April 12th, 2005


Without drunken, sex-crazed warriors, but only this once

The more often we make Spanish rice, the more I like it. I think it's the saffron. Much of the Spanish rice I've had (made by people other than me or timprov) has turmeric in it. Turmeric is not even sorta saffron. Not even maybe. It's just not saffron. Sure, it turns things yellow. Bananas are yellow, but you can't substitute them for saffron. But saffron, white wine, fresh garlic, and Szeged paprika cooking? Oh. So good. So extremely good. I'm going to break down and learn to do the pollo any minute now so that I have an excuse to make Spanish rice more often.

I'm reading Neal Stephenson's The System of the World, which is a heck of a commitment, as books go. I may read other things in the middle of it, magazines or anthologies or something, because it's extremely large for hauling around, and also because despite having read two equally massive volumes in this series, despite being a hundred pages in, I'm still thinking, "You know, this is a little slow to get started." Which tells you that reading can make people totally irrational -- or at least me -- because I'm still reading it.

The thing about the Kalevala that's both wonderful and maddening is that things that would get an entire tale elsewhere get a line in passing in the Kalevala. "He tied an egg in a knot." Um...how? Is this a trick? a loophole? a work of magic? What happened? Well, other than that he tied an egg in a knot; we got that part. But then they sail blithely on past the knotted egg to something or another with a boat. So you can do what you like with it, on the one hand, but on the other hand, you kind of have to, because no one else is going to help you out.

I've had a dilemma for months now, because Major Children's Magazine said to me, "We'd really like to see a Finnish myth retelling from you." And you don't really say, "Oh, no, I won't be doing that today" if they say something like that, but...I know this magazine. They're not Jesusy (which limits which one it could be somewhat severely, because it's crazy hard to find children's magazines that aren't attempting to shove Jesus down kids' throats on a popsicle stick). But they also aren't keen on great gobs of violence, sex, and alcohol, and as I've said many times before, sex, blood, and booze are what mythology is all about! (At least the fun mythologies.) And I don't want to take part in the sanitizing of myth, but on the other hand, the story simply will not get published in a children's market if it has sex-crazed drunken warriors staggering around it. So I decided to retell just a part of one of the myths, a subsection of the story. I'll leave out that after the hero does these mighty deeds to win his true love (with his true love's help, of course), they both die grisly deaths in other circumstances. So then if the kids wander off and read the Kalevala, they won't get mad at me for lying to them, but the editors might still buy the story.

I keep saying that reading about Freyja whoring herself out to the dwarves, and Loki shape-and-gender-changing and getting himself pregnant by/with a horse, and dead warriors hacking each other to bits, sticking themselves back together, and drinking themselves into a stupor did not harm me when I was 5 or 6. Probably made me the person you see before you today! Then I realize that this might not be such a persuasive argument, so I'd better just shut up and tell the story.

With WHAT in your mouth?

In between bits of writing "Riding Death's Elk" and reading The System of the World, I decided to try to cure my headache this afternoon with food, Advil, and Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend by Reimund Kvideland and Henning K. Sehmsdorf. I think the Advil was more the key to the headache than the book, and I do wish the handling of Finnish stuff was better (eighth verse, same as the first!), but I was extremely amused by this bit:

If a guy can catch a live swallow, cut out its tongue, and, with the tongue still in his mouth, kiss a girl, she will be consumed by such desire that she will not give him peace until they are married.

I'll tell you this much. Any guy who was allowed to come within ten feet of kissing me with a fresh raw swallow tongue in his mouth would have to be someone for whom I was already consumed with desire anyway. Consumed and totally irrational. Because..."What's that smell? Oh, no matter. Mmmm, you kiss like--aaaaaagh!"

I'll bet that trick worked every single time someone managed to do it from beginning to end. Every single time. It is a miracle my ancestors managed to procreate at all.

Can I say how wonderful a world it is when I can classify this sort of discovery as "work-related"?