The OF Blog: Assorted Thoughts

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Assorted Thoughts

Written during a break from writing reviews:

Robert Darnton's classic cultural history, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History reveals quite a few interesting features in French fairy tales. Take "Les Trois Dons" ("The Three Gifts") on p. 52:

After sharing his food with a fairy disguised as a beggar, the poor shepherd boy in "Les Trois Dons" (tale type 592) gets three wishes: that he can hit any bird with his bow and arrow, that he can make anyone dance with his flute, and that he can make his wicked stepmother fart whenever he says "atchoo." soon he has the old woman farting all over the house, at the veillée, and at mass on Sundays. The priest has to turn her out of church in order to get through his sermon. Later, when she explains her problem, he tries to trick the boy into revealing his secret. But the little shepherd, who is trickier still, shoots a bird and asks him to fetch it. When the priest tries to grab it in a thorn bush, the boy plays the flute, forcing him to dance until his robe is torn to shreds and he is ready to drop. After he has recovered, the priest seeks vengeance by an accusation of witchcraft, but the boy sets the courtroom to dancing so uncontrollably with his flute that they let him free.
There's something about these tales that just seems to be missing from a lot of literature, both mimetic and speculative alike, being published these days...

Currently reading Paul Kearney's upcoming standalone novel, The Ten Thousand. Set in an alternate world, this is a retelling of the ancient Greek historian Xenophon's account of a mercenary Greek force trapped inside the Persian Empire who has to fight its way out out of a changing and hostile environment. So far, it is interesting and ought to be appealing to others. For me, it's making me wish that I had read more than a few brief excerpts of Xenophon. Perhaps I'll correct this in the future.

Finished reading Brandon Sanderson's upcoming conclusion to his Mistborn trilogy, The Hero of Ages, late Friday night. While I'll review it after I finish a few reviews for other outlets, I think it'll be one of those novels that those who enjoyed the first two novels will enjoy greatly and those who disliked them will not see this one be much of an improvement. More in the coming weeks.

I hope to start my readings for the 2008 Hugos in the next couple of weeks. Will need to get three of the finalists for Best Novel, however. For those that curious as to wonder which ones, it's for the Sawyer, Scalzi, and Stross novels. Already have read the Chabon and McDonald entries and will review them toward the end of the month.

Curious if anyone has any suggestions for books related to Korean mythology, folklore, or fantasy that might be translated into English or Spanish. Wondering how their tales differ and relate to Chinese and Japanese ones.

I have a recently-bought limited-edition book that is numbered but not signed. Would that make it worth more somehow than all the other books that have the author's signature? Book in question is the Aio edition of Ian MacLeod's The Summer Isles. I have number #274 out of 500, but no signature on that page. Amusing. Good story, though.

And that'll do it for now. Back to thinking about the Sea Peoples and their relation to Vergil.

Edit: M. John Harrison weighs in with his interpretation of my comment regarding Darnton and the fairy tales. Well worth reading and responding to, I believe.


Mihai A. said...

I know that exists many Korean names in the graphic novels, but at literature I don't know much. I think that it exists a translation in English of an anthology named "Flowers of Fire". This I found out at Wikipedia (

Lsrry said...

Thanks! I'll keep that in mind :D

Liviu said...

There is another modern retelling of Xenophon but as historical fiction - The Ten Thousand by MC Ford - 2002.

I am curious how the two will stack against one another - and against the original - I own and read the original and the Ford and I am waiting for a copy of Kearney, but Kearney is the best writer of the 3 in my opinion, so I expect the fantasy one to be excellent

Lsrry said...

Interesting! I'm about 1/3 into the Kearney and it's one of those compact, to the point stories that flows well, but it isn't the style I normally would read. He does well the things he wants to touch upon, but there are times that I wouldn't have minded a different style. I like it, but I don't think I'll end up loving it.

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