Dose of Tolkien

Because, you know, I can’t let this blog go too long without something Tolkien-related.

The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinuviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.

There Beren came from mountains cold,
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled.
He walked along and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.

Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She lightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening.

He heard there oft the flying sound
Of feet as light as linden-leaves,
Or music welling underground,
In hidden hollows quavering.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves,
And one by one with sighing sound
Whispering fell the beechen leaves
In the wintry woodland wavering.

He sought her ever, wandering far
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
A mist of silver quivering.

When winter passed, she came again,
And her song released the sudden spring,
Like rising lark, and falling rain,
And melting water bubbling.
He saw the elven-flowers spring
About her feet, and healed again
He longed by her to dance and sing
Upon the grass untroubling.

Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinuviel! Tinuviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinuviel
That in his arms lay glistening.

As Beren looked into her eyes
Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
O’er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.

– J.R.R. Tolkien


And ain’t I a woman?

Originally posted on WanderLust:

AIN’T I A WOMAN?

by Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man…

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Elemental Surprise

I want this to be an alchemical post about the discovery of a new element. I consulted my main alchemist character about it, and he replied with raised eyebrows, and then a good laugh.

I suppose that writing is a sort of alchemy, though, and surprise is definitely one of its foundational elements.

Recently, I re-watched Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).  As a kid, I didn’t like it, but someone was talking about its music and so I decided to give it another try.

I was very surprised.

It would be easy to say that I didn’t understand it as a kid. That is certainly true, but I was 14 when it first came out. I was well-aware of the interplay of sex, violence, bigotry, and abuse (it is one of Disney’s darker animated films). I disliked the film because I thought it was trite and self-contradictory.

Now, I can see why 14-year-old Jubilare thought so, but I also think she simply missed the point. Getting back to surprise, there are a few ways this element manifests… perhaps it has a solid, liquid, and gaseous form? There are jump-scream surprises, surprising twists in plot and character, and then there are the surprises that come from delving into the layers of a work. I’m interested, here, in the last of these.

This film is thickly layered, with complex themes and little bonuses (like the Latin and Greek embedded in the soundtrack). Now, I rather like a lot of Disney’s animated canon, but the themes are generally straight forward. Perhaps that is why I originally misunderstood this film. I took it at face-value.

One thing that originally annoyed me with tHoND was the seemingly broken-Aesop (or family-unfriendly Aesop) of Quasimodo. The main point of the film seems to be that beauty and ugliness come from within, with Quasimodo and Frollo acting as foils (Frollo isn’t nice on the outside, either, probably because pretty villains gain sympathy points no matter how horrible they are within). My teenage self felt that this message was undermined when Quasimodo failed to get the girl.

It wasn’t that I wanted Esmeralda to end up with Quasimodo, or anyone. It was that the message seemed to be “no matter how nice you are on the inside, what is outside matters, too” which is sadly true, but also contrary to the apparent point of the film: “Who is the monster, and who is the man?” The answer seems to be that Frollo is a monster, but Quasimodo still looks like one, and he will suffer the consequences.

14-me did not think Disney would make a film that brutally honest. I thought, instead, that they decided the general public wouldn’t accept a non-handsome “prince” and so they added the sub-plot romance, and then glossed over the pain this causes Quasimodo by making him miraculously “ok” with it at the end.

Seeing it as an adult, I realize that there is a lot more going on. Frollo and Quasimodo are, once again, foils, but they are both foils for Phoebus.

At one extreme we have Frollo, who is filled with lust and hates/blames the object of his desire (yeah, dark). He sees her as an object of temptation and a source of evil. At the other end of the spectrum, Quasimodo calls her an outright angel. She is, perhaps, the first person, and definitely the first woman, to be kind to him. But the problem is that she is on a pedestal, and his love for her is worship.

Then there is Phoebus, who sits in the middle. He engages her as a person (even though he starts out as a terrible flirt). Given this dynamic, the romantic element made a lot more sense to me this time around. Though it is still possible to see the Aesop as broken, it is, perhaps, only tinted with more depth and reality than I had seen before. Quasimodo and Esmeralda would not work, not because of his physical appearance, but because of their personalities and because of how they view each other. The writers were dealing with a more complex theme, and different moral/life questions than 14-me thought.

I give the team who worked on this film high marks for this. Relationships that make sense haven’t always been a Disney strength.

