Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Holidays!

My gift to all of you this fabulous season: Santa Herc and his steadfast companion, the Nemean Reinlion! Have a Happy Holiday, Friends and Followers!


You can thank Mr.  Z. Tringali for putting together this particular masterpiece of holiday cheer for us!
(Original from wiki commons, by Rufus46.)

I'll be back January 2nd for the No-Kiss Blogfest

Friday, December 09, 2011

History Happened Here

from Wiki commons, by Wolfgang Sauber
I've been thinking about Eiriksstadir a lot. In part because I picture my orcs living in a very similar climate to Iceland* (shocking, I know). And in part because I really would like to see it with my own eyes one day. It seems like it would be a powerful experience, whether Erik the Red actually lived there or not. There is something tremendous about standing somewhere which housed someone so many years ago -- and someone so different, part of something so completely other from what we know. And the more I look at pictures of Eiriksstadir, the more I can't help but dream stories for the people who lived in the same manner.

I grew up in the Northeast United States, and when you drive down the Interstates in New York, there are all these "history happened here" sites and placards. Almost every major rest area has one, giant, blue and gold. Some incidental something related to the revolutionary war, or the civil war, or some other piece of American history that I just can't get excited about, because there is nothing to see. There is no lasting impression, no mark upon the earth, just some words on a sign. And sure, the building of Eiriksstadir has been rebuilt and reconstructed, but there was enough left to SPEAK of what was, and some one took the time to give it more than just words on a sign, to bring it back to life.

Europeans lived so much harder on the earth. They left footprints and dug themselves deep. Comparatively, America is just a child, and the people who lived in America before the Europeans came, lived so much more lightly. No matter how hard New York State tries, it is just never going to have the depth of history that a place like Iceland does -- just as Iceland will never have the depth of history of Greece.

from wiki commons
I've never left the United States, but the only history I have ever loved has been outside of it. The only history that has ever felt ALIVE to me, is long, long dead. And I want to walk the earth and know that with every step I take, history happened, so thick in the air, in the ground, that it would not be possible to mark it all with signposts.

Also, Eiriksstadir just looks cool. Turf houses in general just look cool!
---
*There is an AWESOME picture of Eiriksstadir in the snow at this blog. And when I think of Orcs living on mountains, it is almost exactly what I picture in my head.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Daughters of Ares

Yesterday morning I read a blogpost over yonder at Firefly Willows about Mars. It's kind of a reflection on what Play might mean to him, and that aspect of his character, and all I could think about was how much I kind of gloss over Ares in my head.* What do I really know about the character of Ares, or his personality? How do I think he plays? Off the top of my head, I would say hard. A god of war seems like he would definitely play hard, and for keeps, too, but I couldn't think of any myths to back up my impressions.

Ludovisi Ares from Wiki Commons
So I did some brief research, which led me to a fascinating discovery. Ares has daughters!

It was while I was writing Helen that I wondered about how many sons the gods had in their affairs. It seemed like everyone had sons, and the reason that Helen was so sought after was in part because she was a rarity. I'm not sure I know anyone who can name another demi-god daughter of Zeus off the top of their heads, and according to Theoi, he only has two: Helen and Herophile (of Libya).**

In contrast, Ares is named as the father of the entirety of the Amazons, and several of their most important leaders in particular (Penthesileia, Hippolyta, and Antiope!) as well as a Queen (Thrassa) of another tribe, and an Athenian girl (Aklippe), who doesn't seem to be of much consequence at all, except for her rape and Ares' murder of the man who did it. Ares fathered and re-fathered an entire people of women!

So what does this tell us about Ares? Maybe it meant he wasn't quite as virile as Zeus, who never once shot a blank, and his only failing was producing two girls out of the 50 named demi-god children (Ares has 30). But maybe it also says something else -- maybe it says Ares wasn't ashamed of the girls he fathered. Certainly it's a rare thing to hear about a god killing a man for raping his daughter. Helen is raped at least twice, and Zeus doesn't so much as grumble. He used her outright to start a war that would result in the deaths of most everyone she ever knew or cared about, in fact. Maybe it says that Ares believed in his daughters, no matter how great or how lowly. Perhaps the god of war had a soft spot for women -- and not only for the pleasure he could take from them, but for their overlooked strengths.

But what else would you expect from the father of the Amazons?

*I can't really see how Mars and Ares could be considered as two separate entities, personally, but I know there are differences, where Mars has his own Roman myths alongside those the Greeks gave to Ares. Not unlike Hercules and Heracles.


** there is also Keroessa, but she's possibly a nymph, not a mortal, so I don't think that counts.

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Brief Return to Blogging

Because there are more holidays around the corner, and there isn't really a lot of point in blogging to an empty room during the Christmas rush-- but I am back! For the moment. Things are really up in the air on my side of the computer, and mostly there's a lot of finger-crossing going on (seriously, cramped fingers from crossing them so hard), so I'm not sure how LONG I'm back for-- maybe two weeks, maybe just today. If we do have some upheaval, it will be for a great reason, so have no fear! I'll return to the blog bigger, better, and stronger.

In the meantime (and just in case I don't get another chance to mention it) be sure to head over to Frankie's blog and sign up for the 3rd annual No-Kiss Blogfest! I have officially signed myself up and I'll probably go through and pick out a suitable scene tonight. Between Pirithous and Bolthorn I think I have plenty of fodder, and I can't wait to read the other contributions!

I'm digging into another round of revisions on Postcards from Asgard this week, and hopefully I'll be able to get it back out the door again in January. And by then, I hope I'll have some preliminary feedback on the Orc Romance from a few early eyes so I can get into revisions there, too. The second half of November really got away from me, with the two weeks away for the Thanksgiving-Family-Palooza. Working in a house full of siblings, with a new niece and a toddler nephew really was kind of an unrealistic expectation, but I hadn't expected it would be as busy as it was!

I hope all is well with you, blogfriends, and I am wishing you a wonderful winter, if winter actually ever decides to show up this year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Publication!

My flash story "Ned Thrall" is now live on Daily Science Fiction! I hope you all enjoy it!

I made 50K yesterday afternoon so my NaNo madcap journey is now complete. I know I said I wasn't going to write madcap this year, but it is a hard habit to break, and there were all these people around me writing madcap and I just could not stop myself from competing. Plus, I wanted to make my goal before the aforementioned Thanksgiving Palooza begins. So! Done and Done! I've got a great start on Orc Romance The Sequel, and the finished Orc Romance Stand Alone to show for myself, so I really can't complain.

The rest of the month will be beta reading and revisions in fits and starts while I negotiate the family events of this fine holiday season. My goal is to have Postcards put through its paces and ready to go back out the door by January 1. This might be super easy and no trouble at all or a ridiculous goal that I will never manage to achieve depending on what comes down the pipeline in December. Finger crossing can now commence, if you feel so inclined to speed me on my journey to the future.

I'll keep you posted, Blogfriends!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Quick Update!

Firstly) Orc Romance Draft One is complete! 101,000 words. Is there at least one more book for Bolthorn? Um. Yes. NOT BY DESIGN. And actually, I'm really impressed with myself because this book feels like it found a very natural and satisfying conclusion which allows it to stand alone.

