Raxivace Reads in 2020: "It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

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Raxivace Reads in 2020: "It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

Postby Raxivace » Thu Feb 20, 2020 8:37 am

So normally when I'm reading something its some kind of academic film book or whatever, but I feel like I've been slacking on actual fiction lately. With so many audiobooks and PDF's of classic fiction and such online (And also inspired by what a huge hodgepodge of classical cultural references that these Fate anime/games I've been into lately are), I'm trying to correct that through listening (Sorry purists) and actual reading.

So with that said, I guess I'll start listing them out. Ones I hear as audiobooks I'll go out of my way to mark.

1. The Statement of Randolph Carter (1920, H.P. Lovecraft) - There stereotype I've heard of Lovecraft's fiction I've often heard is some formula akin to "There's just some scary thing, so scary I can't describe it lolololol. Also I've been driven insane. The End." and that seems to be all this is (Well without the being driven to insanity part). I dunno, maybe I'm inundated by things influenced by Lovecraft at this point but I guess I just don't find the unknown to be inherently scary like that (Especially when common criticisms of Lovecraft seem to indicate that the "unknown" thing he was so afraid of was women, black people, foreigners in general etc. Thankfully there doesn't seem to be much of that here). I'd still like to try some of his more famous stories, but right now Lovecraft just kind of seems like a worse version of Poe to me.

2. The Bell of St. Sépulcre (1928, M. P. Shiel, Audiobook) - Kind of interesting short story about a bell that possibly causes you to die if you hear it ringing? It's left ambiguous whether there's anything actually supernatural about the bell or not, but the focus is on a woman who "kills" her husband by getting him to hear the bell ringing, only to get a kind of cosmic comeuppance years later when she finds her precious son to have hung himself with the rope of the bell. This of course drivers her insane. Pretty solid stuff.
Last edited by Raxivace on Wed Jul 01, 2020 9:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #1

Postby Raxivace » Fri Feb 21, 2020 2:26 pm

3. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886, Audiobook) – This one was not what I expected. I was guessing the story would be told from Jekyll’s point of view and be more about his becoming Hyde, but really it’s more structured as a detective novel. Here the lawyer protagonist Gabriel "Mr. Seek" Utterson is concerned that his good friend Jekyll is perhaps being blackmailed by this mysterious Hyde fella that's started to go around town murdering people seemingly at random, only to find out through investigation that Jekyll and Hyde are in fact one in the same at the very end (Spoiler alert). Only then do the various mysteries throughout the novel about a locked room that would have been impossible to escape, a letter that couldn't have been delivered between two people etc. start to make sense.

Really, its only in the final chapter where we get an posthumous letter from Jekyll where he reflects upon how he first became Hyde, his struggles with transforming, their mutual use of each other despite an equally mutual hatred (Hilariously Hyde would troll Jekyll by writing blasphemous things on religious texts or destroying his precious family heirlooms like a painting of his father, family letters etc.), that the story becomes what I was expecting more of. The novel ends on athis high note, and perhaps its not a surprise that these aspects about moral descent, repressed urges etc. are what seem to dominate interest in the characters today, and not really the detective mystery part since the twist ending has been such a given for well over a century at this point (That a little novel called A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came out one year after Jekyll and Hyde might have something to do with this too. Sorry Utterson but you've got nothing on Holmes and Watson).

Its still an enjoyable read/listen (For the last chapters I tried reading alongside the audiobook version I was listening to using an online Project Gutenberg text, which was quite enjoyable even though reading books in an internet browser is usually [gonemad] for me), but you kind of have to put yourself in the mindset of what it could possibly be like to learn of this story without knowing one of the most famous twist endings in history.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #2

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Feb 22, 2020 7:19 am

I have nothing to say to any of this except that for the first twenty or so years of my life I thought Sherlock Holmes was a real historical person.

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #3

Postby Raxivace » Sat Feb 22, 2020 7:37 am

Bro... XD

Well to be fair even in Victorian times there were people that thought that Holmes was real too. It got to the point that people would write to Doyle, thinking he was actually Holmes, with some mystery or whatever to solve. Being an English gentleman Doyle would try and solve some of these mysteries anyways and apparently was actually successful a few times.
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #4

Postby Derived Absurdity » Sat Feb 22, 2020 7:53 am

Oh yeah I was kind of disappointed when I find out. Although his author was the next best thing, it seems.

I also thought Jeffrey Dahmer was a fictional person for a long time. Like an 80s slasher movie killer. I mean, he sounds like he would be, doesn't he? Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, Jeffrey Dahmer. Was kind of surprised when I found out he was real. I can be pretty isolated sometimes.

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #5

Postby BruceSmith78 » Sat Feb 22, 2020 3:26 pm

You know what’s funny, I read the name “Jeffrey Dahmer” and my brain processed it as “Hannibal Lecter”, and I fully expected the rest of that sentence to read “was a real person”. I had to go back and read it again to understand why the sentence didn’t end that way.

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #6

Postby Raxivace » Sat Feb 22, 2020 11:21 pm

I can sort of see that with Dahmer. Like it does seem like his name fits the pattern of those slasher villains having the "innocuous first name + two syllable, but somewhat uncommon last name" combo.
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #7

Postby Gendo » Sun Feb 23, 2020 3:51 pm

“There’s no such thing as hell; it’s just something grownups made up to scare kids; like the boogeyman or Michael Jackson.” -Bart Simpson

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #8

Postby Raxivace » Wed Feb 26, 2020 3:22 pm

4. The Snow Queen (1844, Hans Christian Anderson, Audiobook) – I didn’t think I was familiar with any of Anderson’s writing before listening to this, but good lord looking him up will only show you just what a foothold this guy has had on culture to this day with the fairy tales he wrote. The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Thumbelina etc. I mean Christ, this guy might have well as been the second coming of Aesop. Even if you’re not familiar with the original stories this guy wrote directly, you’ve probably heard or read or seen an adaptation of something of his at some point in your life.

So anyways, The Snow Queen. Gerda and Kai are friends, however Kai unfortunately gets shards of a magic mirror in his body one day that causes him to see life negatively. If leaves his home, his friend Gerda, and then while running off meets the Snow Queen. They run off to her castle together.

Gerda misses her friend, so she journeys out to find and save him. She meets colorful characters, talking flowers, a crow, a prince and princess etc., and then eventually comes across the Snow Queen’s castle where Kai. Her love for Kai heals him, and they return home.

It’s a fun children’s story. The one thing about it is that uh, Jesus is all over this thing (Like Gerda’s “love” really does seem like love in the Christian sense of love for all mankind and such more than anything to me) which sometimes surprised me a bit with how direct it was for a fantasy story, though I guess this story is from the 1840’s. Like Jesus is all over The Chronicle of Narnia also but never quite as explicitly as this from what I can remember from reading those as a child.

Still, Snow Queen was an enjoyable listen. I always figured these “girl journeys out to save a boy” reversals on knight/princess stories were a more modern phenomenon but it seems to have not been the case.

Also, this was originally the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen, but in developing that movie the story changed so much that it seems the connections were mostly dropped.

5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Late 14th Century, Author Unknown) – Imagine you’re one of King Arthur’s knights, specifically Gawain. One fine Christmas you’re chilling with your fellow homies of the Round Table when suddenly this green mofo clad in green armor and also carrying an axe barges on in. He demands to play what is now called “the Beheading Game”. You chop his head off, and then one year and one day later he’ll chop of yours.

The Green Knight challenges King Arthur specifically, but Gawain leaps to the opportunity first and beheads the guy. The Green Knight’s head comes clean off, but he picks it back up, and says he expects to see Gawain in a year and a day. Eventually Gawain goes adventuring off to face the Green Knight at the appointed time, but has trouble finding him and eventually takes refuge in a manor. The lord of the manor, a guy named Bertilak, is planning on going on hunts over the next few days, and promises to give Gawain anything he finds- in return, he asks Gawain to give anything he finds in the manor to him.

While Bertilak is off hunting, his wife Lady Bertilak decides she wants to fuck Gawain and keeps trying (And failing) to seduce him. Gawain, trapped between the contradictions of the code of chivalry- loyalty to the lord who gave him shelter, but also to be courteous to women who ask him for help, is unsure how to proceed. Also he still needs to find that damn Green Knight.

