Friday, December 28, 2012

Mercy Triumphs Over Justice: Jean Valjean vs. Javert

As foils in Les Misérables, Jean Valjean and Javert can be seen to represent mercy and justice. Additionally,  Jean Valjean represents a life redeemed from crime and innocence before God, while Javert represents the Law and guiltlessness in the eyes of the Law. 

Jean Valjean was a convict who served for nineteen years as a galley slave. In the galleys he became a hard, angry man. But after his release he met Monsieur Bienvenu, the bishop of Digne, who initiated a change of heart in Jean Valjean and he devoted his time to improving the welfare of those around him.

Javert was never on the wrong side of the law, yet he too was a hard man although he always performed his duties impeccably. He understood right vs. wrong and justice void of mercy.

Javert  was determined to bring Jean Valjean to justice after he escaped from his second imprisonment.

When both men found themselves at the barricades during the revolt of 1832, they were brought into contrast.

The revolutionaries decided that they would kill Javert (a spy) and when the time came, Jean Valjean asked for permission to do the deed. Finally, the man who had been hunting him for years was in his hands, and he had the power to end his prepetual flight from Javert.

And he did. But not in the way one would expect, and he didn't even know it himself.  Alone in the street together, Valjean freed Javert and gave him his address so that Javert could arrest him later.

Javert left and Jean Valjean escaped the barricades with young Marius. After finally making his way out of the sewer with the almost dead Marius on his back, he encountered Javert. Expecting to be arrested, he begged Javert to let him take Marius home. Javert called the coach up and after depositing Marius, who Javert believed to be dead (otherwise he deserved prison too), Jean Valjean asked for a few moments at home before being taken away for life.

Outside the house, Javert said, to the surprise of Jean Valjean, "I'll wait for you here." Based on Javert's character, he would have followed his prisoner into the houseif he even allowed a quick visit home.

Upon entering the house, Jean Valjean looked out the window, and discovered the street was empty.

What's this? Javert letting an escaped prisoner free when he had him in his clutches?

Javert couldn't believe it himself. He was torn between his feelings of owing his life to Jean Valjean and the law that had ruled his life up til that point. "A novelty, a revolution, a catastrophe had just taken place in the depths of his being; and he had something upon which to examine himself." (Volume II, Book IV, chp. I)

Javert then sees Jean Valjean as "A benevolent malefactor, merciful, gentle, helpful, clement, a convict, returning good for evil, giving back pardon for hatred, preferring pity to vengeance, preferring to ruin himself rather than to ruin his enemy, saving him who had smitten him, kneeling on the heights of virtue, more nearly akin to an angel than to a man." And he cannot make this fit with his worldview. (Volume II, Book IV, chp. I)

He realized that the law was fallible, that a convict could be good man, and was surprised at the act of mercy he himself just committed. He is trapped in his reasoning: "He said to himself that it was true that there were exceptional cases, that authority might be put out of countenance, that the rule might be inadequate in the presence of a fact, that everything could not be framed within the text of the code, that the unforeseen compelled obedience, that the virtue of a convict might set a snare for the virtue of the functionary, that destiny did indulge in such ambushes, and he reflected with despair that he himself had not even been fortified against a surprise.
He was forced to acknowledge that goodness did exist. This convict had been good. And he himself, unprecedented circumstance, had just been good also. So he was becoming depraved."

Javert had done a good deed by letting the man who saved his life go free. Yet, in so doing, he broke the law himself.

"He had certainly always entertained the intention of restoring Jean Valjean to the law of which Jean Valjean was the captive, and of which he, Javert, was the slave. Not for a single instant while he held him in his grasp had he confessed to himself that he entertained the idea of releasing him. It was, in some sort, without his consciousness, that his hand had relaxed and had let him go free. "

And so Javert discovers the existence of God. "He asked himself: "What has that convict done, that desperate fellow, whom I have pursued even to persecution, and who has had me under his foot, and who could have avenged himself, and who owed it both to his rancor and to his safety, in leaving me my life, in showing mercy upon me? His duty? No. Something more. And I in showing mercy upon him in my turn—what have I done? My duty? No. Something more. So there is something beyond duty?".....he had centred nearly all his religion in the police. Being,—and here we employ words without the least irony and in their most serious acceptation, being, as we have said, a spy as other men are priests. He had a superior, M. Gisquet; up to that day he had never dreamed of that other superior, God."

