Climbing Mountains – January blues and 31 days of madness!

As we start February I look back at the madness that was January. From the world being plunged into the realities and dangers of Trumpland to the usual January blues. At this dull time of year, after the festivities and fun of the festive period I always think of CS Lewis’s words:

“I’ve always found this a trying time of the year.  The leaves not yet out, mud everywhere you go.  Frosty mornings gone.  Sunny mornings not yet come.  Give me blizzards and frozen pipes, but not this nothing time, not this waiting room of the world.”

January inevitably, is always a pensive time, a time of anti-climax, of looking back at the past year and looking to the future – sometimes in hope, sometimes in anxiety. I suppose now with the turmeric turd (as I call him) ensconced in the White House, there is more reason than any to be anxious about what the future may bring. For me personally, being such a lover of nature, a conservationist and environmentalist at heart, I worry about his ignorant, unsubstantiated (and quite possibly insane) views and denial of climate change as merely a ‘Chinese hoax’. That instead of listening to the independent views of thousands of scientists and climate experts around the world, of proven facts about climate change resulting from human activity, that Trump’s ego and his love of money and power could easily cause unparalleled environmental damage that may take years to reverse, if it can be at all. We don’t own this world, we are merely custodians, another animal species that rely on it for life itself. This world is such a precious place, its eco systems so fragile, its wildlife under so much threat from humanity already, that 4 years or dare I say it, 8 years of Trump insanity, of arctic drilling, fracking, extra oil, gas and coal exploration and pollution, may well be too much to recover from. Only time will tell.

January is also about setting goals especially life goals which are always tricky, the positive vibes of saying to yourself that THIS year will be different, this year you will lose those annoying pounds (or stones), achieve those long held goals and dreams, that this will be YOUR year.

It’s a double-edged sword. Yes you should have aspirations, goals, dreams, things that make you happy, but the reality of not achieving them can be dreadful. January is also a time of year that I often find myself falling back into bad habits and bad thinking – the time when depression often rears its ugly head.

So, as a way to combat those feelings and that awful January inertia, back in November I had an utterly mad idea…

painting-outside by Sophie E Tallis

Being Facebook friends with the lovely Children’s Laureate, illustrator extraordinaire Chris Riddell, I’ve been watching his posts all through the year. Every day Chris draws or sketches in what he calls his ‘Laureate Log’, a wonderful visual diary of creativity. Well, as Picasso himself said “The best ideas are stolen!”, I decided to do my own daily art record – what I call ‘The Artmaniac Challenge’!

So I set up a friendly inclusive group on Facebook – the Artmaniacs – open to anyone to draw, sketch, paint, sculpt, create a new artwork EVERY DAY for 365 days, starting from January 1st 2017 – January 1st 2018 and post it online in the group and anywhere else they fancy! It was a way for focusing the mind, being productive and a way of forcing you to be creative every day, even on days when all you want is a cuppa and a duvet to hide under.

I had no idea if it would work, but it has, we already have 27 members and growing! It’s been a wonderfully positive thing, a great way of driving out those damn January blues and giving a real sense of achievement to those participating. So in the mad 31 days of January, I and others have 31 pieces of art to show for it, an ever-growing portfolio – and the lovely thing is that it doesn’t matter if they are rough sketches, finished drawings, doodles, paintings, experiments, photography, anything goes! 😀

For someone like me, who has found it so hard to put pen to paper in regards to writing, doing this daily challenge has actually helped me in my writing too, because, if I can spare a few minutes to draw every day, if I can force myself to create something every day, then I can do the same for writing! WE CAN DO THIS!!!

So, here is the gallery of my first month of art, some good, lol, some not so good! 😀 xxxx

Dragon and warrior sketch by Sophie E TallisFallen Angel by Sophie E TallisSaw Gerrera character sketch (from Rogue One) by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink sketch of my dog, Korrun by Sophie E TallisCharacter sketch from my short story, Silent Running by Sophie E TallisRough sketch of Fenn, given that he only sat still for a few seconds before moving! by Sophie E TallisHand study in pen & ink by Sophie E TallisMy rough illustration from my children's book, The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile', by Sophie E TallisThe Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile by Sophie E TallisCharacter sketch of Lord Perral from White Mountain by Sophie E TallisDragon sketch by Sophie E TallisRough sketch by Sophie E TallisSketch in blue by Sophie E TallisCouple Portrait by Sophie E TallisFinished Couple Portrait by Sophie E TallisBenedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock character study by Sophie E TallisRough fairy study by Sophie E TallisView of Kallorm 'City of Light' from White Mountain by Sophie E TallisDragon sketch by Sophie E TallisSelf=Portrait in blue by Sophie E TallisStudy in blue by Sophie E TallisMy blue toned drawing of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia by Sophie E TallisWolf study in purple by Sophie E TallisBurnt umber and ochre study by Sophie E TallisLong-Tailed Tit by Sophie E TallisPortrait study in blue by Sophie E TallisFigure study in purple by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink pheasant study by Sophie E TallisOde to John Hurt RIP by Sophie E TallisPen & Ink drawing of my dog, Tolly by Sophie E Tallis'Do not be silenced' watercolour pencil study by Sophie E TallisChinese New Year dragon rough sketch by Sophie E Tallis

Well that’s it – the good, the bad and the ugly! Let’s see what the next month brings. 🙂

N.B. I will also let slip, that a couple of weeks ago, I had some VERY good news involving HarperCollins… I’ll let you all know once everything is signed and sealed. Watch this space…! 😉 xxx

Etymology – What’s in a word? Part III Language and a glossary of objects.

This is the final instalment in my ultra nerdish look at etymology and the derivation of words. Lol, I know I keep saying this but I’m sure this particular post will only be of interest to me and maybe one other person, but it seems right to finish the series looking at the inspirations and roots behind my novel, White Mountain, and the whole of the Darkling Chronicles universe.

White Mountain full book jacket

This last post looks at the finer details of language and gives a general look at the objects and things in White Mountain and their derivation.

Now, although I would never claim to be a linguist or language specialist, I have taught phonetics for the last 16 years and so have a good understanding behind the mechanics of language and word roots. So yes, like a true geek and many other eager teenagers obsessed with JRR Tolkien, I did invent my own working language for White Mountain (although this doesn’t specifically feature in the book, it hopefully gives the background a little more depth/flavour).

My Dworllian language is actually a mixture of Maori, African Ibo & Bantu dialects, Old English, Old Norse and Old Hindi! 😀

One thing you’ll notice that is very prevalent and typical of the Dworllian language, are double ‘ll’ and double ‘rr’. These are most notable in character names which always have these – Korrun, Baillum, Dorrol, Halli, Frell etc., and denote a longer consonant sound in pronunciation. Other races, such as dragons (fÿrrens) do not use these language rules, hence – Gralen, Sedgewick & Varkul. Rollm however is an exception, being so close to the Dworllian race, he has adopted the double ‘ll’ in his name.

Here are two poems/laments from White Mountain in translated Dworllian and English to give you a feel for the language.

***

Tè Takka ò Tarro / The Falls of Tarro

Undokko à ullvi ò arras

Beneath a canopy of stars

E sullo agarr aggallm,

Its whispering waters flow,

Undokko tè utta tunga harr

Beneath the towers standing tall

Takollo ōku manava d wharri.