This is a weird little adventure poem because it spends very little time on actual adventuring or battles and such, while spending most of its time on the almost sitcom-esque portion of Gawain unsure how to handle the Bertilak and his wife. It ends up actually being pretty central to the whole story, questioning the contradictions of moral codes and such, and its ultimately revealed anyways that Bertilak is the Green Knight in another form. He and the wife were in a plot (Alongside Morgan Le Fay) to tempt Gawain and to see how moral he (And by extension I guess the Knights of the Round Table) really is/are, though I'm not sure if we're meant to see the Green Knight as any kind of ultimate moral authority or not and scholars seem pretty split on it too. Like he chastises Gawain for accepting the magical belt from Lady Bertilak that would protect him from wounds, and yet its like, motherfucker, magical power let you put your head back on when its chopped off, who are you criticize someone else for wanting similar powers? Also because of your deal with Gawain, she kissed him a bunch which in turn made Gawain kiss you in exchange for the game you hunted. Were you trying to hook up with him yourself in some fashion?

Like if Gawain had actually slept with Lady Bertilak, what would Bertilak have done? Demanded he sleep with him too? And if he hadn't, would he have killed Gawain for that? "For the crime of not giving me head, thou shalt lose thy own head! O irony!"

Like the whole setup here with the Green Knight's test is really weird the more you think about it, but that's also what makes the story interesting.


This is a pretty enjoyable and weird poem overall, even if (Or perhaps because) it was pretty different than what I was expecting.

6. The Dunwich Horror (1929, H. P. Lovecraft, Audiobook) – This is definitely a stepup from Statement of Randolph Carter, even if it follows the same basic formula to some extent. Still, between the history of Dunwich as a location, the Whatley family etc. there’s just a muuuuuuuucccch better sense of place and people here.

7. The Music of Erich Zahn (1922, H. P. Lovecraft, Audiobook) – This one didn’t really land for me though. I dunno, the whole crazed musician thing with spooky secret just didn’t do it for me.

8. The Body Snatcher (1884, Robert Louis Stevenson, Audiobook) – The short story that inspired the movie from Val Lewton/Robert Wise/Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi.

This was a pretty quick and enjoyable listen, and did make me a bit nostalgic for the film. Seems like this version had similar themes to Jekyll/Hyde in regards to private horrors beneath public faces, though I found this one a bit more mysterious. I’m namely thinking of the ending here- I have no idea what to make of Gray’s body reappearing. Just, what? Commentary I’ve seen online say its meant to suggest thematically more than anything how guilt or the truth or such can’t be repressed forever, but it’s just such an odd ending to have a previously destroyed body just pop up again.

9. Xélucha (1896, M. P. Shiel, Audiobook) - Guy goes to pick up a prostitute, who may or may not be somebody he knew before and did something very bad to. Gotta be honest though, this one didn't do much for me though it may just be because I was pretty tired when I listened to it.
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #9

Postby Raxivace » Fri Mar 20, 2020 4:43 am

Still trucking through The Count of Monte Cristo (About 18 hours left in the audiobook version), but in the meantime I finished some shorter things.

10. Serial Experiments Lain: The Nightmare of Fabrication (1999, Yoshitoshi ABe) - A weird little oneshot manga where Lain breaks one of her toys, meets "God", and gets a second toy that she is lead to believe is a fixed version of the first one. Odd like story that I don't really know what to do with.

11. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) - The first collection of Holmes short stories. I skipped the stories that I had read before over the years (Namely "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Red-Headed League", "The Five Orange Pips", "The Speckled Band", and "The Copper Beeches") and just read the ones I hadn't before ("A Case of Identity", "The Boscombe Valley Mystery", "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Blue Carbuncle" (Actually it turns out I had read this one before but had forgotten about it), "The Engineer's Thumb", "The Noble Bachelor", and "The Beryl Coronet").

They're all good fun. I think the the thing that surprised me most about the bunch I happened to read this time is that only two of them were even murder cases ("The Boscombe Valley Mystery" and "The Man with the Twisted Lip". And the latter even ends with it being discovered that the murder never even actually happened, and that it was just a guy trying to hide a double life he was leading from his family). The rest of these cases involve missing people and missing jewels and were perfectly enjoyable, which makes me think S.S. Van Dine was off his fucking rocker for thinking detective stories only must revolve around murder, among many other stupid opinions included in his "rules".

"The Engineer's Thumb" was probably the weirdest one here because its basically about a guy that is nearly killed by a proto-Saw death trap but narrowly escapes (Which I guess makes it attempted murder), asks Holmes to do something about it, and Holmes and Watson can't even do much about because the culprits are long gone by time they're contacted. Almost feels like a different genre altogether.

12. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1985-1986, Alan Moore, Curt Swan, Dave Gibbons et al.) - A collection of Superman comics all written by Moore, though with different artists. The first two issues form the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" story that provides the title to this compilation, and acts as an ending the original run of Superman comics, where Superman has a final confrontation with his rogue's gallery and is ultimately allowed to finally retire.

The second story is called "The Jungle Line" and involves Superman going on a weird drug induced hallucination in the jungle until he's saved by Swamp Thing. It felt kind of random to me tbh.

The last story is "For the Man Who Has Everything..." and involves Superman getting trapped in a dream world by a parasite thing where hallucinates a version of his life where the planet Krypton never blew up, until ultimately he's saved from the parasite and the random asshole who sent it by Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman. This was my favorite of the bunch, and I seem to remember it being adapted into an episode of the Justice League cartoon when I was kid.

I gotta say it was odd to read something from Alan Moore that wasn't as dark as Watchmen or V for Vendetta (Though "For the Man Who Has Everything..." is kind of melancholic. Also, yes, characters die in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" but the tone of that is more "epic final battle" than dreary like Watchmen). I think his talents are definitely more suited to stories like those then stuff like this (Same with Gibbons really, who also did the art for that last comic), though its not bad or anything.
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #10

Postby Raxivace » Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:41 am

13. The Count of Monte Cristo (Audiobook, 1844-1846, Alexandre Dumas) – If Hamlet is the perfect antithesis of revenge dramas, then this is perhaps the perfect initial thesis of those stories despite coming some 200 odd years after Shakespeare’s tale.

This novel is in two parts. The first part is the story of Edmond Dantès, a merchant sailor who is first mate on board the ship Pharaon who has just returned home to Marseilles in 1815. While at sea, Dantès' captain uses his dying breath to order him to deliver a package to General Bertrand (Who is exiled on the Island of Elba alongside Napoleon), and then to deliver a letter from Bertrand to a man in Paris. Dantès doesn't think much of this being a young man, he simply fulfills his captain's last request and then proceeds to return home so he can marry his fiance Mercédès.

With the captain of the Pharaon dead though, Dantès is next in line to become captain despite being young. This causes fellow shipmate Danglars to become insanely jealous of Dantès. While chatting with Fernand Mondego (Cousin of Mercédès, and he is very much in love with her (Eww)) and Caderousse (Dantes' neighbor that just kind of doesn't like him), Danglars sets the idea of falsely accusing Dantes of being a Bonapartist traitor, who seeks to return Napoleon to France and overthrow King Louis XVIII (Its worth noting here that the initial captain of the Pharaon was in fact a Bonapartist, which gives the accusation some heavy circumstantial weight). Danglars writes the letter, Fernand is the one who actually sends it, and Caderousse chooses to say nothing about the plot to the authorities.

Officials believe this accusation, and during his wedding ceremony Dantès is arrested. Dantes is then interviewed by prosecutor Gérard de Villefort, who actually realizes that Dantès is innocent, it the was the captain of the Pharaon who was the Bonapartist, and initially moves to have Dantès freed...until he sees the letter Dantes was to deliver to Paris, which was addressed to Villefort's father Noitier of all people in the world. Now Gérard is a staunch Royalist, but Noitier being revealed as a Bonapartist would of course hurt his own reputation and to protect his family name Gérard knowingly sends to Dantès to the hellish prison Château d'If to rot away, forgotten.

Dantès spends several isolating years suffering in the Château d'If, not even knowing how or exactly why he was sent there. He tries to tunnel out at one point, but it ultimately fails- however it does lead him to the cell of another inmate, the Abbé Faria, who has also been trying to escape. Faria, despite being dismissed as a lunatic by the prison guards, is an intelligent and learned man, and after befriending Dantes is even able to deduce that there was a plot against him. He educates Dantes over further years, teaching him foreign languages, sciences etc., but perhaps most important he tells him of a treasure that is buried on the island of Monte Cristo.

