Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy St. Jerome's Day

I was going to write something about Old Norse but a post by The Plashing Vole that September 30 is the feast day of St. Jerome, patron saint of translators, librarians and students made me change my mind. I usually avoid blogging about men like St. Jerome because I have a hard time saying anything nice about them. Why do dried up old prunes like St. Bernard become saints when a truly nice guy like Peter the Venerable does not? I am hoping it is merely because the name St. Peter was already taken because it would be a shame if, in the church, nice guys finish last.
So I am already lumping St. Jerome with St. Bernard. Bad sign. Jerome did write the Vulgate Bible which became the accepted version of the Bible for the Catholic Church. It was a flawed translation and I have read suggestions that he borrowed heavily from other translators. It was he that started The Gospel of John with "In principium verbum erat." In the beginning was the word. The Greek word was 'logos' which can be a 'word' but means so much more such as 'rational mind'. It is the root word for 'logical'. The Greeks had a different word for 'word' - lexis.
Jerome was born in Dalmatia and moved to Rome for his studies. He had a bad temper and was a bit of a whore. All that whoring around left him feeling empty and hollow, as it should, and so he wandered off to the deserts of Syria to find himself. The desert, at that time, was a crowded place because everyone had the same idea of creating a living martyrdom for themselves in self denial. He spent several years in the desert trying to rid himself of his sexual desires. It was a hard fight. Not sure he won either, as the above painting by Francisco de Zurbaran, copied from Wikipedia, shows.
He eventually returned to Rome acquired a reputation as a religious superstar and accumulated a few groupies, one of whom died following his orders to her for leading a more ascetic life. For that he was run out of town. As Clifford Bachman writes : "Another legacy was Jerome's intense misogyny. He was hardly the first person to teach the evils of Woman as seductress, but he was one of the most vocal and vitriolic. His pronouncements are indeed harsh but are generally aimed more at sexuality itself than at the female sex in particular." So, if you feel like observing this feast day, I suggest a few beers and a romp in the sack. Phooeeey to St. Jerome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sleepy, Sneezy, Doc and Gut-Bucket

The topic of the day is dwarfs. More specifically dwarf names. It is always interesting to see where authors get names from. Some clearly make them up and they are cringe-worthy, others find them in heroic sagas or myth. Alan Garner said he got names from The Mabinogion, particularly "Culhwch and Olwen". I knew Tolkien took Durin's name from Norse myth but I found this list of names in the 'Voluspa' and it made me chuckle.
nyi-New Moon, Nithi - Moon Wane, Northri-North, Suthri-South, Austri-East, Vestri-West, Althjofr-Thieve All, Dwalin - Dawdler, Bivurr - Shaky, Bavurr- Grumbler, Bomburr - Gut Bucket, Nori - Old Salt, Ann ok Annar - Friend and Friendly, Oinn - Grandpa, Mjothvitnir - Mead Wolf, Vegrr - Swig, Vindalfr - Wind Elf, Thorinn - Urge, Thrak ok Thrainn - Knowing and Daring, Thekkr - Spurt, Litr ok Vitr - Wise and Bright, Nyr ok Nyrathr - Corpse and Fresh Counsel. I could go on but it is a long list. Imagine Snow White with a dwarf called Corpse.
Other names from Lord of the Rings on this list: Fili - Filer, Kili - Wedger, Fundinn - New Found, Ori - Prankster, Eikinskjaldi - Oakenshield, and of course Gandalf, which means 'Wand-elf'.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Time Has Come

“Tempus appropinquavit”, ille odobenus locutus est, "de multas rebus loqui, de calceos et navibus et cera et brassicas et regibus, et quare mare fervens est, et num porci alas habent.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ecce Viri Septentrionis!

