Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Musketeer Series: Post 2, D'Artagnan

D'Artagnan is Choleric. Cholerics are natural leaders who want to accomplish lots (all manner of things).  They have a strong desire to achieve their goals (Littauer, Your Personality Tree 24).  They are born leaders that act quickly in most situations (Littauer, Personality Plus 16).  Unfortunately, they can be controlling and bossy (Littauer, Your Personality Tree 24) and are more interested in achieving goals than understanding the emotions of others (Littauer, Personality Plus 55).  D'Artagnan does not boss his friends but he does use his influence to reach his goals. He doesn't worry about the pain he causes others or the "necessary losses."

For example, when he discovers that Ketty, a servant of Milady, is in love with him, he encourages that love in order to achieve his goals: vengeance on Milady and a night in Milady's room.  By feeding Ketty's love (through kisses and pretending that he loves her), he could attain letters addressed to his adversary, intelligence, and access to Ketty's room at all hours which is connected to Milady's own (431).  We see that Ketty's sentiments were nothing to him for Dumas writes that d’Artagnan had already sacrificed Ketty in his mind in order to obtain Milady by her will or by force (431). « Le perfide, comme on le voit, sacrifiait déjà en idée la pauvre fille pour obtenir Milady de gré ou de force » (431).  In the end d'Artagnan had his way.  He avenged himself and he made love with Milady (468-472).

The three musketeers and d’Artagnan went on a quest to bring back the Queen’s ferrets (jewelry) and so save her from trouble (Dumas 219-282).  D’Artagnan was the head of this mission (249). The mission succeeded but he was very hard on the horses because he felt extreme hast was necessary for the success of the mission.  One horse fell with blood running from his nose and eyes.  Thus, the mission succeeded because he was dedicated to the goal and did not count the lives of horses as worthy reasons to halt.

In Vingt Ans Après, d'Artagnan is forty years old and thus is a seasoned adult; no longer a brash young man.  Yet, his choleric temperament is in some ways more pronounced than ever.  In Les Trois Mousquetaires, d’Artagnan frequently asks his friends for advice and they formulate their plans together, while in the sequel, he just tells Porthos what the plan is.   Vingt Ans Après starts with d'Artagnan frustrated that he has not advanced in life. He is still a lieutenant of the musketeers which is where Dumas left him in Les Trois Mousquetaires.  He did not advance up the ranks of command, but stayed in the same position for twenty years. Our Choleric compares his status and wealth with that of his friends and laments that his friends moved up in life while he did not. Since Cholerics want to be in control (Littauer Your Personality Tree 44) and want to be rising up the social ladder, his frustration is demonstrative of his personality.     

Remember that "choler" refers to "anger"?   Dumas mentions several times that d'Artagnan became very angry whenever anyone put impediments in his way.  In chapter 27, during a desperate pursuit of the escaped M. de Beaufort, d'Artagnan asks a soldier at the castle questions about the escape. The man was rather uncooperative and d'Artagnan becomes angry, yells at the man, and threatens to kill him, and is soon supplied with the information he sought.  My loose translation of Dumas' description of the angry d'Artagnan: "The anger rose in d'Artagnan's face, his brow furrowed, his temples colored" (323).  This is classic unbridled choleric behavior.  Florence Littauer recounts many stories of angry and frustrated Cholerics shouting at or bossing others. 

D’Artagnan is still up to his horse killing trick, for on that same mission, he ran two different sets of horses until they collapsed (Dumas, chapter 27).  At one point Porthos suggests giving the horses a breather, but d’Artagnan replies “Tuons-les au contraire, tuons-les! Et arrivons," (324) which translates too, “Let’s kill them on the contrary, let’s kill them! And arrive.”  He means to run the horses until they die and arrive at their goal without delay.
Statue of d'Artagnan in Paris
This mission was a mad one too. He was trying to capture the escaped de Beaufort who had a two hour and a quarter lead (323).  He said, “two hours and a quarter, that’s nothing, we’re well mounted, right Porthos?”  Porthos replied with a sigh, knowing what misery was to come for his horses.  Again, he doesn’t care about the horses being focused on the goal.  Cholerics are so goal focused that they will and can undertake what other temperaments would not.  They take pleasure in being in control and reaching their goals, while the other temperaments would see it as out of reach and not even attempt it.  Littauer writes, “Powerful Cholerics not only like to achieve goals, but they thrive on opposition. If popular Sanguines set out to accomplish a task, and someone says it can’t be done, they thank the person profusely—and quit. Perfect Melancholies regret the time they’ve spent in planning and analyzing the situation, and Peaceful Phlegmatics are grateful it can’t be done, because it sounded like too much work in the first place. But tell Powerful Cholerics it’s impossible, and it just whets their appetite” (Personality Plus 57).

