Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yeah, okay, I surrender

You'll see me back here on January 2nd for the 2nd Annual No-Kiss blogfest hosted by the fabulous Frankie Diane. Yes, that's right. TWO DAYS EARLIER than planned!

Look, I found the perfect scene and I just couldn't resist the siren song. I may be cheating SLIGHTLY but I think you will all appreciate the ROMANCE. I promise it is not even Mythology Related.

Go sign up and let's DO THIS THING.

Then pop back over here on January 4th for More Theseus.

Yeah, I know. I'm incurable. Sorry.

also, I apologize for all the caps in this blogpost.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Hiatus!

Regular posting will resume on January 4th! Possibly with less Theseus, though I'm making no promises. 
In the meantime:
 Happy Holidays!

Special thanks to @trinza for this awesome Thor-with-Santa-hat, and also thanks to Mia for THE FOLLOWING image!

If by any chance you have a Thor-wearing-a-Santa-Hat image you'd like to share, leave a link in the comments and I will add it to this post! Just because he's Norse doesn't mean he can't enjoy some holiday cheer, right? Also acceptable: Theseus with a Santa Hat. Man, if I had really been on the ball, I would have come up with some kind of Thor-with-Santa-hat contest, but... I, uh, apparently did not think of it until right this second. SORRY. NEXT YEAR, GUYS! I will come up with something!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Fall of Theseus AND the Monument of Eponymous Heroes

In The Pericles Commission, Nico, the main character, wonders briefly why Theseus is not included among the statuary at the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes in Athens. Ever since I read it, I've been turning the problem over in my mind as well (a compliment to you, Gary Corby, because I love nothing better than a book which gives me something to chew on in regard to history and myth!).

But I think I might have an idea which explains, at least in part, why. Of course it's all conjecture. It's always conjecture and educated guesswork.

Theseus Minotauros Staatliche Antikensammlungen SL471
Theseus vs. the Minotaur
The reason Theseus was not among them might have been related to his return to Athens from the Underworld and subsequent dismissal. Theseus lost the flesh from the back of his thighs when he was ripped out of the chair of forgetfulness by Heracles, and therefore he would have returned to Athens no longer WHOLE. There is plenty of plenty of plenty of evidence for the Athenian admiration for the perfection of the human body, from art to athletics, and I imagine that this vision of their hero, their magnificent King, must have come as something of a shock. Theseus would no longer have been in the position to continue on as a warrior if he were recovering from a wound like that--unnatural to say the least, and no doubt jarring.

My personal theory is that this is one reason why his people wanted nothing more to do with him as King by the time he got back-- we see it echoed later in Byzantium MUCH later, where members of the royal family who they never wanted back near the throne again had their noses cut off, because if they were not whole they could not RULE-- and so, perhaps it was this same rejection which knocked him out of the running for that series of statues. Not just because he couldn't rule, but also because his very appearance was an affront to Athenian sensibilities about beauty. Theseus might very well have been better off dying with honor than coming back to Athens so physically disgraced.
Theseus Slaying Minotaur by Barye
Theseus vs The Minotaur. Again.

Add to this that most of the imagery we have of Theseus revolves around his youthful adventures: his trip to Crete to battle the Minotaur, his capture of the Marathon Bull, MORE of Theseus slaying the Minotaur (seriously it is EVERYWHERE), Theseus battling along the six entrances to the Underworld, and you wonder if he was admired as a King at all. Even in modern art and discussion, we gloss over his adventures as an adult. Both Mary Renault and Margaret George completely disregard his abduction of Helen, while Rick Riordan implies that he did not live to old age when Theseus' shade appears to Percy Jackson as a youth.

In fact the latter half of his life is just one long fall from grace so full of tragedy that it isn't really even all that heroic, completed with his death falling from a cliff. The only idea of Theseus as King we really have is the Sanctuary of Theseus in Athens, where slaves could flee to claim protection. This too, may not have made him a very popular King among the political elite, since it might have been construed as an upset to the status quo.

Now, of course there could have been other reasons, and in fact the website I linked to above states that it was simply a decision made by an oracle after a larger list was submitted. BUT, I don't think anyone researching Athens can forget the political nature of, well, everything they did. I humbly submit after laying all of this evidence before you, that perhaps Theseus's exclusion had a lot to do with the fact that Athens really preferred to forget about the fact he was ever their king, not ONLY because of his disfigurement, but certainly as the final nail in his coffin.

Ultimately, Athens had no use for a disgraced King, hero or not. Not when his father could do the job without the taint of dishonor and failure, certainly!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Revision and Beta readers

I'm pronouncing this round of Helen COMPLETE. Now I just have to wait for the betas to read it.

This is the worst part. The waiting for readers to read. It's funny, because the general reader complains about how long it takes authors to write books, but I have a hard time finding people who can keep up with me--reading as quickly as I write. It isn't even that I'm all THAT prolific, but reading is something people do in their spare time, and writing is something I do with the majority of my time. Plus, I need fresh eyes for rereads and altered drafts.

I wonder how many readers it takes to produce one book, on average? How many betas do you need to make it from start to finish for your novels?

I have never felt as though I had too many readers, even when I end up with a glut. I'm always eager for just one more, to look at the latest revisions I've made. What about you?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Fun! And More Helen News

I made it to Tessa's short list for the Blogontest! Now usually these kinds of things you can't really help me with, because they are random drawings and you all know that randomizer is not my friend, but TESSA is asking for you to vote. So please, read my contribution, and the others in the short list, and cast your vote for whichever you feel should win on Tessa's sidebar! You have until December 12th to cast your vote.

In other news, I am back at the revision process with Helen, after taking November off for NaNoWriMo, and it is serious business. My goal is to have this round of revisions done by December 18th, which means that I have 22 pages to revise a day in order to get there, plus some additional writing since 2 out of 3 of my test readers tell me that the ending is too abrupt. Further handicapping me, el husband has this weekend off and we must finish our Christmas shopping. Dooooommmm!

In fact, I should be revising right now...

In the meantime, FEAST YOUR EYES on the newly released Thor movie poster!

And forgive me for being a lame poster while I work through the second half of Helen.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Pericles Commission, A Review

I don't usually write reviews, but since this novel is not just a novel, but also a love letter to Classical Athens, I feel in this instance you will all understand why I am COMPELLED to do so. And I know also that you'll forgive me for not being GOOD at writing them.

Gary Corby's The Pericles Commission brings Athens to life. More importantly (to me, as someone who believes that everyone should have a fundamental education in Classical Studies) Mr. Corby approaches the history and the time period in a way that will be accessible to anyone, whether they have any knowledge of that time period or not. The entire novel is a great hook for people who might be vaguely interested in ancient Greece, but don't want to be bothered reading primary source documents or non-fiction because it's boring.*

Gary sifts through the dry details of history and raises to the surface all the fascinating anecdotes that turn academic reading into PEOPLE who we can identify with and root for. People who lived and walked the streets,  with motivations we can understand, and struggling against the same things we do, today. And not only that, but people with a sense of humor too!

The Pericles Commission follows Nico as he takes on an investigation that throws him into the political pool of Athens at the deep end before he really knows how to swim. I can't judge the quality of the mystery (this was the first mystery novel I've read, to be honest. I know, I know. I'm sorry!), but I can tell you that I had no idea who the killer was until the end, and following the characters and their relationships while they figured it out (and struggled to keep their heads above water in the process) was fascinating and fun!

If you have anyone mildly interested in Classical history in your family, do pick up The Pericles Commission for them this Christmas.

*I don't think it's boring at all, personally, but that's because like Gary (I can say this with absolute confidence after reading his book even if I did not already know), I am devoted to it. 

Friday, December 03, 2010

For My Grandmother

The Napkin goes on the left.

At age 26, I can't tell left from right when I'm driving, or faced with a fork in the road, but I will always, ALWAYS remember which side of the plate my napkin belongs on. I also know how to sew buttons, make pillows using old pantyhose for stuffing, and of course, how to paint. Grandma taught me how to doggy-paddle in the river, catch crayfish and clams, and row a boat. Grandma had me exercising my creativity painting her garden ornaments, and no matter how completely awful they looked when I was finished, she set them out for everyone to see in that place of honor by the front steps. 

