quillori: blue-jay yuletide icon (yuletide (blue jay))
([personal profile] quillori Jan. 20th, 2012 01:35 pm)
I have done very well out of the last few Yuletides. This year I had a delightful haul of stories: rather neatly, one story per request. My assigned writer was [livejournal.com profile] kynical, who wrote me The Doom of Aratta, about the Lord of Aratta, a favourite figure of mine. Then my recipient from last year, the excellent [livejournal.com profile] lnhammer (also to be found at [personal profile] lnhammer, where I strongly encourage you to go to read his translations from the kokinshu) wrote me Green. I am still amazed that I could ask for something based on a poem of Li Shangyin's – a poem obscure even for him – and have someone write it for me. You can find translations of the poem here and here, but in any case you should consider reading Green, which stands on its own (though I can assure you it is even better if you are familiar with the poem). Then, because my good fortune knows no bounds, [livejournal.com profile] fresne wrote me Questionable N which is just exactly the sort of story I asked for, and can be read by anyone with an interest in fandom or storytelling.

This year I also wrote three stories. My main story was Far Too Many Questions, With Some Quite Dubious Answers. My recipient asked for Child's Ballads, any, with no optional details, causing me to flail around panicking with no idea what to do. (You will readily see how that is quite different from the years my recipient makes specific requests I don't want to write, and the years they make requests I want to write very much but immediately realise I'm incapable of doing justice to. These are three entirely different flavours of panicked flailing.)

I suspect I should have started Far Too Many Questions with a different tale, more plotty and less oblique, although changing the order round kept causing other problems. That, or rewritten the Thomas the Rhymer section in another style, at least if I wanted to entice in more readers. However, what's done is done, and it would appear from the comments it was not after all the disaster I feared. There were various entertaining moments during its composition, including the bit where I realised I had inflicted on myself a story requiring a complicated chart with two different sorts of colour coding in order to keep straight what features were required in each story (not that I expect readers to analyse it back to its constituent parts, it's just satisfying to me to know it has a balanced structure).

Also, I cannot anywhere find an English translation of das Tragemundslied. Surely there must be one somewhere? I tried presenting a German speaking friend with the original, but she just looked at it in a pained way and asked if were in fact Dutch. I found this most unenterprising of her: even I could see that "Willekome varender man" would now be "Willkommen fahrender Mann", so surely someone who actually spoke German could continue on in the same way through the rest of the poem? But apparently not. I did eventually find a modern German commentary, which with the aid of a dictionary and my schoolroom German allowed me to figure out most of it. But can anyone explain "die agelster ist grüne alsam der kle / unde ist wis alsam der sne / unde ist swerzer den der kol"? The commentary gave 'die Elster' for 'die agelster', and I can see why a magpie would be black as coal and white as snow, but where does the green come in? Also "von unnützen gengen ist der wolf wise", of which I can make neither head nor tail, not even with the obvious modern gloss "von unnützen Gängen ist der Wolf weiß".

Recalling that Turandot and its riddles can allegedly be traced back to a Mongolian source, and discovering references to Mongolian gur songs which also speak of 72 lands, I was strongly tempted to try to work that into the last chapter as well, but luckily was prevented by failing to find any of the actual texts, in any language, available online.

Then I wrote That Black Forest for [livejournal.com profile] kassidy62, who asked for Little Red Riding Hood and horror, and Downstream On The Memphis Ferry (Egyptian Mythology) for [personal profile] redsnake05, which, somewhat unusually for me, I enjoyed writing. It, along with last year's Dress Ye Never So Fair (also Child's Ballads and related material) and my first year Yuletideing pinch-hit Seven Songs for Isis (also Egyptian Mythology, hopefully one day to be disinterred from the old Yuletide archive, so I can perform several necessary bits of editing, including one rather important chapter title) suggest I have a talent for somewhat obscure and mildly disturbing on a very tight deadline. Whether this is a valuable or useful skill is another question.
tree_and_leaf: Walter von der Vogelweide's birdcage helmet-topper. (mediaevalism)

From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf


But can anyone explain "die agelster ist grüne alsam der kle / unde ist wis alsam der sne / unde ist swerzer den der kol"?

Yes. It's Middle High German, which I did a Ph.D in, though on very different texts), but it's straightforward enough. There is green in a magpie's wing, because its 'black' plumage is iridescent. In the middle ages, magpies were associated with trickery and magic (one MHG dialect word for 'magician' is, IIRC, glaesener, which is derived from agelster), precisely because it was so hard to pin down what colour they are if you look properly.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)

From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf


That one's tricker, but I don't think wis here is 'white' - I think it's wise, and the wolf has learned by experience. No idea why he'd be running fools errands, though - I suspect it's an allusion to a proverb or folk tale I don't know.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)

From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf


It's quite obscure - I'd never come across it before, and I'm a Germanist by training, so while obviously I don't know all German literature *g* I do have a pretty good overview, especially for the middle ages.
redsnake05: Poised on the eve of the brink of a new story and it is crazy (Creative: Poised on the brink of the eve)

From: [personal profile] redsnake05


Personally, I think that a talent for somewhat obscure and mildly disturbing is an extremely portable skill, particularly when combined with meeting deadlines. I love hearing about the ways that people think about their research and planning; your planning sounds particularly interesting.
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