The Witcher: Magic, Monsters and Medievalism
An article I wrote about the new Netflix series "The Witcher" is online at the wonderful website Medievalists.net . It will help those unfamiliar with the franchise decide whether or not to watch the series.
The Witcher: Magic, Monsters and Medievalism
The American Journal of Sayers Studies has just released a new volume about Dorothy L. Sayers. An article I wrote about her literary friend, Barbara Reynolds is included in this edition.
The full journal can be found here.
Below is the ten page article I wrote.
- Linda C. McCabe
Joseph Campbell famously described the commonalities of myths and stories told throughout the world as “the hero with a thousand faces” meaning that regardless of the name of the particular hero or the locale in which a monster was fought - there was an underlying mythos capturing our imaginations. That is why heroic stories persist throughout the ages and continue to be propagated for new generations. One method that allows readers or audiences to recognize the significance of what role each character plays in the story whether they are hero, ally or adversary is by using stock figures or archetypes. I use the term archetype differently than what was described by Carl Jung, so I am not limited to his set of twelve archetypes. My use is more in line with recognizing stock figures that become icons in literature and drama.
Bradamante (Bradamant) is the niece of Charlemagne and a respected warrior maiden. Ariosto praises her beauty as well as declaring her to be equal in “courage, might and expertise” to that of her famous brother Rinaldo, (Orlando furioso, Canto II, verse 31).
Archetypically, I feel that Bradamante’s character had two major influences. The first was the Greek Goddess Athena.
She was the goddess of wisdom and victory and known for her cool-headed strategic planning. No man ever captured Athena’s heart.
The second influence was of the historical figure of Joan of Arc or Jeanne d’Arc. I find that comparison more compelling and I feel that it was not incidental, but instead a deliberate attempt by Ariosto to invoke the parallels between the literary heroine and the real life French martyr. Jeanne d’Arc who was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. She had been known for riding a white horse, carrying a banner made of white fabric, was called “the Maid,” had cropped hair and dressed in men’s clothing.
Bradamante was a young woman, most likely a teenager, and is described as having a white shield with a white plume (Orlando furioso, Canto I, verse 60) and is often referred to as “the Maid.” The color white is known for the symbolic virtues of purity and innocence. Bradamante also had cropped hair, due to a blow to the back of her head by an enemy warrior near the end of Boiardo’s poem Orlando innamorato (Book III Canto v, verse 46) and a hermit cut her hair to tend to the wound. (Book III, Canto ix, verse 61)
Ariosto neglected to mention the length of Bradamante’s hair until finally in Canto 25 when her twin brother Ricciardetto relates a tale to Ruggiero of how people commonly confuse him and his sister Bradamante since they have such great resemblance to each other. The confusion about her sex was compounded when she lost her tresses due to the head injury. (Orlando furioso, Canto XXV, verses 22-24)
Bradamante also disguised herself as a man when she approached the thief Brunello at an inn and sought to have him serve as her guide to find where Ruggiero was being held captive.
“Name, sex, race, family and place of birth
She hides, watching his hands for all she’s worth.” (Orlando furioso, Canto III, verse 76)
The greatest differences between Bradamante and Jeanne d’Arc is that the literary heroine is revered by her king, never accused of heresy, has a love life, and a much better fate than the historical figure.
Here are more artistic renderings of Bradamante.
I happen to have purchased that image when a facsimile of it was sold on eBay. The scan is from my copy.
Of all the characters in Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso, my favorite is Bradamante. She is a strong heroine who rarely loses her temper. Twice she gave into seeking revenge. Once was going after Martisino and the second was Pinabel. Both times she suffered due to her lust for vengeance. In Fate of the Saracen Knight, Bradamante hears rumors of Ruggiero being romantically involved with another warrior maiden. Will she suffer if she sets out on another quest for vengeance?
I had a rollicking good time talking with Professor Richard Scott Nokes over Skype on December 8th, 2018.
After finishing the interview, I realized that I had forgotten to bring up a few things I wanted to mention. I gave a lot of advice on the writing process and thought hyperlinks might be helpful for those interested in following up on them.
One aspect of the interview that makes this a little out of the ordinary was the time spent getting the tech stuff working. We spent over half an hour trying to get the Skype application to record. After several failed attempts, Professor Nokes got it working. He started to record, but I didn't see the banner at the top indicating it was recording. I didn't want us to begin talking in earnest and have to start all over again.
I mention this because that mistake on my part is the first half minute of the video. After we stopped talking Professor Nokes spent about an hour editing the raw footage and uploaded the unedited raw footage. D'oh!
What you really missed was the cool introductory musical theme song that precedes his interviews. To get you in the proper mood, here is the music you should hear before his interviews:
And here is a re-posting of the interview with time stamps of my annotations.
At 2:04 I mention that my series is based on the legends of Charlemagne that were told and retold in the south of France and north of Italy for several centuries. For those interested in learning more, Fordham University has a website dedicated to those legends.
2:55 I mention one of the most famous contributions to the legends of Charlemagne, The Song of Roland or La Chanson de Roland. Here is a link to Fordham University's online translation and a link to Amazon.com's trade paperback version.
