NINIANE – THE LADY OF THE LAKE

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

TALLHWCH – The pursuit of history

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:

One of my favorite mysteries, leaving enough unanswered questions to hold my interest. If you have never visited TALLWCH, check it out: http://tallhwch.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/niniane-the-lady-of-the-lake/

See on tallhwch.wordpress.com

STOOPOLOGY

STOOP, Etymology


Originally brought to the Hudson Valley of New York by settlers from the Netherlands, this word is among the Dutch vocabulary that has survived there from colonial times until the present. Stoop, “a small porch”, comes from Dutch stoep (meaning: step, pronounced the same). The word is now in general use in the Northeastern United States and is spreading. 


Not a stoop. This would qualify as a portico

Not a stoop. This would qualify as a portico. Only one step and it’s recessed

Stoops are important. They offer opportunities for creative play, such as “stoop ball” which is a kind of handball, but you need a stoop. With steps. We used to use them as a kind of grandstand where guests could sit while we gave performances. We thought we were almost ready for Broadway. Not all reviewers agreed.

A stoop is a front porch for urbanites. You sit on the stoop to watch the street, meet and greet your neighbors, get some fresh (?) air. Catch up on the local news. Stoop sitting was an important thing when I was growing up and I’m betting it still is, if you live in a neighborhood in the city that’s not too snooty.

Rich people don’t sit on the stoop. More’s the pity. They’d understand the world a lot better if they did.

As the word “stoop” spreads, we will all be able to recognize one when we see it. It’s one of the first architectural features I look for when I’m trying to figure when a structure was built. In cities, most buildings originally had a stoop. When you see a door that is at or below street level, it usually means the original stoop has been buried by erosion, time, remodeling, sidewalk and street repairs, and so on.

It's a stoop, but it leads to a porch

It’s a stoop, but it leads to a porch

Urban streets tend to rise over the years. In older cities, sometimes the level of the street will actually be slightly higher than the door, requiring a dry well and/or drains to keep from flooding.

Stoops on Beacon Hill, Boston

Stoops on Beacon Hill, Boston

A stoop from the 1700s is still a stoop ... even though it's in Upton, Massachusetts rather than New York

A stoop from the 1700s is still a stoop … even though it’s in Upton, Massachusetts rather than New York

A perfect suburban stoop

A perfect suburban stoop

A stoop leading to the tiny post office in Manchaug

A stoop leading to the tiny post office in Manchaug

I can attest to the spread of the word stoop meaning the steps and landing between the sidewalk (or front walk) and the door. Because when i first came to Boston, only former New Yorkers (which comprise about 50% of everyone in Massachusetts) knew the word, but now everyone does. Probably because of that invasive pest species, refugees from New York.

To qualify as a stoop, it has to lead to the front or another main door. It doesn’t have to have a landing to be a stoop. The steps alone are enough.

The stoop should have from two to six steps. More than six steps is a whole flight of steps and a single step can’t be a stoop. If there’s more than a landing at the top, it also isn’t a stoop. If it’s bigger than a landing, the area is a porch, a veranda, a balcony … maybe even a deck. A proper stoop is just big enough to put down your bag of groceries while you dig around in your bag to find your keys.

72-Beacon-Hill_023

72-Roxbury-Arches-1

There were probably stoops on these doorways 100 years ago, but the city rose. You can also see how many times the building has been remodeled, brickwork changed, and so on. Buildings hold a lot of history

I would call this a stoop, but some would not because it leads to a side door, not the front

I would call this a stoop, but some would not because it leads to a side door, not the front

You now hold a graduate degree in stoopology. Congratulations!

WHEN IT’S TRUE – BUT WRONG

THE DAILY BLOG – AN AGATHA CHRISTIE MYSTERY


So there we were. It’s late. The dogs are sleeping. Garry and I are watching “The ABC Murders” on the BBC Poirot series. Poirot is reading an article in the newspaper, supposedly quoting Captain Hastings. Hastings says “I say, Poirot, I really didn’t say that, you know.”