Grandma always mended my stuffed animals when they needed it and unflinchingly fed me goulash at 4 in the morning to make sure I had eaten something before I got on a flight back home when I came to visit her in Florida. She didn't mind how many paper cups I used to set up crude lizard traps in her garden. Grandma ingrained in me the use of matching towel sets, even if my guests don't quite know what to do with them all.

After a week with Grandma in the summer, I always had something to show for myself. Whether it was cookies that we had helped bake, cabinets we had organized to perfection, completed sewing projects, grass clipping around the old barn at Uncle Dave's, or paint and repair jobs, she always made sure we had done something we could take pride in and show off to Mom and Dad when they came to pick us up and have Sunday dinner. 

She taught us hard work, and aside from the grass clipping, it was always worth the rewards. Trips to Cole Park to go row-boating, swimming in the river, riding the wagon recklessly down the sidewalk, evenings spent playing ping pong and watching Nickelodeon in the basement, or roasting marshmallows outside at the fireplace. And of course that cup of hot chocolate before bed— half a packet of mix, each—and the classic toasted cheese sandwich (hopefully without the plastic).

Napkin on the left with the dinner and salad fork on top, spoon and knife on the right. Make sure that there's ice in everyone's glass. But more importantly, family. Gathered together, sharing a meal, and spending time with one another.

Grandma taught us the most important things, and I will always remember.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Outside my Box Blogontest

Tessa of Blurb has challenged us to write something outside our comfort zone for her blog contest, and for NaNo, I'm definitely doing that. For one, it's a book set in the early 1900s, which is definitely not my area of expertise. For two, it's psychological thriller/horror-esque, which is also, absolutely not something I do. Until now, I guess. So in honor of Tessa's Blogontest, allow me to offer you this excerpt, and then please do go read the contributions of the other participants!

This is probably my third attempt to draft this part of the book-- I'm not quiiiiiite sure it's made it to the level of horror/psychological thriller I'm looking for yet, but it's better by far than what it was. Evelyn is locked in a mental ward (placed there by her husband), questioning her sanity for a number of reasons, including a doctor who seems bent on torturing her, and the fact that she's seeing people who really should be dead.


Freaky enough?

P.S. I won't be posting on Friday, November 26th because I'm fairly certain most of my readership will be engaged elsewhere what with the Thanksgiving holiday, so have a great weekend, one and all!

P.P.S. due to family stuff, I will also be taking November 30th off from the blog. Sorry for the missed post. I should have something for you December 3rd.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What I mean when I say GOOD.

William Hunt & Edward Hughes Lady of Shalott
I went to see Morning Glory with my parents and husband this weekend, and it was great. Harrison Ford makes a fabulous curmudgeon, and Rachel McAdams is a wonderfully naive and perky go-getter. And of course I can't say no to Jeff Goldblum. For a drama, Morning Glory was punctuated with the perfect number of laugh-out-loud moments (none of which depended upon a gratuitous pot-smoking scene thank goodness), and I walked out of the theater feeling like I wanted to go back in and see it again.

But I also walked out of the theater feeling like I needed to write, and wishing I'd remembered to bring my purse with its ever-ready notebook to dive back into my current project. All I could think about was getting back to my book. And in my opinion, this is the critical element of what makes any movie, any book, any song, GOOD. For me, it isn't about story, or plot, or the nit-picking of lyrics. It isn't about what actors are in the film. It's about walking out of the theater with the compulsion to create!

 Spring by Pierre August Cot
Tolkien talks about sub-creation in his essay "On Fairy Stories" where he suggests that sub-creation is a natural compulsion spawned of our own original creation. God created us in his image, and clearly a large part of his image was the compulsion to create, which we inherited and translated into art, writing, imagination, Fantasy. Let me quote you the quote*:
"Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker" ( page 75).
So, the art, music, literature that draws this part of us out, puts us back in touch with that compulsion--there is nothing better than that. And certainly the fact that it reaches us there is the most important element, the most magical element. I'm not sure we can ask for anything more from any kind of art than that. I'm not sure that there is more to want.

So, what movies, books, songs, paintings inspire you? What is your definition of GOOD? I've included some of mine in this post. 

Drops of Jupiter by Train

I don't even dare to start listing books and movies, or I'll never stop, but I think it goes without saying how much I enjoy the original Star Wars trilogy in film, and Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.

*Source: Tolkien, J.R.R. "On Fairy Stories." The Tolkien Reader. New York: Ballantine Books, 1966. 33-99.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blogfest: Retold!

Sarah of The Wit and Wisdom is hosting today's blogfest in honor of her Blogiversary! The challenge was to retell a myth/legend/fairy tale, which I'll admit is kind of one of my favorite things to do. Head over to her blog and check out the other participants!

My offering is an excerpt from my retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Labyrinth, told from Ariadne's perspective. Theseus has just arrived in Crete with the other tributes from Athens, and Ariadne as high priestess has called him to an audience. I hope you enjoy it!

Ariadne sent the rest of the slaves away and rose, smoothing the tiered skirt over her hips. The fabric glittered with gold and silver threads, finely woven into cresting waves, leaping with dolphins. Scallop shells of deep blue marked the hem. Fitting that she would meet the son of Poseidon dressed in the sea.
She poured two cups of wine with her own hands, pleased to see they did not tremble. At last she raised her eyes to the Athenian. He stood still as stone, his hands tied together before him. Even bound, she saw Poseidon’s grace in the lines of his body, and a confidence that made her wonder if he could free himself any time he wished. When her eyes reached the golden collar fitted to his neck, her face flushed and her nails bit into her palms.
She unlatched the collar, flinging it from him before fumbling with the ropes. She tore at the knots, careless of her nails. Freed, he caught her by the wrists, his long fingers circling both in one hand. She raised her eyes to his, understanding too late her error. If Poseidon sought to punish Crete, the god had no reason to spare her.
His blue eyes filled her vision, an ocean dappled by sunlight and gulls laughing in the water. The sound of waves crashing against the shore whispered in her ears. How could Minos have doubted the name of his father?
“You called me here to free me?”
She stared at him a moment longer, unable to look away from his face. “A son of Poseidon should not be chained like a slave.”
His eyes narrowed and his gaze swept over her, lingering on her chest before rising again to her face. “But a prince of Athens should share the fate of his people. I am promised to the Labyrinth and the Minotaur within.”
“You’ll kill him.”
He let her go abruptly, throwing her from him, but she did not trip or stumble. The Goddess left her with at least that much dignity. He seemed to know the room in one glance, moving to the balcony that opened out over the maze. 
She let him look his fill, watching the way the muscles of his back and shoulders tensed beneath the bronze skin. His right hand closed as if it wrapped around a sword and a strangled noise escaped her throat. How many times had she seen Asterion make the same gesture, begging for death?
Theseus turned, his forehead creased. He opened his hand, jerking it behind his back as if she had caught him trying to steal bread from the kitchen before a meal. She stepped forward, taking his hand in hers and gently closing his fingers around the missing hilt.
“You must kill him,” she said, staring at his hand. “Please.”
With a finger beneath her chin, he raised her face to his, catching her eyes, searching them. No gulls sported in the waves of that ocean’s gaze now, but the whisper of the seashore came to her again. Water driven against the land, determined to wash it away with every stroke. As Crete would be washed away by the will of the gods.
“Even if I do.” He spoke so softly she almost did not hear him. “Even if I defeat the Minotaur, I will still be lost to the Labyrinth.”
She released his hand and stepped back. “I can show you the way out.”
He shook his head, his hand falling limp to his side. “You betray your people to help me.”
“I serve the gods,” she said. “As you do.”
“I will need a sword.”
“You will have it.”
He clenched his fist, turning back to the maze. Dusk had settled over the palace, turning the sky purple and framing him in the glow of the setting sun. It would be an honorable death for her brother, to be killed by Poseidon’s own blood. An honorable death, to make up for all that Asterion had suffered in the Labyrinth. A final blessing from the gods.
“So be it,” Theseus said.
Ariadne let out a breath she had not realized she was holding. 
For you, Asterion. For everything Minos has done to you. For every insult he has shown us both. For you, I will help Theseus destroy us.
Outside, the Minotaur howled and the great walls of the Labyrinth groaned in response.