Unfortunately Faria dies is prison before the two can escape together, though Dantes uses the opportunity to switch places with Faria's corpse in a body bag, thinking he'll be thrown out somewhere he can escape from safely. Unfortunately the "corpse" is thrown into the ocean, though being a sailor gives Dantes just enough of an edge to survive the ocean long enough to be picked up by sailors.

Dantès finds that it has been fourteen long years since he thrown into the Château d'If. He eventually works up enough funds to journey to the island of Monte Cristo, finds the buried to not only be real but vast beyond anyone's imagination. He uses this treasure to buy the island itself, the title of "Count", and then returns home to Marseille to get up to date on what has happened since his imprisonment.

Napoleon's One Hundred Days have come and are now long gone (Side note: Dumas had very good reason to want to tarnish the name of "The Usurper", considering what he did to Dumas' own father.). Dantès learns that his father has died alone and penniless. Caderousse remains in poverty as well, while the rest have risen to the heights of Parisian society. Danglars has become the "Baron" Danglars and a wealthy banker. Fernand Mondego has become a war hero, reinventing himself as the "Count de Morcerf", and married Mercédès. Villefort meanwhile has become the Crown prosecutor of France. Dantès own reputation is basically ruined now of course, as he is now remembered as a traitor to France, though it is thought he died in the Château d'If. This is somewhat to his benefit though, as that belief as well the considerable passage of time (In addition to his imprisonment has distorted his face enough to be beyond recognition to most) allows him to mostly walk freely again without much fear of being recongized.

Dantès decides to secretly assist those that actually tried to help him in prison (Namely the Morrel family, who pleaded that he was innocent and a good man), and then later even meets up with Caderrouse, though in disguise as Abbe Busoni, "Busoni" basically tricks Caderrouse into admitting his part in the plot against Dantès, though Caderrouse seems to regret and feel guilt over his actions/lack of action however, and so "Busoni" rewards him with a diamond that he says Dantès had intended for his friends.

Afterwards, Dantès announces that his doing of good deeds is now finished, and then sets out for revenge against the rest.

That's just part 1 of the novel, and by my estimate covers roughly 15 of the 53 hours of the audiobook version. Part 2 picks up about a decade later, once Dantès, having now reinvented himself primarily as "The Count of Monte Cristo" and leaving his old name behind, begins to actually enact his revenge now that the preparations are mostly complete. The next 25 or so hours involves Dantes straight up trolling and manipulating his way across Europe and into Paris (Including even more goofy disguises such as the banker "Lord Wilmore" and "Sinbad the Sailor"), so he can begin dismantling the reputations, bank accounts, and lives of Danglars, Morcef, and Villefort. This is where the meat of the novel takes place, this slow burn as the Count inches his way into the lives of these three families so he destroy them from within without them realizing what's going on until its already too late. This is also where I think a lot of the social critique of the novel of comes in as well, as with the implicit argument that most of high society is built on similar crimes.

Anyways while the adventure novel that is part 1 is fun, I still quite enjoyed all of the subtle manipulations and such of part 2 as well, watching the dominoes slowly knocked down one right after the other until bodies have even started to pile up by the end.

Part 2 does seems like it handles things differently than Part 1 though. One way that immediately comes to mind is how it handles Point of View and dramatic irony- in Part 1, while Dantès is clearly the protagonist we the readers actually have much more information than him about what's going on with the plot against him until the chapters that focus on his time in Chateau d'If, where Faria explaining what the fuck is going on finally aligns (Well mostly aligns) Dantès' information with our own as readers. In Part 2 this shifts somewhat- we know that the Count is seeking revenge and who he's seeking revenge against, but the specifics of his plan aren't ever clearly laid out to us and we're left to infer it for the most part. The kidnapping of Albert de Morcef in the Italy chapters is a great example- its never specifically said that the Count had this arranged so he can be the one to save him and have Albert "reward" the Count by introducing him to Parisian society and the Morcef family, but that this is the Count's plan from the beginning and not a series of random coincidences is something were meant to puzzle out (And stands in contrast to, say, how even after years I still don't get what the fuck the Man in Black was doing in Lost). Where we were ahead of Dantès, now the Count is ahead of us and we're playing catch up throughout Part 2- especially because all of the different families and their interlocking drama is much more complicated than anything in Part 1, and the Count already has most of that figured out (Though that he only has "most of it" and not "all of it" figured out is something that comes back to haunt him in the novel's end).

I think this shift in Part 2's POV is also what adds to the kind of mythological bent to the Count as a character, beyond basically every other character just finding him generally mysterious, rather than the mere sailor of Part 1. The Count himself views himself as some kind of avenging angel doing God's work (Until the end, anyways), though this is perhaps paralleled by others suspecting him of being some kind of vampire.

While they're around in Part 1, this is also the part of the novel where the references to One Thousand and One Nights starts becoming more significant- there are some in Part 1 (Dantes' saying "Open Sesame" when looking for the treasure and such), though this really kicks into high gear with Part 2. The most notable example is probably how one of the Count's many disguises includes "Sinbad the Sailor", throughout the story we do sometimes see Dumas even replicate the nested structure of One Thousand and One Nights as well. Chapter 33 is a good example- the chapter where Franz and Albert get told the story of Luigi Vampa. It seems like a really random aside, especially once the story about Vampa himself is interrupted by the story of another particularly brutal bandit Cucumetto. The Cucumetto story eventually moves up a "layer of relevance" within the fiction when Cucumetto is eventually meets Vampa, who agrees to let him hide out for a time. The story starts seeming more relevant once Vampa meets and befriends a man calling himself "Sinbad the Sailor", and later on Vampa just fucking murders Cucumetto and takes over his brutal gang for himself. We later on see Vampa and "Sinbad" working together on friendly terms, and this seemingly random chapter gains new significance as it shows how in some ways Dantes has morally degraded a bit to work with such shady characters as Vampa (Who will be the one to actually kidnap Albert for the Count). Vampa's name even recalls the rumors about the Count of Monte Cristo being some kind of a vampire that I mentioned earlier.

If I had a complaint about the novel its that for as long as it is, a lot of the characters are fairly straightforward though that's arguably part of the point for at least some of them (Danglars being almost comically one-dimensional immediately comes to mind, particularly the bit from the end of the novel where he reveals he's read precisely one book in his entire life and ironically enough for someone who lives such an unexamined life its Don Quixote), and a lot of the cast is at least still pretty memorable which is saying something considering how large it gets and complicated the plot becomes in Part 2.

So in a lot of a ways The Count of Monte Cristo may be "just" a straightforward revenge novel but at the same time its hard to imagine one being done much better than this. More than anything, its just so damn fun.

14. Markheim (Audiobook, 1885, Robert Louis Stevenson) – Markheim is a guy who kills a shopowner is a dispute, and then while wandering around in a daze meets a strange a guy who Markheim believes might be the Devil. They debate the nature of mankind and sin and such, whether good intentions can justify awful crimes etc., with the stranger primarily arguing that as he’s followed Markheim his whole life he knows him to be an evil man who will always commit sin and do crimes (Like robbery, more murder etc.) and whatnot. The devil/stranger then tries to get Markheim to commit even more crimes.

Markheim gets so fed up with this that he basically tells the first other person he meets to contact the police so he can admit to the crime, almost to spite the stranger more than anything.

It’s a neat little short story. I’m not entirely sure whether the devil/stranger actually even exists or just isn’t some psychological projection of Markheim’s guilt or not. Either way, I’m also not sure whether he was trying to manipulate Markheim into giving himself up to the police or was sincerely just trying to corral him into doing bad deeds together. Interesting how there’s a few ways to look at it.

15. Lobo, the King of Currumpaw (1898, Ernest Thompson Seton) - A "fact-based short story" about the author hunting Lobo, the leader of a pack of wolves that's going around eating cattle and stuff. Not a whole lot to really say about from my end, though the whole thing is more sad than any kind of triumphant adventure, particularly with regards to how Lobo is actually killed.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #11

Postby Raxivace » Tue May 26, 2020 5:46 am

16. The Legend of St. George (Mid 1200’s, Jacobus de Varagine)
17. The Life of St. Martha (Mid 1200’s, Jacobus de Varagine) - I’m grouping both of these together because they’re both excerpts of something called The Golden Legend. From what I can tell, it’s a collection of stories about various Catholic saints and their exploits.

