TRUE TO DETAIL BUT OPEN IN SCOPE

I agree, generally speaking. Although the very best historical fiction (and I read a lot of historical fiction, it is one of my favorite genres to consume) is both highly accurate on the specific details (historical dialogue, terminology, true events, etc.) and extremely interesting on those many things and characters beyond the actual historical circumstances.

That is to say that to me the very best historical fiction is highly accurate regarding the actual history but subtly and expansively literate and fictional regarding those events and situations and characters that occur beyond the scope of, or outside the true nature of recorded history.

It is accurate as to real history but speculative as to those things that occur beyond the scope of recorded history.

It is like a microscope to actual history but more like a radio telescope as to those things that exist beyond visual range.

February 20, 2017

ASK THE AGENT: DOES A NOVEL HAVE TO BE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?

by

Someone wrote to ask, “What is the author’s responsibility to the facts when writing a historical novel?”She noted she was writing about historical events, but wanted to know if she could change them. In a related note, someone else asked, “What is the ethical line between historical fiction and history?”
As I’ve said on previous occasions, I don’t think there is a line connecting fiction and history. Really. A novelist who is creating a story and weaving in actual people and events probably owes some debt to the reader to try and get the basic historical facts correct, I suppose (though even that is a questionable supposition, and many authors have altered facts and dates in order to tell a better story), but a novel isn’t a textbook. It doesn’t have a restriction that “you must have all your facts correct” or “you must accept the commonly held notions about a character’s motivations.” The author is inventing a story to entertain, or to explore themes and motivations, not to teach history.

So, while I wouldn’t create a story in which the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on July 11, I see nothing wrong with an author creating a story depicting an interesting twist — that Roosevelt knew about the attack ahead of time, or that the attack was a rogue group of Japanese military, or that it was all a mistake done by aliens who were looking for Hawaiian shirts and a great recipe for mai tai’s.

It’s a novel. You can choose to tie events closely to historical facts, or you can choose to recreate history as you see fit in order to entertain readers. Have a look at the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds — in which the patrol sent to kill Nazis take out Adolph Hitler and the entire leadership of the Nazi party in a fire they set in a movie theater. (Um, for those who didn’t pay attention in history class, it didn’t happen exactly that way.) And… so what? It’s a story, for entertainment purposes rather than for education. Tarantino could have had Hitler taken up into a UFO with Elvis and the Loch Ness Monster, for all I care.

I once had an author write a novel is which Sir Thomas More (the Man for All Seasons) was not the heroic man of integrity he’s been made out to be, but instead was depicted as a violent, ultra-Catholic despot who liked to bed teenage girls and seemed to get a kick out of hurting people. (Um… just so you know, there’s historical evidence for all of that. It may not jibe with the most common depiction of him, but it’s certainly there if you care to research it.) Some people, including the editor assigned to the manuscript, were pretty upset with that particular depiction of More. The editor claimed it was defaming a saint, and she couldn’t be part of that. Um… fortunately, the publisher stepped in and reminded her that this is a novel, and if the author wanted to she could turn Sir Thomas More into a bloodsucking vampire from the planet Koldar if she wanted to. You see, fiction writers want to get the basic facts correct, but part of the fun of fiction is that you’re creating a new story world.

So with fiction, it’s the story that counts, not the accuracy of the events. Again, it’s nice to get some of the basic time and date stuff correct, but if we all knew the deeds and motivations of historical events there would be no need to explore them further. A novel allows us to consider alternative interpretations — that Richard III was actually a good guy, or that Robin Hood was a self-absorbed twit, or that Robert E. Lee was not the military genius he’s been made out to be. All of those ideas have been played out in bestselling novels, and they all helped push forward some interesting dialogue while entertaining readers. Sometimes the ideas pitched in the novel are daft (Oliver Stone’s movie JFK was filled with tripe and innuendo), other times the ideas can be reasonable (take a look at Josephine Tey’s fabulous The Daughter of Time). But what your readers care about most is that the story is interesting, emotional, and readable. Not that it’s correct in every detail.

Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

 

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MY ANCESTRY – THE CHILD AND THE FRUIT

MY ANCESTRY       10/4/16

Last night my wife, youngest daughter and I went by my parent’s house. My old man wasn’t there as he was at his Masonic lodge meeting but my mother had recently had my parent’s genetic ancestry typed (both my father and my mother’s genetic backgrounds) and wanted to tell me and my daughter what our ancestral backgrounds were.

(I had been thinking of doing the same for me and my wife but with all of the other work I’ve had to do recently have not yet proceeded on the project.)

Anyway the results of my parent’s typing were quite fascinating to me.

If Jung’s basic postulate that people “inherit” ancestral, ethnic, or racial memories (though the last two ideas are really somewhat a stretch of his theory) is true then my ancestral background certainly seems to have had some interesting and even dramatic effects upon the manner in which my life had developed thus far.

Now to be honest I am not at all sure of the idea of “ancestral memory” as Jung conjectured, it seems far more likely to me that ancestral effects would have been carried through to descendants via epigenetic and genetic mechanisms, rather than as actual inherited “memories” (though lacking genetic and epigenetic information current to our time he might have meant basically the same thing just lacked a mechanism for describing the likely cause). I am not wholly discounting more mystical effects and affects via “inherited memory” upon a person through their ancestral background; indeed I have a few somewhat metaphysical formulations and speculations of my own when it comes to genetics. I am however not really a big believer in what might be more commonly and popularly termed “Fate” and more a proponent of Wyrd. That is to say I think Wyrd more in line (as a working and workable metaphysical formulation) corresponding to epigenetics as a viable and valid mechanism for the future influence of genetic changes upon a descendant population than I am comfortable with the idea of some type of mystical and unavoidable fate as a metaphysical conception of ancestral influences or “memories.” Though I do not wholly discount the possibility of some type of ancestral “memory” being written into a person’s genetic code either through recombinant experiences or through epigenetic influences. It’s just that the scientist in me thinks there is a far better method implied in epigenetic processes and that rather than memories being passed along from our ancestors that instead both weak (recessive and passive) and even strong (pronounced and active) tendencies and traits may be written into future genetic expressions via genetic recombination or through epigenetic processes. Or through the actions of both.

