Sword Lessons

Lots of good sword lessons/demos on YouTube.  Good for writers to look at.

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Renaissance Top 5

1) The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster

Excellent play, better, IMO, than Shakespeare. Follows the title character’s brother in his descent toward madness due to his illicit desire for her. Also spends an entire act on lycanthropy (for the era, in England, a mental illness caused by excessive melancholy; as opposed to werewolfism, an actual human-wolf transformation).

2) Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare

Easily my favorite Shakespeare play, for a number of reasons. I really don’t think his comedies are performed or taught enough, particularly in the high school level. Ultimately, a play about nothing, but hilarious the whole way through.

3) The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

Honestly, only parts of Spenser’s magnum opus. Definitely epic is form and somewhat difficult as a read, but worthwhile nonetheless. Key sections also demonstrate a level of “raunchiness” and explicitness at odds with commonly held beliefs about the period, particularly the tale of Satyrane.

4) The Book of the Courtier, Baldesar Castiglione

The classic work that lays out all the essential elements of the “renaissance man”, and also explains why modern, often self-proclaimed, “renaissance men” are generally nothing of the sort.

5) The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

Classic work on politics, governance, and even a touch of military theory. Whether we think Machiavelli is being honest in his writing or simply trying to assuage his patron is, I think, irrelevant. He demonstrates a mastery of political acumen difficult to match in his time, or situation (with the warring, disorganized city-states of Italy).

Tradition vs “Tradition”: Werewolves (& Other Shifters, Really)

Thinking about history, I think about traditional figures, particularly shapeshifters since I’ve spent a long time studying them. When I think about traditional figures, I like werewolves especially because there’s a divide between what most modern audiences consider to be traditional and what actually is traditional. For the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to the latter as traditional and the former as “traditional”.

The modern “traditional” is really a new phenomenon that is largely built out of Hollywood, rather than the traditional figures of folklore, legend, myth, and literature. For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus solely on cases of supposed actual change, not psychology (Sigmund Freud, Henri Boguet, James I of England, Simon Goulart).

According to the “traditional”, werewolves have a number of interesting traits. Most of these traits would be unrecognizable to pre-modern audiences. For instance, “traditional” werewolves take a wolfman shape, sometimes in addition to a wolf shape. “Traditional” werewolves are forced to change at the full moon (a theory posited by Gervase of Tilbury in the medievla era and dismissed by his peers, a theory that was never posited again until the 18th century), possibly coming about due to theories about ties between the moon and madness. “Traditional” werewolves are regenerative and vulnerable to silver (likely tied to the moon change, also a relative cheap precious metal). Finally, “traditional” werewolves transmit their condition through biting victims (or sometimes transfer of other bodily fluids), an idea that doesn’t appear before germ theory.

On the other hand, the traditional werewolves of the ancient through early modern eras were rather different. They only had human and animal shapes, no hybrid form. They did not regenerate (nor share injuries between forms, a concept that developed in 18th c. literature). All traditional werewolves changed for one of four reasons: curse, genetics, ritual, or an item. The most well known curses are in Gerald of Wales, Ovid, and William of Palerne. Marie de France seems to work with genetics. Petronias’ werewolf and Demarchus of Acadia were ritual based. Item based change, with an attendant deal with the devil, was most commonly use in the early modern/Renaissance era. Werewolves of the eras could be cured, typically by being struck three times by certain objects (with the spread of Christianity). They were a mix of monstrous (classical and early modern) and sympathetic (classical and medieval). Virtually all traditional werewolves were male (only one female comes to mind, in Gerald of Wales), from Lycaeus to Alphouns, Bisclavret to Gorlagon.

The “traditional” has become considered traditional due, I think, to saturation. Most modern audiences know the werewolves of movies and modern horror novels (and urban fantasy of the last decade). Few know the older stories, especially the early modern, medieval, and classical.

Are the “traditional” in any way worse than the traditional? No. But, as some authors rediscover the older sources, I’ve seen readers scream that the figures “aren’t right” because they don’t have the “traditional” attributes. I think this is another area where some awareness of history and awareness of just how young some of our “traditional” things really are is helpful.

My Book

My Book

Now that there’s an official release date, my publisher would probably like it if I shamelessly self-promote the book.  🙂

Due out 30 June 2013.

Just FYI, it discusses the werewolves of Jack Williamson, Terry Pratchett (Discworld), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Charles de Lint (Newford, Wolfmoon), and Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood), with a miscellaneous chapter for a few others in relation to each other and Classical, medieval, and early modern werewolves.

(Sorry for all the edits to this, I’m still figuring out WordPress.)