Strassur the Red Panther

Toughts of a Reader and a Writer

The Wife’s Lament

The Wife’s Lament is a poem of exile and suffering that is believed to be narrated by a female, or as the title suggests, a wife. The sex of the narrator is believed to be female because of the reference to “my lord” which according to our text, the Old English pronouns have grammatical gender and refer to “my lord” as a husband. She initially talks about her husband leaving his people after a dispute, then causing her to leave in a “friendless exile” (9). She then talks about hearing that her husband is also down on his luck, or exiled, as a result of murder, which weighs heavy on his heart. The remainder of the poem talks about how powerful and enjoyable her marriage was, and how now in the absence of him, it feels cruel and uncomfortable.

What’s interesting about this poem is in the beginning, the narrator talks about the exile, then explains how she misses her husband and the affect his absence has on her. What follows is what sparks questions. She then begins to teach the reader how to deal with his situation and advises to essentially stay positive. “If ever anyone should feel anguish, harsh pain at heart, she should put on a happy appearance while enduring endless sorrows” (42-45). Being in exile, the narrator has had time to reflect and create alternate solutions to the problems she faced that resulted in her banishment. It almost feels as though medieval exile was a permanent form of our modern “time out” system we may use with small children.

Do you believe exile was used so the community would never have to deal with the subject again, or a long term method that forced the subject to nearly experience the stages of grief and ultimately see the errors of their ways?

 

Works Cited:

“The Wife’s Lament.” Trans. Alfred David The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. A: The Middle Ages. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 120-122. Print

A Westeros Confession

I have a confession. I just recently started watching the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.  For anyone who knows me, my delay in seeing these shows is insane since I love all things medieval and fantasy.  I just finished season 1 and so far am loving it, and hating it. Hating it because of the characters I want to reach into the screen and choke, like King Geoffrey.  I am sure most share my feelings, and if justice comes later in the series, please try not to spoil it for me.  Loving it because the characters are great, the setting is breathtaking, the pacing is a great mix of actions, political power plays and long forgotten honor.  

The emotional roller-coaster the show puts me through reminds me of Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.  The book was amazing, and even though it was long, the same feelings GoT delivers is what Pillars brought.  You cheer, you cry, and you shout in anger. So far, Game of Thrones has made me experience the same feelings and I look forward to seeing the remaining seasons.

 When school slows down a bit, I must read the novels as well. I have read other Martin stories and they delivered as expected.  Can anyone advise if the GoT books prove worthy?

Character or Plot? Who will be the victor?

When it comes to importance, Character is the key. A plot is needed to begin your process, but a character is what drives the plot. We have all most likely watched a movie because one of our favorite actors or actresses are in it, or because it is a sequel with a character we loved. I loved the old Conan movies starring Arnold, so of course I had to watch Red Sonia because it had basically the same character in it. The traits of a well written character are what makes us as the reader or viewer relate or feel emotion towards them. If aliens are attacking a city, it’s exciting to watch, but without someone there we care about then it is just destruction, not drama.

I like a quote in Seymour Chatman’s book, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film, “The character plays a role of connecting thread helping us to orient ourselves amid the piling-up of details.” (Page 111) By being in the mind of the character, or seeing events through their eyes, we as readers are able to understand what is going on, or to only see what the author wants us to see until the right time. The character is the perfect tool to keep us on track and in the desired direction. Now, there has to be a reason why we are reading the book, so plot is important, but characters are the ones we remembers and love.

Final score:
Character 1
Plot 0

What’s your opinion?

Book or Film? That is the question.

I was recently asked whether I preferred books or films, and if I could name an awesome one in each, and the question was a little more difficult than I thought.  Like most, I generally feel that a book is a more descriptive medium than a film because of the time limitations that movies have.  One movies that I found better then the book was Rambo: First Blood.  It’s possible that this is due to me seeing the movie when I was very young and reading the book, First Blood by David Morrell many years later.  I like the way the director portrayed Rambo in the film, more of a victim of society due to his status as a Vietnam vet.  Sylvester Stallon did a decent job playing the part that showed a man just passing through, being driven to the point of his violent reaction by the Sheriff.  I think the film does well in showing his confused emotions and PTSD like behavior.  In the book, Rambo is much more of an asshole that almost deserves the initial conflict.  Both are great pieces, but the film drew me in much more. 

