The Vampire Elf Queen

Her name is Queen Ivory, and I love her because she is different from the one I knew before.

She is the elf queen of the Emerald Palace. She has long golden locks, bright blue eyes, and skin white as milk.

She tells me she loves me. “Human women,” she says, “they are so fickle. One moment they express interest, the next moment they have flitted away – pssh – after some colorful butterfly.”

“Ah, yes,” I say groggily, having become drunk on her darkenberry wine.

“They cannot sate you the way I can,” she goes on to say, locking my eyes with her ice-blue gaze.

“Perhaps not,” I whisper, the world swimming before my eyes. “But still – I loved her.”

“Did you?” she inquires. “You humans cannot even comprehend the meaning of love. ‘I love you, I love you,’ you are always blathering the words – but what the fuck do you think they mean?”

I shake my head, spilling my wine over the front of my shirt. Tears are pouring down my face.

“I suppose I don’t know,” I murmur lifelessly.

She comes forward to take my glass, then dashes it down against the stones. Broken glass skitters everywhere.

“Do you trust me?” she asks.

“Yes,” I whisper, looking dumbly into her ice-blue eyes.

She kisses me, sucking with her lungs, drawing the entirety of my soul from my body. Then she lowers her mouth to my neck, more vampire than elf, and drains the blood from my veins.

“You silly humans,” she whispers, patting my cheek with her warm hand. “You do not know what love is.”

My last sight is of her bright white dress, slithering away from me, as I fall down to the cold, bloody stones.

I Guess Authors Don’t Always Love Their Books’ Movies :(

THE NEVERENDING STORY was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. To be honest, I still love it. I even have it on DVD.

Turns out, though, the movie wasn’t a fave of the book’s author, Michael Ende. (The book was originally written in German in 1979, and was called Die unendliche Geschichte. An English translation by Ralph Manheim was published four years later.)

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1997 Dutton edition cover

I didn’t know this before, because honestly I’ve never read the book, but I guess the original film directed by Wolfgang Petersen only covered about the first half of the story. Apparently, Ende was not pleased, and he demanded to have his name removed from the film’s credits.

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THE NEVERENDING STORY original movie poster

Personally, I thought the movie was extremely well-made. The special effects (considering it was 1984) were great. I’ll never forget the Rock Biter, sitting all alone in the desolate expanse when the Nothing comes to destroy the small bit of Fantasia that’s left. He’s just sitting there, looking lost — when Atreyu passes by him, and he says to Atreyu: “I couldn’t hold onto them. [Referring to his lost friends.] The Nothing just whisked them away. Look at my hands — they look like big, strong hands, don’t they?”

Atreyu nods wordlessly, and continues on his mission, not knowing what to say. Who would?

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Atreyu with Falkor the luckdragon (2016 Google Doodle)

The most heartbreaking moment of the movie, of course, was when Artax got sucked into the Swamp of Sadness. I cry every time.

But oh, well. I guess Ende had a specific vision in mind for his masterpiece (just as all us authors do), and Petersen’s film didn’t live up to his expectations. For my own part, though, I’ll always love THE NEVERENDING STORY. I’m so excited that Google decided to honor the book’s 37th anniversary today with a special series of Doodles!

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The Palace of the Childlike Empress (2016 Google Doodle)

Championing Milne (and Refuting Mr. Roger Sale’s Opinions About Winnie-the-Pooh)

Mr. Roger Sale, a very learned and respectable gentleman of the University of Washington, wrote a book in the 1970s entitled Fairy Tales and After, an ingenious collection of essays on children’s literature. He is very fond of Dr. Seuss’s two early novels for little ones, as well as the whole body of work otherwise known as the “Babar books.” I’m sure it’s all entirely delightful, for I was, indeed, very interested to read the many snippets Mr. Sale included from the pages of Seuss’s The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Even as a young child, however, I was unfamiliar with the Babar books, so I can give no educated response in their favor.

My only real problem with Sale’s work is his stark disparagement of the Winne-the-Pooh books. If you are not aware, there are two: the first entitled, simply, Winnie-the-Pooh; and the second being known as The House at Pooh Corner. Pooh bear was first introduced to the world in a poem called “Teddy Bear,” completely wonderful, and included in Milne’s volume of children’s poetry called When We Were Very Young.

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Sale admitted that his students often had trouble with his views on Milne’s work, seeing as they considered them to be such sweet and innocent books. My own arguments, however, are not based merely on the “slander of what is innocent.” I do not claim that the Pooh books are wholly innocent; or wholly sweet. Indeed, I did not come to them until much later in life, well after the age of twenty. What I now find so compelling about the books, I probably would not have noticed when I was a child. I was a smart-alecky and sarcastic child, surely – but still, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

That comment, of course, will lead you directly to what I find so great about these books. To explain it better, I will include a quote from Sale’s book, and then set about refuting it.

Sale wrote: “Pooh is not, of course, a bear of very little brain, but Christopher Robin keeps putting him in situations where he will think he is . . .

“What I never saw as a child, but see in many places now, is that the Forest is becoming tainted . . . by the alien values of Christopher Robin’s and Milne’s world . . .

“Milne believes that if one learns how things are done, and named, and spelled, everything will turn out all right.”

Well, then. First, and most importantly, of all: Milne doesn’t believe that knowing how to spell things makes the world a perfect place. The whole point is that he’s mocking that notion. He’s making fun of adults who think that knowing more makes you a better individual. It’s a sarcastic remark on his part – not an autobiographical point of view.