Secondly) My flash fiction story "Ned Thrall" is going out to all subscribers of Daily Science Fiction, TOMORROW! If you are not a subscriber, it is free, and they send out one story by email every day, Monday through Friday. If you are not a joiner (as many aren't!) my story will be available to the rest of the internets on Wednesday, November 16th! I am so wickedly stoked about this, I can't even tell you. Daily Science Fiction regularly publishes stuff by the kinds of writers who win actual awards.

Thirdly) Nanowrimo. I know, I know, it is cheating to have already started writing before November, but because Orc Romance was so close to the end, I could not justify putting it on hold to start a totally different project. Especially once I realized that it was going to be more than one book. All the same, since November 1, I have written over 25,000 words (26,695 as I write this blog post). I'm taking it easy this year, pace-wise, and pretty happy with how things are coming along. I figure for my second 25K I will leap into Orc Romance The Sequel, since I wrote past the end of book one the first time and it's already swirling in my brain.

And that, as they say, is that. I'll post again with a direct link to my flash story when I have one to share, and of course I will let you all know when I reach 50K! Happy Writing to my fellow Wrimos!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hiatusly Happening

So, here is the deal, blogfriends. I am coming down with a case of Houseguests for the coming week (arriving today!), during which my computer access will be severely limited, and following that is the mad dash of finishing Orc Romance (77.5K and counting!) in time to gorge myself on Heracles Myths for NaNoWriMo, and following that is NaNoWriMo itself, and following THAT is Thanksgiving-Palooza-Two-Week-Festival-of-Family-and -- well. Of Family.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that regularly scheduled blogging must be suspended until December. At which point, I will be returning just in time to see you all off to YOUR Holiday Hiatuses (Hiatae? Hiati?). I am sorry, blogfriends, truly, but the way things are, I do not see how I can blog, finish Orc Romance, and whip through the requisite 50K for NaNo before November 16th when my Thanksgiving plans kick into overdrive-extreme.

I will do my best to keep you posted on my NaNo progress, and possibly I will be able to squeeze in some fun Heracles facts and figures, but I can't make any promises! DO tune back in, same bat times, same bat channels, come December! I will, at the very least, have one HECKUVA(n) awesome happy holidays image for you, courtesy of friend and follower Zachary Tringali, and you really, really, really do not want to miss that. I will say no more, but it is even better than Thor with the santa hat from last year.

Good luck to all of my fellow NaNoWriMo participants! I'll see you at 50K! Um. I hope.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Oh Avengers, Please Be AWESOME

Better late than never and also because I'm busy Romancing Orcs. Or um, with Orcs Romancing. I have a new favorite character named Fossegrim, if you're wondering. He is SUCH a cranky old man, and I would not be shocked if he yelled at someone to get off his lawn.

Anyway: AVENGERS! A real trailer at last! It does look like it is kind of Iron Man and friends, maybe but you know, as long as they do not screw up Thor, I can live with that. (What is this nonsense I hear about taking Thor 2 deeper into the Cosmos rather than back to Earth to develop his love story with Jane Foster?!)





Can Avengers be out now? Or at least can we start seeing Avengers toys? There are all these Avengers Assemble toy signs at Target and it just gets my hopes up every time, only to see the same old. And! While I'm talking about toys, let the record reflect that the only Thor movie Toys that were worth anything were the super hero squad editions and the small Nerf Thor Hammer. All the action figures just looked AWKWARD, and if it is the same for Avengers I am going to be really, extremely sad.

This post seems like the posterchild of my new slogan: Come for Thor, Stay for More! I promise it was an accidental coincidence.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pavlopetri

If you hadn't heard, they're doing a wickedly cool reconstruction of the bronze age settlement Pavlopetri, which was found underwater. My friends, it is awesome. It is even MORE awesome, because the reconstruction shows us how the other half lives, so to speak. We have so much (relatively) information on the palaces of Mycenae and Crete, but so little about regular Joes and non-palace life. Just seeing the way the settlement is laid out offers us a glimpse of something more. And as you all know, I am a big fan of computer reconstruction type things. Especially faces. I love when they give people faces SO MUCH.

But.
Every time something new pops up in my radar for Bronze Age Greece, I start to hyperventilate, thinking about HELEN, and how much I may or may not have to change for historical accuracy. I pore over the article asking myself "Am I close enough to what they've discovered to get away with it?" "Was I right?" "Am I totally off base?!" Which of course then prompts a reread and spot revision of the entire manuscript. I don't even want to talk about the Great Citrus Debacle of failed research that I discovered a few months back. (I was so ashamed of myself. All fixed now, I promise!)

I have a feeling this is going to go on for some time. Especially since the next project I have lined up (after I finish the Orc romance--59K baby!) is Heracles, set in the same time period.  In that respect, the Orc Romance is a nice break. The only thing I really have to worry about for accuracy is linguistic, and even there I have as much wiggle room as I want to take. (As a side note, finding names for Elves is not NEARLY as easy as finding names for Giants in Norse mythology.)

Even when I've done all the research, I still haven't done all the research. It's my love/hate relationship with historical fiction.

Friday, October 07, 2011

In Progress: Orc Romance (III)

Today I will hit 50K in the Orc Romance. In honor of making it this far in what was supposed to be a short story (Dag Nabbit Orc Romance!), and to appease my aunt who asked for a sample paragraph, allow me to share this very small bit of Bolthorn and Arianna.

What you need to know: Arianna, a human princess, stumbles across a room in which an orc, Bolthorn, is trapped inside a mirror as her father's prisoner and by accident, realizes she can free him. They strike up a... well, uneasy alliance, I suppose. At first. You should also probably know that Arianna uses "Of course" the way some women today abuse the word "Fine."

If he never heard her say those words again it would be too soon. Of course. It was a curse from her lips, a judgment of his worth, and he had no doubt she found him lacking. Could she not believe for a moment that he cared for her, even when he felt her suffering as his own?

He clenched his jaw. “If you cannot trust me, princess, this journey will be a hardship for more reason than your wounds.”

“You ask too much,” she said, stiffening.

“I ask only for you to see me as I am,” he said, rising from the floor where he had knelt. “I am not your king or any of his lords. I am orc, sworn to your protection, sworn to serve my people.”

“Yes,” she said. “Two oaths at cross-purpose. I am not a fool to mistake where your loyalties must lie.”

So this was the heart of it. “My loyalties must lie with you in equal measure, it is the choice I made when I offered you sanctuary behind the glass. I do not regret it.”

“And when you do?”

“That day will never come.” He stepped toward her, glad to see she did not shrink back, and caught her hand, pressing his thumb to the cut across her palm. “I am not human, to betray you so easily, princess. I am orc, and our bargain has been struck in blood. There is no going back now, not until my death. That is the bond between us!”

Her lips moved without sound, her eyes wide upon her hand, then his chest where he had pressed her bleeding palm, mixing their blood together.

“We move forward together,” he said, gentling his hold upon her hand. “Or not at all.”

And now, I am back to it!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Nix of Tiveden

Näcken och Ägirs döttrar (Nils Blommér)While writing the Orc Romance, I found myself researching place names, particularly in the Saga of the Volsungs, since I have it so conveniently close to hand. King Volsung ruled over a land called Hunland, and his enemy and son-in-law, King Siggeir, ruled over Gautland, a land associated not just with the Saga of the Volsungs, but Beowulf (the Geats of Geatland) and Roman history (the Goths of Gothia). But more importantly, it happens to be bordered by a forest called Tiveden, and the lakes of Tiveden have a Nix.


