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Literature / The Mayors

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Ruler by divine right, King Lepold in his floating throne at court.

THE FOUR KINGDOMS— The name given to those portions of the Province of Anacreon which broke away from the First Empire in the early years of the Foundational Era to form independent and short-lived kingdoms. The largest and most powerful of these was Anacreon itself which in area...
ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA, 116th edition, published in 1020 F.E.

First published in Astounding Science Fiction (June 1942 issue), by Isaac Asimov, under the name "Bridle and Saddle", and published concurrently in the UK's version of Astounding. This Science Fiction Novelette is the second work published in his overall Foundation Series.

Mayor Salvor Hardin, and his advisor, Yohan Lee, have an appointment with Sef Sermak and three of his notable supporters. They represent a population of Terminus that is dissatisfied with the Foundation's sycophantic appeasement of the Four Kingdoms. They believe that Terminus needs to become a military power so that it can defend itself against aggression by the Four Kingdoms. Mayor Hardin gives a superficial explanation of why setting the kingdoms against each other has provided an equilibrium. Unpersuaded, Sermak argues that Terminus needs to strike now, before one kingdom becomes powerful enough to conquer Terminus and the other three kingdoms. After Sermak and his associates are dismissed, Lee scolds Hardin for keeping too many secrets, since he knows Hardin has a plan to keep Terminus safe, but he hasn't revealed what it is.

Mayor Hardin's next appointment is with High Priest (and ambassador) Poly Verisof who snuck onto Terminus through the expedient of taking off his robes and travelling like an average citizen. He provides Mayor Hardin (and the audience) with the Back Story. Hardin has given the Four Kingdoms their technology, disguised as a religion, of which he is the chief priest and Terminus is the holy city. Priests run nuclear reactors all over the Four Kingdoms, and everything is explained to them as holy manifestations of the "Galactic Spirit". The kings of the Four Kingdoms willingly accepted this religion, since with it came legitimacy through the Divine Right of Kings, and it has been zealously adopted by the general public. The strongest of these kingdoms is Anacreon, ruled by the teenage King Lepold, who will come of age in February. For now, his uncle, the Prince Regent Wienis is in charge. The royal family enjoys hunting for sport, although the previous king died in a Hunting "Accident". A suspicious accident.

Verisof has information that Sermak did not — Anacreon has discovered a derelict Imperial battle cruiser. Restored to full strength, the single ship would be more than a match for the entire navy of any of the Four Kingdoms. Anacreon wants the Foundation to restore it for them, whereas Foundation scientists want the ship for research. The balance of power, therefore, is about to tilt: if the Foundation keeps the ship, Anacreon (and likely the other three kingdoms) will see it as a hostile act and attack, and their only alternative is handing Anacreon a weapon so potent that it will no longer need to fear the other three kingdoms and will then turn around and use that weapon on the Foundation. The two discuss what Seldon must have been planning, and Hardin admits that he's figured out that one of the key parts to psychohistory was that the people whose actions are being predicted can't know what the prediction is. Mayor Hardin tells Verisof that they'll restore the cruiser and return it to Anacreon, and reveals his plan to be on Anacreon when they decide to attack.

The next scene change shows us events on Anacreon, and the dynamics between uncle and nephew. Prince Regent Wienis explains why Terminus is dangerous to Anacreon, and why it is important that they conquer it. At this point, the stage is set for why Terminus is facing internal conflict and a military threat from Anacreon.

Hardin arrives to Anacreon just in time to attend the ceremony where Lepold will be crowned as King due to his majority, and Wienis invites him to a private meeting. While Wienis initially tries to tempt Hardin, in the end he reveals that he has sent the Anacreon fleet to attack Terminus: much to Wienis' surprise, Hardin is relatively unfazed. When the Regent demands to know why, Hardin tells him that he gave the order, weeks ago, to put Anacreon under interdict: at midnight, all the power plants in the planet will be shut down, depriving all of Anacreon (save for the temples) of electricity - and the priests have started to tell the population about the attack, which is considered sacrilege.