After making a final decision to leave Jean Valjean free, he turned in his police report, making no mention of Marius and Valjean, and then jumped into the Seine and drowned.

Javert discovered that the law was not infallible. A person can be good even if they are on the wrong side of the government's law.  He catches a glimpse of God's higher power but he fails to reach out to Him and receive life.

"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:19b-22a

Jean Valjean, although guilty before God and man, found redemption and began serving God and following His laws. Hugo doesn't stress this, and he may not have known it himself, but the only way to be free from guilt and considered as righteous is through believing in Jesus Christ. He is righteous and His righteousness is conferred on us, as long as we believe and accept his gift to us. It doesn't matter what crimes we have committed. "Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses." Acts 13:39

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering." Romans 8:1-3

Javert tried to be righteous by the law, but he realized that the law was incomplete and he broke the law he lived by: Justice without Mercy. He saw that there was something greater than the Law: God himself. God's law is different than laws created by men, everyone has broken it; yet in His mercy, He extends pardon to all, they just need to accept it.

~ "Mercy triumphs over judgement!" James 2:13~

Les Miserables: The Gutenberg Project: Les Miserables


Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas! ~Lore and Literature Style~

Here is a selection of Christmas greetings in several interesting languages, group loosely by family or similarities.

Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar ~Low Saxon~ Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Compare to German: Fröhliche Weihnachten

Glæd Geol ~Old English ~Merry Christmas
Glædelig jul ~Danish~ Merry Christmas
Gleðileg jól ~Icelandic~ Merry Christmas
Gleðilig jól ~Faroese~ Merry Christmas

 A Blythe Yule an a Guid Hogmanay/Merry Christmas an a Guid Hogmanay ~Scots English~Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Nollaig shona duit ~ Irish~ Merry Christmas to you
Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh ~Scottish Gaelic~ Merry Christmas
Nadolig llawen ~Welsh~ Merry Christmas
Nadelik Lowen ~Cornish~ Merry Christmas
Nedeleg laouen ~Breton~ Merry Christmas

Alassë a Hristomerendë ~Quenya (Elvish)~ Joyous Feast of Christ
Mereth Veren e-Doled Eruion ~Sindarin (Elvish)~ Joyous Feast of the Coming of the Son of God.
Quenya and Sindarin are both elvish langauges created by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit. A long-expected movie.

It's here! It is finally here! Saturday afternoon I saw The Hobbit with some friends.

Over all, I like it very much.

*Spoiler Alert. Don't continue reading if you haven't seen the movie yet.* 

There were a few things I did not like, like the troll sneezing all over Bilbo. Yuck.

Radagast was hardly what I pictured, plus he's not even in the book, The Hobbit. He is in the book, The Lord of the Rings, and he doesn't have a sleigh pulled by rabbits as far as I know. Bird poop on the side of his face: gross and not needed. The part where he out runs the wolves with his rabbit sleigh is just kinda silly.

The film portrayal of The Goblin King left me disappointed, the things he said, and the voice he used were so very un-goblinlike. It didn't fit with his grotesque appearance. The voice would be better matched to a greedy business tycoon in a suit.  

The beginning was neat because it ties right into The Lord of the Rings, the film. The Hobbit (film) opens with Bilbo and Frodo on the morning of Bilbo's big party. We see Frodo run off to meet Gandalf on his way into town, and we know what will follow in The Lord of Rings: "You're late." "A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means too." Remember? If we stopped The Hobbit there, and put on The Lord of the Rings, well, it would flow seamlessly.

I really am glad they kept so many of the opening lines and dialogue from the book.

The song about the dishes, as much as I could catch, was right from the book.

His button's popped off when he escaped from the cave! Yay!

