Apr 04

Worldbuilding Wednesday 4/4/18: Zimiamvia

The hippogriff emblem of Demonland,The hippogriff emblem of Demonland, based on the line drawings
in early editions of the book

 

In The Worm Ouroboros E.R. Eddison dazzles the reader with innumerable exotic and fantastically named people, places, and things. Unfortunately, they don’t all adhere to a consistent linguistic base, and no less a luminary like J.R.R. Tolkien criticized the author for this. Some character names sound Latin, such as Laxus, Corinius, Corund, and Corsus. Others sound Gaelic, like Brandoch Daha, or German, like Goldry Bluszco, which to me sounds like an equities trading firm. The place names of Demonland seem cribbed from Scotland, and other names such as Fax Fay Faz, Mivrarch,  Zäje Zaculo, and Zimiamvia itself are just all-around WTF (admittedly, Eddision created many as a child.) The sky-piercing mountains of Zimiamvia, meanwhile, have names reminiscent of Tibetan and Nepali, like Koshtra Pivrarcha and Koshtra Belorn, Romshir, and Ashnilan. There were enough of these that I was able to come up with a decent random word generator for them, the results shown below. I’ll call the language Zimiamvian.

Zimiamvian Names


 

Tsu Eshrac

Mornaset

Shimuna

Bhad Synshë

Zoracha

Nangachurch

Pizshir

Id Hylla Zaë

Viz Mornaian

Koshtan

Uth Arksurn

Ailtrig

Tsachanë

Ishaneth

Shalg Emshra

Orsh Pylgrai

Barchlak

Psar Shalgsurn

Belsu

Koshtark

Zorashimur

Usu Traëm

Zorahevshra

Tsa Tsumulo

Shimarcha

Zimnam

Uthra Syk

Zimek

Besh Maltgyn

Temornam

Azkar

Tsar Emarcha

Shaëny

Zarphai

Gremsë

Ravnan

Tsu Thanmarsh

Zimarach

Norphë

Ravenlak

Ur Lakarm

Barcherash

Bhanamshir

Zim Karulo

Teshurnum

Tsark

Archa Nulla

Mora Mysoch

Gor Bhavicha

Tsarsharma

Burdamoch

Tshev Bysë

Ushai

Tremlak

Apr 02

Uncanny Valley

The Geisha robot came too close to the Uncanny Valley for most patrons to be comfortable with.

 

(Art by Nick Keller)

Mar 31

Tolkien March, Concluded

J.R.R. Tolkien caricature by Diego Parpaglion

J.R.R. Tolkien caricature by Diego Parpaglion

 

Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea
comes the End of our fellowship in Middle-Earth.
Go in Peace! I will not say: Do not weep; for not all
tears are an evil.

 

It’s been fun a fun month here in Cobaltland, delving into all things Middle Earth. I’ve found out a lot of things about Tolkien and his works I never knew before or even realized, and there’s yet a lot  to blog about. See you next year!

Mar 30

Sauron, Melkor, and the Ho-yay

Melkor and Sauron by Kaprriss on @DeviantArt

Melkor and Sauron by Kaprriss on @DeviantArt

 

Tolkien March is drawing to a close. As it ends, I want to touch on the fanfic and fanart… and the slash… bursting onto the scene after the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, and gathering steam through the next two releases and then Hobbit trilogy that wrapped in 2014.

Not just any slash — Melkor and Sauron slash.

I haven’t discussed The Silmarillion during this marathon because I’m not as familiar with it as I am with the trilogy and The Hobbit. But know this: Tolkien was Catholic, and Middle Earth’s mythology, though it encompassed multiple deities (The Valar) and their servants (the Maiar, who can be thought of as angels) also had a Satan analog, Melkor, who sought to undo and pervert his fellow Valar’s divine creations. Way back during the genesis of the world, Melkor lured a Maiar, Mairon, away from the Valar and turned him towards evil.