The shutdown happens as expected, and Wienis attempts to force Hardin to order the restoration of power, pointing out that the fleet is still traveling and will attack the Foundation regardless of events on Anacreon itself, but Hardin is once more one step ahead. The Anacreon Fleet's flagship is the old Imperial battlecruiser that was repaired by the Foundation's engineers, and Hardin now reveals that during the repair job they added lockout controls and a dedicated communication line to the Foundation for the head priest aboard the ship. Informed of the blasphemy they are undertaking, the flagship's priests do the same thing as in Anacreon, shutting down the ship and turning the crew of the entire fleet against Wienis, ordering that the Prince Regent be arrested and put under trial. When these demands are received at Anacreon, Wienis unsuccessfully attempts to murder Hardin, before choosing to kill himself.

The real power of the Foundation now proven, Hardin manages to wrangle the Four Kingdoms into new treaties that give the Foundation much more power over them than ever, securing the Four Kingdoms. When he finally arrives back on Terminus, he witnesses the second hologram Hari Seldon created, which indicates that the strategy Hardin used was the expected, but there is also a warning that the Foundation will not be able to use this power forever and that they must find ways to get on top of everything.

"The Mayors" was reprinted in Foundation (1951), the compilation of the first four stories, as well as The 1,000 Year Plan, the compilation of the first three stories. It was also republished in Men Against The Stars (1950), Astounding Stories: The 60th Anniversary Collection (Vol. 2) (1990), and The Folio Science Fiction Anthology (2016).