Friday, November 12, 2010

50K! OR NaNo Update III

I made it to 50K Wednesday night around 11:15pm. Forty-five minutes to spare! I'll be honest, 50K in ten days was a pretty ridiculous marathon, and if I'd had to pull together one more 5K day, my brain would be mush right now. As it stands, I took Thursday off of my NaNo book to write blogposts for GeekaChicas and catch up on some Graphic Novel reading. SO mentally exhausting!

This weekend I'm going to be going through a bunch of my stuff from my parents' attic, which is part of why I did my best to make it to 50K by the 10th. I wanted to get my COMPETITIVE writing out of the way before facation! But, I'm definitely not done writing this month, and my draft is definitely not complete. Usually my drafts end up somewhere between 80-100K.

My original plan for NaNo was to come out the other side with a completed draft for this book, but from the beginning I've been kind of unhappy with how the draft is working. There's so much more that I want to weave in and work out that just isn't making it onto the page right now, which is making me wonder if I would be better served beginning the book again and starting the rewrites and reorganization instead of going any further. I know how the book is supposed to end (maybe) and I know what I want to happen next, but the beginning is just rubbing me the wrong way. The tone isn't anywhere near what I wanted. (And if you want to know what I was aiming for, please feel free to revisit my Bad Boy Blogfest post. The first scene is pretty much exactly what I want this book to be.)

What would you do? Continue on with a draft to see where it ends up, even though it isn't what you want it to be already, or stop and start over again?

Monday, November 08, 2010

NaNo Update II

I totally meant to write a real blogpost for today, but I am Whooped. Exhausted. Wiped Out. Mostly because I have written 40,000 words in 8 days, I think. Probably in part because this book is one of the hardest and most emotionally draining stories I have ever written. (I totally just deleted "told" and replaced it with "written" and cringed at the lost word. What does that tell you?)

Anyway. You will have to settle for my word count update and the knowledge that I am working hard to hit 50K by the 10th. Tomorrow is going to be a very, very long day, if I do not get started first thing writing.

In addition to writing 40K words, I've also been reading-- I finished up the third book in the Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold, then read the fourth book (which really gave me the heebeejeebies with that crazy giant Bat Malice Creature. Seriously, I almost could not sleep because of it!). Then I conquered The Great Gatsby and reread Speak. Now I'm going to be finishing up my reread of A Dragonfly in Amber. Apparently I read a lot while I'm writing, which, when I think about it, is not any kind of surprise really. I've always made sure I had a book on tap to read while working on a project.

And now for a list of things I should have researched in October!

  • electroshock therapy
  • concussions
  • The Zipper
  • C-sections
  • Banana Wine (admittedly this had nothing to do with the actual book, just curiosity)
  • Old Norse for "your hair" and other small translations. 
  • Lots more Icelandic than I know right now.
Look, I know this is a lame post, but I promise you once I hit 50K things will improve! Just stay with me :) And while you're here, what have YOU read lately? And do you like to read while you write?

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Giveaway! AND Nano Update!

I had a fabulous day one, guys! 7300+ words, and over the course of the week I managed to make it up to 21,800 words. Finding the right way to tell this story, however, is a little bit trickier than the writing part. And the research! I got blindsided just on day one with a TON of stuff I should have looked up in October. Including:
  • Clothing and fashions of the 1910s
  • Senators in Connecticut in 1910-1911
  • Women's Suffrage movement
  • History of legislation against domestic violence in Connecticut

In the process of all that research I also found this fascinating quote in an old newspaper article scan of a Special Session of the Senate on Mar 22, 1875:

"[Mr. Bayard] feared that there was a feeling growing up in this country among those who had control of it for some time, that the success of their party is of more consequence than the form of government under which we live."

But All of this is unimportant, because Stephanie Thornton is hosting a giveaway for Gary Corby's The Pericles Commission! Those of you who have been around the blog should already know Gary Corby, and if you're not following him already you should get on that, because his posts are great and super informative! The Pericles Commission is his debut, a murder mystery set in Classical Athens. How awesome is that? SUPER awesome, is the answer to that question. So. Enter to win Stephanie's Giveaway, and then if you don't win, Order the book. At Once. Or you know, order the book anyway. Give the prize to a friend or something. Do it. Now. Right this minute. What are you waiting for?!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Last Minute Research Reveals: Horagalles

Horagalles, or Thora Galles,  according to wikipedia, is a late name for Thor in Sami mythology. (Yeah, I know, Wikipedia, check other sources, etc, but at least it's a CITED article.) Firstly, I have to admit I had never heard of the Sami, but I want to learn EVERYTHING about them now. Secondly, if anyone out in the lands of blogtacularity knows any good books on the Sami, please let me know! Wiki tells me that they're a people from up waaay north in the Scandinavian lands, which makes all of what I'm about to say make a lot more sense, maybe.

Here's the thing: To the Sami, Thor wasn't just a thunder god, and he had more than just a hammer for a weapon. To the Sami, Thor was also an archer. He used the rainbow as a bow to shoot down evil spirits and demons. THE RAINBOW. I don't know about you, but it seems to me it would take a tremendously strong being to turn a rainbow into a bow. And there's more!

The Sami, according to Wikipedia (and believe you-me, when NaNoWriMo is over I'll be going straight to the library and the bookstore looking for more information to do a blogpost that doesn't rely on wikipedia!), also consider Thor to be god of oceans, lakes, human life, Health, and well-being!

I don't know about you, but picturing Thor as any kind of Archer is kind of blowing my mind right now. The attributes and associations on the other hand, are not. This is what I've been saying for FOREVER to anyone who would listen. Thor isn't just a bruiser, he's a guardian, a protector, a friend. Connecting Thor to well-being, in addition to human life, tells us he isn't just about the beating enemies down. He's also about building people up. This culture and mythology is exactly what I have been looking for as a link to what I've discovered for myself as I explore Thor's character, and the traditional Norse myths.

I'm not going to lie, I am pretty darn excited. When NaNo is over, I'll be digging into this with both hands, and I just can't wait to see what turns up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Procrastination Station

It is not even November, the month for procrastinating on writing a novel (also known as NaNoWriMo), and I am already taking up the habit of doing everything but what needs to be done that is writing related!

So far this week, instead of doing any of the research I meant to do and preparing for NaNoWriMo I have:

1) Done a full revision of BoG even though I said I was going to shelve it for a while and work on Helen instead.

2) Built an author website.

3) Involved myself in development of an audiodrama with some of my wildly creative friends from The Writers Block forum. (I imagine there will be more to discuss in this matter after NaNoWriMo.)

4) Read Catching Fire and Mockingjay in less than two days. (HOLY CRAP PEOPLE. as if putting those books down was even an OPTION at any time!)

5) Began reading The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold. (2 books down, 2 to go)

6) Read up on Bonnie and Clyde (obviously) who may or may not be tangentially related to my NaNoWriMo novel, but more than likely won't really make it in because this book is already going to be a giant mess even without adding in that whole next level of complication.

Needless to say, this November is not going to go quite so easily as last November did, wordcount-wise. I expect that I will be struggling much more this year, because the book is something I've never tried writing before and involves different techniques than I'm used to. Plan for Fridays to be designated NaNoWriMo update posts-- possibly even just a wordcount update-- until I hit 50K. I will try not to procrastinate so much :)

What is your preferred method of procrastination?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Hey Everyone! I have some great news! I spent the entire day yesterday working on building myself an author website, and it is now LIVE for your perusal! Let me know if there is anything I'm missing, yeah? I think I got the basic basics down. I'd like to put some kind of mythology related background on it maybe one of theses days, but I have to find something appropriate first.

Anyway, go check it out!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bonnie and Clyde

I've been thinking about Bonnie and Clyde for a few weeks now, mulling them over in my mind as historical figures and the larger than life characters they became, afterwards. I have two characters who very, very, very much fit into a Bonnie and Clyde mold. So I started doing research-- and as usual, this close to NaNoWriMo, I started with Wikipedia. NEVER ever my only research tool, but good for an overview, I find, for a topic I know very little about, and the first thing I absolutely had to know about Bonnie and Clyde was when they died.

