Saturday, 18 June 2016


When a familiar story is retold, we compare versions which can even comment on earlier versions, eg.:

Greek drama retold myths;
pantomimes retell fairy tales;
a superhero retells the character's origin story.

In one Greek tragedy, a character recognized her returning brother by a garment he was wearing. In a later version, she asked herself whether she would recognize him by his garments, then reflected that he would not be wearing the same clothes after years abroad! (Audience laugh.)

In Hrolf Kraki's Saga, Poul Anderson summarizes the story of Beowulf:

"...Grendel...entered the new hall at night and grabbed men for his food.
"In England they say this went on for twelve years. The Danes call that unlikely. Would not a warrior like Helgi have rid his brother of woe? Suppose, instead, Hroar built Hart soon after..."
-Poul Anderson, Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), p. 65.

We are invited to "Suppose, instead,..." The story is being re-presented to iron out an inconsistency. "...Grendel shambled forth..." (ibid.) shortly after Helgi had departed on what became a three year voyage. Grendel devastated the hall for three, not twelve, years, then Helgi returned shortly after Beowulf had killed Grendel and departed. That all fits together much better.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I finally started rereading Anderson's WAR OF THE GODS. Only on the second chapter so far, but it's reading better than I had expected! I was letting memories of how I thought the book was too imitative of the Eddaic sources make me overlook how well Poul Anderson could write.

I have two translations of BEOWULF, one by Burton Raffel and the version by JRR Tolkien. I plan to finally, at long last, start reading the latter translation.

I've also been reading Gregory Benford and Larry Niven's BOWL OF HEAVEN. I like that it's a hard SF novel--but wish it had more of the color, drama, LIFE both Poul Anderson and S.M. Stirling could bring to their books.

BOWL reminded me as well of Anderson's TAU ZERO, since it too used a ram scoop space ship as a STL means of reaching the stars. I'm puzzled, however, over how BOWL does not use relativistic time differences as one means for a crew to reach other stars without aging too much while TAU ZERO does. Instead, cryonics and suspended animation is used, and I'm not sure how plausible that is.