Gandalf said to Bilbo (loose paraphrase): "Courage is not killing people, but deciding who to let live."
Sure enough, along comes the Gollum scene. Although they changed Bilbo's escape from the cave a little, they emphasized the point that Bilbo lets Gollum live when he could have killed him. They made it very clear. Bilbo sees the pain and lostness in Gollum's eyes when he was about to slay him and makes the decision not to kill Gollum. This scene then fits in very well with this dialogue from The Lord of the Rings (film):
 Frodo, "It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill him while he had the chance." 
Gandalf replies, "Pity? It was pity that staid Bilbo's hand. There are many that die who deserve life, and many who live that deserve death. Can you give it to them Frodo? Do not be to eager to deal out death and judgment."

While this dialogue is not in the books, these scenes work well in the movies and add a powerful lesson in the midst of scenes of heroes slaying enemies (where fighting is glorified). Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the battle scenes, I'm glad though, that this point is made so that we all remember that strength and courage is not defined by the number of heads one has chopped off.

Another Lord of the Rings tie-in: Gandalf said to Bilbo, "Your home is behind you, the world ahead." These lines are almost straight from Pippin's Song. "Home is behind, the world ahead." In the book, Pippin does not sing for Denethor, but many of the other songs the hobbits sing were written by Bilbo. So, this is a strange sort of book/movie mixed-up tie-in. It's like Bilbo later wrote Pippin's Song after his adventure, but you wouldn't know that unless you read the books.

"I'm going on an adventure!"
I also love the moment when Bilbo is running down the path and a hobbit asks him were he is going. "I'm going on an adventure!" he cries with the contract flapping in his raised hand.

Twice, Thorin used a large piece of tree trunk (small log) as a shield. My brother pointed out that could be how he got his name: Thorin Oakenshield. Interesting, it's not in the books, but it's interesting that they made the movie detailed enough that even his name has a back story.

A surmise about the next installment: that big rock the eagles drop them off at looks like a bear. I think that must be the Carrock of Beorn. Which implies they skipped the night at the eagle eyries (not a big deal) and just had them dropped off at the Carrock immediately.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Richard III and Scar

If Richard III was an animated film character, he would be Scar.

Now, I don't know what the real Richard III was like. Here, I'm just talking about Richard III from Shakespeare's play by the same name.

Scar is a character in the Disney animated feature, The Lion King.

List of similarities:
1. Want the throne.
2. Want the death of their nephews and arrange for their deaths to take place. Richard succeeds; Scar fails.
3. Crafty, silver tongued. Scar weaves a web of lies around Simba. Richard III convinces a woman who whose husband's death he caused to marry him. And that is just one specific example for each...
4. Richard III was a hunchback and walked with a limp. Scar is a runt, he's scrawny and can't even grow a full mane while his brother the king is large, strong, beautiful, and brawny. Scar says, "Well as far as brains go, I've got the lion's share, but when it comes to brute strength, I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool."
5. Both are defeated in the end after a battle.

Simba and Uncle Scar

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Dwarf and a Gaul

Well, I'm not the first to notice that Bombur, as portrayed in the soon to be released film, The Hobbit, looks like Obelix from the Asterix comics.

But, this blog is all about comparison, so I feel I've got to include it!

Now, the book, The Hobbit, does not go into much detail about Bombur's appearance, except to say that he is the fattest of the thirteen dwarves. One assumes he has a beard because he is a dwarf.
The film removes his beard and gives him a ginormous mustache and sideburns that are braided together. Basically he has hair everywhere BUT his chin.

Obelix is Asterix's sidekick in the French comic book series about the days of the Roman conquest of Gaul. He fell into a cauldron of magic potion as a baby and is endued with superhuman strength because of it. He runs a menhir delivery service and quarries stone in order to make menhirs. I believe he is the sole proprietor and employee, unless he includes Dogmatix. He loves to eat, his favorite food being wild boar which he and Asterix hunt in the forest. He also enjoys beating up Romans and fighting in general. Not the brightest match in the box, but still a loyal friend to Asterix.