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He never meant for the Forest to be seen as a Utopia. It’s a place like any other, with nice things, and not-so-nice things. The characters have good qualities and bad ones. The best part about the bad qualities, of course, is that they serve as the ammunition for Milne’s caustic humor. That, by far, is my favorite part of his books.

To prove these points, let’s take a look at the second story of the first book: “In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place.”

Pooh bear goes to visit Rabbit, you see, and shares luncheon with him. But he eats too much, and then can’t get back out the door. He gets stuck in the door, and requires the assistance of his friends to get free.

Christopher Robin advises Pooh bear to stay in the door for a week, so as to get thinner, and then pop right back out again.

“‘A week!’ said Pooh gloomily. ‘What about meals?’

‘I’m afraid no meals,’ said Christopher Robin, ‘on account of getting thin quicker. But we will read to you.’”

Now – if Christopher Robin hadn’t reminded Pooh that he couldn’t eat while he was stuck in the door, Pooh never would have gotten out. So he is, all in all, a bear of rather little brain. But that doesn’t mean Christopher Robin goes to the trouble of trying to make him look foolish. It wasn’t as though he made him eat too much, and thereby get himself stuck in a doorway.

In fact, at the end of the story, after Pooh gets out of the doorway: ‘ . . . with a nod of thanks to his friends, he (Pooh bear) went on with his walk through the forest, humming proudly to himself. But Christopher Robin looked after him lovingly, and said to himself, ‘Silly old bear.’”

Pooh is a silly old bear, but still, Christopher Robin says it lovingly.

And then, when “Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” and follow their own footprints for rather a long time, it takes Christopher Robin stepping in, and helping them to realize there’s no woozle at all – but only their own footprints in the snow.

“‘I have been Foolish and Deluded,’ said Pooh, ‘and I am a Bear of No Brain At All.’

‘You’re the Best Bear in All the World,’ said Christopher Robin soothingly.”

So I say, in opposition to Sale’s comments (which are no doubt meant to improve the overall mental health of insecure modern children who might think that they themselves are brainless bears), that Pooh bear is indeed a bear of very little brain. But Christopher Robin loves, and supports him, anyway. The Forest is an imperfect place – just like every other place. But, just like every other place, it has its own special beauty.

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The Real Origins of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Middle-earth”

Most Old English poets were anonymous, and only a few are known by name. Cynewulf was one of them. The works definitively attributed to him are but four: Juliana; Elene; Fates of the Apostles; and The Ascension.

While the modern reader may need a little help to understand who Cynewulf was, I’m sure hardly anyone needs help with the name J.R.R. Tolkien. The great Mr. Tolkien: inventor of an entire world and language, father of the hobbit.

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But here’s the interesting part. It could be argued that a line from Cynewulf’s The Ascension sparked the entire body of Tolkien’s work. The line reads:

“Hail Earandel brightest of angels

Above middle-earth sent unto men.”

Anyone even slightly familiar with Tolkien’s work – heck, even anyone who’s seen one of the Lord of the Rings movies – can jump right on that inference. I mean, come on. Middle-earth? I think we’re seeing the parallel here.

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In Anglo-Saxon England, “Middle-Earth” (also known as “Midgard”) was the name for the world inhabited by, and known to humans. It was a remnant of early Germanic cosmology, and referred specifically to one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology.

After reading Cynewulf’s The Ascension, Tolkien said, “There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English.”

While studying at Oxford, Tolkien developed a language that is known now as “Quenya.” Below is an example of the word Quenya written in Tolkien’s script, Tengwar.

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Tolkien thought that the language of Quenya needed an internal history: “one spoken by elves, whom his character Eärendil meets during his journeys.” The next step was the “Lay of Eärendil,” a work composed of several poems describing Eärendil, his voyages, and the manner in which his ship was turned into a star.

Around 1914, Tolkien wrote a poem called “The Voyage of Eärendil the Evening Star,” published in The Book of Lost Tales 2. “Eärendil” means “lover of the sea” in Quenya.

But Eärendil was destined to become more than just a poem. Eärendil the Mariner is depicted in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion as a child of Men and Elves: a great seafarer who, upon his brow, carried the morning star across the sky.

Here is an illustration of Eärendil the Mariner with his wife Elwing in the form of a bird, drawn by Jenny Dolfen.

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According to the index of The Silmarillion, Eärendil was:

“Called ‘Halfelven’, ‘the Blessed’, ‘the Bright’, and ‘the Mariner’; son of Tuor and Idril Turgon’s daughter; escaped from the sack of Gondolin and wedded Elwing daughter of Dior at the Mouths of Sirion; sailed with her to Aman and pleaded for help against Morgoth; set to sail the skies in his ship Vingilot bearing the Silmaril that Beren and Lúthien brought out of Angband.”

Humphrey Carpenter (an English biographer, writer, and radio broadcaster) remarked in his biography of Tolkien that Eärendil “was in fact the beginning of Tolkien’s own mythology.”

So: Cynewulf’s poem spurred the creation of Eärendil the Mariner, and also of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the setting for his great works. The above line from The Ascension can be compared to a quote from Frodo Baggins’s in The Two Towers.

He says: “Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!” (Which means): “Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!” In this case, Frodo’s exclamation was in reference to the “star-glass” he carried, which had been given to him by Galadriel, and which contained the light of Eärendil’s star, the Silmaril.