This Mairon later turned into Sauron.

Something about this scenario, perhaps the sympathy for the devil aspect, has inspired hundreds of (mostly female) fans. I can guess because it humanizes the Dark Lord and explains his origins, and though Tolkien’s original tale was biblical and dry, the fans did as fans do, and so Melkor’s seduction becomes one of the flesh as well as one of ideals. And being the less powerful being, poor Sauron becomes physically and emotionally overwhelmed as well.

Melkor and Sauron by Rami Fon Verg on ArtStation.

Melkor and Sauron by Rami Fon Verg on ArtStation.

Sauron looks like he is swooning in this illustration as Melkor admires his hair — reddish-gold, according to canon. These creatures remind me strongly of two Wraeththru (Storm Constantine’s hermaphroditic post-apocalyptic pagan warriors) about to swap spit.

Tolkien fan Tyellas’ venerable (in internet terms) website depicts this moment with her fanfic “Terrible Alchemy” which features some wicked BDSM between the two. She also has a series, Gates of Steel, dealing with the origins of ansereg, an elven BDSM practice designed to refresh the spirit and reinforce close friendships. I’ve long admired the way she incorporates her creation seamlessly into Tolkien’s existing canon, even matching his tone and writing style, as if she had pulled it whole out of some alternate universe where Tolkien really did write about sadomasochism among the elves. It’s reminiscent of SF writer Philip Jose Farmer paying homage to the pulps he grew up with by rewriting Tarzan and Doc Savage as hypersexualized beings (calling them Lord Grandith and Doc Caliban to avoid copyright issues, but it’s clear who they really are.)

Melkor and Sauron by Phobs

Melkor and Sauron by Phobs

 

Russian comic artist Phobs, whom I hope to highlight more one day, portrays the same scene, but it’s more complex. Sauron frowns distastefully and holds himself stiffly, while a more masculine and humanlike Melkor cajoles him and gets touchy-feely. There’s no doubt Melkor will get his way, though. Phobs gives the act a sense of humor as well; the viewer isn’t meant to take it as the tragic downfall that Tolkien did.

With rumors of a Silmarillion movie in the works, there are sure to be more depictions in the future.

 

* Ho-yay = Homoeroticism, yay! Those moments of plot, dialogue, acting, etc., fans delight in interpreting as homoerotic. )

 

 

 

 

Mar 28

Worldbuilding Wednesday 3/28/18: The Lord of the Things, Part IV

A stylized yet effective illustration of a Nazgul, by K. Mendon

 

The great shadow descended like a falling cloud. And behold! It was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, lingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil. And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other thigns that fly; and he gave it to his servant to be his steed. Down, down it came, and then, folding its fingered webs, it gave a croaking cry, and settled upon the body of Snowmane, digging its claws, stopping its long naked neck.

 

There are as many versions of fellbeasts (the name given to the Nazgul’s flying mounts, as Tolkien did not name them) as there are of Smaug. Most show black, dragonlike creatures with long necks and webbed wings. Their heads show the most variation — in the movie, they were blunt and wormlike, but I’ve also seen vulture, lizard, snake, and pterodactyl heads. The pic above reminds me of Maleficent the dragon in the Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. Tolkien did not mention them having teeth, so I always pictured them with a beak.

I’m finishing up Tolkien month with name variations of minor characters, including the much-maligned Tom Bombadil who was left out of the movies.

