J. R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth have had a profound impact on the fantasy genre, especially his Elves. Rather than the tiny, mischievous sprites found in cookie commercials and some children’s media, his Elves are near human-sized. Immortal and possessing an ethereal beauty, they are generally shown as wiser, more sensitive, and more in-tune with nature than humans. Similar elves have become a common staple in fantasy works. But where did Tolkien get his Elves? Tracing the possibilities turns out to be quite the journey, so I’ll split this into two parts and start with literary and linguistic leads before covering the more mythological ones. Continue reading “Hey, Tolkien, Where’d You Get Those Elves? Part 1: Stars and Swans”
Spring is here! I hope all of you are getting a chance to enjoy some sign of new life and returning light. I’ll admit my hay-fever gives me mixed feelings about spring flowers, but so far things haven’t been so bad. I even got to enjoy some lovely spring rain, which tends to put me in the writing mood. How about you? How is spring treating you so far?
It’s the week of St. Patrick’s Day, which means it’s time for an Irish-themed post! I’m part Irish and feel a strong connection to that heritage. So every March, I’ll be covering a topic related to Irish mythology, history, or media—or even all three. Erin go bragh!
What would you do for a cow? Probably not much, and you probably send hundreds of people die in a battle over one. Yet that is the subject of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, also translated as The Cattle Raid of Cooley. I had been planning to read the Táin for a while knowing only that it was one of the most important epics in Irish cultural history. When I actually sat down with it, I was startled, partly because it was about stealing a bull and partly because certainly elements reminded me of the cowboys and ranchers of the Western genre. Now, I’m not saying one is directly related to the other. However, they do work remarkably well as mirrors, helping us to look deeper at the themes they share and those they don’t. Continue reading “Of Cu Chulain and Cowboys: Reflections on an Irish Epic and Westerns”