood, the shooting of the last arrow;
Davy Crockett, the Alamo.

(Odin and Thor will die but, in the Prose Edda, the story is complete.)

What happened to Arthur and how might Anderson have written it?

"Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say that it shall be so, but rather I will say, here in this world he changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: HIC IACET ARTHURUS, REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS."
-Sir Thomas Malory, The Death of King Arthur (Penguin, London, 1995), p. 27.

And blow me down if CS Lewis doesn't identify that "other place," telling us exactly where Arthur is now:

"'The ring of the King...is on Arthur's finger where he sits in the House of Kings in the cup-shaped land of Abhalljin, beyond the seas of Lur in Perelandra. For Arthur did not die; but Our Lord took him, to be in the body till the end of time and the shattering of Sulva, with Enoch and Elias and Moses and Melchisedec the King. Melchisedec is he in whose hall the steep-stoned ring sparkles on the forefinger of the Pendragon.'"
-CS Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (Pan Books, London, 1990), p. 635.

Sulva and Perelandra are the Solar names for the Moon and Venus, respectively - very far removed from the scientifically accurate Moon and Venus of Anderson's hard sf. However, Anderson could have matched Lewis' fantasy about Arthur. Parallel universes where magic works are also encompassed in Anderson's canon.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I tried to leave a comment here last night, but my computer was balky and slow. Here's a second attempt!

    We do have some idea of how Poul Anderson might have handled the "matter of Britain" from reading his A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST. In that book we see King Arthur, his knights, and the monks of Glastonbury Abbey rising or appearing, to assist Prince Rupert in the battle against Cromwell and his fellow rebels.

    And, don't forget the legends about the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. He too is said to have not truly died, but to have been mysteriously taken away for safekeeping. And Frederick I would return again the hour of the Empire or Germany's greatest need.

    And, of course, there is Poul Anderson's THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS, giving us some idea of how handled the Carolingian legends. Using the legendary Holger Danske, a devoted vassal of Charlemagne to be the origin of Holger Carlsen. According to THREE HEARTS, the legends say Holger will appear in the hour of France or the Empire's need.

    Sean

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