Asterix, Obelix, & Dogmatix

Here is a list of similarities between the characters:
1. Both have large rounded noses
2. Similar vacant yet contented expressions
3. Both have the same double chin
4. Body shape
5. Red hair
6. Have mustaches
7. Hairstyles that incorporate braids
8. Round ears that stick out of their hair  

Links to the official sites:
The Hobbit

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Les Misérables

I'd like to start by saying that this post has nothing to do with the Les Misérables film that is coming out in December. I've never even seen the musical Les Misérables. But, where there is smoke there is fire...

Volumes 1&2
So, I undertook to read the original unabridged version in French. Wow, books these days are so different from back then. If someone went on for pages and pages about social darkness and then went back to the story, and then did it again....well, the book probably wouldn't get published without major amputations. But that was then, and this is now. So, the story that was adapted into one of the most popular musical dramas made it to press. Look to the past, learn for the future.

Anyhow, the thing that struck me most about the book is the fact that the title is very fitting. I wish I had kept a tally of how many times the word "misérable" was used.

Basically there are three types of miserable people in this book:

The miserably poor
The emotionally wretched
The wretchedly both

The French word "misérable" is full of meanings. First of all, it is a noun and an adjective like the English word "miserable." One would think it means "miserable" straight-up and simple. But, it actually translates better as "wretched" (adj) or "wretch" (n).  It can also mean "slummy" and "poverty stricken." The French word "misérable" translates to "miserable" when one is talking of a miserable place or situation but not a miserable person.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Hobbit

Who's excited for the film The Hobbit? I am, for sure, and I know many others are! Ever since he directed The Lord of the Rings, fans have been hoping that Peter Jackson would undertake The Hobbit.

Not only is Peter Jackson one of the directors, but Sir Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm (as an older Bilbo), Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, and Christopher Lee all playing the same roles as they did in The Lord of the Rings. Wonderful news!

Bilbo, from The Hobbit
However, from the production videos and trailers I've seen, the film seems to diverge quite a bit from the book. Galadriel does not even appear in The Hobbit. All the wizard action (Involving Radagast the Brown and Saruman the White) happens simultaneously as the action of the story, but is off-set so to speak: Tolkien never takes us there. We don't see the defeat of the Necromancer, we just hear about it. 

Secondly, I never would have pictured the village of Dale as an Italian/southern France village. It's cute though.

Thirdly, they added to the dwarves' characters. Ok, fine. Sounds entertaining. 

Fourthly, they got the beards wrong for the most part. In the film some of them don't really have beards, they have glorified mustaches. However, they are dwarves, therefore they ought to have full beards. Thorin Oakenshield from the book would be ashamed to go about with as little a beard as they gave him in the movie.

Fili and Kili, being younger, can certainly have smaller beards (in my opinion), but I think they should be longer and fuller than men generally wear theirs. Kili and Thorin in the movie look rather like Rangers or Men of Gondor.  In this photo, Kili looks like he could be a brother to Aragorn.
Here are pictures for comparison's sake.

Full, long beards are part of what make dwarves, dwarves (see The Blog That Time Forgot if you don't believe me). In the book, The Hobbit, Dwalin at least was able to tuck his beard in his belt: "It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt" (page 7). Once, when Thorin was very angry, he said to Gandalf, "May your beard wither." Thorin was furious, showing that this is one of the worst things he could possibly wish upon another. The state of one's beard was a matter of pride. To loose one's beard would be like losing one's "man-card,"  or in this case, one's "dwarf-card."

The Blog that Time Forgot 
This blog goes into a detailed textual analysis of the dwarves' beards in the book. You can skip down to the section about beards. Basically his argument agrees with my observations from the book: dwarves should have beards and that beards are a source of pride.

In a production (behind-the-scenes) video one of the people on set suggests that maybe Fili and Kili can't grow beards yet. The above blog mentions this, and in addition to that blogger's analysis, I'd like to point out that Fili and Kili, most certainly did have beards in the book, "It was two dwarves, both with blue hoods, silver belts, and yellow beards" (page 8).

