ONCE UPON A TIME

Spinning Yarns — What makes a good storyteller, in your opinion? Are your favorite storytellers people you know or writers you admire?


Fear According to Savage Chickens

Last night I dreamed about chickens. After a tooth-grinding review of how badly mistreated we have been by past employers — Garry’s and mine — somehow I slid sideways into an old house in the country.

It looked a lot like it does around here. A bit hilly and lots of trees. There was a movie star living in the house. She was supposed to be young, but her skin looked like the bottom of an old leather suitcase and was a trifle orange. She was going back to California where she seemed to believe she would be better off.

That left me with 200 chickens. The fowl were arriving (shortly) by truck. Healthy, young, hens and roosters. Enough to start a nice little chicken farm. Except I didn’t want to be a chicken farmer and I was pretty sure, neither did Garry. I couldn’t just leave the chickens to die of hunger, thirst, and cold. I’m a responsible person and I love animals. Even chickens.

I was still baffled over the whole chicken conundrum when I finally gave up, opened my eyes, and began my day. Coffee would banish chickens. Garry says it’s from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and I was just caught in an old movie loop.

Sometimes, the absolutely best storyteller in the world has got to be my subconscious. I would never even consider creating a story involving me and chickens.

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Not counting authors since this prompt doesn’t concern that … who tells great stories? Garry tells wonderful stories. He has me mesmerized from the first word to the last and that includes when I’ve heard the story before. Our friend Tom is also a terrific storyteller. He makes us laugh. I don’t know if the story is true or maybe just a little true, but whatever, it is great entertainment.

At my best, I tell a good story. I run on too long and I’m not good at wrapping it up and finishing before the audience needs another drink, but I’m good for the yarn’s first three-quarters.

Story-telling is the glue that makes friends want to hang out with each other.

It’s not booze, movies, or video games. Certainly not texting. It’s stories. The tales of our experiences, things we remember, times and places and people we’ve known.

I keep wondering what young people will do when they realize you can’t live forever with just a cell phone for company? They don’t seem to have a clue about having conversations or telling stories to each other. From whence will their stories emerge?

Our stories are our personal mythology. Will our children and grandchildren have stories? Or anyone to tell them?

It worries me. It really does.

BORN UNDER THE SIGN OF GANEESHA

Custom Zodiac - You’re tasked with creating a brand new astrological sign for the people born around your birthday — based solely on yourself. What would your new sign be, and how would you describe those who share it?



Marilyn's Horoscope

Every astrological sign needs a planet for influence. For this purpose, I am choosing Io, the innermost of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. It’s the fourth-largest moon, has the highest density, and is the driest object in the Solar System — perfect to represent me since I have the driest skin in the Solar System.

It was named after the mythological character Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of Zeus’s lovers. However, the Roman pantheon doesn’t work for me. I prefer be characterized by a god who represents qualities to which I relate and which I hope are the best of me. The Romans were too bloody, physical, non-intellectual, and generally churlish for my taste.

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My patron deity will be Ganeesha, the Hindu Lord of letters and learning. He is a patron for writers and others who are seekers and creators. In Sanskrit, the word buddhi is a feminine noun meaning intelligence, wisdom, or intellect and is closely associated with Ganeesha and the many tales of his cleverness, his passion for writing, his love of intelligence.

Thus from hence forth, those lucky souls born between March 10 and March 17 (note that some minor adjustments may be required using a proper ephemeris) will share many of these characteristics:

Intellectual curiosity, a passion for words, both spoken and written. Often accompanied by some degree of musical talent and for the graphic arts. These gifts can manifest in a variety of ways, both passive and active.

Other, less charming qualities may include shortness of temper, intolerance with ignorance, a snappish dislike of poorly spoken and written language. Inclined to be excessively controlling of both self and others. Not a warm and fuzzy personality, this individual lives primarily in his or her head, which will virtually always win when heart and mind come into conflict.

Despite this, given to periodic flights of bizarre fantasy which may be acted on without regard for consequences. Shows a marked lack of caution in emotional involvements as well as a willingness to try pretty much anything at least twice.

Terrified of insects, but a lover of animals and nature. Not a bad egg, but often a prickly one.

LEDA AND THE SWAN – THE MUSICAL

Back in my bright college days, I was a music major. I hung out on the quad with other wannabe musicians on warm sunny days where we planned projects which would make us famous. Symphonies. Great achievements as conductors and composers though my class never produced anyone huge. Medium is as good as we got.