Another depth that surprised me (and the only other one I will deal with, for now) was the villain. Disney cartoon villains, though I love ’em, are not a complicated lot. Frollo, however, stands apart. His “hidden depths” are quite nasty, and I do mean nasty. This is not going to be an “oh, poor villain with a freudian excuse!” rant, but rather an awed “holy cranberry catfish, look at the abyssal depths they carved into when they created this guy.”

In a cursory look around the internets I see that, of the Seven Deadly Sins, Frollo is most closely associated with lust. Not surprising, considering that his Villain Song mostly deals with his desire for (and hatred of) Esmeralda. Also, the surprise (ha!) and shock of seeing a Disney film for kids deal with the issue so directly makes it stand out.

But hang on a minute. As some others have pointed out, it should be clear from the very beginning that Frollo is a nasty piece of work. Watch the opening scene:

I don’t see any lust at work there, just bigotry and pride. Ah. There it is.

Now, listen to the first few lines in his villain song (and also notice that, again, Quasimodo and he are foils, Quasi’s humility and, sadly, self-loathing, manifest in worship of Esmeralda as an “angel” and Frollo’s pride manifests in blaming her for casting a spell over him. For, otherwise, how could such a “righteous” and “pure” man be so consumed with lust? *facepalm*):

“Beata Maria, you know I am a righteous man. Of my virtue I am justly proud. Beata Maria, you know I’m so much purer than the common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd.”

This guy’s problems may end in uncontrolled lust and wrath, but they begin in what is, perhaps, the deadliest of sins: Pride.

Self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, judgement of others, and pride in himself are his chief sins. They set him up for everything that comes after. A more humble man might have truly felt guilty at the end of the opening sequence, might have been softened by Quasimodo, might have questioned his own actions, and might even have dealt with his lust in a sane way. It would, at least, have been possible. But no.

Frollo only shows self-doubt, I think, twice in the film. Once, briefly, when the Archdeacon calls him out for murdering a woman and trying to murder her baby, on the steps of the cathedral where she was trying to gain sanctuary (daaaaark), and once during his aforementioned villain-song. The latter is one of the reasons “Hellfire” is now high among my favorite Disney songs.

Most of the delightfully dark canon of villainy that Disney has produced sing cheerful songs about their villainous plans. Frollo, instead, is going through a spiritual battle that is anything but fun. He’s very mistaken about the nature of that battle. He thinks he is a righteous man being tempted by a foul, lustful witch. From the outside we can see that he is already well into the Enemy camp. He is just facing a new kind of sin, one that he still recognizes as sinful.

In other words, he is trying to resist the devil with the help of the devil. His mouth says “Maria,” and his heart seems to recognize his guilt despite his words: “It’s not my fault! Mea culpa! I’m not to blame! Mea Culpa!,”  but unless he recognizes the underlying state of his soul and repents, he is fighting a battle he cannot win.

The last lines are tortured: “God have mercy on her. God have mercy on me. But she will be mine or she will burn!”

The funny thing is, for me, that I usually pity the tortured ones, even if they are despicable. It is hard to pity Frollo. He is so utterly self-satisfied, such a vicious Knight Templar, so abusive, manipulative, and so corrupt in his obsession with Esme, that his death is a release. The only glimmer of pity I have is during his song, when the “God have mercy” lines come off as the dying breath of anything human in him. I can’t think of another Disney villain that is quite this complex and terrifyingly believable, while still existing in the best tradition of over-the-top villainy. Muahahaha.

For what it’s worth, his villain song also sets up what is, to me, one of the funniest lines in the film, just to make sure we don’t get overly serious.

“I had a little trouble with the fireplace.”

Indeed.

If it were not for the horrible effects, one would have to laugh. Frollo’s self-importance and self-righteousness are so ludicrous that they would be hilarious if not for the effect they have on his own soul, and the lives of everyone around him.

If you haven’t seen this film, or haven’t seen it in a while, it’s worth a watch. With the exception of one irritating song, the soundtrack is delightful, rife with beautiful high-church choral themes, at least some of which are actual Latin prayers, bells (of course) and wonderful orchestration. And the story ain’t half-bad either. There are more interesting twists and turns than I’ve dealt with, here.

Fair warning for any who might actually expect (out of inexperience perhaps?) Disney to follow canon – This film has very little to do with the novel by Victor Hugo.  I’m curious to know what other people have gotten from this film, or if they disagree with me. Also, I’m always open to discussions on other films, Disney or otherwise.

I have a lot to think about in terms of narrative, relationship dynamics, and villainous roads to pyromaniacal insanity.