"The Mayors" provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Salvor Hardin knows enough of psychohistory (what little he could learn from the only person who knew anything about it in Terminus) to point out that the actual predictive power behind the math is based on people not knowing about them.
  • All According to Plan: Hari Seldon appears on the Foundation's 80th anniversary to announce that, if all has gone according to plan, Terminus is now using the Spiritual Power against the military of the neighboring barbarian kingdoms. However, he warns that this is merely a new Balance of Power, similar to what was used thirty years ago. Terminus will have to abandon their false religion in order to expand into the rest of the galaxy.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Sermak and Bort discuss the accident in the Thessalekian Temple power plant from two months ago. In the original story, it exploded and took out five city blocks with it. The updated story only describes radiation leaks contaminating the city. It had been caused by someone deliberately tampering with the controls. Concern about nuclear power plants exploding like a nuclear bomb was common in The '40s.
  • Audio Adaptation: Caedmon created an LP of this story in 1977, with Isaac Asimov as the narrator.
  • Back Story: High Priest Poly Verisof provides Mayor Hardin (and the audience) information on what happened in the past several years in the kingdom of Anacreon. Their ruler is King Lepold, who will become sixteen in February. For now, his uncle, the Prince Regent Wienis is in charge. The royal family enjoys hunting for sport, although the previous king died in a Hunting "Accident". Prince Regent Wienis has been raising the king ever since.
  • Balance of Power:
    • Hari Seldon congratulates Terminus for using the "Balance of Power" against the Four Kingdoms during the first Seldon Crisis (occurs in "The Encyclopedists") to avoid invasion. The nearby nations had gone from nuclear power to coal-powered spaceships. When Salvor Hardin, the Mayor of Terminus, tells Anacreon that Terminus retains their nuclear power, it looks like Terminus is going to get invaded for its technology. But Hardin also told the other three kingdoms, so not long after Anacreon conquered Terminus, the other three formed a coalition against them. Now none of the Four Kingdoms can invade Terminus, under threat of joint retaliation from the other three kingdoms.
    • During the second Crisis, Mayor Hardin managed to prove to the rulers of the Four Kingdoms and to the citizens of Terminus that the Scam Religion he created to distribute the technology of Terminus meant that the Foundation was now in charge of the Four Kingdoms rather than their frightened supplicant. However, Seldon warns that the new balance of power won't allow Terminus to expand very far, hinting at the next Seldon Crisis (occurring in "The Merchant Princes").
  • Beast Fable: Mayor Hardin tells Prince Regent Wienis of a story (known in Real Life as The Horse that Lost its Liberty) about a man, a horse, and a wolf. The horse was frightened of the wolf, and sought an ally against it. It approached a man who readily agreed, but to cooperate, the man asks if he can place a bridle and saddle on the horse. The horse agrees, and the two hunt down and slay the wolf. Now the horse asks the man to remove the bridle and saddle, but the man refuses. In this analogy, the Kingdom of Anacreon is represented by the horse and the Foundation is represented by the man. The Scam Religion concocted by Mayor Hardin is the bridle and saddle of the Four Kingdoms.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Discussed by the Actionist (political) Party; Sermak believes that Mayor Hardin and his firebrand defence of Terminus up until the First Seldon Crisis means that he would've wholeheartedly supported their policies during the Second Seldon Crisis, but the intervening thirty years has made him a coward. However, Mayor Hardin is actually doing the same sort of underhanded manipulation of his enemies and public opinion that he did during the First Crisis.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: The disparity of technological development between Terminus and their neighbors leads to the Four Kingdoms being unable to comprehend the science of the Foundation. So Mayor Hardin Inverts their ignorance by establishing a Scam Religion for their neighbors to accept (because they already saw it as sorcery).
  • Beneath Notice: When the ambassador to Anacreon (who is also the High Priest of the Anacreon Church) needs to return to Terminus, he changes into civilian clothing, buys a ticket on a passenger liner and spends the trip pleasantly talking with fellow travelers. Having returned to Terminus, he buys a newspaper, does some reading in the park, and calls city hall from a public phone booth. In all this time, he does absolutely nothing to avoid suspicion or hide his activities, so nobody gives him a second look.
    "It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety."Mayor Salvor Hardin
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: At the climax, Prince Regent Wienis turns his blaster on himself and commits suicide rather than allow himself to be subjected to a religious trial for trying to attack the "holy planet" of Terminus, and also because he can't kill a force-shielded Salvor Hardin with the gun either.