Lies my heart and home.

 

À tūn megirr ò dworri llri

A city great of Dworllian past

Gllès mundii d à gillgalloharr witarr,

Three mountains and a palace white,

Nevfr getàll ù tirr d brkirr are

Nine gates to pass and bridges arch

Ù urru tè ngarro gllm ò sollal.

To reach the secret realm of light.

 

À kōparr ò sillva, à tunorr rarrrn

A veil of silver, a thundering roar

À kurra dollm, à aggakè haea…

A crystal dome, a rain bowed beam…

È sullirr tè kō ò Dwelldi (Kallorm) k’rran,

I hear the song of Dwellum (Kallorm) call,

Ìri ōku manava, e kōhu mōstan takka.

Within my heart, its mists must fall.

 

Kallorm, Kallorm rro k’rran irr wharri

Kallorm, Kallorm come call me home

Ù kanikani d sarri ì Tarro agarri,

To dance and sing in Tarro’s spring,

Kallorm, Kallorm rro k’rran irr wharri

Kallorm, Kallorm come call me home

Ù tallo arro koè whakarri mettan.

To rest amongst your sheltered stone.

***

***

Tè Takollo ò Fendelli / The Lay of Fendellin

Pærr neorr ufèrr tè mundii witarr

Pass now beyond the mountains white

Herrwa ïssa kara pekè d agarri

Where frosted rivers leap and spring

Arro tè lldva narra solall

Amongst the golden grasses light

Herrwa fÿrrens llvar d alla d sarri.

Where fÿrrens dwell and soar and sing.

 

À ettan ǽ llri d fægorr ǽ arras

A land as old and fair as stars

Ò ïsso mund d unasoll n’garr,

Of snowy peaks and moonlit seas,

Ò noktarri naru èrr ettirr affar

Of darkling woods we travel far

Ù selell onù ì sillva lèorr.

To gaze upon its silvery leaves.

 

À ferra whǽ æsell n’korrè fÿrra

A flame that springs eternal fire

À tūn ì tè kōhu atta,

A city in the misty sky,

À bælorra whǽ kēna kaorr elld

A beauty which shall never tire

Arro tè rællan alla harr.

Amongst the banners flying high.

 

À whakarr vas à affar ettan

A sheltered haven, a sacred land

Ǽ llri gllm ò gillga,

An ancient place of Kings,

À sillvorri hirr’kræl, à fÿrri brrin

A shining sword, a fiery brand

Herrwa mahkirri llvar ìri.

Where magic dwells therein.

 

Affar ærr uffè manava fendda vallas

Far east beyond heart’s lost desire

Tè llvmanava ò tè llri vakirr,

The birthplace of the eldest kin,

Tōnna akè solla ò wenalla ò fÿrra

Through rising sun on wings of fire

Takollo warrewa Fendelli.

Lies forgotten Fendellin.

Chapter Thirteen - The Encircling Mountains

Here are a few basic and background terms used predominantly in White Mountain:

Ǽllfr – (referred to in myth as ‘elves’ ‘alfarr’ ‘alfa’ – Greek derivation ‘alpha’ meaning first or primary).

Ǽllfren Sanskrit – A very ancient Ǽllfren text and written language similar to the ancient Indian Vedic Sanskrit.

A’Orvas – Ǽllfren word for the First Realm, equivalent to Valhalla, Elysium, Marrduk (Sumerian – Marduk) and Heaven.

Arrametta – Meaning ‘starstone’. A luminescent quartz type stone that produces light (often when held) and acts of a source of illumination for many subterranean cities and kingdoms (see Kallorm). Sometimes referred to as Arrasoll (starlight) or Kaorrsoll (false light). Dworllian derivation ‘arra’ or ‘arras’ meaning ‘star’ + ‘metta’ or ‘mettan’ meaning stone or rock.

Astarri – Ǽllfren goddess of the moon and heavens, commonly referred to as Ibell’una ‘Lady of the Moon’ in the Dworllian tongue, derived from ‘ibell’ meaning woman/female + ‘una’ meaning moon also derived from Roman goddess of the moon ‘luna’ and arachaic latin ‘lūna’.

Cecrops – legend of the half man/half dragon and hero of Cecropia (Athens). Cecropia, derivation from Cecrops, was the capital of ancient Attica named after city saviour Cecrops and later renamed Athens after Greek goddess Athena.

Dworll – (related to ‘dwarfs’ or ‘dwarves’) Derivation from Old English ‘dweorg’ and related to Old Norse ‘dvergr’ meaning dwarf

Fÿrren – A Dworllian and Ǽllfren colloquialism for any dragon, wyvern, wyrm or fire-drake. Derivation (fÿr meaning ‘fire’ from Old English ‘fȳr’ and Old Norse ‘fūrr’ + en (suffix) from Old English ‘en’ related to Gothic ‘-eins’).

I’Sharri – Dworllian goddess of love and forgiveness. Similar to the Sumerian and Mesopotamia Goddess of love, Ishtar.

Llrinaru – Elder wood. Dworllian derivation ‘Llri’ meaning ancient, old, elder + ‘naru’ meaning wood.

Medeaok – Type of Fendellin alcohol using fermented honey & emmer (ancient type of wheat grown in mountainous regions). Derivation from Old English ‘meodu’ and Welsh ‘medd’ meaning ‘mead’ (wine made from fermented honey).

Mimmirian – Meaning ‘seeing mirror’ from the Dworllian word ‘mimirr’ meaning wisdom or knowledge, derived from the Norse giant Mimir who guarded the well of wisdom near the roots of Yggdrasil. A mimmirian is an ancient mystical communicating device, usually mirror like, with a viewing panel and instrumentation for sound. Derivation from Old French ‘mirer’ and Latin ‘mīrārī’.

Naru’l’tarr – Forest leopard (Amur leopard). Dworllian derivation ‘naru’ or ‘narru’ meaning wood or forest + ‘l’tarr’ meaning swift hunting animal.

Rille – small boat or vessel, often used in funeral ceremonies to carry the dead over a waterfall and into the next world/realm (afterlife). Derivation from ‘rill’ meaning brook or stream also from Old German ‘rille’.

Sillvaf’yrren – Dragonsilver. Dworllian derivation ‘sillva’ meaning silver also derived from Old English ‘siolfor’ & Old Norse ‘silfr’ + dworllian fÿrren meaning dragon (‘fȳrr’ + ‘en’).

Solall – Dworllian meaning ‘light’, derivation from dworllian ‘solla’ meaning sun derived from ‘sol’ the Roman god personifying the Sun and later 15th century Latin ‘sōlāris’ from ‘sōl’ the sun.

Vakirri – V’kirri = Immortals, the first great wizards (grand magi) also known as the ‘magirri’ (magic ones), first order of the wise of which Morreck (M’Sorreck’) is the last remaining one. Mr. Agyk, though an ancient and powerful sorcerer, is not one of the grand magi.

***

There, lol, I’m sure I’ve bored you all silly, so I won’t go on!