I had never heard of a Nix (aka Näck, among other variations) until I found Tiveden, but now I kind of want to make one into the main character of a story. (Or I would if I wrote fantasy of that kind. Orc Romance not withstanding.) The Nix is the Germanic water spirit, sometimes a merman but mostly a shape shifter, which puts me almost directly in mind of the river gods in Classical myth (especially the story of Poseidon impersonating the river god to get into Tyro's pants). 


Gutt på hvit hest
The water-horse version of the Nix, with a boy
In Scandinavian folklore, they are supposedly great musicians, often appearing as a man with a violin (though their name comes from a word meaning river horse) able to enchant their listeners with their music. They can be jerky, making demands and luring people to drown in the water, or friendly and even willing to teach others how to play as well as they do. And the story of the origin for the red water-lilies in Tiveden forest? It's just heartbreakingly fascinating. 


Guys, I have not delved deeply into the research (wikipedia so far), but so far, I'm taken. 


What's your favorite folklore-ish water-related creature?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Saga of the Volsungs (III -- Genealogy)

The family tree of the Volsungs is something else. King Volsung, for whom the family is named, is the son of Rerir, himself the grandson of Odin through Sigi. And Volsung was born after six long years of labor (the result of an apple of fertility during Rerir's advanced years), and had to be cut from his mother's body.

On top of the Aesir blood and favor, Volsung married the daughter of a giant, Hjlod -- a giantess and "wish-bringer" in Odin's service. (Hjlod was also the person who provided Rerir with the apple which produced Volsung.) It was from his giantess of a wife that the twins Signy (from last week's blogpost) and Sigmund were born (Sigmund was, by the way, the toughest, most powerful, most impressive man around), and from Signy and Sigmund's incestual affair, Sinfjotli was born. 


Ring21
Sigmund the Fabulous
Sinfjotli was birthed primarily to avenge the death of his grandfather Volsung and all his uncles by murdering his mother's husband. The Norse seem to trope on this idea of the child born and raised to murder someone, since Odin accomplished the same thing with Váli, who was birthed to avenge Baldr's death by killing Hod. But Sinfjotli is kind of a sidebranch (though remind me sometime to post about the epic trashtalk in this saga). I assume because he's a child of incest, which was unacceptable enough that Signy had to go to her brother disguised as someone else to accomplish it.


And we still haven't made it to Sigurd, the supposed hero of our Saga. 


BürgerPark Bremen 21-04-2006 0044
Sigurd slaying Fafnir
Sigmund, after defeating his nemesis and brother-in-law King Siggeir, went on to make a name for himself (he was so tough he could drink poison without any effect, and he happened to be in possession of a sword gifted to him by Odin, which made him practically undefeatable... until it broke), and he married twice (his son Helgi, by his first wife, is another sidebranch in the saga). The second time, to a woman named Hjordis. Sigmund died in the same battle his sword broke (all signs point to Odin himself breaking it in the heat of things), but Hjordis was, fortunately enough, pregnant with his son. 


Which brings us, finally and at last, to Sigurd, born of Hjordis after his father's death, and his own tragic tale of love and betrayal. Just in case you hadn't already had enough of it.


Odin > Sigi > Rerir > Volsung > Sigmund > Sigurd, with a mixed heritage of no less than three races. Which is probably why he got to slay the dragon. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Progress: Orc Romance (II)

Stories of beowulf grendel15 days in and the Orc Romance has left any dream of Short Story behind at 25,500 words. I feel like I'm doing a dry run for NaNo or something, except at half-speed. What am I going to do with more than 25,000 words of Orc Romance?!

Other than researching Ogres as they relate to Orcs, of course. For which I have another installment, a la Beowulf illustrations. They predate Lord of the Rings by a couple of years, though not Tolkien. In fact, with a publication date of 1908, I almost wonder if Tolkien read this particular edition.

Fangs instead of tusks, but fearsome and very Uruk-hai in style, all the same. Even if Tolkien wasn't influenced by this depiction, it seems to capture the essence of the beast. I'm not sure I subscribe to Grendel as an Ogre, myself. I've always thought of him as more dragon-like, but since he's not all that well-described (and I am known for ignoring description anyway) it could just as easily be a me thing, than anything grounded in fact or literature.
Stories of Beowulf water witch trying to stab beowulf
But look also at the image of Grendel's mother in the same book. Green skin, blue-black hair, a long ugly nose. If anything, she's even more orc-like than Grendel, complete with rippling muscles.

We know that Tolkien was studying Beowulf -- and in fact he was one of the first to study it seriously for more than just the evolution of language. Looking at images like this, I can't imagine how the ogre isn't the father of the Orc -- or at the very least, the father of our perceptions of what makes an Orc. It's obvious that as a culture, we were already imagining them in 1908.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saga of the Volsungs (II)

The women in the Saga of the Volsungs are incredibly insightful across the board. Not only does Brynhild know-- well, almost everything. But the women in Sigurd's line are all very aware of what is to come. You'd think that knowing this is an inherited trait, the men would pay more attention to it. Then again, it seems the men who do not pay attention to it end up dying off before they can pass along that particular piece of wisdom. Like Signy's father and brothers (several generations before Sigurd's birth).
Then Signy spoke to her father: "I do not wish to go away with Siggeir, nor do my thoughts laugh with him. I know through my foresight and that special ability found in our family that if the marriage contract is not quickly dissolved this union will bring us much misery." "You should not say such things, daughter," he replied, "for it would be shameful both for him and for us to break the agreement without cause. And if it is broken we could neither have his trust nor bind him in a friendly alliance. He would repay us with as much ill as he could. the only honorable thing is to hold to our side of the bargain" (Byock, 1990).

This is usually how it goes. Daughter foretells some terrible event if she is married to some upstart, and father hushes her and send her on her way anyway, and because she is honorable and dutiful and all things virtuous, with concern for her family name, she goes. Then pretty much everyone dies because they didn't listen, and the woman is left to struggle on and avenge all, through her children. It must've been pretty hard on the kids, raised on all that spite and hatred.

But I'm maybe more fascinated by what Signy says about her new husband-- "Nor do my thoughts laugh with him." The OMACL.org translation presents this as: "I have no will to go away with Seggeir, neither does my heart smile upon him," and the sacred-texts version is, it looks like, the same translation. But the word used in Icelandic for the same passage, is definitely hlæja, meaning laugh, and hugr, which according to my Old Norse dictionary, translates as courage. So where exactly does courage reside, friends? In the heart, or in the mind? Or perhaps the better question is, where did it reside according to the Vikings?


It makes me itch to learn Icelandic, because there is definitely something very interesting going on there, and I really want to know what it is.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Miscellaneous Links of Awesome

I have been writing. A lot. 13,000 words of Orc Romance so far, and I think I've given up on the idea of managing to fit it into a short story. Fingers are crossed for some kind of reasonable novella length. But! Writing does not stop me from coming across some fabulous links of interest, so let us begin!

