The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Notes on the history of Averoigne

Clark Ashton Smith wrote eleven Averoigne tales, covering several centuries. They parallel events in the real France of mainly AD 1130-1550. So anyone looking for ideas on stories set there should also be looking into the mediaeval history of France as a whole. For now I'm interested in the twelfth century, where Smith starts.

For this para-historical province up to the eleventh century, one early outside view comes to us from contemporary author HP Lovecraft. Smith was in regular correspondence with the man from Providence, whose analytical and critical mind had proven of great help to Smith’s craft. Lovecraft’s backstory for Averoigne is characteristically horrific. More so, I think, than Smith’s published Averoigne tales had allowed for it. For instance I do not see the “diabolism” in the Church hierarchy, except for bishop Azédarac who is noted as an outsider. If anything Smith despises the Church's impotence. But the backstory would fit what remains of Smith’s “The Oracle of Sadoqua”; Lovecraft may have gotten some wind of this in 1937, just before he died and Smith pretty much quit writing.

As for Averoigne’s twelfth century, this much the other authors left to Smith. Who is no longer around to tell us much. But for that century's first decades, Smith left enough clues that we may reconstruct secular events.

Looking to the Mediterranean, Averoigne seems not to have contributed significantly to the Crusades. Also Smith rarely tells us of a King outside his chosen province, even during the Hundred Years War. Lovecraft (I know, he's not Smith) had filled the land’s hinterland with para-Basques, the Averones. So Averoigne was probably like the historic Auvergne: following Aquitaine’s lead, which duchy in turn aligned with Normandy, Burgundy, and England. At home 1100-35 was instead a generation of internal consolidation. Note that at this time, there was - still - no "France": Louis VII ruled his lands as "king of the Franks" which excluded, for a start, the Burgundians.

The ruin at Ylourgne was aforetime a site of robber-barons, certainly the last remnant of the pre-Roman if not pre-Celtic Averones. When we first enter Ylourgne in the 1280s, the region hosts instead a monastery. This monastery is Cistercian, so cannot have been built before 1100. Since besides “Colossus” the barons of Ylourgne make no impact upon any of Smith’s stories, these men were probably gone already when Vyônes came into its own. I suggest for a sequence of events: The lord of La Frenaie crushed the barons early in the 1100s and declared himself count. The Cisterians swiftly established a monastery at Ylourgne. As the lands settled down, the Pope agreed that Vyônes would do for an archbishop’s seat, between Ylourgne and the count.

As of the late twelfth century, Bishop Azédarac assuredly had some dealings with the Cathars, whom in 1179 the Third Lateran in our world would condemn. (I note in "Holiness" that the bishop did not have the thief Ambrose killed.) But in his parallel-Earth, Smith and I cannot guarantee that the Cathars had a presence in la Provence. The bishop had an access to parallel worlds which more mundane priests and even sorcerers might not.

UPDATE: Maybe it's not Auvergne.

posted by Zimri on 16:43 | link | 0 comments

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