Quotes: [It’s] the Small Things … That Become Precious

“It’s the large things in life that drive us, that we measure ourselves by; but it’s the small things, the daily things that–that become precious to us.”

– Rowan in Rosemary Kirstein’s The Outskirter’s Secret

As I get older, I see more and more truth in this trite-sounding idea. Or you could say that it’s yet another way of putting the concept that life happens in the cracks of bigger things or while waiting for something grand to happen.

Kirstein, Rosemary. The Outskirter’s Secret. New York: Del Ray, 1992, p. 132.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Advertisements

A Round of Awesome Female WoW Gnome Fanart

My very first WoW character, created towards the end of vanilla, was a female gnome mage. I still have her—specced the same, too—although I don’t play her as my primary anymore.

Anyway, I was looking for something else on the Internet when I fell into a hole on Tumblr and found all of this AWESOME female gnome fanart. I’ll share just five of my favorites below. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

An alchemist by Boz:

Tumblr Boz Female Gnome Alchemist

Love the thoughtful expression!

A custom portrait of a gnome with goggles by Azuralynx (aka Niniel-Gnoll):

Tumblr Azuralynx Female Gnome Portrait with Goggles

The grin! 😀

Sketch of a mage by Bryss (aka Alynissia):

Tumblr Bryss Female Gnome Sketch

Chromie, the dragon who prefers a gnome humanoid form, by mhazaru:

Tumblr Mhazaru Female Gnome Chromie

A death knight by Flyingterra—she clearly means business!

Tumblr Flyingterra Female Gnome Death Knight

The range of illustration techniques is impressive, but even more so is how all of these artists capture the range of possibilities for gnome characters.

Much ❤ ❤ ❤ to artistic nerds!

Images: Alchemist by Boz on Tumblr. Portrait with goggles by Azuralynx aka Niniel-Gnoll on Tumblr. Sketch by Bryss aka Alynissia on Tumblr. Chromie by mhazaru on Tumblr. Death knight by Flyingterra on Tumblr.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

A Round of Dwarf-ish Music

We haven’t talked about music lately. Time to fix it!

One of the new allied races in Battle for Azeroth, the latest World of Warcraft expansion, is Dark Iron Dwarves. (Note: I don’t think there’s much actual info as of yet, but people have been gathering mentions at a Wowhead thread.)

As I’ve mentioned before, female Dwarves are my absolute favorite race / gender combo to play in WoW, so I’m going to want at least one. 🙂 Consequently, my WoW thoughts have revolved heavily enough around Dwarves to push into the real life in the form of music befitting these mountain-dwellers.

Below are some of my current most favorite Dwarf-ish pieces, whether originally something quite different or composed specifically with Dwarves in mind.

An instrumental Nordic folk-based melody:

Dufwa via Hedningarna – Topic on YouTube

A Dwarven melody from a computer game I know nothing about:

The Dwarven Nobles – Dragon Age: Origins Soundtrack via allaboutVGmusic on YouTube

An Icelandic folk song with something to do with a (or more than one?) bigger bird (maybe crows, jackdaws, ravens, rooks, or the like):

Krummavísur – Voces Thules via hahaigotanidea on YouTube

Performed by the group Voces Thules. Wow! Also this next song is by the same group:

Voces Thules – Varizk ér Ok Varizk ér via Vikingskog on YouTube

Commenter EkErilaz added the Icelandic lyrics and an English translation:

“Beware! Beware! For the wind blows high. Blood will rain down on men’s bared bodies. Point and edge will share all men’s inheritance, now that the sword-age cuts sharply upon us.”

To my mind, the lyrics are very reminiscent of Vikings or Anglo-Saxons, but I could also see them applying to a fantasy race in WoW. (After all, the game is called World of Warcraft.)

Another, a very different type of instrumental:

Dwarf Mining Music – Dwarf Mining Town by Brandon Fiechter on YouTube

You can definitely get the mining vibe!

This version of the old Christmas carol “Masters in This Hall” from the album A Feast of Songs by Barry and Beth Hall also reminds me of Dwarves because of the steady rhythm and low key.

A Feast of Songs – Masters in This Hall via supermusic141 on YouTube

The next is a bit special. A music-heavy version of The Lord of the Rings was produced by the Finnish theater company Ryhmäteatteri in 1988 and 1989. Bilbo’s song “I Sit Beside the Fire and Think” from The Fellowship of the Ring, book 2, chapter III (“The Ring Goes South”) was turned into a song for the play, and it’s wonderfully meditative and solemn.