Dumas, Alexandre. Les Trois Mousquetaires.  Paris, Garnier Frères:1966
Dumas, Alexandre. Vingt Ans Après. Paris, Garnier Frères: 1962 
Littauer, Florence. Personality Plus. Rev. and exp. ed. Tarrytown, New York: Fleming H Revell Company Pub., 1992
Littauer, Florence. Your Personality TreeDallas: Word Publishing, 1986.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Musketeer Series: Post 1, The Humoral Personnality System

There are several different systems for analyzing personality types. My favorite is the Humoral System. In this method the personality types are named after different "humors" of the body. "Humor" is an old term for the fluids in the body. In the Middle Ages people thought that an imbalance in these fluids caused maladies and determined temperament.  The four humors that represent personality types are Melancholy, Sanguine, Choleric, and Phlegmatic.
Sanguine refers to the blood. This is a very warm and emotional temperament. They are the kind of people whose blood is frequently racing or it is rushing to their faces because they are excitable and emotional.
Phlegmatic refers to the phlegm of the throat, very dull, thick, and slow moving.  They're not dumb, but others may perceive them this way because they are passive and unmotivated to get ahead like Cholerics.
Melancholy means sad. In the Middle-Ages people attributed melancholy to an excess of the "black bile" excreted by the spleen, (Merriman-Webster), hence certain French poets, like Baudelaire, call the melancholia from which they suffered, "spleen." 
"Choler" is yellow bile secreted by the liver (Merriman-Webster) and "choleric" means easily angered (Merriman-Webster). In French the word for anger is "colère" similar to "choler."  Cholerics are goal-oriented people who get angry when things aren't done their way (Littauer).
People will usually exhibit some traits from all the categories, but are typically classified as belonging to two categories.  The category that describes them the most is their dominant personality while the one that are next most like is their secondary personality type. So people can be classified as Melancholy, Phlegmatic, Choleric, or Sanguine, ignoring the secondary personality type.  Just focusing on the primary temperament still gives a fairly accurate description of the individual. However, they can also be classified as Mel-Sang, Mel-Chlor, Mel-Phleg, Sang-Mel, Sang-Chlor, Sang-Phleg, Chlor-Mel, Chlor-Phleg, Chlor-Sang, Phleg-Mel, Phleg-Chlor, Phleg-Sang.  The primary type is listed first and the secondary second. Thus a Mel-Sang exhibits some different traits than a Sang-Mel.
In my analysis I found that D’Artagnan is Choleric, Porthos is Sanguine, Aramis is Melancholy, and Athos is 
Phlegmatic. More specifically, Athos is a phleg-Mel. The secondary personnality of the others is proving harder to figure out, so unless I figure them out soon, I will only talk about Athos at this level of analysis. 
The Three Musketeers

Housekeeping Note:
Since this is not a paper I am not going to stress out about citation, so it may prove to be slightly erratic.  The books from which I primarily learned about personality types are Personality Plus and Your Personality Tree by Florence Littauer.  Facts and anecdotes about the musketeers are from Les Trois Mousquetaires and Vingt Ans Après by Alexandre Dumas (père).
If you want to use any information from my blog it must be properly cited. If you wish to cite specific information about personality types, please consult these books instead of citing them as in my blog. The analysis is my own. I did not read what others have to say about the personalities of the Musketeers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Three Musketeers
Soon to come will be a series of posts on The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years Later (The sequel) focusing on the personalities of the characters (though there may be a few smaller posts about other observations). As I was reading Les Trois Mousquetaires I found myself analyzing the main characters. I've long loved learning about personalities and studied the humoral personality types (Melancholy, Sanguine, Choleric, and Phlegmatic), so as Dumas recounted in detail the appearance, thoughts, actions, and idiosyncrasies of the famous four, I naturally began to classify them. (Can you tell I'm a Melancholy?)
These books are truly well written. The characters are very three-dimensional and act in ways that are consistent enough to be analyzed.  They are very much like real people yet they are also like the larger than life characters of legends...or like the people highlighted in books about personality as examples since they can be very "over the top" and eccentric.  It is these extremes that lend them so well to analysis.
I hope you enjoy the series to follow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's a Marvel! Good movies do still exist!

