Archive for March, 2014

Well, the Finn generator gimmick isn’t Japanese-exclusive, but this post over at Rocket News does remind me of a Japanese business man who was in a course with me at Uppsala International Summer Session–according to him, the typological similarities (the languages are not actually related) between Finnish and Japanese (and so, I imagine, between Korean and Finnish) meant that Japanese and Finnish business men found it easier to learn each others languages than to learn other languages. Apparently the enthusiasm for things Finnish in Japan goes beyond greasing the wheels of commerce–though I have to say, I don’t think anyone is surprised that they (or anyone else on God’s green earth) enjoys Moomin books…
Speaking of Finnish and Japanese, both languages are next on my list to learn–will have to choose one or the other, I suppose.

PS: My Finnish name is apparently Kaleva Viljanen–though I don’t think anyone would be surprised to find a “K/Carl” or an “Olsen/Olson” in Finland, given the significant Swedish speaking population over the centuries.

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A Frozen Tale from Sinclair & Hill on Vimeo.


Super cool photo shoot at the Swedish castle Skokloster! Awesome stuff for those of you into the steampunk or late medieval/early modern aesthetic. You can’t really say it is “untouched” in terms of “abandoned,” as you can go take a tour there (I think I may have…), but I suppose the sense is that no one has lived there in all that time. It is one of many castles in Sweden associated with the royal family, but seeing as the country is the semi-socialist democracy that it is, there are quite a few that are open to the public. There used to be an annual renn-faire type gathering called “Skoklosterspelen” (the Skokloster games), but I guess those ended back in 2007 (so I missed my chance those summers that I studied there–the last time I was in Sweden was the final summer of the games… wow, that’s a long time ago…).

The photo series is also focused on the super interesting scholar-Queen Christina, whom you should definitely learn more about. Maybe one day I’ll put together a blog post more about her… though she is a bit outside my specialty (though not my field), so we’ll have to see.

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A quick sketch of Tolkien as a Warrior Dane. OK, I may not have the right warrior clothes for the migration era period that the poem describes, plus I got the scabbard on the wrong side, and the pin for his cloak is too centered, and the whole thing is messy... but I did this real quick in 5 or 10 minutes and need to get back to work, so gimme a break! Also, I think it looks a bit more like Magneto as a warrior dane...

A quick sketch of Tolkien as a Warrior Dane. OK, I may not have the right warrior clothes for the migration era period that the poem describes, plus I got the scabbard on the wrong side, and the pin for his cloak is too centered, and the whole thing is messy… but I did this real quick in 5 or 10 minutes and need to get back to work, so gimme a break! Also, I think it looks a bit more like Magneto as a warrior dane…

So a bunch of announcements went up today to the effect that Tolkien’s translation of the Old English heroic poem Beowulf, brought to light a while back, will be published this Spring. [Edit: An except can now be checked out here, side by side with Heaney’s translation] This makes it the latest of Tolkien’s posthumously published works, and the latest of his interpretations (including translations) of the heroic material he studied, which in more recent times includes his own compositions building on/emulating the Volsung material in Old Norse literature and the Arthurian tradition in Britain. When I studied Old and Middle English lit (not my major, just some fun classes) in undergrad, I wrote on the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and really appreciated Tolkien’s translation as very beautiful in its own right, and since I had a rudimentary competence in Middle English, I enjoyed being able to appreciate the ways his translation differed from others in its interpretation of the original. I did not use his edition of the poem at the time, but it is still available, co-edited with EV Gordon, the author of the introduction to Old Norse that so many of us in the field first studied with. Tolkien’s poetic treatments of some stories from his own mythos are clearly related to his translations and reworkings of the heroic material he studied–we might articulate it as different layers, each at a bit more of a remove from texts like Beowulf: 1) editions (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), 2) translations, 3) interpretations/original contributions to the “old” material, 4) homages from his own original universe (which, as you will see if you read some of his son’s commentary in the posthumously published Middle Earth series, could also be understood contributions to the “universe” of the older sources, related, I would argue, to the euhemeristic reimaginings of pagan myth in the Middle Ages).

Tolkien was, of course, a respectable scholar of Beowulf, and most of his “serious” fans are familiar with his essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” which had a significant impact on the way we study the poem (though one might also argue that it was simply a sign of the times, as things shifted in academia–but I do think Tolkien’s sympathy with a fellow poet, even across a millennium, shows through here). He also wrote an essay introducing a translation of the poem, some of the points of which are summarized here (sorry, couldn’t find an online text at the moment). This particular translation (and, I assume, the notes that go with it) belong to Tolkien’s younger days, but I am still pretty interested in seeing this (maybe HarperCollins could send me a review copy…? Maybe?). In particular it will be interesting to see the choices he makes in contrast to Seamus Heaney’s translation–both are poets, but will Tolkien’s additional qualifications as a scholar of Old English affect his translation at all? (Incidentally, I discuss Heaney’s translation as well as some notes re: the context of the composition and content of the poem here).