Bonnieclyde f

As it turns out, the date of their death fits perfectly within the period I'm working inside for my NaNo project: May, 23, 1934. Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in their car by a posse of law enforcement officials who had grouped together for the purpose of catching them. Clyde, it appears, fell into the category of shoot on sight, but Bonnie, who had never killed anyone, was another matter. I suppose I can understand why the officers elected to shoot first and ask questions later, but I'm not sure I can make sense of the sheer number of shots fired, or the manner in which the whole debacle was treated.

I can not, for example, understand how any governing body felt it was acceptable to give away Bonnie and Clyde's possessions to the posse that hunted them down, instead of returning their personal effects to their respective families. I can not, for example, understand how people mobbed the scene and attempted to cut off body parts for souvenirs after Bonnie and Clyde were killed. I can not understand why multiple head wounds, and even more multiple body shots were necessary to kill a woman who had never killed anyone herself, even if she was an accomplice to Clyde's criminal acts. I can not understand why, criminal though they certainly were, we chose as a nation to deny Bonnie and Clyde a trial by jury and the basic right of innocent until proven guilty.

Not to say that there is any doubt as to their guilt, but I'm flabbergasted by the contradiction between, on the one hand, treating them as romanticized folk anti-heroes, famous and larger than life, superhuman, and on the other hand, something to be exterminated. This dichotomy between celebration and disvaluation of what still is, no matter what their sins, human life, kind of boggles my mind.

I wonder if what captures our attention and sympathy in regard to Bonnie and Clyde is not that they were criminals, but that the account of their deaths seems just as criminal as the acts for which Bonnie and Clyde themselves were summarily executed. Couldn't Bonnie and Clyde have been shot to injure and incapacitate, rather than wholesale slaughter, so that they might be tried and convicted? Or if Clyde was too dangerous to be kept alive, what reason did they have for shooting Bonnie a reported 26 times?

Bonnie's character itself is kind of fascinating, too, in that she seemed to be an accomplice, but not so much of one as to kill herself, and yet, she was still painted as a murderer. I kind of wonder if part of the reason she was gunned down with Clyde was because she was such an aberration. Perhaps society did not want a woman who ran around with a bunch of bank robbers, glorifying a life of unmarried and illicit behaviors, to be let off? Was Bonnie herself a threat to the status quo which kept women, at that time, still to a large degree under the control of their husbands or fathers?

Mia pointed me to this book, My Life With Bonnie and Clyde, on Amazon. I might have to go see if there's a copy at the library, or order it and see what Clyde's sister-in-law (another member of the gang) felt about all this. From the excerpts I read,  there seems to be a certain level of desperation to that time in her life. And for all of the terrible things they did, a very real sense of family loyalty and affection among them.

So why couldn't we be at least as human in apprehending them?

Friday, October 22, 2010

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Broadcast...

I'm sorry to tell you guys that the MUNG has come to my household, and writing this blogpost telling you we are ill is the best I can offer at the moment. It seems that I caught something, then gave it to El Husband. Neither one of us is thrilled with the situation.

I have however been able to do some revision work, in spite of the mung, so I'm feeling pretty good about THAT at least. It's kept me hopping though, and so today's blogpost must suffer for that success. You will all be happy to know, also, that I ordered the next two Hunger Games books. Soon, I will be among those who have read the entire trilogy, and you can all speak freely in my presence.

So there we have it.

Please send the get well soon vibes so that I'm healthy in time for the NaNo kick off party in my region on Saturday! I don't want to miss it again this year!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Horrors of Eugenics

One of the topics of my research this month, to prepare for NaNoWriMo, is Eugenics. To say that Eugenics is one of the most twisted and awful practices of mankind in modern history is possibly an understatement. Eugenics has been an excuse for all kinds of human rights violations since its conception. Eugenics, for example, is the "science" behind Hitler's master race, and the subsequent extermination of minorities during his regime. Needless to say, after seeing what the extremist application of Eugenics resulted in, it fell out of favor. I wish I could say it had been abandoned altogether and immediately.

On the surface, Eugenics seems like a pretty straightforward and common sense idea-- oversimplified, it applied the breeding practices we apply to livestock and plant-life to humanity. Encourage the people with desirable traits to have more children, and the people with undesirable traits not to have any. But somewhere along the way, we forgot that we don't really have a right to decide what is and is not a desirable trait for the entirety of the human race. And somewhere else along the way Encouraging became Forcing. Laws were passed, The State involved itself-- and not just in Germany, but in America, and the United Kingdom, and several other nations who believed themselves to be forward thinking at the time.

In America, Eugenics took the greatest hold in Mental Institutes. Mental illness, regardless of the circumstances of its acquisition, was considered a very undesirable trait, and as a result, men and women who were checked in began to be sterilized. Sometimes it was done honestly but the doctors did not need the consent of their patients and in documented cases, they flat out lied about the procedure. Mental illness itself in the patient did not have to be proven and justification in some instances was specious at best.

In one famous Virginia case, a woman who was committed to an asylum for the purposes of hiding a pregnancy was subsequently sterilized on the very flimsy evidence that she had passed on her supposed mental illness to her seven month old daughter--a supposed condition she had inherited from her own mother. Later research has revealed that both the sterilized mother and daughter were perfectly functional, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any illness of any kind. The worst that can be said is that the woman was an illegitimate child, and so was her baby. Incidentally, they sterilized her sister too, under the guise of an operation for appendicitis, and she did not learn the truth until much later in life.

I'm sure more case studies will crop up as I continue reading, but one thing you should know is that forced sterilization didn't stop in the US until well into the 1960s. Wikipedia says the last forced sterilization occurred as late as the 1980s. Of course, by that time they no longer called it Eugenics. That particular label had become a dirty word after Hitler's abuse of it. There's more information on Forced Sterilizations, organized by state, posted by the University of Vermont. It's easy to point the finger at Hitler, but in America we were waging our own war against undesirables, too. Would we still be following the twisted path Eugenics led us along, if Hitler hadn't taken it to an extreme? I wish I could say no. I really wish I could say no.

Obviously this is a part of history we can not ever afford to forget.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

FridayFlash: Homecoming

“Skál!" Balder said, raising his mug.
Thor smiled and knocked his cup against his brother's. The mead splashed over the lip, trickling between his fingers. "Skál!"
He quaffed his drink in one long draught and slammed it back to the tabletop just a moment before Balder. A cheer went up from the men around them, golden coins raining against the wood and stone. If there was any god in Asgard capable of out drinking him, Balder stood the fairest chance, though even then, only if Thor was already well into his cups. But in the relief after battle, no one had noted who had begun drinking first and the wagering had been fierce.
"More mead!" Balder called, and Thor laughed.
"Brave of you Balder."
"Bravery has little to do with it, brother. Mead!" He called again, and pulled one of the Valkyries into his lap. 
Kára shoved him backward off the bench before filling their mugs, winking at Thor. "Your wife sends word you must be sober enough to walk yourself to your hall, Thor, or she will find another god to take to her bed."
Thor grinned. "Balder will be drunk beneath the table long before my limbs are affected by my own mead. She need not go looking for any other."
"Ha!" Loki said. "And what other god can give her so grand a skáli as Thor!"
The gods roared with laughter, banging their fists and mugs on the table.
 "When will you build a proper hall, Thor?" Bragi asked. 
While the other gods had built immense halls, shining with gold and silver roofs, Thor had not improved upon the small cottage he shared with Sif since he had built it for shelter while he and Odin had raised Asgard from the earth. It had only two rooms, and a single hearth. Not that Thor had spent two days together at home since the war had begun. He grimaced.
"Surely you can not keep Sif in that hovel for an entire cycle!"
"Tomorrow Odin can send you to fight frost giants, and I will build a proper skáli for my bride." Thor raised his cup over the laughter of the gods. Bragi was god of poetry, and served better as messenger than warrior. "To victory!"
"To victory!" Balder called, struggling up and back to his seat. "And its rewards!"
"Skál!" the other gods shouted.
Thor drank, and drank again. And the third time that Kára came to refill their cups, Balder did not rise from the floor where she had knocked him for his cheek. The others would see that he found his bed, as they had every night their champions had returned from the fighting. Thor rose and made his way back home to his cottage on feet still steady, pleased to find his wife waiting at the door.
He took her in his arms, staring into her honeyed eyes, more brilliant than any amber. She laughed and framed his face in her hands, pressing her forehead to his. "Home at last. Though I suppose I should be angry that you only come to me after you've had your toasts and your wine."
"That I might come to you with nothing else on my mind, the grimness of battle left behind," he said, winding his fingers through her golden hair. She smelled of sunlight and fields of wheat, her skin beneath his calloused fingers smoother than water.
"I promise you, I am better than mead for forgetting."
"Skál," he murmured against her lips. 
And then he drank deep. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Christopher Columbus

