Thursday, August 28, 2014

William Morris – The Water of the Wondrous Isles

At a time when they were little appreciated William Morris, working with his teacher Eirikr Magnusson made translations of many of the Icelandic Sagas which fascinated him. Presumably Magnusson worked literally and Morris poetically. Of the great writers of fantasy Morris most closely rivals ER Eddison's skill with language. Eddison, who himself translated Egil's Saga recommended in that volume to read Morris's translations where possible. The map below first published in Morris's Grettir the Strong in 1869 is identical in design to those Eddison used in his novel Mistress of Mistresses of 1935.

Morris also wrote two novels of lasting magnificence, The Well at the World's End (1896) and The Water of the Wondrous Isles (1897). I discovered Morris for myself late, only after my interest the Icelandic tales took me beyond the central pillars Egil's Saga & Njal's Saga. I decided to try The Water of the Wondrous Isles on my Kindle free from and frankly was stunned that I had dismissed or ignored such a powerful writer in my favourite genre for so long. I think I winced. I sought out a first edition because I wanted a decent hardback copy and I quickly noticed that these typically came with deteriorated spine and boards. By chance I stumbled on a copy someone had seen fit to rebind in such a fashion that it is the smartest looking book I possess.

The Water of the Wondrous Isles – 1897 – Longmans, Green, and Co. 1897
The Well at the World's End – 1896 – George Prior Publishers 1979
Grettir the Strong – tr. 1869 – George Prior Publishers 1980
The Story of the Volsungs – tr. 1888 – Walter Scott 1888

(It would be hard to name a single work which influenced both Wagner and Tolkien more than The Story of the Volsungs)


Monday, August 25, 2014

A Forum for Fantastical and Irreal Literature?

I think it might be worthwhile setting up a forum which would provide a venue for discussion threads for fantasy literature which I would term MODERN fantasy literature, and classical literature with supernatural or irreal overtones, which I would term ANCIENT fantasy literature.

Ideally threads would suggest recommendations for reading, separately for late 19th century and beyond & late 19th century and before. Particular editions of books could be supported with photographs.

Honestly I have always valued the literature much more highly than the associated role-playing games.

As an admin, my attitude towards membership would be one which voided stupid people rather than argumentative types, so 50% of the sort of Dragonsfoot, KKA and odd74 members would be ejected simply because morons are more troublesome in the long run, and morons are never interesting but consume bandwidth.

Anyway Im thinking out loud because I think there is a tight neat group of readers out here who recognise the difficulty in discussing real books as opposed to farting out shit about role-playing games.

I imagine it being a very slow process but initially I would encourage anyone who has already written anything about fantasy books they love to cut and paste their mini-essays into their own threads.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Homer – The Odyssey & The Iliad

Homer, who is widely accepted to be a writer of the 22nd level on the AD&D scale and second only to Shakespeare as a man of thought and words, is worth reading in well designed and constructed editions, and more importantly in the best existing translations.

After much deliberation, here's what I got folks:

The Iliad – Richmond Lattimore – University of Chicago Press ©1962 (1951) – Leonard Baskin Illustrated Edition
The Iliad – Alexander Pope – Heritage Press ©1943 (1720) – John Flaxman Illustrated Edition
The Odyssey – TE Shaw – Oxford University Press ©1940 (1932)
The Odyssey – Robert Fitzgerald – Franklin Library ©1976 (1961)

The serious translations are those by Lattimore & Fitzgerald, the interesting by Pope & Lawrence of Arabia


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Zorsche Brothers


Monday, August 4, 2014

The House the Witch Built



The concept of anachronism was raised in the comments and as it relates to gaming it is interesting to think about it. There are distinct ways it can arise.

When the environment is created as an historical exercise because the DM is knowledgeable about a particular culture and its literature, say the period of the Icelandic Sagas, then an equally informed player could reasonably raise an objection about an anachronism as an error—of shipbuilding technology or the manner in which information is passed down generations or simply artefacts out of date. We could call that kind 'the sore thumb'.

Another form of anachronism is intentional as the DM tries to evoke awe in staring down the time abyss. In a far future dying earth the discovery of a cache of plasma rifles and space suits in a landing bay created for a flying machine seems as reasonable as finding any desert buried sacred tomb complex.  The sense of anachronism is fleeting as the discovery of a lost 'future' becomes fact in much the same way that encountering an evil spirit in the real world would transform something supernatural into a phenomenon for scientists to paw into mundanity. This kind of anachronism is a 'flag' or a 'clue'.

Personally, I consider a fantasy environment to be a sub-creation with a reality elastic enough to receive  whatever elements I consider aesthetically worthwhile so whether an idea is out of place or time is not something I think about—the sub-reality is a collection of elements I have created to address the challenges of giving an impression of supernatural horror, spirituality, transcendence, divinity, surreality, illusion and so on.


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