Behold the men of the north! I suppose I could have tried to write that in Old Norse but I had only one class in it and it will be a while before I attempt any such thing. I shall be delving into Icelandic sagas and Norse mythology this year. Be prepared. The Vikings are coming.
I used the word 'septentrionis' for 'of the north' because the Romans referred to the north in this way. The septentriones were the seven stars near the North Pole belonging to the Great Bear. Or the Little Bear. Whichever. You could also use 'boreas'. It is all good.
Some people might object to calling Northmen vikings but it seems to have been a common word for sea-farers from Scandinavia especially those with tendencies to piracy and pillaging. The Anglo Saxon version 'wicinga' appears in the chronicle early on. The etymology is uncertain and the word 'viking' itself might not be derived from Old Norse but Old German since people along the northern coasts would be most at risk from their predations especially after the decline of the Frisian navy following Charlemagne's campaigns against them. It should be fun. I just thought I would warn my many followers why my posts will be seeming rather bloodthirsty this fall.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Cluviel Dor

Instead of studying up for a Latin exam, I have been reading the entire series of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, aka Southern Vampire Series. It is a bit trashy but I like it anyway. Dead Reckoning ended in a bit of a cliffhanger, part of which was questions about the nature of the 'cluviel dor' that Sookie's fairy grandfather gave to her grandmother Adele.
It would be nice to have an idea what a 'cluviel dor' is but it has no precedent. In an interview, Charlaine Harris said she made up what she hoped would be a mysterious-sounding name for the gift. She has a BA in English and does not appear to have an fluency in other languages. I would bet some exposure to Creole but not to any Celtic languages( some online speculation is that it is something Gaelic. Sounds very French to me.) I also get the sense she is more influenced by popular culture than by ancient civilizations. There is another interview where she said she did little research:

Crescent Blues: What kind of research did you do for Dead Until Dark?

Charlaine Harris: Surprisingly little.

This is what we know about the 'cluviel dor' from the novel:

  1. It is a fairy love gift.
  2. Fintan wanted it given to Adele if he was dead
  3. It can only be used once by the beloved.
  4. It makes Sookie feel happy to touch it, like when she is with her grandfather but more intense.
  5. You don't have to be a fairy to use it.
  6. It was given to Adele before Sookie's aunt Linda had died of cancer.
  7. It could have cured Linda's cancer.
  8. It can change the world.
  9. She can alter events in history by using it.
  10. It takes a year to make one, so they are very difficult to prepare.
  11. The wish has to be personal.
  12. Sookie can't use it to take away the telepathy.
  13. She can kill someone with it if they are directly threatening someone she loves.
  14. Other fae would kill Sookie for the cluviel dor.
So, on with the speculation. 'Dor' could be either French for 'of gold' as in d'or or it could be 'door' but I doubt that. It is contains something of gold since it is a box of green that appears to open. The theories are that 'cluviel' is derived from Latin, clavis, that is 'a key' which is a good choice. I have also read 'viel' could be French for 'old' but it is really spelled wrong. 'Vie' is French for 'life' which has a possibility. 'Clue' does not just mean evidence in a mystery but it is a ball of thread, especially one that can lead one out of a labyrinth. 'Golden thread of life'? The Oxford English Dictionary states for one of many definitions that a 'clue' can be 'the thread of life which the Fates are fabled to spin and determine'. I think I will go with that.

Charlaine Harris has also said in her faqs that Sookie will never be a vampire, cannot be impregnated by a vampire.There is another quote on the forums on her site that 'once a vampire always a vampire'. It is not clear if it is Harris saying this or if someone is repeating something they heard her say.
Now for my thoughts on what it might be used for. My first thought was that it might be used to make Eric human. If the comment was correct, then that is not possible. Maybe it is in the phrasing. Perhaps she could use it to bring Eric back to life. There is a passage in Dead and Gone, chapter 15, where Sookie had a dream, "that night I dreamed of Eric. In my dream, he was human and we walked together under the sun. Oddly enough, he sold real estate." Would Eric give up being a vampire to be human with Sookie? He said, while he was under Hallow's spell that he would give up everything for her.
What else could it be used for? If Eric is not forced to marry a vampire queen and he and Sookie stay together, Sookie wants a child. The cluviel dor appears in the story just before Tara's baby shower. Everyone in Bon Temps is getting pregnant at this point. It is even mentioned to Sookie by Andy Bellefleur that it is time for Sookie but that she would not be having any babies if she keeps dating dead men and what would her grandmother think about that?
I wonder if the fairy gift, since it was given to Adele so late, may have been really intended for Sookie, who at the time was the only other one to have the 'essential spark'. Perhaps Sookie will use it to relieve her childlessness since Fintan had already helped Adele in that way. Maybe it will make Eric able, just once, to give her a child and, in true fairy fashion, she'll have twins.
It depends on who Sookie will end up with. Humans are too challenging because of her telepathy. I can't see her marrying a human. Alcide and Quinn have burned their bridges. In spite of everything Bill has done for Sookie, she won't forgive him for how they met. That leaves Sam, who has never been more than Sookie's friend and who is dating someone else, or Eric. Or someone new. There are only two books left so it might be late to introduce a new character. We shall see. Book 12 is written and due to be out in May, 2012.
Add: at the beginning of chapt. 7 Sookie had just received an email from Tara showing her baby bump.
"I took out the cluviel dor and held it to my chest. touching it seemed important, seemed to make it more vital. My skin warmed it quickly. Whatever lay at the heart of that smooth pale greenness seemed to quicken. I felt more alive too." Sounds like a baby.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Pair of Good Links

