Michael Bay Make Arthur Go Boom: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Awesome, Christopher!

The earliest one that came to my mind was 1983's Strange Brew. It would make me strangely happy if a belching lion was the ground-breaker for the trope. :)

Also, folks, I'm going to do a positive review soon. It's gonna happen. I swear it. ::stabs sword into ground::

Lessons in Fantasy Languages from Harry Potter and The Hobbit

@17 - not sure what you're buzzing there. "Full marks" means "Perfect score" in British school systems. Wasn't saying Rowling was wrong at all.

 

@23 - Ummmm ... no. Just ... no.

The Medieval Origins of Easter Traditions

@10 - The date calculation was an issue betwixt them, but I perceive it to be less significant than some deeper theological matters of defining the relationships among God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

@11 - The more "traditional" name for the holiday is very much derived from the Greek, and we still see vestiges of it in references to things like the "Paschal Mystery." 

Determining the meaning of Proto-Indo-European roots is always a barrel of fun. I often liken it to constructing a kind of linguistic Venn diagram: the extant words in the languages of descent mean X, Y, and Z, so the root is likely to be the thing that X, Y, and Z have in common. It's an imperfect analogy, but it gets at the concept. What results is inevitably speculative, but the same is true of most historical investigations ... which is why I love them!

The Medieval Origins of Easter Traditions

 @8 - This is a re-posting of this article, in the comments of which the matter of Bede was similarly raised. As I said there:

---

Since some factual matters have been raised:

It is absolutely true that Bede’s Eostre was very much subject to debate …especially in the early 20th century. :)

There are several reasons that this debate has gone to favor Bede and Eostre:

1. On a basic level, Bede’s similar reports have proven largely accurate, and no convincing reason for falsehood on this specific matter has been shown.

2. It isn’t just Bede. We have now uncovered a sizable number of toponyms, personal names, and (most strikingly) votive inscriptions that show use of the same terminology across a wide swath of Germanic lands.

3. Not surprisingly given the above, proto-Germanic provides a multiplicity of attestations of derivations of *Austrō (the word behind ‘Eostre’) as associated with the dawn, and moving back into wider proto-Indo-European roots bears out the conclusion with more probability than not that there was a deity associated with the dawn/east who was likewise a figure of fertility. Like so many others, she was celebrated during the time of the vernal equinox – precisely when Bede says. 

For further reading, check out Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology (2007). Even more fun, Shaw’s in-depth study, Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons (2011) gets rather deep into this material despite its short page count. 

Lessons in Fantasy Languages from Harry Potter and The Hobbit

@4 – Latinists for the win! 

Regarding cruciatus (I’ll see if I can fix the typo!), I’m afraid that Lewis and Short (and Cicero) disagree with you. Gonna stand by my cruciatus, -us.

Regarding arma -orum, the Medieval Latinist in me wants to give Rowling the benefit of the doubt in sticking with armum (ill-fitting though it might be for Cicero) … but, your suggestion of telum has an added loveliness in that the Classical distinction betwixt arma and tela is one of distance. Since a wand is a “ranged” weapon, telum is indeed more fitting — especially since in poetic contexts tela can refer to lightning. 

Robin Hood Porn: The Virgins of Sherwood Forest

@11: Sigh. I *told* you not to watch it.

Regarding the bet: Since we both wasted time in our lives watching this dreck (with, admittedly, some fast-forwarding), it's safe to say that no one won.