Maybe I just have a thing for underdogs. Like Theseus, I think that lately Christopher Columbus has been getting the short end of the stick. All around the internet I keep seeing protests about how his "discovery" of America isn't something to be celebrated, because that discovery resulted in the destruction of a wealth of diversity and a number of indigenous peoples. Don't get me wrong-- what We-of-European-Descent did to the native people of North, South, and Central America is an atrocity. It's a part of history that we should never forget, but I'm not sure that Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day should really be the focal point of that rage. Is it fair to blame one man, historical figure of influence or not, for the sins of an entire culture, for being a PRODUCT of that culture? 

We've evolved since then, or at least, by God and all that is Holy, I hope we have. We recognize that what happened after Christopher Columbus arrived, the results of his discovery, were unfair to half-a-world of people. But the fact remains that we are HERE, we EXIST, because he arrived on these shores. Maybe someone else would have arrived. Maybe America would have been "discovered first" by the English instead of the Spanish (And I'll give the Vikings their due any day of the week, and celebrate that discovery of Canada happily, and maybe America would be a better place if they had colonized--but then again, the Vikings did their fair share of raping and pillaging and destroying utterly everything they ran across, too, so I'm not sure it would have resulted in any fairer treatment of the indigenous if they had been at the helm searching for trade passages). Or maybe it would have been DECADES before someone else had the courage to look beyond the edge of the map.

Columbus had a vision of finding a new way. He was a brave man, whatever else his proclivities, to even attempt to sail out the way he did. Columbus broke out of the narrow world view his people held, and dared to dream of something different. That is something that we should celebrate-- it's something that we're still striving to master as individuals, as cultures, as people in America. We should celebrate a man who went against every known truth about the earth and persevered through determination, courage, and strength of will to find what no man-of-European-descent before him had ever DREAMED existed. Heck, it's imprinted on our own culture as Americans! Dream Big! Follow your Dream! MAKE your Dream into reality!

I don't disagree that we should pay all due respects to the people who suffered for it. I don't disagree that the people of that period had some screwed up views about human life--especially peoples who did not fit into their narrow vision of "Civility." I don't disagree that we are sometimes tempted to gloss over those issues, to forget the atrocity in favor of the glory. We absolutely shouldn't. We absolutely MUST remember, and we absolutely MUST learn from those mistakes in the past. When we forget, terrible things happen-- genocides happen. But that doesn't mean we don't owe something, culturally, to Christopher Columbus for what he accomplished as an explorer. And it doesn't mean that his courage and vision should be stamped out and go uncelebrated.

Go ahead and use Christopher Columbus day as a reason to educate about the good AND the evils, but don't demonize the man for being a product of his culture, and don't forget that he still did something incredible in setting sail. And you know, maybe the bigger lesson in all of this is not to repeat the mistakes of the past, rather than attacking the past. Maybe we should pour our energy into stamping out the hate and the bigotry that STILL exists in America. The stuff that's happening now, right next to you, to the people who are different. Gays, Lesbians, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Christians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Arabs, Asians, Native Americans, Indians, and every other people who are being oppressed RIGHT NOW.

In the past, we were jerks. We were bigots and we were cruel. We did not know how to treat people with different beliefs, different cultures, with respect. Celebrating Columbus day isn't about celebrating the ignorance and stupidity of an entire culture. It's about celebrating the fact that we are HERE. We have a(n) United States of America because of Columbus. Because Columbus wanted to sail where no other man in his world had gone before.

All that being said, I guess I can totally understand if people are pissed about the way the world is today--the way America is today. I know I am. I am SICK to death of the hate in this world. But I'm really not sure we can pin that on Columbus. Columbus should not be our scapegoat. The world is what we are making of it TODAY. Us. You and Me. Don't blame the past, or the holiday, or take away the celebration of human spirit and determination which Columbus Day embodies. Work to build a better future instead of pouring more hate into the mix.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Theory of Marginalization

Recently a cousin of mine was asking me about Norse mythology, picking my brain for good sources. In particular he asked me if there were any good images of a Norse god reaching out to a human follower. I imagine he was thinking along the lines of Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel, with Adam reaching for God, or if he wasn't thinking it, I sure was. Then it struck me.

Do we EVER see the Norse gods really reaching out to their (human) people, engaging with them in an open and hands on way?

Now, I'll admit I haven't read all the sagas (yet) but I can't think of a single instance in which Odin or any other Norse god employs real godly power or hoo doo while engaging with a human. In fact, thinking back on the Saga of the Volsungs in particular, I don't recall a mention of anything that might be a religious practice at all, unless you count the use of runes and potions-- but they don't ever seem to invoke a god. People seem to be acting very much independently of the gods above them, acting by and through their own human powers. And maybe that's all it is: the sagas as a triumph of man without need of the gods or godly interference, because certainly the Norse people were of a fiercely independent nature. But if they were so intent upon rejecting the gods themselves, why hold on so tightly to such a rich mythology at all? Why give Odin ANY role in the story?

So often we hear of some saga hero being a distant descendant of Odin somehow, but never really the details of the circumstances resulting in the bloodline. And Odin himself keeps to the fringe, the margin of the stories. When he does play a role, it is usual a suggestion, or a bit of shared wisdom more than anything else, coming from a disguised man who may or may not be recognized for the god he is at all. The kennings themselves contribute to this marginalization even further. If a reader does not KNOW the common ways in which a god might be addressed without calling him by name, they're likely to miss the god's part in the story altogether. It all just becomes so much window dressing.

Now, in the one respect, these kennings are a poetic device, and probably were used in the same way that Homer inserted repetitive stock phrases into the Iliad like "owl-eyed Athena" or "white-armed Hera" but what if they served another purpose as well? What if Odin's marginalization in these sagas and stories was a direct result of the Christianization of the Norse people? I wonder if in order to keep their gods, their stories and histories, their cultural inheritance, Odin (and his ilk) had to be removed and made a lesser character in the recorded texts, the kennings added as further disguise for the pagan elements of the story.

What if the character of Odin as the wandering old man, sticking to the fringe of society and rarely interacting in any large way, is just the result of trying to preserve the sagas and myths in a form which would not result in condemnation by the church and those who took seriously the idea that the Norse gods were devils and demonspawn? The Church certainly did not hesitate to wipe out writings of other cultures they found offensively pagan whenever they thought they could get away with it.

I have no real proof of this as yet, but the feeling in my gut that this is not out of the realm of possibility. Call it food for thought, if you will. And now I'm REALLY curious-- what do you think? And do you know of any stories where Odin takes a larger role in engaging with his people? Norse Mythologists, Please! I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

(See, this is why I should be in a masters program for Old Norse Religion. Right here.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The (Norse) Genesis Story, Part II: Man

If you missed part one, don't worry, it's sitting just below this post on the main page, and it covers the FIRST creation story of the Norse Myths: the creation of the gods themselves.

I am, uh, somewhat overly familiar with the Christian Genesis at this juncture, and if I ever have to see the creation story again it will be too soon. But for the purposes of this post (covering the Norse Adam and Eve), I figure a little bit of contrast might be nice, so I'll make the sacrifice of revisiting it for all of you!

First, as previously mentioned, Adam and Eve (image from wiki commons by Peter Paul Rubens*) are made twice. Once, together and last after the creation of all other life, unnamed, and a second time as Adam and Eve, with Adam having been made first, all other animals created for the purpose of his companionship, and Eve finally made last from Adam's own body. (do I need to quote? okay, okay, fine. I'll quote**. Under the cut.) The Norse on the other hand, divide their creation twice in a different way, they have a creation/spawning of the gods themselves followed by the creation story of the ancestors of man (and, uhm, giants. They also have a flood by the way, but this post is already way too long).