These two I picked follow a similar formula, a saint slays a dragon, converts people to Jesus, and then dies venerated. The St. George one particular feels like an action story more than anything, since after he kills the dragon he gets captured and then basically calls upon God to rain death upon the non-Christians that captured him.

I guess you could call both of these chivalric romances in a ways (St. George is even described as being a knight), though that makes them an interesting contrast with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight- both in style (From what I can tell the stories in The Golden Legend are meant as history, whereas Sir Gawain is a poem), but also attitude toward knightly ideals and such. Both Golden Legend excerpts are about the glory of following God and such (Giving the stories a kind of a propaganda-ish feel), while Sir Gawain is far more morally ambiguous in its attitude toward codes of honor and such and how teneable they are.

Still, for what it is these two tales were interesting enough. It does kind of make me want to go through the entirety of The Golden Legend at some point. I’ve read other stories about saints in college and some of them are pretty whacky.

18. Batman: The Killing Joke (1988, Alan Moore, Brian Holland, John Higgins et al.) – A kind of curious comic that Moore seemed to disown even before his more harsher stance of superhero stories in recent years.

Moore’s criticism seems to be that the comic seems to be more about Batman and the Joker as characters than anything that relates to the world in any real way (The way that Watchmen is about power, V for Vendetta is about fascism etc.), and I can sort of see where he’s coming from. The thing is, I do think there’s a seed of an idea in the whole premise of the story being that Batman wanting to honestly end the feud between him and Joker through non-violent means and get him sincere help, though that does seem to be at odds with the actual “Killing Joke” plot being pulled on Gordon and Barbara.

19. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (Audiobook, 1818/1831*, Mary Shelley) – More like Frankenstein’s Monster: The Modern Incel. I’m not the first person to make this observation, but seriously that’s what a lot of the Monster’s character is. “Waaahhh why don’t I have a wife? I DESERVE a wife and you are a horrible person for not making me my own woman! I’m going to murder tons of people to prove what a dick you are Frankenstein!”

This is a good book in the sense that Shelley has some created some very, very strong archetypes in her core characters here (And at only 20 years old too!), but man. For all that people say “The doctor was the real monster!” it really doesn’t come across in the original book because most of this is just Victor regretting he created what is little more than a completely unsympathetic serial killer and also the Monster whining that nobody likes him even though he's going around serial killing.

Like I honestly think James Whale did more than anyone to really mine out the most interesting parts of this story with his famous 1931 film adaptation, even if he had to completely change the Doctor and the Monster's respective personalities in the process.

*I think the audiobook version I listened to was based on Shelley’s second edition published in 1831, but I’d have to really research this to know for sure.

EDIT: I've cooled a bit on my anti-Monster sentiment in the days after reading this, but I still really do think people are awfully quick to whitewash the Monster of his more troubling aspects and crimes.
Last edited by Raxivace on Fri Jun 05, 2020 12:20 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #12

Postby Faustus5 » Tue May 26, 2020 10:18 am

Raxivace wrote:16. 19. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (Audiobook, 1818/1831*, Mary Shelley) – More like Frankenstein’s Monster: The Modern Incel. [url=https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=frankenstein+mary+shelley+incel]I’m not the first person to make this observation, but seriously that’s what a lot of the Monster’s character is. “Waaahhh why don’t I have a wife? I DESERVE a wife and you are a horrible person for not making me my own woman! I’m going to murder tons of people to prove what a dick you are Frankenstein!”

This is a good book in the sense that Shelley has some created some very, very strong archetypes in her core characters here (And at only 20 years old too!), but man. For all that people say “The doctor was the real monster!” it really doesn’t come across in the original book because most of this is just Victor regretting he created what is little more than a completely unsympathetic serial killer and also the Monster whining that nobody likes him even though he's going around serial killing.

Like I honestly think James Whale did more than anyone to really mine out the most interesting parts of this story with his famous 1931 film adaptation, even if he had to completely change the Doctor and the Monster's respective personalities in the process.

*I think the audiobook version I listened to was based on Shelley’s second edition published in 1831, but I’d have to really research this to know for sure.
Fun synchronicity: yesterday I just watched "Mary Shelley", the movie based on the influences that lead her to writing her famous novel. And the week before that, I started playing the solo version of the Universal monsters board game, "Horrified".

The movie suggested that her ill treatment by the men in her life was the basis of the monster's bitterness.

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #13

Postby Raxivace » Tue May 26, 2020 10:42 am

I didn't dig too deeply into it, but I read some similar claims online. Some went as far as saying that whole novel was an allegory for Mary's marriage with Percy Shelley, with the Monster being a stand-in for Mary and Victor being a stand-in for Percy.

I'm not sure the novel is meant to be that personal of a story though I don't doubt there's at least some influence from Mary's personal life.

There's also this bizarre-ass take I just found online: https://augusta.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10675.2/620919/Urizar_D_2016.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y.

Someone who is clearly a genius wrote:The story of Frankenstein is typically seen as a battle between Victor Frankenstein and the “monster” of the story. However I argue that that the real “monster” of the story is infact Victor Frankenstein who is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and that the “monster” is really just a delusions that Victor uses to cope with the idea that he in fact is the killer of the story. This concept is evident in the fact that no one in the story has ever seen both Victor Frankenstein and the “monster” alive in the same place. The characteristics of the “monster’ also point towards the idea that the “monster” could not possibly exist. Even the way that Victor acts throughout the book pointto the idea that he does not really care for the safety of his loved ones. Overall the actions that play out in the story point towards the idea that VictorFrankenstein is the real “monster” of the story.


[laugh]
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #14

Postby Raxivace » Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:32 pm

20. The Mystery of the Blue Jar (Audiobook, 1933, Agatha Christie) – Local dumbass Jack Harrington is playing golf one day when he hears a cry of “Murder!”. Jack runs toward the source of the cry to find a girl nonchalantly gardening who says she has no idea what Jack is going on about. Jack meets a local doctor who convinces Jack that something supernatural might be afoot… The girl eventually mentions to Jack she’s been having a recurring dream about a blue jar, which Jack recognizes as being similar to one his uncle bought. To make a long story short, the doctor and the girl were conning Jack with all this talk of supernatural screams and dreams so they could get this Blue Jar off of him, which turned out to be a priceless Chinese relic or something.

It’s a fun little short story with a bit of a predictable twist ending, though I have to say this Jack Harrington fella reminds me of Jimbo’s kookier friends from IMDB 2.0, like that Arlon guy.

21. The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb (Audiobook, 1924, Agatha Christie) – The actual mystery plot here about a supposed Egyptian curse is less interesting than the running question of the short story being “Does Hercule Poirot believe in magic or not?”. The answer ends up being of course not- when he says he believes in superstition having power, he’s talking about the belief in superstition affecting human perception and cognitive abilities rather than anything metaphysical. Still a fun little short though, even if it covers some similar ground as Mystery of the Blue Jar ultimately.

22. The Vampyre (Audiobook, 1819, John Polidori) – Apparently the originator of the vampire story as a specific genre, influencing later works like Dracula. It's still kind of neat today, but mostly as an origin of sorts for later works that would expand upon its ideas like vampires trolling people and such.

This has two interesting connections to stories I posted about earlier. Firstly, it was created during the same writing contest that birthed Shelley's Frankenstein. Also, during The Count of Monte Cristo I mentioned that the Count was accused of being a vampire during the novel. Well, the character the Countess G-- specifically believes he's Lord Ruthven, the vampire character from The Vampyre.

26. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Audiobook, 1595/1596, William Shakespeare) - I've been going through some Ovid off-and-on recently, and after going through the 'Pyramus and Thisbe' story in Metamorphoses and reading that Shakespeare riffs on it in a subplot, I pushed myself into finally checking out Midsummer Night's Dream.

Good stuff. While there's a subplot of about a "Pyramus and Thisbe" play being performed (Which makes me realize that Shakespeare used the play-within-a-play idea more than I realized, between this, Hamlet, and Taming of the Shrew), the whole thing really does kind of read like a parody of the early Metamorphoses stories between characters getting trolled over love, transformed etc., though I guess there's no bloodshed or violent rape here.

