Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Arthurian Sagas of Scandinavia (Notes:16)

Depiction of the Stave church, the oldest known image of the Norwegian Church.

A clash between a courtly ethos and a civilized one; the Arthurian tradition among the Norse territories introduced new concepts into the Arthur legend. Upon first imagining, the pillaging and seafaring clich├ęs typically associated with Norse raiders appears an ill-fit for King Arthur.
Of the manuscript translations, which happened in the 1200s, the manuscripts had been long in the past, so it is impossible to tell if quirks about the texts are part of the translator’s issues or if it is the original scribe’s fault. So, scholars are unsure of how the Norse Arthurian texts progressed and whether their issues are a result of momentary but powerful superimposition, or if it was more of a process.

“Sagas of Knights” was the name given to the collection of Arthurian Romances in the Norse tradition. Although this lordly commissioned text bundle was an important entry point for Arthurian legend, evidence suggests that a monetary was also a vital passage way for Arthurian texts. The earliest entry point for Arthurian literature goes to Iceland who has a translation of a Merlin portion of Geoffrey of Month’s ‘History of the Kings of Britain, around the year 1200; this was due to the travelling of the Arthurian literature which, outside of Britain, came to be known as ‘The Matter of Britain.’

By 1300, these Arthurian tales were popular enough to rival the well-established literary traditions of France (tales of Charlemagne and Rome, in other words). When the complete translation of Geoffrey’s history was published, translated, likely, by a Monk, in Scandinavia, it was dubbed ‘Sagas of the Britains.’ Some of the changes include: the account of Arthur’s conquest as him conquering and them setting up rulers who were paid tribute toward. This is because the text was translated into Old Icelandic with Geoffrey’s prose translated into verse, giving it a distinct identity within the Norse tradition.

The reason why the Arthurian legend was commissioned by a Norwegian king was because of a program of self-improvement which he thought was vital to his military conquests and expansionism. The year 1226 was the year in which the first translation of the “Tristen” story appears whose original author is signed as a Thomas of Britain. Later he would commission the stories of Chretien de Troyes and Marie de France as part of what scholars believe was his emphasis on texts which promoted an ideal kingship.

Part of the culture clash was that the 12th century feudal structure and values of the original texts were impossible to map onto 13th century Scandinavian territories. Several changes: fishing was emphasized and so the Perceval story with the Fisher King is switched where the Fisher King does catch fish. Additionally, virtual kingship is displayed directly instead of debate and swooning—for the most part, chivalry and courtly love has been pruned. Berserkers take a prominent place in the re-orientation of values as the texts are adapted into the Norse setting.

Much of the pedagogical emphasis is secular in nature with a great deal of the religious and spiritual focus is cut down, with characters like Perceval being revered as a good husband and knight, with his training and questing part of his moral virtual, not religious in origin. Most of the courtly material is discarded. In some texts, however, there does seem to be a proto-feminist arrangement in those texts which keep some aspects of courtly politics.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Enchanted Assemblages: "Merlin Explains"

Not my Merlin, but you get the idea.

I haven't spoken explicitly on the pedagogical nature of the game yet and hope to post an explanation of the actual pedagogical philosophy soon, however, in the meantime, I wanted to talk about at least one aspect of the educational experience-- Merlin Explains.

Everyone knows who Merlin the wizard is-- he is King Arthur's trusted advisor who leads him to the the lake which bestows upon him the sword Excalibur. He is a powerful magic user and is a formidable force.

Part of this legend, of course, is his sage-like role in Arthur's adventures. So, I figured why not re-purpose this wise old man to help demystify the player's possibilities?

I intend to insert at the bottom of every significant post (i.e., every post which is embedded with a hefty amount of theoretical underpinnings which determine the course of the story), a small icon-link which reads "Merlin Explains" that when clicked on will take the player to a new window deconstructing the theory behind the options presented, why they were presented, and what deeper meaning the foundation theory indicates.

An essential part of this function will also to be a method of documentation. If I am basing some observations or theory upon scholarly research and/or engagement, then I need to be an upright academic-in-training and document my sources; otherwise, I am no better than the clickbait vultures who regurgitate information in order to make a quick buck (this would be especially erroneous since this is a Non-Profit undertaking-- I would never monetize my site; I may put up a PayPal link if people wish to donate, but I would not add advertisements to my site or market it in a way so as to expressly solicit funds outside of upkeep and the occasional generous subscriber).

So, in effect, Merlin Explains will be a subtle, out of the way mode of explanation and engagement. It will be a sly works cited page (subordinated to, of course, the project's bibliography) and a way for curious readers to dig deeper into the game's aspects in order to better understand the nuance of the game's parts as well as the logic of those parts themselves. I think it is a swell idea and hope others enjoy it as a unexpected inclusion.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Check out our Facebook page!