First (Prose Edda: Glyfaginning Chapter V):
Now it is said that when he [Ymir] slept, a sweat came upon him, and there grew under his left hand a man and a woman, and one of his feet begat a son with the other; and thus the races are come; these are the Rime-Giants.
Reading direct from the source, it seems unclear to me if the first man and woman sprung from Ymir's armpit sweat (seriously) were giant and giantess or simply men. The addition of "these are the Rime-Giants" I suppose is meant to clarify that issue. But it is still the creation of A people (enemies of the Aesir and to a lesser extent, man), if not OUR people. And maybe it doesn't qualify completely as a creation story, since they're more spawned than MADE. But there is no mistaking the second account, which is far more vivid and detailed in its description (much like the second Genesis story).

From Chapter IX:
'When the sons of Borr [Odin, Vili, and Ve] were walking along the sea-strand, they found two trees, and took up the trees and shaped men of them: the first gave them spirit and life; the second, wit and feeling; the third, form, speech, hearing, and sight. They gave them clothing and names: the male was called Askr, and the female Embla, and of them was mankind begotten, which received a dwelling-place under Midgard.

Another account of this creation of Askr and Embla is mentioned in the Poetic Edda (Völuspá):
17. Then from the throng | did three come forth,
From the home of the gods, | the mighty and gracious;
Two without fate | on the land they found,
Ask and Embla, | empty of might.
18. Soul they had not, | sense they had not,
Heat nor motion, | nor goodly hue;
Soul gave Othin, | sense gave Hönir,
Heat gave Lothur | and goodly hue.
It's clear Snorri took from this previous accounting for his own version in the Prose Edda. I can't tell you why he changes the names of the gods involved though. It's entirely possible he had a different source to work from that we no longer have today and chose those names within it as more correct for some reason, though the Prose Edda quotes already quite a bit from the Poetic Edda.

What's fascinating to me, in regard to the Norse creation myth, is that there are two distinct forms of creation related. The spontaneous-big-bang-spawning, and then the later physical creation of another race involving the gifting of spirit. The other fascinating part of the whole thing is how much more neatly the Norse creation stories fit into our modern and scientific view of how the world came into being (And the Norse Mythology Blog has an interesting discussion about THAT as well, for further reading).

It's kind of fun to see the parallels, but I have to admit-- reading Norse Mythology requires something of a sound stomach. Over all I think I prefer Noah and the Ark to an entire race of giants being drowned in blood.

*Incidentally, Peter Paul Rubens is the only painter I've come across who paints Adam and Eve in an even remotely attractive manner, imho. This particular painting appeals to me even more because it almost seems as though Adam is the one engaging in the seduction. His Garden of Eden with Jan Brueghel is my twitter background, and you might recognize my blog and twitter avatar as being taken from this Adam and Eve painting.

**really, personally, not impressed with the King James Version. But I'm even less impressed with NIV, and other than the copy of the Tanakh on my bookshelf, I'm not sure what the best translation of the Hebrew would be to use, and don't want to give you something inferior I got off google. 

Monday, October 04, 2010


Hello my followers!

Tomorrow is part two of the Norse Creation Myth post series, so be sure to stop in for that, because we're actually covering Askr and Embla, who were featured on that very lovely postage stamp that I wish I could turn into a poster and hang on my wall.

BUT IN THE MEANTIME, if you like, you can check out my Guest Post for Ms. Mia over Yonder on her blog! There is some #ThorLove, I'm not going to lie. Or at least there is some Thor-Hating-on-Zombies, which he is prone to do from time to time. I really don't know what gets into him.

If you think that I'm funny (sometimes), you will quickly realize that my comic writing does not have a patch on Mia's sense of the hilarious, so you should definitely go check out her blog regardless of whether or not you want to hear about Thor's Conspiracy Theories of Zombies and Glitter.

Yes, I did just link to the same post twice. You know what? Because you really need to go to Mia's blog and become one of her followers, AT ONCE! Then come back here tomorrow for more (serious) Norse stuff!

Friday, October 01, 2010

The (Norse) Genesis Story, Part I: The Gods

Most of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the Creation story of the Book of Genesis. I always found it kind of odd, this dual creation of man (and odder still the way Christianity places so much more emphasis on that second creation story which "makes" woman subservient to man). Lately as I perused my Norse texts, I began thinking about the Norse creation story, and its Adam and Eve: Ask(r) and Embla**. And like the Christian mythos, there are two stories of creation (albeit not exactly parallel but much more sensible if you ask me). First we are told of how the gods themselves came into being, and then, secondly, the ancestors of man. Since this post kind of exploded in length, I'm splitting it in half, and today we're going to cover the creation of the gods!

Now Norse creation is not quite so tidy as the Christian, if only because there are a heck of a lot more intelligences being created: Giants, Gods, Dwarfs, Elves, humans, etc. In my last post we talked a little bit about Ymir and Buri's descendents leading to Odin and the creation of Midgard from Ymir's body. (Gives new meaning to the expression "over my dead body" doesn't it?) Ymir himself is sprung from the great melt when Múspellheim and Niflheim met after the big bang, and like Audumla the Cow, his creation is somewhat spontaneous, without credit to any other intelligence.

The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning, Chapter V) says:

when the breath of heat met the rime, so that it melted and dripped, life was quickened from the yeast-drops, by the power of that which sent the heat, and became a man's form. And that man is named Ymir
 Then in answer to how Ymir is nourished it goes on to say (Chapter VI):

"Straightway after the rime dripped, there sprang from it the cow called Audumla; four streams of milk ran from her udders, and she nourished Ymir." Then asked Gangleri: "Wherewithal was the cow nourished?" And Hárr made answer: "She licked the ice-blocks, which were salty; and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Búri: he was fair of feature, great and mighty.
I suppose you could say that the gods themselves (Buri being the father of Bor who is the father of Odin) were unearthed after the big bang, as we might dig up fossils. Spontaneously made by the force of the explosion. It's also kind of interesting to note that all life so far has come from/risen out of the water, something that science today has determined to be absolutely essential to life and goes in search of on other planets today in the hope of finding other spontaneous life forms. It isn't really all that surprising that an ancient culture would find it essential as well, early man knew what it needed, and the Norse people made a very good living through mastery of the seas, but nowhere in the Christian Genesis does life seem quite so connected to water as we see in these myths.

All of this creation, and we haven't even gotten to MAN yet. You see what I mean about not being quite so tidy? But don't worry, we're almost there. You'll get to see Askr and Embla in Part II!

**image of Askr and Embla on the Faroe Islands Stamp from Wiki Commons. I'd post an Adam and Eve image, but frankly I think a lot of them are ugly. Maybe I'll dig one up I actually like for the next post :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Considering the Source: Snorri's Prose Edda

To my greatest shame, I don't have a hard copy of the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson. Thankfully we live in the information age, and the internet does provide! I have been remiss in my studies of late, what with the distraction of Theseus and all that Trojan War mythology, so this post is long, long overdue, but I thought you, my fabulous followers and friends, would appreciate some examples as to why we must always, always consider the nature of the source when we look at the textual evidence we have for Norse Mythology.

To begin with, Snorri's Edda, the Prose Edda, is prefaced by a somewhat long-winded account of the beginning of man-- that is, the Christian Account of that evolution, and ultimately how it led to the men who would later be considered gods to the Norse people. Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, the Great Flood, even King Priam of Troy get mentions. Snorri doesn't hide his agenda. In one respect, this makes it a lot easier to sift through. We know Snorri is writing from a Christian Worldview, and it's quite clear that he means to discount the divinity of the gods in order to preserve that theology.

For instance, in the prologue Snorri places Thor quite firmly into human history as a grandson of King Priam:
One king among them was called Múnón or Mennón; and he was wedded to the daughter of the High King Priam, her who was called Tróán; they had a child named Trór, whom we call Thor.
and turns Sif into Sibil the prophetess:
In the northern half of his kingdom he [Thor] found the prophetess that is called Síbil, whom we call Sif, and wedded her. The lineage of Sif I cannot tell; she was fairest of all women, and her hair was like gold.