That all being said, however, and with that viewpoint in mind, I found the following typing results to be of especial interest to me.

I knew I had a great deal of Anglo-Saxon and British (Celtic) ancestry through my father’s side of the family. That proved out true and I’ve often wondered if that is why I learned Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and for my long standing (since I was a young boy) interest in all things Anglo-Saxon and Celtic. Including the language, the myths, the lifestyle, the history, warfare practices, and the conditions of that period of history.

I also have a great deal of Irish in my background (which I’ll return to later) and Western European in my blood, probably Germanic and Bohemian. I was also aware of Eastern European lineage, though that turned out to be much less than I had anticipated with one exception which rather fascinated me. That being Northern Russian and Finnish.

Now, much like Tolkien, I have had a near lifelong interest in three things from that area of the world and that basic timeframe/era of history: the stories involving Baba Yaga, the Eastern Vikings (the Rus, and their river explorations of Russia and Eastern Europe), and the Kalavala (I first read the Kalavala as a kid). But it never occurred to me that I would have either Russian or (especially not) Finnish ancestry. As a matter of fact despite my interest in all of these things I would have bet before these results that I had no Russian or Finnish ancestors at all. But I do.

I also knew that I had Greek ancestors and again I have had a lifelong interest in Greek and Latin (Greek being the first foreign language I ever studied in college, because of my pursuit at that time of the priesthood, and German being the second), and that proved out true as well. I do have Greek ancestors. But to my amazement and shock I also discovered I have Italian ancestors. Which again, I’ll return to in a moment. Which could account for my long time interest in Roman military matters and Latin. (Both Latin and Greek seem “familiar and comfortable languages” to me. Natural to me. The ideas and terms used in both languages seem so natural and familiar that when reading them it often seems to me more like a process of “rediscovery” than the study of foreign concepts or terminologies.)

Finally, and to my greatest shock and surprise my Scandinavian ancestry is quite high. Somewhere between 15 and 21%. Again, as with the Russian and Finnish, which is a much lower percentage, I would have never guessed I had any Scandinavian heritage or ancestors at all. (Though, logically, this only makes real sense, since anyone with high concentrations of British and English ancestors is bound to have at least some Scandinavian ancestors due to the invasions of England by the Vikings.) But again, it was unexpected to me and I was particularly shocked by the high concentrations of Scandinavian heritage in my blood. But again that might go a very long way to explaining my interest in the Vikings and my intense lifelong interest in Vadding and exploration and my keen concern with the Navy, sailing, and in nautical matters in general. But now that I know both about the Scandinavian ancestry and the Russian and Finnish links it is entirely possible that I had both Western and Eastern Vikings in my ancestral background.

All of these things were entirely fascinating to me, to say the least, but now we enter fields of an almost bizarre and uncanny nature, some of which I had previously suspected, some which were entirely new to me, and some of which might prove that Jung was even right in his assumptions and theories, at least to some degree.

For I also discovered three very odd facts regarding my ancestors. For of all that at least some of my Irish ancestors were Black Irish (as I had long suspected from my family’s jet back hair and dark eyes) though I had assumed that was possibly Spanish Black Irish. That may or may not be true but through my mother’s side of the family, at least, it appears that they were Italian Black Irish. Through family and genealogical research it was discovered that the Irish family name was actually a modified Italian place name. It turns out that a distant Italian ancestor once fought a duel and killed a man. Fearing being hunted down and killed as a result he fled Italy and eventually made his way (perhaps through Iberia – more on that momentarily) to Ireland where he dropped the Da (denoting place) and modified his (last name or place name apparently) to adopt the eventual Irish family name of Adair. (Originally his last name was probably Da Dare.) Black Irish, no doubt but from a totally unexpected source to me, from Italy. Though I have no idea as to the particulars of the duel, what it involved, or whom, it occurs to me now that this might be at least one source for my hot (and at times in my life violent) temper that I have had to work so long to master. For again, though I know not the details I can become almost instantly furious and even dangerously angry when I see injustice and evil perpetrate upon another. So although I do not know the details of this duel, or if my ancestor was in the right or in the wrong, I do now know I apparently have at least one hot-blooded, violent ancestor who was willing to kill a man in a one on one stand up man-fight. On my mother’s side of the family. As for how many of my ancestors also killed men on my father’s side of the family given their likely martial and military history, well, I imagine it was certainly enough.

Which brings me to the second ancestral odd point (from my point of view and given the course of my own life) of correlation. The Iberian Peninsula. My father’s side of the family has ancestors from Iberia but so did my mother, possibly from the Italian fleeing the duel. I have often suspected, with no real evidence at all, that at least one of my ancestors was a Sephardic Jew. Due to my intense interest in Judaism and the Kabbalah and the Sephardim in particular. Going back to when I was a teenager and later in college when I read all of the Sephardic literature and works (such as the writings of Moses ben Maimon – Maimonides) that I could lay my hands on. Which eventually became quite a lot. Now that I know that both sides of my family had ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula, and that the percentages are rather high relatively speaking – from 5 to 7% – it seems indeed logical that I might very well have at least one Sephardic Jew in my ancestry. If not more. This has been, at least, a long and very strong suspicion of mine, and indeed I have often wondered if it were not at least one genesis point for my investigative and research and scientific prowess.