Tulen ääressä istun via Crypticevangelist on YouTube

The lyrics were originally translated into the Finnish version (Taru sormusten herrasta) by Panu Pekkanen; for the play they were slightly modified. The melody was composed by Toni Edelmann and sung by Timo Torikka.

This next piece was made by Simon Swerwer for the 2012 computer game Dwarf Fortress:

Simon Swerwer – The Tankard Basher by Simon Swerwer on YouTube

Awesome!

Lastly, Neil Finn’s “Song of the Lonely Mountain” (the end credits song for Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) because of the bittersweetness, melancholy, and—just perhaps—glimmer of hope that comes through.

Song of the Lonely Mountain by Neil Finn on YouTube

Anything you’d like to add? Please do!

This post has been edited to correct a typo.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Quotes: Hating Didn’t Change Things

“Hating didn’t change things. The world went on regardless, far beyond the feeble lives of humankind. People could change only if they changed what lay in themselves.”

– Mai in Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

I’ve been thinking of emotions this summer, especially negative ones. Partly it stemmed from having had to enforce my personal boundaries against an insistent violator and the outcomes from that, partly from the upsurge of racist and hateful behavior in the U.S.

I know hatred can feel like a driving force, but I also know how draining it is to live with such a strong emotion long term. I suppose in the end the universal “too much” rule of thumb applies: too much of one thing at the expense of others will lead to atrophy, both on small and large scale.

Elliott, Kate. Spirit Gate. New York, NY: Tor, 2006, p. 434.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Quotes: Violence Is a Tool That … Begs You to Use It Again and Again

“Violence is a part of our trade, yes. It is one tool of many. But violence is a tool that, if you use it but once, it begs you to use it again and again. And soon you will find yourself using it against someone undeserving of it.”

– Ashara Komayd, former operative for and prime minister of Saypur in City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

Yup. I’ve been thinking along similar lines with regard to the racism in the U.S. and the ridiculous, racist non-reasons some racist-ass whites justify their calling of police on people of color, especially blacks. It’s racist, wasteful, racist, reprehensible, racist, entitled, racist, cruel, racist, wrong, and racist. It has to stop.

Bennett, Robert Jackson. City of Miracles. New York: Broadway Books, 2017, p. 177.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

The Rules of (Ancient) Magic

Not too long ago I was perusing a post by the fantasy author N. K. Jemisin about magic in fantasy. (The post is from several years back, but it only came to my attention recently—it’s well worth reading both the post and the comments after, if you’re interested in fantasy writing.) Jemisin takes issue with contemporary writers who obsess over rules and systems for magic rather than letting magic be the strange, unpredictable, sometimes frightening force that it often was in older fantasy by authors like Tolkien and Le Guin.

Naturally, being a historian of the ancient Mediterranean by training and a fantasy fan and author by inclination, it got me thinking about how magic is used in ancient Greek and Roman literature. The first problem is how to define magic. Lots of strange things happen in classical myths, but most of those are the action of gods, to whom turning people into peacocks or birthing fully-armed daughters out of their heads comes naturally. Ancient societies also widely believed that humans had the ability to invoke the gods to take action on their behalf through rituals including offerings, prayers, curses, and dances. I’m taking a more limited definition of magic, however: supernatural powers and events produced directly by humans at their will without requiring the aid and participation of gods or other superhuman entities. Using this definition, magic is actually quite rare in ancient literature, but here are a few examples.

In the Odyssey by Homer, the witch Circe uses enchanted food and a magic wand to transform Odysseus’ crew into animals. The god Hermes points Odysseus to a special herb which protects him from Circe’s magic as long as he is holding it, which allows him to overcome Circe and force her to restore his crew. (As a side note, this part of the epic may ultimately derive from Babylonian myths about the god Marduk, who held a sweet-smelling herb to protect himself from the poisonous blood of the dragon Tiamat and her monstrous children.)

In Euripides’ drama Medea, the sorceress Medea, abandoned by her husband Jason, sends a poisoned robe and crown to Jason’s new bride, Glauce. When Glauce dons the poisoned gifts, they cling to her body and burn her to death.

