Thursday Dances: Bookish Christenings

Having long subscribed to the view that it’s preposterous to plot out first names for one’s entirely hypothetical children without having any idea what surname would be appended thereto, I have not, to be frank, spent a lot of time choosing any.

But I will confess a particular weakness where names are concerned, dear reader, and that is finding out what names mean.  Because my name is a common noun, capitalized, I took to translating it into other languages; any given Solo cup would read “Alegría” on one side and “Freude” on the other and “Alassë” for thoroughness on a third.  On finding that any other name could also be translated once one discovered its meaning, I figured out that my brothers’ names meant “little,” “martial,” and “gift of God,” respectively (and, more importantly, that in Quenya I could call them Pityon, Carnildo, and Eruntalon).

Not only so, but my friends evidently embody such traits as: song; earth-digger; grace; pure; pure; pure; Christian; Christian; honey/dark/we were never quite sure; reborn; powerful leader; little king; princess; reaper; commander of armies.  …there are, you may deduce, a number of Katherines.

However, the Meme does not care how my friends call themselves; the Meme demands to know how my children will be named despite there being, as yet, no sire for them.  So here’s my best assay:

The Princess BrideWesley – Old English, “dweller of a western meadow” – which might be especially false if the family ends up on the Eastern seaboard.  Where he shall become a Dread Pirate.  Muahaha.

The Ballad of the White HorseColan – Gaelic, “people’s victory” (or, depending whom you ask, “dove”) – Man shall not taste of victory / Till he throws his sword away.  And I’d have people remember that.  My only concern is the potential for misfortune should people render my poor son’s name as “Colon;” at best, it’s a punctuation mark.

The Chronicles of NarniaEdmund – Old English, “wealthy protector” – Thalia and I might have to duke it out for this one.  Everyone wishes there were a wealthy protector in their family, right?

In the Hall of the Dragon KingQuentin – Latin, “fifth” – Totally picked this before reading Thalia’s post the other day; Quentin went from weedy acolyte to SWORD-FORGER, which is my favorite part of Lawhead’s work.  Possibly dubious name-wise if I don’t have 5 children…but perhaps more reasonable than Septimus, which also appeals to me despite it being the name of a blood-spilling, power-hungry uncle in Stardust

Ender’s ShadowNikolai – Greek, “people’s victory” – Should we not ask the people who think Colan means dove, this might put me in the peculiar position of having sons named with the same meaning (whatever, man, I bet there’s a family somewhere with sons named John, Matthew, Nathaniel, and Theodore).  But Colan is a sword-flinger whereas Nikolai is a brother among brothers.  We just won’t shorten their names lest the “col” root confuse anyone.

And for the ladies:

Howl’s Moving Castle
Sophie – Greek, “wisdom” – More desirable than rubies.

That Hideous Strength Camilla – Latin/Italian, “young servant” – Is it bizarre to name a daughter for a character who likes weather?  Very well, then, I shall be bizarre.

The Winter’s Tale (and nothing else ever, no nothing, nothing at all) – Hermione – Greek, “messenger” or “earthly” or “travel” or “something else related to Hermes” – I can’t actually name a child this.  No one can pronounce Hermione on the first go-around, and Hermione of myth and plays does not, in my estimation, have the happiest of lots.  But it’s an awfully pretty name when said correctly.

The OdysseyPenelope – Greek, “weaver” – Hopefully people will address her without rhyming her name with “antelope.”  Plus the name’s practically synonymous with fidelity.  Yay!

Gaudy Night et al. – Harriet – Old German, “home-ruler” – Obviously this cannot be the only Germanic name I come up with, but for right now, it sounds reassuringly solid.

 

Heaven only knows what surname they’ll work with.

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Thursday Dances: Book Crushes

Goodness gracious me.  Something, dear friends, must be wrong with my head.  There have been days to spend in ponderings and contemplation, days to light upon the men of fiction who have strolled off with my heart in tow.  And yet, for all that my mind would ruminate on these characters and their respective qualities, the strands of thoughts melt.  It’s like chewing gum only to find that one’s gum is candy and has already dissolved.

Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

This ought not be.  I must have a serious problem with memory.  My ill-regulated memory, as that great detective might say, has finally gone on strike altogether.  Maybe something’s trying to tell me somebody…

Perhaps I need someone with great power: someone who could draw me out of my hole of forgetfulness with laughter and song as he draws Frodo and company from the Barrow-Downs (no knives needed here!); someone who “sets ringing with his singing all the fields and lanes,” and delights in beautiful things; one who can command the very trees but is not swayed by any temptation to greater power.

Someone rather like Tom Bombadil, with his golden boots and his flowers for the River’s Daughter and his enigmatic role in Middle Earth, so cryptic that the movies left him out to go somewhere else.  These are the sorts of things that make my heart flutter a bit.