If you’re a geek like me, then check out my previous posts on etymology 😀 :

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-i-places/

and https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-ii-creatures-and-races/

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Etymology – What’s in a word? – Part II Creatures and Races

Here we are again, delving into the wondrous world of etymology and the derivation of words – a topic I adore, being the nerd that I am!

White Mountain full book jacket

Today, I’m focusing on the races and creatures of White Mountain and The Darkling Chronicles, and the roots behind their invention. Being a total geek for all things of an etymological nature, together with a love of ancient history, archaic cultures, geography, geology and world myths, I’ve used many of these elements in the creation of my races and creatures. Lol, I should also thank the marvellous Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable for being such an inspiration over the years!

(*My Dworllian language – actually a mixture of Maori, African Bantu & Ibo (Igbo) dialects, Old Norse, Old English, Celtic and Old Hindi).

Races:

Apart from humans, which feature more largely in Books 2 & 3, the main (‘elder’) race featured in White Mountain are Dworlls. Ǽllfrs are also an elder race but although remnants of their culture remain, there are no actual ǽllfrs in White Mountain, having left many millennia before in ‘The Great Exodus’**.

  • Dworlls – Ancient and proud race pre-dating humans. Protectors of nature and custodians of the great forests, jungles and grasslands. Highly skilled craft workers and inventors. Dworlls have broad stocky frames and are stouter than ǽllfrs, especially ‘ground dwelling’ dworlls, though still tall by human standards (average height 6ft). Pale to tanned skin, pale eyes, earth-toned hair, some elders of royal bloodline may have small forehead ridges at the hairline (males only). Dworlls are divided into two principal castes. The taller and more agile mountain dworlls prefer open and airier spaces to their stouter subterranean-loving cousins. These ground or earth dworlls are shorter and broader than their lofty relatives but older in history, heredity and lifespan and were always by far the more numerous of the two types. Dworlls built not merely with grand designs and architectural wonder but with expansion and population in mind. And so sprang the great dworll kingdoms and metropolises of which Kallorm was the first and greatest. Most of these resided underground as is the custom of dworlls but took the breath away in their sheer size and ingenuity.

(Dworlls* – related in myth to ‘dwarves’ or ‘dwarfs’. In derivation terms, to Old English ‘dweorg’ and Old Norse ‘dvergr’ relating to manlike creatures possessing magical powers.)

 

  • Ǽllfr (ǽllfr) – An ancient race of people pre-dating humans, prodigious intellect, great astronomers but fickle in nature and disinterested in the matters of others. These antediluvian beings were tall and sinuous (average height 7 – 8ft), yet broad in frame and with great strength and agility. Angular features with notably high cheekbones, dark skin and dark hair. The height of Ǽllfren society was some 500-340,000 (BC) years ago, whereby it steadily declined. With the advent of a growing human population, and intolerant of this lesser species, the first exoduses occurred. **The final great exodus coincided with the end of the last Ice Age and the boom in human populace, some 10,000 years ago. Very few ǽllfrs remained. Ǽllfrs built their small but grand cities, not merely amongst the heights of mountains, but on the plains and savannahs and even the deserts of the world. But among the great sand palaces and glistening crystal spires, the most spectacular of these cities were those oceanic pearls that perched on islands or cliff faces just above the sea, or those rare marvels that sparkled beneath it.

(Ǽllfr/ǽllfr* – referred in myth to ‘elf’s’ or ‘elves’. In derivation terms, ǽllfr – from Old English ‘ælf’ and Old Norse ‘elfr’. Also related to ‘alfarr’ ‘alfa’ – the Greek for alpha ‘first’ (first race) may have derived from this.)

 

  • Dwelf (dwelfr) – A mixed race person, the result of a rare union between an ǽllfr and dworll. Dwelfrs are taller than dworlls and have the high refined features and darker skin of their ǽllfr kin but with broader stockier frames from their Dworllian parentage.

(Dwelfr* – literally ‘dworll’ + ‘ǽllfr’.)

  • Mage (magus, magi) – Wizard (male witch), with supernatural powers and the ability to manipulate and control magic. Magus a Zoroastrian priest (of ancient Medes and Persia), a sorcerer or magician of ancient times.

(Mage – archaic word for magician/wizard from C14 ‘magus’. Magus – from Old Persian ‘magus’ and Greek ‘magos’. Also referenced in the story of Simon Magus, a sorcerer who tried to buy powers from the apostles in the time of Roman Emperor Nero. Wizard – (male witch) from C15 ‘wissard’ (‘wise’ + ‘ard’) and ‘wise man’/’wise men’ (magi).)

 

  • Wærloga – Old English word for warlock. Literally a man who practices black magic, witchcraft, a dark sorcerer.

(Wærloga – Wærloga or Wǣrloga meaning oath breaker from wær oath + loga liar, also ‘traitor, scoundrel, monster’, also ‘the Devil’, from wǣr ‘covenant’ and an element related to lēogan ‘belie, deny’. From its application to the Devil, the word was transferred in Middle English to a person in league with the Devil, and hence a warlock.)

 

  • Wicca(Wycca) – Witch (wych),one who practices magic (‘the old arts’), from Old English ‘wicca’.

 

Beasts/Creatures:

  • Fÿrren* – Dragon. A Dworllian and Ǽllfren colloquialism for any dragon, wyvern, wyrm or firedrake. Fÿrrens (dragons) also refer to themselves by this name. 2f366ac0ee796ef54fc6cbf42693205b[1]

(Fÿrren* – fÿr meaning ‘fire’ from Old English ‘fȳr’ and Old Norse ‘fūrr’ + en (suffix) from Old English ‘en’ related to Gothic ‘-eins’.)

 

  • Fÿrullfr* – Firewolf. An ancient demon of the old world, firewolves are gigantic beasts, bear-like in size with the tusks of a boar, sharpened fangs and red fiery eyes. A portent of evil they were greatly feared by both Dworllian and Ǽllfren societies for the relentless pursuit of their victims, their voracious appetite for flesh, destructiveness and their ability to breathe fire. Firewolves are bitter enemies of all dragons and are thought to have been the real culprits behind many ‘dragon attacks’ of old.2da19d0044f73e0c41500ddc0ca68907[1]

(Fÿrullfr* – fÿr meaning ‘fire’ + ullfr meaning ‘wolf’ similar to Old Norse ‘ulfr’. N’dirron – Another word for firewolf (fÿrullfr), or any ancient wolf demon known to breathe fire – related to ‘Andiron’ (firedog) from Old French ‘andier’.)

 

  • Naru’l’tarr* – A forest leopard (Amur leopard of Siberia, not to be confused with the Snow Leopards of the Himalayas and Hindi Kush).

(Naru’l’tarr* – Dworllian word naru meaning ‘forest’ or ‘wood’ + l’tarr Dworllian word meaning leopard (sometimes referred to as ‘silent walker’) related to Old French ‘lepart’ for leopard.)

 

  • Mokèlé-mbèmbé (Mokèllé-mbèmbé) – A giant feared lake monster of the jungles of central Africa, specifically the Congo basin around Lake Tele, near to Kallorm and the area that Wendya Undokki grew up. Thought to resemble a living a sauropod dinosaur it was first recounted in oral history tradition by the indigenous Ba’Aka forest people.