  • Cargo Cult: The priest of the Foundation's "religion of science" have only a superficial understanding of the Foundation's technology. This religion was created by the scientists of Terminus for the neighboring kingdoms without explaining the scientific principles behind the equipment. It was the most convenient way to spread atomic technology to the Four Kingdoms who have regressed into barbarism (The Galactic Spirit Did It). This story has Mayor Hardin showing the citizens of Terminus that this Scam Religion gives them power over the people of these kingdoms, if not the rulers.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Due to the extent to which the Four Kingdoms have regressed, the Foundation's technology seems like magic to the population. The Foundation capitalizes on this to rein in the threat posed to Terminus by the Kingdoms. They deliberately design Magic from Technology to impress the people and explain it as being powered by the will of the "Galactic Spirit". The resulting religion of science has the advantage of real world power:
    “It is the chief characteristic of the religion of science that it works.”
  • Cool Chair: King Lepold of Anacreon has a glowing (due to personal Deflector Shields) floating chair, built by the Foundation on Terminus. The awesome appearance is used to cement his divine right to rule. When his uncle, Prince Regent Wienis, authorized an attack against Terminus, the High Priest deactivated the chair's nuclear motor, making it fall (and taking away his divine right).
  • Distant Sequel: The events in this story take place in 80 F.E., thirty years since the events of "The Encyclopedists" and manages to keep two characters from the previous story, who are now aged and important figures.
  • Divine Right of Kings: The Scam Religion set up by the Foundation props up the petty kings ruling the neighboring Four Kingdoms by affording them a measure of divinity. However, when Prince Regent Wienis of Anacreon tries to conquer the Foundation, Mayor Hardin reveals that Terminus can revoke that divine right and turn the devout populace against them.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: When published in Foundation (1951), this story is prefaced by the Encyclopedia Galactica entry for the Four Kingdoms.
  • Evil Chancellor: Prince Regent Wienis to his nephew, King Lepold, as regent to the underage king he's effectively calling the shots but "technically" can only advise the king. Some of the advice has been to attack Terminus, and sometimes he hints that the Hunting "Accident" which killed King Leopold's father might have been arranged and the same could happen to Lepold if he doesn't go along with Wienis's plans.
  • Evil Uncle: Prince Regent Wienis is suggested to have been behind the Hunting "Accident" that killed his older brother, the previous king of Anacreon, and he hints that the same could happen to his nephew King Leopold if he doesn't be a good little puppet.
  • Founding Day: During the 80th anniversary of the Foundation colonizing Terminus, a hologram of the dead Hari Seldon appears, and describes the way the Foundation has used religion to subvert control from their more powerful neighbors.
  • The Grand Hunt: The former King of the planet Anacreon was accidentally killed during a hunt to kill a giant flying animal called a Nyak. In the story Prince Regent Wienis hints to the current King Lepold I that he had the previous king murdered and could do the same to Lepold during a royal hunt if he doesn't go along with Wienis' plans. It is mentioned that in the old times, when Anacreon was prominent enough for Emperors to visit it, every single one tested his own skills in the hunt. Nowadays, it's still considered an important skill for royalty, and Lepold has shot down dozens already despite only being a teen.
  • Guile Hero: Knowing that Terminus couldn't defeat any of the local galactic kingdoms in military combat, Mayor Hardin has been arranging a thirty-year scheme. He began this scheme by having each of the Four Kingdoms pledge to protect Terminus from the other three. He then offered the scientific and technological expertise of the planet freely, in the guise of a religious faith. He kept each of the Four Kingdoms militarily balanced against each other for thirty years, but when an ancient Imperial Battlecruiser, whose mass outweighed any Navy in the Four Kingdoms, he freely gifted it to Anacreon because by now, their religion effectively controls their population. After Prince Regent Wienis tries to kill him, he gives a Kirk Summation, causing the regent to commit suicide. Back on Terminus, Seldon's Vault opens to reveal all the events have gone exactly as Seldon predicted, causing Hardin's enemies to end their impeachment efforts.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: Sef Sermak believes that Mayor Hardin has been trying to appease each of the Four Kingdoms for too long, and is willfully ignoring the threat posed by them. However, he realized exactly what was happening, and was looking for Hari Seldon's next Crisis, where a disaster could only be prevented by a specific course of action.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Scam Religion established by the Foundation for the Four Kingdoms allowed its monarchs to establish divine authority over their people, but the monarchs failed to realize that it also gave the Foundation an even greater power over them as the Foundation became the controller of their technology and the main object of worship. Attempt to conquer Terminus and your religious population will lead your entire civilian and military populations to revolt.
