Posted in History, Media

They’re Reading Greek Tragedy Online – The Chorus – Part I

I’m going to start with a slight disclaimer- It’s been about five years since I looked at a Greek play in any sort of academic mindset, so to prepare for this series of posts I’ve been listening to Greek Tragedy, a series of lectures by Elizabeth Vandiver, from The Great Courses on Audible (which comes with the coursebook PDF). So far I’ve listened to the first five lectures: Tragedy Defined; Democracy, Culture and Tragedy; Roots of a Genre; Production and Stagecraft; and Aeschyleus – Creator of an Art Form. It’s given me a really nice intro back into the academic mindset and a good shove in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to listening to the rest over the coming weeks.

Disclaimer number two: The only two Tragedies I’ve studied in any depth are Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Euripides’ Medea, and with both of these we completely glossed over the choral segments, so coming into this special episode of RGTO I was new to most of the passages performed, from an academic viewpoint at least, though I have read Antigone. At this point I would also like to say that throughout my studies (at College and my first year of University), not once had it been mentioned that the Choral passages within these plays were performed through song and dance, to me at least, it makes it all make so much more sense, something Wednesday’s show demonstrated brilliantly. 

As you might have seen me say on Twitter, there is so much to unpack from this episode I’m going approach this in a slightly different way to how I plan to approach future posts, and I’m going to split it into two parts, this is going to be more of a discussion, then on either Tuesday or Wednesday next week, I’ll go through and break down the different performances in light of what we discuss today. With this being said, I’m going to jump to the end of the show, where Joel finished up by asking each of them two questions:

  1. What did you learn today?
  2. What new questions do you have?

So, here are my answers. 

  1. I learnt about how diverse Choral passages and their performance can be
  1. Would it be more insightful to study Choral passages from Greek plays from a Theatre Studies standpoint, rather than a traditionally ‘Classics’ one?

If you’ve read my post Home sweet Home, you’ll know that for a year in College (remember, I’m English so I was about 17) I studied Theatre Studies. I am by no means even nearly an expert in that field, or this one to be honest, but flicking through my annotated copy of Playhouse Creatures by April De Angelis which we studied for our end of year exam, it brought a notion to mind – I annotated it wrong. Okay, ‘wrong’ probably isn’t the correct term, but reading through, you can tell I was in the wrong field of study, it’s annotated like a Greek Tragedy, which would explain why I nearly failed. My annotations are all on the historical significance, on the commentary it was making about historical and contemporary politics, the significance of introducing certain characters, why it was done ect.. What’s not present in my annotations is the weeks we spent on theoretical staging. The weeks we spent looking at different approaches and how they can put emphasis on different emotions, how you can use staging and performance techniques as compliments and story-telling tools to accompany the script and elicit certain emotional responses from the audience. What’s not there is the weeks we spent looking at the effect all of this has on the play, and performance, as a whole.

When you’re working with translations of texts, you’re not always able to analyse them in a literary context in order to attain meaning and emotion. You’re not always going to be able to translate the repeated use of alliteration, or the use of plosive and sibilant consonants and created words. What I took from Wednesday’s show is that it’s so difficult to truly appreciate Choral passages until you take that step away from the ‘academic’ approach, and start to look at the various staging and performance techniques, and how they can be used to bring to light and establish the vast range of emotions often present in the passages, something that often isn’t conceivable when looking at it with a clinical, academic mindset. I think the overall perception at the end of the show highlights this perspective well. Once the Choral passages had been performed, they were easier to understand, their meaning more clear and the attitudes of those present had gone from ‘I just skip it when I teach it, get straight to the dialogue’ to ‘I’m never going to gloss over this again’. 

Would getting students to group up into groups of four or five and stage a performance of Ode to Man from Antigone be more insightful for them than getting them to read it at home because you’re getting straight to the dialogue in class? Probably, and I know my AS Classics class would have loved it at least. 

As is made perfectly clear within the show, there is so much we have lost when it comes to the actual performance of these plays, but that shouldn’t stop us trying to reimagine what it was like. You give students an empty classroom, and they have their own Orchestra to perform in, no fancy staging or lighting; you put a group of people on Zoom and you have modern issues with theatre of the mind and immersion. If you can figure out a way to overcome that, which we have all seen students do, which we’ve seen Out of Chaos and CHS do week after week, you can start to imagine how these plays could have looked, how they could have overcome these issues, the emotional responses the plays could elicit from the audience, and what they could have done to perform. Once you have that visual representation in your mind, it can be a lot easier to comprehend the messages, emotions, and information these passages are meant to relay to the audience.

***

I’m going to call it here, because I could honestly keep going for at least a few thousand more words (and some), and it has the potential to get a lot heavier than I ever intended for this place.

I’ll be honest, I’ve watched Wednesday’s show twice now, and even the second time I was so transfixed by the performances that taking notes was impossible, so with another watch under my belt, I’ll be back either Tuesday or Wednesday with part two where I’m going to at least try to look at the performances themselves in a bit more depth, then Wednesday evening (8pm BST/3pm EST) will be the next episode – Sophocles’ Antigone.

Read part two, an analysis of the performances here!

I would once again like to give thanks to:

The Centre For Hellenic Studies

Out of Chaos Theatre

Joel Christensen

And this week’s Special Guests – Anna Uhlig Ph.D. and Bettina Joy De Guzman

Posted in History, Media

Launch Day Announcement!

