Category Archives: Prose

Midnight light

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Before the shadowed mirror

She stood, backlit in soft glow

From a single lamp on the left,

The dancing flame softening

The lines of a sleepless,

Merry night – For it had been indeed!

 

She stood, caught in the dregs

Of midnight magic fading,

Holding proudly, the visage

Of a Roman empress in colour

And style, but in dress more humble,

Wrapped in the softened glow of the everyday.

 

She fancied she saw held,

In the silver disk before her,

Caught as she was betwixt,

Divine and mundane,

That then she was more beautiful

Belonging to a Raphaelite painting.

 

Too delicate, she felt herself,

For harsh reality’s harsh sunlight.

She shied away, covered the glass,

Such fancies fade away with time.

3 Days 3 Quotes – Day 1

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Oooooh, a tag! Haven’t seen one of those in while! (Well if you bothered to actually stick around on WordPress for more than 5 minutes at a time…)

-ahem- Big thanks to the ever-lovely Irena S. for the nomination! Not sure if I’ll manage to do the full thing, small as it is, I’m on essay writing mode right now… Here goes anyway!

The rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post three different quotes in three consecutive days
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

And quote #1, from literally the first book next to me right now. It’s from Diary of a Witchcraft Shop by Trevor Jones and Liz Williams and every page of it is hilarious!

“Walking down the High St last night, I was suddenly accosted by St George, in full armour and a sword, who leaped out of the doorway of the George and Pilgrim, exclaiming, ‘Ah! A damsel!’ I explained that I was not, however, in distress and St George disappeared. But it’s the thought that counts.”

If you fancy seeing what living in as crazy a place as Glastonbury is like, I’d say check it out.

Now…who to nominate…Oh, I know! -cue the Pokemon theme- I choose Cora and Brittany! Yes, I know it says three people on the tin but my list of blogs I follow isn’t exactly huge, so if I’m going to do all three days I need to have people to keep tagging! Of course, since the people in question are not stuffed in Pokeballs, there’s no pressure to do the tag. Gotta admit it’s fun though!

Bedroom Window – Three flash stories

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  1. The girl in the tower

She leaned against the window sill, heedless of the rose thorns catching on her clothes. Mother never left for long. If she was to do it, it had to be now. She looked at the drop below her. With a nervous breath, she tugged her braid inside. Maybe next time.

 

  1. First night

The branches scratched against the glass and, with a shudder, he pulled the blanket over his head. What a night to be left alone! With thunder booming outside and shadows dancing at every corner of the room. Some darker than they should be, he fancied. With a whimper he tried to sleep.

 

  1. Entry level

The bird paused in front of them. It had been walking on the windowsill uncertainly, trying to, no doubt, comprehend what it was seeing. It chirped uncertainly and took a step closer to the invisible barrier. Two streets down a car honked. Startled, the bird turned around and took off.

In which Mordred is really not a bad guy….

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In case there is anyone left who has missed the memo: I prefer villains and anti-heroes to straight-cut heroes. I’ve always found them so much more interesting, even if they sometimes are saddled with a “just because” motivation. And that is way it’s always bugged me that Mordred is evil just because he is. Sure, we needed a formidable enough enemy for Mr I-Kill-Giants-In-My-Free-Time but surely there had to be more in the story. I may love medieval literature but it cannot be denied that when it comes to complex motives and conflicting loyalties, well, unless it’s a love story, they kind of are ignored in favour of a more standardised Good vs. Evil plot.

 

tumblr_mbik3r0mUP1qbq8v8 And then I read the Alliterative Morte Arthure. And suddenly this guyis not the root of all evil. If anything,  when Arthur makes him Regent he respectfully declines. Truly the sign of a power-hungry usurper. It’s a  small thing, but Mordred has a surprisingly small number of lined dedicated to him and his sub-plot. What  is more, he expresses genuine regret towards the death of his brother, without the melodramatics that  Arthur deems necessary. Call me insensitive, but if you’re in the middle of a civil war and practically a  sitting duck, then you’ll refrain from ad-libbing a eulogy until you are safely on the throne again. Geez, no  wonder Guinevere couldn’t stand the guy!