Lord of the Rings Name Variations


 

ARWEN

Yarwen

Ayshien

Ularwen

Arrin

Irzen

Orren

Erlyn

Aweth

Orwen

Aefrell

Aythisen

Aimaen

CELEBORN

Ceprichord

Delecomb

Queleborn

Cáleborn

Cyleborn

Kheleborn

Ceneborn

Caleborn

Cyleborn

Celeberry

Celevoirne

Cethriborn

WORMTONGUE

Wormlungs

Voreclaws

Bloomfart

Womarze

Wormvoice

Horkface

Bormarsh

Warmfage

Wormnose

Vërmjaws

Wormheart

Warminster

 

 

GLORFINDEL

Garfiddle

Glomfindel

Glorynel

Smorfindel

Glorfinder

Gorfinden

Glortazel

Svorfindol

Glormarsel

Gorimmal

Glojaragel

Glyphendel

BILBO

Bölbo

Bilbae

Bibro

Baldho

Bálbo

Gylbo

Binbo

Bilby

Bolbo

Bilzo

Bëlbo

Báybo

HOBBIT SURNAMES

Biggins

Bagner

Baggaunt

Boggins

Tassleknot

Barhawk

Kilshore

Spadetroth

Havenfall

Tick

Penstride

Pursefawn

TOM BOMBADIL

Tam Bombadis

Tog Bambadid

Tod Bobavil

Tom Bumbaddle

Tim Bombuvoort

Thom Bossbasil

Lum Bobadis

Tomas Bymbad

Tom Bomadip

Toc Bashbadan

Tov Bymbadin

Nol Buffbuggin

BUTTERBUR

Butterban

Briarbur

Braceburn

Blunterbus

Batterburn

Bloodbyrn

Woolburr

Butterbin

Copperburn

Bitterbum

Blisterburn

Butterbest

SHADOWFAX

Shivafox

Carrowflay

Shadownot

Nafufax

Sparrowfath

Shadaunter

Widowfae

Shudderax

Shadowbright

Shalirod

Shadowfess

Shaloffax

 

Mar 26

Tolkien in Bengali

 

A Bengali edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, published in the Indian subcontinent. (Hindi and English are the official languages government-wise, but there are many, many others including Tamil, Urdu, and Punjabi.) The artwork looks to be a crib from the 2001 movie, done in the style of Bollywood cinema posters. Look closely at the One Ring: it is not entirely circular!

 

 

Mar 25

The Worm Ouroboros [Reading Challenge 2018]

The Worm Ouroboros, 1967 Ballantine edition, artowork by Barbara RemingtonThe Worm Ouroboros

by E. R. Eddison
Ballantine Books, New York, 1967

 

[Challenge # 48: A high fantasy]

The Worm Ouroboros is one of the great granddaddies of fantasy, sandwiched between Lord Dunsany, who was an influence, and J.R.R. Tolkien, who received its influence. As such, it’s a kind of a bridge, but one that harkens back to earlier eras, drawing on elements of the great Norse and Germanic sagas and combining them with Elizabethean prose and, at times, Victorian sentimentality.

A bit of backstory about the edition pictured. First published in 1926, Worm was re-released in paperback form in 1967 by Ballantine Books, with a cover by Barbara Remington who also did the covers of the first official paperback of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (without even having access to read them, though it does appear she got to read Worm.) Ballantine was clearly trying to capitalize on the trilogy’s success. This was the same paperback I saw in the library of my SF-loving uncle who was a member of First Fandom, and the book I picked up to read as child… … and immediately put back, for the thickness of the prose. It seemed too adult for me, too heavy and ornate. Happily, forty years later I sought again to tackle it, and I was glad I did.

Eddison, though not a professor like Tolkien, was a scholar of the same things that interested him, and using those same materials he created an amazing pastiche of heroes, villains with outlandish names and all too human flaws, mythic creatures, mighty battles, and quests. I found the prose still heavy, but also delightful and surprising. The book is not to be savored quickly. Like a rich desert it is best small slices, the simplicity of the action aiding in this.