This is something a little different to the rest of the posts you’ll find here, a Launch Day announcement, you could say. Starting Saturday 31st July and each Saturday following, I will be doing a regular commentary on the Centre of Hellenic Studies ‘Reading Greek Tragedy Online’ stream project. 

Each Wednesday at 3pm EST (8PM BST), CHS, with Out of Chaos Theatre perform a selection of scenes from the chosen tragedy of the week and Joel Christensen, of Brandeis University, hosts a discussion on the play with guest academics and the actors and actresses within the performance. 

As things stand, they have currently read sixteen tragedies (and one comedy, they needed a break for some reason, I wonder why…) so I have lots of catching up to do, but will make my way through the backlog as time allows and Saturday evenings I will post my commentary on that week’s stream.

For now though, I want to thank CHS, Joel, and the folks from Out of Chaos for all the hard work they’ve done over the last few months to put this together for us all during lockdown. So stay tuned folks, and I will see you next week with what could be a rather interesting commentary of a special episode of RGTO focusing on The Chorus and it’s many intricacies.

Go check out:

  1. The Centre of Hellenic Studies

2. Out of Chaos Theatre

3. Joel Christensen

Posted in History, Tabletop

Gaming and History are a match made in heaven

This one’s going to be a bit shorter than the rest, but I just want to give you a quick run down of why I think Tabletop Gaming (or any gaming for that matter) and history work so well together.

You ask most people what they thought of History at school, and they’ll say it was really boring and they didn’t pay much attention. You ask someone if they want to play Rome, or an ancient Greek or Viking tabletop Campaign and they’re all up for it. And you want to know the reason why? Gaming is fun, school is boring. The issue stands though, with the historical inaccuracies of some of the games, be them tabletop or console/PC, that are on the market right now, so what can we do to change that?

This brings me to a bit of shameless self-advertising (if that’s even a thing on my own blog?)

Though in its very early days at the moment, I’m currently working on a project called Promethean Kind, part of which is a world building wiki style database of ancient civilisations and cultures for Worldbuilders of any ilk to use as a research base for their ‘ancient and unique’ worlds. Alongside this we will also be hosting a web-show of interviews with DM’s, Authors, Screen Writers and so many more about the where’s why’s and how’s of worldbuilding and their approaches to research and the like, as well as many other suprises yet to be announced.

Our aim is to provide worldbuilders with the information they need in clear, concise, non-academic ways to enable them to develop historically accurate and culturally sensitive worlds, so people can explore the wonders of the history of our world in fun and interactive ways. As I said, it’s early days at the moment but you can follow us on twitter @PromethenKind for more updates as and when they come.

Posted in History, Media

Ancient Aliens is terrible .

So in December 2019 I was inspired by a comment in a friend’s post on Twitter to write a rage thread about Ancient Aliens. Given the issues being tackled across the world with the BLM  movement going strong and a huge push to diversify academics and academic ideologies, I figured it was about time to expand on my original post and approach it in a slightly less constrictive form than the 280 characters we get in a twitter post, as you can probably tell, I like to waffle on a bit.

To start, I will set out a slightly edited (typos fixed and slightly reworded in places) version of the twitter thread below:

Ancient Aliens is the bane of my life. Having studied 4 histories at A Level, and completed the first year of my degree, the amount of times shows like Ancient Aliens and other and  Pseudo-Historical ‘documentaries’ out there are used as sources is astonishing, and the fact that they’re aired on the ‘History Channel’ as fact should be criminal. I’ve done a few in depth studies of episodes of Ancient Aliens, the main reason being I wanted to show my friends how bullshit most of their history is. Not only do they misrepresent information, they knowingly put forward outdated research and findings as fact and withhold other findings that would disprove their hypothesis purely because it’s inconvenient and doesn’t ‘prove that aliens are real’. If a settlement has signs of previous occupation (one example would be midden pits), where activity dropped off very quickly and seemingly without reason, don’t assume aliens abducted everyone, but expand your search parameters and also examine the mass grave of plague victims found a mile outside the settlement walls. It’s not difficult. It’s just doing your freaking job and thoroughly researching your topic! I don’t understand why people find it necessary to do shit like this. The history of the Ancient World is fascinating enough without having to force it into a false narrative the way shows like Ancient Aliens do. If Aliens do exist, and if they ever did present themselves to the Ancient World and we find that information, we find that data, then trust me, I would be the first one all over that shit, but stop forcing it as fact when there is literally no evidence to support it!

The original thread can be found here

I would like to state, the above example regarding the settlement and plague victims, (as far as I am aware at least,) is a hypothetical situation. I do still stand by the example though, as I believe it reflects the actions and attitudes of the show’s creators and research staff with frightening accuracy. 

To the point though –

[…] and the fact that they [pseudo-histrical and pseudo-archaeological shows] are aired on the ‘History Channel’ as fact should be criminal

See tweet.

The following picture is a ScreenCap of the top 4 results when ‘Ancient Aliens Pyramids’ is searched in google:

So I clicked on the first link to be presented with this:

And here is how the bio of that video reads:

I will admit, the content of this video itself doesn’t actually mention aliens, which I think is possibly the worst part about it. They present what I’m going to assume are facts (I’m not an Egyptologist or a Physicist so please correct me if I’m wrong) in a way which, to most viewers, would appear to be a professional, well put together manner, it’s on the History channel, why would they doubt it? This is how they drag so many people in though, it creates a false sense of security and trust, when something is backed up by so many ‘facts’ how could it be bullshit?

