Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Norse Picture Book Nightmare

Friends, it has come to my attention that there are very few picture books for children relating to Norse Mythology. The ones that do exist seem to misrepresent Thor as a son of Frigg (GASP!). Now, I know absolutely nothing about what it takes to write a picture book, but guys, how the heck am I going to indoctrinate the children of my acquaintance if I cannot get my hands on a picture book that keeps its facts straight?!

Now, I can't exactly blame these authors for having a little bit of trouble with the whole mess of which woman/giantess/goddess fathered which son of Odin, but it seems to me the easiest solution would be to just not mention the mothers involved at the picture book level. Thor, son of Odin. Period! I mean if I'm going to buy a picture book with misinformed parentage, I might as well go shopping at Marvel for some Super Hero Squad, and then at least it has the excuse of not being The Real Thor.

Heimdal and his Nine Mothers
Baby Heimdal and his Nine Mothers

Friends of the blog, what am I to do? And how would you solve the problem of dubious parentage as the result of affairs in a children's picture book? I'm curious if this is a result of some kind of "we must save the kids from immorality" ideal, but the same series of books had Heimdal as the son of nine women and Odin, so I'm feeling like there are some mixed messages there. Is it okay to be the bastard son of Odin if you are conceived by orgy, but not if you are the result of some common affair with a giantess? Are kids aged 2-5 really paying attention to who was born out of wedlock and who wasn't?

What say you?

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Theseus Art Interlude

A friend asked me for a link to a very particular illustration of Theseus the other day, and I was reminded of just how much art we have of Theseus and the Minotaur. Seriously, surfing Wiki commons, every other image is Theseus whooping on the Minotaur. So for those of you who do not feel compelled to google Theseus imagery, I thought I'd share some with you.

To begin, of course, Theseus and the Minotaur:
Kylix Theseus Aison MNA Inv11365 n1
© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

At least you get a little bit of Athena in there. And she looks pretty hardcore in this image, if you ask me, although, I am not really sure what to make of the Gorgon face on her Aegis. Theseus seems to be starting a new fashion trend by wearing ONLY a sword belt into battle. Those crazy youths. But I guess if you're the champion of Athena you might have reason for that kind of confidence.

And for a little variety, Theseus... and the Minotaur. Now with BONUS labors around the edges!
Theseus deeds BM E 84
© Twospoonfuls/Wikimedia Commons

I actually think this is pretty cool. Not only because Theseus clearly accomplished MANY great deeds without pants, but also because it lays out all the main events of Theseus' heroics: (clockwise from 12 o'clock) his defeat of Kerkyon (by wrestling match), Procrustes (he used to stretch people out on a bed rack-like, or else lop off the parts of them that hung over the edges, so Theseus did the same to him), Sciron (who evidently was beaten over the head with the foot-washing bowl to be eaten by the Seamonster-Turtle), The Bull from Marathon, Sinis (who tied hapless travelers in between two bent trees, then let the trees spring back, tearing the people in two. And yes, Theseus gave him a taste of his own medicine, too), and finally the Crommyonion Sow. It's like one of those collector's plates you hang on your wall! Except with a little bit more nakedness!

There's a lot more where this came from, but I think that bowl/vase/whathaveyou covers all the greatest Theseus hits. Get it? Hits? Theseus killed them all? Ahahaha--yeah okay. I'll try to come up with some better jokes for next week.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Erik The Red, Etc. (OR: What! An actual Norse Post? on a Tuesday?!)

Yesterday I spent some time researching Iceland. I do this periodically, and not just for my own pleasure, but because I find that no matter how hard I fight it, a lot of my short stories wind up taking visits there, if they don't just flat out move across the Atlantic. Today was all about The Ring Road (interesting article from the New York Times), and the sights to be seen along the way. I remembered seeing a picture someone took of the Black Sand Beach at Vík, and the setting was perfect for something my character was in the process of doing, so since I could name it, for google purposes, I started there. (Stay with me guys, this post gets AWESOME!)
The beach at Vik

And then I found this goldmine of a website. Virtual tours of a bunch of cool places, plus a small map to let you know where it is in Iceland. Guys. If you are writing a story about Iceland and you have never been there, this website was made for you. Even if I were not writing about Iceland, I could spend hours just watching the slow 360 degree panorama of locations. But I mean, that kind of goes without saying, coming from me.

