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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

this is a movement

pwn is to pronounced as if were Welsh, dammit. "poon."

Not p-own. Not pone.

Poon.

Say it with me.



It's stillsostrange's fault that I am thinking about this, but I want to talk about mythology and the folk process.

Specifically, for the SFF writer, and generally speaking, respect for myth and legendry is bad. It will confine you to a narrow band of already strip-mined territory, and it will cripple your ass.

Please note, I am not talking about respect for cultures or religions. Nor am I talking about authenticity. (I have mixed emotions about cultural appropriation as an issue. On the one hand, I'm a firm believer in respecting other people's traditions. On the other hand, literature is a seven thousand year tradition of swiping shit, and my own cultural heritage (Norse, Celtic, Slavic, not really enough Cherokee to count) is the most heavily swiped of all. It comes pre-swiped, really. The swiping started long before Mallory. Hell, we swiped it from each other. What's a girl to do? Yeah, I'm sure I'm going to get a nasty letter from somebody about the Bunyip.)

Authenticity--real authenticity--is rare, and neat, and wonderful. If you can do it, more power to you. If you can do it and make it feel fresh and powerful, I'll be buying your books 'til Kingdom Come.

It is not my purpose to discuss that here.

What I want to talk about is the mythic retelling (please Goddess, says the slushpile reader, not another Orpheus!)  and the purloined fairy tale.

I've talked before about crappy covers, in music, and how most of the time the reason why they are crappy is because the band doesn't manage a new arrangement. They don't bring anything new to the table. They don't pwn (poon) that song.

Thus it is with myth. If you're just kind of retelling the story and not reinventing it, you're not giving it any juice. Where's the fresh perspective? Where's the horn section?

Where's the cowbell?

By which I mean, I think as writers, when dealing with myth and legend and balladry, we can't be too respectful. We can't be afraid of our material. We have to get down in there and get dirty, roll in it, rip it apart. Not just take off the glossy surface, but get our fingernails into the fat. Add a French adulterer with a strong right arm! Throw in a verse about a train platform! Invent a new devil, go ahead! Call him, oh, Moloch, or Mephistopheles. Add hobbits to your standard Norse alfar, light and dark! Toss in a Moor with a thing for gunpowder!

...okay, maybe not that last.

But I mean it. You have to own the myth you're working in. It's got to become yours, your own soup, your own story. It's got to come out through the crucible of your imagination reforged, refined, alloyed.

Otherwise, you're just mining the same old rock.

Of course, you may be worried that people are going to bitch.

Here's the unhappy truth: people are going to bitch. "Balin and Thalin are in the Voluspa, but who is this Bilbo fellow? And Gandalf? Gandalf? I dunno what Edda from which you get a Gandalf." (see comments for Norse myth corrections; this is what I get for being too lazy to look at the damned poem.)

Whatever. Sir Cei started off the strongest of Arthur's knights. Look at him now, the whiner.

Stories change; it is their nature. Sometimes they change for the better, and sometimes they change for the worse. Stagolee shoots Billy, and sometimes, sometimes Delia shoots him back. Heythe is Gullveig is Freya. Tam Lin's horse changes color mid-stride. Robin of Locksley wasn't Robin Hood until the 1500s; before that, the man with the bow was a yeoman, not a noble. And Alan-a-Dale was a late arrival too.

A good craftsman respects his tools and knows their power, for weal or woe. But he doesn't fear them. We carry on. The stories just get richer. The layers of truth get deeper. That other stuff is for historians.

We're all liars here.

Comments

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I think it's an aggrieved Yiddish grandmother scholar of Norse myth.

Re: The Idylls of the Queen: I LOVE THAT BOOK WITH ALL MY HEART.

And it could be the poster child for what I'm talking about here, really.
"Balin and Thalin are in the Voluspa, but who is this Bilbo fellow? And Gandalf? Gandalf? I dunno what Edda from which you get a Gandalf."

. . . For some reason, that line entered my brain in an aggrieved Yiddish grandmother tone. I suppose that says something about how many hours I've been up by now.

Whatever. Sir Cei started off the strongest of Arthur's knights. Look at him now, the whiner.