The only Academic named within the video is Michael Dennin, Ph.D. Physicist at the University of California, Irvine. Now I’m not doubting his credentials, as I said, I’m not a Physicist so I am working on the basis that what is presented here is, or at least at some point recently has been believed to be, fact. According to the UCI website he’s “well-known for popularising science for the public”, and they proceed to back this up by mentioning his appearance on Ancient Aliens along with a handful of other TV shows. 

I would start off by asking this simple question: ‘Why is the only academic featured in this video a Physicist, not an Egyptologist?’ And I will follow that with the answer that any Egyptologist worth their salt would destroy any arguments put forward to support the ‘Ancient Astronaut’ theories presented in the rest of the show. If you present an argument saying the mathematical knowledge presented in the building of the pyramids is far beyond even what we today could calculate, then follow this up with a Physicist who doesn’t dispute that claim and continues to add more facts to the argument, you cement the idea in people’s minds that Academics actually believe this shit. Then once you have that idea cemented in peoples heads, the bullshit theories start to make sense, they start to be believable.

The other ‘specialists’ shown in this video… well I’ll let you make your own minds up:

. David Childress – An American Author, and the owner of Adventures Unlimited Press, a publishing house established in 1984 specialising in books on unusual topics such as ancient mysteries, unexplained phenomena, alternative history and historical revisionism

. Scott Creighton – Author of three books:

  • The Great Pyramid Hoax: The Conspiracy to conceal the true history of ancient Egypt
  • The Giza Prophecy: The Orion Code and the secret teachings of the pyramids
  • The Secret Chambers of Osiris: The lost knowledge of the sixteen pyramids

. David Wilcock – Author of The Ascension Mysteries: Revealing the Cosmic Battle between Good and Evil – the blurb of which on google books reads: “Now, in The Ascension Mysteries, David Wilcock reveals that the earth is on the front lines of a battle that has been raging between positive and negative extraterrestrials for 500,000 years and he looks ahead to what this battle means. Follow his enthralling journey through the history of the universe and explore the great Cosmic Battle surrounding the Ascension of mankind.”

. Freddy Silva – A leading researcher of alternative history, ancient knowledge, sacred sites and the interaction between temples and consciousness.

I am hoping you can see my point here…

There has been a huge discussion over the last few months about how Ancient Aliens is a prime example of the systemic racism within academics. I spent some time this afternoon searching the internet for a list of what Archaeological sites Ancient Aliens have covered, and I’m surprised to say I can’t actually find one. With 15 seasons currently having been aired, (scary, I know) it’s a heck of a lot of work for someone to torture themselves with, but I might have to do so in the future. If you do know of a list, drop me a link on Twitter or by email, (which can be found on the Contact page,). Because I don’t have access to this data at the moment, it’s not a claim I am in a position to back up as I am aware that they have covered sites such as Stonehenge so they do not solely cover sites on the African Continent and the Middle East. What I will say though, is that episodes like the one being advertised in the video [season 12, episode 4 as per IMDb listing] are at the least, a bi-product of the systemic racism within academics. By refusing to admit that people we would now recognise as being of African and Middle-Eastern descent were capable of building what is the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World without the assistance of Aliens, you are diminishing the impact and importance they have had on the world and the achievements of their ancestors, you take away their history, their heritage, their identity. By attributing, or accepting the attribution of their accomplishments to that of a ‘higher being’, be it Aliens or those of White European descent, you are part of that systemic racism whether you realise it or not. By watching shows like Ancient Aliens, or allowing shows like Ancient Aliens to be aired on your TV channel, you are part of the problem, and until pseudo-history and pseudo-archaeology shows are axed, or in the least accompanied by a ‘this is pseudo-XYZ’ disclaimer, nothing is going to change. And things really need to change.

Posted in History

Home Sweet Home

I wanted to write this to give you some kind of insight into my life and where my slight obsession with history stems from. If you follow me on Twitter (if you don’t, you totally should) then you’re probably familiar with my periodic gushing about how awesome my home town, Colchester, is, and I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on that slightly.

As a settlement, Colchester has been continuously occupied since the Bronze Age, with Archaeology in the area surrounding the town being datable to as far back as the Palaeolithic period. Finds such as Acheulian Handaxes from the Paleolithic and Tranchet Axes from the Mesolithic, through to Neolithic Henges and Bronze Age Barrow cemeteries, the pre-history of Colchester and the surrounding areas is just as rich as its later history. 

I was considering doing a brief run down of the history of the town but honestly, with near constant occupation for over 2000 years, it’s a lot to get through, but it’s something I will tackle (bit by bit) at some point. For now though, if it is something you would be interested in, I recommend getting yourself a copy of Colchester: A History by Andrew Philips, published in 2017. It’s the first full and comprehensive history of the town that has been published in over half a century and is well worth the read.