First, during the search for information on... I bet it was the whole citrus in Mycenae issue... I came across this awesome page with a wealth of Linear B words and their translations. I don't know about you, but I immediately started looking for words I might be able to find a way to use-- in particular those that most closely resemble their later Greek equivalents. It's fascinating to see what the Mycenaeans recorded though, whether or not you worry about what might translate across the ages and what might not.

For those of you who appreciate Fantasy and Science Fiction, but think that the outfits the female characters are stuffed into are highly ridiculous, I suggest this pretty cool tumblr: Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor. It was on this tumblr that I came across an image of a half-orc, which is how the whole Orc Romance thing got started. I'm still not sure if I regret it. (And while you're about it, there's also this article about female jousters. Apparently there is a world competition for Jousting?)

And since, as you all know by know, worldbuilding is my arch-nemesis in the writing world, the fabulous Valerie Valdes linked me to this awesome Worldbuilding resource from the SFWA. Basically it asks all the questions you didn't think of while you were writing, so you can go back through and fill in the blanks.

Last but not least, this Foo Fighters song from the end credits of Thor (which I did buy on its DVD release date, thankyouverymuch, and I am REALLY not happy about the blu ray hogging all the special features. Guys, I do not even own an HDTV. Why would I want to upgrade to blu ray when I can't SEE the HD? Thanks a lot, Marvel, for leaving your fans behind!). The first time I heard this song, I didn't really care for it, but... it's growing on me.


Friday, September 16, 2011

In Progress: Orc Romance

I'm writing a short story. A romance, I suspect. An Orc Romance.

Now, those of you who follow the blog fairly closely might remember when I discussed my lack of appreciation for mythical beasts-- centaurs, satyrs, hydras, etc. I just don't find them all that compelling as a writer. Yes, I did write a story for Ariadne and the Minotaur in Crete. It was an exception, and really, the more fascinating element to me was Ariadne's struggle against Minos. But the problem is, that lack of appreciation for GREEK mythical beasts and monsters? It totally extends to things like Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Elves, Fairies, etc. Some people can write them well, and make them interesting to me, but for the most part, I'm just not interested in digging into that myself. Elves are too perfect, Goblins and Orcs and Trolls are too boringly evil, it's just all been done and done-over, I don't have anything new to contribute. In fact, I even swore to myself I'd never write fantasy of that nature.

And now.
Now I'm writing an Orc Romance.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm doing this to myself. The what-if kind of took over my brain, I guess. But the end result is that I'm meditating on the semi-fluid definition of what makes an Orc an Orc.

Giovanni Lanfranco Norandino and Lucina Discovered by the Ogre
this ogre is totally Cyclops-esque
There's the Warcraft definition-- the green-skinned brutes kind of reminiscent of Gamorrean Guards, right down to their tusky-teeth. When I was little, I called them pig-men. But if you go back further, there's Tolkien, and the SILMARILLION tells us that Orcs were elves once, stolen by Morgoth when they wandered too far afield into shadow, and twisted into evil and darkness by torture. In mannerism and behavior, you can see clearly the relationship between Tolkien's Orc and the traditional Ogre of the human consciousness. They're vicious things that like to snack on naughty children when you get down to it.  Not too dissimilar to the idea of the Cyclops of Greek Myth, but with two working eyes, though we imagine them, generally, to be a whole lot uglier.
Affreschi romani - polifemo presenza galatea - pompei
Polyphemus, the cyclops from the Odyssey (Roman Fresco)

But isn't that the nature of dark things moving beyond our sight? That what we imagine them to be is often worse than the truth of what they are? An Ogre or a Cyclops has no real redemption. It is what it is, and it is bound by its nature and, in the case of the Cyclops, the gods. But Tolkien's Orcs are something else. They were, once, all that was good and beautiful.

Why didn't he ever use that?

Or maybe the better question is: Can I?

We'll find out shortly, I guess! Orc Romance, here I come.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Stupid Hiatus Stupid Again

I was hoping I wouldn't have to, but I must away from the blog. Illness, etc, plus setbacks. So, instead of another phoned-in blogpost with a video component, I am just going to call a spade a spade and touch base with you guys again in a week.

Try back on September 16th! Hopefully I will be back on top of my life and my research by then! Or at the very least, I will be able to offer you some pithy commentary with a video component again. (You have to admit that the muppets skit was a good call.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Immortals trailer. Sigh.

I'm still out of commission (I'm not even going to get into it here because it is just a streak of terribly bad horrible luck) but I am not leaving you bereft of mythic commentary!




There are so many stupid things wrong with this version of Theseus that I don't even know where to start, but the bow and arrow business stands out as the thing that ticks me off the most in these trailers. I'm sure the movie will have stunning special effects and visuals but, I really, REALLY wish Theseus were getting a better treatment by hollywood. I hate that they chose to make his love interest Phaedra instead of the Amazon Queen, too. Because seriously-- how WAY AWESOMER would it be if his love interest were a warrior Amazon woman charging into battle at his side? I mean, if there is going to be a war and a giant battle ANYWAY, they might as well have gone in that direction! I suppose they didn't want to bother writing the romance, because with an amazon woman, there would really have to be some kind of explanation, as opposed to Phaedra who can just throw herself at him without preamble. (Sigh.)

El husband and I saw this preview in the theater a while back, and he will not speak of it. He refuses to go see it. I think I might have to, because, you know... it's Theseus. But he doesn't have the same Theseus Love that I do.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Best Norse (Muppets) Post Ever.



I rest my case.

(Sorry guys, I am sick, so if you do not like the muppets-- WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Character of Paris [Ovid]

Paris Palatino Inv12488
Paris always has such a dumb hat.
© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons
I haven't talked about him a lot, because I haven't written about him. His story was always supposed to be Helen's sequel, maybe even an independent companion novel. But Paris doesn't hold the same fascination for me that Theseus does, or even Menelaus. His story has been done so many times, and no matter how hard people try -- and it is clear that we have tried VERY hard -- there isn't really any way to make Paris into a real hero. The gods don't allow him to be one. They don't even let him become a proper anti-hero! I've never understood what Helen saw in him (that is not to say he is not brave and valiant in her defense, as far as he's allowed by Aphrodite), and to me, that's maybe the more fascinating and telling element. How bad was Helen's life with Menelaus that she thought running off with Paris and starting a war would be an improvement?

But I do love Ovid's writing of Paris in the Heroides. I know I've talked about it a little bit before, but those exercises of rhetoric are by far the most fascinating illustration of Paris' character that I've come across. He is bold and confident and unafraid. He's determined and conniving. There is absolutely nothing fickle about his desire for Helen. He wants her, and he's willing to employ every dirty trick in the book to get her. However idiotic he might be later, in Ovid's letters, Paris charms me. I can believe, reading his letter to Helen, that she was fighting against someone with an overpowering charisma-- and that she had no real defense against such a man's seduction, especially if her relationship to Menelaus was less than great.