In Apuleius’ novel Metamorphoses (often also called The Golden Ass), the narrator Lucius learns that his friend’s wife dabbles in magic and can transform into a bird by rubbing a magic potion on her body. Lucius wants to try the same and steals some of her potion, but by mistake he gets the wrong one and is turned into a donkey. From the lady’s maid, Photis, he learns that the secret to reversing his transformation is to eat rose petals, but roses are not in season and the rest of the novel follows Lucius the donkey from one misadventure to the next as he tries to find roses to eat.

From these examples, we can notice some patterns about how Green and Roman authors thought about and used magic. On one hand, there is no sign of a magic system, as described by Jemisin. There are no universal rules and no explanation for how or why magic works. Every individual case is different. It depends upon secrets known only to its users, never shared with the audience, and its results often shock and terrify those who encounter them.

At the same time, even though we cannot call this magic systematic, there is a consistency to it. It tends to require special objects or substances, such as enchanted food, magic flowers, poisons, and potions. Those who are initiated into its powers can use them with confidence: Medea knows that her poison will be effective, just as Circe knows she is defeated when she sees Odysseus carrying the plant that makes him immune to her power. When the effects fail or go awry, it is because of ignorance or ineptitude on the part of the wielders, like Lucius using the wrong potion.

Despite this general consistency, the magic remains narratively powerful. It does not become dull and predictable or divert the stories away from the characters’ choices and their consequences. In fact, magic makes possible the human stories that are at the center of these narratives, from Medea’s calamitous vengeance to Lucius’ comic wanderings. How does it achieve these things? A few observations:

The stories include magic; they aren’t about magic. Magic is a MacGuffin. It sets things in motion or presents characters with choices to make, but once the magic has done its job, it disappears into the background and lets the characters get on with things.

Magic does not solve or circumvent the crucial problems. The human issues and choices at the center of these stories are ones that magic cannot touch. Odysseus is trying to get home. He deals with magic and monsters on his way, but it isn’t magic that gets him where he wants to go. Medea’s magic gives her the power to deeply hurt Jason in a way that a mundane woman in her position could not, but the story is about how she makes the choice to use that power. Lucius’ magical mishaps drive him to rethink his unsatisfying life and resolve to be a better person. Magic presents these characters with challenges and choices they wouldn’t otherwise face, but their stories are still about what happens in their hearts and minds.

We know only as much as we need to know. Apuleius does not list the ingredients in Lucius’ donkeyfying draught, nor is there an appendix at the end of the Odyssey to explain how Odysseus’ magical plant disrupted the mystical ether currents that Circe manipulated with her wand. Medea does not take time out from her revenge plot to give the audience a primer on fiery poisons. The magic simply works the way it is supposed to, and that’s all we need to know.

Thoughts for writers

There’s room in fantasy literature for many kinds of magic, from complex and internally consistent systems to strange and unpredictable effects. There’s even a place for fantasy with no magic at all. Whatever kind of fantasy you feel like writing, though, remember this: the story comes first. Whatever you do with your magic, don’t let it get in the way of your characters and the choices they have to make.

Image: Circe flees from Odysseus, with animal-headed crew, detail of photograph via Wikimedia (Metropolitan Museum of Art; c. 440 BCE; red-figure vase; by the Persephone Painter)

History for Writers is a weekly feature which looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool. From worldbuilding to dialogue, history helps you write. Check out the introduction to History for Writers here.

A Washington State Hobbit Hole

Kristie Wolfe built a Hobbit hole in the mountains of central Washington state. And what great work it is—the attention to detail is superb!

Zillow Kristie Wolfe Hobbit Hole View

The house hole has a bedroom, a small living room, and a bathroom with a large wooden oval jacuzzi. As befits a Hobbit hole, the structure is mostly underground and has a round door.

Zillow Kristie Wolfe Hobbit Hole Entry

The small yard is edged by a stick-and-branch fence woven by Wolfe’s landscaper sister.

Zillow Kristie Wolfe Hobbit Hole Yard

There are loads of thought-out details like the floors made of wooden disks of various sizes and a beautiful metal door decoration/knob. But where is the kitchen? Wolfe explains in this video:

A Hobbit House You Can Stay In by Zillow

In case you can’t access the video, she says she’s planning a total of three holes, and since it’s not very practical for each to have its own kitchen, she wants to build a bigger shared one in the style of an English pub.