And this brings me to the last truly curious and peculiar possible connection between my ancestors and myself. My father has North African ancestors. At about the same level (percentage wise) as my Russian and Finnish ancestors.

Now anyone of my family or friends who knows me well knows that going back to my early childhood (and this became prominent in my teenage years) I used to have recurring dreams about being a priest somewhere in North Africa (perhaps a Coptic priest, perhaps Byzantine, likely in the vicinity of Egypt but maybe also in Libya) in ancient times (late antiquity or early Medieval ages) and that in these recurring dreams I was almost always abandoning a young women with whom I was involved. Dark skinned, dark eyes, long hair, possibly Egyptian. I was almost always riding away on a horse because I was either already a priest and felt our involvement somehow interfered with my duties to God, or because I felt that my obligations to God and to her would somehow interfere with each other. Indeed I would often recount and talk about these dreams to various friends of mine. Sometimes also to my mother.

When in college the first time I was indeed once again contemplating being a priest and again I wrestled in my own mind and soul long and hard could I be a priest and serve God and God alone, or would I be a priest who could also be married, or would I seek only marriage and not the priesthood? It was a personal struggle of priorities for about ten years for me. Eventually I abandoned my studies for the priesthood but have maintained lifelong friendships with priests and nuns and monks and I still intend to become a Greek Orthodox priest late in life, before I die. If my wife pre-deceases me, and I actually hope and sometimes pray I die before her, I will retire to a monastery or possibly a hermitage.

Now I have long suspected that I had North African heritage and at least one ancestor who was a priest but I could not account for this suspicion nor could I find prove of it in my family history or genealogy. And I would have never suspected that if indeed I had North African ancestors it would be on my father’s side of the family. Rather I suspected if any such ancestor existed it would have been on my mother’s side of the family. But there it was, North African heritage and from my father’s side of the family.

Coincidentally, if you believe in that kind of thing, I have always preferred dark skinned women with long dark hair and dark to black eyes. Spanish, Egyptian, Italian, Greek, Indian (India Indian) – those types of females. As far as physical appearance goes. And I dated Greek and Italian and Spanish and Egyptian women when younger. Eventually though I married an American black woman. And I am happily married.

However, and perhaps due to these experiences and impressions I even named my daughters after famous Italian and Greek women.

But I have often wondered if these dreams I had so often as a kid and if my preferences for a certain type of physical appearance might have not have indeed stemmed from some ancestral experience that became deeply lodged in my genetic code through some epigenetic event that was profound to my ancestor. (After one such dream as a teenager I wrote a thirty page long poem about the dream and everything I could recall connected with it. I still have that poem.) This idea seems likely to me because even though I have much higher percentages of Scandinavian lineage in my background yet I have only very rarely ever been attracted to fair haired or blue eyed women. Though I do find such women physically attractive on occasion, I am more instinctively drawn to darker women, and prefer them.

So, given the genetic percentages in my background it seems very likely to me that if my ancestors did influence my choices in women and their physical appearance then it must have been due to the intensity or profundity of the experience rather than to the percentages of the women available. Something about the interplay between the Priesthood and the “Dark Woman.”

Oddly enough, or perhaps not, these dreams completely ceased after I got married, and have thereafter never recurred. Not that I could ever recall anyhow.

In any event, having gathered this information from my parents regarding their background, and my own, certain things about my life now seem to make much more sense to me and many things I have often suspected now seem likely confirmed.

I have often had two separate natures. One very active in the world, physical, sensual, outgoing, entrepreneurial, logical, concrete, scientific, militaristic, risk-oriented, and even violent in nature (which I call the Detective and the Scientist and the Adventurer side of me), and the other part of me which is very much mystical and metaphysical and philosophical and peace-loving, withdraw from the world, otherworldly, Godly, and of an introverted nature (which I call the Priestly or Monkish side of me). And in truth I’m about 50% introvert and 50% extrovert. So often these two very different natures have sort of waged war against each other in my inner soul or inner man. I’m not gonna say for dominance, for that would be untrue and an exaggeration, more like for accommodation and peace with each other.

But now that I know more of my genealogy and more of my ancestral genetic background many of my lifelong interests and quests – my desires to explore and to Vad, my detective and investigative occupations, my inventive concerns, my historical pursuits, my artistic inclinations, the subject matters upon which I write, my poetic and songwriting abilities and capabilities, my linguistic fascinations, my scientific experimentation, my entrepreneurial occupations, my metaphysical, religious, and spiritual curiosities and pursuits, even such things as my avocational and personal interests and habits – all of these things now seem more and more logical to me in nature and scope. And many of my prior suspicions about myself and my ancestral background seem either confirmed or likely confirmed, though I am the first to admit in an often unanticipated and unlikely manner.

If, as is often said, “the child is the father of the man” then it is equally true that, “carpent tua poma nepotes.”

Now I need to have my wife and children so tested and typed to see what can be learned of them and for their future benefit.

THE RAINS OF THE SATRAPS OF PERSIA – FIRST VERSE

THE RAINS TO COME

This morning I awoke to a veritable deluge. After feeding the animals I sat down and watched the heavy rains fall. Something became triggered in my mind. About modern people, about the past, about how nothing is ever really learned, and still the Rains fall as they have ever fallen. And so do people, and nations… The storms always come and yet so few ever are prepared.