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Ballantine Books, published 1965.
The Hobbit (Official Site)
The Lord of the Rings (Official Site)
All photos come from the downloads sections.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Symbolism of Wolves

Wolves figure in many tales. I had always grown up thinking they were symbols of evil. I was terrified of wolves, mostly due to the fact that I saw part of a documentary were a little boy was killed by wolves. The dramatization, which didn't even show him being killed, deeply disturbed my young mind. But that aside, in most of the stories I heard about wolves (whether true or fairy tale), well, they were the bad guys.

I heard that in Russia, the wolves got so hungry they would attack sleighs at night. One sleigh would be traveling over the snow and they would hear the screams of the passengers in another on the cold air as it went down somewhere in the darkness ahead or behind them.

In the pioneer days of America, wolves attacked people, even surrounding their lonely cabins.

They hunt in packs, their eerie howls rising on all sides as they close in on their hapless victims.

They work at night, a time of darkness, when evil things prowl.

Then there are the classic tales of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs.

There are werewolf stories. Evil beasts who can change back and forth between wolf and man.

In The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, by Allen French, Hiarandi dreamed that he was attacked by wolves and his wife counseled him to take extra precautions but he did not really heed her words. She said to her son, "Dreams often come true, and wolves in dreams mean death." Hiarandi died that day when his foes attacked him in the same manner as the wolves of his dream.

In The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, all the encounters the characters have with them are bad.  In The Hobbit, Thorin and Company are surrounded by wolves who are then joined by goblins and barely escaped. In The Lord of the Rings, wolves surrounded the camp one night and Legolas shot one of them as it leaped towards them.

Granted, I heard a few where the wolves were the good guys, The Jungle Book chiefly. I suppose I dismissed the tale of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a she-wolf. It's a story were a wolf did a good deed, nursing abandoned babes so that they did not die. But still, they were bad men (that's how I wrote them off when I was younger). Romulus killed Remus after Remus made fun of the wall he was building. And from him, the Roman conquests began, later taking over the homelands of my Celtic ancestors.

It wasn't until last year though that my perception of wolves was challenged. In French class we were discussing a piece of literature featuring wolves. We got into a discussion of the symbolism of wolves. For me, they symbolized evil. For the professor, they symbolized good, for she was Italian, and for her the tale of the she-wolf was a good tale. The she-wolf saved the founder of Rome, which led to the Roman Empire.

That was when I realized that wolves as a symbol of evil didn't cover the entirety of the western world.

So, last week I took a poll. Here is what I asked participants: "answer the question with "good, evil, or neutral/neither." Go with your gut, I don't want your logical answer, I want your gut feeling based on the stories you've heard as a child. Question: Do wolves symbolize good or evil?"

Out of the 27 responses:
13 - evil
6 - good
6 - neither
2 - not really evil, but bad.

48% said evil, which is not quite half. Therefore many people think of wolves as symbolizing evil, however, other views are fairly prevalent also.

One of the responders succinctly explained her positive view of wolves, "I would say good, overall... kindof like Aslan, they're not safe but they're good. They are beautiful, wild, free, lonely, mysterious, like what the spirit of the forest would be if they were incarnated in animal form. Although the childhood stories I grew up with would portray them as evil." 
Another wrote, "Good - because they are strong, free and we owned a wolf and they are the most loyal ever----not evil except from movies portrayal- can be bad if you are a smaller critter looking to be eaten if don't run fast enough. I put them almost in the same place as the Bald Eagle-not quite because it cannot fly-

The Bald Eagle represents freedom for Americans, a sort of majestic freedom that is fierce.    

So, one's view of wolves can depend on various factors. Background: Celtic vs. Roman. And also: personal experiences, history, TV, novels, and folktales.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Horses Weeping For Their Masters

In three stories, two ancient and one not so much, the horses were aware that their masters were soon to meet their ends.

In Shakespeare's Play, Julius Caesar, The horses belonging to Caesar wept because they knew his death was drawing nigh.  This was a sign, along with many others that foretold Caesar's death in the Senate.