Well, I need to get back to my own translation work, so I will have to save anything else I’d like to say for the release of the actual translation. Other links to the news here, here, and here.

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Grim Bunny 12

The Grim Bunny #12! As we reach the end of this series of 12, TGB looks off into the distance, the sky an open canvas, all set for… another series of 12? Maybe! Thanks for those who have followed for these 12 pics (plus a few extras included below), and keep evangelizing for TGB if you want to see more in the future! I may try pursuing a stronger narrative arc next time (assuming I have time for a next time… fingers crossed). For now, in addition to needing to focus on my translation, I’d like to be able to do some non-TGB blog posts, put together some TGB merchandise, and do all sorts of other things.

But don’t despair! You can always visit the Grim Bunny archives at DeviantArt or here on WordPress! Also, feel free to follow me on tumblr, and please consider supporting my creative work by visiting my store either on DeviantArt or Redbubble! TGB merch will one day be available at both–hopefully one or two things relatively soon.

And here are a few more sketches, just for fun!

TGB Bonus Sketch 1 Final

TGB Bonus Sketch 2

TGB Bonus Sketch 3

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Grim Bunny 11

TGB # 11 is here! For the delight and exercise of your imagination. Next time there will hopefully be a bonus pic or two as well–meant to post them today, but the photos didn’t turn out. 😦

Because work is crazy for me right now, and because I’d like to find some time to turn some of these pics into cards, stickers, t-shirts, and other stuff, I think I’m going to have TGB run in series of 12–so next week will be the last of this series, but hopefully (especially if you SHARE WITH ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND MAKE THEM FANS) I will be back to continue with another series of 12. Plus, I should really be putting up more Viking-related blog posts on this site…

TGB archives are here and here! Original tumblr post for this entry is here!

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Image from Wikipedia

Well, I missed Kalevala day, but no way am I gonna miss Icelandic bun day! (and thanks to the Ohio State Scandi program’s Facebook page for reminding me…) Icelandic Bolludagur falls on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, and involves kids whapping their parents on the butt and yelling “Bolla bolla bolla!” It is even a school endorsed activity, as the kids make their Bolla-day paddles at school. @_@  WHEN I HAVE CHILDREN THEY WILL NEVER HEAR OF THIS. But it was pretty fun to be surprised with a bun one morning when I was doing research at Stofnun Árna Magnússonar in Reykjavík.

You can read more about this awesome folk day here, and learn to make your own buns here, here, and here. For a list of more Icelandic folk days, check out this list.

I didn’t get buns all that often in Iceland (yeesh, be careful how you read that…), but I did enjoy frequenting the bakeries while I was there. Well, more often I worked in coffee shops, since those are just better set up for dissertating, but they typically had more standard “Hip indie coffee shop food,” which is fine, but while “standard” does in fact mean “not really the same as any other exact place,” you had to go to the bakeries to get anything more unique to and shared within this particular nation. The weird muffin-like chocolate chip thingy that you see to the right was one of my favorites (the hot chocolate was amazing too). I picked this up at a cafe right near Tjörnin, the city pond/lake (can’t remember the name of the bakery though). I also tried an Icelandic donut (kleina) a couple of times–not super sweet, but nice with a cup of coffee.

Image from Wikipedia

My family is Swedish/Norwegian (mostly the former), so we didn’t have any traditional Icelandic pastries growing up, but we did make cardamom bread (and still do), which is the best thing in the world ever. I didn’t go to bakeries as much when I was in Sweden (one Fall and three summers), but when I did I was pretty happy to be able to get all different sorts of cardamom pastries (but watch out, because the moment you start expecting EVERYTHING to have cardamom, you bite into one that doesn’t…). I don’t know whether Norwegian pastries make use of cardamom, but I don’t remember finding any cardamom goodies in Iceland, so it may just be a Swedish thing. No Swedish bakery in the Bay Area, sadly, but there is a Danish Bakery, and you can get more general Nordic goods at the Nordic House!

What did Vikings bake? Well shoot, now I want to find out. They certainly had bread, but I have always assumed that sweet dessert breads (and, well, dessert itself) were a later import. Any archaeologists out there want to weigh in re: Viking Age baking?

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