(Mokèlé-mbèmbé – ‘one who stops the flow of rivers’ in Lingala or Ngala language, an African Bantu language of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Republic of Congo.)

 

  • Tarpans (tarrpans*) – Often referred to as ‘tarrpa’s’ (Dworllian colloquialism). Ancient and beautiful breed of European wild horse common in prehistoric times (Equus caballus gomelini) but now extinct outside of Fendellin, that used to be widespread throughout Anatolia and the Russian steppes. Hardy animals, similar to the Przewalski’s horse or Dzungarian wild horses of Mongolia, with stiff bristly manes, no forelock’s and thick coats in winter which they moult in spring. However, tarpans have much longer legs making them excellent runners, often have a dorsal or shoulder stripe and have sturdy yet graceful frames akin to Arabian horse breeds. Horse studies 001 - Copy

(Tarpan – from Kirghiz Tatar language. Dworllian* equivalent ‘tarrpan’ or ‘tarrpas’ – double ‘rr’ (and ‘ll’) a feature of Dworllian language and delineated in pronunciation by rolling the ‘rr’ and elongating the ‘ll’.)

 

  • Wargols – Troll like creatures with facial tusks, broad shoulders, muscular arms, dark blueish skin (which gave rise to the term ‘night beasts’), heavy Neanderthal brows and crimson coloured inset eyes (with particularly good night vision). Wargols are evil servants of Morreck (M’Sorreck the Corruptor), enemies of all ancient races and humans, known for their limited intellect but viciousness and strength.

(Wargols* – Ancient Dworllian and Ǽllfren word derived from the creatures’ own thirst for war (often referred to as ‘gols’ for short). Possibly the derivation source for the word ‘gargoyle’ meaning a person or creature with a grotesque appearance, taken from C15 Old French ‘gargouille’.)

 

  • Gorrgos – A powerful, massive and very ancient subterranean beast of archaic times. Snake/Wyrm like in shape and with the capacity to change the colour of its skin. Often referred to as the ‘terror of the tunnels’, it dwells in the deep chambers and caverns of Kallorm’s catacombs and ‘undercity’.

(Gorrgos* – Dworllian word meaning ‘terrible beast’. Possibly the derivation source for the Greek word ‘gorgos’ meaning terrible, also used in relation to the Gorgons – Greek myth of three winged sisters with live snakes for hair.)

 

  • Oracle of the West – A malevolent and powerful creature capable of foreseeing the future (Oracle – Parrtea) – Any ancient and wise creature with prophetic powers to read the future. Usually powerful and often malevolent even dangerous beings. Some have magical and telepathic abilities allowing them to read the minds of their ‘visitors’ (especially the weak-minded) and alter the outcome of any advice or wisdom given. Originally there were nine great, powerful and feared Oracles scattered throughout the ancient world, most of which have since disappeared. Associated legend tells of stories of the Oracles eating their ‘seekers of knowledge’ (visitors) after helping them. As a result, such creatures were feared and given frequent human and animal sacrifices to protect those who sought them out or lived under the shadow of their lair.

(Oracle – from Old French and Latin ‘ōrāculum’ and ‘ōrāre’ meaning ‘to speak’.)

***

Lol, right I think I’ve bored you all silly, so I won’t go on and on any longer, but you get the idea!

Part III, the final part in this etymological series, will look at objects and the things that make up the world of White Mountain! 😀 xxx

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-i-places/

9781909845978[1]

 

Publication Day!!!!!

Lol, okay, I’m already late I know, but it’s taken me nearly a week to process what’s happened!

My epic fantasy, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, was brilliantly published by Kristell Ink Publishing and Grimbold Books last week on 1st December 2014!!!!

To say I’m ecstatic would be a gross understatement, kind of like saying that George Lucas is only vaguely fond of science fiction!

My wonderful new publishers are a world, in fact, a galaxy far far away from what I had encountered previously and the level of dedication, hard work, expertise and passion with which they have approached the publishing of White Mountain, is more than I could ever have hoped for. From the attention to detail, the editing, the formatting, the layout, the beautiful calligraphy, not to mention the AWESOME original artwork commissioned for the AWESOME new cover!!! Wow! I’ve gone from hell to heaven in one leap!

White Mountain full book jacket

I won’t dwell on the past two years, mostly because this is an incredibly happy time and I don’t want to miss a blissful second of it! I’m humble and thankful beyond words, but mostly, for the first time in ages, I am really truly excited, thrilled and proud to have my novel, a book that took ten years in the writing and researching, finally published as it always should have been!

So, before I continue gushing all over your lovely carpet, what is the book actually about?

Well, beyond the plot itself, a struggle for survival against all odds, the courage it takes to stay the course and an epic showdown between good versus evil, the book is also about identity.

Wendya Undokki

Yes, it’s an epic fantasy in the old-fashioned ‘high fantasy’ tradition, but the themes run deeper than just the action. Throughout the book, the primary issues are around identity, how do we define it, define ourselves? Are we fated to repeat history, to be slaves to our genes? What defines family? Is it the people we are related to through blood that constitute a family or the people we choose to have in our lives, people we love and trust? I have my own personal reasons for being interested in that subject matter. I have said on more than one occasion that I identify with Wendya the most, for many of the same conflicted, complicated reasons.

The book deals with another of my passions, the transformative nature of the world we live in today. Our disappearing natural planet mirrors the growing confines that many of the main characters find themselves in. Humanity is everywhere, how does an ancient pre-existing culture hope to continue surviving, in secret, under such overwhelming pressures? How can the world continue as it is, with the current level of wanton destruction? In many ways the disintegration of the natural world perfectly reflects the disintegration of the characters own archaic civilisation, long past its prime and teetering on the edge of extinction.

I don’t hate every aspect of modern life, like Tolkien generally did, how could I? Where would I be without my blog, my TV, my modern comforts?

But like so many of us armchair activists, I worry for the planet’s future, for nature and the few wild places left. Even in the small rural idyll where I grew up, the bluebell wood at the bottom of the road that I used to play bare foot in, with the little twisting stream running through it, was torn up and replaced by ten ugly Barratt houses. Instead of building much needed houses on brown field sites crying out for rejuvenation or renovating the UK’s many abandoned buildings, our precious woodlands and green spaces are being carved up.

Once lost, those precious green spaces are lost forever.

The Grey Forest

Again, loss is a running theme too. Something we all experience to varying degrees and something that each of the characters have certainly experienced. Loss is as much a part of life as life itself, it is something that can define us, if we let it, or spur us on to achieve our goals while we still have time.

Lol, I’m sounding terribly serious here when I don’t mean to be. The novel has humour and lightness, particularly in the running banter between the characters, but in many ways it is an exploration of the state of humanity through a fantasy lens. That’s probably my favourite genre, not just fantasy, but ‘magic realism’, the blending of the real world with the fantastical one.

Anyway, enough pontificating. Here is a small excerpt from White Mountain, hope you enjoy it! 😀 xxx

*****

The midday sun passed into a hazy afternoon. The last soldiers descended, and the host were on their way again, marching at a great pace to recover lost time. The landscape changed around them. Flat plains and rambling hills of tussock gave way to gnarled weather-beaten rock and thicket beds, their needle like thorns starkly black against the grey granite.

