Friday, April 13, 2012

What is Mercurial about Hills and Mountains?

Well, first, why do I ask the question? Horse and His Boy is, according to Ward supposed to be the Mercury story. OK, then mountains have a lot to say in that book. Shasta is a mountain in the US, Aravis is a mountain range in France, Bree (as anyone knowledgable about Tolkien's LotR and its philological background will know) means hill in British. It is on a mountain range that Shasta meets and speaks to Aslan. Tashbaan is a hill - like Mont St Michel - and also an island between dividing and reuniting river arms, like Île de la Cité in Paris. And quite a lot of things happen there. Is there anything "hilly" or mountainous about Hwin? I came to think of Hven, an island between present day Sweden and Denmark, between Scania and Zeeland, where Tycho Brahe observed the stars (meaning he used it as Babylonians used fake hills called ziggurats, as observatories). And there is this two headed giant turned into a two piked mountain. But what is mercurial about this?

Go tell it on the Mountain,
over the Hills and Everywhere ...

But even before reflecting on second line, I searched for hills in the Psalms. Here is what I found:

I have cried to the Lord with my voice:
and he hath heard me from his holy hill.

And this is from Psalm III. Now, there are similarities between Absalom and Rabadash, notably both being sons of polygamous rulers, and both besetting someone who in a way reminds of Our Lord's anguish. In one case his own father. In another case Queen Susan. And each gets caught "on a hook", so to speak - with his hair or with his cloathes. Some reflections about the less than examplary Christian charity prevalent at King David's court in that particular moment may have become part and parcel of what we read much more cynically between Tisroc and Rabadash. On the other hand Rabadash got an easier deal than Absalon, in the end.

But between Mercury and mountains in Pagan myths? Well, here is French wikipedia on him:

Mercure est le fils de Jupiter et de la nymphe Maïa, fille de Atlas.

OK, if mythological Mercury is grandson of a mountain (Atlas), then the mountain and hill imagery in HHB someone fit. Even from a Pagan viewpoint.

H G Lundahl
day after previous article.


Hans Georg Lundahl said...

It may be added that the "tombs of the kings" remind of such behind Upsala, and that Tisrocs like Yngling Kings descend from gods - Tash and Odin.

Now, Odin is, in equivalents of classical mythology, not Jupiter, despite being king of the Gods, but Mercury. And both Odin and Tash recieve human sacrifice.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Also, part of the Yngling history of Upsala is quite as treacherous as Tashbaan.

Mercury is also the god of deception in Classical Mythology.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

One could even say that Tash, not quite unliked Sauron, is, as opposed to Gandalf, a black side of Odin.

Odin is in a way the god of carrion fowl gathering after battle - and Tash is both bird and carrion in one. If Odin and Sauron are one-eyed, then Tash like a bird, looks with only one eye at a time at anything. But it is finally not here but in the Last Battle that demon makes its appearance.

But this is of course not the end to parallels with The Lord of the Rings - even in this book. We have Pippin about as good a horseman to start with as Shasta, we have a resonance between Arwen and Aravis, we have Anvard rescued by arrival of an ally, as much as Minas Tirith (but Anvard is closer to Edoras, and Minas Tirith has the same topography by and large as Tashbaan) we have the pool of the Hermit serving as combination of Palantir and Galadriel's Mirror ...