Achilles' horse Xanthus, foretold Achilles' death.  Xanthus was not a normal horse, he was an immortal horse and he spoke aloud.

The Gray of Macha
Cu Chulainn's horse, the Gray of Macha, knew his master would die if he rode out to battle that day and refused to be hitched to the chariot until Cu Chulainn came and spoke to him. The Gray submitted in tears of blood:  "Cu Chulainn went to him. And thrice did the horse turn his left side to his master....Then Cu Chulainn reproached his horse, saying that he was not wont to deal thus with his master.
Thereat the Gray of Macha came and let his big round tears of blood fall on Cu Chulainn's feet. And then Cu Chulainn leaped into the chariot, and drove it suddenly southwards along the Road of Midluachar."  (An Anthology of Irish Literature, vol. I, by David Greene)
In this case, I'm not sure if the Gray was foretelling the future, he may have just been aware of the circumstances.  Other events foretold the death of Cu Chulainn, and the Gray could have been privy to some of them.

But why horses? I have several ideas, which are merely speculations:
Perhaps because they are man's "second" best friend.  Like dogs, horses are man's companion more so than most other creatures. People bond with their dogs and horses, and this bond is celebrated in many stories.
Mythology about Cu Chulainn, and Greek mythology are steeped in omens and prophecies, so why not have the horses involved?  
Additionally, animals have a keen sense of the approach of danger. Their senses are much keener then ours. A dog knows when someone is approaching before a person does. They also can supposedly sense when someone is good or bad. People can sometimes tell too.  Nothing really has to happen, but certain people make us uncomfortable: it's either women's intuition (if you're a gal) or else a fine reading of body language, tone, and the eyes.  There are also stories from WWII were the fighter pilots knew who wasn't coming back just before a flight. If people and animals have such keen senses, then why not exaggerate in a story and make the horses cry or talk? Mayhap these legends were born from an exaggeration of the amazing abilities of animals coupled with the horse's tendency to freak at things they perceive as threats.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hight, heiti, háte, heisse

 "'What are your names?'
Rolf answered: 'Rolf hight I.'"
-Allen French, The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow.

Rolf is a fictional young man living in 11th century Iceland. I have long loved this book, and today I came upon the word "hight" while researching related topics. Though its meaning was obvious, it always intrigued me:

"Hight" is an English verb meaning "to call/name," and "to be called/named." It is an archaic term, meaning it is no longer in general use, but people understand it when found in written text.
"Hight" in Wiktionary,
"Archaic" in Wiktionary

This word, not surprisingly, sounds remarkably similar to these phrases meaning "my name is":

ég heiti...
(yerch* hey-te) *ch as in Loch.

Old English:
íċ háte...
(eech ha*-te) *long a, as in "father."

German: Ich heisse...
(eesh/eek high-se)

Legends - a retelling of history

"Look to the past, learn for the future." This was our motto in American Girl's Club.

 "Legends are lessons. They ring with truth." -Queen Elinor, in Brave (a Pixar-Disney film)

"'Haflings!' laughed the Rider that stood beside Eomer. 'Haflings! But they are only a little people in old songs and children's tales out of the North. Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?'
'A man may do both,' said Aragorn. 'For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time.'" - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Based on fact, legends reflect reality as it was, and sometimes as it is.

Learn from legends or else "History repeats itself." 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brave - Transformations to Transform Fate

Brave has a rather unusual plot line -for a movie.

The story that most reminds me of this plot line appears, interestingly enough, in The Little House on the Highland series. These are stories about Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother, Martha, who grew up in Scotland. In a tale that little Martha supposedly heard as a child, a girl is supposed to marry a man she doesn't love at the order of her father. She runs off to the church in despair and overhears two mice talking about her.  One says to the other that what she really needs is such and such a fix. She takes their words to heart and performs the spell, then she goes home to bed. The next morning, her wedding day, the detested suitor arrives. She appears, to the surprise of all, with the head of dog. The suitor begins to rail at her father for cheating him and says he won't have her. Meanwhile the man she loves arrives and he takes her in his arms despite her dog's head. Her head turns back to normal and she weds the man she loves and who truly loves her.