Eddison’s world is planet of Mercury, though it’s clear this is just lip service to the otherworldly aspect; no retrograde summers here or lead-melting temperatures. The countries of Demonland, run by good guys Lord Juss, Goldry Bluszco, Lord Spitfire, and Brandoch Doha, and Witchland, led by Gorice the reincarnating sorcerer-king (he gets 12 turns, like Dr. Who) and his generals, come into conflict when expansionist Witchland demands freedom-loving Demonland submit to its rule. The four lords say nay… and the action begins with a nude wrestling match, a death, a sorcerous storm, the loss of Goldry Bluszco who is exiled to the top of a frozen mountain peak, and his rescue; there’s an immortal Queen on the mountain who makes her entrance with a momentous chord, and intrigue in the sorcerer-king’s court, including a Lady MacBeth subplot; there’s also manticores and hippogriffs, a treacherous advisor, and talking birds… it sounds complicated, but was all pretty straightforward, presented by the author as a rousing he-man tale told around the fire, not an examination of more complicated themes, as Tolkien’s work was.

I also think Eddison was not as serious about it; I could tell he was having a rollicking good time with the writing and evinced an impish sense of humor about it as well. For example, many of the bizarrely-named characters and places — Fax Fay Faz, Pixyland, and Lord Spitfire — came from childhood make-believe games he played with his friends. Admittedly, these names were a big hurdle for a serious reader to get over at the beginning of the book, but eventually I became normalized to them, and I do admire Eddison’s boldness for incorporating pieces of his own childhood like that. Other names, particularly those of the Impland mountains, sound based on Tibetan and Nepali, not surprising since the author was an accomplished mountaineer and likely read first hand stories of Himalayan ascents, which shows in sections of the epic.

The framing device of the book is also a hurdle to overcome: an English bloke named Lessingham astral-projects in the company of a talking bird who takes him to Mercury, where he serves as incorporeal fly on the wall narrating the first chapter’s events. This device is soon done away with however, and the story proceeds in a normal way. The narrator never returns, but at the end, you’ll see why; it has to do with the book’s title.

The main draw of the book, however, was lots and lots of ornate language and hyper-descriptive porn (18th-century poetry was also an influence)… there was sky and sunset porn, landscape porn, food porn, mountaineering porn, Galadriel-beautiful-virtuous-lady porn… oi!

I’ll open up the book at random to give a sample.

 

Men were roused and lights brought, and Brandoch Daha surveyed that which he held pinioned by the arms, caught by the entrance to the fortalice; one with scared  wild-beast eyes in a swart face, golden era-rings in his ears, and a thick close-cropped beard interlace with gold wire twisted among its curls; bare-armed, with a tunic of otter-skin, and wide hairy trousers cross-stitched with silver thread, a circlet of gold on his head, and frizzed dark hair plaited in two thick tails that hung forward over his shoulders. His lips were drawn back, like a cross-gained dog’s snarling betwixt fear and fierceness, and his white pointed teeth and the whites of his eyes flashed in the torch-light.

 

Now that’s thick. (And also, unfortunately, a stereotypical “savage” character, but the book was written in the early twentieth century.)

There were also a fair amount of archaic words, which to my mind added to the enjoyment: martlet, fustian, myriapod, deflagration, alembic, to name a few. The prose also demands the work not be evaluated as one would a more traditional novel, as the prose IS the novel and its main draw. But, I’ll go there anyway.

The plot reduced to its basic form is silly and kind of slapdash. Some crucial events are skipped over, and some subplots could have been skipped for a tighter work. There are few female characters in the story, but they are strong presences, often acting as the voices of chivalry and reason. The villains receive more examination from the author than the heroes; they are presented as having flaws, in the Greek tragedy sense, that facilitate their downfall, while the heroes, though having their quirks, are steadfastly noble and manly. All this should be easy to snark on, but I can’t, because the author himself didn’t seem to be totally serious about it. There were also surprising moments of emotional resonance at times despite the over-the-top pathos, such as when Lord Juss finally rescues his brother and believes him to be dead, and thinks all his sacrifices have come to nothing.

illustration from The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

An illustration from the original edition

 

Like Tolkien, there was also a fair amount of Ho-yay! — elements that from a modern viewpoint could be interpreted as showing male homosexual desire. There’s that nude wrestling match, and many other sections where the men’s bodies are lovingly, sensually described. This may just be par for the course for writing of that time period, or from the ancient sagas that influenced the author.