A google of The Ring Road led me to the NYT article linked above, and from there I looked up Eriksstadir-- the home of Erik the Red, which P.S. from that article sounds like a blast to visit. But it wasn't enough to just know where Eriksstadir was, I needed to know about Erik. Specifically, I needed to know if Erik followed the faith of his forefathers, or converted to Christianity. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia did not have the answer to this all important question, and I wouldn't really have trusted it if it had, so I went to the source. The Saga of Erik the Red.

My friends, Erik the Red was some kind of Character. I'm not even sure what to make of him, except I'm starting to think "the Red" was more a descriptor of his temper than it was his hair color. Maybe "seeing Red" comes from Erik the Red. And if it doesn't, it should. But that's neither here nor there. After wading through a few chapters at the Icelandic Saga Database (Yes, I do have this saga in a physical book on my shelf, but I was trying to do a cursory search, not a sit-down-and-read-research-expedition-into-the-past), I found this most fabulous of all fabulous quotations regarding, of all things, Erik's lack of enthusiasm for Christianity (emphasis mine):
Eirik took coldly to the proposal to forsake his religion, but his wife, Thjodhild, promptly yielded, and caused a church to be built not very near the houses. [...] After she accepted the faith, Thjodhild would have no intercourse with Eirik, and this was a great trial to his temper.
Oh, Erik. Just when you'd finally settled down and finished murdering people, now this? It should probably be noted, also, the person trying to convert Erik is none other than his son, Leif.

Of course at this point in the saga, one is tempted to wonder, what WASN'T a trial to Erik the Red's temper?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Forgetting How to Write

Every once in a while when I am between projects for too long (in this case I just wrapped up a giant revision and have been submitting some things and working through the business end of the writing process, as opposed to the writing end), I have a terrified moment where I actually stop and think about what I do-- that is, write-- and realize I have no idea HOW I'm doing it.

How does one go about bringing a whole entire world to life? Or forget a whole world, maybe just one character? And where do you BEGIN?  It's an incredibly tall order when I stop and think about it for too long. Incredibly intimidating, too. What gives me the right? And how do I order these words on a page to make it into something more than just... words on a page? What makes my words into people and places and things and laughter and sorrow? And what am I supposed to write next?

That's really the most terrifying part, maybe. I have a moment where I forget my list of things I want to write next, and stare at the computer thinking "if someone asked me to start writing, I would not know what to do." It isn't that I don't remember how to put a sentence together, it's that for that brief horrifying moment, all the ideas I had for future projects have vanished, and I am left a writer without a story. And what is a writer without a story? Can that person even be called a writer anymore?

It never lasts. Even now as I'm writing this, I'm remembering all the projects I've been meaning to work on. A scene for a book I've given up on publishing, but want to insert because I love it. Pirithous, of course, because we cannot give in and let Pelagia win. The Bronze Age Norse book, for which I have notes staring at me from a whiteboard on the wall. And the experimental nano novel that needs to be rewritten, about my poor Evelyn trapped in the psych ward during the world wars. To name just a few.

But man.
It takes a certain amount of hubris to think I have the chops to pull any of this off. Being a writer plays at being a god. Just like Tolkien said.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The PACTS of Life: Pirithous vs. Pelagia

You might have heard some things about me and Pirithous from that rapscallion also known as Zachary AKA Zak AKA He who likes WHO. You may even have heard of our GRUDGE MATCH-- Pirithous vs. Pelagia, winner takes ALL. I have bumped his fist via the interwebz and I have read his blogpost, and his badmouthing of my fair Pirithous. He would have you believe that Pirithous is just some no good swindler! That you should cheer for Pelagia the daughter of a PIRATE.