23. Tochmarc Emire (AKA The Wooing of Emer, 700’s)*
24. Verba Scathaige (AKA Scathach’s Words, 700’s)*
25. Aided Óenfhir Aífe (AKA The The Tragic Death of Aífe's Only Son, 800’s)*
28. Fled Bricrenn (AKA Bricriu's Feast, 700’s)*
27. Táin Bó Cúalnge (AKA The Cattle-Raid of Cualnge, 1391-1401?)*
29. Aided Con Culainn (AKA The Death of Cu Chulainn, 1100’s)* - These stories are all selections of Irish mythology, all episodes covering the life of Cu Chulainn, a sort of Irish Achilles. I didn’t know very much about him coming in, but I tried to pick a bunch of stories that sort of creates a full narrative from his early days to his death.

The first major story here is Tochmarc Emire, which to simplify things is in two parts. The first part is Cu Chulainn trying to woo a woman called Emire, who according to later stories will become his wife. Here though he’s kind of revealed to be a complete idiot compared to her (This podcast really goes into it), which kind of feels modern in a lot of ways, the “idiot hero” idea. Anyways some stuff happens and Cu Chulainn is told to go train under the warrior woman Scathach, a kind of Chiron or Yoda like figure, except a woman. She gives Cu Chulain his legendary weapon the spear “Gae Bolg”, and teaches him and only him how to use it. Also they fuck. Then they get attacked by Scathach's enemy Aífe, and Cu Chulain beats her and combat and uh they fuck also. Thing is, our boy Cu gets her pregnant, but tells her that the child can never reveal he’s related to Cu Chulainn so Emire doesn’t find out.

Anyways then Cu Chulainn returns home to Emire. Honestly this whole second part of the story is unfortunately kind of choppy, and it’s a shame because its fairly interesting stuff.

That leads us to Verba Scathaige, which apparently is included in some versions of Tochmarc Emire but not the one I read. Basically it’s a poem where Scathach predicts Cu Chulainn’s death. Its pretty brief and I dunno why it would have been cut off from Tochmarc Emire, but it adds a bit of a darker undertone I think to what is otherwise lighter tale.

After that we come to Aided Oenfhier Aife- Cu’s son (Now called Connla) is grown up and back, and tries to invade Cu’s homeland. He can’t say his name though because of aforementioned promises, and Cu goes to fight him off not realizing who he is, and kills his own son, his guts coming out in the water. Great job Cu. It’s a curious little tale, though it does remind me reading about post-Homeric tales of Odysseus and his son Telegonus, born from Circe. In some versions of the story Telegonus actually kills Odysseus though (Without either realizing who the other is)- I'm not sure if those stories were an influence on these tales of Cu Chulainn, but the similarities are interesting even if who actually gets killed gets switched around.

Next comes Fled Briciren. I actually goofed and read it after Tain Bo Cualinge, but its set before. Basically, this villainous character Briciru decides a bunch of Celtic heroes (Including Cu Chulainn) haven't been trolled enough and decides to host a feast in a new mansion he's constructed and tries to set various characters against each other through various competitions (While their wives have a competition of their own). Curiously, one of the competitions is straight up the Beheading Game that was in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to the point that some scholars say the latter was either based on the former or they share some similar source.

After that is Táin Bó Cúalnge, which involves Cu Chulainn single-handedly having to fight a war against again an army lead by warrior woman Medb and another Celtic hero in Fergus mac Roich, all fighting over not just cattle but a specific bull that apparently was very fertile. Gotta be honest the English translation of this one was pretty dry, though I'd be curious about revisiting it in a better/more modern translation. Curiously this tale also features a story about Cu Chualainn's childhood and how he got the title "The Hound of Ulster), though strangely its narrated by Fergus.

The last story is Aided Con Culainn, which shows how Cu Chulainn finally died in battle as foreseen by Scathach. Not a whole lot to say about this one.

It was pretty fun going through some stories in a "new" mythology that I didn't know a whole lot about, though I don't feel like I did the stories any real justice here (The translations are sometimes pretty dry, and often vague and not even complete simply because of limited sources available), though I'd be curious to revisit them at some point and learn more about Irish mythology. The most interesting thing about this selection me was how often women were in them, especially as a warriors. Other mythologies have female warriors of course, but they seem prominent here.

*I’m not really confident that I’m getting of the dates on these right, nor am I really sure what to list as an author for these.
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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #15

Postby Derived Absurdity » Fri Jun 26, 2020 3:18 am

Man. When you said you were getting into the classics you weren't kidding.

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Re: I'm Trying to Get Back into Fiction   Reply #16

Postby Raxivace » Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:05 am

Derived Absurdity wrote:Man. When you said you were getting into the classics you weren't kidding.
Haha yeah. And believe me, there's plenty more to get through!
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Re: Raxivace Reads in 2020: "It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy   Reply #17

Postby Raxivace » Fri Jul 03, 2020 6:39 am

30. Medea (431 B.C.E., Euripides) – I watched a film adaptation of this earlier this year, but I think I like the play even better (Though I do appreciate von Trier’s attempt to make his version cinematic through emphasizing atmosphere and such). But yeah, Medea herself is a fascinating character, and the play really gives off the idea that this is also the world’s most fucked up marriage drama. That’s its also ostensibly the “sequel” to the Golden Fleece quest story* really hit me this time too because its, well, weird to have a marital drama (Even a really dark one) as ostensibly a sequel to an epic adventure story.

Like imagine if Marriage Story had a) Been any good and b) been the sequel to a Star Wars movie or something. But yeah good stuff, and was also actually the first Greek tragedy I had ever read. It kind of "fixed" The Argonautica for me too, since knowing more of the context of where Jason and Medea's story puts the entire Golden Fleece quest in a very different light, whereas when I read it in college it just seemed like a collection of random heroics to me and not the prelude to something much darker (And with some good old Dantean ironic punishment at the end to boot!).

I also couldn't help but compare this story with Frankenstein since that's still kind of fresh in my mind- Medea and the Monster are arguably very similar characters even. I found Medea herself far more sympathetic than I did the Monster though despite arguably committing even worse crimes at this play's end, and I've been trying to reason out why I felt this way. In spending a few days thinking about it, I think its because that Medea had way more valid of a grudge against Jason (Really she gave up nearly everything in her life for him and the Golden Fleece quest, only to get thrown away for it), whereas the Monster still just kind of comes off as entitled that he isn't gaining things that nobody is automatically owed (Wife, companionship etc.) and honestly I don't think he tried very hard to get people to like him before going on a serial killing spree.

Also Medea and Frankenstein have nearly the exact same ending scene which is kind of interesting.

*Previously I thought the most famous adaptation of this tale, The Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes, was written before Eurpides’ Medea but turns out it was written 100+ years after this.

31. Coriolanus (Audiobook, Sometime between 1605 and 1608, William Shakespeare) – This one of the weirder Shakespearean tragedies, in that it seems very plot driven more than his other plays. We know Caius Marcius (Later Coriolanus) is kind of a huge dick upfront who hates the people he's supposed to protect, tries to run for political office after a successful military action and fails because of the worst PR ever, then later turns on Rome to team up with the invader he was fighting against to begin with (Tullus Aufidius) and starts threatening to burn Rome. His mom talks him out of it though, so Coriolanus backs down and is killed by Aufidius for it.

Its weird that I'm only slightly simplifying what actually happens here, because despite everything in the play revolving around Coriolanus there doesn't seem to be all that much to him (I don't think he even gets a soliloquoy). The most I've seen people suggest is there perhaps being something homoerotic between him and Aufidius but that's about it.

From what I can tell discussions about the play instead of focusing on the characters seem to focus on what Shakespeare might be saying politically. Most of this seems to be about what exactly Shakespeare is saying about populism (There seems to be as much for as against it here), though its perhaps also worth noting that Coriolanus' major tragic flaw is his willingness to make peace with an enemy that ultimately betrays him. Normally I think of "making peace" as a positive quality, though in a political interpretation of the play it perhaps becomes a xenophobic statement to an extent. I say "perhaps" because despite Aufidius being a "traitorous foreigner" he's still well characterized and its not like the Roman characters themselves are without flaws.

It's a good play and like the best of Shakespeare its hard to get a simple message out of it, but unlike the best of Shakespeare it doesn't have quite as much of the notable language as I like from him- though there are some good bits like the "Rome is a body" conversation (It's interesting too when one of the things that turns the people against Coriolanus is his refusal to show off his scars and battle wounds to them- his literal body vs. the "body" of the state).