  • Holy City: In the past few decades, Terminus has become the center of a religion practised throughout the Four Kingdoms. When the King of Anacreon (influenced by his ambitious uncle) tries to send their navy to conquer Terminus, the military and civilian populations revolt in defense of the Holy City.
  • Hunting "Accident": King Lepold's father died in the Back Story, although it is alluded to several times that Prince Regent Wienis may have arranged for it to happen. Fifteen-year-old King Lepold still goes on many royal hunting trips, and Wienis comments on the danger.
    "The king's father died under suspicious circumstances. A needle bullet through the chest during a hunt. It was called an accident."
    High Priest Poly Verisof
    "Be careful on these Nyak hunts, my boy. Since the unfortunate accident to your father, I have had the strangest presentiments concerning you, at times. In the confusion, with needle guns thickening the air with darts, one can never tell. You will be careful, I hope. And you'll do as I say about the Foundation, won't you?"
    Prince Regent Wienis to his fifteen-year-old nephew, King Lepold I
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Prince Regent Wienis of Anacreon has been troubling the fledgling Foundation. Mayor Hardin voices the opinion that Wienis' warmongering and bombastics are signs of an inferiority complex, as that often happens among younger members of royalty.
    "Probably an over-compensated inferiority complex. Younger sons of royalty get that way, you know."
  • Legally Ousted Leader: Sermak calls for a City Council vote to impeach Hardin due to external policies he considers suicidally stupid at best and treasonous at worst. It fails, narrowly.
  • Let the Bully Win: King Lepold, excited after his recent successful hunt, offers his noblemen a bet about his skill. No one dares to take the risk of winning, which he interprets as them all agreeing with his opinion.
  • Lost Technology: One of the signs that the Empire is in decay is that it loses the fundamental understanding of its own advanced technology, leaving power plants in disrepair and warships abandoned. When an old Imperial battle cruiser from the height of the Empire is discovered, Terminus is excited. The Foundation has the theoretical know-how to make such a ship, but it was built on an absurdly large scale which they cannot replicate (because Terminus has almost no metal). This one Imperial battle cruiser, once restored to full capacity, could outfight any of the Four Kingdoms.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In the Back Story, King Lepold's father died in a Hunting "Accident". It's implied several times that said accident was arranged by the Prince Regent, Wienis.
  • Mile-Long Ship: The ancient two miles long Imperial battlecruiser is described as single-handedly out-massing the entire Anacreonian navy, the largest navy in the Four Kingdoms.
  • Monster of the Week: Salvor Hardin, mayor of the planet Terminus, is facing internal revolutionary elements on Terminus, led by Sef Sermak. At the same time, they're facing a threat from Anacreon, where Prince Regent Wienis, uncle to the King of Anacreon, is making a power play for his country to take control of Terminus.
  • Mr. Smith: To hide the fact that Poly Verisof, high priest and ambassador representing Terminus, is visiting Mayor Hardin, he makes an appointment as Jan Smite (which sounds similar/identical to John Smith depending on your accent).
  • N.G.O. Superpower: Terminus has been sharing science and technology with the four neighboring Kingdoms under the guise of a fake religion. Anacreon, being the largest of the four Kingdoms and benefiting the most from the technology and science, believe that they can simply use their overwhelming force to annex Terminus and reduce it to a vassal planet. However, the priests revolt, demonstrating the Foundation could not only protect itself from being taken over, but also take de facto control of the Four Kingdoms.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Mayor Salvor Hardin's Scam Religion is an inverted example; he turns science into a religion of complicated rituals in order to make it palatable to the conquered Four Kingdoms. It's later used (increasingly unsuccessfully) to try and convert new systems to the Foundation's rule, and more or less abandoned after "The Merchant Princes".
  • The Plan: Salvor Hardin, mayor of Terminus, plans to eliminate Prince Regent Wienis, corrupt uncle to the King of Anacreon, by handing them a derelict old battleship (fully repaired and operational) and using conveniently timed sabotage to "show" the legitimacy of the "Religion of Science".
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: During the 80th anniversary of the Foundation colonizing Terminus, a hologram of the dead Hari Seldon appears, and describes the way the Foundation has used religion to subvert control from their more powerful neighbors. He also points out the "Balance of Power" that was used this time and last time will not be enough for the next crisis, occurring in "The Merchant Princes".