I just started it and then my wife interrupted me so I had to leave off. So it is unfinished, of course, but then again, what isn’t…?

THE RAINS OF THE SATRAPS OF PERSIA

This storm is like the rains of the satraps of Persia
Grey and harsh, heavy and burdensome, slavish and cold
Unrelenting does it fall across the broad expanse
Of a slumbering world blind and dumb in its naïveté –
Of unnumbered peoples in distant and yet unconquered lands
Eternally preoccupied in their basic self-absorption

Yet still the rains of the satraps of Persia drop countless
Flooding tokens of their weight, their true intent lost among
The Forgetful Minds of Men distracted by the unmarked cenotaphs
Of daily Life, though they have seen no sun in many years…

_______________________________________

other lines I’ve yet to work in:

No clear moon in decades now

The Reign of the Satraps of Persia
Time forgets nothing, though men forget everything
Except to remember what befalls when they don’t…

KASHMIR – BOOKENDS

A poem from my book BHAIRAVANANDA

KASHMIR

The force of the blow struck me just above the eye.
A liquid odor, heavy with thick salt, burned the air.

But I knew there was no blood.

The light wood bent gracefully under my draw.
The shaft sprung forward, my essence following after.
I felt the impact yet failed to perceive an injury.
Within myself I am a hard enemy.

Deep war drums began to sound, an ordered measure,
Like some huge stallion in motion.

The air began to warm.

The desert rose from the moist earth and drifted through me.
The air was still.

I heard the strings quiver and looked upward.
Three prey-birds floated above me a moment,
Then turned earthward.

One fell beside me whistling into the soil.
The other two struck me full in my unarmored heart, drove me down,
Pierced through.

The drums continued yet I failed to hear.

The mountain banner rose above me.

The air was still.

THE DAUFIN AND THE EGG?

In my Other World novels the Sidhs use a code word (or the Samarl and his allies do in any case) to describe a being they believe to have existed for a very long period of time using a most unusual method of life extension. (Or possibly it periodically dies and is reborn again.) The Samarl and his allies believe this being to be evil and an enemy.

The word used to describe this being among themselves (so no one else will understand who they are really talking about) is Daufin. The Daufin is typically also identified or represented by a code symbol, as well as a drawing of a mythical beast (which actually exists and is controlled by the code-named Daufin, though few believe it actually exists anymore), and by a code phrase.

The term Daufin is not to be confused with the French term Dauphin though I readily admit that I took the term directly from the French term. And yes, for those who know me well you must be thinking, “French?” As you know I have little interest in modern things French, but in Ancient things and Medieval things French (the Franks for instance, and Charlemagne, and the ancient Romances, and the Gauls) I have great interest.

And I have great interest in the Dauphin, both the one denoting the Medieval prince and the more ancient term I suspect it is derived from, and what that implied. The Dauphin has always fascinated me though I rarely mention it.

In any case before I insinuate the conspiracy surrounding the Samarl and the Daufin too deeply in my novel I have been trying variants on the term, as I actually very much adore the term Dauphin and think it perfect though being French, even if it is early French, it is not linguistically suited to the Sidhs and the other Eldeven peoples of the novels. With that in mind here are a number of variants upon the term Daufin which I might use. If you have a favorite variant or you wish to suggest one of your own that strikes you as particularly pleasing then please leave a comment and let me know. If you want to explain why I’ll be happy to know that as well.

Variants on the term Daufin/Dauphin:

Daughfin

Dolfign/Dalfign

Dalphin

Dahlfin

Dalphang

Dolfang

Daufang (this sounds a bit too Oreintal to me, but given the origins of the Daufin it might serve well)

 

Below is the code phrase (in verse) used to describe the Daufin, and it seems a sort of song, and it is, but it is also a set of codes by which the speaker identifies what he knows about the Daufin. As more is learned more verses are added. It is obviously translated into English from the original Eldeven:

“Arose the Daufin from the seas, as deep and dark as Tântalos
Whose ruin ran the riven world three times round the sunken hosts,
What is this thing, whence did it rise, who sired it or set it loose?
How many times to be reborn, how many mortals yet seduce?
A secret thing crawls in the Egg, the Sun has never seen its face  
When will it hatch next in the world, all other things to then erase?”   

 

The seeming symbol for the Daufin is a mythical beast,  but the symbol for the real Daufin is of a multi-headed sea-serpent hatching from a giant egg along the flooded beach of a sinking island.

 

TOME AND TOMB

I’ve got some really good and interesting stuff up on my Gaming Blog today, including a Greek animated reproduction of the Tomb at Amphipolis.

Tome and Tomb

INFOGRAPHIC – SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR BOOKS

GRIMLY GRIMM

Indeed. The original Tales (and I’ve read several of them) are powerful and horrific, more like the uncensored stories of Baba Yaga. The revised tales are mostly impotent and simple-minded by comparison.

Grimm brothers’ fairytales have blood and horror restored in new translation

‘It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the tales for children,’ says editor of uncut edition
Grimm

Not for kids … an illustration from the new edition of Grimms’ fairytales. Illustration: © Andrea Dezsö

Alison Flood

Wednesday 12 November 2014 06.09 EST

    

Rapunzel is impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White is the princess’s biological mother, plotting to murder her own child, and a hungry mother in another story is so “unhinged and desperate” that she tells her daughters: “I’ve got to kill you so I can have something to eat.” Never before published in English, the first edition of the Brothers Grimms’ tales reveals an unsanitised version of the stories that have been told at bedtime for more than 200 years.