3:50 I show my copies of Barbara Reynolds' translations of Orlando furioso. Here are links to those copies on Amazon.com Part One and Part Two. Those books are my preferred version of this epic poem. They are in verse and there is a lot of white space, so I find it easier to read. Guido Waldman has a one volume version, and it is written in prose. I find it difficult to read because the font is so small, and there is little white space. Here is a link to his version on Amazon.com
A free online version by Project Gutenberg can be found at this link. A fair bit of warning though. This is the William Stewart Rose translation. I started reading this epic poem by printing out a few cantos of this version and found it utterly confusing. Later, once I read the versions by both Reynolds and Waldman, I went back and checked a few choice passages. Rose refused to translate some of the bawdier ones. Bummer.
More after the jump.
Linda C. McCabe standing in front of the cathedral in Ferrara, Italy. (Picture by Scott C. Nevin).
Over the years the question of "when is your sequel coming out?" has been a frequent topic of discussion at gatherings. At times I have regaled the questioner with glimpses of what was to come by telling them about something I was currently writing, such as "I have been stuck in the Underworld and will soon be done writing those chapters."
I was grateful to be asked, because it meant that my writing touched a chord with people and they were interested in knowing what came next.
I had no idea how much time would be involved when I made the decision to adapt two of the largest contributions to the legends of Charlemagne into novels for modern day audiences. That was back in 2005. I was so naÏve. I thought I could do it in one volume.
I made my outlines, made decisions how to structure my story, evaluated the maps for locations, etc. Once I began writing and allowed the drama to play out, I soon realized that this was not going to be done in one volume - not unless it was over a thousand pages. That's not a realistic book length for a debut novelist.
At one point, I thought I could do this series in two novels. That idea was also dispelled once I began writing volume two and saw the page count continue to climb with a large number of chapters yet to be written. Currently my plan is for a trilogy.
I thought I should share how I began writing this series. Back in 2003, I read my first epic poem. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a life changing experience for me. I was doing a little bit of research and had originally intended on only reading a few cantos of Orlando furioso and used an online English translation because it was free and readily available. It was confusing, and so I switched to reading Barbara Reynolds’ two-volume set. I became entranced by the epic story with an expansive cast of larger than life characters and multiple interweaving plotlines. The love story of Bradamante and Ruggiero became the one plot thread that captivated my attention most of all and I found myself skimming ahead until I found their storyline resumed. I was astonished at the idea that 500 years ago there was a brave warrior maiden in literature sent on a quest to rescue her beloved. I felt cheated that I had never heard of Bradamante before.
Two years later, I decided to embark on this project because I wanted others to know about these fantastic characters and their incredible storyline. I knew from the outset it would be an ambitious project, but I had confidence I had the talent and stamina to complete it. As I embarked on my literary journey to adapt Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto and Orlando inamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, I thought it would not take me as long to complete my task as it took the poets to write their masterpieces. Now, thirteen years later, I am proud to announce the publication of Fate of the Saracen Knight, volume two in my trilogy.
Here's some context: according to the Encyclopedia of Italian Studies, Boiardo began his work on Orlando innamorato in 1478. The first edition of his poem was published in 1483. Boiardo died in 1494, leaving his poem unfinished. He wrote his poem for sixteen years.
Ariosto was later given the task of finishing Boiardo’s poem and his work began in 1505. The first publication of Orlando furioso was in 1516, taking only eleven years. A further expansive version of his epic poem was published in 1532, sixteen years later, for a total of twenty-seven years spent on his magnum opus.
That means between the two poets it took them forty-two years to write the two poems I am using to base my story.
The focus of my work is on the love story of Bradamante and Ruggiero, so I am not attempting to adapt the entirety of both poems. That was part of my hubris in thinking my adaptation wouldn’t take as long as it did the poets to write their stories. Thirteen years later, and I’m not finished yet.
I began this work not having been a devotée of the Medieval period. However, I have a Masters Degree as an Historian of Science from Sonoma State University and was mentally prepared for the challenge. I plunged in the deep end, learning as much as I could about medieval life, medieval history and Charlemagne. Part of my research included my husband and I traveling to France to see the places I was writing about and museums. On subsequent trips, we visited Aachen, Germany to see Charlemagne’s seat of power and to Ferrara, Italy where the patrons of Boiardo and Ariosto lived.
To help celebrate the launch of my second volume, both volumes are discounted during the month of December. Here are links for the ebooks of Quest of the Warrior Maiden and Fate of the Saracen Knight from Amazon.com, and the trade paperbacks of Quest and Fate. The books are available on other Amazon outlets throughout the world, but availability of trade paperbacks depends on the country. The prices will go up in January.
Dr. Richard Scott Nokes, Professor of Medieval Literature from Troy University said this about my writing. “Readers will be gripped by the epic sweep of the Bradamante & Ruggiero Series. This second book ratchets up the narrative tension and leaves the reader emotionally invested not just in the Fate of the Saracen Knight, but the fates of all the characters.”
Please consider giving the gift of reading this holiday season for yourself or for others, and supporting an independent author who shares your passion for fantasy, heroic characters and the Medieval period.
Thank you and may you have a fabulous holiday season,
Linda C. McCabe
P.S. This is my first blog post on this platform. I will attempt to migrate posts from the Google Blogger platform here, so that I am not at the whim of a corporate decision to remove that free site at some point in the future.
Linda C. McCabe is the author of Quest of the Warrior Maiden and Fate of the Saracen Knight, an epic historic fantasy series set in the time of Charlemagne. She lives in Northern California with her college sweetheart and twenty-something son.