What really captured my heart as a kid though, was the Roman and Norman history that I grew up surrounded by. Sat in the middle of town, just a 10 minute walk along the river from the house I grew up in was a Norman Castle, the ‘dungeons’ of which (there aren’t actually any dungeons, they’re just foundations, something which was drilled into us as kids) were the ruins of the Roman Temple of Claudius, some of which can still be seen to this day. On my walk, I would pass through at least two gated roman walls depending on what direction I went, and would pass through Castle Park, the grounds of which (and the Hollytrees House Gardens) were laid out in 1729 by Charles Grey. None of it seemed like history, yes, these things were very old, but they were there, they weren’t just part of the past, they were present and real and you could touch them interact with them and you didn’t have to go to a museum to do so, you just had to go to the park or go for a wander into town! Even my primary school was a grade II listed building built in 1894 as a split gender school. History was everywhere growing up and it has shaped my life.

It wasn’t exactly a shock when I fell in love with history as a subject at school. One of the clearest memories I have from primary school is a term in year 4 where we spent Wednesdays after lunch learning about Greco-Roman mythology and rewriting the myths ourselves, at the end of term we all got to bind all the stories we had written and drawings we had done into a book which we took home, I’m pretty sure my mum and dad still have somewhere. At 11, in my first year of secondary school, I stayed behind on a Monday with my History teacher and built a to-scale replica of a motte-and-bailey castle with chicken wire and mod-rock for a display for parents evening. I moved to Leeds at 12 and probably not surprisingly, took GCSE History, where we studied the Normans, Saxons and Vikings, and their styles of Warfare, Trade and Daily Living, the final exam being a comparison between two of the peoples and their approach to one of these three topics. It was a 4 hour exam over two days, finished it in two hours and came out with an A… (should have been an A* but grade boundaries were moved last minute) I loved it, and couldn’t wait to do more.

So after a… questionable first year at 6th form (aged 16), I moved back to Colchester and started my madness. At this point I already had an AS in English Literature, so I continued that in my second year, and chose to pick up Medieval History, Archaeology, and Theatre Studies. Third year rolls around and I chose to drop Theatre Studies but continue and complete my Medieval History and Archaeology A Levels.I also picked up Classics and Ancient History at AS Level and for some reason did pre-GCSE Latin and a group of friends and I roped our Ancient History tutor into teaching us Ancient Greek in two of our free periods a week. I’ll be honest, it’s not a collection of subjects I would advise studying all at once, especially with two ancient languages alongside, but despite the workload and the serious pressure I put myself under, I wouldn’t change it for the world, but this is what I mean by ‘slight obsession’, give me the opportunity to learn more and I will, even if life does get in the way of obtaining my degree.

My love and my passion for history of all periods has been built and nurtured by what surrounded me, be that through my studies or as part of the surrounding landscape. If it wasn’t for the amazing history teachers I have had throughout my education and being given the opportunity to take the subjects I did at 6th form, then I probably wouldn’t be doing this now and would likely have dropped out of a Music degree instead of Classics. If I had grown up somewhere else, somewhere with less visual history (and I’ve honestly barely scraped the surface here) I doubt my education or personal interests would have matured the way they have over time. At some point I will finish my degree, I just have to wait till the time is right. For now, I’m happy doing what I’m doing and sharing my passions with you all through my slightly odd blog.


Photos courtesy of Simon Folkard and you can find him over at Flickr and Twitter

Posted in Mythology

The one where Merlin built Stonehenge

Areulius Ambrosius, the brother of Uther Pendragon had just been pronounced king, his father and some of the other Princes of the Britons having been slain by the vicious Saxons in a mighty battle. It was because of this he made his way to Merlin, Wizard and wisest of all, to ask advice.

“Merlin, I need your help.” He said as he fiddled with the crown on his head. “I need to find a way to memorialise the Princes that have been slain, a lasting tribute to honor their memory and sacrifice.”

“A way to honor them?” The Wizard asked, stroking his long beard. “I do have this one idea. Have you heard of Giants Dance?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It lies in Killarus, a mountain in Ireland. It’s a structure made of these huge stones which no one in this world could carry or move, unless you’re me of course. If we bring them here and stand them, as they stand in Ireland, here, in this place, they will stand forever.”

Aurelius scoffed “Ireland? You must be kidding me, can’t you think of something that doesn’t involve us bringing huge arse stones across the water?”

“My king, do you really think I would make such a suggestion in jest? These stones aren’t just normal stones. They hold the ability to heal. Giants of old brought these stones from the furthest coasts of Africa to Ireland when they inhabited those lands. They did so with the intention of carving them into great baths, and when they became sick, to wash in the water contained within them so they can heal them of any ills. There is no stone in that landscape without healing virtues, Highness.”

“And you are so sure these stones will stand forever?”

“If placed here, then yes”

Aurelius then retired to his halls, and at his desk he wrote his commands. His brother, Uther, would travel to Killarus with Merlin and 15,000 men to collect these stones, and upon their return, they would be placed forever on the Plains of Salisbury.

It took some days of preparation before they were ready to leave, but eventually the 15,000 men, alongside Uther and Merlin left Salisbury on their rafts,travelling down the Rivers Avon and Seven, and across the Irish Sea. Little is reported of the journey itself, though upon reaching Irish lands, it’s said they were faced by an army of barbarians, 7000 of which they slaughtered before moving on to Killarus. 

Upon facing the stones themselves though, Uther was crestfallen, despite Merlins warnings, the size of the stones was shocking, and Uther could think of no way they would be able to return them to Briton. 