“I know,” says Poirot. “But perhaps this will help us. The murderer, he sees what I supposedly said in the daily blog …”


BLOG (US)

noun
1. A website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites.
2. A single entry or post on such a website: She regularly contributes a blog to the magazine’s website.
verb (used without object), blogged, blogging.
3. To maintain or add new entries to a blog. Verb (used with object), blogged, blogging.
4. To express or write about on a blog: She’s been blogging her illness for almost a year.

Origin of blog 
1995-2000; shortening of weblog – Related forms: blogger, noun

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.


Whoa!

Blog? He used the word blog? This show was aired in 1992 and the story is set in pre-World War II England. How far back does the word “blog” go? These BBC productions are generally considered accurate renditions of the books.


BLOG (British) 

1998, – short for weblog (which is attested from 1994, though not in the sense “online journal”), from (World Wide) Web + log.

Joe Bloggs (c.1969) was British slang for “any hypothetical person” (cf. U.S. equivalent Joe Blow); earlier “blog” meant “a servant boy” in one of the college houses (c.1860, see Partridge, who describes this use as a “perversion of bloke”). As a verb, “to defeat” in schoolboy slang.

The Blogger online publishing service was launched in 1999.


None of these definitions would be used to describe a newspaper article or column … or even a published rumor. Except — this BBC TV movie was released in 1992. And the word “blog” in a form and meaning we understand is there, where it can’t be because the word did not yet exist.

But it did exist and it meant basically what it means now, except applied to a daily newspaper, not something on the Internet.

I can reach but one conclusion: My accurate sources are wrong. The word did exist at least as early as 1992. If they are wrong about this, what else did they get wrong? Did Agatha Christie use it in the original manuscript? I’d need to have a searchable copy of “The ABC Murders” to do a word search. I don’t have such a book at the moment, but I’ll try to find one. There may be one available as a Kindle and they are searchable. I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, I can’t find any source that admits any evidence that the word “blog” existed in its current form and usage prior to 1995 (most say 1997). All sources agree on this. The word “blog” comes from “web log.” Except obviously, that’s not true.

It’s a mystery worthy of Dame Agatha herself.

How many other things I know are true, are wrong? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: Dateline Uxbridge, 1:22 PM, EDT

After much checking in by helpful readers and friends, the word (given the heavy fake French accent …) might have been one of these three words:

Blood (which is what the transcript of the show thinks it was)

Blab (mebbe, because with the accent, anything that is a single syllable and starts with BL and is followed by an “aw” or “ah” sound could sound like blog

or

Blah, as in “blah, blah, blah” which had during WWI (around 1918), come into common parlance to mean the same thing it means 100 years later.

If anyone has the book, it would be interesting to find out what Dame Agatha actually wrote, as opposed to what the BBC production used in the script. The show is available on Netflix. It is first show of the 1992 season four. “The ABC Murders” is a movie length feature and very well done. It will stand alone as a single viewing.

HAPPY SOLSTICE TO ALL – KIM HARRISON

Sunrise - Winter Solstice - New England

Sunrise – Winter Solstice – New England

From Kim Harrison, a happy Hollows Solstice!


 ‘Twas the Night of the Solstice

by Kim Harrison


‘Twas the week before Christmas, and up in the Hollows,
Solstice bonfires were burning, to toast the marshmallows.

The pixies were snug in their stump, even Jenks,
Who claimed he was tired, and needed some winks.

 So I in my parka, and Ivy in her boots,
Were toasting the season, with thirty-year hooch.

When out in the street, there came such a crash,
I thought that it had to be ‘coons in our trash.

Away to the gate, I trudged through the snow,
While Ivy just said, “If it’s Kist, say hello.”

I lifted the latch, and peered to the street,
My face went quite cold.  We were in it thigh deep.

‘Twas a demon, who stood in the headlamps quite bright,
With his coat of green velvet, and his uncommon height.

His eyes, how they glittered, his teeth how they gnashed,
His voice, how he bellowed, his tongue, how it lashed

The street wasn’t holy, so on Big Al came,
As he bellowed, and shouted, and called me by name.

“Morgan, you witch.  You’re a pain in my side.
“Get out of your church.  There’s no place to hide!”

