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Things I have been doing instead of blogging

February 15, 2010
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So; haven’t blogged for almost a fortnight. Because of stuff. Well, mainly because of Team Fortress 2, of which there has been a recent resurgence round at J’s house, and slightly because term is now properly underway and I’m trying to write an essay on the comedic component of Othello, another one on Trójumanna Saga, and the first third of my dissertation all at the same time.

We also had a double session of D&D last week because Graham* (our DM) decided that some plot needed to happen. And so this resulted in us fighting a bunch of giant anthropomorphic alligators (in Fantasy!Russia. Go figure) and some dude who just stood there through the entire fight, then said “Oh, it’s six o’clock” and vanished into thin air, at which point the gunmage’s pocketwatch exploded into her chest, requiring open-heart magical engineering to get her on her feet again. She’s now so irrevocably insane that her cloudcuckoolander sentient pistol has more common sense than she does.

And then the day after that we broke into a top-secret research station (by the simple expedient of having the rather-more-literal-than-usual tank walk through the wall), killed some guys, stole a prototype magic zeppelin and got so distracted by fighting the psychotic construct with the body of a six-year-old girl that we didn’t notice the blimp was in the process of crashing into the capital city until it happened.

So those are my collected excuses for not blogging for the last couple of weeks. However, there is a post stewing: I spent yesterday at the Viking Society Student Conference, held this year at UCL, which was a million kinds of awesome and brought up some really interesting things. The focus was skaldic poetry – the verse fragments scattered throughout the otherwise prose sagas, mostly – which isn’t much studied and about which I knew nothing at all – and turned out to be really interesting.

It made me think about a bunch of stuff, including one line of thought which will, as previously stated, probably end up its own post, but for now, a couple of thoughts:

1) Kennings. I was familiar with common-or-garden kennings from Anglo-Saxon poetry, where they tend to be two nouns or a noun and an adjective smooshed together – ban-hús ‘bone-house’ for ‘skeleton’, or hrón-rade ‘whale-road’ for ‘sea’. They’re usually pretty self-explanatory or at least can be figured out with minimal thought – ‘hammer’s leftovers’ may not be the most intuitive synonym for ‘sword’, but you get there in the end.

Skaldic kennings? Take it to a whole new level. You get things like ‘the flesh of the mother of the killer of giants’ as a kenning for ‘earth’. Deconstructed, it comes out as ‘killer of giants’ = ‘Thor’; ‘mother of [Thor]’ = ‘Jarðar [Earth]’; ‘flesh of [Jarðar]’ = ‘the ground’. So ‘the heroes buried the gold in the ground’ turns into an impenetrable poetic riddle taking eight lines. On the subject of which,

2) Dróttkvætt. This eight-line, generally trimetric verse form is what the skalds wrote their verses in and it is stupidly difficult. In a nutshell: odd-numbered lines have internal half-rhyme; even-numbered lines have internal perfect rhyme; and each distych alliterates like an Anglo-Saxon line (X of the X / X of the Y). And then there are stylistic rules about what you can use and how you can say stuff. My brain asplode just thinking about how damn difficult that would be in English. (I also want to try it a little bit.)

So. There will be another post soon, and I hope to return to a more regular schedule shortly. The end.

* His name is very definitely not Graham.

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