In conclusion, I do recommend that both fantasy readers and writers tackle this work, daunting as it may seem. It’s a both vital piece of history of the field and an inspiration.

Original dust cover, 1926, for The Worm Ourobors by E.R. EddisonOriginal dustcover, 1926

Mar 21

Worldbuilding Wednesday 3/21/18: The Lord of the Things, Part III

Swedish book cover, “The Saga of the Ring” in Celtic illuminated manuscript style

 

One of the important differences between Lord of the Rings and earlier fantasies is in Tolkien’s protagonists. Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam are not high-powered warriors like those in Germanic and Norse legend, exemplified by Lord Juss and Brandoch Daha in E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, which I’m reading now. Neither do they fit the American mold of pulp heroes like Conan, Tarzan, or Doc Savage. The Hobbits stand for Everyman, and more importantly, as stand-ins who observe the doings of the great and mighty and narrate them back to the reader. Though they are central to the plot, they only participate  in small ways and their choices do not drive it. In this they are more like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz than, say, Beowolf.

Here are some more tweaked names of characters from the books, if you want to create your own vision of Middle Earth.

Lord of the Rings Name Variations


 

SAURON

Saarof

Seudron

Selgauron

Mauron

Seyuron

Saerod

Sochron

Szedaur

Yauron

Sanjeuron

Smaurág

Chaurog

MERRY

Merü

Marzy

Merré

Joiry

Morny

Merro

Merré

Mischa

Mauny

Merrigan

Manthë

Ganumy

PIPPIN

Pöllin

Pipka

Piptrin

Pipov

Poppyog

Peppin

Pipprut

Nippy

Pöffin

Puddin

Pinnchaus

Pipzin

 

 

SAMWISE

Samwyve

Samchure

Shamise

Gamwis

Sankhise

Halwise

Saywise

Sarwothye

Samhor

Södise

Sashwise

Hamwyst

FARAMIR

Estamir

Faracress

Faroky

Faranul

Farael

Alfamiran

Faragn

Alfamir

Faraidin

Faracor

Farageny

Faraelly

DENETHOR

Denlanüsh

Denadior

Denethín

Denaër

Annethör

Denizor

Candethor

Denellisor

Denethos

Denezor

Denudonor

Denteiroch

 

Mar 20

In Praise of Oliphaunts

 

Grey as a mouse,
Big as a house,
Nose like a snake,
I make the earth shake,
As I tramp through the grass;
Trees crack as I pass.

 J.R.R. Tolkien, “Oliphaunt”

(Artwork: Oliphaunt am I, by wynahiros)

 

 

Oliphaunts, or mumakil as Tolkien also called them, are one of the mythical creatures most identified with the trilogy. It’s clear they are based on the elephant shock troops of India, with howdahs housing bowmen as the animal itself provides brute power for destroying fortifications and crushing impeding fighters; such stories from British Colonial India would have still floating around in Tolkien’s youth. Yet it’s also clear from that mumakil are a species apart and meant, by their name, to remind the reader of mammoths and other prehistoric pachyderms. That they are never described in depth means artists can make their interpretations of the beast.

 

Mumakil from The Lord of the Rings movie [oliphaunt]

From Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

 

Jackson’s mumakil is a titanic creature larger than even indricotherium, the largest land mammal known to have existed. Yet the movie mumakil is twice as tall. Its oversized bulk may not be realistically possible, but fits in with the oversized scale of everything else in the movie. The extra tusks lend the creature a sinister prehistoric air and are again derived from ancient proboscideans such as stegotetrabelodon, as well as modern boars. All in all a very good design at capturing the fantastic.