The ground sloped steadily downward before levelling, where the barren expanses of rock fell away into mud, reed and bog. They had reached the Shudras, the silent marshes.

Slimy quagmires stretched out before them as an endless sea. Troughs of stagnant water riddled their way into hazardous deep pools. Foul smelling vapours rose from the ground in choking clouds. The thought of crossing such a place lowered all their spirits.

“This was once a wondrous land,” Hallm said. “These were the water-meadows of the great Kara Kara River. The pure waters fed Fendellin’s rarest orchids here. Grass-pipers, willow larks and meadow-cranes, flitted amongst its grasses. Now, its foul mud clogs every channel and tributary with stagnant filth. Its water sprites and larks have long departed.”

“Our beasts cannot cross this!” King Baillum declared raising his hand. “The pathways should be clear at this time of year. This is the only passage through the swamps…the waters have risen! Another evil M’Sorreck has perpetrated on this land. If we try passing, we shall lose many good horses. Certainly, the wagons cannot cross.”

“How far do these marshes stretch?” Korrun asked Hallm.

“Eight and ten leagues at the shortest crossing, which is here,” he replied.

The King’s stoicism gave way to anger. “How could this happen? We sent scouts ahead to gauge the terrain. Why did they not report this? Bring them here!” he demanded.

Frell whispered into his father’s ear. The dwelf watched the King’s face change, an unmistakable flash of shock. The news was not good. Korrun glanced at Wendya and the wizard. As if reading his mind, Gralen stepped forward.

“If wheels are no use, wings will have to do,” he said boldly. “My kin can take the wagons and the oxen if the rest of you can find a way through?”

Korrun smiled. “He is right, Sire. If the fÿrrens can carry the heavier loads, we should be able to cross. I am a tracker and used to finding lost pathways. I’m sure we can find a way.”

“And if the horses are lost?”

“Then my kindred will have more burdens to bear,” replied Gralen simply. “A dworll is lighter than an ox!”

King Baillum managed a brief smile. “No obstacles too great? We shall see,” he said beckoning to Sedgewick above.

Sedgewick and the other dragons swooped down to carry the various wagons and carts, siege-rams and battle gear, too heavy for the marshes. The most careful dragons carried the nervous beasts, zebu, water buffalo and battle oxen, the eighteen leagues north, to dry land.

Following Korrun and Hallm, the army began their arduous crossing of the Shudras.

It was well into the night before the last exhausted traveller reached the delights of hard ground once more. They set up camp, the slimy mud and stench of the marshes clinging to each bedraggled member as an unwelcome reminder of the day. A deep unease fell on them.

Korrun sat quietly by one of the campfires, listening to Lord Tollam and Hallm speculate, in hushed tones on the battle to come.

“It could be a Hal’Torren’s choice all over again,” Hallm commented.

The other dworlls nodded grimly.

“Hal’Torren’s choice? What’s that?” Korrun asked.

Hallm shrugged. “It’s any situation where the outcome is pre- determined or unavoidable, and usually terrible.”

Lord Tollam poked the fire, his violet eyes reflecting the glimmer of the flames. “It is an old legend, but a true story. Hal’Torren was a nobleman, strong, incorruptible, a hero and leader to his people. He lived in Oralam, a beautiful city once. One day he returned home to find his family held hostage by his sworn enemy, M’Sorreck. Hal’Torren loved his family deeply, his wife, his three young children. He offered his life in exchange for theirs. But Morreck wanted something far more precious. He wanted to break Hal’Torren utterly.” Tollam sighed. “No matter what he did, how he bartered and begged, Hal’Torren was given a dreadful choice. Watch ten thousand of his own people perish, innocent children and families like his own, to save just one member of his family, or save his people and watch all his family die. Now Hal’Torren was a great leader, and he loved his people, but like any father, how could he sacrifice his own family?”

Korrun looked at the wise old dworll. “What did he choose?”

“To condemn ten thousand souls to a grisly death, to save one of his family.” He shook his head. “Then he had to make the worst choice of all…which member of his family to save. That is Hal’Torren’s choice. It is no choice at all. You are damned whichever path you take!”

“How did it end?” the dwelf asked quietly.

Lord Tollam sighed and glanced at his son as if thanking the gods that he never had to face such a choice. “Tragically of course…he chose to save his daughter, the youngest of his three children. They were then forced to watch his wife and two sons being murdered before them. Naturally, it traumatised the young girl. Only a few years later her father found her hanging from a willow tree. He promptly hung himself beside her. You see why Hal’Torren’s choice is impossible. Save one, sacrifice others, condemn yourself.”

“Morreck is a fengal beast, a monster!” Korrun said through gritted teeth.

“Yes, of the worst kind…” replied Tollam.

Hallm looked at his father for a moment then turned to the dwelf. “Have you ever faced a Hal’Torren’s choice?” he asked.

Korrun shifted uneasily, his face half hidden in shadow. “Once,” he whispered.

“What happened?” Hallm asked, trying to hide his surprise.

The dwelf stood up, his eyes lost in the fire. “I made the wrong choice,” he said simply, then turned and left.

*****

Fendellin and the Encircling Mountains

White Mountain cover

White Mountain full book jacket

Work In Progress (WIP) Blog Hop

Well, after my WordPress crashed on me, in the middle of this post (so I lost the lot…ugh!), I also seem to have lost many of my edits buttons including font size and colour…so please forgive this monotone post!

A few days ago, I was very kindly nominated by talented fantasy writer, Kate Jack (Katrina Jack) to participate in this blog hop, outlining my current work in progress (WIP).

Kate Jack is the author of brilliant urban fantasy series, The Silver Flute Trilogy, and is completing her own WIP, Dawn Horizon, the last book in her trilogy. Exciting times for her and her avid readers! Please check out her wonderful blog, full of writing advice, author interviews, short stories, poetry and much much more! http://kateannejack.wordpress.com/

What makes this blog hop so special and different from all the other thousands out there, is simply that it gives YOU a tantalising first glimpse into an author’s next new work, long before it hits the bookshelves. As a reader and writer, I’m always looking to find the next great book to immerse myself in and love getting first insights into future projects…so here we go!

7 questions about my current WIP, before I nominate others and pass the baton on.

1. What is the name of your main character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

In this book, the sequel to White Mountain – Book 1 of the Darkling Chronicles (due to be re-published by my wonderful new publishers, Kristell Ink / Grimbold Books later this year) the focus shifts to Wendya Undokki. Although Mr. Agyk, Gralen and Korrun are still the main protagonists, this book is more about Wendya’s journey, her struggles and her descent into darkness.

