Archive for the ‘ Inspiration – The Weird and the Unknown ’ Category

Was King Arthur Real? King or Giant? The Facts as I See Them

Picture of Arthur looking for the holy grail

‘Arthur’, courtesy of Hartwig HKD under the Creative Commons 2.0 no deriv license available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The Who, What, Where and Why of King Arthur is a convoluted tale but I will attempt to break it down to the basics.

The Who

“King Arthur” is billed as the King of ancient Albion* and Arthur, supposedly, fought the Anglo-Saxon invaders. There are legends of him as a man, leader and fantastical creature which have filtered down to us today. These follow two strands: the man, and the giant.

For those interested in Etymology, the true meaning of ‘Arthur’ is unknown but there have been some estimations:

The Celtic ‘artos’ means ‘bear’, ‘viros’ is ‘man’ and ‘rigos’, ‘king’. There is also an uncommon Roman surname ‘Artorius’ in the running. In addition, the old Welsh ‘gwr’ means ‘hero’, which could be combined with the Celtic ‘Artos’.

Whatever the origins, Arthur is now a reasonably common name. If even some of the predicted origins are correct, it also has an amazing meaning! ‘Bear hero’, ‘bear king’…or he could be a wayward descendent of the Romans (not quite so interesting).

In the Cotswolds, I grew up with tales that Arthur was buried within a hill in the countryside, ready to rise to England’s defence, should we face attack again. The question is, where would that attack be coming from? What species would be coming at Britain, swords out?

The meaning of Arthur which carries most weight with me, lies in the concept of Arthur as a hero, battling ferocious beasts.

Now, why would I say that?

*(the name for England and Scotland before the Romans changed it to Britannia and eventually it became Britain / The United Kingdom).

The What

geometric image of arthur with foreign calligraphy writing

‘Parsifal’, courtesy of Hartwig HKD and used under the CC 2.0 no deriv license available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Arthur: The King?

Is King Arthur really a King? Or, is Arthur a fixture in British folklore? Historians have argued it and said there is no definitive proof he was a King, especially as he was not listed in any known Kings lists of the time and had no direct contemporary mention under his name. In fact, the monk Gildas in The Ruin and Conquest of Britain gave a different person’s name as Briton’s leader: Ambrosius Aurelianus.

This man shares many similarities with the commonly told tale of Arthur, fighting in and winning a big battle against the Anglo-Saxons during the 5th Century. However, it is a quantum leap from Arthur to Ambrosius, even if spelling conventions back then were a little ropey.

There is no mention of Arthur’s court, round table, Merlin or Guinevere in some of the oldest tales. Instead, we have something quite different.

Snippets allude to a soldier with no parallel. For example, in ‘Y Goddin’, Arthur is referred to indirectly, with warriors being described as good but ‘no Arthur’.

It is generally accepted that Geoffrey of Monmouth (in the 12th Century), concocted the tale of King Arthur because the Celts needed a hero (and he was probably bored) but, this is not an end to the folklore and the magic.

unicorn running from stonehenge

‘open your mind, courtesy of danijela dannie under the CC 2.0 generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Arthur: The Giant?

On looking into historical references to Arthur, a representation is found that does not portray him as King. Instead, he is a folkloric, heroic leader. In these descriptions, he’s a figure far more on the edge of society than a regal representative.

He is described as ‘the leader of a band of heroes who live outside society, whose main world is one of magical animals, giants, and other wonderful happenings, located in the wild parts of the landscape’.

(By very definition, I do not think a King – at least, a good one with actual followers – could live outside society).

Or, even more fantastically, as:

‘above all else…a defender of his country against every kind of danger, both internal and external: a slayer of giants and witches, a hunter of monstrous animals — giant boars, a savage cat monster, a winged serpent (or dragon)’

Who wouldn’t want to know this guy? He’d sure as anything be less likely to snub you than a King would.

To me, this is far more interesting than the dry tale of yet another King. Fantasy and legend has had its share of Kings, Queens, bastards of a prince once removed, and so on. History is far more interesting when it has a unique twist.