Wow. This is a super-long post, for me. Sorry, guys! If you happened to make it this far, I hope you did so because it was interesting!


Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

dragonsloyaltyaward1

With a glassy rustle, a dragon stretches a great green wing of feather-like translucent scales. It yawns, revealing several rows of sharp teeth and a pair of upward-curving, no-nonsense tusks. Resettling its wings, it pricks a pair of mule-like ears forward and peers out of the blog with emerald eyes.

Right, blog award.

Hello! My author, Jubilare, has asked that I not give my name here. She’s trying to keep her WIP’s mostly private until they are, ah, more prepared for the world, or the world is more prepared for them. I forget which.

But considering the name of this award, she felt that I should be the one to accept it. I don’t see why. I have very little to do with the day-to-day running of the blog, but she insists that she never would have started writing but for me. So here I am.

From the limited information she has given me, (research, dear, always research), the Dragon´s Loyalty Award is “presented to blogs with exceptional content.”

It is a great honor to accept this award. From the name, I assume that, lost somewhere in the shadowy (ahem, un-researched) history of this award is either a dragon who awarded it to a particularly loyal blog, or else it was awarded to a particularly loyal dragon who blogs. Not being a blogger, myself, I can’t really relate.

Jubilare: Um, buddy? can we try to get this in under 1000 words?

Not it you interrupt me we won’t.

Jubilare: Maybe I should’ve asked one of your brothers…

Which one? The one who makes me look laconic? The one you’d have to bribe? Or the one who’d actually make you do hours of research beforehand? Oh, or how about the one that hates you?

Jubilare: …Carry on.

Wings are re-shuffled, and the dragon draws a long breath.

Right. Well, as I was saying, it is an honor to accept this award on behalf of this blog. It, the blog, I mean, was awarded this prize by one Stephencwinter, whose blog my author greatly enjoys. Thank you, Mr. Winter! Visit my home some time. I’ll buy you a drink and show you around.

This award carries with it several requirements. Hold on.

The dragon holds out a scaly hand, complete with talons, and accepts a  poster-board from Jubilare. It looks like a post-it-note in the dragon’s grasp.

First: Display this award on your blog.

Jubilare: Done.

Great. Next we announce our win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded us. …I’m doing that right now, yes?

Jubilare: yep

Excellent. Now, we present this same award to 15 meritorious bloggers. Fifteen? This thing must multiply faster than rabbits.

Jubilare: I, uh, only have 12.

I see. Well, it looks like we don’t get to accept the award because my author doesn’t know how to follow rules.

Jubilare: Hey! Stephen didn’t do fifteen, either, and he still got to accept it.

The dragon grins toothily and flicks one ear. Oh, all right. If the award police come for me, though, I’m giving you up. I won’t go down for your crimes.

The twelve blogs Jubilare would like to nominate are… flips the poster-board and thrums the fingers of one taloned hand on the ground like a snare-drum-roll

Bekindrewrite – All shall love her, and despair!

Dreaming of Other Realms – an epic storyteller from “Kiwiland”

The Egotist’s Club – A magnificent menagerie of muses.

Grimmella – How can she not be awesome with a blog-name like that?

Lovethebadguy – Delightfully wicked

Pages Unbound – They read books. Lots of books. And tell us about them!

A Pilgrim in Narnia – already has one of these, that should tell you something

Res Studiorum et Ludorum -Profoundly Geeky, and Geekily Profound

Soughing of Pines – This dragon’s particular friend. Writer and Renaissance woman.

Strange Figures – Painfully honest, in a world in desperate need of honesty

Technicolorlilypond – Just as colorful as it says it is

The Warden’s Walk – Should be called “The Warden’s Fabulous Hat”

Now I must link them?

Jubilare: I just did.

And… let them know of their being awarded.

Jubilare: We’ll do that after we finish here.

You mean I will, don’t you.

Jubilare: I’ll help!

Alright. Last item on the list.

The tip of the dragon’s tail swishes.

Write seven things about you. …is that me-you or you-you?

Jubilare: I think it’s supposed to be me, but make one of them about you, just in case.

Hm. Well, Jubilare is obsessive. And I do mean obsessive. When she’s trying to work through a scene, she will sometimes listen to the same song, or handful of songs, for HOURS. IT’S HORRIBLE. And when she’s found something to obsess about, it is very hard to derail her to anything else.

She also loves almonds. She eats them all the time. Perhaps that ties in with the obsession issues.