Like hell’s fury unleashed, he strode to my door,
Where he hammered and cursed, like a cheap jilted whore.

But Ivy and I, we circled round back,
To stand in the street and prepare for attack.

“You loser,” I shouted.  “I’m waiting for you.”
And the demon, he spun, taking on a red hue.

Ivy stood ready, and I whispered, “Okay . . .
“If he wants to get rough, I’m ready to play.”

With nary a word, us two girls got to work,
Putting foot into gut, of the soul-sucking jerk.

I circled him quick, with a few words of Latin,
While Ivy distracted him with lots of good wackin’

“Get back!” I yelled out when my trap was complete,
And Ivy somersaulted right over the creep.

My circle sprang up, entrapping him surely,
Al fussed and he fumed, like a demonic fury.

The neighbors all cheered, and came out of their houses,
Where they’d watched the whole thing, like little house mouses.

So Ivy and I, we both bowed real low,
Then banished Big Al, in an overdone show.

But I heard Al exclaim, ‘ere he poofed from our sight
“You won this time witch, but I’ll get you one night!”

– – – – –

Kim Harrison, December 14th, 2005

(Last-minute gift givers, I’ve got your The Turn is coming card for under the tree right here: http://www.kimharrison.net/BookPages/TT/TurnSignedCopy.html )

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

By Clement Clarke Moore


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads.

1864

1864

And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

1883

1883

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

1886

1886

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

1896

1896

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack.

1898

1898

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

1901

1901

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

A CONGLOMERATION OF CONUNDRUMS

What animal walks on all fours in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening? Man, since he crawls as a child then walks and uses a cane when he gets older.

No sooner spoken than broken. What is it? Silence.

I am weightless, but you can see me. Put me in a bucket, and I’ll make it lighter. What am I? A hole.

What is so fragile that when you say its name, you break it? Silence.

I have a tail, and I have a head, but I have no body. I am not a snake. What am I? A coin.

What falls, but does not break. What breaks, but does not fall? Night falls and day breaks.

You throw away the outside and cook the inside. Then you eat the outside and throw away the inside. What is it? An ear of corn.

I have holes in my top and bottom, my left and right, and in the middle. Yet I still hold water. What am I? A sponge.

What can run, but never walks
Has a mouth but never talks,
Has a head but never weeps,
Has a bed but never sleeps?

A river.

I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will,
And yet I am the confidence of all
To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball.
What am I?

Tomorrow.

CONUNDRUM definition meaning

I am the black child of a white father, a wingless bird, flying even to the clouds of heaven. I give birth to tears of mourning in pupils that meet me, even though there is no cause for grief, and at once on my birth I am dissolved into air. What am I? Smoke.

Pronounced as one letter and written with three.
Two letters there are, but two only in me.
I’m double, I’m single,
I’m black, blue, and gray.
I’m read from both ends,
Yet the same either way.
What am I?

An eye.


The final conundrum: How can we get ourselves into this mess?

Answer: I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out. Or, if you get there first, call me. I’ll be waiting!


CONUNDRUM | THE DAILY POST

EARTH STILL ABIDES – GEORGE R. STEWART

Cover of "Earth Abides"

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 40 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stayed with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period of almost 30 years when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. It was especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post apocalyptic science fiction. Above all it is a book of rebuilding, renewal and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.

The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and gradually create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds a new balance.

Most diseases of old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are wonderfully healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religious and outdated social structures are shed. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice and the color line becomes non-existent. There is much that needs doing in this new world, but there’s an infinite amount of time in which to do it.

Ultimately, earth will be repopulated. But gently … and hopefully, in peace. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before, but without its demons.

The book was re-released as a 60th anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was immediately after it was re-released. Seven years has given me time to be surprised by the book all over again. Be surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years, how much he grows and matures. How his belief structure adapts to new realities, how much more open his mind becomes. It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but only to a point.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, the world begins. Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the capacity to not only survive, but reinvent civilization and make a better world.

Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project. Definitely check it out!

It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook (CD and MP3), hardcover and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries.  I’m glad. It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present. I have a spare copy, just in case.

ABIDE | THE DAILY POST