The Concept

My great project was going to be musical comedy based on the myth of Leda and the Swan.

In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces — or rapes — Leda. I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing being rape by a swan.

Zeus or not, swans are slow and clumsy on land, unlikely to successfully attack anyone or anything. Being heavy-bodied, they have trouble getting airborne. Without hands or arms, rape seems unlikely.

Leda becomes pregnant from the experience. She bears Helen and Polydeuces, both children of Zeus. Simultaneously (and I’d like to know how she managed this), she gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra — the offspring of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.

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Leda is able to convince her parents and husband that her extraneous pregnancy is not the result of a lover or promiscuity. “No! Honest to gods, really, no kidding, Mom, Dad, Tyndy … it was Zeus! Not some guy. He was a swan! Really.” Right.

The first … and perhaps my favorite scene … would have to be the first act closer. In this highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending lyric soprano rich with passion. In it, she explains that it really truly was Zeus.

I could imagine another hilarious show-stopping moment. The eggs. Her Zeus children are born as eggs. Who sat on the eggs? Did they build a nest on her throne? Did she get her ladies-in-waiting to sit on them while she did her Queen business?

Dialog Tidbit

Leda: The swan didn’t fool me. I knew it was Zeus. You all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird? No kidding. I wouldn’t lie to you.

Tyndareus, King of Sparta: I want to believe you, but I’m having some problems.

Leda: Trust me, dear. It was Zeus. As a swan. You know how tricky he is.

The All-Important Dream Ballet

In a brilliantly choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. Some of the technical aspects of the experience make interesting mental meanderings. How, exactly, did … well … ? It will make a heck of a scene.

How Many Curtain Calls?

I’m telling you — the audience will be on its collective feet! I can hear the applause already. I see the royalties rolling in.

Swan's Nest

I’m a bit long in the tooth now for to write a musical comedy, but I freely offer this incredible concept to anyone who wants to flush it out. It might launch more than one career.

You think?

Niniane – The Lady of the Lake

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

TALLHWCH The pursuit of history using the newest and most creative methods necessary


The first mention of either the Lady of the Lake or Ninian (Niniane, Vivian, etc.) is to be found in the late work Prose Merlin.  Her character remains much the same through to Sir Thomas Malory, who simply makes the story more complex.  In all the stories that name her Ninian is a fully developed character.  She is the original owner of Arthur’s second sword and later becomes Merlin’s pupil.

However, as with many aspects of the Arthurian literary world, there are serious gaps in reasoning with her story, and these gaps suggest a very different origin for her.  For instance, Merlin somehow knows she will betray him, but teaches her anyway.  The romances explain that he does so because he loves her, but that sounds like more of a rationalization of something not understood than an historical fact that is.

The end of her story is that Niniane does trap Merlin in a cave the moment her studies are over.  He is left there, alive (again, no serious explanation).  It certainly is not out of malice for Arthur.  Ninian takes over as his counselor for the remainder of his reign and does her best to help him.  She is also one of the four women who takes him to Avalon.  That is the extent of Ninian’s literary career.  Clearly her original character and the transformation have been hidden by chance and misunderstandings.

Uinniau was a prominent ecclesiastic of sixth century Britain who may have been Columba’s teacher.  He was known as Ninian in Welsh saints’ lives or Nynia by Bede.  However, much of Scotland has place-names derived from his proper name of Uinniau.  This Uinniau was known for three things mainly.  First, he was one of the most knowledgeable persons of his age.  Second, he was a great teacher who made his monastery of Whithorn was a primary center of learning in Britain.  Finally, it is known that he would occasionally go on a retreat to a nearby cave, known as St. Ninian’s Cave, which was several miles away from his monastery.

Ninian would eventually became the form by which Uinniau was exclusively known.  In fact, the process must have been an early one.  Bede, writing in 725, knew him only by that name.  It was an unfortunate circumstance that Ninian was a Celtic name, and the romance writers who would treat Arthur on the continent spoke Germanic and Latin languages.  The unfamiliarity with Celtic would lead to confusion over his gender, and he became a she there.

