With RIVERWOOD out on submission I thought this would be a good time to think back through my writing process from it’s seminal moment to some of the larger themes in the book. RIVERWOOD was first conceived a few years ago during my master’s work in the art history program at the University of St. Thomas. I was lucky enough to have Dr. Nortorp-Madson as a professor and advisor during my graduate career, and not only is she an intelligent and active member of the medieval world in academia—she is also, I daresay, a not-so-closet fan of the small ribald images that were the subject of my MA thesis.
More on these later. You can find more about Dr. Nordtorp-Madson and her work here: http://www.stthomas.edu/arthistory/facultystaff/bios/nordtorpmadsonShelly.htm And her book about medieval garments, here: http://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Garments-Reconstructed-Clothing-Patterns/dp/8779342981/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358730505&sr=1-1 At any rate, I credit Dr. Nordtorp-Madson with spreading the highly contagious “medieval bug.” Upon infection the imagination is seized, overtaken really, with thoughts of a beautiful and strange universe unencumbered by the cages that develop around the modern mind. Then of course, the only logical anecdote to the medieval bug (not to be confused with the black plague, red plague, bloody flux, St. Anthony’s fire, or the ague) is to spend a good deal of time letting the imagination run free—and what better way to do this than to write a novel?
Many, indeed most fantasy novels borrow liberally from an imagined and highly romanticized medieval Europe, (mostly England). There are swords, there are shields, there are princesses—the monarchy is loosely feudal, there are references to European folklore and magic, with just a hint of paganism. This is the fertile soil from which many-a fantasy novel springs. And I love this genre! But I also love the idea that authors might use additional tropes in fantasy, perhaps better reflecting our multicultural universe. This (somewhat outdated) blog post lists a few multicultural authors and books that write science fiction and fantasy from other geographic and cultural perspectives, and there are certainly a few here that I’ll add to my reading list: http://www.stacylwhitman.com/2009/07/21/book-lists-multicultural-sff-for-mg-and-ya/ Please let me know of others!
Sometimes, however, an author digs a bit deeper into the ancient world and strays slightly from Anglo-Saxon territory. The Volsunga Saga, for example, is a Scandinavian tale written in the 13th century in Icelandic prose. It draws from epic poetry and the tale itself originated in the Migration Period (about 400-800CE). This story was the foundation for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as well as Wagner’s opera tetralogy The Ring. This finally brings us to that clever instrument pictured above called a Lur. The Lur is more than an intriguing little device nudging the imagination towards fiction. It’s a wind instrument that has been found deposited in pairs into bogs from the early first millennium, and the bronze version above was found from 1500-500 BCE. Fifty-six pairs have been found (mainly in peat bogs) in Scandinavia. There are cave drawings of people playing this captivating instrument!
This brings me to a most exciting topic about the first millennium—the Viking Expansion! More on this in the next post as it re
lates directly to my first thoughts about RIVERWOOD a looooong four years ago.
[Terry–Cool. My Dad was a professor of Old English which meant we had all the same stuff around the house: Runes, Vikings, Tolkien, Etc.
He left a recording of a bit of Beowulf in Old English, http://creativeworks.byu.edu/chaucer/ViewItem.aspx?id=OR039
as well as some Chaucer, Rude Rood, etc.
Hmm. That used to be Dad’s voice but I guess now you have to buy it.
His grave (in Nether Providence, PA) is actually a runestone, courtesy of his wife, Judith Moffett.
Also, oddly enough, one of my old college classmates was/is the only vodun priest in training in the US http://www.haverford.edu/publications/Spring01/Spring.pdf page 25