2. When and where is the story set?

I always envisioned the series being set now amongst our modern world, not on some mythical planet or in the distant past. I love the juxtaposition of modern technology, modern life and ancient magic. In the first book, we were introduced to the main characters and the ancient cultures and realms they exist in, realms and cultures that have lain secret for thousands of years and that pre-date humanity. These cultures have had to adapt to an ever-changing planet with a ever-increasing human population. In Book 2, we see the clash of cultures, as humanity meets these immortal creatures for the first time and the too are forced to work together in order to survive what is to come.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Wendya is a very complex, conflicted and angst ridden individual who has built up barriers through the course of her life. She is stronger than she knows, but also fragile and emotionally vulnerable. She certainly has a difficult journey ahead of her in Book 2 and Book 3, but I can’t reveal much more than that yet! 😉

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Lol, well I can’t reveal too much, especially for those who have yet to read Book 1. But Book 2 deals the fallout of Book 1’s revelations, with themes of identity, familial bonds, trust, destiny and the use and misuse of power. Wendya struggles with all these issues and the challenges she finds herself in.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

To understand her origins, her powers and what her future holds. Some of that includes wanting to rid herself of her abilities and deny who she really is.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Yes, Race of Shadows – Book 2 of the Darkling Chronicles. Lol, I’m afraid my lovely publishers have first dibs on the story before I reveal too much, but I can promise that it will epic, thrilling and a real page turner!

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

In 2015 hopefully. 😀

Chapter Twenty-One - Into The Light

There you go, now to pass the baton on to my nominees, all of them brilliant writers who have many creative works on the go at the moment…let’s take a look!

Will Macmillan Jones: http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

Joanne Hall: http://hierath.wordpress.com/

Susan Finlay: http://susansbooks37.wordpress.com/

Please check out their blogs and their wonderful books! 😀 xxx

 

 

 

Farewell my Dragon Friend, Lindsey J Parsons.

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*deep sigh*

This is the hardest blog post I have ever had to write, and it breaks my heart in the writing of it. Two days ago, I heard the shocking news that one of my dearest friends, Lindsey J Parsons, had suddenly and tragically passed away.262888_2238622135240_4045698_n[1]

Shocking is the word…at a time when words seem to fail. I simply cannot believe it and I cannot understand it.

Lindsey was not just one of my closest internet friends, she was one of my closest real friends. We talked and laughed almost every day, messaging each other back and forth like a couple of idiots, just being daft on the internet. http://lindseyjparsons.com/

She was one of the first people I’d share my woes with. One of the few truly wonderful people on this planet.

69190_4684701805703_297748057_n[1]I met Lindsey back in 2010, along with my other AWB friends (Alliance of Worldbuilders) – a group of geeky fantasy and sci-fi writers and the largest group/thread on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy. We immediately clicked. Not only were we fantasy writers with a passion for the fantasy genre, we both obsessively and childishly adored dragons! It was true to say that neither of us ever grew up, and I loved that free spirit and lack of cynicism in Lindsey. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was always, ALWAYS, helpful, supportive, positive and encouraging of fellow writers. There was no ego with Lindsey. She shared openly and gave freely of her time and her talents.

432075_3446252725250_133180967_n[1]Our mutual love of dragons was clearly evident in our dragon pictures and internet avatars, though Lindsey’s dragon passion was even greater than mine, with an impressive collection of dragon statues and mementos at her home and a fantastic stone dragon on her roof! 425036_3160213334444_1952181019_n[1]

Lindsey soon became the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, keeping the thread fresh, funny and going when many of us (especially myself) were less than frequent in our attendance.

She was always on hand to share her experiences, share information, knowledge, advice and to encourage others at every opportunity.

Lindsey demonstrated that incredible support and friendship when on the 6th October 2012, she travelled all the way from her home to a small little bookshop in Cirencester, for the launch of my debut novel. All that way to support a fellow dragon friend, someone who at that point, she had never actually met before!

4994981[1]I knew instantly that it was her. The bookshop was very busy, packed in fact, the launch was a big success but was also all rather overwhelming. I didn’t know where to turn, between chatting to customers and children and signing books…all very surreal. Then, amongst the milling crowds, I saw this seemingly quiet and small dark-haired lady, a petite figure with an unmistakable twinkle in her eyes. She waited patiently while I ‘did my thing’ (whatever that was), but we both instantly shared that, “Wow! It’s you!” moment.

Lindsey being Lindsey, stayed for quite a few hours. After the event, Lindsey, myself and my very good mate, Will Macmillan Jones (also another great AWB pal), all went next-door for a coffee, cake and a natter. It was SO lovely to finally meet her face to face after nearly two years of internet friendship, emails, and messages etc. It felt so special, being there with my two close friends talking about writing, our plans for the future and each other’s books. Lindsey was so generous, so excited for me and for herself and her new life as a writer. She had such ambitions and dreams and it was wonderful listening to her and being a part of it all. 531086_373803919378597_1702802832_n[1]

More than that…Lindsey J Parsons WAS and IS a BRILLIANT writer! I’m a hard bugger to please, believe me. I’ve read so many awful books, badly written, boring, nonsensical, badly edited, trite, dull, clichéd etc. But with Lindsey it was easy and a sheer delight, because her books truly were and are wonderful!

She was a truly amazing writer. As a reader, I really am like Marmite, I either love something or I hate it, I can’t be indifferent or ambivalent. No sitting on fences here, that’s how you get splinters in your arse! 7908_475725272508236_169525754_n[1]

When I first picked up Lindsey’s debut novel, Vortex, Book 1 of her Return of the Effra series, I had my doubts. Afterall, I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance. I love my fantasy epic and I guess, a little traditional. But WOW! The moment I started reading it, I was hooked. In fact the only other recent book which had me transfixed like that was Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. Vortex really is that good. I’m a slow reader, by osmosis I think, but I read it in just two days, I simply couldn’t put the thing down. I then proceeded to re-read it several times after that, something I never do, unless it’s a really good book.

Vortex certainly deserves all of its many 5 star reviews and I was thrilled for Lindsey, that it was doing so well, and so proud of her. She wrote and produced that book on her own terms. She set up her own publishing company, AFS Publishing http://www.afspublishing.com/, and produced a book that had the quality look and feel of any mainstream publication and quite frankly, beat the pants off of many indie publishing houses. Her daughter’s boyfriend, Greg Barons, did the amazing covers, but the book was pure Lindsey. What a legacy! 544830_318401201571709_870759055_n[1]

She went on to write and publish her second novel in the Return of the Effra series, Wicked Game, which I have started to read and absolutely LOVE. Another 5 star book and another much deserved and roaring success for Lindsey. wicked-game-cover-1[2]

But as well as being a terrifically talented writer, Lindsey was also my good friend. A lot of our friendship also centred around the fact that we are both dreadful insomniacs. While all our other friends had gone to sleep, Lindsey and I were almost waking up! We’d speak nearly every day, but often, we’d be chatting til 2, 3 even 4am in the morning. Constantly messaging each other over how daft we were that we couldn’t sleep. But it was so lovely, knowing that when midnight struck and most of my friends had gone offline to bed, me & Linds were only just starting! There was a wonderful comradeship in that, in sharing our insomnia, our idiot ideas at 3am in the morning when both of us had to be up early the next day. Like me, Lindsey seemed to come alive at night, something about the witching hour that got our creative juices flowing. I cannot even begin to express how much I will miss that, how much I will miss her.

It’s fair to say, that I have been in a constant stream of tears these last two days, in fact, quite incapable of not crying. Last night was the worst, not having my friend to talk to through the night. But…this post isn’t about me, it’s about Lindsey and what an extraordinary person she was.