 

Also, might I point out that in every account of the Morte Artu episode I have come across (that was composed before the 1900s), Mordred is crowned king by popular demand?  To paraphrase a line from the text itself, the people preferred him to Arthur because with him they had peace and prosperity but with his father they only had wars. And wars might be all well and good when you have 60kg of armour protecting you, but not when your only weapon is a sharp stick because you couldn’t afford anything else. Also, considering that “the people” are the ones making sure the nobles have food on their tables, I think Mordred had appealed to the right demographic.

 

Whether you choose to follow the Morte Arthure as cannon or pick another strand of the tradition, the point remains. All versions of the episode agree that Mordred was trusted by both Arthur and the court, hence the regency. I just think there must be something more to the story, something that was brushed aside in order to draw clearer moral lines.

In which you learn to ALWAYS question the source

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Ah…I remember the first time I read a translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of king Arthur. Being a newbie on the whole Arthurian literature thing, I was star-struck by the pseudo-historic way in which he presented the events. True, I understood that he was probably making stuff up at least partly as he went on, but damn he did it in a cool way. And then I came across his claims over his reputed main source, that Holy Grail of lost manuscripts that he supposedly based his work. Yeah, as far as I can tell the manuscript Geoffrey describes did not exist. Most of the texts I have found on the subject argue that he probably based his account in part on pre-existing manuscripts (but a multitude of them, not one) and in part in oral tradition.

 

This got me thinking though. Sure, not even all of his contemporaries believed his account to be genuine, but the Historia became the basis, in some capacity or other, of most future versions of the Arthurian Cycle. Why was that? I’m not dissing Geoffrey; his account is very interesting, even if it is just read as a reflection of his time. However, Arthurian texts retained their quasi-historical claims for a while. Why base your text in a debatable source? Where they consciously undermining the historicity of their accounts? I remember being told that the greatest compliment an author could make in the middle ages would be to present another’s account as the ‘true facts’ he –ahem- borrowed from.

 

Maybe then the point wasn’t the accuracy. Maybe the point was to show appreciation for a predecessor’s work. In a time when the written word was not exactly openly available this might have been one of the few ways to actually preserve an older account and at the same time make it contemporary. The extensive bibliographies that are now readily available at the end of most books would be simply unimaginable in the early 1000s.

 

And maybe it was in that spirit that BBC’s Merlin (the mash-up adaptation that I respect most after Malory’s account) actually included a character named Geoffrey of Monmouth.

In which the Welsh invent Rom-Com

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Ever heard of the Mabinogion? It’s collection of stories (originally in Middle Welsh I think) that were introduced to me as one of the earliest collections of Arthurian tales still around. Meaning that there are recognisable names, romance, random supernatural forces, mindless violence, bizarre quests and generally hijinks. Also a Rom-Com. I’m not kidding! Culhwch and Olwen is a rom-com, I swear. Here’s what TV Tropes have to say about rom-coms:

 

“Every story needs a conflict, and since rom-coms are driven by the quest for love, the conflict derives from the obstacles to the quest. This could be the apparent incompatibility of the leads: mutual Love at First Sight is rare. The two characters will spend a good part of the movie fighting their obvious attraction. Eventually, they’ll realize they’re perfect for each other. Or, something will pop up; maybe a Three’s Company kind of misunderstanding, or a revelation in the third act about one of them lying. One of the two characters will storm off in a huff. Or the couple is already married for some reason, and the conflict comes partially from different expectations and misunderstandings.

 

The climax of a rom-com requires the satisfactory recognition of love: the other chases after the love interest and does something really romantic to win them back. The reconciliation scene ends with the two characters reunited in a romantic embrace. Often ends in a wedding.”