This past year I have had the pleasure of seeing both Thor and Captain America in theatres! Thor appealed to me before I even saw it due to its connection with Norse mythology, and I must say I was not disappointed in the film.  Both of these films turned out to be quite good though not for young children. Unfortunately both had swearing. Captain America is more graphic and there are a few scenes of girls dancing in short skirts (Ladies, have the remote on hand and tell your man when to cover his eyes).  In Thor all the women are dressed fairly modestly, nothing too low or too short.
Both stories contain true heroism and the lead characters are sacrificial with their lives and their personal desires.  Thor grows from a proud, cocky, and defiant "boy" to a humble, loving, self-sacrificing young man. 
Captain America is the story of a scrawny, weak young man with great character, guts, and tenacity.  With a serum he becomes very tall and strong. I feared that this change would be detrimental to his character but he doesn't become proud or cocky. He is meek, especially with women. He doesn't use his physic to attract women and abuse them.  Instead he remains faithful in his love for one woman for all but one minute when this other gal comes up and kisses him.
Both films emphasize character in addition to strength and the portrayal of men as warriors.  They show that being strong does not give one great character but that great character makes strong men better. Both men face the feeling of weakness and incompetency and through these trials learn lessons and develop character.  When Thor could not lift his hammer because he was unworthy, he finally realizes that he had been wrong in his defiance of his father and becomes a real hero from that moment on.  Captain America grew up a pip-squeak and a weakling but choose to persevere in his attempts to join the army despite his weak body.  The German scientist chose to infuse him with power because he understood weakness and would then appreciate his power unlike some of the other candidates for the science project.  Similarly, God takes our poor weak selves, teaches us lessons and infuses us with his strength to do what we would never have dreamed possible. 
In my Survey of Mass Communication class this semester we have studied media's portrayal of men and women. Through media, girls are sadly taught that they should flaunt their bodies and portray themselves as sexual objects. Boys are taught to domineer, use, and abuse women as womanizers. They are not taught fidelity, chivalry, and protection of women. They are like the male lions in a pride whom the females cluster around and serve.
These films are a bright spark in the media industry, presenting strong attractive men with moral character who are not womanizers despite their physical attractiveness.  (Plus, all the fight scenes and adventure are lots of fun and appeal to guys and gals alike!)  I am looking forward to seeing these two heroes again in The Avengers! I hope Marvel maintains continuity and makes another great film with this same set of values. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Effects of Literature on Behavior

Don Quioxte and Les Trois Mousquetaires
You are what you read. This is especially true if you are Don Quioxte! He read so much about knights that he came to believe that he was one. Most of us don't go mad because of the things we read, but they certainly affect us. I am currently reading Les Trois Mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas (yes, in French!) and I must tell you that it is affecting me. The last two days I've had a hankering to fight someone with our larp swords. Yesterday, I was trying to think of witty insults (but not anymore) and I even -jokingly- challenged a table to a duel after it hurt my foot. Ok, ok, so the table wasn't exactly walking around, I hit my foot on it. But in Les Trois Mousquetaires, it seems thus far that every provocation warrants a duel. Athos scheduled a duel with D'Artagnan after the latter smacked into his injured shoulder causing him increased pain. I thought my situation was fairly parallel, provided that you pretend, along with me, that it was the table who hurt me, not me hurting myself on the table.  
Ironically, one of my friends just told me that she put on a trench coat after reading some spy books.    
So, maybe not everyone relives the drama of our favorite stories, but if you engage in a little self-analysis, you may find that the books you have been reading are affecting your behavior in certain situations, how you view yourself, or giving you ideas of what kind of person you want to be.
 Elrond sleeping on the dictionary
By the way, I'd love comments! Please share any stories of your own, or your thoughts about this topic!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Kelpies are malevolent shape-shifting creatures that usually appear as horses (often black). When an unsuspecting person sees and mounts a kelpie, the creature will plunge into a body of water, drowning the victim before eating them. Kelpies are also referred to as water horses and they always bear some token of the lake or sea such as water dripping from their coats or seaweed in their manes. 
They are not to be confused with the Loch Ness Monster as depicted in, "The Water Horse, Legend of the Deep." This film calls the Loch Ness Monster beast a "water-horse" which works in the film since the animal has a horse like-gait while skimming over the lake surface.  However, he is simply not a kelpie and the film seems to blend kelpies and Loch Ness Monsters by allowing them to share a name and by the tale the handy-man relates about a "water horse" which sounds like a story about a kelpie.
Perhaps the Loch Ness Monster is one form the shape-shifting kelpie may take, thus explaining why no one can find her?! But this theory holds little water, for if the monster were truly a kelpie, why did he only appear as the Loch Ness Monster? And why did he not drown any one? Therefore, the creature from the film is not a kelpie and caution should be used with the title "water horse."  The ideas set forth in the film just do not fit with lore, instead they form their own theories about the Loch Ness Monster by borrowing from kelpie lore.

