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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Surrender None, by Elizabeth Moon

I have posted previously on Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion. (See also here)

Moon subsequently wrote two prequels. The Legacy of Gird (New York: Baen, 1996) includes both of them, Surrender None (1990) and Liar's Oath (1992). As indicated in the previous post, the religious framework of Moon's fantastic world is complex, and I don't claim to understand it. This book tells us about the earthly life of a man who became a deity (or saint ?) in Moon's sub-creation.

Gird is the patron saint, more or less, of an order of soldiers who fight for justice and good. Throughout most of The Deed, Paksenarrion calls on Gird, to give her moral strength for various problems she faces, and she is usually answered, by Gird, or some other supernatural power.

Gird begins his adult life when scarcely a teenager. He joins the local ruler's army, and takes training. However, before he has been a soldier for very long, he sees his ruler cruelly punish one of his contemporaries, and runs away. He joins, and becomes the leader, of peasants fighting against oppression.

This rebellion is against the Aarean aristocrats who rule the land. Some of these, but not many, are good and just. Most are not. There are taxes and fees for everything. These aristocrats are foreigners, who came to the land from another one. They are referred to as mageborn. Many of them can perform various deeds of magic, which include making light, putting subordinates under a spell, and manipulating natural objects, even a small river. Gird has ideas for organization, hygiene, agriculture and strategy. He is a great leader. He, and Moon, are concerned with housing, food supply and latrine placement, which are usually not considered much, if any, in sword and sorcery novels. Gird's army includes some females, including his own daughter. The system of bartons (small local groups of farmer-soldiers that train together) granges (larger groups) and Marshalls, found in the order of Gird in The Deed, all have their origin in Surrender None.

Gird doesn't know everything, of course. He spends several months with the goblins, a dwarf-like (Moon's subcreation also has dwarves, similar to Tolkien's) race living mostly underground. They teach Gird strategy, and, especially, law. They believe in the importance of just law, and Gird sees that, if the Aareans are replaced, something better must come after their rule.

Like Paksenarrion, Gird feels some sort of divine call. Also like Paksenarrion, he gets a horse, which, it is obvious, is not just a horse.

Luap is introduced in the first of these prequels. He is a bastard of an Aarean, cast out to live among the ordinary peasants. He has considerable knowledge of court ways, and, unlike most peasants, can write and calculate. He becomes indispensable to Gird, and to his movement, serving as its Archivist.

I looked for a Christ-figure in this book, not really sure I would find one. Gird becomes one, in that he dies, under the power of some spirit/god/something, so that the enmity between the peasants and the mage-born, may be destroyed, at least temporarily. Here's part of the critical passage from the book, as Gird, in some kind of trance or vision, speaks to a mob:

The words were strange to mouth and ear, but he knew what they meant, and so, somehow, did his hearers. Peace, joy, justice, love, each without loss of the others, engaged in some intricate and ceremonial dance. More and more the dark cloud lifted, as if his words were sunlight burning it away. Yet they were not his words, as he well knew. Out of his mouth, through his mind, had come Alyanya's peace, the high Lord's justice, Sertig's power of Making, and Adyan's naming: these powers loosed scoured the fear away. Chapter 32, pp. 424-5.

After this defusing of a mob, about to severely injure or kill a mage-born child, simply because he is mageborn, Gird dies. His death is not from illness, but from being spent to eradicate evil in others. Although the enmity between the mage-born and ordinary people is temporarily quenched, it is not eradicated.

See this post for a more general discussion of Christ-figures, and what makes a novel Christian.

I found this part of Moon's prequel to be interesting and well-written, with considerable attention to moral issues, like The Deed. As in The Deed, Moon's many gods, or god-like beings, are confusing.

My post on the sequel to this book, Liar's Oath, is here.

Thanks for reading.

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