“Did I not explain to your brother how I was the only person who would be able to move them?” The wizard asked with a prideful grin. “If I do this…” He waved his hands “and this” He chanted a few words. “And finish it off with this” He thrust his hands into the air, and to the surprise of all present, the stones, each in turn, began to levitate. “Shall we get these back to the rafts then?” The wizard finally asked through gritted teeth as if he was bearing a heavy weight.

Their journey home took some time longer than their journey there, but they retraced their steps and finally returned to Salisbury, the Stones being placed on additional rafts to be taken across the sea. It is often argued how the stones themselves were laid. Some claim that Merlin, with use of his magics placed the stones on his own, though others claim he did so with the aid of a Giant that he knew. How the stones were stood in their final resting place is not important though.

It was not long after their raising that Aurelius was killed, poisoned by those Saxons at Winchester, and they buried him in the King Barrow in sight of the Giants Dance. Uther then took the crown but he too was poisoned by Saxons and was buried within the monument itself. But the legend of the Giants Dance continues. Arthur’s own exploits will be documented at a later date, but it is said that upon taking a mortal wound in battle, he abdicated his crown to Constantine, son of Cador of Cornwall and travelled to the Isles of Avalon to rest and die in peace. Constantine was eventually killed by Conan and is also buried within the boundary of the stones alongside Uther. 

***

So this is a really short story to tell, and makes my inner Archaeologist cry, but I have a soft spot for Arthurian Legend and will be covering more of it in the future. Couple of quick disclaimers though:

. The Sarcen Stones (the large stones of the monument) are thought to have been transported from the Marlborough Downs, about 20km North of Stone Henge

. The smaller Blue Stones are believed to be from the Pricilli Hills in Wales about 250km Westish

. The majority of this story is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 8, chapter 10, published C. 1136AD

. The argument that Merlin was assisted by Giants in placing the Stones in the Salisbury Plane comes from an Illustration on a 14th Century manuscript of Robert Wace’s Roman De Brut, depicting Merlin and a second figure with a Giant placing a lintel upon the upright stones. Roman De Brut was originally published around 1155AD, though no exact date is known. This was not part of Geoffrey’s account.

Posted in Mythology

The one where Thor nearly married an Ogre – Part II

Part I can be found here

The following day the gods of Asgard gathered in the main hall, all but Freya, who had chosen to spend the day with her cats, and they discussed all the options they had before them. The morning passed, the afternoon drifted by and as evening fell, all those present had presented an idea. Thor was restless, Loki was exhausted by the idiocy surrounding him, and everyone else had run out of ideas.

It was as the evening meal was brought to them that Odin cleared his throat and looked down the table to where Heimdall sat. “You are the only one of us to have not spoken” The All-Father observed. “Do you, Heimdall, watchman of the Gods, guard of Bifrost have nothing to add?” 

“I have an idea” He said softly “though it is not one Thor would dain to consider, so I do not see the wisdom of sharing such a thought.”

A smile spread across Thor’s lips. “I will consider anything to get my hammer back, Heimdall, who is farseeing, no matter how much I dislike the plan! Everyone has said their idea, now come on, it can’t be that bad” 

“You won’t like it, and you will not want to use such a plan either” Heimdall protested, though his voice remained calm and even.

“I will order you to speak if necessary” Odin interjected.

“Very well” Heimdall finally conceded. “But do not be shocked when Thor says it will not happen.” He pushed himself to his feet and took a step back from the table, looking to Thor and Loki. “Thrym wants to marry Freya” He said, and Loki nodded in confirmation. “But Thrym has never met Freya, so any of us would be able to dress in a bridal gown, with a bridal vail and take her place.”

Thor grinned and as his eyes scanned over the other Goddess’ present, he didn’t see Heimdall’s gaze settle on him.

Heimdall continued. “In that case, I propose that we dress Thor in a bridal gown and veil, with rings on his fingers and gems in his hair. I propose he wear the necklace of the Brisings and travel to the halls of Thrym, where he will pretend to be Freya. Once the wedding feast ends, and before the ceremony takes place, gifts will be exchanged and once Thor is given Mjolnir, he can do what is necessary to remove himself from the situation.”

“That is a brilliant idea!” Loki chuckled.

“That is a terrible idea.” Thor cried. “I will not allow it to happen”

“This is a fine idea” Odin echoed Loki’s sentiment. “Ladies, please go fetch a gown and veil, and rings and bells as a woman would wear on her wedding day, and Frigg, please get the Necklace of the Brisings from Freya”

As the ladies disappeared, Thor continued his protests. “But I will have to shave my legs, and my beard, not my beard! And what if he tries to touch me, or kiss me, and how am I going to pass as a girl? Father, tell them it will not work” he pleaded with his father.

“My orders have been given” Was all Odin said. 

***

The days and nights went by, a dress was tailored to fit Thor, a veil was made to cover his face and beard, but still allowed him to see, and as the final hours ticked by, rings were put on his fingers and bells adorned his clothing. Finally, Loki placed Freya’s bridal crown upon Thor’s head. 

“I will travel with you” Loki said as he changed his form to appear as a maid servant to the Goddess she traveled with. The maid servant then held a hand to Thor and helped him into his chariot, pulled by the goats Nasher and Grinder. Loki took the reins and sat beside him and off they went into the sunset.

After a while of sulking, Thor looked to the maid servant beside him that was Loki. “Are you sure this is going to work?”