 

Mumakil design by Curtiss Shaffer [oliphaunt]

Mumakil design by Curtiss Shaffer

 

But some artists have other ideas. This rendition of a mumakil / oliphaunt has hooves and a triceratops-like bony frill on its head, which is set on high shoulders like a modern giraffe’s. And it looks mean.

 

Tolkien Art by Sergei Iukhimov

Art by Sergei Iukhimov

 

This mumakil is scaled more realistically so it’s the style that stands out — Russian Orthodox religious iconography.

 

Southern Support by psychohazard

Southern Support by psychohazard

 

This mumakil cribs from the movie version, but there are differences. Its extra tusks curve downward and backward from its lower jaw, like the prehistoric elephant deinotherium, the largest known member of the elephant family. Its doleful, floppy ears lend an interesting touch. How carefully it steps to avoid squishing something!

 

Elephant Illustration by Rodney Matthews

Illustration by Rodney Matthews

 

Rodney Matthews, who has other Tolkien illustrations in his portfolio, created this vision of the mumakil in their home country. Well, maybe not, since the riders have four arms. But it’s an interesting, psychedelic take.

 

Elephant-like creature by Frank Frazetta

Illustration by Frank Frazetta

 

I don’t know if Frazetta intended this animal to be a mumakil either, but it’s huge, angry, four-tusked (and two-horned) and so could serve.

 

Mumakil by CG-Warrior on DeviantArt

Mumakil by CG-Warrior on DeviantArt

 

Mumakils in battle. They are huge, though not excessively so, and attack aggressively going by that poor horse. They combine both mammoth and deinotherium tusks and wear armor to protect their eyes and sensitive upper nostril region.They are not the speedy, marching beasts of Jackson’s version, but bulky, bellowing brawlers who are untroubled by all the arrows they’re collecting. In short, close to definitive for me.

 

Artwork by Piya Wannachaiwong [ oliphaunt ]

Artwork by Piya Wannachaiwong

 

Another battling mumakil, this one with six tusks, two of them bloodied, and spiked cuffs on its feet which are put to bloody use as well.  It is also a carnivore, going by their teeth. Is it sentient, serving its dark master willingly? The huge scarlet banner is a nice touch, as well as the details of the armor which is similar to that used by the Indian Mughals.

 

Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren [ oliphaunt ]

Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren

 

Now THIS is an oliphaunt! Not sure what happened to its trunk, though.

Mar 19

Three Editions Through Time

 

Three editions of the trilogy over the years. The top one is the first, unauthorized paperback version. Note that the Nazgul on the cover of The Two Towers is a pegasus and not the reptilian creature that was actually in the book. The artist got other details right, like the black-robed, faceless Nazgul, and others wrong, like Gandalf the Yellow, so whether it was their fault or the publisher’s is up for grabs.  Donald Wollheim of Ace books  was the one who released this edition. He realized the property was hot and would sell well, but Tolkien refused to agree to a paperback version — in his mind , these were associated with pulpy trash. Wollheim published them anyway in 1965, believing they were not under copyright in the U.S. While the legal battle was being fought, Tolkien agreed to an authorized version with Ballantine books, realizing from his fans that there was a demand for a mass-market edition. He urged them to buy the Ballantine — the “official” — release, which was rush-released in 1966 to compete with Ace’s version.

The Ballantine is the second version pictured above, with psychedelic covers by New York artist Barbara Remington. The publication was so hurried she didn’t even receive a copy of the book and had to rely on descriptions from friends who had read it. The complete painting was divided in three, each section appearing on the cover of each volume. The whole remains an iconic images from the 1960s, gracing many a hippie wall. Remington picked up extra work from Wollheim doing the covers for E.R. Eddison’s books, which were released in paperback form to jump on the high fantasy bandwagon. (I’ll be reviewing one later.)

The last version is from a boxed set of the trilogy released in the late 1970s by Ballantine Books. This is the one I got for Christmas. They were oversized trade paperbacks, thick and fat, at a time when trade paperbacks, with slipcovers, were a novelty.

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