               For books being better than films, the list is long. I am a huge medieval and fantasy genre fan, but to stick with the war type stories, my top choice is Blackhawk Down, by Mark Bowden.  Both the book and film were well done, showing the leadership challenges and frustrations of the conflict in Mogadishu, but the book dove much deeper into the perspective of the Somali people.  The author actually interviewed many people who were there during this time frame, and described how some Somalis wanted to stay out of it. One scene talks about a pharmacist who intended to staying indoors, but became angered when this friend was struck by a stray bullet, which he blamed on the US soldiers.  This angered him and encouraged him to take up arms and join the fight.  A movie simply does not have the time to get into lore, back story or even character development as much as a book does.

               Character and conflict can still be created in film, but a well written book seems to make you love or hate the people involved much more.  A huge benefit of film, however, is the time investment.  You can essentially watch an abridged version in 2 hours and still grasp the main story and message.  Books can take much longer, especially those 800 pagers like Pillars of the Earth or Sword of Shannara.

Poetic Themes of the Romantic Period

I was reading some poetry from the early Romantic Period when I began to think about the difference in poetic theory amongst some of the more famous writers.  William Wordsworth’s theory of poetry was to display actual events through poems in a language that we actually use.  “Tis true had gone before this hour, the work of massacre in which the senseless sword was pray’d to as a judge” (The Prelude, Book 10)  He speaks of the Revolution in simple terms and in the above passage, talks about the violence where the sword is the ultimate judge of man.  I feel like he believes in a time of war and revolution, mob rule and violence takes priority over God and politics.  The time for speeches and prayer to induce change is over, now man is judged by way of sword.

Samuel Coleridge mirrors the theory, but added more emphasis on imagination.  Imagination with a little symbolism, such as the albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which is bad luck to kill.  The story as a whole is based around the result of the mariner killing the symbolic bird.  As such, the mariner must travel the earth and retell his tale.  Both Coleridge and Wordsworth write in ways that are easy to read and rely more on painting a great scene then displaying fancy words.

Percy Shelley seemed to be on the more extreme side in his poetry.  He was expelled from Oxford after writing a short piece on atheism.  I found a poem that he wrote titled The Masque of Anarchy which is considered the first modern statement of nonviolent resistance.  He would be a protestor of violence in any civil war or revolution.  Perhaps this style of writing would be the most effective in the revolutionary sense because it can be more controversial.  Good or bad, publicity gives the piece more exposure which spreads quickly.  Should Shelley’s life had been longer, he could have continued to write on matters that sparked his passion under his extreme craft and continued to make waves against his opposition.  Wordsworth and Coleridge may have been read and understood by more people, including those on a lower literacy level, but may not have had the same powerful impact.

Parkour Your Way To Fitness

  I recently have been experiencing a growing passion for parkour. For those who haven’t heard of parkour, it’s an exhilerating method of running, jumping and climbing to most efficiently overcome obstacles. It requires lots of balance, strength and mental confidence to perform, but can be started by anyone at any fitness level. I am not in as great of shape as when I was in the Marine Corps years ago, and with life being very busy, good old fitness can easily be pushed to the back burner. Parkour has rekindled my desire to get back into shape and get outside.  

I have been running 4 days a week now and started some parkour training a few times per week, which for me includes presicion jumps, balancing exercises and lots of calasthenics. I love watching Youtube videos by the Tapp brothers and by Ronnies Shalvis. Those guys are amazing and inspiring. A vault box may be near in my future for home training as well.  

I will keep you all posted on my progress and even post some pictures or videos as I go, but any feedback or advice is gratefully accepted. I may never get to freerunning and large drops, buts presicion jumps and awesome vaults is a great way to encourage my fitness.

The Journey (Short Story)

Elkar stood near the makeshift wooden table holding a blazing torch.  He was in his polished and most ceremonious armor, shinning dully under the full moon.  The flames of the torch danced on the gold emblem portrayed in the center of his breastplate and reflected the tears that slowly rolled down his cheeks, stopping only to be absorbed within the dense whiskers of his well groomed mustache.  The symbol on the warriors chest of the panther’s head seemed to breath with every flicker of the torches flame.

