Comments on Arthur B's Three Lions On the Shield

If you're interested in core texts that have influenced almost all modern fantasy novels since the 1950s, Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson is where it's at. If you just want a good story, it's OK but not a lot more than OK.

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http://goldenpigsy.blogspot.com/ at 04:28 on 2011-02-15
I really like Three Hearts and Three Lions, but I admit that my only problem with it was the 50's era sexism.

Gene Wolfe references it in The Wizard Knight, which initially piqued my interest. I can't help but think that Anderson intended it as more than a simple adventure story. I assumed that he meant it as challenge to the reader to view him or herself (more likely himself, considering when he wrote the story, and for whom) as the heir to western civilization and the order it created, and a protector of it. Though I can understand the antipathy of those who don't subscribe to his view of paganism and other non-christian beliefs. Holger at least seems to me to represent an insert for the contemporary reader (Wolfe's Able is the quite the same, in that sense).

Poul Anderson, was, I believe, an agnostic, though his views certainly skew towards a rather conservative worldview. I wonder how much the serialization of the story lent towards the flaws, as the writer of this review sees them. Or maybe my bias informs my reading of the text; I reccomend it to practically everybody I meat who expresses an unqualified interest in the genre.

Apologies for spelling/grammar/etc. I'm drunk.
Arthur B at 08:23 on 2011-02-15
I assumed that he meant it as challenge to the reader to view him or herself (more likely himself, considering when he wrote the story, and for whom) as the heir to western civilization and the order it created, and a protector of it.

I think this is definitely possible (and I definitely buy the idea that Holger is a stand-in for the reader), and it's obviously something which is going to look a lot worse to a modern reader who's reading it at a time when western civilisation is the biggest bully in the playground than to someone who read it when it came out, when the Soviet system appeared to present a credible rival to the US-led western powers and the oppressive nature of the Warsaw Pact governments was all too obvious.

I suspect that if Anderson were writing after Vietnam and Watergate the story would be very different; perhaps Chaos would also be manifesting in corruption at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, or would be inspiring knights with dangerous ideas about the supremacy of Christendom and manifest destiny. Again, to be fair to Anderson he does say that the wars between Christendom and the Muslim world were Chaos-inspired follies that shouldn't have happened, so he's not blithely dismissive of other cultures here, but I still think that if he'd been writing a bit later he'd have made more of that.
Robinson L at 20:00 on 2011-03-30
Under Anderson's definition, Law is not blind submission to human authority (politically speaking the man tended to wards libertarianism), but it is a philosophical position of mutual respect for all nations and cultures ... Chaos is that force which pits humans against each other and fans irrational, xenophobic hatreds and disputes.

Interesting. It sounds like Anderson's definitions are very different from the Law versus Chaos axis presently in fashion.

From the sounds of it, Anderson's Law and Chaos are just Good and Evil with the serials numbers filed off. (Maybe that was overly glib - I'll accept there are some modifications, but that seems to be the gist of it.) Whereas in the present geek vernacular, Law seems to be associated with a fierce loyalty to authority (whether that authority stems ultimately from humanity or some higher power or powers), whereas Chaos is associated with decentralization and rebellion against authority; either of which can be good, evil, or neutral, depending on how you play it? Any idea where this paradigm shift as regards to Law vs. Chaos came about?
Arthur B at 22:22 on 2011-03-30
Moorcock started the process - it's explicit in his stories that a world ruled absolutely by Law would become as stagnant and lifeless as one in which Chaos reigned. Arguably, it was Gary Gygax who finished it when in designing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons he shifted the alignment system from a simple Law-Neutral-Chaos axis (as it was in non-advanced D&D) to a two-axis system with Law/Chaos on one axis and Good/Evil on the other. The subsequent ubiquity of ideas and concepts of D&D in the fantasy genre which arose from the RPG boom of the late 1970s/early 1980s pretty much sealed the deal.

That said, Games Workshop is arguably reversing the process. Law as a feature of the Warhammer cosmology was quietly dropped a while ago, and was never really present in Warhammer 40,000. And Chaos is invariably a dangerous and corrupting force which is inherently hostile not just to the culture of the Imperium but pretty much any culture which isn't crafted to be the plaything of laughing gods.
Ashimbabbar at 23:49 on 2017-07-15
The "Chaos=Evil+Weird" school was maintained by the Runequest universe though ( 1st ed of the rpg was 1978, but it was based on a cycle of earlier novels ).

As to Anderson, he also wrote a novel ( expanded from a short story ) "Operation Chaos" in a universe where magic is the equivalent of our technology, and Chaos is the tool of demons.

On the other hand, he wrote another novel "The Merman's children" where the extension of God's power wipes out the faery realm gradually, but here it's seen as a sad thing and the hero,a half-human half-merman hybrid, refuses to bow to it ( there's far more to it than that, but it's what relevant to this theme )


Arthur B at 00:15 on 2017-07-17
The "Chaos=Evil+Weird" school was maintained by the Runequest universe though ( 1st ed of the rpg was 1978, but it was based on a cycle of earlier novels ).
...no, not really. Greg Stafford was developing the Glorantha setting since the 1960s, it's true, but he's only ever completed one novel in it (King of Sartar) and that greatly postdates RuneQuest. RuneQuest was preceded by a couple of boardgames, but even taking those into account no Gloranthan material actually hid a wider audience until comfortably after D&D came out, so it didn't really have any impact on the wider audience's view of the Law vs. Chaos thing prior to D&D doing its thing, and greatly postdated most of Moorcock's main work on the subject.
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