The Grimms – Jacob and Wilhelm – published their first take on the tales for which they would become known around the world in December 1812, a second volume following in 1815. They would go on to publish six more editions, polishing the stories, making them more child-friendly, adding in Christian references and removing mentions of fairies before releasing the seventh edition – the one best known today – in 1857.

Jack Zipes, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota, says he often wondered why the first edition of the tales had never been translated into English, and decided, eventually, to do it himself. “Though the Grimms kept about 100 of the tales from the first edition, they changed them a good deal. So, the versions with which most English-speaking (and German-speaking) readers are familiar are quite different from the tales in the first edition,” he told the Guardian.

His version of the original 156 stories is just out from Princeton University Press, illustrated by Andrea Dezsö, and shows a very different side to the well-known tales, as well as including some gruesome new additions.

How the Children Played at Slaughtering, for example, stays true to its title, seeing a group of children playing at being a butcher and a pig. It ends direly: a boy cuts the throat of his little brother, only to be stabbed in the heart by his enraged mother. Unfortunately, the stabbing meant she left her other child alone in the bath, where he drowned. Unable to be cheered up by the neighbours, she hangs herself; when her husband gets home, “he became so despondent that he died soon thereafter”. The Children of Famine is just as disturbing: a mother threatens to kill her daughters because there is nothing else to eat. They offer her slices of bread, but can’t stave off her hunger: “You’ve got to die or else we’ll waste away,” she tells them. Their solution: “We’ll lie down and sleep, and we won’t get up again until the Judgement Day arrives.” They do; “no one could wake them from it. Meanwhile, their mother departed, and nobody knows where she went.”

Rapunzel, meanwhile, gives herself away to her captor when – after having a “merry time” in the tower with her prince – she asks: “Tell me, Mother Gothel, why are my clothes becoming too tight? They don’t fit me any more.” And the stepmothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel were, originally, their mothers, Zipes believing that the Grimms made the change in later editions because they “held motherhood sacred”. So it is Snow White’s own mother who orders the huntsman to “stab her to death and bring me back her lungs and liver as proof of your deed. After that I’ll cook them with salt and eat them”, and Hansel and Gretel’s biological mother who abandons them in the forest.

Zipes speculates that the Grimms’ changes were “reflecting sociologically a condition that existed during their lifetime – jealousy between a young stepmother and stepdaughter”, because “many women died from childbirth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and there were numerous instances in which the father remarried a young woman, perhaps close in age to the father’s eldest daughter”.

Cinderella’s stepsisters go to extraordinary attempts to win the prince in the original Grimms version of the tale, slicing off parts of their feet to fit the golden slipper – to no avail, in the end, because the prince spots the blood spilling out of the shoe. “Here’s a knife,” their mother urges, in Zipes’ translation. “If the slipper is still too tight for you, then cut off a piece of your foot. It will hurt a bit. But what does that matter?”
Grimm Not such innocent fun … an illustration from the new translation of How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. Illustration: © Andrea Dezsö/PR

Zipes describes the changes made as “immense”, with around 40 or 50 tales in the first edition deleted or drastically changed by the time the seventh edition was published. “The original edition was not published for children or general readers. Nor were these tales told primarily for children. It was only after the Grimms published two editions primarily for adults that they changed their attitude and decided to produce a shorter edition for middle-class families. This led to Wilhelm’s editing and censoring many of the tales,” he told the Guardian.
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Wilhelm Grimm, said Zipes, “deleted all tales that might offend a middle-class religious sensitivity”, such as How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. He also “added many Christian expressions and proverbs”, continued Zipes, stylistically embellished the tales, and eliminated fairies from the stories because of their association with French fairy tales. “Remember, this is the period when the French occupied Germany during the Napoleonic wars,” said Zipes. “So, in Briar Rose, better known as Sleeping Beauty, the fairies are changed into wise women. Also, a crab announces to the queen that she will become pregnant, not a frog.”

The original stories, according to the academic, are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.

But they are still, he believes, suitable bedtime stories. “It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children,” Zipes told the Guardian. The Grimms, he added, “believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.”

TO BUILD A FAR BETTER BOOK

Whoever created this baby (book) was a person after my own heart. If only it was encoded in multiple ways and written in six different languages. Maybe though it was.

And to be honest this looks like a Medieval attempt at something like I’m attempting with my New Media Project. Or even a very primitive form of God Technology.

 

This 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Different Ways

This 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Different Ways history books

This 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Different Ways history books

This 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Different Ways history books

Sure, the Amazon Kindle might have dynamic font adjustments, and it can hold thousands of books, but can it do this? Printed in the late 16th century this small book from the National Library of Sweden is an example of sixfold dos-à-dos binding, where six books are conjoined into a single publication but can be read individually with the help of six perfectly placed clasps. This particular book was printed in Germany and like almost all books at the time is a religious devotional text. The National Library of Sweden has a fantastic photo collection of historical and rare books where you can find many more gems like this, and this, and this.

Update: And if you really like amazing old book discoveries, you should be following Erik Kwakkel, the Medieval book historian at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who originally unearthed this story. (via Neatorama)

THE TOLKIENIC RINGS

He’d have been crusty and stodgy in some ways, but it would have been hard not to like the guy.

Actually though I did know most of these things. Recently I finished reading Sigurd and Gudrun which was indeed, quite excellent. Not as good as The Fall of Arthur but very, very good.

