Tuesday, 28 June 2016

In The Hall Of The Mountain King, Whether On Earth Or On Merseia

The hall of troll-king Illrede:

in a mountain cave;
hewn out of rock;
stolen gems and tapestries on the walls;
expensive goblets and cloths on ebony and ivory tables;
fires burning down the length;
rich garments on troll lords and ladies;
elf, dwarf and goblin thralls carrying trenchers of human, Faerie and animal meat and cups of southern wine;
snarling music;
smoky air;
ruddy light;
guards, "...moveless as heathen idols...," (The Broken Sword, p. 64) with glinting spears;
gobbling, guzzling, quarrelling trolls;
a thunderous din;
quiet lords in carven seats;
Illrede, fat and wrinkled, with long green tendrils for a beard and wearing a gold crown.

Colorful, barbaric and vividly imagined. Since trolls are large, green, humanoid and hostile, comparisons with Poul Anderson's alien Merseians are inevitable. In the audience chamber of Castle Afon:

"The mask helmets on suits of armor grinned like demons. The pattern of faded tapestries and rustling battle banners held no human symbology. For this was Old Wilwidh, before the machine came to impose universal sameness. It was the well-spring of Merseia. You had to see a place like this if you would understand, in your bones, that Merseains would never be kin to you." (Young Flandry, p. 141)


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I certainly agree that Anderson's description of the trolls and King Illrede's hall was "colorful, barbaric, and vividly imagined." And I had never thought before of comparing the trolls to Merseians. However, I have to say I don't really think Merseians can fairly be likened to the trolls--the former people was far more civilized, after all! Also, Merseians don't truly look like the trolls.

Regretfully, you made a mistake in the quote from Chapter XIV of ENSIGN FLANDRY. The correct text is: "For this was Old Wilwidh, before the machine came to impose universal [not HUMAN] sameness."


Paul Shackley said...

Thank you for the correction.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Anytime! Also, it would have been a serious mistake for Anderson to have said modern technology imposed HUMAN sameness on Merseia. I don't think any self respecting intelligent race would have so slavishly copied the ways of another intelligent species.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, when King Illrede (an ominous name, that) got back his daughter, whom Imric raped to sire Valgard the changeling, he wept at how she'd been hurt. Large, green, and hostile -- but they're still PEOPLE.

There's a line in a Japanese work, where a man who's been spying in a realm of "demons" reports to his superior that the so-called demons are NOT creatures of exclusive evil, but "beings with souls." Thinking of Illrede's tears reminded me of that.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Well, "Illrede" certainly seems an appropriate name for a troll!

Yes, I remember the passages in THE BROKEN SWORD about Illrede's daughter and how Imric kept her captive to rape for making changelings over several centuries. Illrede's fatherly devotion to his daughter and his grief for her madness certainly shows us that however uncouth and even nasty trolls were, they were still people.

Even Valgard the Changeling (ironically enough, Illrede's grandson), reveals to us several occasions that there was something better in him than a lust for vengeance and bloodshed.