On the wooden table lying amongst the small branches and decorative flowers was the lifeless body of Dorian.  His gloved hands were folded across his chest and covered with a silver and gold buckler that housed the same emblem depicted on Elkar’s armor.  Tied neatly around his waist was the familiar brown sash that represented all infantryman.

Elkar could remember when Dorian was selected to train the new Panthers.  He was so excited because Kyle, their mutual childhood friend, had also been selected.  The three had made a name for producing quality soldiers that could effectively wield deadly weapons, and had the heart to continue fighting beyond the point of exhaustion.

They had built so much together over the years, all to be destroyed by a nightmare of a patrol only two days prior.  Kyle and Dorian had been winding through the Skytop Pass when they were ambushed by a large group of the Bultov Riders, an organized and intimidating group of thieves that were terrorizing the outer trade routes.  The two warriors fought back to back as their fellow Panthers dropped around them, unable to defend against the endless stream of attackers.  Elkar remembers responding from the walls of Thylark to the sound of the trumpet that all patrols carried, followed by a platoon of infantry.  Horses were driven hard to the area where the last sound had faded, over a mile up the steep grade.

As Elkar rounded the first turn his nostrils began to burn with the recognizable smell of death as the wind poured like a funnel through the pass.  The warrior slowed to a steady gallop, careful not to fall into the same fate as his comrades, as he could only imagine the worst.  He had crested the first peak when his stomach dropped, nearly knocking the breath from his lunges.  In front of him was nearly two score of the hated Riders, victims of the well trained Panthers.  Humans had been flayed open and extremities were detached from the furious strikes of sword and axe.  Well placed arrows protruded from the gaps in armor of the helpless Rider who found themselves in the sites of the deadly green Panther archers.  Among the dead, Elkar also saw the familiar brown and green sashes of his own people.  Anger flushed over him as he stared at the end result of an ambush, with neither side being the victor.

Elkar quickly snapped too, realizing where he was.  “Jarel,” ordered the commander, “take your team and push forward a ways.  See what you got then set up security.”

“Copy,” replied Jarel, as he came back to reality.  The weather beaten team leader began barking orders to his men as they cautiously rode up the pass, looking for signs of the Riders.

“I’ll take flank security,” stated Morgan, reading his commanders mind.  Elkar simply nodded at the second class infantryman as his men already began to move.  Elkar turned to discuss with his third team leader how to transport all the dead men back to the city.  Frustration still clouded his mind as he stood, saddened by the death of so many great warriors.  He watched as the two healers attached to the platoon began searching the slain Panthers in some great hope that there may be life.

“Jarel!” a shout came from a distance.  “Come quick.”

Elkar heard the excited shouts and the thunderous sound of horses running.  Quickly, the warrior drew his sword and started up the path in a full sprint.  ‘Not again, not while I’m here.’ he whispered to himself.  Now, it was Elkar’s turn to taste blood.

     Back at the northern gate, Panthers waited impatiently, as another group of reinforcements were about to deploy up the pass to aid their comrades.

“As soon as that last team of archers gets here, we will ride,” yelled Sergeant Pravius, commander of a heavy cavalry company.  Approaching the end of his days as a Panther, the silver haired veteran was already holding his long handled axe in his powerful hands.  The worn blades still shinned even after years of abuse by the experienced fighter.  His aged face continued to peer out to his destination, as if he was looking for a sign, or signal.

     Reaching where the commotion has been, Elkar immediately saw what the yelling was about.  Lying on the ground was Dorian.  The warrior labored his breathing, struggling to force every inhale of life into his body.  Elkar ran over to his friend and discovered his neck had been lacerated and was bleeding badly.

“Healer!” he yelled.  “Someone get me a damn healer.”

Elkar sat in the dirt cradling Dorian’s head.  The soaked ground was replaced with Elkar’s thigh, quickly absorbing what remaining blood drained from Dorian’s body.

“Hold on there, Dor,” he choked out, holding on to what little control he had.  “The healers are coming.  Gonna fix you right up.”

Dorian tried to respond, but only formed sounds of struggle within his throat.  His breathing continued to slow and fade to an unrecognizable level.

A healer arrived fast, her long legs covered the ground quickly.  She skillfully grabbed a wad of rolled cloth and pressed it firmly onto Dorian’s throat.

