Atlántida – Or, The Converging Of Modern Medievalism And The Legend Of Atlantis, Part 4

This is the fourth and final blogpost in a series concerned with the application of the Atlantis myth in Ricard Ferrándiz' story Atlántida, a volume in the series El Capitán Trueno.

For the previous installments, see part one, part two, and part three.

Final remarks           

Atlántida has been my first proper encounter with the storyworld of Capitán Trueno, and I decided to begin with this lately composed volume solely because it contains an Atlantis fantasy set in the Middle Ages, a rare bird among the innumerable versions of the Atlantis story in modern narrative culture. Due to my interest in the reception of the Atlantis myth, and since I am a medievalist by profession, I have particularly enjoyed how Ricard Ferrándiz has followed certain tropes from the cultural history of Atlantis, while added some details that I have not seen elsewhere.         

The geographical setting of the fabled continent in the subtropical Atlantic Ocean, the temporal setting of pre-cataclysmic Atlantis in the early classical era, the blend of Egyptian and Greek culture visible in costumes, architecture and names, the high technological level of the empire, the subterranean survival following the cataclysm, and the existence of a mirror image in the shape of a technologically backwards culture, all these are common elements found in several of the fantasies spun around the Atlantis myth. There are, however, elements that are, if not entirely novel then at least found only infrequently in other Atlantis fantasies, and which make Ferrándiz’ Atlántidaparticularly interesting to a reader like me. One such element is the setting of the story in the Middle Ages, more specifically towards the end of the twelfth century. In those cases where the Atlantean culture has survived until the contemporary setting of the story in question, it follows, as that contemporary setting tends to be modern, that Atlantis has also continued through the medieval period, but typically without any contact with people of that time, skipping the Middle Ages altogether. In this way, Atlántidamanages to blend a familiar trope with an unfamiliar temporal setting, namely that the final demise of the surviving Atlantean culture – which is the common trope – does not come about in the modern era after centuries of slumber, but instead takes place in the twelfth century, an unfamiliar temporal setting.       

Moreover, one further element that I found very refreshing as a medievalist was that the Atlantean culture is not depicted as impossibly further ahead than the cultures of the story’s temporal setting. Granted, it is a culture that has learned to manufacture explosives of a much more stable quality than any medieval culture can boast of, but since gunpowder can be made without any modern technologies, and since gunpowder even antedates the medieval period, this technological innovation does not seem too far-fetched in twelfth century Atlantis. There are, however, further innovations that appear to be even more sinister, as suggested by the codex containing knowledge for which the world is not ready, according to Djad-dze. But of what this knowledge consists is left unanswered, and might possibly become a good sequel to Atlántidasometime. Aside from the explosives, the most tangible evidence of the Atlantean technology is the codex, which makes Atlantis both further ahead than its pre-cataclysm contemporaries and also on a level very similar to that of the twelfth-century contemporaries of the last surviving Atlantean. That technological advancement can be demonstrated in such a clear, yet plausible way is not common in an Atlantis fantasy, and it is undeniably refreshing.     

All in all, Atlántida is a very welcome addition to the library of Atlantis fantasies, and I hope that it might serve to bring about further fantasies involving the Atlantis myth set in the Middle Ages. I am also very happy that Ferrándiz has brought the Norse world into contact with the Atlantis myth, something which only rarely happens, such as in the case of the Thorgalseries, the Captain Newfoundland comic strip, and in the prologue of the animated Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), both of which involve Vikings. In Atlántida, however, it is the world of twelfth-century kingdoms, a time when the closest link between the Norse culture and Atlantis is a brief reference lifted, albeit most likely second hand, from Timaios found in the Latin chronicle Historia antiquitate regum norwagiensum (History of the old Norwegian kings), authored by Theodoricus Monk and probably written in Trondheim around 1180. This particular medievalist is very happy about that.