The film is well-made with a nice story. My only caveat is, don't treat it as an authority on water horses! If you would like to watch it, here is a link to information on the film:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fay and fairy: the words

Both the words fay and fairy are derivatives of the Latin word fata which means the Fates. In Greek mythology, the Fates were the three goddesses that controlled destiny (Greek and Roman Mythology, 
What is a fay? According to The American Heritage Dictionary, it is "a fairy, sprite, or elf." This dictionary also gives a brief "lineage" of the word. Somehow the word for these three magical goddesses morphed into one that referred to magical beings in general, for the dictionary tells us that the Middle English ancestor faie refers to "one possessing magical powers." This word comes from the Old French word faie or fae and although the orthography has changed, the word itself is basically the same as the current French word for fairy: fée. According to American spelling, this word is pronounced "fay" as are fae and faie!
Now the word fairy is also a descendant of fata and the old French fae. In fact the archaic spelling for fairy is faery, a spelling obviously closer to fae. Fairy is not only a noun denoting a specific type of small magical being but is also an adjective referring to anything "of or associated with fairies" or anything that is fairy-like (The American Heritage Dictionary). The word faerie also encompasses all of these meanings in addition to denoting the realm of the fairies or something that is "enchanted; visionary; or fanciful". The word is from the Old French faerie, faierie meaning enchantment (this in turn is from fae). Similarly the current French word féerie means faerie/the realm of the fairies, or is used to label an event as "magical" (féerie,
In summation, the French word for a fairy is fée which is similar to the English word  fay. Fay covers a wider spectrum of magical beings than just fairies/fées.  Féerie is more or less synomymous with faerie and is similar to the the English word fairy in form and its use as an adjective though it never denotes a fairy as a being (as do fairy, faerie, and fée).  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Honey and oats

So, today's subject will be much shorter and less heady than my last post. Just some observations from The Moorchild and The Spiderwick Chronicles.  In the former, the main character is a girl, named Saaski, who is half human and half "folk" as they say in the book (the folk are basically faerys or faery-like little people).  She displays many characteristics of the folk in the book that fit with those from The Spiderwick Chronicles. Saaski and the folk are burned by the touch of iron. Similarily all the creatures of the faery realm (minus dwarves) in The Spiderwick Chronicles hate iron. Saaski loves honey as does the brownie Thimbletack in the Spiderwick movie. In the book, Thimbletack is the typical oatmeal eating brownie and honey is not mentionned.  Salt stings Saaski, the folk , and the goblins in the Spiderwick movie.
The Moorchild  was written by Eloise McGraw. The Spiderwick Chronicles are by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unferth, Wiglaf, and Gawain's Guide: The Importance of supporting characters

I wrote this for a class in response to a question about supporting roles.