10 Things You Might Not Know About J.R.R. Tolkien

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There are plenty of things even the most ardent fans don’t know about John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

1. He had a flair for the dramatic.

As a linguist and expert on Old English and Old Norse literature, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford University from 1925 until 1959. He was also a tireless instructor, teaching between 70 and 136 lectures a year (his contract only called for 36). But the best part is the way he taught those classes. Although quiet and unassuming in public, Tolkien wasn’t the typical stodgy, reserved stereotype of an Oxford don in the classroom. He went to parties dressed as a polar bear, chased a neighbor dressed as an axe wielding Anglo-Saxon warrior and was known to hand shopkeepers his false teeth as payment. As one of his students put it, “He could turn a lecture room into a mead hall.”

2. He felt many of his fans were “lunatics.”

Tolkien saw himself as a scholar first and a writer second. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were largely Tolkien’s attempt to construct a body of myth, and their success caught him largely unaware. In fact, he spent years rejecting, criticizing and shredding adaptations of his work that he didn’t believe captured its epic scope and noble purpose! He was also utterly skeptical of most LOTR fans, who he thought incapable of really appreciating the work, and he probably would have been horrified by movie fandom dressing up like Legolas.

3. He loved his day job.

To Tolkien, writing fantasy fiction was simply a hobby. The works he considered most important were his scholarly works, which included Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, a modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and A Middle English Vocabulary.

4. He was quite the romantic (and he’s got the nerdy gravestone to prove it).

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At age 16, Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, three years his senior. His guardian, a Catholic priest, was horrified that his ward was seeing a Protestant and ordered the boy to have no contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien obeyed, pining after Edith for years until that fateful birthday, when he met with her under a railroad viaduct. She broke off her engagement to another man, converted to Catholicism, and the two were married for the rest of their lives. At Tolkien’s instructions, their shared gravestone has the names “Beren” and “Luthien” engraved on it, a reference to a famous pair of star-crossed lovers from the fictional world he created.

5. His relationship with C.S. Lewis was not all it’s cracked up to be.

Tolkien’s fellow Oxford don C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) is often identified as his best friend and closest confidant. But the truth is, the pair had a much more troubled relationship. At first, the two authors were very close. In fact, Tolkien’s wife Edith was reportedly jealous of their friendship. And it was Tolkien who convinced Lewis to return to Christianity. But their relationship cooled over what Tolkien perceived as Lewis’s anti-Catholic leanings and scandalous personal life (he had been romancing an American divorcee at the time). Although they would never be as close as they were before, Tolkien regretted the separation. After CS Lewis died, Tolkien wrote in a letter to his daughter that “So far I have felt . . . like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.”

6. He enjoyed clubbing.

Well, the extra-curricular, after-school sort. Wherever Tolkien went, he was intimately involved in the formation of literary and scholarly clubs. As a professor at Leeds University, for example, he formed the Viking Club. And during his stint at Oxford, he formed the Inklings—a literary discussion group.

7. He wasn’t blowing smoke about those war scenes.

Tolkien was a veteran of the First World War, and served as a second lieutenant in the 11th (Service) Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was also present for some of the most bloody trench fighting of the war, including the Battle of the Somme. The deprivations of Frodo and Sam on their road to Mordor may have had their origins in Tolkien’s time in the trenches, during which he contracted a chronic fever from the lice that infested him that forced him to return home. He would later say that all but one of his close friends died in the war, giving him a keen awareness of its tragedy that shines through in his writing.

8. He invented languages for fun.

A philologist by trade, Tolkien kept his mind exercised by inventing new languages, many of which (like the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin) he used extensively in his writing. He even wrote songs and poems in his fictional languages. In addition, Tolkien worked to reconstruct and write in extinct languages like Medieval Welsh and Lombardic. His poem “BagmÄ“ Blomā” (“Flower of the Trees”) might be the first original work written in the Gothic language in over a millennium.

9. He’s been published almost as prolifically posthumously as alive.

Most authors have to be content with the works they produce during their lifetime, but not Tolkien. His scribblings and random notes, along with manuscripts he never bothered to publish, have been edited, revised, compiled, redacted, and published in dozens of volumes after his death, most of them produced by his son Christopher. While Tolkien’s most famous posthumous publication is Silmarillion, other works include The History of Middle Earth, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.

10. He wasn’t nearly as fond of Nazis as they were of him.

Tolkien’s academic writings on Old Norse and Germanic history, language and culture were extremely popular among the Nazi elite, who were obsessed with recreating ancient Germanic civilization. But Tolkien was disgusted by Hitler and the Nazi party, and made no secret of the fact. He considered forbidding a German translation of The Hobbit after the German publisher, in accordance with Nazi law, asked him to certify that he was an “Aryan.” Instead, he wrote a scathing letter asserting, among other things, his regret that he had no Jewish ancestors. His feelings are also evidenced in a letter he wrote to his son: “I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler … Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.”

I hear ya Tolkien. It would have been the same for me…

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

No, but I am always looking for great names for my historical fiction and even my other fictional works. So there ya go…


Ten Great Anglo-Saxon Girls’ Names

Elisabeth Okasha’s book Women’s Names in Old English details close to 300 female names from Anglo-Saxon England. Most names were chosen from two words, such as bregu (ruler), wif (woman) and cynn (family).We’ve come up with our ten favourite girls’ names – if you are considering a different type of baby name, perhaps you will pick one of these!

SEE NAMES HERE

THE REUNION AND THE REGULATOR

Had a great time today at the Adair family reunion. Learned a lot of historical family information about my ancestors who had fought in the Revolution, the Civil War, and the pre-immigration eras in Ireland and Scotland.