Paris says:
My passion for you I have brought; I did not find it here. It is that which was the cause of so long a voyage, for neither gloomy storm has driven me hither, nor a wandering course; [...] It is you I come for – you, whom golden Venus has promised for my bed; you were my heart’s desire before you were known to me. I beheld your features with my soul ere I saw them with my eyes; rumour, that told me of you, was the first to deal my wound.
and then he boasts!
And as I long for you, so women have longed for me; alone, you can possess the object of many women’s prayers! And not only have the daughters of princes and chieftains sought me, but even the nymphs have felt for me the cares of love.
The Rape of Helen
Paris, Paris, Paris. You sure are full of yourself. And he's so unapologetic about it! I think that's what I like the most -- how he honestly believes that he is doing nothing wrong in seducing another man's wife. He has absolutely no shame, and that's even more well illustrated when he talks about her abduction by Theseus (emphasis mine).
And so Theseus rightly felt love’s flame, for he was acquaint with all your charms, and you seemed fit spoil for the great hero to steal away, [...] His stealing you away, I commend; my marvel is that he ever gave you back. So fine a spoil should have been kept with constancy. Sooner would this head have left my bloody neck that you have been dragged from marriage-chamber of mine. One like you, would ever these hands of mine be willing to let go? One like you, would I, alive, allow to leave my embrace? If you must needs have been rendered up, I should first at least have taken some pledge from you; my love for you would not have been wholly for naught. Either your virgin flower I should have plucked, or taken what could be stolen without hurt to your virgin state.
"His stealing you away, I commend; my marvel is that he ever gave you back." Paris' admissions are kind of alarming, if you ask me. But he is SO confident that she will love him, is meant to love him and can't resist him, he holds nothing back. Not even a confession that if he had been Theseus, he would have raped her, if need be. (And I'm not going to touch the fact that he talks about her like she's furniture-- that wouldn't have been odd to Helen, just as it was totally natural for Ovid.)

Even his bribes are presented in such a matter of fact way that it's obvious he doesn't think he's bribing her so much as stating the facts. The FACTS are that Troy is far wealthier, and she will be showered in riches and kept in splendor. The FACTS are that he can offer her a better life than she'll ever have in Sparta, which is nothing in comparison to his homeland. The FACTS are that Menelaus doesn't deserve her.
I regret my being a guest, when before my eyes that rustic lays his arms about your neck. I burst with anger and envy – for why should I not tell everything? – when he lays his mantle over your limbs to keep you warm. But when you openly give him tender kisses, I take up my goblet and hold it before my eyes; when he holds you closely pressed, I let my gaze fall, and the dull food grows big within my unwilling mouth.
His recklessness, his boldness in addressing her so honestly and so brutally, is what's so appealing. He is SO in love with her that he can't help himself, that he has no fear at all. Here is the bad boy, the anti-hero we're denied. He's completely arrogant, and committed to making the most of the opportunity he's been given (with Menelaus away in Crete) by any means necessary. Sure, he'd prefer her willing, but from the tenor of this letter, it's clear that he won't let her willingness really get in his way if she gives him even the smallest of openings.

Paris is a villain. A stalker, obsessed with his prey. And he will not stop, because he sees encouragement in every polite smile she gives him. He will not stop because the gods have given Helen to him, and in that certainty, there is nothing she can say that will dissuade him from what he perceives as the truth, the facts. She will love him, eventually. Aphrodite herself promised it.

Reading Ovid, I can believe that Helen never had a chance.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Guest Post: Cuchulainn and Ferdiad, Irish Heroes

Super huge thanks to Zachary Tringali for the guest post! If you don't already, you can follow him on Twitter and check out his website! He is super cool, and you might remember him from the Pirithous vs Pelagia grudgematch of doom. All this to say, he writes like the wind and never fails to get me motivated again when I falter at my own writing projects. 


Let’s talk about history!

I know, you’re surprised, right?

More specifically, Irish history oral tradition. Even before stories were written down they were being told, people shared stories of great heroes and the ability of one person to make a difference. The Táin Bó Cúailnge is one of Ireland’s great epics (comparable to the Iliad) that have been altered to fit the location of the telling over time. Undoubtedly details have changed, but the basic structure has been preserved.

Cuchulainn (koo-HOOL-in) is a figure of Irish myth that deserves to stand among the greatest, Theseus or Heracles. He, better than anyone, could demonstrate the way a single song could change the fate of a man.

Cuchulainn became friend and foster brother to Ferdiad when he was a young boy training with the famed Scottish warrior-woman Scáthach. Ferdiad was older than Cuchulainn, and though they were evenly matched in skill, akin to an older brother to the hero.

Neither of them could know that during one of the great battles of their lives they would be fighting on opposing sides. Cuchulainn fought for Ulster while Ferdiad fought on the Connacht side with Queen Maeve. The war was fought over the ownership of a single brown bull (a very magic brown bull, but still.)

Cuchulainn stood alone against the entire Connacht army and held them back from crossing over. When he had defeated a majority of their best soldiers, Maeve settled on Ferdiad who she found to be the closest of Cuchulainn’s matches. He refused her—a mistake few men made twice.

He held out until the matter of a song came up. Maeve threatened him with one of the only things that could probably move a warrior bound by honor. She threatened to have a bard sing a song of him so vile and terrible that he would die of shame, his name would be remembered but not at all in the way he’d want it.

So it was a song that finally sent Ferdiad against his friend and brother (albeit there was treasure involved as well, but let’s face it. It was honor that held him back and honor that pushed him forward.) He fought with a man who, before he was even a teenager, was killing grown men.

Without anything written down, who would know him for anything but what a bard would sing?

Cuchulainn mourning Ferdiad
from EarlyMedievalIrishTuath
They fought for three days, Cuchulainn consumed by battle rage and Ferdiad fighting for his life. At night they would send small tokens of peace to one another: food, herbs for healing and the like. Tokens that beyond it all they were still brothers.

On the third day, Ferdiad was struck down and the battle rage left Cuchulainn. Cuchulainn carried him across the river so that he could die in Ulster rather than with the Maeve and the enemy army. He wept over him, saying: “It was all a game and a sport until Ferdiad came; Oh, Ferdiad! your death will hang over me like a cloud for ever. Yesterday he was greater than a mountain; to-day he is less than a shadow.”

There you have it. A song with the power to turn a man like a mountain into a shadow.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thrud, Thor's Daughter

Alvíss and Þrúðr by Frølich
Thrud and Alviss
What do we know about Thrud (AKA Þrúðr)? Well. We know (According to Snorri in the Prose Edda) that Thor can be referred to in a kenning as Thrud's father, and we know that there are references to a Valkyrie named Thrud as well, who may or may not be the same woman. We know also, that she's the daughter of Sif (by another kenning for Sif) -- and as far as I can tell, she's the only named daughter and legitimate child of Thor and Sif's marriage.

We can infer that Thrud is the daughter of Thor being discussed in the Alvissmal, since there really isn't any other, but she's never actually named in that poem. So, she was at one point promised to the dwarf Alviss in marriage, while Thor was away on some travel or other -- but the Alvissmal is a later contribution to the lore of the Norse gods, and it's impossible to say if the story itself comes from something earlier or was just made up by the poet for the fun of it since neither Alviss, nor the events of the poem itself, are attested to anywhere else. In any event, Thor refused to honor the betrothal made without his permission, and tricked Alviss into what might be the earliest villain-monologue (and probably Tolkien's influence for Bilbo's encounter with the Trolls), which resulted in Alviss turning to stone because he was too busy showing off his knowledge to notice the sun was coming up.