Like Brave, the spell worked an unexpected animal transformation but in the end, the desired outcome arrives. It just arrives in a way no one thought it would, via their reactions to the transformation. 

Picture from Karen's Whimsey

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brave - What is Young MacGuffin saying?

(For a translation of the lines please see: Brave - What is Young MacGuffin saying? Translation)

In Disney's Brave, no one (in the film and that I know in the audience) can tell what Young MacGuffin is saying. My question is, could he be speaking Scottish Gaelic? The flavor of the words sounded like Gaelic, but I couldn't be sure.

So I looked it up online. Well, the flavor is Gaelic, but he is technically speaking English! IMBD, among other sources, reports that he speaks the Doric dialect (of English).  This is the dialect of the Scottish hometown of the voice of Young MacGuffin,  Kevin McKidd. (The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter )

Kevin McKidd told The Hollywood Reporter, "It definitely is a fanaticized version of Scotland but I think that they did capture the essence and spirit of the landscape and spirit. The humorous and wildness but warmth still exists, really captured that, kind of a love letter to Scotland in a way. I think the landscapes they created were almost more beautiful than Scotland."

There are other interesting facts amongst the trivia. Seems like this was a film of firsts:
IMBD Brave Trivia

Want to learn more and see samples of Doric?
Wikipedia entry on Doric

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Brave - a Mother and Daughter Movie / a Film about Family

Bagpipes, clans, kilts, haggis, highlander cattle, a Clydesdale horse (named Angus),"stubborn," fighting between the clans, highland games in which is featured the caber toss, tug-o-war, and Scottish dancing. These are all elements of Scottish culture that were woven into the Disney-Pixar film, Brave.

However, beneath the exterior is a tale that touches on the relationship between many mothers and daughters of just about any nation. The family is one that mirrors many across America. At any rate, I can certainly see mine. It's the mother who runs the family. She is an intelligent perfectionist and visionary who "knows" how everything must be done and what everyone should pursue in their lives.  Fortunately for me, my mother is better at listening than Merida's.  Like Elinor, my mother tries to keep everyone "civilized" when the rest (father included) are goofing off at the dinner table and trying to get her to let us have desserts!  Dad gets himself a big bowl of ice cream and my brothers say, "Dad did it, so why can't we?"

The father, Fergus, is big and strong, loves his family and is a great protector. However, he is lacking in leadership and courage in dealing with family affairs. He didn't know how to handle the betrothal of his daughter. He didn't know how to tell her that suitors were coming and that she was about to be betrothed to one of them and he didn't know what to say to the clans when they arrived. His favorite past-times are fighting and storytelling. He doesn't know how to lead unless it is into a battle. There are many fathers who are good at doing their job to sustain their families but don't know how to approach relationships their daughters have with men.

The mother, Elinor, is the one who ran things, she knew what to say and had expectations for everyone. When her husband got involved in a brawl (and was having a grand ole time) she just gave him a look and he knew she was disappointed. So then, he started making sheepish excuses and then simply said, "I'm sorry."  

Merida, the daughter, doesn't like being ruled over by her mother. It's typical, the daughter doesn't want to be the perfect lady her mother tries to get her to be. Merida wants to run free, have adventures, explore nature, ride, and practice arms!

The triplet brothers are funny little things. They are loved by all in the family despite their pranks. 

Both the mother and daughter had to learn lessons.  This is one of the best things about the film. Many films undermine parental authority, but this one shows both as making mistakes.  It also shows how hasty, desperate actions can lead to events no one wants. How horrible would you feel if your mother turned into a bear and may remain a bear forever because of your actions, accidental as they may be? 

Brave is a great film because it makes you think.

They say, "you never know what you got til it's gone."

Let's not let that happen in our lives. We can do this by learning from Merida and her family.

I am happy to say that the film has a happy ending! Merida and Elinor have a healed relationship. A brighter future is in store for Merida, her family, and the lads from the other clans!

All pictures are downloads made available by Disney on their website: