Fore them neidfaerae   naenig uuiurthit
thoncsnottura   than him tharf sie,
to ymbhycggannae,   aer his hiniongae,
huaet his gastae   godaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege   doemid uueorthae.

15thC (?) Depiction of Death; the struggle for the dying man’s soul

Before that needful-journey no-one becomes
wiser than it is necessary for him
to consider, before his going-hence,
what his soul by way of good or evil
may be deemed, after the death-day.

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Gosh. How did no-one tell me of HistoryTeachers, the best channel on the whole of the YouTubes? Dozens of tubes, covering topics ranging from prehistoric anthropology through the classical and medieval worlds up to the modern period. The formula might be simple (take pop song, make historical, profit) but damn if this isn’t relevant to my interests.

Okay, so the formula means that a few of the more interesting tidbits get sliced away to cram things into three-to-five minutes. She mispronounces scop (hint: it’s like ‘ship’) in the Beowulf video. The Crusades falls into traps about the Children’s Crusade and old-fashioned claims that it was about land-grabbing economics. These are the sorts of things that annoy me.

On the other hand, they acknowledgin’ the tradin’ inherent to goin’ a-vikin’.

The project is a great way to break folks into history-learnin’, and that is the point. You can open up the discussions about historical nuances and the more obscure facts after you get bored high-schoolers with their facetwitters and tumbooks to actually pay attention. Which these do. They are so much damn FUN, guys. SO MUCH. I wound up singing along to Charlemagne the first time I listened to it.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mrs. B, the star of the videos, is gorgeous.

Catullus XVI

Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,
Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi,
qui me ex versiculis meis putastis,
quod sunt molliculi, parum pudicum.
nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est;
qui tum denique habent salem ac leporem
si sunt molliculi ac parum pudici
et quod pruriat incitare possunt,
non dico pueris sed his pilosis
qui duras nequeunt movere lumbos.
vos, quod milia multa basiorum
legistis, male me marem putatis?
pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.

-Gaius Valerius Catullus

Catullus 16

I will sodomise and face-fuck you,
cocksucking Aurelius and poofter Fucius,
because you thought me, because of my little verses,
which are a bit sissy, indecent.
For a proper poet should be pure,
himself, but his poems don’t need to be;
indeed, they have salt and wit
if they’re sissified and indecent,
and only when they can arose an itch,
not, I say, in boys, but those hairy men
who cannot move their rough cocks.
Because you’ve read of my thousands of kisses,
you suppose I’m a soft man?
I will sodomise and then skull-fuck you.


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Those wacky Americans, and their disrespect for dead authors. Or those wacky Brits, and their stuffy, closed-minded attitude to the free-wheelin’ democratic attitude of their estranged children. Or perhaps a third option, something like ‘those wacky D-grade authors and also those wacky lawyers.’

The Guardian reports that the Tolkien Estate are suing the American author Steve Hillard of Mirkwood: A Novel about JRR Tolkien because they never granted the author “permission to use the name and personality of JRR Tolkien in the novel, nor would they in any foreseeable circumstances.” Which seems like a pretty solid reason to sue someone, frankly.

Hillard and his lawyer spring to his defence by claiming that it’s awful unfair that they had to get permission to use Tolkien’s likeness as a key portion of the novel- after all, there are movies about World War Two which feature Churchill! No-one ever has to get permission for that, do they? I wonder if that is even true?

Unfortunately, it is a bit of a false comparison. Tolkien is a dead author, one whose Estate keeps a very firm (if generally quite fair) grip upon his literary legacy. Part of that literary legacy is the man himself, who, as an Oxford professor, wrote letters and lectures and other items which must be protected as intellectual property. I know nothing about intellectual property law, but I wager that the name itself bears such weight that it is trademarked.

Contrast Churchill- a powerful political figure, the war-time leader of a nation, a man who shaped history with his bare hands. Using anything Churchill wrote without the permission of his heirs (or the government, whomever has the rights to it), but I seriously doubt that the personage himself would have the same protections.

Tolkien, for all that he helped bring ‘fantasy’ into the modern world, and for all of his excellent academic credentials, simply is not an historical figure on the same scale. He is just some chap’s grandfather- and as someone who also had a grandfather, I’d be a mite annoyed if his likeness was a major supporting role in a novel. I might not sue over it, but my grandfather did not leave me a legacy which must be maintained against the ravening hordes.

Hillard seems to think that Tolkien would be on his side in this, saying that “His stories were unearthed from his research,” so therefore he “would be somewhat concerned about attempts to stifle works that borrow from history.” Considering how private a man Tolkein was, I find this declaration highly suspect. Tolkien’s historical (more like mythological) borrowings were from anglo-saxon history. The professor would certainly be on Hillard’s side if Hillard had published the book in the year 3012 CE; by then the Estate would be as defunct as the Scefingas, descended from Scyld.

My favourite part of this is what Hillard’s lawyer had to say:

His lawyer, Daniel Scardino, said: “Just imagine a world where you can’t talk about celebrities, where you can’t put celebrities in works of authorship, whether fiction, non-fiction, literary criticism or otherwise, where somehow their celebrity status insulates them from criticism … That’s the real concern.” The estate’s demands were “wholly without legal basis”, he added.

Actually, I can imagine such a world. What a wonderful world! None of those ridiculous magazines, newspapers which dispense news, television news broadcasters who talk about something I actually fucking care about. Oh, for such halcyon days to come again!

More seriously, the Tolkien Estate is not demanding that Hillard -or anyone else- cease talking about Tolkien, or putting him in works of non-fiction, literary criticism, or shielding the man from criticism in any way. That’s ridiculous. The man made a career out of academia; neither he nor his estate are demanding that you no longer cite his works in appropriate non-fiction contexts! For one thing, the field of Tolkien Studies would disappear overnight, and that’s never happening.

No, the Estate just wants Hillard to leave their literary grandfather out of his little, self-published, barely-selling, author-insert, piece of pulp.

Frankly, I wish the same.

Int én bec

Int én bec
ro·léic feit
do rind guip
fo·ceird faíd
ós Loch Laíg
lon do craíb

The Blackbird of Belfast Lough

The little bird
lets a whistle go
from the point of a beak,
bright yellow:
throws out a cry
above Loch Laíg,
a blackbird from branch
(a cairn of yellow).

As a special treat, a translation into Modern Irish:

An t-éan beag
a lig fead
de rinn ghoib
caitheann [sé] faí
os Loch Laoi
lon de chraobh

-Nollag Ó Muiríle (2007)

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March 2023