“I’m sure it will work,” She said in response. “All you have to do is make it through the feast and then we get the hammer and we can go home.”

“But he will want me to sit next to him!”

“That is the tradition, yes”

“But what if he touches me, he will know!

Loki sighed. “I will sit between you, explain that it is our custom, I’m sure he will understand. Just stay quiet and leave the talking to me, everything will be fine.” 

***

They could hear the preparations for the wedding before they could see the hall, shouts of ‘clean up this mess’ and ‘make sure that’s covered, Freya won’t want to see that!’ echoing across the landscape. Thor looked to his maid servant and clasped her arm. “I do not like this…” He said, looking towards the hall as it came into view.

“Just remember what I said,” She, who was Loki, replied. “Leave the talking to me and everything will be just fine. Relax, and enjoy your wedding night” Loki couldn’t help but chuckle as a shudder ran down Thor’s spine.

“That is not helping, Loki” He hissed as Nasher and Grinder came to a halt by the stables.

They were met at the door by a giant lady, who introduced themselves as Thrym’s sister. “So this is Freya? This is the most beautiful of the Gods? She doesn’t look like much.” She commented, the maid servant quickly kicking Thor in the shin to quiet any response he may have wished to voice.

“May we get started?” The maid servant asked. “My mistress is dying to meet her husband”

The giant, which was Thrym’s sister, nodded and led them inside. 

The hall was cavernous, with high ceilings and a straw floor. Six trestle tables took up the main space of the room, all the benches already full of the denizens of Jotunheim, and at the far end of the hall, sat upon the dias, was the head table, Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres at its centre.

“Freya! My beautiful Bride, how good it is to see you!” He cried in delight as Thor, in his bridal gown and veil, stepped into the hall, a maid servant at his heels. “Come join me, take your place at my side and we shall feast in celebration of the vows we will take tonight.” His voice boomed across the hall, his words clear to all present. They made their way down the centre aisle and the maid servant bowed before Thrym, Thor inclining his head in reluctant respect.

“It is custom in our land for a chosen maid servant to sit between the bride and her groom during the customary pre-ritual feasting, I hope you can understand this” The maid servant said as she rose. 

“Of course” Thrym sighed as he motioned for them both to join him on the dias and take their seats beside him, and as they did so, a bell rang and the feast began.

Servants hurried out of doorways hidden in the shadowed alcoves that lined the walls of the hall. Some carried platters of salmon, some with whole oxen. Barrels of Ale and Mead were brought in too, so large they had to be carried by two giants each. Trays of fancies and pastries were passed around for the women, and as the last few items were placed on the tables, Thrym stood and cleared his throat.

“We are here today” He started, “to celebrate my marriage to Freya of the Vanir, most beautiful of the Asgardians.” He stopped as the crowd cheered, tankards raised in a raucous toast of congratulations. Thor though, took this lul in his husband-to-be’s speech to mean it was time to eat, and eating is what he did.

Thrym stood there in abashed silence as he watched his future wife tuck in, before blinking and taking his seat with a call for the feast to begin, it would have been rude for him to continue talking while his bride ate. 

Over the next hour, Thor proceeded to eat and drink though:

 . 7 whole Salmon, each the size of a human child of about 5 years old

. 1 whole Oxen

 . 2 trays of Pastries

 . 3 casks of Mead

And despite Loki, in the guise of a maid servant, repeatedly trying to get Thor to stop (elbows in the ribs, a few kicks to his shins under the table, Thor continued to eat.

An eighth Salmon vanished under the bridal vail, and as a skeleton was withdrawn, Thrym finally turned to the maid servant and said “I.. have never seen a woman eat so much, and she has drunk three casks of Mead” 

The maid servant inclined her head. “My mistress hasn’t eaten in eight days and eight nights because of her excitement about marrying you, Lord” She said “Now she is in your presence, she is finally able to eat again, it is so very good to see” Loki, who was the maid servant smiled.

Thrym grinned at that and leaned over the maid servant and reached for Thor, lips pursed, leaning in for a kiss. Thor pushed his chair back, his eyes burning with hatred beneath his vail. Thrym stopped and quickly excused himself, dragging Loki with him. “What… what is wrong with her eyes? They’re… scary”

“They’re burning with passion, Lord. She has not slept in eight days and eight nights thinking of her wedding night” Loki explained and Thrym blushed. 

Seeing the opportunity for some sister-in-law bonding, as Thrym and the maid servant slipped away, Thrym’s sister went and sat at Thor’s side. “My sister!” She cried. “How beautiful your rings are, and your bells! What I would do for jewelry like that. How about you give me sme, as a bride gift! You’re going to need friends here, now hand them over or..”

Thrym and the maid servant returned then, and he looked down at his sister, who quickly returned to her seat. He cleared his throat again and looked to the gathered guests. “Now the feast is over, bring out the gift! Bring out Mjolnir so I can present it to my beautiful wife!”

It took four giants to carry the hammer out, and Loki, who was the maid servant, stifled a chuckle as the short handle of the weapon made it quite comical to watch four trying to handle it. They grumbled and jostled eachother, stepping on toes and tripping over seemingly nothing. After a few tense minutes, they finally made their way up the dias and sat Mjolnir on the table before Thor. 

He grinned and stood, grasping the handle with one hand, and raising his vail with the other. He watched the look of realisation settle on Thrym’s face, then raised the hammer, and in a single stroke, Thrym was dead.

