Monday, March 14, 2016

Sita Sings the Blues

Here is a wonderful example of a modern adaptation of a mythological tale.  It's called "Sita Sings the Blues and is Nina Paley's retelling of the Hindu epic The Ramayana. It is a musical, using jazz from the 1920's and blends a variety of animation styles to tell the story of the Ramayana from the perspective of the hero Rama's wife, Sita.

Check it out.  It remains one of my very favorite examples of 'modern mythology.'

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pepsi celebrates the Year of the Monkey with a tribute to the Monkey King

Just in case you had any doubt about how pervasive Monkey is in Chinese culture here is another example.  Yes, it is ostensibly an ad for Pepsi, but beyond that there is a truly remarkable story about four generations of one family who have portrayed the Monkey King.  Check it out here. It really is  a bit touching and pretty cool to see a major worldwide brand making use of everyone's favorite monkey.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Monkey Resources

If you're struggling to get into Monkey or are confused about what's going on and what it all means, you can check out the links below for some helpful information.

Chapter by chapter breakdowns as well as many, many beautiful illustrations for Monkey can be found here:

For summaries, info on the author, character descriptions, historical info and a bit on modern takes on the story, you can check out World Literature Compass. NOTE: Some of the links are broken but there is still a fair amount of available information in the sections that are working.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Age of Mythology Game

I have never played Age of Mythology but I'm thinking maybe I should look into it . . .

"A Norse Temple for the 21st Century"

Here's an article about the new Norse Temple being built in Iceland.  Included in the article is a link to the founder chanting The Voluspa in old Icelandic -- certainly worth checking out if you want to hear what the poem may have sounded like coming out of the mouth of a skald 1000+ years ago.  Also covered in the article is the connections between Norse paganism and Nazis-ism and how the modern Asatru movement handles it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Variations in Translations

Translating poetry is never simple.  A translator must consider how (or if) they use the original rhyme and meter in the translation, and they must find the balance of poetic language and colloquialisms with making the work understandable to a new audience.

Skaldic poems came in several basic forms: Fornyrthislag ("Old Verse" typically identifiable by having a title that ends in "-kvitha"), Ljothahatrr ("Song Measure," typically identifiable by having a title that ends in "-mol"), and Malahattr ("Speech Measure").  That being said, few poems perfectly follow form so there is no formulaic way to translate them.  Mix in the use of alliteration, assonance, caesuras and those often troublesome kennings and you have a Sisyphean task ahead of you.

Jackson Crawford, translator and editor for The Poetic Edda that we are using in class set out to create a translation that could be understood without the use of footnotes. It's one of the main reasons why I chose his translation to use as the text for Modern Mythology. It is a very readable version, but it still retains the vitality, and the "oomph" of the original.

Other translators, however, aim for translations that fit more accurately the original meter and sound of the poems -- which means they are a bit less readily accessible, but often (I think) a bit more savory to the ear.

As an example of how much one's approach to translating can change the sound and feel of a poem, here are three different translations of Hovamol stanza 10 (one of my favorites).

Jackson Crawford:
"A traveler cannot bring
a better burden on the road
than plenty of wisdom.
It will prove better than money
in an unfamiliar place --
wisdom is the comfort of the poor."

Carolyne Larrington (Oxford World's Classics):
"No better burden a man bears on the road
than a store of common sense;
better than riches it will seem in an unfamiliar place,
such is the resort of the wretched."

Henry Adams Bellows (Dover Publications):
"A better burden         may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
It is better than wealth       on unknown ways,
And in grief a refuge it gives."

Even in these very short passages you can see that line structure, word choice and (to some extent) the meaning of the poem changes. Are we talking about "wisdom" or "common sense"? Is it a "comfort of the poor," a "resort of the wretched" or a refuge in grief?

Not speaking or reading old Icelandic myself I can't say which translation is the most accurate, though I suspect that ultimately depends on what you mean by "accurate."

As a side note, there's a word in old Icelandic that Crawford addresses in his introductory notes  that does not have a direct translation into modern English. The word is argr and Crawford describes it as "a highly pejorative adjective implying a lack of manly qualities, and, especially, imputing to another a desire for a passive role in sex with a male" (page xxii). Crawford translates it as "sissy," Larrington uses "pervert" and Bellows goes with "womanish." I find all three of these translations a bit troublesome, but then maybe since it is a "highly pejorative" term it should be troublesome.  Knowing a culture's insults can be just as informative as knowing their myths.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Egyptian Birds of Prey

For those of you who have long been wondering if, in fact, the Ancient Egyptians bred birds of prey, we may be getting close to an answer. New Evidence Shows Ancient Egyptians May have Bred Birds of Prey