Heard a very interesting recounting of a tale about a pre-Revolutionary Frontier’s Fort one of my ancestors fought at that Indians and white men dressed as Indians tried to ambush to start an uprising. Unfortunately for the attackers the Fort was hosting a fully armed militia garrison that one of my ancestors was serving in. So the attempted ambush turned into a trap for them.

Learned some about the name variations (Adare/Adair) and their exact ancient meanings, and the various counties in Ireland where the family had arisen.

I did not know this until today but I had already invented an Alexander Adair as a Scots-Irish for the main character, who is based upon my great-grandfather John Augustus Adair. However there really was an Alexander Adair. Though at that period of time he might have been Alexander Adare. Also my family immigrated in through the port of Charles Towne (Charleston) and I had long suspected that but today I heard it definitely verified.

A lot of this material will make superb background for my pre-Revolutionary era Frontier’s novel, the Regulator.

The event described above, about the attempted uprising and the Fort attack will make a great scene in the novel. I already have a superb scene where the main character discovers a burned out and partially ruined old Spanish fort (an expedition of Spaniards who had come north from Florida into the Upstate of South Carolina, built a very small frontier’s church, but had been driven off and killed by Indians – the only thing that had survived was the church because the Indians had been spooked by it) and has to camp and hole up there one night in order to avoid attack by a gang of criminals he is tracking.

So these kinds of Real World historical events are fuel for the bonfire.

They also made my wife sing at the Reunion. They always make my wife sing.

SCHLEICHER’S FABLE – IN INDO-EUROPEAN

Being an amateur linguist and philologist this kind of thing fascinates me. Also I have long studied Indo-European root terms and words. As a poet and song-writer, as a writer, as a man who loves languages, and simply for my own enjoyment.

Enjoy this Archaeology article.

Be sure to listen to and read the Fable on the main site. I’ve listened to it three times already.

Fascinating.

Sheep

(iStockphoto)

By the 19th century, linguists knew that all modern Indo-European languages descended from a single tongue. Called Proto-Indo-European, or PIE, it was spoken by a people who lived from roughly 4500 to 2500 B.C., and left no written texts. The question became, what did PIE sound like? In 1868, German linguist August Schleicher used reconstructed Proto-Indo-European vocabulary to create a fable in order to hear some approximation of PIE.

Called “The Sheep and the Horses,” and also known today as Schleicher’s Fable, the short parable tells the story of a shorn sheep who encounters a group of unpleasant horses. As linguists have continued to discover more about PIE (and archaeologists have learned more about the Bronze Age cultures that would have spoken it), this sonic experiment continues and the fable is periodically updated to reflect the most current understanding of how this extinct language would have sounded when it was spoken some six thousand years ago. Since there is considerable disagreement among scholars about PIE, no one version can be considered definitive. Here, University of Kentucky linguist Andrew Byrd recites his version of the fable, as well as a second story, called “The King and the God,” using pronunciation informed by the latest insights into reconstructed PIE…

WHEN POETRY WAS SWEET AND BEAUTIFUL BEYOND COMPARE

THE WANDERER

By the way, my middle name Wendel means wanderer, and I have always felt keen kinship with this poem.


Here is a modern English translation. A good one.

THE ELEMENTS OF THE QUEST

The Elements of a Great Quest – I think that real Quests are very rare in our society, for a number of societal and cultural reasons, and things that are really just minor accomplishments are these days mislabeled as Quests. When in fact they are not Quests at all.

(Or put another way, modern man has developed a totally different definition, and a much more anemic one in my opinion, of “the Quest” than those definitions used in earlier ages to describe a real Quest.)

This then struck me as an extremely interesting article.
THE KNIGHT’S QUEST

On the rim of the Biblical world, in the mountains of Eastern Anatolia to the northwest of Mount Ararat, rises the river Kura. It winds its way into the Kartlian plateau becoming muddy and green, coursing past the ancient stone city of Mtskheta with its eleventh century cathedral, where the mighty river Aragvi increases its volume, then the hilltop monastery of Jvari with its crenelated roof, associated with the introduction of Christianity to the region in the fifth century. The river is framed by dramatically peaked hills covered in the early summer with lavender and wildflowers. It takes several wide bends before coming to the great Caucasus metropolis of Tbilisi with its curious architecture of overhanging upper floor verandas and its great fortress and then it turns to the south east past the city of Rustavi, once charming and rustic, now grim and industrial, before turning to the plain of Shirvan on its final sprint towards the Caspian Sea. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places on earth. It cast spells on a generation of Romantic poets—men like Mikhail Lermontov, who was so obsessed with the scenery that he took to painting it in landscapes to escape it. This is the land of Shota Rustaveli—whose name means “lord of Rustavi”—the great medieval poet of the Georgian language. They call him the Georgian national poet. But indeed, there is nothing particularly “national” about Rustaveli. He is more a poet on an endless journey, an inward-bound journey, whose writing points far beyond nations.
knightsquestone

The first thing that is bound to strike his reader is that Rustaveli hardly seems constrained by such a narrow view of what constitutes “home.” Rustaveli is a writer of the twelfth century, of the Middle Ages. But his world covers a vast territory—from England to China. It’s hard to understand how a man of this period could have amassed such a prodigious knowledge of the earth, for surely this is not to be found among his contemporaries…

knightsquestone

 

SWEAR TO ME!!!

Today is Batman’s Birthday. Since he is by far my favorite Comic Book Character I thought I’d post this nice little article on him today. See the article title for the link and additional materials.