All-wise answers Thor
why is Alviss such an egghead? Thor and Thrud and Alviss.
Needless to say, Thrud's wedding was called off. But we don't even know, how Thrud came to be promised to Alviss, or anything about their courtship. We don't know anything about Thrud's character at all. She's unique enough to be named-- well-known enough for "Mother of Thrud" and "Father of Thrud" to be kennings for her parents, but as far as anything else goes, Thrud doesn't stand on her own two feet.

So what do we know about Thrud?

Outside of her family bonds, nothing. Everything about her tells us more about the other people involved than her own character. What's that? I think it's the sound of opportunity knocking...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

BONUS POST! Prompt #2: The last thing he remembered was...

710 words: Theseus was trapped by the chair of forgetfulness in Hades. But fate isn't quite finished torturing him yet, and apparently there are worse things for Theseus than being lost in the Underworld.

The last thing he remembered was Helen. Not as he had known her for the last two years, her hair dyed raven-black and her eyes painted with kohl, but as she had appeared the night of their first meeting, her golden hair braided into a shining crown upon her head, accented with white flowers, their delicate scent mixing with the perfumed oils on her skin, tempting him closer. He remembered the emerald of her eyes, flashing with laughter in the lamplight, and the brightness of her smile turned upon him, powerful enough to lift the mood of the entire megaron, and leaving him empty and aching when it was gone.
“Theseus?” He recognized the voice, though he could not name the speaker. “Theseus, we have not the time. You must wake!”
Strong hands pulled at his arms, hard muscle digging into his stomach, and flesh parted from bone, burning white hot. Theseus tried to scream but all that came was a moan, weak and pitiful. His mouth was desert dry, his lips cracked and stinging.
“Forgive me, cousin,” the man said, hoisting Theseus over his shoulder as though he weighed nothing. “It is the only way.”
Helen, glowing golden as the sun, she smiled up at him, accepting the orange he offered, her fingers brushing his. The touch of her skin, even so slight, eased the pain in his leg. But her gaze shifted, and her radiance dimmed, silvering to moonlight. The smile slipped from her lips and she turned her face away.
“Not much farther, now,” the man said.
Fetid water splashed against his hand, hanging limp behind the man’s back. Sulfur and death filled his lungs, overwhelming the flowers of his memory. Theseus gagged, his stomach heaving, but he had not even acid or bile to lose, nor could he lift his head from where it thumped against the man’s spine. His leg burned, the rest of his body shivering, and he groaned.
“Peace, Theseus.” Heracles. It was Heracles who spoke. “There is sunlight ahead.”
Helen was his sunlight, shining bright, even in her sorrow. Even as her eyes slid away from his, and Menelaus rose, his fingers closing about the hilt of a table knife, white knuckled. But Menelaus would never touch her again. Theseus had seen to that. He had promised her his protection.
Heracles dumped him onto soft earth, and Theseus swore as fire flared up his thigh.
Heracles laughed. “Awake, are you?”
Theseus grunted, squinting against the sun. He had been trapped beneath the earth for so long, his eyes ached from the light. “How long?”
“Months,” Heracles answered, his wide shoulders silhouetted against the sky. “And I do not know that you will thank me for bringing you back. The chair tore the flesh from your thigh to the bone and you will be a long time healing, if you ever do.”
“Helen,” Theseus croaked. “What of Helen?”
Heracles crouched before him and Theseus made out the grim line of his mouth. “The Spartan Princess?”
Theseus grasped him by the arm. “Tell me, Heracles.”
“Married, Theseus.”
“No.” The pain in his leg was nothing to that which stabbed through his heart. Helen! It could not be – he had taken her from Sparta, hidden her in Athens. He had left her safe!
Heracles sighed, looking away. “She is married to the Prince of Mycenae, to Menelaus, half-mad though he is, and that is not the least of it.”
Helen. Theseus closed his eyes to the sun and lay back in the grass, remembering her as she had been in Athens. Hair as black as night and milk-white skin dusted with umber until her body looked as brown as any Egyptian’s. Helen, forgive me. I should never have left you.
“Come, Theseus.” Heracles pulled him up. “We must get you to Apollo’s temple. The priests will know if you can be healed.”
He grunted, the pain in his leg crippling. He must heal. He must be whole or he would never succeed in stealing Helen back. And he had promised her, before he left on this thrice-damned journey to Hades. No matter where she was in the world, he would find her.
He had given his word, and one-legged or not, he meant to keep it.

Those of you who follow the blog know how much I love Theseus and the intersection of Helen's mythology with Theseus', which is what spawned my novel, HELEN OF SPARTA.

This prompt was brought to you by Agent Courtney Miller-Callihan, who is running a competition on her blog. Winner gets a query critique.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hi...atus?

So. I'm kind of sort of maybe vacationing. Or something. It's a strange situation during which I should be writing but somehow am failing utterly to do so and instead spending my days eating unimpressive food and windowshopping for things I cannot afford and don't really want. Also, the twist-cone-with-rainbow-sprinkles situation is just... it's the saddest thing ever, you guys. This might be my first summer without twist-cones-with-rainbow-sprinkles. But the end result for you, friends and followers, is that I am not blogging this week. I shall return NEXT TUESDAY (August 23) for some regularly scheduled blog action.

In the meantime, check out this image of Loki dressing Thor up as Freyja:

Tor såsom Freya

Because cross-dressing Thor is entertainment for all ages. Hopefully it will tide you over. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tessa's Hatefest

Head over to Tessa's blog to find the other participants of Tessa's Hatefest, and leave them some comment love!

I have a very short excerpt. I wrote this short story about Samson a long time ago, because let's face it, he is pretty awful, and I am forever trying to find ways to make awful characters redeemable, especially when they are considered "heroes" of some kind or another. I don't know about you, but I can't get behind heroes when they are total jerks, and Samson is the jerkiest of the jerks, so it was only a matter of time, really...

This scene takes place right after Delilah turns Samson over to the Philistines, who, quite understandably, have no love for Samson.



“No!” Delilah screamed. Her body was warm against his chest, her hair tickling his face. Her chestnut hair, so beautiful and soft. He drank in the sight of it, glad she would be the last thing he might see. “You said you only wanted him bound! A slave! Stop, please! I beg of you!”
“It’s all right, Delilah,” he murmured. He could not reach her with his hands to sooth her. He tried to smile through bleeding lips. “I will take what punishment they see fit. Leave me, now.”
One of the soldiers tore her from him, and she sobbed, still shouting for them to stop. Another soldier struck her across the face and she fell to the ground, still weeping. He lurched forward, but they held him back, laughing. The soldier dragged her up by the hair.
“She’s helped you, done everything that you asked. Pay her, and let her go!”
“After we’re certain she has not deceived us,” the leader said. “You think we have not learned? There are no jawbones here for you to strike us down, but if you wish her to live, you will do as we say.” 
The man jerked his chin at one of the soldiers, and he came forward with an iron poker, glowing red hot. 
“Take his eyes,” the leader said. “Perhaps then, like a blinded horse, he will be more easily led.”
Delilah, twisting to free herself, screaming defiance, her brown eyes wild. Delilah, beautiful and kind, begging, pleading. Delilah, breaking free of the soldier who held her back and running toward him. 
He roared at the touch of the hot metal.
And then he lived in darkness.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Quest for Pirithous' Armband

Jambieres en cuivre - 1250 avJC - Veuxhaulles-sur-Aube
bronze armbands from the bronze age!
The fact of the matter is, I have been reminded on multiple occasions that worldbuilding is sometimes a weakness for me in my writing. I'm slow about it-- I take a long time to build up a world in small drips and drabs, and I expect readers to fill in the blanks and be part of the process. Usually this means that I have to go back through and add worldbuilding elements after the fact, because I suck at it the first time. (Seriously. I do. It is a failing, and it requires constant vigilance on my part during revisions.)