None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: His songs are the stronger songs, and his feet are faster!

But since Tom is the Eldest and the Master, he may be a bit much, even for a Muse.  And so my thoughts turn to a fellow who is sturdy and strong, an able cook, and an elf-friend.  He is the exemplar of loyal, loving devotion to one’s master.  He is the hero who carries on through the darkest places, no matter the burden and despite all temptations.  He is the poet who finds consolation in stories and the hope of what tales may be.  And when evil has been beaten back, Samwise the Stouthearted journeys back to the friends, family, and homeland he defended so courageously.  He does not grow restless, but puts down his roots and plants his trees and guards the history of the War of the Ring.

In short, certainly a figure worthy of all the affection my heart gives him…though his fictitiousness might be a problem…to say nothing of his height.  Not that I’d swoon over any man solely on account of his height.  Hardly.  …but if I did, it’d be over Julian Delphiki – better known, perhaps, as Bean.

That might be the most crushlike of these book crushes, because I cannot explain what it is about Bean that draws me to him.  His intelligence is without bounds, his memory eidetic, his wit cutting, and his understanding of the world around him in all ways solid.  Perhaps that attracts me because, despite all the evidence of reality, I hope that someone with a very fast mind could understand the actions of those around him.  Or perhaps his intelligence creates the illusion that he can protect those he loves, though no lover or parent can keep the world out or death at bay – not the death of others, nor their own.

Beyond all reason, Bean delights me because of his weaknesses.  That is, insofar as he is vulnerable, it is because he is a human who loves.  It may have taken him years to learn it, and it really may not sound like much, but that is what makes Bean hard to resist.

Book Crush: the Sandman

I can’t help it.  I’m in love with the King of Dreams.  I’m not even sure he’s intrinsically lovable, but, well, he’s Dream.  He’s a tall, pale, gaunt fellow with eyes that flash like stars and a shock of black hair that would put a punk rocker to shame.  He dresses completely in black, and has no sense of humor worthy of the name.  He’s at once vengeful and completely honor-bound.

I'll admit, I'm given, on occasion, to dressing all in black myself, so I appreciate Morpheus' sense of style.

He’s also the ruler of the Dreaming, the ever-shifting realms created from the sleeping minds of dreamers everywhere in the world (and off it).  He has a raven servant named Matthew who calls him simply “Boss” and a library full of every book ever written and all the ones never written, too.  He can shape things out of the fabric of dreams, as well as shift the waking world around himself.  Death is his older sister.

So why am I in love with him?  Mostly, it’s because of what he is.  He’s the incarnation of Dreams, and as a dreamer myself, I was pretty much a goner from the start.  And, well, he is the tall, dark, and broody sort that, I shall admit with some embarrassment, does have a certain appeal.  As the ruler of the Dreaming, responsible for maintaining order (inasmuch as such a thing is possible for such a phantasmagorical realm), his powers and abilities are all kinds of awesome.

I guess a relationship really wouldn’t work out with him; humans and immortals just don’t mix.  But, you know, I wouldn’t say no to a date in the Dreaming: a tour of the dreamscape, a visit to the gates of horn and ivory, introductions to the gatekeepers three (a griffin, unicorn, and dragon).  We’d end up in the library, where I’d find a section of books containing the ends of all those dreams I woke up during.  I’d make friends with Lucien, his librarian, and I’d get invited to come back and read as often as I like.  Which means, at last, a solution to the perennial student’s problem: I’ll do all my fun reading after I go to sleep!

Addendum.

I was going to leave my entry at that, but Thalia and Jubilare have shamed me with their very thoughtful entries on how fictional men can help us appreciate the virtues of manliness.  And thus, in addition to what amounts to a kind of celebrity crush on the Prince of Stories himself, I include one more entry, based on those qualities I’d also find attractive in a real, live person.

Faramir

He’s morally strong, rejecting the Ring when he might instead take it.  And he’s noble (perhaps to a fault!) in his obedience to his father and the defense of Gondor.

“I do not oppose your will, sire.  Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will go and do what I can in his stead–if you command it. . . . But if I should return, think better of me!”

He’s a man who protects what matters when it matters, but he’s not one who loves the fight for its own sake.

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

He’s well-read and appreciates music, and he values the history of his city.

“He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music. . . He welcomed Gandalf at such times as he came to the City, and he learned what he could from his wisdom.”

And, of course, he has a sense of romance.  His wooing of Éowyn is gentle and understated and completely sweet.

“Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Éowyn!  But  I do not offer you my pity.  For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten; and you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell.  And I love you.  Once I pitied your sorrow.  But now, were you sorrowless, without fear or lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you.  Éowyn, do you not love me?”