What else… despite being obsessive, she is also easily distracted. While it is hard to get her off something she is obsessing over, it is equally hard to get her to focus on tasks. Very annoying when one is trying to get her to write.

I also think she is rather sweet, even when she’s glaring at me, like right now.

That’s what, four? Hm. Five would be that she is something of a pyromaniac. Not an arsonist, mind. She’s been well taught not to burn other people’s things without permission, but she loves fire. As a dragon, of course, I approve.

Six. She has a thing for creatures, like dragons, bats, creepy-crawlies and such, that are often reviled. Even as a kid, I was her imaginary friend. Every child should have a dragon, don’t you think?

Seven needs to be about me? Well, I love apple fritters and whiskey, not necessarily together. Please send apple fritters and whiskey by way of my author.

Thank you all. It’s been surprisingly fun.

Are we in under 1000 words?

Jubilare: Shockingly, yes. Thank you, oh dragon-mine. Here’s the list of “requirements,” that are optional, and will break the 1000 word limit, alas!

  1. Display Award on your Blog.
  2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
  3. Present 15 deserving Bloggers with Award
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
  5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Please, Walk with me

jubilare:

Technicolorlilypond is a gem. She is in possession of both the inquiring mind of a scientist, and the creative mind of a writer and craftswoman. She has a great eye for beauty, and an appetite for books that frequently causes my jaw to drop. She is also fond of crows, which, to me, just goes to show how great she is.
She has, fairly recently, been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her response to this can be seen below. Please share and support as you can. I have experienced, first-hand, what a difference medical research can make. I want to see that difference, and more, in the war against MS.

Originally posted on technicolorlilypond:

Leaves and river by E.A. Schneider Leaves and river by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear readers. I’m writing to appeal to you for help with something that is really important to me: multiple sclerosis. In 2013 I was diagnosed with this disease. In oblique terms I wrote about my experience in four previous posts: Spring Crafting, Flash Fiction: Flight, Creations, and 2013: Reflections. Most of my heaviest emotions were in “2013: Reflections” wherein I used words and capsule reviews of stories to grapple with my new reality. I didn’t want to make a big deal about my disease here at the pond, and I still don’t, because I want to be defined by how I live my life rather than a disease I happen to have. However, someone really smart told me once that you can make more of a difference with one good interview or article than you can with years of…

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Late InMon!

Stephanie, of BeKindRewrite assures me that even late InMon submissions are acceptable. I have, therefore, used last-week’s prompt: “Narrow Future.” Here is a grim, but determined submission from my only character, as of yet, who absolutely insists on a first-person perspective. If nothing else, it is good practice.

Though the hall was full of Death’s Clerics, it was nearly silent. My sharp hearing caught the sound of their breath, but no one shuffled or sniffed, there was neither whisper of cloth nor creak of sandal. Only staring eyes and pricked ears. They all waited to hear my answer.
     Where once I thought of my future as an open field, full of roads and possibilities, I now saw that each turn, each choice made, had narrowed it down to a single forked path. Each drop of blood, each dying breath had closed a gate, not only on those I killed, but on me. Rhos tried to tell me, she saw the walls closing in, but she was young, it was easy to dismiss her worries. At least, until Bre killed her. That was when I finally understood. It was the turn, the fork in the road that lead me here, to one final choice.
     Two paths left, and one would be very short. How I wanted that way. Execution, judgment, to be shut out of the world.
     The other path was a narrow hunter’s track; I could not see the end of it. I shuddered.
     There was work to be done and I was suited for it. I had suited myself for it, all unaware. The clerics had, in their mercy, given me a choice, but I knew I did not deserve it. I had forfeited any right to my own life, they had every reason to bind me to their purpose, yet they gave me a way out.
     But to ask for execution was the coward’s way. To choose death over work would be, as ever, to avoid responsibility.  I am a murderer and a kinslayer, but I was not then, and am not yet a coward.
     “I will hunt at your bidding until the task is done or I am killed.” I had not spoken loudly, but in that silence my words startled like shattered glass.
     The high priestess stamped to quiet the flood of whispers, then she spoke.
     “You will not hunt at our pleasure, but at Death’s. But first you must face the fire and be purified. Remember the suffering you have brought upon others, it will help you to bear your own.”
     I shivered, as if from cold, and bowed my head.
    But I am not yet a coward.

Terry Pratchett

I wish my lilac was blooming already. I would put a sprig of it in my hair.

Rest in peace, Sir Terry. And thank you for introducing me to Vimes, and Death and the rest of your marvelous motley crew.


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