With that in mind, I'm still trying to find the proper ornaments for Pirithous in history, so that when I rewrite, I can include those details to help build his world and his character. As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the things I REALLY want to give him, is a solid, chunky, armband. Made of gold, preferably. Wanting to do this, and finding evidence for it in history are two completely and totally different things, however, and while I can make some excuses for Pirithous having foreign or uncommon objects, I can't just manufacture something from nothing without losing the authenticity of his history.
Earring Mycenae Louvre Bj135
Mycenaean earring for Spiral comparison

In the search, I found this bronze armband, and it's from the right period in history, but that's about all that can be said for it. It seems to have been found in Germany -- or if the above examples were not, it's fellow below was -- (I could weep for the fact that its wiki page is in foreign languages, you guys. I cannot read German! or French! I just want to learn!), but it has kind of the same patterning of something from Mycenae, with the chunky spiral. (Not that chunky spirals are at all limited to Mycenae, but... well, it's something.)
GNM - Armberge
Bronze armband from Germany

The problem is, Germanic peoples, be they inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, or Germany proper, were kind of a lot far away. It's a stretch to say that Pirithous might have worn something like this, or that he had ever laid eyes on it, even considering the fact that there was quite a bit of trade during the Bronze age, and even with the assumption that Pirithous got around. HOWEVER, if I can find something Egyptian (and is it my imagination or are there a lot of pictures of Egyptians with armbands? even though I cannot for the life of me find any single solidly identified one for this blogpost right now or my book), I might be in business. In fact, I would be golden. Trade with Egypt is perfectly reasonable, and traveler that Pirithous is, it wouldn't be a stretch to say he'd been there or obtained goods from that area of the world.

Unfortunately, my research is turning up less than nothing. Or worse, I'm getting images that have no positive identification as armbands. (Why did we give up on the fashion of armbands? I kind of like them, I'm not going to lie.) So, I'm still surfing. I figure there has to be a painting of something from Egypt with someone wearing an armband that fits my mental image, SOMEWHERE.

Maybe it's time to break out the big encyclopedia sized books off the bottom shelf...

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bronze Age Baubles: Mycenaean Rings and Cups

AMI - Ring des Minos2
This is Minoan, not Mycenaean but Wow.
This post is mostly the result of having WAY too many tabs open, but the reason I have way too many tabs open is because I was researching rings-- in particular, signet rings, which can be ASTOUNDINGLY detailed-- of the Mycenaean period and the late bronze age for Pirithous. (Pirithous, being Pirithous, gets all the best gold jewelry.) Anyway, there are a LOT of really cool things, because jewelry, lucky for us, is one of those things that sticks around. Unlike wood, it doesn't biodegrade. Bronze will oxidize, of course, and silver tarnishes, but gold doesn't, and that's how we end up with super like-new looking rings like these in auctions.

Mycenaean ring2
This ring IS Mycenaean. 
But in the interest of being able to close some tabs on my browser, I think it's time I shared a few of these awesome discoveries with you, friends and followers, and so I have them all somewhere that I can refer back to later (because holy crap my bookmarks are such a giant mess of disorganized ridiculousness).

Vafeio Mycenaen laconian
Another image of the cup, probably imported from Crete.

For starters, I am not entirely sure what Hartzler.org (the slideshow looks like it was made for a college class) is, but this gold cup is incredible. There's a second one among those slides in the sidebar, along with an armlet, several signet rings, lots of pottery, and a number of other fascinating and beautiful artifacts. But before I found this cup, I'd been under a wildly different impression of what a bronze age cup might look like, and the fact that this resembles something one might find at a chuckwagon (at least in basic form, if not material!) was something of a shock. I'm not sure WHY it was such a surprise, considering the fact that the design is fairly intuitive, but it was. I guess I was picturing something more along the lines of this Cup of Nestor, but now that I look at it, it has some of the same lines without the excess of handles.

Mycenaean cup Louvre AO15744
This is more like the cups I was expecting
Also Mycenaean.
I'm modeling Pirithous' signet ring off of this one. The Lapiths were renowned horsemen, after all, and I figure if Pirithous had a seal of any kind, a horse would be more than fitting. And if you're interested in seeing more signet rings, Googling Mycenaean rings brings up a LOT of really cool images. I was honestly surprised at how much came up, and the detailing and artistry is just remarkable.

Mycenaean gold goblet BM 820
One Final Mycenaean cup-- a goblet.
I'm still looking for a more substantial armlet, but I fear I'm going to be out of luck in that regard. What I want Pirithous to be able to wear, and what historical artifacts are suggesting he would be wearing are not QUITE the same thing, so far. I haven't given up hope yet though, because I've found kind of similar styles from the right period, even if they aren't clearly marked as Mycenaean (though they do follow some of the same patterns the Mycenaean's were using, too). Lucky for me, Pirithous seems to have been something of a rover, and if he was roving, raiding, and pirating, there's no telling what he might have gotten his hands on, even if it wasn't strictly Greek in origin.

So now you know much more than you'll ever need to know about cups and rings of the Greek Bronze Age, and more importantly, I can close some of these annoying tabs!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Food for Thought: Jesus vs Heracles

Because seriously, what if Heracles really WAS some portion of Zeus who just really wanted to spend a few years getting laid without hiding it from Hera? (And it would explain why Hera was SO MEAN to Heracles, too, because she was too smart to be taken in by THAT ruse. Guys. For Real. It could have happened.)

Jesus Heracles
Son of God Son of a god
Likes the children Likes the children
Travels around the Country Making Stuff Happen Travels around the Country Making Stuff Happen
Helps people  Helps people 
Expels Demons Fights Monsters
Takes after dad: Monkishly asexual Takes after dad: Got it on w/50 sisters, etc.
Tragic Death (crucifixion)Tragic Death (burned alive)
Ascends to Heaven, recognized as GodAscends to Olympus, recognized as a god
Performed miraculous feats (water into wine, etc) Performed miraculous feats (lifted the whole world, etc)
Attracted followers Attracted followers
Betrayed to his death by someone he trusted and loved (Judas) Killed by someone he trusted and loved (maybe by accident) (Deianira)

Okay, so the last one might be a stretch, but you've gotta give me the rest, right? Civil discussion in the comments, including any similarities I missed, or, if you'd rather, poke holes in my Jesus vs. Heracles comparisons! Don't be shy! 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Revisiting Heracles and The Great Tradition of Pantsless Heroes

I wasn't originally intending to promote more naked sculpture this week. I was actually planning an interesting insight into the similarities between Jesus and Heracles instead. But (or should I say butt?) I found a picture on wiki commons of a sculpture which really, really deserved its own post. And not just because of the pantslessness. This image deserves its own post because it is just flat-out incredibly alive for a work of stone and photography. Because when I look at it, there's a catch in my throat at the beauty-- the way the light plays over the marble, the subtlety of carving which creates muscle and soft skin from rock. Heracles gets a lot of sculptures, but this image is flesh and soul, life and breath.