Supporting Characters
Like buttresses in cathedrals, the supporting characters or side characters In Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight play important roles.  Buttresses support the cathedrals and are located on the sides of these grand buildings ("gothic cathedral and church construction").  Without buttress support, cathedrals have a limited height ("gothic cathedral and church construction") and would not be quite as grand.  In literature, supporting/side characters strengthen and enrich the story-line.  Giving the hero someone to act off of and they also play functional roles in these grand tales.  Unferth, Wiglaf, and Sir Gawain's guide are side characters with important roles.  They act as foils, reflections, and springboards to the heroes of the tales, respectively, while also upholding themes from the work.
      Unferth is a foil to Beowulf.  A "foil" is "any person or thing that, by strong contrast, underscores or enhances the distinctive characteristics of another"(The American Heritage Dictionary).  Through Unferth’s antagonistic tale and Beowulf’s response, both men’s true natures are revealed.  Thus Beowulf’s positive traits are brought to the fore by comparison with Unferth's ignobility.
      Unferth first appears at a feast in Heorot after Beowulf made known that he had come to slay Grendel.  Unferth was jealous of Beowulf’s renown: “Beowulf’s coming, / his sea-braving, made him sick with envy: / he could not brook or abide the fact / that anyone else alive under heaven might enjoy greater regard that he did” (44).  Out of his envy he speaks and attacks Beowulf’s reputation.  He accused Beowulf of “vanity” (44) saying that this was the only reason he engaged in a swimming match (44), stubbornness: “no matter who tried, / friend of foe, to deflect the pair of you, neither would back down (44),” and obsession: “the sea-test obsessed you” (44).  Thus he attacked Beowulf’s character on three points and additionally criticized the fact that he engaged in the swimming competition by making it appear as folly and should not have occurred.  For he says the only reason Beowulf did it was vanity alone and no other higher reasons (such a rescue).  Also Unferth makes the fact that Beowulf could not be dissuaded seem as if he ought to have been dissuaded.  Unferth attacks Beowulf’s strength and ability with “he outswam you, /came ashore the stronger contender” (44).  Unferth puts Beowulf down by saying “So Breca made good his boast upon you and was proved right (44).  “You,” in this situation is accusative, plus, if Breca was “right” then Beowulf must be "wrong."  Unferth sums up his argument saying that Beowulf will again “be worsted; no one has ever / outlasted an entire night against Grendel” (44-45). 
      However, Unferth did not tell the tale truthfully, giving Beowulf a chance to correct him.  He informs Unferth that he was not defeated but victorious (45).  Recounting more details about the swimming challenge, Beowulf reveals even more of his strength and fighting abilities.  He mentions the cold (ln 546), the churning condition of the sea (546,548), the sea-monsters he fought (553-567), and also the fact that he wore chain mail (550-552) and carried a drawn sword (539-540).  Thus the conditions were even harder than already mentioned by Unferth, and the hearer/reader begins to see that Beowulf is insanely strong and perhaps deserving of the acclaim given by the narrator when Beowulf was first introduced: “There was no one else like him alive. / In his day, he was the mightiest man on earth, / highborn and powerful” (pp 38).  Before this interlude with Unferth, no accounts had yet been offered to prove Beowulf's abilities. Their dialogue is essential to the story in that it shows Beowulf to be already an experienced warrior and super strong.  The removal of Unferth would result in the loss of this evidence.
      Furthermore the event sheds light on Beowulf's character.  He is bold and forthright in his dealings with Unferth.  He tells Unferth that he is under the influence of alcohol, “But it was mostly beer / that was doing the talking”(45).  He bluntly says, "The truth is this:” (45).  Contradicting Unferth’s story forthrightly, he declares, “I was the strongest swimmer of all” (45).  Without Unferth to say this too, Beowulf would never have uttered these beautiful lines: "The fact is, Unferth, if you were truly/ as keen or courageous as you claim to be / Grendel would never have got away with / such unchecked atrocity, attacks on you king, havoc in Heorot and horrors everywhere" (46).  Again, Beowulf chooses the direct approach.  Very importantly, Beowulf's ethics are revealed.  He is not just a brute thirsting for blood; he believes in the protection of one's liege and hall through courage.  Beowulf criticizes the Danes for their lack of courage (46).  Unlike them, Beowulf is brave for he decided to face Grendel: he says so himself (46).  Not only does Beowulf define heroism but he adheres to it in his actions for he came to conquer Grendel (47) and succeeded (61).  Without these revelations of Beowulf's character and thought life, much texture would have been lost.
      Unferth also serves as an example of what is not a hero.  He has not fought in any comparable fights, is not known for his swordsmanship, or bravery in battle (46).  Instead he slew his kinsmen (46).  According to Beowulf, Unferth is destined for damnation because of this misdeed (46) and the narrator too condemns such actions (79).  Unferth is a liar for Beowulf implies that he is not as brave as he claims to be (46).  A hypocrite, Unferth accuses out of envy which is similar to the vanity of which he accuses Beowulf.  
      Interestingly even Unferth’s account of the swimming test is strangely complimentary to Beowulf.  Perhaps an attempt to describe him as reckless, Unferth uses terms that also sound very masterful: “you waded in, embracing the water, / taking its measure, mastering currents” (44), Basically, Beowulf is unafraid, welcoming the challenge of the sea, working with it, and proving stronger.  Unferth recounts that the men were in the water for seven nights (44).  Seven nights!  A magnificent feat in and of itself, but Unferth also recounts that they did this in winter (44), making the feat all the more amazing because the air and water would have been even colder than usual.  Unferth is perhaps recounting these details to make the challenge seem increasingly foolish, but one cannot help but be astounded by the stamina of these men, and since both Breca and Beowulf survived the ordeal, it was obviously not so foolhardy a thing for them to attempt.  
