Friday, September 30, 2011

Saga of the Volsungs (III -- Genealogy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Progress: Orc Romance (II)

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saga of the Volsungs (II)

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Miscellaneous Links of Awesome

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 16, 2011

In Progress: Orc Romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why didn't he ever use that?

Or maybe the better question is: Can I?

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

Friday, September 09, 2011

Stupid Hiatus Stupid Again

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

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

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Immortals trailer. Sigh.

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

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

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

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Best Norse (Muppets) Post Ever.

I rest my case.

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