Monday, December 13, 2010

Appendix N: Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions

Originally appearing as a 1953 novella in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Three Hearts and Three Lions would later be published as a novel in 1961. I have not read the original novella, nor am I certain as to its availability outside of a possibly expensive on-line auction; I would however, be keen to the idea.

This was actually the first of Anderson's three novels listed on Appendix N that I read. I'm not sure why I didn't write about it first, accept that I just wasn't sure exactly "what" to say about it.

I'm still not. Is it a good book? Most definitely. I read most of it on a short two hour flight, and stayed up late that very same night to finish it. It's not often I find a novel any more that is enough of a page turner to entice me to miss sleep. I like my sleep.

I wonder how much it differs from the '53 novella. While the novel is strongly in the vein of traditional fantasy, there is a definite lack of Tolkienisque influence. This isn't surprising, as the original novella appeared before tLotR and the '61 novel appeared five years before Tolkien's masterpiece was wide read in it's Ace and/or Ballentine paperback edition. I'm on record as being a fan of any work of fantasy that manages to tell a good and original story outside of imitating Tolkien. Three Hearts and Three Lions does just that.

It's influences upon Dungeons & Dragons are obvious. Anderson divides his fantasy world, that of the Holy Roman Empire on one side and Faerie on the other, into two classifications: Law and Chaos. It is easy to see that D&D's alignment system was most likely adapted from this novel. The class of Paladin may also have come from Anderson's portrayal of his main character, Holger, as well. The AD&D description of a Troll is almost word per word from Three Hearts and Three Lions.

As far as availability goes, I easily tracked down a copy at a local used book store. A quick search on Amazon turned up many copies available as well. As always though, I encourage the patronage of your local non-big-box stores.

I put off writing about this novel as I felt I should say more then "loved it", but honestly, I can't think of any thing new that hasn't all ready been said. Highly recommended.

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