      Wiglaf is Beowulf's kinsman (90).  He embodies the same values as Beowulf: protect your lord and refuse to be a coward.  Along with the other warriors Wiglaf initially ran for safety from the dragon as Beowulf fought it (88).  Beowulf had given these men armor and riches and in turn they were expected to protect him (94).  Unlike the others Wiglaf returned to defend his lord (89) and the pair slew the dragon (88). 
      During the fight with the dragon, the narrator says of Wiglaf, "the noble son of Weohstan /…displayed his inborn bravery and skill" (90).  So, like Beowulf he is brave and skilled in war craft.  Wiglaf is named a "young hero" by the narrator (93), just as Beowulf was a hero (he saved the Danes from Grendel and his mother, and his people from the dragon).
        Wiglaf also has hard words for cowards: "a stern rebuke was bound to come / from the young warrior to the ones who had been cowards."  He tells them that, "A warrior will sooner die than live a life of shame," (94) and that Beowulf died because not enough men were there to protect him (94).  Additionally he informs them they shall be dispossessed (94).  Unlike Beowulf's unworthy followers, Wiglaf will continue in the tradition of Beowulf as a courageous warrior.  Therefore he is essential to the story as Beowulf's legacy.  His presence also softens the blow of the loss of such a mighty man as Beowulf.
       In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the lead character, Sir Gawain is escorted by a nameless guide.  He is first mentioned as Gawain leaves the castle, "And went on his way alone with the man / That was to lead him ere long to that luckless place" (204).  The man encourages Sir Gawain, who he believes is going to his doom, to leave the area without encountering the Green Knight.  If Sir Gawain had accepted this, he would have betrayed his honor as a knight. The guide says to him, “I have your good at heart and hold you dear” (204), showing that this man is not just offering advice because he ought to warn of danger to those ignorant of it but because he actually cares about Sir Gawain, and believes his advice to really be in his interest.  He tells Gawain about the fearsome Green knight (204) and then advises him to not seek the Green Knight, “And so, good Sir Gawain, let the grim man be; Go off by some other road, in God’s good name!” (205).  Assuring Gawain that he will not tell that he did not fulfill his duty, the guide says, “I shall…/…give you my word / That I shall swear by God’s self and the saints above, by heaven and by my halidom and other oaths more, that ever you fled for fear from any that I knew.”  Thus he places temptation before Sir Gawain by providing an escape for Gawain in his last moments before meeting the Green Knight, when the reality of his probable death is imminent and Gawain is most likely to take up such an offer.  Sir Gawain did not want to die (210) so this temptation was dangerous.  Gawain had already broken his word by keeping the green girdle that might possess the power to save his neck.  Obviously Gawain is fallible; he may yet again decide that life is more important than honor.
      According to the man the green knight is "a villain, the veriest on earth…/…he is rugged and rude, and ready with his fists, And more immense in his mold of mortals alive" (204-205).  He does not respect station or worth "heedless of right, / For be it chaplain or churl that by the Chapel rides, / Monk or mass-priest or any man else, he would as soon strike him dead as stand on two feet" (205).  All in all, he is a fearsome fellow and this account may increase the fear in Gawain's heart and lessen his resolve to keep his promise.
      Now, Sir Gawain must respond, and either accept the offer or go on to his probable doom. Courteously (demurring (204)) beginning with “Many thanks!.../…Fair fortune befall you for your friendly words! /And conceal this day’s deed I doubt not you would” (205) but ending by rejecting the offer: “if I turned back now, / Forsook this place for fear, and fled, as you say, / I were a caitliff coward; I could not be excused” (205). The man answers tartly, "I see you are set to seek your own harm, / If you crave a quick death, let me keep you no longer!" (205). But after telling Gawain the directions he says good bye with, "Now goodbye in God's name, Gawain the noble!" indicating perhaps that he recognizes Gawain's heroism in going to meet his doom despite the possibility of an ignoble escape. 
      The guide cares more about his own fate and is very afraid of the Green Knight since he says, "For all the world's wealth I would not stay here, / Or go with you in this wood one step further!"(206).  He then road away as fast as he could (206).  This man's fear and description of the Green Knight heightens the fear and suspense the reader feels as Gawain approaches his dwelling and give insight into the Green knight's unorthodox behavior that could not be gathered from Gawain's observations. 
      This tale is a series of temptations which test Sir Gawain’s virtue.  He is tempted to commit a number of vices including sexual immorality, dishonesty, greed, and cowardice.  Volunteering for a game of blow exchanges with the Green Knight, Sir Gawain swears that he will journey to the home of his opponent the following year and undergo the return blow (170).  Magically, the Green Knight survives decapitation by Sir Gawain and leaves the hall with bearing his head (171).  True to his word Gawain sets out to find the home of the Green Knight and assumes that he will die by the return blow (176).  The temptation to break his word and escape is the next to final trial Gawain experiences; it is the last temptation before he re-encounters the Green Knight. 
      Each of these supporting characters has different roles and functions.  Unferth is a foil to Beowulf and demonstrates un-heroic behavior while Wiglaf carries on the traditions of heroism.  Additionally, Sir Gawain's guide is an important figure in the story because he guides Sir Gawain to the Green Chapel where one of the most pivotal scenes occurs and figures as another tempter in a tale about temptation. 