All right, so technically maybe his hair ought to be a bit longer, but I do like Anke Eissman's vision of Faramir.

Heroes Wear Green

At least, my favorites do.  Green is my favorite color, and I realized recently that it’s also the signature color of several key heroes of fiction.  This color makes sense for these guys, as they do seem to spend most of their time running about in forests, and therefore are in need of camouflage.  Thus, green is stylish AND practical.  What more can you ask for?

Robin Hood

Disney's vulpine outlaw will probably always be the quintessential Robin Hood in my mind.

Though Michael Praed in Robin of Sherwood is poised to be a lasting favorite for me, too. It's likely because he *does* look rather like a wood elf.

Mr. Hood really ought to be everyone’s childhood hero.  Honestly, no childhood is properly complete without idolizing, (and if you’re a girl, being a little in love with) the swashbuckling outlaw who plies a bow with perfect accuracy.  How essential is the livery of Robin and his Merry Men to the legend?  Well, just the phrase “Lincoln green” is enough to conjure visions of chivalry, romance, and adventure!

Legolas

Legolas as portrayed by Donato Giancola. He's perhaps a little non-traditional looking for an elf, but I think that's why I like this portrait.

The elven member of the Fellowship is first described in The Fellowship of the Ring as “a strange Elf clad in green and brown.”  I imagine the camouflage effect is particularly important in Mirkwood, where the last thing you want is to be eaten by giant spiders.  (It’s dark in there, you say, and spiders might be color-blind anyway?  Don’t question my paranoia!) If you know me at all, you’re aware I’m crazy about wood elves.  I think half of it is that I love their woodsy garb.  Enough that I’ve actually spent significant money on a wood elf renaissance faire costume.  No, I may not be idolizing Orlando Bloom any more (thank the Valar!), but I’m still a dedicated fan of the wood elf mystique.

Link

Out of all the games, Link's look in Twilight Princess is my favorite. I love the muted color tones! And he gained a mail undershirt that he still wears in Skyward Sword.

One of my favorite heroes of any genre, Link is, of course, the protagonist of the long-running Nintendo series Legend of Zelda.  (A bit of trivia for you: the Zelda games and I are the same age.  What can I say?  1986 was a good year.)  While in some of the earlier games, Link wears his signature green tunic and long floppy hat from the very beginning, in the more recent games, such as Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, Link begins by wearing the traditional garb of his village.  Once you’ve proven yourself worthy of your quest, Link receives the uniform of the Hero of legend, which marks him as the one chosen by the great goddess to save the kingdom of Hyrule.  It’s always a thrilling moment when Link transforms from the farm boy to the handsome hero in his suit of green.

On authors and The Author

Today I was writing my upcoming post on eucatastrophe for the Pages Unbound Tolkien reading event, when I remembered this little piece I wrote back in April, 2007.  Wow, yes, sophomore year of college!  I’m still really pleased with it, and thus bring it back for an encore performance, as it were.  (As an added bit of trivia, this was written before I’d read about eucatastrophe or any of those wonderful essays on stories by Tolkien or Lewis. Clearly I was tending in that direction, though.  A month later, I took the English class that changed my life: it was on “Fairy Stories from Shakespeare to Lewis and Tolkien,” and we did read the essays on the virtues of fairy tales and imaginative literature which have shaped my desire to become a literature professor.)

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Last night, or rather, this morning, I was thinking about how I like to joke about how my characters complain about the various things I put them through.  I noted that the things that seem painful and difficult to them are only temporary,  and that in the end, I always make sure things work out well.  In the midst of the tale, things may not seem to be working out for their good, but that’s because my characters can’t see the entire plot, as I do.

I realized that this is much the same way our own human lives run.  God is our Author, Who has promised to work all things to the good for those who love Him.  Sometimes in the middle of the story, when things are going badly, it seems like there can’t be a happy ending, but that’s because we can’t see where the story is meant to go.  We may not even get what seems a happy ending on this earth, but this is only the prologue to the Real Story.

The thought struck me then that as a human author, I do put my characters in bad situations because strife is necessary make an entertaining story.  How can we be sure that God doesn’t let bad things into our own stories purely for His entertainment?

Well, He wrote Himself into our story, into all the pains and struggles we have to deal with every day.  Not only that, but He allowed Himself to die a horrible death on the cross.  Because He loved us, because he wanted to show us just how much we each mean to Him.