“You have to help him, please.” plead Elkar, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I will, sir. I will do everything I can.” the healer responded, her face shadowed by sadness and the recognition of Dorian’s status.  Grateful for the cover of her long brown hair, the healer tired, but could not stop Dorian from slipping away.

Elkar sat quietly as the shadow of guilt and pain loomed over.  His friend Dorian took his last breath.  It was not the healers fault, it was not the leadership and protection that failed.  It was just the business of freedom.  Freedom for a land Dorian had always said he was willing to die for.

 

Back at the ceremony, Elkar touched the torch to the sticks and hay below the table that served as a hasty cremation station.

Holding in his tears, Elkar turned and addressed the remaining members of their small party, the flames behind him jumped to life, popping and cracking as the accelerants began to roar.

“Cremation is the quickest way for Dorian to meet his maker.” Elkar began, his voice deep but soft.  “This is the fate he wanted, the dream he spoke of for years.  Dying for a realm that always gave back to its people.  The people he vowed to protect.  Unfortunately,  there are those who do not share our values.” Elkars voice began to rise.

“The values of our land, and the values of the Panthers.  You will be missed, Dorian.” The warriors head raised, he looked towards the sky.  “I will miss you.  I only wish you did not have to make this journey alone.”

Response to Writing Prompt

Here is the paragraph I wrote in response to my prompt given on the AFK podcast:

Enok arrived at his destination and began to find his way from the crowded taxi drop-off to the shop entrance.  Having only been in the United States for a night, he already missed the slower pace and snow covered hills of his homeland.  An easy read from one of his favorite American comic book heroes always eased the nerve of intense interviews and his struggle with the English language, and promised for a calm evening.  The bright sun and intense heat would eventually become a welcoming feeling, but the absence of dry air already caused his aging joints to be noticed.  Walking slowly as he searched his small translator for the word Entrance, the Greenlander made his way across the parking lot, occasionally stepping over discarded cans, flyers and other rubbish.  He assumed the comic book store he had been dropped off at would be in this large building.  As he rounded the corner of the multistory structure, he first noticed the rounded glass and open front of the creatively crafted waterside mall.  His attention was suddenly pulled away by the hundreds of people lined up in the front. Bright costumes, oversized swords, and creative ways to barely cover the unmentionables of those in line filled the patio of the great center.  Stunned, Enok looked up at the sign above the large glass doors and read, “San Diego Comic-Con 2013”. 

New podcast episode on the Noob

Come on over and check out our latest episode where we define a Noob, covering its origin and history.  Also included is a writing prompt and response paragraph. Dont forget to tell us what you would like to see defined next.

http://afkpodcast.podomatic.com/entry/2013-08-09T03_11_38-07_00

The First Draw (Short Story)

 

               The rain had stopped and the early morning sun was beginning to pierce the dreary gray cloud cover. Wet clothing and hunger provided a restless night as the long line or archers battled not only fatigue from a poor night’s sleep, but fear. Fear of dying and fear of failing the man next to them.  On the brink of combat, the two large armies stared each other down like crouched tigers waiting to pounce.  Colorful banners and flags flapped quietly in the wind, the silence only broken by the occasion commanding shout amongst the ranks or the weary soldier losing control and emptying the contents of his stomach on the battlefield.

               Jerl stood quietly on the line, peering across the field at the heavily armored infantry preparing for their assault. Large war horses danced anxiously as they moved into their ranks, nearly touching the haunches of the mount next to them. Their skilled riders controlling the beast with one hand on the reins while their other grasped a sharp lance.  Long shafts of wood with barbed metal tips that when wielded skillfully could skewer three armed men. 

               Thinking of the lances, Jerl removed an arrow from his heavy leather quiver. The tip of the bodkin looked like a lance, as sharp and pointy as a stiletto, able to penetrate the highest quality armor.  A broad sword or a broad head arrow created a much larger wound channel, but could not penetrate the modern metal armor crafted by the finest of smiths. 

               Perhaps, thought Jerl, a creative smith of neutral party invented the theory of the bodkin and the lance.  One destructive device for each side of the war.  It gives both sides an advantage and keeps the blacksmith in business.  A quality craftsman could greatly benefit from a war, one they wouldn’t even have to wield a sword in.  Crafting quality weapons and repairing damaged armor during a campaign could bring steady work for decades. 