***

As the Giants and Ogres lay dead and scattered around the feast hall, tables and benches unended, food littering the straw covered floor, Loki, back in his true form, emerged from below a table, wiping a splatter of blood from his face. “You could have given me some kind of warning” He said, and stepping over the corpses, they both made their way back to Thor’s chariot, and made their way home, Mjolnir sat in its rightful place at Thor’s side. 

Posted in Mythology

The one where Thor nearly married an Ogre – Part I

I guess I want to start with a quick ‘why am I doing this’. Norse Mythology is absolutely amazing and so very different from other mythologies out there. And unlike the others, it seems like it’s almost encouraged for you to retell them in your own way. As Neil Gaiman says in the introduction of his Norse Mythology: “That’s the joy of myths, the fun comes in telling them yourself, something I warmly encourage you to do”. So, Mr Gaiman, I’m taking your encouragement and I’m going to run with it, ‘cause why not. Below is a retelling of one of the tales Gaiman covers – Freya’s Unusual Wedding, the 8th story in his collection. Seriously, go check it out, it is a fantastic book and his take on the Myths he covers is so refreshing.

The one where Thor nearly married an Ogre – Part 1

The sun shone through the windows as it slowly peaked over the horizon, its rays caressing the sleeping forms of Thor and his beautiful wife Sif. Thor rolled over, burying his head in his pillows as he grumbled. “I forgot to close the curtains again..” He sighed, and after a few more moments, he swung his legs out of bed and blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the bright light. He pulled on his trousers and looked to the floor by his bed, blinking again.

“Sif…” He said, shaking his wifes shoulder to rouse her. “Sif.. Where did I leave my hammer last night..?” He let the question linger as he thought over the events of the night before, feasting and singing, and drinking, lots of drinking, but he remembered making it to his room and he remembered putting his hammer down beside him as he fell into bed.

Thor’s hammer was special. It was forged for him by the brothers Brokkr and Eitri in their workshop in Svartalfheim, the world of Dark Fields, and is perfect in every way but one. Due to a slight mishap during the forging of the weapon (no thanks to Loki), the handle is a little short, meaning Thor can only wield it with one hand. It can shrink it down to fit it in his pocket, and no matter how hard and far he throws it, it will always come back to his hand. It can level mountains and kill a giant in a single hit. It’s name is Mjolnir, and it was missing.

“Loki…” He growled as he pushed himself to his feet. When things went wrong in Asgard, the easiest thing, and usually the correct assumption, was to blame Loki, but even at his worst, Thor doubted even Loki would do this. If, as in with this case, it is something you don’t think Loki is likely to have done, the second step is to assume Loki either knows something about it, or will figure out a way to fix it. So this is what Thor did. He stormed out of his room, leaving Sif staring after him, a look of confusion on her face as the door slammed behind him. 

He stalked through the halls, eventually making it to Loki’s room. Boom, boom boom Thor hammered on the door. “Loki!” He shouted. “Loki!!”

“I’m coming!” Loki’s voice could be heard, and after a few moments, as Thor lifted his hand to knock again, the hinges squeaked and the door was unlocked and opened. “Good morning, Thor! I hope you had a fantastic evening last night, though I’m surprised to see you up so early” Loki’s voice soft and gentle, a smile on his face as he knew he had done nothing to arouse Thor’s wrath, so what did Thor need him to fix this time?

“My hammer. Mjolnir. It’s… it’s missing.” Thor replied as he lowered his hand. “And I need you to go find it.”

“Good morning to you too, Loki, yes, last night was fine indeed, it’s a shame I didn’t see you there” Loki said in a surprisingly accurate mimicry of Thor’s voice as he stepped aside to let the Aesir enter. “What do you mean it’s missing?” He eventually continued.

“I put it by my bed when I went to sleep and when I woke up, it was gone.”

“Gone?”

“Gone.”

“And.. what exactly do you want me to do about it?” Loki asks again. 

“I want you to find it, Loki.” Thor replied without hesitation. “I need my hammer back. Without it, how am I meant to protect Asgard and Midgard? How am I meant to kill Giants?”

Loki sighed with resignation. “Fine. Follow me” 

Loki led them through the halls and corridors to Freya’s chambers and before he had the chance to knock Thor burst through the door. “Freya! Loki wants…” He turns to Loki stepping in behind him. “Why are we here, Loki? Does Freya have -”

“Shut up, Thor.” Loki interrupted before lowering himself in a bow to the goddess before him. “My beautiful Frey-”

“What do you want, Loki?” She asked, her eyes as cold as ice as she stared at the two of them.

Loki straightened “I need to borrow your cloak, the one that lets you fly like a bird”

Her laugh was musical as it echoed around the hall before she looked back to him, deadpan. “No.” she says simply.

“But Freya” Thor whined.

“You think I’m going to lend one of my prize possessions to you two? Really?” She asks with a raised eyebrow. “After the incident with my necklace of the Brisings, you really think I would trust you, Loki, with my cloak?”

“Thor’s hammer has been stolen and I need to go find it. Once again, Freya, may I please borrow your cloak?” 

She looks to him, her eyes tracking over him for any hint of mischief, but seeing the clear worry of Thor, she nods. “I’ll go get it.”

***

Thor and Freya watched as Loki took to the skies like an Eagle and soared through the clouds until he disappeared from sight.