I've always been rather fond of him. But I can blame this primarily on Phyllis Ann Karr's The Idylls of the Queen. Ah, retellings . . . ; )
Why "poon" and not "pone" though?
Because it's obviously Welsh.
"Balin and Thalin are in the Voluspa, but who is this Bilbo fellow? And Gandalf? Gandalf? I dunno what Edda from which you get a Gandalf."

[pedant] Actually, Balin isn't, but Gandalf is-- right there in the Dvergatál with Thráin and Fili and Kili and the rest of them. [/pedant]

Which is pretty much where the hobbit came from-- Tolkien wading into the mass of myth with his sleeves rolled up and saying, "All right, who put this Elvish dude in with the Dwarves? And how Elvish can he really be if he's hanging out with Dwarves? And what are these Dwarves doing together, anyway, besides alliterating?"

Um. Which is all to say, a thousand times Word. But also, that the better you know your sources, the more you'll have to bring to the table.
*g* Sure, nail me for being to lazy to go look up who made the cut. The Eddas books were eleven novels ago. You would not believe how fast this stuff falls out of your brain. :-P

And yeah, totally with you on the sources. Reading wide and deep.
You do realize what _else_ "poon" is, yes?

*i am _so_ twelve :D*
*whistles*

Me? I just fell off the turnip truck. Barefoot. With a chicken in one hand.
Actually, Japanese.

Pon is the Japanese word for "point", yelled during video games. As in, I scored [on you]. To American ears, this sounds like pawn, and the l33t turned this into pwn.

There's a reason I retain the wackiness of mixing up the traditions; my first major fantasy I read was the LoTR series in fourth grade--and then didn't really read any again until someone dumped Mythago Wood on me, my senior year in college. (Okay, I admit I read some of the horrendous Xanth series as a sophomore in college, but only because my roommate had the entire set, because I was down with the flu and dying of boredom to boot, and I had to duct tape my fingers to the bedframe to keep from marking up the book with a red pen, and somehow this convinced me that All Fantasy Must Be Crap--until I read Holdstock.)

I'm all for not just making myth your own, but creating new myth to merge with the old. I figure it must mean I'm doing it right when I've got beta-readers scrambling through various mythological & folklore books trying desperately to find the origins of myths A, B, or C, or character A, B, or C, certain that they must have read it somewhere. Nope, sorry, all mine, but isn't that the point of an archetype--to tap into something such that it feels like it's so familiar, it must predate this particular story?
*watches the joke go sailing past kaigou*

Life is too short to explain why things are funny.

Nevermind, carry on.
Yeah, I got my nonexistent characters backwards. I already apologized.
another fun example of how stories change, since you mentioned Tam Lin and Robin Hood -- Homer's Iliad. There's a great scene in there where the Greeks charge the Trojans and one of the Greeks trips over the end of his shield and falls. Except that the Greeks in the story -- and the Greeks during the Homeric period -- used much smaller round shields. But Greeks during the Mycenean period and the estimated dates for the real Trojan war used long shields that a charging man could, well, trip over the end of.
*g* That seems more like reality changing around the story...
We're all liars here.

V. chewy & delicious thoughts, as always, and that bit just made me smiiiile so. Lairs? Yep. :)

*liar

heh. *wants to be a lair now*
pwn is to pronounced as if were Welsh, dammit. "poon."

Not p-own. Not pone.

Poon.

Say it with me.


Can I be excused on the grounds that my ancestry is more recently Southern USian than Welsh? No? Drat.

We're all liars here.

::goes back to fangirling you silently::
Folklore has never been static. It just happened to get written down at a certain point.
yes.
Do you know what? Every day around here is Fun With Gullveig The Deathless Day, these days. Uff da, don't I wish she was really Freyja. Stupid Heid brain.
Heh. In the Edda-of-Burdens mythology, she is. *g* And Not Quite Right In The Head Anymore After That Thing With The Spear.

*pets heid*

I like your brain.
I recently used the fact that Maid Marian wasn't in the original tale of Robin Hood in a story.
I was so weirded out last week at school when someone gave a little talk about the Morte D'Arthur and started talking about Balin and Balan, and how one brother killed another. Did Malory borrow that from the Eddas or was that where he started making up?
Actually, it looks like Balin and Balan come from an Old French version, predating Mallory.

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/Camelot/balmenu.htm

The Camelot Project is the rock.

Check this out:

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/AUTHMENU.htm
Got me an old scratch and pop 45 of King Arthur and the Knights of the Table Round...

*g*

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