Works Cited
"foil."  The American Heritage Dictionary.  1976.  Print.
"gothic cathedral and church construction"  23 November 2010.  23 November 2010.       Web.
Reidhead, Julia. ed.  The Middle Ages.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature.  Ed. Stephen       Greenblatt.  8th ed. Vol. 1.  New York: W W Norton and Company, 2006.  7 vols. Print.
Seamus Heaney.  Trans.  Beowulf.  34-100.
Marie Borrof.  Trans.  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  162-231.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My "Celtic" Cat

In the tale of  "Oisin in Tir Na nOg," the hero Oisin (euh-sheen) travels across a sea on a white steed with the fairy woman Niamh (Neev) to Tir Na nOg (the Land of Eternal Youth, that is).  As they gallop over the waves, they see many things go racing past them. One of them was a white hound with red ears chasing a fawn.  Another Irish tale mentions a white cow with red horns. So I asked myself, what is the significance of a white animal with red ears? Well, I don't know that yet. But when I first read the story I took a very literal view and pictured a white dog with ears as red as Clifford, the Big Red Dog instead of the chestnut shade found in animal fur.  Is that picture possible? Well, not quite as impossible as I once thought.
I have a large long-haired white cat, named Elrond. The fur on his ears is white too, but thinner so his ears usually look kinda pink. However they can, on occasion, look quite red, as in this picture.  So I fancy that I have a "Celtic" cat with a white body and red ears.  
Here is another picture of him, this time looking his best:

~ Elrond~
If I ever post about Pangur Ban, you'll probably get to see some more picture of him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Today I'm going to tell you about brownies! When you hear the word "brownie" what do you think of? Probably a luscious dense chocolaty cake-like rectangular prism, perhaps with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or drizzled with chocolate syrup. Well, that doesn't really have anything to do with literature, so that's not the kind of brownie I'm talking about.  If you think of little uniformed girls from the youngest division of Girl Scouts, then I'd say you were closer to today's topic. For a brownie is indeed a small person who does good, but they're not Girl Scouts.  Brownies are small people of folk lore who "adopt" a house and perform chores at night. In return the family puts out simple food for him, such as fresh milk, an oat cake, or a bowl of porridge on the hearth. The brownie usually stays hidden from site and although they are seldom seen they should never be taken for granted or angered, I repeat: NEVER. Their needs are so simple yet they are fussy creatures.  I heard a story where a man was boasting to a friend about how his brownie did everything for them and that he did not need to work any more and assumed that the brownie would always be at his service.  The brownie was so angered he left. Also, when a brownie is angered he turns into a bogart. The bogart will wreak havoc on the household before leaving the place and no longer serving that family.  As I said, their needs are simple: respect and food.
Any changes in the way you treat a brownie may result in his turning into a bogart or else his peaceful departure as a brownie. One book I read told that even changing the arrangement of his food may anger him into a bogart.
Even an extra act of kindness may send the brownie off in search of another household. Seeing the weather growing colder, a girl made some wool garments for Aiken-Drum (the brownie) and left it with his porridge.  He did not become a bogart, but he left the town because he had been paid with clothes. (This story is called, "The Brownie of Blednoch" and appears in "The Book of Elves and Fairies" from Dover Publications.)
Brownies live in Scotland, so unless they've immigrated, probably the only brownie doing chores around your house is your helpful girl scout. Also, if traveling in Scotland I'd be careful about talking about how delicious brownies are, or you might have some angry bogarts on your hands...
Well, I hope this has been an informative discussion on these over-looked but helpful little people and their evil side: the bogart.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lamenting the Bygone Days