The terrible irony of all this, is that only a matter of weeks ago, Lindsey re-blogged my post about the ‘Passing of a Legend’, namely the death of Nelson Mandela, and then this happens. Lindsey J Parsons may not have been as well-known a figure as Nelson Mandela, but nonetheless, she shared many similarities with him. She was a truly kind and wonderful person, who always thought of others before herself, and she did, in so many ways, touch the lives of not just those around her, but everyone she came into contact with. THAT is a rare gift, but then Lindsey was a rare lady. 295755[1]

734419_10200817040058504_1555471576_n[1]She lived life to the fullest, something so many of us fail to do (myself included). Despite her small frame, she really did have the heart of a dragon – an adventurous and daring nature. She loved pushing herself, seeing what she could achieve and boy, didn’t she achieve a lot! She loved walking, nature, her doggies and horses, being on her farm, horse riding, including bareback riding and, like everything she did, she loved archery and was brilliant at it! She was part of a long bow archery club and competed to a high standard, even winning medals. I SO wish I had made it to her last archery competition in Cheltenham, where she proudly won the bronze medal. She’d certainly give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money! 1953998f444d2c9aaeece3dd3c2b8551[2]

Lindsey threw herself into everything she did. She was a vital and much-loved part of her rural community, even organising events like cinema night at the local village hall. Everyone who knew her loved her, how you could not?

198501_1004765129586_205_n[1]This was no ordinary woman. This was a cowboy boot wearing, dragon-loving, snow-loving, fantasy writing, archery medal winning, awesomely talented author and mother of three children! Apart from being a wonderful friend to me and so many others, Lindsey was also an amazing mum to her three gorgeous children, Cat, Amy-Jane and Tom, who must be utterly shattered by the shocking and sudden loss of their lovely mum. My thoughts and love go out to them and all of Lindsey’s family at this terrible terrible time. None of us can fathom what they must be going through. 😦

Another example of Lindsey’s incredible bravery and zest for life, was when last year she decided to go off to America by herself, to attend a Romance Writing Convention. I did want to join her, but couldn’t due to ill-health, but nonetheless, little Lindsey got on that plane and headed for the bright lights of Las Vegas (or Las Vagas as she called it)! I would have pee’d in my pants, but Lindsey took it all in her stride and had a fabulous time! She sent pictures of herself, sitting like a pro at this enormous table in the convention hall, with all her books and booky swag around her. She’d organised everything, things she could take on the flight and things she had to get printed and shipped in the US. Then, she even attended the convention ball, where everyone dressed up, and Lindsey, of course, went in a stunning silver and blue dragon dress, complete with wing flaps!!!! What a girl! 1001089_10201621766816170_2138720117_n[1]

While she was over there, Lindsey also met up with another two AWB members and fellow fantasy friends, Susan and Richard Wentworth, who were thrilled to meet her.

Yes, Lindsey was truly a one-off. She was utterly fearless and had so much more to offer this world.

Over the Christmas just gone, we chatted about going to America together this year and we were both thrilled at the idea, excitedly talking about our plans for 2014. Lindsey wanted to show me the sights and I know we would have had a blast, two dragons together! She also had an Authorcon arranged up in Manchester with fellow AWB friends, Andrea Baker, Hazel Butler and Will Macmillan Jones, a great forum in which to launch her third novel in the Return of the Effra series, Shegal, due out this year. postcard-shegal[1]

Of course now…all those plans are gone, as is our beautiful Lindsey. The world really was her oyster and I truly believe she could have achieved anything she put her mind, heart and talents to.

We spoke on the net on New Year’s Day, wishing each other a wonderful 2014. Hours later that day, while walking, she felt very unwell. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed as having had a burst brain aneurism and was placed into a medical coma. She had an emergency operation which was thought to be successful, but deteriorated and passed away on Sunday 5th January, surrounded by her family.

Words really cannot express the horror and shock of what has happened, or the hole she has left behind for those who loved and cared about her. The random cruelty of nature, life, whatever you call it, is simply abominable and unfathomable. For someone so young and vital, with everything going for her and an incredible writing talent…goodness only knows what else she could have achieved if her life hadn’t been so tragically cut short.

Q1-me-in-cowboy-boots[1]For myself, I mourn the loss of a dear dear friend, my other dragon half, my insomniac confidant, my Lindsey. But for her family, they mourn an incredible sister and a wonderful wonderful mother. I am so SO sorry for their loss. My heart goes out to them.

Lindsey J Parsons, the beating dragonheart of our Alliance, the most talented, kindest and sweetest person I have ever known, who I am privileged to call my friend.

I will miss her every time it snows, every time I write, every time I can’t sleep, every time I have good news to share, or troubles, and every time I see a picture of a horse, a dragon, or a unicorn, I will think of Lindsey. 😦 1015fb6fa1b776958a172468aaf680ba[1]

I’m not a religious person, and I know my tears are inadequate, but I wish you a thousand thank you’s and blessings. If there is a heaven, I’m sure you are there with your cowboy boots on.

May dragon wings soar you to the stars, my friend, where I will see you again one day. All my love, Sophie xxxxxxx

Lindsey J Parsons

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R.I.P. xxxxxx

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PLEASE support Lindsey and her family by buying these FANTASTIC books and helping Lindsey’s Legacy – getting her the recognition she deserves. http://www.amazon.com/Lindsey-J-Parsons/e/B008D7RXQ6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

The Epic Tragedy of Love

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Literature, history and mythology is littered with great heroes and heroines, those mystically imbued figures whose short poetic lives have enriched ours, and whose tragic and doomed love affairs have become the stuff of legend. As a child I was first aware of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet, and their struggles against a world so determined to tear them apart. Their torn loyalties of family, responsibility, duty, honour, and the forbidden love they held for each other, seemed to mirror the angst we teenagers inevitably felt. Luckily at my school, we had a rich diet of Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Anthony & Cleopatra (another doomed couple), Julius Caesar, Hamlet (unrequited & destructive love), Othello (jealous, possessive love) & Macbeth (the manipulation of love). I was fascinated by the interplay of characters, how each couple and individual reacted to the circumstances they found themselves in, the choices they made, whether destiny played a part, how love could be corrupted or could corrupt others. As a hopeless romantic, (Shh! Don’t tell anyone! I try not to admit it and refrain from reading any chick-lit, ‘slushy trash’ as I call it, hey…sci-fi/fantasy girl here!), I do see the allure of such characters and such stories and how they ultimately convey the human condition in all its absurdities, frailties, flaws and its glory.

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shal...