Read the article at Zillow for more details and photos.

I can understand that you can’t always overcome restrictions, but I still think a kitchen is vital, VITAL, in a Hobbit home. On the other hand, an indoor bathroom is often omitted in favor of an outhouse when building in a challenging location, so full marks to Wolfe for including a full bath.

Also check out a Scottish Hobbit hole I blogged about earlier—which do you prefer and why?

In Here is an occasional feature highlighting geeky spaces created by our fellow geeks all over the world.

Finnish Folk Hop Ensemble Tuuletar Lends Wings to Game of Thrones Ad

Alku (‘Beginning’), a piece by the Finnish vocal folk hop ensemble Tuuletar, appears in a Game of Thrones commercial. The band’s website says,

“’Alku’, the opening track from Tuuletar’s debut album “tules maas vedes taivaal” has been sold for the use of one of the most popular tv-series in the whole world, HBO’s Game of Thrones. The song will be heard in the season 7 DVD and Blue-Ray [sic] commercial, which will be broadcasted worldwide. The deal was made together with Finnish record label Bafe’s Factory and ThinkSync Music from London.”

The ThinkSync news page on the sale links to a German-language DVD / Blu-Ray trailer for GoT season 7 on YouTube with Alku in the background:

GAME OF THRONES Staffel 7 – Trailer #2 Deutsch HD German (2017) by Warner Bros. DE

Tuuletar mashes up a cappella, beatboxing and Finnish folk music and poetry into a unique combination. Their debut album, Tules maas vedes taivaal (‘On Fire and Earth, in Water and Sky‘), won the prestigious Emma Award (the Finnish version of a Grammy) for the best ethno album of the year in 2016.

Tuuletar IMG_0510-1024x683

Vocalists Venla Ilona Blom, Sini Koskelainen, Johanna Kyykoski and Piia Säilynoja make up Tuuletar. More videos at YouTube or Tuuletar website.

Congrats, Tuuletar! I first blogged about the band two years ago just before they released their debut record, and am absolutely delighted to see them doing so well. And Alku is so amazing it gives me chills—always a sign of greatness!

Crossposted from the Playfully Grownup Home blog.

Image via Tuuletar

This post has been edited for style.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

A Game of Thrones Hotel Made of Snow and Ice

The Snow Village hotel in Kittilä in Lapland, Finland, has gone all-out Game of Thrones for their 2017-2018 season. The snow and ice sculptures of various characters and scenes embellishing the resort were created in collaboration with HBO Nordic.

Laplandhotels Snow Village White Walker Sm

According to an Yle article (NB. in Finnish only), the hotel’s current look was finished at the beginning of December. While Finns built the structural parts of the snow village, the carving was done by an international team of artists with members from Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, and Russia.

Instagram Snow Village Hall of Faces

Check out the interiors in this video by Snow Village:

 

Another short video with more indoor and outdoor shots by LADbible can be found on Facebook.

It looks absolutely amazing! Just out of curiosity, I also had a look at the restaurant menus, and it sounds. So. Delicious! (Sadly, now I miss home!)

Instagram Snow Village Ice Bar with Dragon

The downside is that the pricing is, erm, quite high, to stick with a polite understatement. Then again, what else is to be expected when you have to rebuild a significant part of your infrastructure every winter?

Check out more and/or follow Snow Village on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There are also photos I haven’t seen elsewhere (both of GoT and other themes) in the photo gallery at Laplandhotels.com.

Images: White Walker via Snow Village at Laplandhotels.com. Hall of faces via Snow Village on Instagram. Ice bar with dragon via Snow Village on Instagram.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

R.I.P. Ursula Le Guin

Author Ursula Le Guin is no longer with us.

Eileen Gunn Ursula-39-small

One of the most poignant remembrances I’ve yet seen is by author Catherynne Valente on Twitter:

I’m most fond of Le Guin’s Earthsea stories, some of which I’ve read and re-read in Finnish and in English over the years. I’ve only managed one of her science fiction books so far, though. Time to rectify that.

Forever read, Ms. Le Guin. Your intellect, inner fire, and vision will be deeply missed.

(Hat tip to Nnedi Okorafor for the phrase “forever read” in lieu of “rest in peace”.)

Image by Eileen Gunn via Ursula K. Le Guin website