Oh so very Greek of him, and a testament too, to the pervasive nature of the mythic Troy* and it's people as a fact of history, cross culture.  He also goes on to make Odin a descendent of Thor, and leader of an exodus to the Northlands:

Odin had second sight, and his wife [Frigg] also; and from their foreknowledge he found that his name should be exalted in the northern part of the world and glorified above the fame of all other kings. Therefore, he made ready to journey out of Turkland, and was accompanied by a great multitude of people, young folk and old, men and women; and they had with them much goods of great price. And wherever they went over the lands of the earth, many glorious things were spoken of them, so that they were held more like gods than men.

To say this is a far cry from the Norse creation myth**  is an understatement. But it serves his purpose-- turning gods back into men, historical figures who can then be explained by gossip and boasting pre-vikings. I can certainly appreciate his translation of Aesir into a term referring to men from Asia, as in men descended of the House of Priam from Troy, though his supposition that they brought with them the language from Asia has, as far as I know, no linguistic basis whatsoever. It is, however, rather creative of him.

But this is what Snorri DOES; he rationalizes the mythology of his people to something which can fit within the Christian theology without competing against it. Suggesting that these gods were not gods at all, but men who have been honored and revered to the point where we forgot they were just men allowed a certain amount of preservation, even if it leaves us with a lot of teases and a source of questionable reliability.

On the one hand, we should be grateful to Snorri for preserving even as much as he did. On the other hand, I would give my left arm for a textual source written down before contact with the Christians and the conversion of the Norse people to that new faith. To hear the stories of the Norse gods from someone who honestly believed in them, knew them for allies, and placed him/herself in their hands, would be an incredible gift to our understanding. Snorri, though, is not it.

*The influence of Homer is pretty astounding when you think about it-- this Edda was written around 1200 AD, and Homer's Iliad was at earliest recorded ~700 BCE. That's almost 2000 years later, and don't forget that Snorri is also an Icelander! That's a long way in time and physical distance for the Epics of Homer and the ancient Greeks to travel.

**Odin, a son of Bor, himself a son of Buri who was licked from the ice by the cow Audhumla, and thereby the father of all other gods--and Thor the son of Odin after Odin and his brothers slew Ymir, the giant of all giants, and formed from Ymir's body, blood and bones the mountains, rivers, seas, etc. that make up our world.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some Old News and Some New News

I have returned from the wild west! Unfortunately, I did not find the most excellent bucking bronco Wyoming sweatshirt that I have lusted after since I first laid eyes upon it YEARS ago, but I did get a nice magnet and got to see the Badlands for the first time since age 3. That is to say, this time I may actually REMEMBER it for the foreseeable future.

(Oh, did you want to see a picture? Of the badlands? El Husbando is currently holding our personal photography--such as it is--hostage. But it was definitely cool to look at. Like someone had taken a paint brush to the hills and the stone and turned them all into sunsets. You will have to make do with this image from wiki commons* for now! It kind of washes out a lot of the color, but it gives you an idea I guess.)

Badlands, South Dakota, USA. From :
As far as the old news goes, while I was away a fabulous twitter-friend sent me an awesome link to an article of ANOTHER facial reconstruction from a found skull. This time, a young Athenian girl from ~430 BCE. It takes forever to load the page but the image is fascinating, I'm particularly interested by the fact that they chose to give her red hair. 

In a similar vein, I stumbled across a series of pictures of facial reconstructions from our ancient apish ancestors to the present day a while back, which I found to be COMPLETELY THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER. Or at least a really fascinating look at the evolution of the human face. And apparently I am a sucker for putting faces on the long dead. (Still hoping for the Headless Vikings to get their faces back!)

And speaking of Neanderthals (kind of), did you know the majority of the human race is part neanderthal? 1-4% of our genes! Interbreeding! The Stuff Stories Are Made Of! 

While searching for those links, I also found this one which is from an article dated way back in 2007 claiming that some Neanderthals were red-heads, which brings us back to the red-headed Athenian girl. I wish they explained why they thought she had red hair! Apparently they're going to do facial reconstructions of another couple of skulls for a museum exhibit. I'm dying to see the results, personally. 

Putting a face on these people seems to me to be a strong parallel to what we do as writers, giving stories to characters, historical, mythical, and imaginary. Or maybe it's the fact that when I create characters of my own, or even find characters from mythology attaching themselves to my writing, I don't SEE faces myself. I know I would recognize my characters on the street, if I saw them, but imagining the face in my mind just doesn't work out at all. Either way, facial reconstructions of ancient people is just one of the coolest things ever, in my opinion! 

So there you have it! The official return to hiatus post! Now with MORE Links!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Public Service Announcement!

Dearest Followers,

I am sad to report that I will be away from the Information SuperHighwayInterstate and therefore I must take a short Hiatus from the blog of about a week and a half. Expect my next blogpost on Friday, September 24th! It is possible that I will get my act together on the Tuesday previous, but if I were you, I would not hold my breath!

The good news is, I have written a short story telling the story of Theseus's arrival in Crete and the mystery of the Minotaur from Ariadne's PoV which I am very excited about and look forward to revising and submitting to places! Perhaps I will get lucky.

I will miss you, my followers! Have a fabulous next two weeks without me!


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Defense of Theseus' Honor (Part One)

The other day when I went through tagging Theseus entries, I realized I had yet to do a proper entry on him, as I have for others, and since I started the argument about his character in the post about The Hunger Games, it seemed only right to finish it.

Obviously, I consider Theseus to be a hero. And just as obviously, there are certain pieces of his mythology which do not exactly match with how we might consider a hero to behave in these modern times. But I don't believe that Theseus's character is that of the jerk he is sometimes painted to be, and I absolutely don't think, as I have seen said elsewhere, that he was any kind of serial rapist. In fact, every time I think of that phrase being applied to him, it kind of makes me physically sick.

The major area, which you might have surmised, where Theseus comes under criticism is in his dealings with women. In particular, his relationship and abandonment of Ariadne, and later, the question of his relationship with the Amazon Queen who is named either Hippolyta OR Antiope. Today I'm going to focus on Ariadne and Plutarch's history of Theseus!

As Plutarch himself admits:
There are yet many other traditions about these things, and as many concerning Ariadne, all inconsistent with each other.
And he isn't wrong. In Plutarch's Theseus, he gives us a fair rundown of the differing accounts, and I'll summarize them for you here, because quoting will make this the longest entry of all eternity. Generally, these stories fall into three camps:
  1. Theseus abandons Ariadne on Naxos purposely and with no regret and sails off.
  2. Theseus and his fellows spend the night on Naxos, and for reasons beyond Theseus's control he is forced to leave her behind (usually this means she married a priest of Dionysus, or Theseus's ship was blown back out to see and by the time he got back Ariadne was dead.) 
  3. Theseus never took Ariadne at all, nor did she help him, but merely admired him from a distance.
The third is by far the least well known today, but you can see that these are the same contradictions that accompany the stories of Helen's abduction by Paris. No one really agrees, and different places and different poets had their own interpretations of what happened and who in the party was wronged.

Plutarch doesn't relate the stories which are commonly known in his time in any depth. (At which choice, I shake my fist in outrage from 2000 years in the future!) But it's okay, Plutarch isn't our only source on Theseus. He does mention two things I find interesting: firstly, that Ariadne may or may not have born Theseus sons (evidently whilst they were voyaging back from Crete, which is wow pretty fast gestation) who went off to found other cities/places, and secondly, he NEVER states that Ariadne asked for anything in return from Theseus in exchange for her help, only that Theseus takes her with him when he leaves.

Now, I would argue that the same young man, who, seeing the pain of the people in Athens at having to give up their own sons and daughters, volunteers himself to travel to Crete and be part of this tribute to do what he can to lift their suffering would not, after showing such empathy, then callously abandon a woman who mothered his sons (Plutarch tells us that with the other women he may or may not have met along the way previous to this who gave him sons, he then took responsibility for seeing them married.), or callously abandon any woman who might have helped him in general, even without children. After all, hasn't he just risked his life for seven virgin Athenian girls? And the last woman who helped him and offered him kindness on his quest against the Marathon Bull, he repaid by creating what amounts to an annual holiday in her name, to honor her in perpetuity with sacrifices.

