The Journal of Mythic Arts

I love stumbling on things that seem like they were tailor made for my particular interests. Things like this: The Journal of Mythic Arts.

It’s not publishing new content anymore but the material they have will stay there so people like me can read through it at their leisure. And there are some very interesting articles on the site.

There’s a nonfiction section, that has articles like “Baba Yaga in Film” and “A Rune with a View“.

There’s a poetry section, that has poems from Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman.

There’s an art and mixed media section (oh joy!), with articles such as “On Pre-Raphaelites, Then and Now” and “From Fairy Tales to Fantasia: The Art of Kay Nielsen” (all with lots of lovely examples).

And perhaps most dangerously of all there are several reading lists provided, one for mythic fiction and one for fairy tale fiction. Each article also has a further reading list at the end (like I don’t have enough to read already!).

I see many happy days ahead, poring over the articles on this website.

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A New Tolkien

Oof. How time does pass. As it’s been a while since I last posted, today will be a 2 post day! Hooray!

If you’re a Tolkien fan, you’ve probably heard this news already. For those who haven’t, we’ll be getting a new translation of Beowulf in May! From what I understand, this will be a translation Tolkien did in 1926 that for some reason has never been published. It sounds like there will be some extra goodies like essays and (perhaps??) a new Tolkien story as well.

Here’s the article from The Guardian on the release.

And here’s an article from TheOneRing fan site.

Exciting news!

Guardian of the Dead

GuardianDeadCover By Karen Healey; Published 2010.

As a librarian, I have a dangerous habit of thinking of a topic and then checking out pretty much anything I can find on that topic in our library system. I’ve done this with C.S. Lewis, I’ve done it with Tolkien, I’ve done it with fairy tales, Norse mythology, Celtic history, owls, and so on and so on. Usually I just end up skimming what I get because of course I go overboard and get way more than I could ever read.

Recently, I did this with New Zealand. It’s not the first time I’ve done it so most of what was in our catalog I’ve already read. But this was new: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey.

The book opens with our seventeen year old heroine, Ellie Spencer, hungover. Not really a good start for me. Her best friend, Kevin, is sleeping on the floor, also hungover. Kevin and Ellie are both students at a prestigious boarding school in Christchurch, New Zealand. Kevin is part Maori and pretty much the star of the school. Ellie’s not. Ellie hasn’t really fit in that much since coming to the school about a year ago. Her only friend is Kevin and she’s not involved in much of anything but school. So when Kevin begs her to help with a theater production he’s involved in at a local college, she reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Ellie’s crush, mysterious Mark, has been acting strange and sticking pretty close to Kevin. Also interesting is the gorgeous and mesmerizing woman who joins the play soon after Ellie does. What Ellie finds out about her and Mark will change her life forever.

Guardian of the Dead has a lot of Maori mythology in it. Which is fantastic because most of what I’ve been able to find on that topic has been rather dry and boring. But Ellie was what I really loved about this book. Despite the bad introduction, Ellie’s probably one of my favorite heroines that I’ve seen in a young adult novel. She’s been making some bad choices but that’s mainly because she’s still reeling from the “Cancer Year”, the year her mother had cancer and went through chemotherapy. She’s in a new school and a new city (her parents have taken some time off to travel the world since her mother has recovered, hence the boarding school). She’s tall. She’s also a little fat. Not obese, just the slight pudginess that comes from a former athlete who’s no longer doing much (I can relate). She makes bad decisions and she makes really, really good decisions. She’s a normal person.

Guardian of the Dead is creepy, funny, interesting, and fantastical. Highly recommended.

Icelandic Elf School

Apparently Iceland is serious about their elves.

Reykjavik is home to Alfaskolinn- Elfschool. This is a 22 year old institution that teaches people (locals and tourists) about Icelandic mythology, particularly elves. And judging from the official website, the classes are taught from the viewpoint that elves are real. Like, really real. This has just made the top of the list of places to visit if I ever make it to Iceland (someday, hopefully!).

Although, I have to admit, part of me is a little creeped out. I took a course on Irish history in college and one of the required books was The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story– a fascinating book that described the burning of a woman in 1895 after her family thought her a changeling. Highly recommended and it’s probably available at your library.

I first found out about this at io9. There’s also more information at the Atlas Obscura website.

Zeus the Paramour

I love mythology and reading different cultures’ myths and legends. Greek mythology is probably some of the best known simply for the sheer volume of what’s available.

Most likely, you already know that Zeus is the main god in Greek mythology. Not only that, but he is also the father to many of the other gods, demi-gods, and miscellaneous extraordinary humans that figure heavily in the myths. Zeus, well, he liked his women, much to the fury of his proper wife Hera. And considering how fruitful he was, it can be hard to keep up with all his lovers and the resulting offspring (and I don’t say children here because not all of them were!).

But I stumbled upon this cool looking chart the other day called Zeus’s Affairs. It names the women Zeus had affairs with and connects them with their children. Clicking on a name brings up a short biography. And all the relationship information is credited to the source that it came from. It’s an interesting way to spend some time and a good way to learn (or re-learn) some Greek mythology.

Mythology of the Vikings

I’ve been reading a lot of Norse mythology recently. I’ve always loved myths and the Vikings are one of my favorite people groups. Their history and culture has always fascinated me.

Norse mythology is some crazy stuff. I mean, most myths are pretty crazy but the Norse ones seem to go above and beyond.

First off, the first two creatures in existence were a giant, Ymir, and a cow. The giant survived by drinking milk from the cow and the cow survived by licking ice. The first giants and gods came from Ymir through various ways. Some sprang out of his armpits and others were from his leg (fathered by the other leg!). From these offspring came the giants and the gods.

The giants and the gods hated each other. Except when they were inter-marrying and having babies. Which happened quite frequently.

Odin was one of the original gods and he and his brothers killed Ymir and then used his body to create the earth. Odin was the Allfather and was known for his wisdom. He had one eye and frequently disguised himself to travel through the world of men.

His most well-known son is probably Thor, who would take periodic trips to the realm of the giants and kill as many as possible with his hammer Mjolnir.

Freya was a popular goddess, known for her beauty and rather loose with her, um, favors. Her beautiful necklace Brisingamen was acquired after spending four nights with the four dwarves who made it.

And Loki! Son of a giant, yet Odin’s blood brother. He was a popular companion for the gods due to his cleverness but was always causing trouble. He was always fixing the problems he created though, mainly after some threats from Odin. He ends up turning on the gods at Ragnarok, fully unleashing his bitterness on them for his punishments after some of his more dangerous and unsavory pranks.

Everything ends at Ragnarok. I’m not really sure how that all works. All the gods die except for a handful, who then help create a new era. The gods knew they were going to be destroyed, they just wanted to be as well prepared for it as possible.

A quick note on places: Yggdrasil was the great tree that held all the worlds. There was an eagle at the top and a serpent at the bottom. A squirrel ran between the two relaying their insults to each other. The gods lived in Asgard, the giants in Jotunheim. As humans, we live in Midgard. There are 9 worlds total, each apportioned to a different race.

There’s a lot about Norse mythology I don’t understand. This might be because we don’t really have a complete account of it. Some sources have suggested that Thor was actually a more important god than Odin but somehow what we have now is all about Odin.

If you’re curious to read more about the Vikings and their mythology, I recommend Kevin Crossley-Holland’s adaptations. They are interesting and provide a bit of scholarly background.

If you’re looking for someone a bit younger or if you just want some interesting pictures the D’Aulaire’s version is well worth reading.