  • Proxy War: Mayor Hardin shares how, after "The Encyclopedists", he convinced each of the Four Kingdoms that surrounds Terminus that allowing any one kingdom exclusive access to the Foundation's advanced technology and science would allow them to become more powerful than the others combined. He manages to keep a narrow balance between the kingdoms for thirty years. This changes when the Foundation restores the wreckage of a derelict battle cruiser and gives it to Anacreon; they're now powerful enough to conquer all three other kingdoms combined. However, by now the Scam Religion that Hardin created is so entrenched amoung the common populace that Terminus is a de facto government above each of the Four Kingdoms.
  • Puppet King: King Lepold of Anacreon, whose government is really controlled by his Evil Uncle, Prince Regent Wienis. By the end of the story, he's puppeted by the Foundation, instead, as they control the Divine Right of Kings.
  • Raygun Gothic: Their futuristic weapons are called atomic blasters, and ships use hyperatomic motors.
  • Scam Religion: In order to teach the people of the Four Kingdoms how to use the technology from the Foundation, they're taught "meaningless ritual" and moral mummery. Students who prove exceptionally bright are taken to a different school and taught as proper scientists, allowing the Foundation to advance technologically. Once the regular students graduate, they're priests of the "religion of science", they speak of the Galactic Spirit who watches over all, and spread the word of his Prophet Hari Seldon. It is from this "Galactic Spirit" that the Foundation extends the Divine Right of Kings to the rulers of each of the Four Kingdoms. When Anacreon tries to start a war with the Foundation, the priests running their ships and infrastructure go on strike and incite riots among the devout populace, proving that Terminus had ultimate control of both the technology and the people.
    "[Y]ou were forced to surround these scientific gifts with the most outrageous mummery. You've made half religion, half balderdash out of it. You've erected a hierarchy of priests and complicated, meaningless ritual."
  • Shout-Out: William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Mayor Salvor Hardin misquotes Caesar's line "Et tu, Brutus?" as "Thou, too, Brutus" when his primary advisor expresses disappointment in Mayor Hardin's refusal to share his plans.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Terminus gives the surrounding kingdoms aid in the form of advanced technology, Salvor Hardin notices the people insist on viewing it as sorcery. He makes a few modifications, and spreads the aid under the guise of divine power.
  • Terminally Dependent Society: Prince Regent Wienis learns that they've become fatally dependent on the Foundation when he tries to conquer Terminus, but the military, along with the planetary population, rise up against him.
  • Title Drop: This story was originally published under the name "Bridle and Saddle". Mayor Hardin tells Prince Regent Wienis a Beast Fable (The Horse that Lost its Liberty) about a man, a horse, and a wolf. The wolf is an enemy of both the horse and the man, but to cooperate, the man asks if he can place a bridle and saddle on the horse, and after defeating the wolf the horse finds himself unable to get rid of them. The bridle and saddle represent the Scam Religion that Mayor Hardin created, which has given Terminus control over the Four Kingdoms.
  • To Win Without Fighting: Anacreon sends a fleet of ships to capture Terminus, including an enormous cruiser they've recently repaired with the help of the Foundation, so that they have exclusive access to the Foundation's high-level technology. However, the Mayor of Terminus instructed the ever-present monks, a religious order taught to operate the atomic technology, to stop the fleet and incite mass riots across Anacreon just before they arrive at Terminus. The monarchy quickly crumbles in the face of revolting citizens and they never actually fight the Foundation.
  • Unfortunate Names: The King of Anacreon has a regent named Wienis (reads like a portmanteau of wiener and penis, but is actually pronounced "why-nuss"). Mayor Hardin thinks he might suffer from an Inferiority Superiority Complex, and decides to rename the Mile-Long Ship they're repairing the Wienis.
  • Video Phone: Terminus has public visiphones, which High Priest (Ambassador) Poly Verisof uses to schedule an appointment with Mayor Hardin.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Prince Regent Wienis crumbles spectacularly when he realizes that Salvor Hardin has Out-Gambitted him, going berserk and ultimately committing suicide.
  • Violence Is Not an Option:
  • Violence is the Only Option: Sef Sermak wants to stop appeasing the Four Kingdoms and start building a Navy to fight off foreign powers. At the beginning of the story, Mayor Hardin tries to explain why Violence Is Not an Option, advocating subtle action and manipulation instead. Sermak is not persuaded by Mayor Hardin's arguments, until the climax, where Seldon confirms that the use of a Scam Religion to make the Four Kingdoms dependent on Terminus was All According to Plan.
    ”Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."Mayor Salvor Hardin
  • You Fool!: Prince Regent Wienis insults King Lepold (his fifteen year-old nephew) in private for neglecting the threat that Terminus poses to Anacreon's independence.

Alternative Title(s): Bridle And Saddle