A suggestion of a world still populated with fantastical, magical animals and creatures, gives me the space to imagine a Britain of the Dark Ages where Science was not yet real and magic and superstition still had their foundations in society. One could even imagine, perhaps, that these things were real, an age ago.

Why

Yes, I’m aware this is out of ‘strict’ order, but it’s more interesting this way, promise.

So, Arthur is on the scene with otherworldly creatures, battling in the defence of Briton. Why?

Well, folklore suggests Arthur and his relatives were themselves giants, or could at least alter their height. So, they’d fit right in! Who better to fight a supernatural hoard than a friendly giant? (Cue B.F.G. anyone? Ah – the memories.)

Even the equivalent of Guinevere in the older tales, Gwenhwyfar, has magical leanings. There was a popular folk tune in Wales:

Gwenhwyfar ferch Ogrfan Gawr

Drwg yn fechan, gwaeth yn fawr.

“Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Ogrfan Gawr,

Bad when little, worse when great.”

(Now, this one reminds me of the hulk!)

Where

broken cliff face with open hole to sea

‘Not so square view to sea’, courtesy of francois schnell under the CC 2.0 generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Arthur’s resting place is a tricky subject. He was here, then there, then somewhere else again. Some claims were likely for monetary gain, others had false information and some, admittedly, have a certain Romance. The TLDR version is that no one can agree. So, until he pops up out the ground, he’ll keep us guessing!

Summing Up

I love history, especially when there is an aspect of the unknown and the paranormal, two of my very favourite subjects. I love to think we as a race don’t know everything and that there is a possibility the magical still exists, somewhere we’ve not found/seen it yet. I, for one, refuse to kill a fairy. It is, after all, impossible to disprove a negative and there is still so much to be discovered.

Research

I did a lot of research on this topic a while back, when laying the foundations for my fantasy-crime novel While I Slept, which has since turned into ‘The Riftkeeper Series’, based around what would happen if Arthur (a fantasy soldier rather than a King) awoke in the modern day and all the supernatural creatures of his time re-entered our lives simultaneously. In short: few good things.

Sources, Sites and Further Reading

Early Mentions in History

http://www.britannia.com/history/docs/stanzas.html

The Man-giant and Gwenhwyfar

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_g/gwenhwyfar.html

http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/n&q/figures.htm

http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_four_arthur.html

http://www.history.co.uk/shows/king-arthurs-round-table-revealed/articles/the-real-king-Arthur

http://www.caerleon.net/history/arthur/page2.htm

http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/was-king-arthur-a-real-person

http://www.britainexpress.com/History/King_Arthur.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/anglo_saxons/arthur_01.shtml

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/top-10-clues-to-the-real-king-arthur-2024729.html

Etymology of the name

http://www.behindthename.com/name/Arthur

http://mons-graupius.co.uk/index.php/linguistic/96-etymology-of-the-name-Arthur

http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Arthur

Writing Prompts: Using the News

Ever thought the news is all doom and gloom? Good. For me, at least, doom and gloom is easier to write about than rainbows and, since my last short story was partly inspired by a news article, I thought I’d collect some good ones here for people to peruse and get some ideas from. This is the first that caught my attention:

London’s Weird Fog

Image

This looks like something out of a horror movie and the commotion leaves lots of room for a murder to take place, shady political deals or an abandoned baby to be dropped off on a doorstep. Have a read and see what you come up with or scroll down for more ideas.

Soldier controls bionic arm with his brain

(That one is just pretty cool).

Cold tolerant cockroaches 

Because every alien invasion is brought to mind. Also, it reminds me I can change the living quarters of any animal and see how that would effect life and whether a story comes out of it. Black cats are said to be in Britain’s countryside, wolves once lived in Britain and wild boars. Even if I don’t supplant the geography of these creatures, I could turn back time to see more of them/alternate history it.

Image

The other thing you can do is search for news in any country which takes your fancy. I’m going to go for Portugal here because I find their culture interesting and they seem fairly liberal with their relaxed drug laws.

I found they have 280 new farmers setting up every month

This is interesting, as if the world has gone back a few generations or become more green.  Either way, it brings a different setting in Portugal in terms of villages, countryside and towns that could have characters injected into them. Those old countryside bickerings and family rows could be hosted here.