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, my reading lists widened and as my love of the fantasy genre and its origins took hold, I began delving into ancient mythology. The wonderful Welsh sagas of The Mabinogion (based on tales from 1190-1350) and particularly Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur (1485), is still a favourite of mine, and the eternal love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere & Launcelot. Somehow, you can still sense the searing pain of betrayal in Arthur’s heart, the conflict in the lovers and their guilt at their actions, yet their total inability to stop themselves falling in love. Of course, it is as true today as it was in 600AD, you cannot help who you fall in love with. I remember watching John Boorman’s mesmeric 1981 film Excalibur, with its incredible visuals and Carl Orff’s thunderous Carmina Burana spurring the horses on through the mists of battle. But still, through all the magic and heroism, it was the tragic love story that kept haunting me. As I’m typing this, I’m sitting looking at a beautiful print of The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (1888), based on the famous Tennyson poem and all that doomed heart ache just comes flooding back.

tristan and isolde

tristan and isolde (Photo credit: kairin)

When you think of the greatest and most tragic love stories you probably think of the ones I’ve mentioned and of Tristan & Iseult (Isolde), Paris & Helena, Orpheus and Eurydice and perhaps poor Pyramus and Thisbe. Having lived in ancient Babylonia in neighbouring homes, they fell in love with each other as they grew up. Their respective families were fervently against the match, so one night the two lovers hatched a plan. They decided to meet up under a mulberry tree in the nearby fields, and run away together. Thisbe reached the tree first, but frightened at seeing a lion approach with blood stained jaws, she ran and hid in some rocks, dropping her veil as she ran. The lion picked up the veil just as Pyramus arrived. Devastated at seeing Thisbe’s veil in the lion’s bloody mouth, Pyramus took his sword out and killed himself. When poor Thisbe eventually emerged from the rocks and saw her beloved Pyramus dead, she too took his sword and killed herself.  😦

Pyramus and Thisbe

Pyramus and Thisbe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, you have the sad tale of Heloise and Abelard, which is perhaps the most tragic love affair of all, especially as it is a story based on an actual event. Being fact rather than merely myth, makes us all marvel at the power of sacrifice and the power of love. Heloise (1101-1164) and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) had their story immortalised by British poet, Alexander Pope in 1717, who turned it into a piece of classic literature, ‘Eloisa to Abelard’. Heloise and Abelard were ridiculously in love and doomed to a tragic end in mid 12th century France. Abelard was a well-known French philosopher, considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century. Heloise, was the niece and pride of the Canon Fulbert, who wanted her to have the best education possible. Abelard became the girl’s live-in tutor, 20 years her senior. A romance blossomed between them, a romance that so enraged her disapproving uncle that he had Abelard castrated shortly after they were discovered. Distraught, the lovers entered a monastery and nunnery and wrote a set of now-famous letters to each other up until their death, though they never met again.

Abelard and his pupil, Héloïse, by Edmund Blai...

Abelard and his pupil, Héloïse, by Edmund Blair Leighton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These tragedies both real and imagined have inspired such a rich tapestry of stories. As a huge fan of fantasy, from the world’s first ever story, The Epic of Gilgamesh to Beowulf to The Lord Of The Rings, Narnia and Game Of Thrones etc., I still like my fantasy to have that tragic element, that hint of doomed love or sacrifice. In the classic tradition J.R.R.Tolkien of course, being a scholar in ancient Nordic and Celtic mythology, was able to bring many of these elements into his work, particularly in The Silmarillion.

Cover of "The Silmarillion"

Cover of The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion, I book I still adore and one which I am very lucky to have a cherished first edition of, has two tragic love stories which really wrench at the heart. The first of course, is the heroic story of Beren and Luthien, later mirrored in the love story of Aragorn and Arwen in LOTR. Here, the story of Beren and Luthien (with similarities to Orpheus and Eurydice) tells of the love between a mortal man, Beren and the most beautiful immortal elf-maiden, Luthien Tinuviel and the struggles and obstacles they face in their quest to be together. But for me, by far the more tragic love story and the one which is the antithesis to Beren’s story, was the darker tale of poor Turin Turambar. Despite being a great hero, Turin Turambar, seems forever cursed with ill fortune and the very worst of luck. He battles valiantly against evil foes, yet whatever he turns his hand to seems to go wrong. Eventually both Turin and his sister Nienor are enchanted by a mighty dragon, Glaurung. Under its enchantment, they fall in love with each other and live as man and wife. But, when Turin kills the dragon and the spell is lifted, they are driven mad by the realisation of their sins and they both commit suicide. This perhaps, is Tolkien at his darkest, but still as a reader, you cannot help feeling such sorrow and sympathy for these two sad characters.

My personal favourite though, and a story that inspired Tolkien himself, has to be the story of Sigurd and Brynhild, from the Volsunga Saga. Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) and Brynhild from the Volsunga Saga (ancient Norse mythology

Sigrdrífa gives Sigurðr a horn to drink from.

Sigrdrífa gives Sigurðr a horn to drink from. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

c.1000AD), is a bittersweet tale of romance, heroism, greed, betrayal and tragedy. The later German hero, Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied (1180 to 1210) (The Song of the Nibelungs) and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is based on Sigurd and the Volsunga Saga. Basically, urged on by Loki and Odin, Sigurd kills the dragon Fafnir and takes his treasure hoard. He bathes in the dragon’s blood to become invincible, and meets Brynhildr ‘shieldmaiden’, who in some incarnations of the story is a Valkyrie imbued with supernatural powers. They fall in love but Brynhild prophesies his doom and marriage to another. They part temporarily. Sigurd travels to the court of Gjuki, whose wife, Grimhild poisons him with an ‘Ale of Forgetfulness’ to force him to forget Brynhild so he can marry their daughter, Gudrun. Meanwhile, Gunnar, Gudrun’s brother courts Brynhild who is still waiting for her beloved Sigurd. To win Brynhild over, Gunnar devises a plan and convinces an enchanted Sigurd to help him. Unable to get near to Brynhild himself, but seeing that Sigurd can, Gunnar swaps bodies with him to seduce Brunhild and break her defences/powers, enabling him to seize his prize thereafter. Eventually, all deceptions come to light. Gunnar plots against and kills Sigurd, in some stories Brynhild then kills him, but the story ends with Sigurd and Brynhild finally reunited in death as she throws herself onto Sigurd’s blazing funeral pyre! What a way to go!English: A Christmas bonfire in Guelph, Canada.

 

The map to the human heart is a complicated route indeed, full of hidden perils, surprises and joyous heights!

Now…you may well ask, why on earth I am exploring tragic love affairs in literature, myth and history? Why the sudden interest?

Well…I’m glad to say I haven’t had a tragic experience myself, but…I am, I’m afraid, witnessing one as I write this. Yes, I’m not talking about my favourite tear inducing movie, or the howls of, “NO, GOD NO!” that I heard being cried at the TV screen from my friends who were apoplectic at the death of Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. No…I’m talking about a real life love tragedy unfolding before my eyes right now – a scene of unparalleled sadness, of unrequited love that makes all of the previous tales pale into insignificance.

Forget Romeo & Juliet, Heathcliff & Cathy, who cares about Tristan & Isolde? This is the sad sad tale of…Tolly & Mimi…

On the 1st August 2009, four years ago this very day, I was travelling back from Bridgewater having rescued two gorgeous white balls of fluff from the most hideous living conditions you can imagine. Four years later, my beautiful white wolves, brothers Korrun & Tolly, are happy and healthy and well…totally gorgeous. 349

Only one problem…Tolly is in love, deeply, passionately, unconditionally…an all consuming obsessional love and one which tragically, it is completely unrequited.

Wherever Mimi goes, Tolly follows, every move she makes he mirrors, no more than two inches from her face at all times, staring adoringly, gazing, dribbling, sighing with pensive longing when she retreats upstairs. Such desperate longing, such sadness…the poor boy just hasn’t realised that cats and dogs simply don’t…well, it’s a barrier greater than that of the Capulets and Montagues!

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