Theseus was not raised in Athens. He did not even know who his father (the Aegeus half) was until he was a young man strong enough to lift a boulder. After being made Aegeus's heir it was probably wise of him to make nice to the people he would rule, but to appease them, all he would have needed to do was throw his name into the lottery-- or APPEAR to throw his name into the lottery. Who would have known otherwise? Plutarch specifically states (emphasis mine):
These things sensibly affected Theseus, who, thinking it but just not to disregard, but rather partake of, the sufferings of his fellow-citizens, offered himself for one without any lot.
Now, it would be jerky of me not to admit that Plutarch had his own agenda in writing down the story of Theseus. Plutarch meant to show a parallel between Theseus and Romulus, the founder of Rome, and by doing so, demonstrate Rome's greatness by the greatness of its founder. In this, it behooved Plutarch to show Theseus in a favorable light so that favor would reflect on Romulus and Rome itself. The other bias of Plutarch is his habit of discounting all godly influence, and without the involvement of the gods, these mythologies alter pretty dramatically. A hero's character is made or broken by whether or not the gods compelled him to some behavior or other.

For instance, if Theseus was compelled to leave Ariadne behind that she might be made the bride of Dionysus, and through this, a goddess, that is a different thing entirely than his sailing off into the sunset to abandon her of his own accord, showing no regret. Or, in Paris's case, if Aphrodite swept Paris off the battlefield during that crucial fight with Menelaus against Paris's own wishes to deposit him in Helen's arms, that is a very different story than one in which Paris consciously flees from Menelaus, giving up the fight when he realizes he will die, and hiding in the palace in Helen's bed to let Hector do his fighting for him.

We'll take a look at some other sources on Theseus and Ariadne again, soon!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Theseus Haiku!

Follow the link to sign up for the Haiku Blogfest hosted by Stephanie Thornton, and see the other participants!

Adventuresome Youth
The Attican Heracles
Now Lost to Hades

Yeah, okay, so I suck at Haiku. For more on Theseus, and The Hunger Games, be sure to check out the post below!

Nitpicking the Theseus Connection of The Hunger Games

So I sat down and read the entirety of the first Hunger Games book in one sitting on Wednesday. I'm sure none of you are surprised. I took one break for a granola bar and to stretch, then dived right back in. I don't normally do in depth reviews of book on the blog, and I'm not sure I want this to be considered one either-- I'm really only going to address one element, and that is (of course) the Theseus Connection.

Now, I've been hearing a lot about this from the start, and so maybe I was thinking there would be something greater than what there was, because of all the hype, and also maybe I am OVERLY familiar with the Theseus mythology, so it's hard for me to see the Trees for the Forest, or uhm, the Forest for the Trees, or however that saying is supposed to go. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Also, if you have not read the first book, there be spoilers ahead. Arrrr!

So let me just get right down to it.

The Theseus/Ariadne element? I think it's a stretch. A big one. Stay with me while I lay out my reasoning.

First, the mythology:
Athens had to pay a tribute to Crete every so many years of 7 boys and 7 girls. Now, it gets a little bit fuzzy here whether it was to feed the Minotaur or for the Bull Dance, but either way, this tribute had to be paid, and Athens, as you might imagine, wasn't really all that thrilled about sending its sons and daughters to die. Theseus, new on the scene at Athens and only recently made heir of King Aegeus, offers himself in sacrifice (or is drawn by lot--both versions are equally valid) and heads to Crete to kill the Minotaur or free Athens from the tribute by whatever means. Since he's already proved himself by whooping the monstrous people on the Isthmus road at the gates to the underworld, I'm sure he was fairly confident about this Minotaur business when he left.

Now we get to Ariadne, Minos's daughter. There are a slew of different interpretations as far as what happens here, but I'll go with the basic assumption that people jump to for ease of posting. Ariadne meets Theseus and falls in love with him (how they had the time to socialize, and when they met is something to think about). She agrees to help him find his way back out of the labyrinth if he'll promise to take her with him (and marry her*) when he leaves Crete. She gives him a ball of string to allow him to retrace his steps, and (sometimes) directions from Daedalus on how to get in and out without falling into the traps of the labyrinth. Theseus follows these directions, finds the Minotaur, kills it off, and makes his way back out. He collects Ariadne as per his promise and gets out of dodge. Theseus then abandons Ariadne on a nearby island, sometimes at the order of Dionysus,** who claims her for himself, and sometimes just because Theseus is inexplicably some kind of jerk*** suddenly who doesn't care about honoring his promises.

The book:
Katniss, a skilled hunter and established member of her community, volunteers to go to The Hunger Games (as a tribute to a "foreign" power) in place of her sister. The other tribute chosen (by lot) is a boy named Peeta, who it turns out, has been in love with Katniss since the age of five. Now, I'm going to go ahead and say KATNISS should be interchangeable with THESEUS here. Which makes Peeta Ariadne, and already we  have some divergence from the myth-- as we should, of course, because it isn't a direct retelling, just an allusion. From this point on, Katniss and Peeta are stuck together, and of course Katniss learns of Peeta's feelings for her, but she isn't so sure of her own (which will set up nicely for her to abandon HIM on the next island they come across in a sudden case of jerkdom, but I have not read book two yet, so I can not offer an opinion on that element as yet).

Now, inside the Games, Peeta goes about doing his best to keep the other tributes from killing Katniss, though I'm fairly certain that she really didn't need much of his help except in that one incident with those crazy wasps. Mostly, Peeta seems to be kind of useless inside the Games. He can't track, he can't move with any stealth, the only thing he's really all that good for is lying absolutely still in the mud under camouflage to die. When there's a chance that they might both win if they stick together, Katniss goes for it, either because of her feelings for him, or because she just isn't a jerk and doesn't wish death on people for no reason.

But here's the next major divergence-- Peeta essentially handicaps Katniss in pretty much every way. He isn't a help, he's a piece of meat, an extra mouth to feed, and in order to keep him alive, Katniss has to put herself into incredibly risky situations which she might not otherwise have had to face and almost gets HERSELF killed at least once. I finished the book convinced that Katniss would have triumphed even more effectively without the burden of Peeta to look after. And that's the biggest problem I have with this talk of the Allusion to Theseus and the Labyrinth business. Theseus absolutely could not have gotten back out again if not for Ariadne's love for him. Katniss would have been better off without Peeta, pretty much from beginning to end. That's too huge of a divergence for me to swallow all the hype surrounding the book as a retelling of Theseus and the Labyrinth, specifically. If someone hadn't flat out said it to me, I would have gotten nothing on my Theseus-dar. (And let me tell you, I am HIGHLY attuned to Theseus by now!)

As for Katniss having to defeat a Minotaur equivalent? Mrph. Katniss didn't defeat anything. Those hounds got called away by the Gamemakers. In fact, after they got Cato, they didn't seem all that interested in Katniss or Peeta at all.

(Sidenote: way to go blogger/firefox spellcheck for knowing how to spell both Theseus and Ariadne! you have trumped Word!)

So there you have it. My nitpicking review of The Hunger Games. Can't wait to see if Katniss turns into a sudden Jerk or not! And, all that said, I really really enjoyed this book a lot. I thought the writing was fairly flawless, and the present tense first person was masterfully done. Two thumbs up!

*Really, if Ariadne only made Theseus promise to take her with him from Crete, and NOT explicitly to marry her, he kept his word regardless.

**There is some interesting evidence for sacrifices being made to "The Lady of the Labyrinth" which may have been a reference to Ariadne, who may or may not have been treated as a goddess. There are also some theories floating about that Ariadne was ALREADY married to Dionysus before she made her deal with Theseus, and kind of just led him on to get herself out of there, which would fit with her already being a goddess also. Definitely a topic that I'd very much like to do more of my own research into. At the moment it is kind of classified in my brain as rumor.

***Personally, I find that to be a little bit bizarre behavior from someone who just volunteered to be sent off to a foreign land as a tribute RISKING HIS LIFE on behalf of a people he barely knows but has adopted as his own, when he has already established himself as someone with a keen sense of justice, but, you know, whatever. As they say around and about the internet, Haters gonna Hate.