Since I pointed out that error in the TEAMS text, you might think that I would not recommend them but I do. They still publish some great books that no one else publishes in Middle English. It is but one little error and I am sure it is a rarity. As well, they have placed most of their published work online for free. I like a printed book but if I just need a glimpse at something, an online version is nice too and you could cite these ones in an essay.
They offer The Book of Margery Kempe, many of Gower's works and John Lydgate, The Pearl, Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales, Charlemagne, Canterbury Tales and so many other texts all in Middle English but including a glossary. I recommend it highly.

The other link is to a gardening site. The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased some architectural elements of a Cistercian cloister from Bonnefort, France among others and reassembled them in New York. Sounds like it is worth a little visit. Here is the visitors page: But the link that I really wanted to post is for the medieval garden at the Cloisters. It is rare to find a blog on medieval gardens and it has photos as well. Here is a link:
I think you should bookmark it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wikipedia - 1, TEAMS - 0

     Whenever I had an undergraduate essay to write, every professor has said 'No Wikipedia'.  In spite of the excellence of many of the entries on Wikipedia, one would be seriously shamed to admit to have looked at Wikipedia.  In spite of that, any of my fellow graduate students that I have spoke with on the subject have admitted to using Wikipedia as a starting point for its excellent links, etc.. Only books put out by university presses and scholarly articles in peer reviewed journals can be cited safely. They are considered to be far more accurate than the information on Wikipedia.
     The books published by TEAMS, a group which includes the University of Rochester and University of Michigan(hosts of Kalamazoo, the biggest academic Medieval conference in North America), are among those books which would be considered suitable.  In fact, I had been assigned their copy of The Pearl and Gawain for one class.  One should be able to trust the info one would find in an introduction to one of their books, so I was surprised to read this line in their 'General Introduction' to Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales "There is the hero himself, banished and outlawed at age eighteen, by King William I" about Hereward the Wake.  I have read Gesta Herewardi in Latin.  I wrote a paper last year for a graduate course on him.  Hereward was banished by Edward the Confessor long before the Norman Conquest took place.  Wikipedia got it right.

   "According to the Gesta Herwardi, Hereward was exiled at the age of eighteen for disobedience to his father and disruptive behaviour, and he was declared an outlaw by Edward the Confessor. It has been suggested that, at the time of the Norman invasion of England, he was in exile in Europe, working as a successful mercenary for the Count of FlandersBaldwin V, and that he then returned to England."

According to a really enjoyable paper written by Elisabeth Van Houts called "Hereward and Flanders" published in the Cambridge journals, there is some evidence that Hereward may indeed have been a mercenary in Flanders while the Conquest was underway, including an Hereward witnessing a cathedral charter. Well, chalk one up for Wiki. Maybe.
      Unfortunately, the Wiki article goes on to say "Geoffrey Gaimar, in his Estoire des Engleis, says instead that Hereward lived for some time as an outlaw in the Fens, but as he was on the verge of making peace with William, he was set upon and killed by a group of Norman knights". I have read Gaimar too.  Hereward did make peace with William in his account and was fighting at Le Mans as William's man but he was killed by jealous Normans because Hereward was so awesome they could not stand it. Plus, in the Gesta, Hereward killed a prominent Norman - Frederick de Warenne - and this could have been a source for the abiding hatred the Norman nobles had for him.
      Point being, Wikipedia is not so bad, books, even peer reviewed ones, occasionally carry mistakes.  Trust only the Red Witch, she is never wrong. :) And hopefully someone at TEAMS has spotted the error and corrected it for print editions even if they have not updated the website.