The High Crusade Critical Essays

Poul Anderson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The outer frame of this story places the reader in the position of the man who is about to meet with an aggressive alien invasionary force. The irony is that this potential enemy is an accidentally exiled fragment of humanity taken from the medieval past. Although the cultural development of the homecoming English has been influenced by contact with other alien species, they have retained the essential patterns from their past, specifically the concepts of crusade, Christian religion (or at least the Catholic churchs administrative structure), and the heroic quest for adventure. Because of such anachronisms, the meeting of the English with the future Earth is one of vastly differing societies. By the time the English rediscover their home world, they have only a memorial interest in it. This outer frame provides a satisfying closure, and though separate from the events within the main plot, it seems a reasonable extrapolation from that inner story.

Within the outer frame, the narrative progresses partly as a record of events, roughly a chronicle. The narrative persona of Brother Parvus influences the tale by subjective moral and ethical biases. Nevertheless, he attempts to tell a tale as truthfully as possible and begs excuse when he must provide fictive reconstructions of conversations and events that he could not have observed directly. His humility smacks of Chaucerian disingenuousness and provides snatches of humor throughout the story, for example,...

(The entire section is 526 words.)