Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Half-World

Bjarki has become a were-bear:

"Half outside the world of men, he was half into the Half-World." (Hrolf Kraki's Saga, pp. 152-153)

But what is the Half-World? Poul Anderson also uses the phrase in Operation Luna - and maybe in other texts? I googled, expecting that I would find a Wiki article explaining that "Half-World" means the supernatural but I didn't. Is Anderson's use of this phrase peculiar to him?

It suggests a realm of entities with questionable ontological status, maybe an imperfect copy of the real world? Do elves exist only as we collectively imagine them? Only when seen? Or only at night? Have they faded away, thus explaining why they are no longer seen? Can they be conjured back into a quasi-existence by some arcane means? Why am I speculating about this at this time of night?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I can see why you, and others, might speculate about terms like "half world." It's very suggestive, tantalizing, evocative!

I think we can get some idea of what "half world" might mean by comparing Anderson's use of the term to Tolkien's use of something very similar in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, after the Witch King of Angmar stabbed Frodo with a Morgul knife on Weathertop. As Gandalf later explained to Frodo the shard from the ensorceled blade was gradually making him more and more a part of the world of the Nazgul. If Elrond had not removed the shard before it reached Frodo's heart he would have become entirely like the Nazgul, except weaker and under their domination.

So, "half world" can mean worlds other than the one inhabited by men, the world of Faerie and magic. And, in THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS this takes a more concrete form as a kind of twilight.