 

Now match that to what happens in Culhwch and Olwen: Culhwch, the hero, is cursed to only marry Olwen, who in turn is forbidden by her father to marry at all. Here’s the Romeo and Juliet angle, with Ysbaddaden being either the Big Bad or the Overprotective Father, depending on your reading of the story (coughTenThingsIHateAboutYoucough). Culhwch would then be the Big Damn Hero (whether he deserves the characterisation for any other reason other than his name being on the title is up to debate) and Olwen the Magical Girlfriend.

 

Of course it wouldn’t be a rom-com if there weren’t an assorted cast of characters to surround our star-crossed mains. Call it a motif or trope but Culhwch’s gang can be categorised under Six Go Round The World, a group that includes somebody ideal for every occasion that may arise (also known as token characters). They are provided by Culhwch’s Fairy Godmother of a cousin, our good old friend, Arthur. One might argue that Culhwch and Olwen’s aunt (just go with it) is also a Fairy Godmother, since she enables the two lovers to meet.

 

And, truly, it wouldn’t be a rom-com without wacky shenanigans now, would it? Just have a look at what Ysbaddaden demands Culhwch and co. do before he agrees to the wedding! Sure, serious people call it a quest, but considering an impressive amount of the things the knights collect go towards giving the Big-Not-So-Friendly-Giant a makeover…well….

 

To top it all off, this little, violent beyond expectation, rom-com ends with a wedding. Say what you will about what happens before but at least these two crazy kids will have some fantastic, How-I-Met-Your-Mother-esque stories to tell in the future!

 

Sooooo….How close is my wacky interpretation to the original? Have a look here and see for yourselves!

The Fisherman and the Water Maiden (rewrite)

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Author’s note: I usually don’t post rewrites of pieces I have already uploaded, but I wasn’t happy with how it originally turned out, so here’s the edited version.

The fisherman and the water maiden

In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and reefs, waiting to claim unsuspecting sailors. It was here, the stories said, that water maidens lived. It was rare one might see them, as it was said that they appeared only to those that made them curious. Nevertheless, people said they made excellent wives.

 

In the village lived a poor fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than most considered wise. One year, the young man was making the customary wine liberation ‘to appease the Old Man Sea’, as his elders taught, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher threw the comb right back in the water, not wanting to face a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who had been drawn near by the unfamiliar sweet taste of wine in the water. The following dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more when, out of the gleaming water, came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the gold of the sand on the shore and her hair the many blues of the ocean. Fascinated, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too hard.’

Still laughing, she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. At the end of the week his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too soft.’ With a wink she disappeared underwater again.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing this to be the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she determined to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread to offer to his faery sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a smile, he offered her the loaf and, to his delight, she accepted it.

‘My name is Awel,’ she said softly before diving once more into the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but, before he could, the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

‘Choose wisely, young human,’ said the Old Man. ‘Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.’

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her and said,

‘You are Awel.’

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

‘Know this, young human,’ Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat. ‘My daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! Should you forget she is not bound by the rules of your world three times, she and all that is hers will leave you.’

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised to accept her in every way.

 

And so the fisherman brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. And if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves, what did it matter? Everyone agreed that they took after their mother and he loved them just like that. Days turned to months, and month turned to years, and the fisherman counted himself the happiest man in his village. Then, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he chastised his wife for not having the house prepared for his return. Awel looked at her husband.

‘I cannot live all day by the hearth,’ she said. ‘Take care.’

 

The fisherman understood the warning and, loving his wife too much to lose her, paid extra care to avoid anything that might cause her departure. For a while all was well in his household once more. Then, after a terrible storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The man might be lost but he was far from dead. The fisherman, hurt by his wife’s reaction, scolded her. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

‘I know of things you cannot know,’ she said. ‘Take great care.’

 

The third and final error came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maiden and, as maidens are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried, knowing her daughter forever bound to land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman insisted she stop crying on a happy occasion. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

‘Your rules do not bind me. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.’

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s prosperity.