Beowulf on the Big Screen: Good, Bad, and Even Worse

@24, the Heaneywulf is a tough thing for many Anglo-Saxonists: it brought welcome attention to this amazing poem, and it is largely quite readable (huzzah!). At the same time, Heaney is often partial to idiom and analogy that fits his own life rather than the life of the poem… which is the reason for the term ‘Heaneywulf’ — his translation is at times more Heaney than Beowulf. For a good overview of some of the issues at stake, Chickering put together an excellent piece for Kenyon Review. [Hey! It’s online: http://people.umass.edu/sharris/in/e505s/ChickeringHeaneywulf.pdf

For accuracy, my personal favorite is the translation of Liuzza. There are some slip-ups in it (by my subjective reading, obviously), but they are far outweighed by an overall readable connection to the original text 

Beowulf on the Big Screen: Good, Bad, and Even Worse

A couple of folks mentioned Parke Godwin’s retelling. It’s indeed great, and it’s on my top-5 writing adaptations of the story, which I’ll eventually get to posting (we’ll see if I can avoid including my own, haha). For more on Godwin: 

https://www.tor.com/2016/10/06/parke-godwin-and-the-historical-fantasy-of-king-arthur/

Beowulf on the Big Screen: Good, Bad, and Even Worse

@6: Quoting text for the win! (Though I’ll note that the Heaneywulf has some flaws as a translation for Anglo-Saxon cultural matters.) For the medieval audience, the “din” of civilization and the general existence of evil were indeed more than sufficient to justify a predatory dangerous dark. But I’d say this hardly constitutes motivation to the modern expectation — as I see every time I teach the poem to students (next week!), and as we see every time Hollywood tries to invent something sufficient.

History, Fantasy, and Weird Armor: Ladyhawke

@31 - below the Parierhaken (those points on the side of the blade), a zweihander’s blade was unsharpened (we call this a ricasso). The limited use of a sword like this was apparently to break up a formation of pikemen: you’d hold the sword by the end of the grip in order to get maximum reach to smash your way through the barrier of pikes. Once up close, you would shift your grip up to have a hand on the ricasso and another on the grip: this would shorten the blade length and make it more usable in close quarters. It’s cool stuff, though certainly not what we see in Ladyhawke.

@36 - “an Italian Excalibur wannabe using Orlando Furioso as its source material.” OMG. I must find this. 

@37 - You’re right that we don’t *know* all things for absolute certainty. Rather than throw our hands in the air and declare the pursuit of knowledge useless, though, we historians trudge on and assess the accumulated knowledge of the historical period — their manuals of arms, their reports of conflicts, their art (in all its myriad forms), their archaeological remains (curators do the Lord’s work), their physical remains, and our own experiences with experimental reconstruction (to name a few) — and do our best to make sense of it. 

History, Fantasy, and Weird Armor: Ladyhawke

Medieval prison cells were pretty uncommon. The rows of cages folks tend to imagine is a later invention. Locking folks up in confinement just wasn’t an economical proposition for the most part. When we do see them, though, they’d hardly be so heavy in the use of iron, as @21 observes. Think more in terms of a cramped cellar space with a door. (Even worse is an oubliette, but the film didn’t try to show that.) 

The idea of the sewer system beneath the cell was also pretty unlikely: sewage systems, such as they were, didn’t bother with providing aid to the prisoners! But, hey, they had to figure a way for Mouse to get out. :

The Medieval Origins of Easter

@19 - I didn't say Bede said that, so we're all cool there. :) It's mostly general knowledge in the field, though you'll see I provided two solid research sources in comment 18 for anyone interested. 

If you do read such things, note that Shaw (as he freely admits) has to be a *lot* more speculative on Hreda. The accusations you're making about having nothing to back up claims don't apply to Eostre at this point (since up-to-date research has multiple evidence strands), but I think it really does still apply to Hreda. I can't say Shaw is wrong on his Hreda conclusions, but it's fair warning. Still interesting stuff in the meantime, though!

The Medieval Origins of Easter

Since some factual matters have been raised:

It is absolutely true that Bede's Eostre was very much subject to debate …especially in the early 20th century. :)

There are several reasons that this debate has gone to favor Bede and Eostre:

1. On a basic level, Bede's similar reports have proven largely accurate, and no convincing reason for falsehood on this specific matter has been shown.

2. It isn't just Bede. We have now uncovered a sizable number of toponyms, personal names, and (most strikingly) votive inscriptions that show use of the same terminology across a wide swath of Germanic lands.