               Jerl could not seem himself as a craftsman.  He possessed the large frame to swing a hammer, but preferred to use his size to draw the full weight of a longbow.  Having shot for years, he built up the strength to maintain a sustained rate of fire, and the callous tips of his fingers allowed the full weight of the waxed bow string to roll off hundreds of times a day.

               He placed the bodkin arrow across the top of his long bow. The freshly oiled yew wood glisten in the rising sunlight. As he knocked the arrow, he realized how bad his hands were shaking, and so did his mentor. 

               “Jerl,” Marcus said giggling, remembering his first war and how a large portion of the battle was against yourself. “You must calm your nerves, boy. They are just like any other targets ya hit before, except if ya miss too much, these targets will kill us.” 

               “Comforting thoughts, sir,” Jerl replied smartly.

               “I’m just teasin’ ya. Tryin’ to make light.” Marcus stopped laughing and looked Jerl in his eyes, squaring his shoulders with his hands.  Jerl stared back and saw eyes deep and dark, the look that had no doubt stared down many enemy armies in the past.  Their edges were worn with stress that a position of leadership can bring.  Although Marcus never had the desire to promote, he has trained green archers for nearly a score of years.

               “Look boy. There is no doubt the knights and men-at-arms across that field look scary, but I assure you, they are men. Men just like you and I. Aim true, breath and release, and they will drop.”

               Jerl nodded, “I can do this.” 

               “Yes you can,” Marcus replied in a near whisper. “And don’t stop,” his voice elevated. “Drop as many of those bastards as ya can.”

 

               “Ready your arrows” shouted the section leader.

               Jerl reseated his arrow, this time with a steady hand. His callous finger tips slid up and down the waxed string in one final inspection. This arrow would be the first arrow he will have shot in combat. His first attempt to take another human life and he still didn’t know the full reason of the war. Did the enemy really hate him and his countryman, or were they doing their job? Did his prey have a family waiting at home, keeping the fire warm and the children in line until his return? Or maybe a beautiful lady they tried to court into marriage, similar to Lisa that Jerl had left behind.  Oh he missed the smell of gardenia and rose oil she used to spot her neck with.  He could always catch a quick scent before she pushed him away when he tried to kiss her neck.  He remember the soft touch of her hands as they walked through his families wheat fields, never wanting to let go, long past the setting sun.  She used to shout encouragements when Jerl strung his bow and launched arrows the length of the fields.  “Good shot, Jerl. Just a little to the left, Jerl.”

               He could still hear her voice.  She would read her studies out loud when preparing for an exam.  She said it help her remember better, but Jerl always thought it was another attempt to lure him into a passionate frenzy, teasing him before she got called away to help transcribe text in the Keep. 

               Jerl would return from this war, and he would ask Lisa’s father for her hand in marriage.  How could he say no to a war hero?  A soldier returns from combat with the spoils he earned, wealthy and ready to settle down.

               The young archer looked down the line at his fellow soldiers.  He relied on them to take down the enemy.  To shot true and fast, and when the time came, drop their bows and fight up close and personal.  Jerl always heard his own blood pound and stir in his head as excitement and fear rose, but never heard the blood of his enemy splash onto the ground, wetting the soil like rain. 

               His mentor told him to keep firing, and never give up.  The other archers relied on him as well.  And the knights, the fighters, the true heroes, they needed Jerl to thin the lines, cause havoc, and slow the horses change.  Thousand pound beasts did not stop easily.

               Jerl raised his head up from his bow, sweat trickling down his brow as he again gazed across the field at the approach of the enemy.  He picked his target.  A well armored knight atop a gray war horse.  The lance was held high with pride as a bright yellow and blue banner flowed like silk behind him.  It was a beautiful scene. How the banner stayed clean amongst the flying mud kicked up from the trampling hooves surprised Jerl.  But, it did not matter.  That was about to change.  Jerl was going to make it home, and so was his fellow soldiers.

               “I will see you soon, my love,” he whispered.  Pulling back his string, Jerl’s muscles easily fought against the full draw of a six foot long bow.  He again caught sight of his first target, and released.