Arthur was an attractive figure in the literature of the Middle Ages, gravitating all manner of figures, motifs, and stories to him.  In previous blogs I have mentioned the attraction of the Myrddin (Merlin) legend and the figure of Urien.  The same sort of fate awaited Uinniau.  Long before Arthur had become a figure of romance, Uinniau’s dominant name-form had become to Ninian.  For the Celtic speaker that was still a male name, but for continentals it was female.

That change from male to female, from independent ecclesiastic to intelligent layperson was where Uinniau became a different literary figure.  Once Uinniau was a part of the Arthurian universe, his reputation for intelligence would have drawn him to the already established Merlin; in an irony of history a lunatic (Myrddin) became the teacher of one of the best-read people of the age (Uinniau).  Once that  transformation was accomplished, the latent aspects of Uinniau’s memory easily made their way into Arthurian the tales, and Merlin was trapped in the cave Uinnau had used as a refuge.

I won’t pretend to know how Ninian became the Lady of the Lake.  However, she would not have begun her Arthurian career that way.  She would have started off as Merlin’s pupil and successor with the qualities of her historical precursor intact.  She was associated with a lake only by Robert de Boron, an author that I have discovered in my research was not one to stick with his traditional sources.  It is possible he knew of some Celtic tale which he used to enhance Uinniau’s mythology.  It is equally possible he used something more contemporary.  That part of the history of the Lady of the Lake we may never know.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

From my favorite blog, one of my favorite mysteries … partially solved, but leaving enough unanswered questions to hold my interest. I love this stuff. If you have never visited TALLWCH, you are missing a treat. Check it out at – http://tallhwch.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/niniane-the-lady-of-the-lake/

See on tallhwch.wordpress.com

DON’T PRINT THE LEGEND

Dusty Streets of Tombstone

I love westerns. I hate westerns. I grew up wanting to be a western hero, maybe the Lone Ranger. Never mind the gender issue. I knew by the time I was 5 that boys get to do a lot more stuff than girls, so I wanted to be one.

When I was a kid I didn’t know much. I didn’t count bullets and wonder how come they didn’t reload. I had no idea how many bullets there ought to be. I didn’t notice prejudice, bigotry and the near-genocide of Native Americans … hey, I was a kid. But I’m not a kid now. I know what it means when someone says “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

I understand westerns are not historical documents and I don’t need them to be. I’m used to historical manipulation, ignoring facts to make a story work. But I can’t seem to ignore cruelty, mass murder and the adulation of psychopaths. The claims of heroism for what are really acts of malice, stupidity and greed. It doesn’t roll off me.

Big things bother me a lot while small things bother me proportionately less — like an itch I can’t scratch. “Print the legend” does not work for me. I can’t wrap my head around the myth. There are exceptions of course … but mostly … westerns have become painful to watch. New-style and cynical — or old-fashioned and racist — it’s the same. The only difference is style. For me, it’s no longer entertainment.

It just hurts.

Afternoon walk - Tombstone

THE CELTIC OTHERWORLD

By , Author

Tallhwch  ~ The pursuit of history using the newest and most creative methods necessary

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

It is a common misperception that the Celts had an Underworld, a place of the dead. The fact is that the Celts believed in reincarnation, and that the time between lives was spent in the unpleasant Tech Duin. Those gods normally associated with the Underworld are nothing of the sort, nothing more than misperceptions based on our own views of the world. For instance, Pwyll of the Mabinogion seems to be no more than a king who travels from one world to the next. Manawydan, a Welsh god, is the eponym for part of Lothian and the island of Man. He is more closely related to the sea than the dead.

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The confusion is due to Celtic mythology’s complexity. The mythologies of Greece, Rome, and the Norse as they have come down to us have been simplified and systematized by the likes of Bulfinch and Snorri Sturlsson. The Celts had no one like that. As a result their mythology is more difficult to follow and often inconsistent. Irish myth held that their gods were only the second most recent of five invasions by supernatural beings, the Tuatha de Danaan. These beings had residences similar to the gods of other mythologies, on mountains, in the sea, and what not.

But the enemies of the Tuatha de Danaan responded differently. In Norse myth, the enemies of the gods were still active and needed to be constantly subdued. In Greek myth, the Titans were brought to Tartarus once they were beaten. The Irish believed that once defeated, the Tuatha de Danaan’s foes hid using their magic. Their sanctuaries were apart from the world the Celts knew, magical and hidden. It was these Other Worlds to which heroes often went, the realms of fairies and the other creatures of myth.

