(urth) Able's love

Roy C. Lackey rclackey at stic.net
Thu Nov 10 22:37:40 PST 2005

When Old One Eye appeared to Idnn, he promised her a place at his table in
Skai in exchange for her service to him. (W, 235) I should probably leave
aside the fact that she had done nothing to deserve such an honor that I can
see, unless it was to precipitate the stabbing that would lead to the death
of Gilling. Such are the whims of gods. In any event, he told her, "I let
him [Able] return that he might regain his only love. Help him, Queen Idnn."

A few pages later, Mani gave his little lecture on Lost Love. (238-39)

At the end of the book, Odin asks Able if he is ready to return to Skai.
Able is speechless, so Etela speaks for him, "He's afraid she [Disiri] won't
come with him." Odin responds, "She would not, child." [. . .] "She cannot."
He then goes on to demonstrate that Disiri is nothing but animated debris,
and tells Able to pick one or the other, Skai or her. Able makes his choice,
giving Disiri enough of his blood to render her, apparently, completely
human. Odin disappears, and with him goes Able's chance of ever returning to

This brings me to my point. Odin's choice of words implies that Disiri
"would not" have *chosen* to go with Able to Skai, even had such a thing
been possible. I'm not sure why she would not have wanted to go to Skai,
unless it was because, in the style of Lucifer, she would rather rule as a
queen in a nether world than exist as just another pretty face in an upper
world, probably sitting below the salt. Be that as it may, it's Odin's other
pronouncement that puzzles me more.

"She cannot" suggests that there is some sort of immutable, categorical
prohibition against Disiri and/or her kind that would keep her out of Skai.
*Cannot*, rather than *may not*. There is a running gag in the story
involving people correcting one another's usage of may and can, and I think
that Able's name is sometimes used in an ambiguous way. Anyway, if it is
true that Disiri *cannot* go with Able to Skai, I don't see that it matters
that she *may not* have wanted to go, and if Odin spoke the truth to Idnn,
what was his point in letting Able return to Mythgarthr?

It is true that Able was somewhat melancholy among the diversions of Skai;
presumably he moped for want of Disiri, but, even so, how was letting him go
back to her a remedy, from Odin's point of view? Did he expect Able to get
over her, to get her out of his system, so to speak? Was Able's career in
the second book incidental to what amounted to a vacation for a god,
slumming in the pleasures of the lower worlds?

Or have I misunderstood Odin entirely? Is it possible that "regain his only
love" referred to something other than Disiri? What did Idnn ever do that
furthered Able's pursuit of his fairy lover? Then there is Mani's speech and
Able's actual experience with the Room of Lost Love. And, at the end, even
though Able turned his back on Skai, it seems he will be given a position in
a still higher realm than Skai; his last words to Odin being "I am not
Able." And he both can and may take his woman with him.

Somehow, it just doesn't seem fair.


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