I'm not the first to notice the strong similarities between The Lord of the Rings and The Wanderer.  The latter is a beautiful Old English poem.  The Lord of the Rings contains many poems and songs, and one of them has lines that are very close to those in The Wanderer.  Both use the ubi sunt motif, which basicially means, "where are?" and laments the passing of the days done by.
The beginning lines of these poems are quite close. The LOTR poem is a song of a race called the Rohirrim and begins, "Where now the horse and rider?" The section of The Wanderer that I am talking about is an imagined speech by a man looking back and begins, "Where has the horse gone? Where the young warrior?"
The structure of these poems is similar too. They both begin with "where are?" questions and move into a discussion of the passage of time: it flows of time and how everything is fleeting in the context of time.
The imagery is similar too, they seem like they could have both been written by Anglo-Saxons. Both conjure up images of the hall and war near the beginning and darkness and shadow near the end.  The wanderer asks, "What has become of the feasting seats? Where are the joys of the hall? Alas, the bright cup!" The Rohirrim song asks, "Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?" Although this does not directly indicate the hall, we know from reading the book that the Rohirrim kings did live in a hall and where simila. The "harpstring" could indicate a bard who would perform in the hall before an audience.  On the other hand, it could denote a smaller intimate setting.  For the war imagery, The Wanderer has, "Where the young warrior?" and "Alas, the mailed warrior!"  while LOTR asks, "Where the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?"
Both poems mention the flow of time, how time is fleeting, and that glory days are no more. "How that time has gone, vanished beneath night's cover, just as if it never has been!" says the wanderer.  "They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;" are the lines from LOTR. In fact these lines of the poems blend together easily and seem like they could be from the same poem!
When reading The Wanderer I am also reminded of "Ballade des dames du temps jadis" (Ballad of the women of yore) by Francois Villon.  He was a French poet of the 1500s and he asks where the great women of history have gone.  Like The Wanderer and the Rohirrim poem, the passage of time is highlighted and the glorious past lamented.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Aiding the Inevitable

"One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it" said Ooguay in the film Kung Fu Panda. This theme has been around for quite some time and I find it interesting that it is reiterated in this light-hearted movie.  After Ooguay has a vision that Tai Lung (an imprisoned enemy with vengeance on his mind) will return, his friend Shifu quickly sends a messenger duck to double the guards and enact extra precautions.  It is then Ooguay says his line, which turns out to be true in this story.  For, with a feather from the duck, Tai Lung picks the lock on his prison and escapes.  Thus, by trying to stop the inevitable, the inevitable happened.  Or was it inevitable?  The story begs the question, “If the duck had not gone to double the guard and lost a feather, would Tai Lung have escaped?”  These types of stories play with your mind. I often wonder, would it have happened if they had tried not to stop it, or would it have just happened another way?    Ooguay’s wise words nicely summarize the events of other stories I’ve read. In an ancient Irish tale, a man is told that the marriage of his daughter would bring about bloodshed in his household.  So he decides he will never let her marry.  However an Irish warrior falls in love with her and asks for her hand.  After her father’s refusal to give her to him in marriage, the warrior kidnaps her by force with the help of his warriors.  They had to fight the household retainers and left behind several rooms full of bloody corpses in order to make good their escape.  Thus the prophesy came true.  Just as in Kung Fu Panda, the story is ironic.  The reader puzzles over the thought that if the father had just let the man marry his daughter, then none of those people would have died.  Yet, maybe it would have just happened another way, if the father had said yes, then perhaps another suitor would have appeared at her wedding and started a fight then.  Anyhow, this is definitely a theme.  The events in both of these stories evoke the same questions. Another similar tale is summarized as follows:  a man was told he would meet Death in a certain city; by a strange turn of events plus his attempts to avoid Death, the prophesy came true and he met Death in the location foretold just the prophesy specified.  Again, the prophesy the character tries to escape comes to pass despite (or through) the attempt to escape it.