Tag Archives: modern

New journal article available

A journal article I wrote last year has just been published in Fafnir: Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research! The article discusses the environmental aspects of a modern fantasy novel called the Redemption of Althalus by David Eddings.

You can read the full article here for free, or read an explanation if you keep reading:

fafnir

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Sea-birds and Wanderlust

Species: Several, most importantly seagull (Larus argentatus) and cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).

Source: Two Old English lyric elegies: ‘The Seafarer’ and ’The Wanderer’.

Date: Seafarer c.850, Wanderer c.900 AD. (Klinck, 1992:13-21)

Highlights: Tolkien’s totally stole the idea of “sea-longing” from medieval poetry.

Now I’m not saying Tolkien was a sneaking-snaking-snarer who purposefully snuck medieval literature into his stories to educate people, but, well, they didn’t call him Professor for nothing. Photograph by Julian Nitzsche CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Now I’m not saying Tolkien was a sneaking-snaking-snarer who purposefully snuck medieval literature into his stories to educate people, but, well, they didn’t call him Professor for nothing.
Photograph by Julian Nitzsche CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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Back when the birds spoke Gaelic

Species: A tawny owl (Strix aluco) and magpie (Pica pica) have a battle of wits and it gets UGLY. An ambiguous grey bird is the judge.

Source: ‘Dàn mu Chonaltradh’ (English title: The Colloquy of the Birds).

Date: Modern! First published 1798, and written a few years before.

Highlights: Once upon a time, long ago, birds could speak Gaelic. Here’s the most famous example.

Magpies from Addition MS 26968 fol.282v. Owl from Harley 2887, fol.29. Both images are in the public domain because of their age.

Magpies from Addition MS 26968 fol.282v. Owl from Harley 2887, fol.29. Both images are in the public domain because of their age.

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The Lovers and Chameleons of Shakespeare

Looking at references to the chameleon in Shakespeare’s ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ can reveal some surprising things. Chameleons were once thought to live on nothing but air, and therefore make perfect metaphorical comparisons for those in unrequited love.

Species: Some kind of chameleon (Chamaeleonid sp.)
Source: ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’, perhaps Shakespeare’s first play.
Date: c.1589-91.
Highlights: Considering how often Shakespeare uses the semantic field of feasting to describe love, comparing people to chameleons (who were thought to never eat) was an especially effective insult…

Click below to read more.

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Toads, newts and snakes in ‘A Bawd’

toad

Photograph of a toad (B. bufo) by JKL-Foto, Licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0. Is this water clean or dirty?

Species mentioned: toads (?B. bufo; E. calamita?) snakes (?N. natrix?) and newts (?T. cristatus, L. vulgaris, L. helveticus?).

Source: ‘A Bawd’, a mock-sermon discussing bawdy (rude) people.

Date: 1630. Late for this blog but still centuries ahead of its time.

Highlights: John Taylor does not describe toads, newts and snakes as polluting the water they are in but rather as only being found in clean water. It is centuries before this fact is generally accepted, and even longer before the significance of amphibians and reptiles as bio-indicators is appreciated.

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GUEST BLOG POST – Celts and Sheep (Ovis aries) in AoE II (Age of Empires 2)

Age of Empires

This week’s blog post is on the Age of Empires blog. Click here to go there now.

We have a special sort of text to look at this week… a 21st century one!

This week’s entry, hosted on the Age of Empires blog looks at how accurately sheep are depicted in the computer game.

Species mentioned: Several but most interestingly sheep, (Ovis aries) which are the most frequently exploited animal in Age of Empires.

Source: Age of Empires II, one of the most influential RTS games of all time.

Date of Source: Age of Empires II is a 21st century game, but it’s based on the vague “middle ages”. For the Celts that’s c.550-1650.

Highlights: Although the developers of AoE II seem to have no idea what a medieval sheep looked like, they knew exactly what they were doing when they gave the medieval Celts a bonus with livestock. “Celts” ranging from the heroes of ‘Táin Bó Cúailnge’ to the ballads of the Borderers have specialised in being able to steal livestock from anywhere, no matter how isolated and well-guarded.

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Special Feature: Do wild boars (Sus scrofa) belong in Britain?

THE NEWS IN BRIEF…

Killer boar? Photograph taken by Scott Passmore of the UK Wild Boar Association.

Killer on the loose? Photograph  courtesy of Scott Passmore of the UK Wild Boar Association.

If you follow British news you’ve probably heard about the escaped wild boar (Sus scrofa) in Bridgend, South Wales. The animals were being bred by a farmer in Maesteg, between Swansea and Cardiff. These were traditional wild boar, complete with tusks and spiny manes, not just ordinary (modern) pigs. Wild boar pork in the UK is considered a rare delicacy, and is supposed to have a much more gamey ‘wild’ taste than ordinary pig pork. The animals in question were released after a group broke into the property where they stole equipment and attacked the boar.

A group of boar is called a sounder, and the number of this sounder is quite high. According to the South Wales police, at least 21 have been released, although the breeder, Greg Davies is missing 42 (23 adults and 19 piglets) (South Wales Evening Post, April 28th 2014; BBC News, April 28th 2014).

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