I don’t think I could do that for any of my creations.   I don’t mean merely writing myself as a character within one of my own stories while I stay safe behind my computer screen.  I mean the kind of physical immersion into the written world that is the fanfic writer’s dream.  Oh, I wouldn’t mind at all truly living one of my stories if I got a cushy life with fun perks like magical powers or special recognition.  But I’m not sure I’d be willing to enter my worlds as a common man, unrecognized as the author who knows and cares about each of my characters, to be finally accused of heresy, mocked, and killed.  And if I did, why would I?  Not to make a fun story for me.  No, I could do that just fine without incurring any personal harm, thanks.  If I did choose to enter my world in such a manner, I’d only do so because I wanted to prove to my creations that yes, they are important to me and that I really do love them despite all seeming evidence to the contrary.  And you know, if I were willing to enter their story like that, subjecting myself to everything they experience, I don’t think I’d be likely to mess around with their lives just for fun.

I know I’ve heard God’s love described to me in those terms before, but it never really sunk in until I was considering the scenario of trying to convince my own characters that I do love them and that they don’t exist purely to be tormented for my own entertainment.  Now, from a writers point of view, I can’t say that there isn’t some truth in that.  As I said before, if I didn’t give them troubles, I wouldn’t have much to write about.  But at the same time, I do cherish them all simply because they’re individuals, children I’ve created and love because they’re all special.  Through my relationship to them, I think I’ve caught a glimpse of God’s relationship to me, His child and creation.

And I hope that somehow, through my role as author, I can reflect and honor my Author.

A Few Literary Watersheds

As an avid reader, I’ve discovered that there are certain books that turn out to be defining moments in your imaginative, intellectual, or spiritual landscape.  They’re watersheds that you might not even notice at first, but you can look back and realize that you see the world differently because of them.  I’m not sure I can say I wouldn’t have learned what I have without reading certain books–if God wants you to grow in a certain direction, I think He can use any experiences you have–but I can definitely see how some books I’ve read have shaped me into the person I am today.  Two of those works would certainly have to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (along with the Silmarillion) and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

Arda Unmarred, the Work of the Valar

Tolkien taught me a renewed delight in the natural world around me, which in turn opened the door to my first steps of a truly personal relationship with God.  It’s funny, I know I must have enjoyed nature before I read Tolkien, but I think I had trouble taking delight in nature as an expression of God’s love and beauty.  God as Creator was kind of a dry, Sunday school topic for me, but when I read of the Iluvatar’s creation of Arda through the Valar, I discovered the romance in the idea of creation.  Amusingly in retrospect, I preferred Tolkien’s version of the story to the Biblical one, mainly because it was fresher to my imagination and less filled with years of spiritual baggage and wrong assumptions about God.  But I started seeing that there really was a glorious artistry full of beauty and love behind creation.  And little by little, I began to let God into my heart along with the beauty I saw.  I felt rather as though for the very first time, I was saying to God, “Huh, I guess you and I really do have something in common after all.  I like this world you made, and in fact, I believe you had me in mind when you made it this way.  I think perhaps I’d like us to be friends.”  My relationship with God isn’t anywhere near done growing, but such was the start.  If I hadn’t wished for Middle-Earth, I wouldn’t have found that what I needed was here.

And actually, Sandman helped out in that respect, too.  When I read Tolkien, I was a teenager, and like most teenagers, wasn’t completely satisfied with my life, and would have much preferred to escape to somewhere more exciting, magical, and epically meaningful than my seemingly mundane existence.  While I did eventually start maturing past the escapism of being a teenager, I still had the implicit impression that this world still wasn’t quite as magical as the ones I read about in books.  And then I discovered urban fantasy through authors such as Neil Gaiman, Roger Zelazny, and Emma Bull.  They told me that yes, of course, 21st century earth can be just as magical as the Third Age of Middle-Earth.  And in fact, things like coffee makers and cars and apartment buildings are really quite magical in themselves if you just know the right way to look at them.

Dream of the Endless, called also Lord Morpheus

Yet among these urban fantasies, Sandman stands out to me for a number of reasons.  For one, it taught me (along with a very dear friend of mine) to see that everybody you pass in the street has a story.  That guy in the car next to me, the tired cashier at the store, the quiet girl in my English class–no matter how banal and uninteresting these people may seem, they each have their own stories, hopes, dreams.  Like the incredibly varied cast of Sandman, such very ordinary-looking people might just be having extraordinary adventures, if I could see their whole lives.  So who am I to dismiss them as boring people?  But I’d never thought of it that way before.

Secondly, the world of Sandman opened a whole new imaginative vista for me.  Just as I can’t conceive of my imaginative landscape without Middle-Earth and elves and hobbits, I can’t fill that world with magic without thinking of Gaiman’s world ruled by gods and Endless.  I’ve imbibed a good bit of Gaiman’s methods of magic, and my approach to the fantastical in my own writings and daydreams will always be shaped by it.  And, well, the stories themselves stick with you.  They’re stories of muses, gods, angels, and demons, artists, poets, and other dreamers–Dream himself–fae, and humans.  No, I’m not going to forget these.  Besides, I defy any female dreamer to read Sandman without falling in love at least a little with Dream.