He soared across the worlds, from Asgard, over Midgard, towards Jotunheim, also called Udgård. It was as he crossed the borders of Jotunheim he spotted a large figure sat upon a hill weaving what appeared to be dog collars. He circled around the figure for some time before settling on the ground before it.

“Loki!” The figure bellowed. “It is very good to see you out this way, what brings you to the Land of the Giants on this fine morning?”

Loki tilted his head. He did not know this figure, though could now identify him as an Ogre. “How do you know me?” He asked.

“How are things back in Asgard?” He asks, choosing not to respond to the one Loki had asked “How is Thor and how is Freya?”

Something at that moment clicked in Loki’s mind. “Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, has been stolen, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about that now, would you?”

“Of course I do!” The Ogre roared with a laugh. “I took it from his bedside in the early hours this morning, why else would I be sitting here waiting for you, Loki?”

“Don’t get me wrong sir, sorry, what was your name again?”

“I am Thrym” The Ogre declared with triumph, “Lord of all the Ogres”

Loki nods and continues. “Now Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your pranks, the Asgardians on the other hand… don’t. I need to take Thor’s hammer home and return this cloak to Freya before she has the Dwarves make my hide into a cloak.”

“You can have Mjolnir back,” Thrym said with a smile, but he held a hand up to stop Loki before he could thank him. “on one condition”

“That will be no problem!” Cried Loki in relief. “I can arrange a ransom for the Hammer, Gold, Gems, Treasures, whatever you could dream of, just return the hammer and whatever it is will be yours!”

“I want Freya. The beautiful Freya. I want her to be my wife and in return I shall present Mjolnir as a bridal gift. That is all I ask, simply her hand in marriage”

Loki did not like the sound of this. Freya would never agree to such a thing, though in return for the hammer, surely even Freya could make a sacrifice to retrieve the weapon, Thor did need it to protect them, and Midgard from the Giants…

“She will come to my halls in eight days time” Thrym continued. “Shrouded in her bridal veil how beautiful she will look…” Then Thrym became silent, his eyes unfocusing as he fell into daydreams of the life ahead of him with Freya.

***

Loki landed before Thor, who unlike Freya had stayed to wait for his return. “You know something.” Thor said, narrowing his eyes in accusation. “Tell me what it is you know before you… do what you always do and cause more trouble”

Loki stood there, a look of mock offence on his face. “I’m hurt that you would think such a thing of me, Thor, am I not the reason you have your hammer in the first place?” Loki was correct, as he usually was. It was in fact he that set the brothers Brokkr and Eitri against the sons of Ivaldi and had them produce the treasures of the gods, Mjolnir included – but that is a tale for another time. “Though you are correct in your assumption that I know something. I have found your hammer, I have found Mjolnir”

Thor’s face lit up “Do you have it? Where is it?”

Loki’s lips pursed. “Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres has it.” He stated “And he is willing to ransom it back to us”

“So what does he want, gold, gems, treasure?”

“He wants Freya”

“Crap.”

***

Loki and Thor kneeled before the beautiful Freya and she took her folded cloak from Loki’s outstretched hand. “I trust you found Mjolnir?” She asked as she retook her seat upon the dias. 

Loki lowered his arms and raised his gaze to the Goddess. “I was not in a position to retrieve it, but I have located it and it is retrievable.” He said.

“That is good! I wish you all the luck in the nine realms, now both of you, kindly leave”

Thor opened his mouth and was about to speak, stopped in his tracks with a cold glare from Loki, who pushes himself to his feet. “Unfortunately, it’s not going to be that simple.” He said with a soft sigh. “Do you know of Thrym, Lord of all the Ogres?”

She inclined her head. “I have heard of him. A nasty piece of work on all accounts” She said. “If he has your hammer, Thor, then you will be lucky to get it back”

Thor pushed himself to his feet as he was addressed and once again went to speak, but Loki stopped him with a raised hand and spoke in his place.

“Thrym has agreed to ransom Mjolnir back to us, and asks for simply one thing to guarantee it’s safe return to us” Loki said as he took a small step forward. Freya raised an eyebrow but nodded to him to continue. “Thrym has simply asked to wed the most beautiful of those who reside in Asgard”

Thor looked to Loki in outrage. “You told me it was Freya he wanted to marry, not Sif!” 

She pointedly ignored Thor and continued to look at Loki, even for him, her face was unreadable.

“Yes, it is you, Freya, most beautiful of all, who’s hand Thrym wishes to have in marriage.”

She inclines her head

“In eight days time,” Loki continued, “You shall be presented to Thrym as his bride, and in return, as a Bridal Gift, he shall give you Mjolnir”

Her icy visage remained unchanging. “If you think I, Freya of the Vanir, most beautiful of all those who reside in Asgard, will allow you send me off to live the rest of my life in Jotunheim, if you think I will allow you to sell me off to an Ogre in return for Mjolnir, you truly are idiots, Loki, I thought so much better of you than this.”

“But Freya!” Thor whined. “What about my hammer? What about Mjolnir?”

“That” Freya said as she rose to her feet, “Is for you two lackwits to figure out. I am going to go enjoy my evening and forget this exchange ever happened. Now if you don’t mind” She motioned to the door.

“But Freya!” Thor continued to whine as Loki dragged him from the hall.


To Be Continued…

Part II can be found here