Birthday for Batman: The Dark Knight turns 75

Check out a photo gallery of Batman comic book covers throughout the years, including the Dark Knight’s first appearance 75 years ago.


Thousands of characters, many long forgotten, were introduced to readers who plunked down dimes to buy comic books during the dawn of the industry.

Chin Lung?

Speed Saunders?

Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise?

They all appeared in a comic book series titled Detective Comics in the 1930s.

Batman first appeared in the 27th issue of Detective Comics, published in 1939. His exploits have been published continually ever since. Though the Dark Knight possesses no “real” super powers, he does have staying power…

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT…

Biographies in Naval History banner

Plate from Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers by J. Fenimore Cooper, 1846.

Plate from Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers by J. Fenimore Cooper, 1846.

John Paul Jones
By James Fenimore Cooper

 

Few names connected with the American marine have so much claim to celebrity as that of the subject of this sketch. His services were of a character so bold and romantic, the means he employed were seemingly so inadequate to the ends he had in view, and his success, on one occasion in particular, was so very brilliant as to have given rise, on the part of his political and personal enemies, to much unmerited and bitter calumny, while his admirers and friends have been induced to lean a little too strongly to the side of eulogy and undiscriminating praise. As the matter of the life and character of this distinguished officer has been frequently the subject of comment in biographies, of more or less merit, within the last few years, and a great mass of evidence has been produced to remove the veil which was so long drawn before his early years, this is perhaps the time when an attempt may best be made to arrive at a just appreciation of the deeds of the officer, and the qualities of the man. In assuming this task, we shall avail ourselves of such of the best authenticated facts that offer, reasoning for ourselves on their results and principles.

There are no longer any doubts thrown over the birth and early life of Paul Jones. His grandfather was a regular gardener, in the neighborhood of Leith, of the name of Paul. His father, John Paul, was apprenticed to the same trade, and at the expiration of his indentures he entered into the service of Mr. Craik, of Arbigland,1 in which situation he passed the remainder of his days. We have the assertion of Jones himself, that there never existed any connection between the Earl of Selkirk and his father, as has been long and generally asserted; and we may add, the present head of that noble family has assured the writer of this article that the Pauls were never in the service of his grandfather…

 

THE BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN PAUL JONES by James Fenimore Cooper

THE WARSHIP NAMED WORSHIP

Earlier today a friend and I were having a discussion on Facebook about an archeological site in Mexico. He brought up the Aztec Schools of War and Worship and then made a little linguistic play between the terms Warship and Worship. I simply could not let those lines go by, I had to find a way to make use of them. So I went for a walk with my Great Dane in the woods and ruminated on the terms Warship and Worship. The more I thought on it the more I saw the obvious connections. Upon returning home I found this poem had germinated in my sub-conscious.

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THE WARSHIP NAMED WORSHIP

The Warship named Worship that sails through the world
Her keel made of scriptures, her mast made of Words
Her bow sleek and slimming, by salt bitten deep
Her rudder all workman, her sides high and steep
She churches the oceans, she runs in the storm
She anchors at havens, her sails are adorned
With wonders and marvels that God wove in there
She glides through the waters, she cuts through the air
Preachers and Priest-men and Monks has she hauled
Cargos of Sinners and Martyrs et al,
Yet blood paints her deck rails, sweat stains her bow
Her heretics aft, she drifts when allowed
This Warship named Worship that sails through the world
She lists to her port side, her flags are all furled

This Warship named Worship a frigate she seems
When honor is High-Held and Virtues esteemed
The crows-nest is scouting and looking for God
The glasses are scanning for heavens to trod
The stars chart the night-seas, the Son shoots the day
The compass is true-north the sextant will say
When she’s finely running, goodly and sharp
Her lines are all pretty, there’s nary a mark
But scow does she labor when she’s gone astray
Her canvass all tearing, her life-boats away
Her knots are all twisted, her ties are all frail
Her guns are all rusted, she lumbers and smells
Her mid-seams are swelling, her starboard is vexed
She drinks in the bilge-scum, and drowns in the hex

This Warship named Worship was made for the War
Gainst evil and ill things, to even the score
When Wrong and Malignant and Vice take to sail
To patrol all the coastlines and blockade up Hell
Her Mission is active, her orders are sealed
She runs still at eight bells, her dog-watch at wheel
Supplying the stranded, the marooned, and the wrecked
A watch for horizons, all hands are on deck
She’s tight in her timbers, she’s tried in the storm
Repentance at ready, she’s full of reform
This Warship named Worship, when she’s sailing true
The oceans are endless, the skies are all blue
If only this ship-shape could last for all time
She’d never lose sailors, none would resign

Yet this Warship named Worship is old in the lists
She’s scheduled for dry-dock, no new men enlist
I’ve watched her from landfall to see how she fares
Are her sailors all sea-blind, or just unaware?
You can’t take to sea boys if your ship isn’t fit
You can’t take the beating, you can’t take the hit
The oceans are filled with the pirates of war
How can you meet them, so torn and so worn?
You need now a refit, to trim all your marks
God as your Captain, to Him you should hark
The shipwrights should labor, the workmen should work
Your Saints and your draftsmen should straighten your quirks
Your Women and Children should all be aboard
Everyone serving, Good Crew of the Lord
For if you want Worship to sail round the Earth
She’ll have to be remade, and given new birth (berth).

 

THE INFERNAL MACHINE OF WORLD WAR

I wonder how many people today would even know the term “Infernal Machine,” or where the term originated, or what it means…

It has, however, always been one of my favorite historical terms.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/files/2014/06/June-29-1914.pdf