32. Culhwch and Olwen (11th century to 12th century, Anonymous) - This Welsh story is supposedly the oldest existing Arthurian romance. This follows the story of Kilhwch (Culhwch), who pissed off his step-mother and was cursed so that he would only ever love Olwen, the daughter of a dangerous giant named Yspaddaden Penkawr (Ysbaddaden Bencawr). Kilhwch decides to ride out and find Olwen, but first visits King Arthur to request some help. Arthur sends some of his knights off to help Kilhwch, including Kai (Kay), Bedwyr (Bedivere), Gwalchmei (Gawain), and then like three other randos I don't care as much about.

This initial meeting with Arthur is honestly one of the two weirdest parts of the whole story, since we seem to break off from to the narrative into what almost reads like a historical document of sorts. Like just try reading this section here:

Culhwch and Olwen wrote:"I will tell thee, " said the youth, "I am Kilhwch, the son of Kilydd, the son of Prince Kelyddon, by Goleuddydd, my mother, the daughter of Prince Anlawdd."

"That is true," said Arthur; "thou art my cousin. Whatsoever boon thou mayest ask, thou shalt receive, be it what it may that thy tongue shall name."

"Pledge the truth of Heaven and the faith of thy kingdom thereof."

"I pledge it thee, gladly."

"I crave of thee then, that thou obtain for me Olwen, the daughter of Yspaddaden Penkawr; and this boon I likewise seek at the hands of thy warriors. I seek it from Kai, and Bedwyr, and Greidawl Galldonyd, and Gwythyr the son of Greidawl, and Greid the son of Eri, and Kynddelig Kyvarwydd, and Tathal Twyll Goleu, and Maelwys the son of Baeddan, and Crychwr the son of Nes, and Cubert the son of Daere, and Percos the son of Poch, and Lluber Beuthach, and Corvil Bervach, and Gwynn the son of Nudd, and Edeyrn the son of Nudd, and Gadwy the son of Geraint, and Prince Fflewddur Fflam, and Ruawn Pebyr the son of Dorath, and Bradwen the son of Moren Mynawc, and Moren Mynawc himself, and Dalldav the son of Kimin Côv, and the son of Alun Dyved, and the son of Saidi, and the son of Gwryon, and Uchtryd Ardywad Kad, and Kynwas Curvagyl, and Gwrhyr Gwarthegvras, and Isperyr Ewingath, and Gallcoyt Govynynat, and Duach, and Grathach, and Nerthach, the sons of Gwawrddur Kyrvach (these men came forth from the confines of hell), and Kilydd Canhastyr, and Canastyr Kanllaw, and Cors Cant-Ewin, and Esgeir Gulhwch Govynkawn, and Drustwrn Hayarn, and Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr, and Lloch Llawwynnyawc, and Aunwas Adeiniawc, and Sinnoch the son of Seithved, and Gwennwynwyn the son of Naw, and Bedyw the son of Seithved, and Gobrwy the son of Echel Vorddwyttwll, and Echel Vorddwyttwll himself, and Mael the son of Roycol, and Dadweir Dallpenn, and Garwyli the son of Gwythawc Gwyr, and Gwythawc Gwyr himself, and Gormant the son of Ricca, and Menw the son of Teirgwaedd, and Digon the son of Alar, and Selyf the son of Smoit, and Gusg the son of Atheu, and Nerth the son of Kedarn, and Drudwas the son of Tryffin, and Twrch the son of Perif, and Twrch the son of Annwas, and Iona king of France, and Sel the son of Selgi, and Teregud the son of Iaen, and Sulyen the son of Iaen, and Bradwen the son of Iaen, and Moren the son of Iaen, and Siawn the son of Iaen, and Cradawc the son of Iaen. (They were men of Caerdathal, of Arthur's kindred on his father's side.) Dirmyg the son of Kaw, and Justic the son of Kaw, and Etmic the son of Kaw, and Anghawd the son of Kaw, and Ovan the son of Kaw, and Kelin the son of Kaw, and Connyn the son of Kaw, and Mabsant the son of Kaw, and Gwyngad the son of Kaw, and Llwybyr the son of Kaw, and Coth the son of Kaw, and Meilic the son of Kaw, and Kynwas the son of Kaw, and Ardwyad the son of Kaw, and Ergyryad the son of Kaw, and Neb the son of Kaw, and Gilda the son of Kaw, and Calcas the son of Kaw, and Hueil the son of Kaw (he never yet made a request at the hand of any Lord). And Samson Vinsych, and Taliesin the chief of the bards, and Manawyddan the son of Llyr, and Llary the son of Prince Kasnar, and Ysperni the son of Fflergant king of Armorica, and Saranhon, the son of Glythwyr, and Llawr Eilerw, and Annyanniawc the son of Menw the son of Teirgwaedd, and Gwynn the son of Nwyvre, and Fflam the son of Nwyvre, and Geraint the son of Erbin, and Ermid the son of Erbin, and Dyvel the son of Erbin, and Gwynn the son of Ermid, and Kyndrwyn the son of Ermid, and Hyveidd Unllenn, and Eiddon Vawr Vrydic, and Reidwn Arwy, and Gormant the son of Ricca (Arthur's brother by his mother's side; the Penhynev of Cornwall was his father), and Llawnrodded Varvawc, and Nodawl Varyf Twrch, and Berth the son of Kado, and Rheidwn the son of Beli, and Iscovan Hael, and Iscawin the son of Panon, and Morvran the son of Tegid (no one struck him in the battle of Camlan by reason of his ugliness; all thought he was an auxiliary devil. Hair had he upon him like the hair of a stag). And Sandde Bryd Angel (no one touched him with a spear in the battle of Camlan because of his beauty; all thought he was a ministering angel). And Kynwyl Sant (the third man that escaped from the battle of Camlan, and he was the last who parted from Arthur on Hengroen his horse). And Uchtryd the son of Erim, and Eus the son of Erim, and Henwas Adeinawg the son of Erim, and Henbedestyr the son of Erim, and Sgilti Yscawndroed the son of Erim. (Unto these three men belonged these three qualities,--With Henbedestyr there was not any one who could keep pace, either on horseback or on foot; with Henwas Adeinawg, no four-footed beast could run the distance of an acre, much less could it go beyond it; and as to Sgilti Yscawndroed, when he intended to go upon a message for his Lord, he never sought to find a path, but knowing whither he was to go, if his way lay through a wood he went along the tops of the trees. During his whole life, a blade of reed grass bent not beneath his feet, much less did one ever break, so lightly did he tread.) Teithi Hên the son of Gwynhan (his dominions were swallowed up by the sea, and he himself hardly escaped, and he came to Arthur; and his knife had this peculiarity, that from the time that he came there no haft would ever remain upon it, and owing to this a sickness came over him, and he pined away during the remainder of his life, and of this he died). And Carneddyr the son of Govynyon Hên, and Gwenwynwyn the son of Nav Gyssevin, Arthur's champion, and Llysgadrudd Emys, and Gwrbothu Hên, (uncles unto Arthur were they, his mother's brothers). Kulvanawyd the son of Goryon, and Llenlleawg Wyddel from the headland of Ganion, and Dyvynwal Moel, and Dunard king of the North, Teirnon Twryf Bliant, and Tegvan Gloff, and Tegyr Talgellawg, Gwrdinal the son of Ebrei, and Morgant Hael, Gwystyl the son of Rhun the son of Nwython, and Llwyddeu the son of Nwython, and Gwydre the son of Llwyddeu (Gwenabwy the daughter of [Kaw] was his mother, Hueil his uncle stabbed him, and hatred was between Hueil and Arthur because of the wound). Drem the son of Dremidyd (when the gnat arose in the morning with the sun, he could see it from Gelli Wic in Cornwall, as far off as Pen Blathaon in North Britain.) And Eidyol the son of Ner, and Glywyddn Saer (who constructed Ehangwen, Arthur's Hall). Kynyr Keinvarvawc (when he was told he had a son born he said to his wife, 'Damsel, if thy son be mine, his heart will be always cold, and there will be no warmth in his hands; and he will have another peculiarity, if he is my son he will always be stubborn; and he will have another peculiarity, when he carries a burden, whether it be large or small, no one will be able to see it, either before him or at his back; and he will have another peculiarity, no one will be able to resist fire and water so well as he will; and he will have another peculiarity, there will never be a servant or an officer equal. to him'). Henwas, and Henwyneb (an old