If you’ve been inspired by any news stories lately, let me know about them and how they helped. (Of course, sometimes news stories are more research after the idea than inspiration but it’s all useful).

Until next time!

Holly Ice

Creative Juice

Image

Growing up, I read a lot but I also drew a lot from around year 4 (8 years old). I studied, copied, coloured, erased. Art was more my life than words and now that has reversed.

I made the big decision during A Level (16-18 years old) that I was better at writing than I ever was at art. Writing began to take over from when I was 13 and continued. Sure, I drew constantly during my A level years and I have sketchbooks worth of art but the image in my head never matched up to what I could draw and that frustrated me too much.

The last few days I’ve had dreams about artwork and dreams about poetry and writing. Maybe this means I can do both or maybe it just means I need to do something creative. Either way, it’s difficult. Without practicing art, my hand is not as skilled as it was before. The lines are sketchier, less well shaped or defined.

The same thing can happen with writing if I take a break, short or long. I’ve been told that there’s only so much creative juice to be had and this is true. Any artist or writer can tell you that after that creative feeling has gone, if you press on and try to draw or write something else, it will usually not be of the same level as the first piece.

I never thought 3 and a half years would have so much impact upon my drawing but I’ve seen friends who’ve continued along that path surpass my talent. Now, I don’t often get ideas in a format which translates well to art and I wonder where I got all these old ideas from.

I’m wondering if it’d be best to try to keep my art up, alongside my writing. After all, the more ways ideas can come to me and form in my head, the better, surely? All artists need to keep an open mind to inspiration, at least.

Does anyone else have any experience of this? I’d love to hear your words of wisdom or despair.

Holly Ice

Simple Photographs – Inspiration & Character

When you see a photograph online on tumblr or deviantart or flickr etc what is your reaction to it? You may scroll up, view it again, but then what? I’ve found if I can’t look away from it more than once, the best thing to do is save it to my computer. Why? Because it interests me. Something in it has a spark I like looking at, that intrigues me, and that’s what I need in my writing, too.

It’s not just portraits that have this reaction for me but landscapes, too. I’ve done a similar post to this before but I’m going to really focus on character here and an exercise for getting stories off the ground from nowhere.

Here’s 3 portraits from my collection:

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3_kerryport1

3_hannah-port1

My character exercise would be to look closely at each of these portraits. What drew me to them? Why did it? What personality traits are here? Where can I imagine them being and not being? Who might be their love interest, their age, they occupation?

Ex: Portrait one I see a young girl – twenties – who is acting shy but smiling, happy, probably a bubbly type who occasionally backs into herself. She has tattoos so perhaps has a good sense of self or an adventurous side. I could see her in a coffee shop, a bar, a skate park. Her smile holds sweetness, like she may be in love. What does this give me? Either a character or a love story.

Portrait two I see an older women – late twenties, early thirties – clothing style more vintage, perhaps eastern. Appears cultured but perhaps snobby. Is posed to paint but not really into it, or passionate with her work. Perfectly groomed, everything placed just so. Either married or chronically single. Perhaps an older time or a sophisticated elite. Seems european – Berlin, Paris, Moscow etc.

Portrait three is in a different century. Twenties or thirties. There is longing here and perhaps fear. A need to be connected with, to get help. A loneliness or a plight is implied. She is like a wilted flower – pale, innocent and yet with make up she seems to have seen some of the world and be worse for it. There is a sad story here.

These may not give me a whole story but, as you can see, they can give me a place to start or a character to begin brainstorming around. Sometimes I might never use any of these portraits for a story but they are there on my computer just in case their character comes back to me and works in a story or in case they speak to me with a story that must be written.

Hope this helps!

Holly Ice

When Being Stuck is a Relief (writer’s block)

It has been too long since I last did a writing exercise so here we are…

Non themed anthology submissions or any submission without a theme gives me a blank.

I know for some people this is liberating but for me it is the opposite. Where do I begin? There is no spark to get me going on something new.
If I’m aiming to submit an old piece, this is fine. Not so fine if I’m starting from scratch.

