Aug 25, 2014

Comparative religion: the Daedric Princes and the Chaos gods

Now that I've got a degree in comparative religion, I feel I ought to do some. Let's get the easy ones out of the way first!

Hermaeus Mora = Tzeentch

The Daedra of fate and knowledge, Lord of Secrets, is clearly Tzeentch.

Sanguine = Slaanesh

Similarly obvious is the connection between the Daedric Lord of debauchery and the Prince of Pleasure.

Namira = Nurgle

The Lady of Decay is most definitely Nurgle.


The Four Corners of the House of Troubles

It would be extremely pleasing if each of the Four Corners could be matched to a Chaos God. And they can!

Malacath = Khorne

Malacath, who spurns physical weakness and is depicted holding a very large weapon, suggests Khorne to me.

Mehrunes Dagon = Tzeentch

Mehrunes Dagon, like Tzeentch, represents change.

Sheogorath = Slaanesh

I chose to identify Sheogorath with Slaanesh mostly because Dark Seducers serve Sheogorath, and because Slaanesh was the one Chaos god left over after the three easier matches.

Molag Bal = Nurgle

His realm is desecrated and ruined, his enemy is Boethiath.


The Anticipations

Azura = Tzeentch

The goddess of the magical realms of dusk and dawn, who interferes subtly in the affairs of mortals: Tzeentch.

Boethiath = Tzeentch

The Daedra of secret plots and conspiracies has a fairly easy match in Tzeentch.

Mephala = Khaine = Khorne

Mephala has aspects that could easily be matched with Slaanesh or Tzeentch, but founding an order of elven assassins to serve her makes her very much Khaine, and therefore Khorne.


Clavicus Vile = Tzeentch

Pacts and machinations are hardly alien to any of the Chaos gods, but are most emblematic of Tzeentch.

Hircine = Khorne

Hunting and werecreatures are something I would associate with Khorne, as one of the characteristics of werewolves is their inability to control their rage.

Jyggalag = Nurgle

As Tzeentch is the Lord of Change, so his opposite is the equivalent of the Daedric Prince of Order.

Meridia = Tzeentch

Meridia, Lady of Infinite Energies, has no direct counterpart in the Chaos pantheon, but if I had to associate the undead with a Chaos god, it would be Nurgle. Therefore, the enemy of the undead is Tzeentch.

Nocturnal = Tzeentch

For want of a Chaos god especially dedicated to thieves and the night, Tzeentch's interest in deception is the best match.

Peryite = Nurgle

Peryite's spheres are pestilence and order.

Vaermina = Slaanesh

This one isn't so obvious, as dreams aren't the exclusive sphere of any Chaos God; in the fluff, they all use dreams to communicate with their followers. Based on her relationships to the other Daedra, however, Vaermina can be identified with Slaanesh: her only ally is Sanguine, previously found to be Slaanesh, and her enemies include Ebonarm, Peryite and Hermaeus Mora, i.e. war, pestilence and knowledge.

Aug 18, 2014

Let's Read Tolkien 7: Queer Lodgings

The next morning Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes.

We rejoin Thorin and company in the eagles' eyries, from where they're airlifted to a great big rock in the middle of Anduin, the Great River of Wilderland. It's actually a bit odd how little attention flying gets in the story; we're rather matter-of-factly told that an eagle grabbed Bilbo and they flew off, and then later he rode an esgle in another direction. As bourgeois as Bilbo is, I still don't think he can possible ever have flown before, so you'd really think that it would be a bigger deal, but for some reason Tolkien doesn't seem to think so. "What is finer than flying?" asks the eagle, and it's tough to reply, because we have very little idea what flying is like. Hell, we don't even get a landscape description. I'm a bit disappointed.

But land on the Carrock they do. The classic problem of airborne operations is supply, and that's true here as well: the dwarves have no food and no transport. To arrange some, Gandalf proposes to introduce them to one of his colleague Radagast's friends, a crazed hippie berserker. This is all the more necessary because Gandalf is going to be leaving Thorin and company to attend to business elsewhere, which, given their track record so far, honestly seems like a terrible idea. One gets the impression that dwarven expeditions that set off without wizards aren't going to get much farther than the first troll, who will probably see them less as a glorious adventuring party and more like a convenient food delivery.

But Gandalf is still with Bilbo and the dwarves, and he concocts a plot to get around the werebear Beorn's irascibility: he'll go up to Beorn's place with Bilbo, start telling him the story of how they got there, and sort of gradually work up to revealing that they have a bunch of dwarves with them as well. This is done, with Gandalf making the occasional off-hand reference to his traveling companions, at which point a couple more dwarves show up, until Gandalf has effectively tricked Beorn into letting the whole bunch of them into his hall. It's a particularly well-written scene, and Beorn enjoys the story and maybe even the subterfuge enough to make the travelers his guests for the night.

Memorable dialogue from Beorn: "Troop of ponies? What were you - a traveling circus?" Honestly? Pretty much.

This chapter is our first glimpse of Tolkien the environmentalist: Beorn lives with a bunch of animals he talks with, keeps bee-pastures and apparently doesn't take at all kindly to people who kill animals. The food at his table is vegetarian. It's an unexpected combination with the fact that the one thing that made Beorn well-disposed to the dwarves more than anything else was that they'd murdered orcs. But like I said, hippie berserker. Bechdel test update: I don't even think any of Beorn's animals were female.

The traveling circus hangs out at Beorn's for another day, and having ascertained that they really did murder hella orcs Beorn gives them vegetarian provisions and lends them ponies to ride to Mirkwood. He strongly entreats them to both send the ponies back when they reach the woods, and under no conditions whatsoever leave the path once they get there. They ride up to the edge of the forest, send the ponies back and say goodbye to Gandalf, who tells them several times that they have to remember that once they get into the forest, they must on no account leave the path ever.

Next time: you had one job.

Aug 4, 2014

RIP Jim Thompson (1964-2014)

So yesterday evening Helsingin Sanomat told me that Jim Thompson passed away. Me, my significant other and Jim were first-years together at the University of Helsinki English department back when such a thing still existed. Unlike me, he graduated and went on to be a succesful author. We didn't really keep in touch; we exchanged some tweets a couple of times but that was it, and now I'm beating myself up a bit that I didn't get back in contact with him properly when I got over the worst of my problems.

My enduring memory of Jim is a Contemporary American Short Story class we took together. The course material was a short story anthology I've still got somewhere, and we would all read a story at home and show up in class to discuss it. The teacher would sort of shepherd the class toward the canonically accepted interpretation of the novel, which I totally understand, but it started getting a bit exasperating for me and Jim, and at some point we had kind of both decided to put up a fight. The occasion - if I recall correctly - was a story by Amy Tan, where the canonical interpretation was that the protagonist was struggling with their Chinese-American identity and needed to embrace her roots. We both felt that it was equally possible to read the story in the opposite way, that the obsession with "roots" was in fact what was causing the protagonist's problems. Purely on the principle that literature can and must be interpreted in different ways, and there isn't one "correct" interpretation of any damn text, we got into a debate with the entire rest of the class and the teacher. Next week, we did the same with a Paul Bowles story, and actually had fellow students complaining to us after class about why we were being so difficult and couldn't we just accept what the teacher said. I recall answering no, we couldn't. The teacher obviously understood what we were doing, and overall I thought we had some good debates.

That's one of my best memories of my short time majoring in English, and a dear memory of Jim. Rest in peace, friend. We'll miss you.