companion to Arthur). Gwallgoyc (another; when he came to a town, though there were three hundred houses in it, if he wanted anything, he would not let sleep come to the eyes of any one whilst he remained there). Berwyn, the son of Gerenhir, and Paris king of France, and Osla Gyllellvawr (who bore a short broad dagger. When Arthur and his hosts came before a torrent, they would seek for a narrow place where they might pass the water, and would lay the sheathed dagger across the torrent, and it would form a bridge sufficient for the armies of the three Islands of Britain, and of the three islands adjacent, with their spoil). Gwyddawg the son of Menestyr (who slew Kai, and whom Arthur slew, together with his brothers, to revenge Kai). Garanwyn the son of Kai, and Amren the son of Bedwyr, and Ely Amyr, and Rheu Rhwyd Dyrys, and Rhun Rhudwern, and Eli, and Trachmyr (Arthur's chief huntsmen). And Llwyddeu the son of Kelcoed, and Hunabwy the son of Gwryon, and Gwynn Godyvron, and Gweir Datharwenniddawg, and Gweir the son of Cadell the son of Talaryant, and Gweir Gwrhyd Ennwir, and Gweir Paladyr Hir (the uncles of Arthur, the brothers of his mother). The sons of Llwch Llawwynnyawg (from beyond the raging sea). Llenlleawg Wyddel, and Ardderchawg Prydain. Cas the son of Saidi, Gwrvan Gwallt Avwyn, and Gwyllennhin the king of France, and Gwittart the son of Oedd king of Ireland, Garselit Wyddel, Panawr Pen Bagad, and Ffleudor the son of Nav, Gwynnhyvar mayor of Cornwall and Devon (the ninth man that rallied the battle of Camlan). Keli and Kueli, and Gilla Coes Hydd (he would clear three hundred acres at one bound: the chief leaper of Ireland was he). Sol, and Gwadyn Ossol, and Gawdyn Odyeith. (Sol could stand all day upon one foot . Gwadyn Ossol, if he stood upon the top of the highest mountain in the world, it would become a level plain under his feet. Gwadyn Odyeith, the soles of his feet emitted sparks of fire when they struck upon things hard, like the heated mass when drawn out of the forge. He cleared the way for Arthur when he came to any stoppage.) Hirerwm and Hiratrwm. (The day they went on a visit three Cantrevs provided for their entertainment, and they feasted until noon and drank until night, when they went to sleep. And then they devoured the heads of the vermin through hunger, as if they had never eaten anything. When they made a visit they left neither the fat nor the lean, neither the hot nor the cold, the sour nor the sweet, the fresh nor the salt, the boiled nor the raw.) Huarwar the son of Aflawn (who asked Arthur such a boon as would satisfy him. It was the third great plague of Cornwall when he received it. None could get a smile from him but when he was satisfied.) Gware Gwallt Euryn. The two cubs of Gast Rhymi, Gwyddrud and Gwyddneu Astrus. Sugyn the son of Sugnedydd (who would suck up the sea on which were three hundred ships, so as to leave nothing but a dry strand. He was broad-chested). Rhacymwri, the attendant of Arthur (whatever barn he was shown, were there the produce of thirty ploughs within it, he would strike it with an iron flail until the rafters, the beams, and the boards were no better than the small oats in the mow upon the floor of the barn). Dygyflwng, and Anoeth Veidawg. And Hir Eiddyl, and Hir Amreu (they were two attendants of Arthur). And Gwevyl the son of Gwestad (on the day that he was sad, he would let one of his lips drop below his waist, while he turned upon the other like a cap upon his head). Uchtryd Varyf Draws (who spread his red untrimmed beard over the eight-and-forty rafters which were in Arthur's Hall). Elidyr Gyvarwydd. Yskyrdav, the Yscudydd (two attendants of Gwenhywyvar were they. Their feet were swift as their thoughts when bearing a message). Brys the son of Bryssethach (from the Hill of the Black Fernbrake in North Britain). And Grudlwyn Gorr. Bwlch, and Kyfwlch, and Sefwlch, the sons of Cleddyf Kyfwlch, the grandsons of Cleddyf Difwlch. (Their three shields were three gleaming glitterers; their three spears were three pointed piercers; their three swords were three griding gashers; Glas, Glessic, and Gleisad. Their three dogs, Call, Cuall, and Cavall. Their three horses, Hwyrdyddwd, and Drwgdyddwd, and Llwyrdyddwg. Their three wives, Och, and Garym, and Diaspad. Their three grandchildren, Lluched, and Neved, and Eissiwed. Their three daughters, Drwg, and Gwaeth, and Gwaethav Oll. Their three handmaids, Eheubryd the daughter of Kyfwlch, Gorascwrn the daughter of Nerth, Ewaedan the daughter of Kynvelyn Keudawd Pwyll the half-man). Dwnn Diessic Unbenn, Eiladyr the son of Pen Llarcau, Kynedyr Wyllt the son of Hettwn Talaryant, Sawyl Ben Uchel, Gwalchmai the son of Gwyar, Gwalhaved the son of Gwyar, Gwrhyr Gwastawd Ieithoedd (to whom all tongues were known), and Kethcrwm the Priest. Clust the son of Clustveinad (though he were buried seven cubits beneath the earth, he would hear the ant fifty miles off rise from her nest in the morning). Medyr the son of Methredydd (from Gelli Wic he could, in a twinkling, shoot the wren through the two legs upon Esgeir Oervel in Ireland). Gwiawn Llygad Cath (who could cut a haw from the eye of the gnat without hurting him). Ol the son of Olwydd (seven years before he was born his father's swine were carried off, and when he grew up a man he tracked the swine, and brought them back in seven herds). Bedwini the Bishop (who blessed Arthur's meat and drink). For the sake of the golden-chained daughters of this island. For the sake of Gwenhwyvar its chief lady, and Gwennhwyach her sister, and Rathtyeu the only daughter of Clemenhill, and Rhelemon the daughter of Kai, and Tannwen the daughter of Gweir Datharwenîddawg. Gwenn Alarch the daughter of Kynwyl Canbwch. Eurneid the daughter of Clydno Eiddin. Eneuawc the daughter of Bedwyr. Enrydreg the daughter of Tudvathar. Gwennwledyr the daughter of Gwaledyr Kyrvach. Erddudnid the daughter of Tryffin. Eurolwen the daughter of Gwdolwyn Gorr. Teleri the daughter of Peul. Indeg the daughter of Garwy Hir. Morvudd the daughter of Urien Rheged. Gwenllian Deg the majestic maiden. Creiddylad the daughter of Lludd Llaw Ereint. (She was the most splendid maiden in the three Islands of the mighty, and in the three Islands adjacent, and for her Gwythyr the son of Greidawl and Gwynn the son of Nudd fight every first of May until the day of doom.) Ellylw the daughter of Neol Kynn-Crog (she lived three ages). Essyllt Vinwen, and Essyllt Vingul." And all these did Kilhwch son of Kilydd adjure to obtain his boon.

Then said Arthur, "Oh! Chieftain, I have never heard of the maiden of whom thou speakest, nor of her kindred, but I will gladly send messengers in search of her. Give me time to seek her."
Like what the fuck, there's no possible way that anyone could be expected to read that for like the purposes of pleasure. Its just a huge bludgeon of a list out of nowhere- there seem to be some interesting interpretations of it at least, but still. Before this the poem reads like relatively modern literature and then BAM out of nowhere a wall of text gets dropped on you.

There's also the part where Kilhwch and co. actually meets Yspaddaden, who lists his demands before Olwen can be given to them.

Culhwch and Olwen wrote:And the next day they came again to the palace, and they said, "Shoot not at us any more, unless thou desirest such hurt, and harm, and torture as thou now hast, and even more."

"Give me thy daughter, and if thou wilt not give her, thou shalt receive thy death because of her."

"Where is he that seeks my daughter? Come hither where I may see thee." And they placed him a chair face to face with him.

Said Yspaddaden Penkawr, "Is it thou that seekest my daughter?"

"It is I," answered Kilhwch.

"I must have thy pledge that thou wilt not do towards me otherwise than is just, and when I have gotten that which I shall name, my daughter thou shalt have."