So, what if nothing comes to mind, no ideas, no inspiration, nada?

I go back to secondary and primary school ideas.

Grab access to a random book title generator such as this or a better example you may have found.
Then look at the results. I got:

  1. Swollen Souls
  2. The Vacant Dream
  3. Dreaming of Someone
  4. The Moons’s Wizards
  5. The Boy of the Husband
  6. Boy in the Silk

Okay, so no.5 is useless as it makes no grammatical sense but the rest are okay.

I would then brainstorm the rest of these titles and see if I came up with a topic, story or character which interests me. Anything I get out of these titles can be renamed under a new title, something more fitting of the result.

No.1 For instance could be a demon story or a story about what happens to overweight men and women beyond the grave.

No.2 Could be about an empty house or a character who has lost their life’s purpose, their hobby losing to their hated career. It could even be about someone with no purpose or a drug addict who has no care for the future.

No.3 The obvious choice is a romance but this could also be a weird symbiotic connection between twins or mother and child or pet and human etc.

No.4 Sounds like a stereotypical fantasy story but then it could just be the title of a kid’s favourite bedtime story.

and No.6 could be an abandoned child, left in silk – a mystery of sorts as this indicates a wealthy background. Or it could be a young market trader in a foreign country.

 

All possibilities, themes and genres are open with these titles. Let the random words speak to you and tease you out of that writer’s block. I know  I’m going to if I come face to face with it again. It’s better than beating myself up over not writing until my brain refuses to work at anything any more.

Hope this helps some of you! I’ll be thinking of more writing prompts and exercises over the next few weeks.

Until then!

Holly Ice

Why I Continue to Believe the Unbelievable and a Link to a Give Away

fantasy, latyrx, deviantart,

This piece was created by Latyrx and here is a link to his lovely gallery on deviantart: http://latyrx.deviantart.com/gallery/

 

 

Fantasy is, in essence, the enchantment of something unreal becoming real in fiction. Thing is, even in real life, I keep an open mind to the “impossible”.

I like to think many things thought of as impossible can instead be unknown or undiscovered.

There is a basis for this. New species are found or reorganised every couple or years and weird things happen all the time.

Now, for instance, I am glaring at my computer case because both my HDDs have SATA and power cables connected but only one shows up under my computer and my DVD drive is nowhere to be found – yet worked fine before windows 8 arrived.

But there are more interesting things than irritating machines to be looked at.

Strange News is a great site I found recently. It is the stuff of sci-fi. 

Here you can find “Particle Personality Disorder”, “Satanic Sacrifice” and “Atomic Clocks”. These are real life stories collected from the strange corners of the world.

I still have a lot more to delve into on this site but it satisfies a need in me to find something unreal which could become real or detected, in some years. After all, faeries and new dimensions could well be real, just out of our current reach.

I’d rather believe that than think what is now is all there is. Wouldn’t you?

 

Added Bonus:

A review site I follow (Long and Short Reviews) is having a give away tomorrow. 
Their anniversary is coming up so there is many goodies to be won and some great reviews to read. Check it out!

LASR, Long and Short Reviews, Give away

The picture links to where the give away will be happening tomorrow morning, American time. 

 

Thanks for reading and I hope I’ve found some sites you might find as interesting as I do. Keep believing in the impossible!

 

Holly Ice

 

A Story About a Shoe

Capture1

This is pretty much what it looks like. On holiday in Latvia, on two occasions, I saw a shoe bereft of its partner. In both cases, these shoes were heels and left standing as if someone walked right out of them. Any girl should know this is odd: even really drunk, there is a rather large discrepancy between a heeled foot and an unheeled foot.

My father and I actually stared at this shoe for a good ten minutes, wondering what could have happened to the owner and one of these musings got me an idea for a story to submit to the hgwells festival competition for 2013. I started the story yesterday and intend to finish up the last little bits today.

Goes to show: inspiration is anywhere and within the most unlikely of objects.

If you have a weird event that inspired a story, let me know! Let’s see how weird it gets.

Hope all are well.

Holly Ice

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