It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.
A really interesting survey of the impact Norse mythology has had on culture from the time it was first written down in Iceland onward to the present day (or at least the date of publication, earlier this century).
First off there's a look at what we know about Norse myth from written sources and archaeology, noting the problems and uncertainties associated with each and the vast yawning absences in our knowledge that look to be forever irreperable. The most important stories from the written stories are outlined - necessary information for the next part of the book, which surveys how Norse myth impacted all aspects of culture, social, political, artistic in a progression from the 13th Century to the 21st.
O'Donoghue restricts herself only to the "highlights" in order to fill in trends and register the most impactful social and artistic movements. This is no doubt essential for a book aimed at a popular audience, with a length restiction, however, I could have wished for both more detail and a more comprehensive discussion, at the risk of ending up with a longer and more academic book.
A good deal of discussion of nobility and noble action, using Classical Greek and Roman models. But now it's Act 4 and crucial events will soon take place.
The Boyhood Deeds of Cu Chulaind
Celtic heroes were mostly a precocious bunch and Cu Chulaind is a prime example, able to beat the other boys (all three fifties of them (at once)) at any feat of prowess and kill with his bare hands a dog that all the adult warriors are scared of. He goes on to single-handly defend Ulster from the assembled forces of most of the rest of Ireland for days.
Did you know Victor Hugo did graphic art? He has two pieces reproduced here.
One of Hans Bellmer's Doll pictures, an exceptionally creepy image, to me at least, is also reproduced. See it here:
Numerous contemporary right-wing, racist and white-supremecist groups are still using Old Norse culture as a basis for their beliefs.
Saying much about the plot would spoil the fun, so I will restrict myself to noting that Gaiman isn't the first author I've come across who has a bit of a dig at Twilight's sparkly vampires and that it's a safe bet the author has seen The Usual Suspects.
Himmler, in contrast to Hitler, bought heavily into neo-Norse runic mysticism that reflected the generally intensifying racism and anti-semetism of the period in Germany.
Despite Wagner being Hitler's favourite composer and Fritz Lang's 1924 film, Die Nibelungen, a favourite film, he was contemptuous of anyone espousing actual neo-Pagan spiritual beliefs.
Wagner draws primarily on Old Norse sources but mixes them with later German work and his own inventions to form a single, coherent narrative for the libretti of his Ring Cycle of operas.
The Cattle Raid of Froech
Cattle raiding is a Big Thing in the Irish Celtic stories. It also was a historical fact of the Scottish Highlanders' way of life. I'm not sure if it was pan-Celtic or not. Anyway, Froech wants to marry the daughter of Mebh but he's opposed at every turn and adventures ensue. Lots of Celtic literature motifs, including, rings, fairies, salmon, lake monsters, cattle raiding, feasting and complicated tasks required of the hero in order to get the girl...
In terms of individual artists, my great discovery during my Berlin visit was Piranesi. Two of his Imaginary Prisons/Prisons of the Imagination (the Italian is open to either interpretation) images are reproduced here but there's a roomful in the museum. They are my strongest memories of my time there.
I've only just twigged that this Chapman is the same Chapman that translated The Iliad and The Oddessy into English.