"annis" wrote:I just recently read Poul Anderson's "Golden Slave", which is another straight historical swashbuckler (Like "Rogue Sword"). This one is about the Cimbri or Cimbrians, a Nordic tribe forced from their homeland by terrible weather and bad harvests into Europe, where they wandered south on a lengthy migration until they ran into the the edges of Republican Roman territory. They clashed sporadically with the Romans until they were virtually wiped out in the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC. As you go on you realise that PA is creating a possible origin for the legends of the Norse gods Odin and Thor. Lots of interesting stuff, presented in the guise of historical adventure.
So even his straight HF plays with myth and legend and the favourite theme of many Norse sagas- the hero who has to work through the tragic consequences of bad choices and/or fate. (Of course, the bad choices can also be the result of fate.)
Golden Slave sounds like another that I should look out for - thanks!
I always thought of Tolkien's Middle-Earth as intended to be not another world, but as our world in a very very distant past. That brings it more into line with the settings of myths and legends, like Beowulf or the Mabinogion or the Norse myths. Tolkien even says this playfully in The Hobbit, something like "...long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was more green and less noise..." and "...hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy...".
It's interesting that you mention that Poul Anderson is creating a possible origin for the Norse gods in his fiction. One of Tolkien's letters (I think) says that he was doing something similar in his novels, the example I remember was that he wanted readers to see a possible 'origin' for Sleeping Beauty in Aragorn's healing of Eowyn. (Terry Pratchett plays with this sort of theme in bravura style in Witches Abroad). Perhaps there's a deep-seated idea that myths/legends/fairytales must have come from somewhere, and an attraction to imagining what that somewhere might have been.
For what it's worth, my working definition of historical fantasy is that it's a story set in a real historical setting and/or with real historical figures, but involving magic and/or mythical beasts that really exist within the world of the novel and are not just in the characters' imaginations. E.g. a story about William of Normandy capturing a dragon and bringing it to Hastings to kill King Harold in 1066.