Because they were places of hiding, it comes as no surprise that the Otherworld had so many geographical locations. For the Celts they were the hills of the countryside, the islands to the west, and the darkest places in the forest. To get an idea of what the Celts imagined, think of a Guillermo del Toro movie such as Hellboy II or Pan’s Labyrinth. These mysterious, magical people lived in magical places that confounded the Celt’s concepts of space.

In the British Isles there dwelled leprechauns, fairies, elves, and dozens of other perfectly civilized beings of shrunken size. These all lived in worlds other than those humans could see. None of their worlds are actually named, so it’s impossible to know if they all lived in the same Otherworld or different ones.

mythos

What I find fascinating is the make-up of the world or worlds themselves. The older stories about them always had rulers who gave opulent feasts and royal entertainment for guests that far outdid anything to be found in the human world. But what I’ve found interesting are the occasional hints at magic/superior technology. A mist conceals the entrance through which no human can see, occasionally a glass boat takes the knight there. Time moves at an accelerated pace. Fairies can fly. Otherwise there is the distinctive feel of something well beyond human abilities or technology, though nothing specific is said. For the Celts these were superior beings not to be trifled with in our world. To go into theirs was to court disaster.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

I want magic to be real. There is a deep, irrational well of longing in me that believes in magical places buried in woodland and mist. This is my favorite blog, my favorite website. It lets me feel close to the magic.

See on tallhwch.wordpress.com

LEDA DOES THE SWAN

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The happy couple.

Back in my bright college days, I was for the first 2 years, a music major. When my fellow wannabe musicians hung out on the quad on warm sunny days, we would plan projects that were going to make us famous. Symphonies were planned. Great achievements as conductors and composers were spun as glorious dreams, although I don’t know that my class actually produced anyone who really hit the big time. Medium time seems to be as good as we got.

But my dream, my great project, was a full musical comedy based on the story of Leda and the Swan. I thought Broadway because in those days, there were no computer generated graphics to make the impossible real on-screen. Now, I think perhaps Hollywood would be the correct venue for this masterpiece.

In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces, or rapes Leda. Which is never made entirely clear, but I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing getting raped by a swan. Even as Zeus, swans are not agile except in the water and their lack of hands and arms would seem to make rape difficult.

Regardless, Leda becomes pregnant by Zeus as swan. She bears Helen and Polydeuces, both children of Zeus in his swan modality. Simultaneously (I’d like to know how she manages this) she gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra, children of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.

In the myth, Leda is able to convince her parents and husband her extra pregnancy was not the result of a lover. No, no! Honest to gods, really, no kidding, it was Zeus who did it. Not merely was it Zeus –not some guy — but he was in the form of a swan!

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Hey, Zeus? Is that you?

My favorite scene would be the first act closer. In a highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending lyric soprano rich with passion. She explains — to hubby, mom and dad —  it really truly was Zeus.

Leda: Even in the form of a swan, I knew it was Zeus. And you all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird who is, after all, top God in the Pantheon? No kidding. I wouldn’t lie to you.

Tyndareus, King of Sparta: I want to believe you, but I’m having a few problems with this.

Leda: Trust me, dear. It was Zeus. He was disguised as a swan. You know how clever he can be.

Later, we all get to see the central event, Leda’s experience. In a carefully choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. I’m assuming it was seduction rather than rape. I mean, how big was that swan anyhow? And, uh, some of the technical aspects of the experience make for interesting mental meanderings. How, exactly, did … well … Never mind. This is a G-rated site. Suffice to say it would make a heck of a scene. Now that CGI has come of age, with some well done special effects? Wow. This could have the audience on its feet!

There’s more. Depending on which version of the story you read, Leda either give birth to babies … or lays eggs. Lays eggs? Really?

Zeus and Leda?

Zeus and Leda?

Eggs open up a whole new world of possibilities. If she lays eggs, does she have to sit on them until they hatch? As Queen of Sparta, can she order her court attendants to sit on the eggs while she performs her royal duties?

Does she build a nest? In the palace? Do the hatchlings feel a compelling urge to dive into lakes and ponds? Are they born knowing how to swim? Or more to the point, paddle? Do they have webbed feet? How do they feel about feathers?

I no long feel up to writing a musical comedy, but I freely offer this amazing concept to anyone who feels inclined to flush it out. I think it might just launch more than one career. You think?