Freundespaar Peirithoos + Theseus
Pirithous on left. A Respectable Man!
But I am here to tell you, Pirithous is a name you can trust!

Pelagia isn't even a demigod! Just the daughter of one. pfft. And as for being raised by ghosts, I would think that would only make someone a little bit confused about the REAL world. People who talk to ghosts, see ghosts, they're never the sanest most stable sort! And really, are you telling me you'd put your faith and trust in a Witch-pirate (like mother like daughter!) over a son of Zeus?! A bona fide HERO?

No. I think not! Trust and Faith, are, in fact, the LAST adjectives anyone thinks of when you start talking about witches and pirates! Sure, Pirithous might raid a little cattle here and there, but that was an expected and common practice for his time! Same with stealing women! A man just wasn't a man (or a hero) if he didn't get in on a little of that action to get his name out there! It was a time-honored tradition!!

Don't listen to the vile untruths that my competitor feels compelled to spread. Don't think for a moment that a woman who was raised by ghosts will have any kind of compassion or consideration to the living! Why should she? But Pirithous, all he wants is the good life. Steak, wine, and women!

Pirithous is a man of the people!

Pirithous is YOUR man!

And perhaps most importantly, Pirithous will provide plenty of fodder to carry me over the finish line by July 31, 11:59pm. Can you say the same about Pelagia? 'Cause from where I'm standing, I don't think she's making any guarantees!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Relationship Between Fantasy, Myth and Historical Fiction

I have been doing a lot of reading lately. And obviously I've been doing a lot of writing. But I want to ask you a question, my followers, because I feel that if you were not interested in mythology, you would not really be reading my blog. I mean, let's face it, it is mythology city over here. SO.

When does Historical Fiction, influenced by myth, become Fantasy?

We have Homer, and Virgil, both of whom wrote epics which included elements of mythology -- gods and monsters and more gods and lots of divine hands floating about, messing with fates and destinies -- and we don't call them fantasy. We call them history and literature, and archaeologists over the years have gone looking for evidence that these people lived and breathed in our past. Agamemnon, Odysseus, Theseus, Aeneas. You all remember the guy who claimed to have found Odysseus' palace on the island of Ithaca, a while back, I'm sure. And obviously we have to question these things and take them apart, but what turns a work of historical fiction, based on these same people and characters, into fantasy?

Is it the inclusion of the gods as living breathing people? Margaret George does this with her book on Helen of Troy (though she really did not need to).

Is it the inclusion of visions and prophecy, signs from the gods? Mary Renault uses omens and signs in her books on Theseus quite well, and Theseus even has a vision of himself fighting for Athens at the battle of Marathon in the future. I would also argue that many ancient cultures leaned quite heavily on these kinds of things, and NOT to include them would make the novel historically inaccurate to the extreme.

Where is the line?
Let's discuss!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Thor: How It Should Have Ended*

Today IS Tuesday, and a Norse day, and I think this kind of qualifies as Norse-ish at least. um. I hope. I am working on a real post for the future, I promise, but in the meantime, enjoy the entertainment!

*I don't actually think this is how the movie should have ended, of course, though I would kill to see Thor, Batman, and Superman sitting around in a diner, drinking coffee and chit-chatting. I kind of love this just as much as I love Thor vs. Green Lantern.

Also, does Thor and Jane Foster counts as an affair of the gods? I am totally labeling it this way. Because this is my blog, and I totally can.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Saga of Biorn

It's not a Tuesday and thereby a Norse day, but this is probably the best ever and I could not wait to share it. SO, I bring you this MOST excellent of all short films for my return to blogging. It is 7 minutes of awesome, and if it doesn't make you laugh then I do not know what will.

The Saga Of Biorn from The Animation Workshop on Vimeo.

Now, the question is, will I ever get back to Norse Tuesdays and Classics Fridays? I guess you'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks to Zak Tringali for pointing me to this short film, which he found over at The Fox is Black.