Hercules by Baccio Bandinelli

Basically, friends and followers, this is my homage to both the sculptor (Baccio Bandinelli) and the photographer who took this picture (Cyberuly), because I am in awe of what they have created together. You can find an image of the full sculpture here,  but it isn't NEARLY as impressive as this image, and frankly I find it a little bit disappointing. There is also a wiki page about the sculpture itself.

Keeping to the theme of bare backsides, the following is similarly beautiful image (from this site) of one of the Heracles/Hercules sculptures from the last blogpost which I absolutely love because he looks SO relaxed, and so supremely confident, while at the same time appearing as though he could spring into action at any moment. And behind his back? Those are the golden apples he obtained as one of his labors.

Hercules Farnese, photo taken by René Seindal
It's a Roman copy made ~3rd century AD of a Greek original which dates back to ~4th century BC, or so Wikipedia tells me (because again, I am no art historian). But obviously, when I say the tradition of Pantsless Heroes reaches back, this is one of the proofs in the pudding, so to speak.

But I mean, just look at it. The proportions, the balance, the natural feeling of the pose. The Greeks and Romans were masters of this art. And this Herc is just as beautiful from the front as he is from the back. Somehow, they have managed to carve grace into marble, and I am and always will be in complete awe of their skill.

It isn't just about the naked men (though I grant you, they are mighty fine). It's about breathing life into stone, and the fact that it is still standing, giving us this glimpse of how the Greeks and the Romans pictured their heroes. Even how they imagined the divine.

It's a little window into the past, and I can't stop myself from looking through it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For Tina: Pantsless Thor

Thor (1829) by H. E. FreundUnfortunately, there are not a lot of truly awesome pantsless Thor images floating around. Most of them are semi-strange or creepy, if you ask me, not to mention that his pantslessness does make it a little bit awkward for the whole belt of strength required to make the best use of Mjolnir. But! For Tina, I have found a couple striking images to share.

Now, I'm not an art historian, but most of the pantslessness seems to have come about in the late interpretations of Thor-- for example, this statue of Thor leaning on his hammer, which wikicommons tells me is from 1829 -- and it seems to me that this is an effort to makeover these Norse gods in the image of the Roman and Greek sculpture from the ancient world. I'm not entirely sure they accomplish it successfully, though. This one in particular makes me kind of feel like Thor has weird possessed and/or dead eyes (although I bet it looks mighty fine from the back).

Thor Destroys the Giant ThrymSpeaking of the belt of strength and no-pants combination (maybe taking up Theseus' fashion forward sword-belt only style?) there's this illustration of Thor, not only pantsless, but also beating up on giants while he's at it (you all remember Thrym from last week, I'm sure!). This one is from 1906, I guess. I'm trying to decide if he's throwing off his wedding gown, or if that is some kind of cloak that is attached nowhere to his body. Also, why did this artist feel compelled to give Thor his belt, but not his gloves?

Johann Heinrich Füssli 011I expect the world will never know the answer to that question.  I'm sure most of you will not lose any sleep over it, either. (Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about the gloves and the belt. I mean, I know it's traditional from the mythology, but it kind of takes away from the awesomeness of his strength if he needs a belt to double it and gloves for extra grip in order to wield Mjolnir. That is probably a topic for another post.)

This artist, thankfully, chose not to bother with the belt. Probably because he realized it made Thor look kind of silly in his beautiful oil painting. Whatever the reason, I am grateful to Mr. Fussli for not including it. Jormungand seems a little bit on the petite side though-- I mean, he IS supposed to be so large that he circles the entirety of midgard. This guy seems like he could maybe circle that boat that Thor is trying to fish out of, but that's about it.


Thor and Jörmungandr by FrølichFinally, let me present my favorite pantsless Thor image so far -- Thor vs Jormungand at Ragnarok! He's a little bit on the small size for Jormungand too, but I like the clean and simple lines of the illustration. Thor looks a little bit Zeusish, but again, I think that's a Classical Influence rearing it's head.

I don't know. I guess my problem with most of these images of Thor is this: Thor is the everyman's god, the common man's god. None of these images really bring that out. It is Thor the unstoppable force instead of Thor the guy you can go have a cup of mead with on Saturday night. Except for maybe the soulless crazy eyes Thor statue. He looks like he wouldn't mind going out for a drink... provided you let him borrow your pants first.

EDIT: I lied. THIS is my new favorite Pantsless Thor picture!
Thor's Journey to Geirrodsgard

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heracles Is Not My Favorite

Hercules Farnese 3637104088 9c95d7fe3c bI don't know what it is about him-- maybe because he's so well-known, but I just don't feel drawn to Heracles, generally. If I were to write a sequel to Helen of Sparta though, I'd end up having to research him. In my Pirithous book, I toyed with the idea of bringing demigods into the modern world. A missing father is really a god called back to Olympus, etc. I didn't actually go with that, because it was a little bit too Percy Jackson, and in the context of the romance the story was supposed to be, it didn't really serve a purpose, but it led me to wikipedia for a refresh of some Heracles basics. (Because obviously Heracles is a god, now, serving as a guardian of Olympus, and nobody ever talks about demigod children of Heracles!)

Specifically, I wanted to know what he looked like -- not the symbols which identified him, like the lion skin or the club or the apples in his hands, but hair and eye color, proportions, his physical self. Of course wikipedia was pretty much useless in this regard, BUT, I did find a couple of pictures of some marble statuary. Roman copies of Greek originals. Which uh, also do not tell me anything about his hair or eye color at this time, but I thought I'd share them all the same.

Herakles and Telephos Louvre MR219What I found perhaps even more interesting on the wikipedia page was the list of his consorts and children. Don't get me wrong, I was well aware of the fact that Heracles got around. I mean, who doesn't know that Heracles had multiple wives? I just hadn't realized quite how many other women he was involved with, or how many children he had. And seeing it as a list -- well. Let's just say it sunk in a little bit deeper, and I'm starting to wonder how Heracles had TIME to fight monsters with all the other um, activities, he was engaged in (that Thirteenth Labor must have been real rough on him--I think it deserves an Affairs of the Gods recounting at some future date). But man, it would suck to have been a child of Heracles. I mean, sure, you got the prestige of being the son of (arguably) one of the most famous men in all of history, and the touch of demigod blood probably made your life easier, but when you were competing with that many half-siblings for his time? In most cases, behind his wife's back? Clearly Heracles took after his father, Zeus, and I'm not sure I blame his wife for the poison shirt anymore.

All that said, that statue of Heracles holding an infant in one arm and that club in the other, with that slight smile on his face? I feel like it gives us a great glimpse into the Greek interpretation of Heracles' character. He was a protector, a hero, a great man, but for all that, he was not untouchable or unreachable to the people around him. He was also the kind of man who didn't shy from bouncing a baby on his knee when he wasn't busy saving the world from monsters. And maybe, just maybe, the babies were the reason he went to all that trouble to begin with.

I'm not going to lie, that statue makes me like Heracles a little bit more than I did when I started.