Go ahead-- talk to us!
Dear all,

We have a Facebook page now. You should like it-- why? Well, for one, we re-post all of our daily publications over there so if you ever forget to check our website, you can be handily reminded by liking our page and having the content delivered right into your feed. Another reason why you should like us over there is because we post fun stuff which we do no post on this blog; jokes, videos, and the all-powerful meme can all be found over on our Facebook page. So please, heck it out and gives us a like!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

King Arthur’s Other German Adaptations (Notes:15)

German Arthurian quest map.

To say a few more words on Gotfried’s “Tristen” text, it is a massive 19,000 line poem of rhyming couplets in which he muses on Christian ideals in relation to knightly virtues (this is a reoccurring theme at this time and should sound familiar). As a writer, scholars have determined that Gotfried must have been well educated and showed a tendency to deride Harkman’s text as overly focused on smoke and mirrors.

Another Author from the German tradition, Elric Slovan, wrote the “Lancelette” at the end of the 12th century. What is unique about his story is that he bases his writings on not French texts but rather earlier Celtic ones. His writings tell of a more tribal oriented Arthur in addition to writing on Lancelot stories which appear nowhere else in the Arthurian tradition and gives prof. Armstrong hope that Lancelot’s a historical figure which simply has had his textual evidence yet to be discovered. Slovan’s story is a Fair Unknown incarnation of where a young Lancelot is raised in a kingdom of magical women until he goes off on adventures to prove his royal blood (or more accurately, discover his royal blood). Ultimately, the story transitions into an abduction, or “Ifid” narrative of Queen Guinevere being captured and in need of rescue.

Another early German Arthurian text is, and I am paraphrasing since the audio was confusing, the “Wingoinova” by Vlaguinbert who writes of a knight travelling to King Arthur’s court so as to offer a magical girdle and challenge Arthur’s knights should the gift be refused. What’s noteworthy about this text is that it marks the beginning of a tradition in Arthurian literature where items have a meaning beyond themselves, where they enable narrative and religious signification ahead of that of mere rudimentary constructs. Aside from this, though, the text has a heavy emphasis on Christianity over Paganism and acts as a sort of precursor to the saintly Galahad stories.

Yet another massive Arthurian text is called “The Crown,” a large 30,041 lines epic, written in 1230, where the author intentionally crams in as many Arthurian texts as possible in order to appeal to as wide a margin of people as possible. The author of the poem, a clear master of all things Arthurian, writes Gawain as gaining the grail, something which does not happen in any other Arthurian legend. The title of the text does not refer to King Arthur’s crown, as may be initially thought, but rather the poem itself, with the ‘crown’ being the structure of the poem, and the various lines as the ‘crown’s’ lines and words.

The German Arthurian tradition, however, begins to decline during the next several centuries with only sporadic translations of French texts occurring. Although the Dutch would find the texts enjoyable, where at the height of their popularity parents naming their children after figures from the legends, only five original Arthurian texts would be produced by Dutch writers; it would be the Prose Lancelot which would be the most popular text.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

'The Battle of Brunanburh' Initial Impressions

*sniffles* "That's who beat me up, My lord!" "Then we shall make them pay, Eric; we shall make them pay dearly; never again will they give an Englishman an Indian burn!"

If there is one thing that tenth century texts do not espouse then it is nationalism. As a concept, nationalism didn’t emerge until after the hundred year’s war; even then, it would take longer to truly implement and normalize as an idea for the common folk to internalize. So what is interesting about The Battle of Brunanburh is that what we may call proto-nationalist sentiment bathes the text.

                As Kevin Crossley-Holland notes, it “looks beyond the immediate context to speak of [the] king, this poem is concerned from first to last with king and country” (6 The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology). The poem is simple in that it simply escribes the defeat of the Norse king Anlaf and Constantine, King of the Picts during a battle in the north-west of England. But the poem is complex in how it presents said information; as it is heavily concerned with king and country, one sees repeated references to the homeland of the invaders as well as the defenders virtues, what their defending and why it is important. While it may not be perceptible right off the bat what makes this poem different, upon a closer reading one is bound to notice seeming anachronisms that almost appear as though they do not belong in the usual corpus of tenth century texts.

                But, of course, such moments do belong as this text was merely ahead of its time in its ideological formation. Everything written here is by a visionary, of sorts, and indicates that Anglo-Saxon England had a diverse range of thought and philosophy. Even so, however, I did not find this poem very engaging. It was a bit off for me. I rarely like nationalistic moments of fervor, so this text was simply something that in the hit or miss category, was a miss.

Works Cited
Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology. Oxford: U.P., 2009. Print.