"I promise thee that willingly," said Kilhwch, "name what thou wilt."

"I will do so," said he.

"Seest thou yonder vast hill?" "I see it." "I require that it be rooted up, and that the grubbings be burned for manure on the face of the land, and that it be ploughed and sown in one day, and in one day that the grain ripen. And of that wheat I intend to make food and liquor fit for the wedding of thee and my daughter. And all this I require done in one day."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though this be easy for thee, there is yet that which will not be so. No husbandman can till or prepare this land, so wild is it, except Amaethon the son of Don, and he will not come with thee by his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him.

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Govannon the son of Don to come to the headland to rid the iron, he will do no work of his own good will except for a lawful king, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get; the two dun oxen of Gwlwlyd, both yoked together, to plough the wild land yonder stoutly. He will not give them of his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get; the yellow and the brindled bull yoked together do I require."

"It will be easy for me to compass this."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get; the two horned oxen, one of which is beyond, and the other this side of the peaked mountain, yoked together in the same plough. And these are Nynniaw and Peibaw, whom God turned into oxen on account of their sins."

"It will be easy for me to compass this."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Seest thou yonder red tilled ground?"

"I see it."

"When first I met the mother of this maiden, nine bushels of flax were sown therein, and none has yet sprung up, neither white nor black; and I have the measure by me still. I require to have the flax to sow in the new land under, that when it grows up it may make a white wimple, for my daughter's head, on the day of thy wedding."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou gets this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Honey that is nine times sweeter than the honey of the virgin swarm, without scum and bees, do I require to make bragget for the feast."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"The vessel of Llwyr the son of Llwyryon, which is of the utmost value. There is no other vessel in the world that can hold this drink. Of his free will thou wilt not get it, and thou canst not compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The basket of Gwyddneu Garanhir, if the whole world should come together, thrice nine men at a time, the meat that each of them desired would be found within it. I require to eat therefrom on the night that my daughter becomes thy bride. He will give it to no one of his own free will, and thou canst not compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The horn of Gwlgawd Gododin to serve us with liquor that night. He will not give it of his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The harp of Teirtu to play to us that night. When a man desires that it should play, it does so of itself, and when he desires that it should cease, it ceases. And this he will not give of his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The cauldron of Diwrnach Wyddel, the steward of Odgar the son of Aedd, king of Ireland, to boil the meat for thy marriage feast."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. It is needful for me to wash my head, and shave my beard, and I require the tusk of Yskithyrwyn Benbaedd to shave myself withal, neither shall I profit by its use if it be not plucked alive out of his head."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. There is no one in the world that can pluck it out of his head except Odgar the son of Aedd, king of Ireland."

"It will be easy for me to compass this."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. I will not trust any one to keep the tusk except Gado of North Britain. Now the threescore Cantrevs of North Britain are under his sway, and of his own free will he will not come out of his kingdom, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. I must spread out my hair in order to shave it, and it will never be spread out unless I have the blood of the jet black sorceress, the daughter of the pure white sorceress, from Pen Nant Govid, on the confines of Hell."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. I will not have the blood unless I have it warm, and no vessels will keep warm the liquid that is put therein except the bottles of Gwyddolwyn Gorr, which preserve the heat of the liquor that is put into them in the east, until they arrive at the west. And he will not give them of his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Some will desire fresh milk, and it will not be possible to have fresh milk for all, unless we have the bottles of Rhinnon Rhin Barnawd, wherein no liquor ever turns sour. And he will not give them of his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Throughout the world there is not a comb or scissors with which I can arrange my hair, on account of its rankness, except the comb and scissors that are between the two ears of Twrch Trwyth, the son of Prince Tared. He will not give them of his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. It will not be possible to hunt Twrch Trwyth without Drudwyn the whelp of Greid, the son of Eri."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Throughout the world there is not a leash that can hold him, except the leash of Cwrs Cant Ewin."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Throughout the world there is no collar that will hold the leash except the collar of Canhastyr Canllaw."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The chain of Kilydd Canhastyr to fasten the collar to the leash."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Throughout the world there is not a huntsman who can hunt with this dog, except Mabon the son of Modron. He was taken from his mother when three nights old, and it is not known where he now is, nor whether he is living or dead."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Gwynn Mygdwn, the horse of Gweddw, that is as swift as the wave, to carry Mabon the son of Modron to hunt the boar Trwyth. He will not give him of his own free will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Thou wilt not get Mabon, for it is not known where he is, unless thou find Eidoel, his kinsman in blood, the son of Aer. For it would be useless to seek for him. He is his cousin."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Garselit the Gwyddelian is the chief huntsman of Ireland; the Twrch Trwyth can never be hunted without him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. A leash made from the beard of Dissull Varvawc, for that is the only one that can hold those two cubs. And the leash will be of no avail unless it be plucked from his beard while he is alive, and twitched out with wooden tweezers. While he lives he will not suffer this to be done to him, and the leash will be of no use should he be dead, because it will be brittle."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Throughout the world there is no huntsman that can hold those two whelps except Kynedyr Wyllt, the son of Hettwn Glafyrawc; he is nine times more wild than the wildest beast upon the mountains. Him wilt thou never get, neither wilt thou ever get my daughter."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. It is not possible to hunt the boar Trwyth without Gwynn the son of Nudd, whom God has placed over the brood of devils in Annwn, lest they should destroy the present race. He will never be spared thence."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. There is not a horse in the world that can carry Gwynn to hunt the Twrch Trwyth, except Du, the horse of Mor of Oerveddawg."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Until Gilennhin the king of France shall come, the Twrch Trwyth cannot be hunted. It will be unseemly for him to leave his kingdom for thy sake, and he will never come hither."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The Twrch Trwyth can never be hunted without the son of Alun Dyved; he is well skilled in letting loose the dogs."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The Twrch Trwyth cannot be hunted unless thou get Aned and Aethlem. They are as swift as the gale of wind, and they were never let loose upon a beast that they did not kill him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get; Arthur and his companions to hunt the Twrch Trwyth. He is a mighty man, and he will not come for thee, neither wilt thou be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The Twrch Trwyth cannot be hunted unless thou get Bwlch, and Kyfwlch [and Sefwlch], the grandsons of Cleddyf Difwlch. Their three shields are three gleaming glitterers Their three spears are three pointed piercers. Their three swords are three griding gashers, Glas, Glessic, and Clersag. Their three dogs, Call, Cuall, and Cavall. Their three horses, Hwyrdydwg, and Drwgdydwg, and Llwyrdydwg. Their three wives, Och, and Garam, and Diaspad. Their three grandchildren, Lluched, and Vyned, and Eissiwed. Their three daughters, Drwg, and Gwaeth, and Gwaethav Oll. Their three handmaids [Eheubryd, the daughter of Kyfwlch; Gorasgwrn, the daughter of Nerth; and Gwaedan, the daughter of Kynvelyn]. These three men shall sound the horn, and all the others shall shout, so that all will think that the sky is falling to the earth."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. The sword of Gwrnach the Giant; he will never be slain except therewith. O his own free will he will not give it, either for a price or as a gift, and thou wilt never be able to compel him."

"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest think that it will not be easy."

"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get. Difficulties shalt thou meet with, and nights without sleep, in seeking this, and if thou obtain it not, neither shalt thou obtain my daughter."

"Horses shall I have, and chivalry; and my lord and kinsman Arthur will obtain for me all these things. And I shall gain thy daughter, and thou shalt lose thy life."

"Go forward. And thou shalt not be chargeable for food or raiment for my daughter while thou art seeking these things; and when thou hast compassed all these marvels, thou shalt have my daughter for thy wife."
Like hot damn it really does seem like it devolves into parody after like the 15th repetition or so. Most of these acts aren't even actually accomplished either, but sidestepped through basically only doing some of the tasks until they find some other guys to just kill Yspaddaden. This leaves Kilhwch and Olwen to get married.

Its a weird little story, even before wrapping your head around all of the additions from later Arthurian stories that are absent here (No Lancelot, no Round Table, no talk of the Holy Grail etc.). One of my favorite parts too is Kai just deciding to fuck off from the quest and even being one of Arthur's knights altogether after Arthur writes a poem about him that, from what I can tell, says little more than "Lol you're a little bitch Kai". Its just such a random addition to the story.
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris


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