3. Not surprisingly given the above, proto-Germanic provides a multiplicity of attestations of derivations of *Austrō (the word behind 'Eostre') as associated with the dawn, and moving back into wider proto-Indo-European roots bears out the conclusion with more probability than not that there was a deity associated with the dawn/east who was likewise a figure of fertility. Like so many others, she was celebrated during the time of the vernal equinox - precisely when Bede says. 

For further reading, check out Simek's Dictionary of Northern Mythology (2007). Even more fun, Shaw's in-depth study, Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons (2011) gets rather deep into this material despite its short page count. 

Five Amazing Women Warriors of the Middle Ages

@2 - Boudica is a remarkable figure. She's not here only because she's pre-medieval. She was in my "Five Amazing Women in Ancient Rome" post, though!

@4 - Awesome bringing up the Lady of the Mercians. When I first learned about her in depth in graduate school, I wondered how she wasn't more well-known.

@9 - Michael Livingstons are the best of folks, he said with all the bias. :)

The Medieval Origins of Xmas

@8 - Easter is indeed on the to-do list! In terms of calendar-making it's one of my favorites. :)

Is The Norseman The Worst Viking Movie Ever Made?

The Curtis-Douglas Vikings film is on my to-do list. Could add Pathfinder (eek), too. And as it happens I'm working up a post on Beowulf movies that will include (it must!) The 13th Warrior.

All are bad in their own ways, but I've truly not seen a match for the Norzeman. Hillbilly Vikings for the win!

Trollhunter: Fun with Found Footage!

@2, @7 - Great question!

Putting on my professor's hat ...

Old Norse poetry is notoriously allusive and thus, well, elusive. So one possibility is that nafjarðar is simply an allusion to some aspect of Norse mythology or experience that simply has not survived to inform our understanding. Another possibility, though, first put forth by Finnur Jonsson in the 1930s, is that the word is a kenning.

Kennings, which are heavily used in Old English and Old Norse poetry, are clever circumlocutions in which a combination of words are used to metaphorically (and imagistically) represent another word. Thus the poet who wrote Beowulf spoke of the hero crossing the "whale-road," meaning "Sea." For nafjarðar, Jonsson proposed that "corpse-fjord" is a kenning for "grave." Thus the she-troll says she guards the grave, which may mean a literal grave or a metaphorical passage to the afterlife.

So not at all far off from where you were already thinking!

The History Behind Game of Thrones: Daenerys Targaryen and Cleopatra

@2 - Pratchett was a wise man! It is indeed true that some contemporary Roman writers said she was not a stunning beauty, but those writers very much hated her both as a foreign enemy and as an influence on Roman politics. Whether coinage accurately reflects the real Cleopatra -- and what contemporary perspectives of beauty would be relative to such depictions -- is an open question.

@3 - I think Tor was trying to point out that I'm a medievalist and so specialize in medieval matters … but that I also look at more modern reinterpretations of the Middle Ages than those of the Victorian period (i.e., modern medievalism). 

@4 - This is absolutely so. The Wars of the Diadochi and Ptolemy stealing Alexander's corpse are not studied often enough!

@all - Thanks for reading!

Getting Medieval on Game of Thrones’ Battle of the Bastards

@7. It was indeed sudden. They were thinking of the body walls in the Civil War, I'm sure, but that's of course a gunpowder conflict. And yeah, the "staff" around Ramsay was silly. 

The helmets, though … it's something that bothers me a lot. You'll see it mentioned again in my medieval review of the Warcraft movie when it comes out. ;)

Getting Medieval on Game of Thrones’ Battle of the Bastards

@3. I agree. Terrible use of strategic resources by Team Stark.

@4. I like Jon, and Kit Harrington's performance was amazing. But he's the opposite of a leader in this one. Here's hoping he gets his act together when the White Walkers stop walking in circles and head south.

@5. If you check out my recent Battle of Crécy: A Casebook, you'll see that the French intentionally riding over the Genoese is a myth. The truth is far more interesting (and understandable).

@6. True enough, though the geographical scales were far larger there. The Knights of the Vale ride right up to the foregrounds of Winterfell without encountering scouts or pickets or informants of any kind. While it was predictable in the show, it is laughably preposterous against history. 

5 Mistakes That Hollywood Blockbusters Should Stop Making, as Proved By Pan

Chuck nails it regarding a Pan origin worth reading and filming: Peter and the Starcatchers

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

@19 - I think it's safe to say that the consensus starting point for GGK is Tigana. 

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

@15 - That's an excellent point. All ages are in a constant dialogue with their past, of course, reinventing it to serve the needs of their present. The Romans did it, Chaucer did it, and we certainly do it, too. GRRM just does it on a massive scale, and in that regard your example of Arthur is spot-on: Martin is like a new Thomas Malory!

@16 - Oh, yes! GGK is indeed a formidable voice in fantasy, and his style of re-imagination is simply delightful. (On a personal side note, though Shards of Heaven is more of a "secret history" with fantasy elements, one of my swoon-worthy moments was when an earmy reader compared my work to his -- I regard GGK as one of the masters of storytelling!) 

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

@13 - Absolutely true, Annara!

And you are so very right about the difficulties inherent in using historical environments in fiction. How does one establish tension when the reader can look up what happened on Wikipedia? It's an interesting challenge, to be sure, which is one of the many reasons why Shards of Heaven, my upcoming trilogy of novels with Tor, is "historical fantasy" rather than "historical fiction" -- the rise of Augustus Caesar is well-documented, but my hidden mythology certainly is not!

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

@8 There has been some interest from the Powers That Be for me to refashion my lecture into a couple of articles that could appear here. Won't be as awesome as seeing the real thing at JordanCon, but perhaps it'll do in a pinch!

@9 Absolutely right. In a historical sense, it's not "medieval" at all. It's "medievalism" by virtue of using the Middle Ages, but that's a different thing. I've no doubt Game of Thrones in particular will continue to be called "medieval," though, if for no other reason than our cultural affinity for the term. People tend to be interested in something that's "medieval" -- and as a medievalist I cannot blame them!

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

@7 Exactly so. I wasn't asked for a full break-down of medieval inspirations for Martin's work, but as you rightly observe there are an extraordinary number. To cover them all would be a book in and of itself (actually, such books are starting to come out). His work is simply steeped in historical bits and pieces that have been carefully refashioned into a new thing.

And it's not just from the Middle Ages. Martin is grabbing from everywhere, which I find wonderful.

As for your last point, what I see Kelly DeVries saying (if I can put words in his mouth) is that the general experience of the Middle Ages was usually pretty quiet and unexciting. Sure, there were extraordinary moments and events and people -- there's a reason why I study this for a living! -- but those are exceptions to the human experience across the period, not the rule. Generally speaking, Martin flips this equation on its head: "boring" ho-hum normalcy is the exception in ASOIF, not the rule. What he's built, as I say above, is a kind of "Greatest Hits" -- no B-tracks allowed!

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

@6 I think you’re trying to disagree with me, but I think we might be saying the same thing. What I’m trying to articulate is that “medievalism” (which is what Knight’s Tale, ASOIF, and so many other wonderful works are) isn’t about portraying the “real truth” of the Middle Ages; it's about the use of that past to speak to the present. Medievalism is “true” to our perceptions, not the truth. It’s apples and oranges.

(And truthfully, writing the word “true” so many times is truly making this historian a little anxious. I feel like I should take Indiana Jones’ advice and head to Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class just down the hall.)

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

@4 Aye, that's me! At JordanCon I've lectured on Robert Jordan and Tolkien, and with my novel coming out from Tor this year I've been on some writing related panels, as well. JordanCon is a truly great experience. 

At the End of Babel

@1 Acoma is indeed marvelous. One of my inspirations was my own visit to that extraordinary community. (I go into further details of how the story came to be on my website.)

Thank you all for reading!

Getting Medieval on George R. R. Martin

The Citadel is in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. Thanks for reading!

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