“Killing the Rock” – Art in a time of crisis

Forgive me for this departure from my usual discussions of fiction and writing, but this is a film I want to share. It touches on a way that people can find meaning and release through art. I can’t even imagine the horrors of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, but Abu Raja has had to watch it take his family and most of what he loves. But rather than let his grief and anger consume him, he turns to creation. Out of rock, he makes art.

The director, Jake Viramontez, is an old high school classmate of mine, but he did not personally contact me or ask me to share. After seeing a general notification about the film’s release and viewing it myself, I knew I wanted to share it. He and his crew made the journey out to Jordan to find a story worth telling, and they told it well. May God use it to open our eyes and our hearts.

If you appreciate the film and are able, consider sharing it on whatever platforms you can.

Killing the Rock from Jake Viramontez on Vimeo.

“Every act of creation, is first an act of destruction.” ~Picasso

The horrors of the Syrian war are recounted through the eyes of 60-year-old artist and refugee Abu Raja as he embarks on his mission of sending a message to future Syrians through his sculptures. The film explores pain, loss, and the importance of creation in the face of overwhelming destruction. Shot in Ramtha, Jordan just 5 kilometers from the Syrian border where war continues to rage on.

To give, go to:
give.classy.org/killingtherock

Director: Jake Viramontez
Director of Photography: Tristan Nyby
Produced by: Wjd Dhnie, Jens Jacob
Executive Producer: James Shani
Production Company: Madison + Vine, Sypher Films
Co-Producer: Brent Madison
Editor: Jake Viramontez
Sound Design: Defacto Sound
Original Music: Ryan Taubert
Colorist: Bryan Smaller, Company 3
Story Editor: Jarod Shannon

Shot on: Red Weapon Helium w/Kowa anamorphics.

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My Favorite History Podcasts

Lonely car drives, walks, jogging, spring cleaning – I find many opportunities when it’s nice to have something to listen to. And while I’ve got an excellent library of music that can play for a week and a half without repeating a song if I let it go continuously, I’ve also become quite a big fan of podcasts over the years. And to no one’s surprise, my favorite podcasts are nearly all related to literature and history.

Here are my current favorite history podcasts – the literary ones will be in a later post, as I have more of them. I encourage you to give each of them a try. If you like them, subscribe to them on your favorite platform, and after you’ve listened awhile, give them a rating on whatever podcast or app store you got them from. Feel free, as well, to discuss them here, and to share your own favorite podcasts.

They are available through iTunes and the iPhone’s App Store.

HISTORY

norman-centuries-header“Norman Centuries”

by Lars Brownworth
https://normancenturies.com/
Episode length: expect 15 – 30 minutes

This is one of the first I discovered, several years back. Lars Brownworth is an excellent lecturer, with a voice that is clear and easy to listen to. Beginning with Rollo, the Viking leader who settled in the region of northern France now called Normandy, Brownworth tells the adventures of Rollo’s people as they established kingdoms in Britain and the Mediterranean. While not often nice people, the Normans were some of the most fascinating adventurers the world has ever known. Their story is entertaining and often thrilling – there’s nothing dry or boring about the Normans or the way Brownworth speaks about them!

Lars Brownworth also has another great podcast about 12 Byzantine Rulers, which can be found at https://12byzantinerulers.com/. He’s also authored books on these subjects.

The History of English Podcast

book-header3-1120x252by Kevin Stroud
http://historyofenglishpodcast.com/
Episode length: expect 45 minutes – 1 hour

This podcast is an incredibly impressive achievement in the organization and correlation of research. Kevin Stroud draws from many different sources to bring us the story of the English language itself – where its distant roots are in prehistory, how our ancestors migrated and found new words, how their livelihoods determined their vocabulary, and the myriad unexpected ways that people and their languages can change, shift, and bloom.

And it’s told as a story. This podcast is at once an epic (following thousands of years of wars, politics, migrations, and assorted adventures), a mystery (examining clues in words and writings to figure out what they really are, who was behind them, and what their effects are), and a human drama (often delving into the lives of specific historical figures to understand how they influenced other people and the popular spoken language).

Ancient Warfare Podcast

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by The History Network
https://thehistorynetwork.org/category/ancient-warfare-magazine/
Episode length: 30 minutes – over an hour

Most episodes seem to consist of roundtable discussions on some topic of – surprisingly! – ancient warfare by the hosts. I’ve listened to a bit, but they’re informative and cover and wide range of fascinating topics. Well worth checking out.

What are your favorite podcasts about history?

Book Review: “King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition” by Tyler Tichelaar

[N.B. A review copy of this book was sent to me by its author. In no way has this influenced the opinions I express here. You can find Tyler Tichelaar’s blog at CHILDREN OF ARTHUR.]

Title: King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition
Author: Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D.
Pages: 179
Publisher: Modern History Press
Genre: Scholarly study
Blurb: “…The first full-length analysis of every known treatment of King Arthur’s children, from Welsh legends and French romances, to Scottish genealogies and modern novels by such authors as Parke Godwin, Stephen Lawhead, Debra Kemp, and Elizabeth Wein. King Arthur’s Children explores and often overlooked theme in Arthurian literature and reveals King Arthur’s bloodlines may still exist today.” (Back Cover)
Recommendation: For anyone with a more-than-casual interest in the Arthurian legend, especially regarding different versions and the more obscure tales, this is a very handy resource. The end significance of many of the discussions may not mean much except to serious scholars, but Dr. Tichelaar’s book will open even the eyes of an amateur hobbyist of Arthuriana to the extraordinary diversity of the legends and the ways in which they have been continually adapted and retold over the centuries.

Key Thoughts

“It may be Geoffrey of Monmouth’s responsibility that Arthur’s sons disappeared from later versions of the legends; The History of the Kings of Britain was so popular that it firmly placed a structure on the way the tale would be told from then on, and since Geoffrey did not give Arthur any sons, his successors avoided creating sons for Arthur. And if writers had added sons to the legend, they would have had to come up with explanations for why these sons did not succeed their father.” (23)

Though a slender volume, Dr. Tichelaar’s book examines an impressively large amount of texts in its pursuit of all information that could potentially shed light on its subject of study, which is in some ways a bit obscure. Loads of scholarship exists on King Arthur himself and the main body of legends, but surprisingly little is known about his progeny except for Mordred, the bastard son of Arthur’s incest with his half-sister Morgan (whose name has numerous spellings). There are actually quite a few others just in the medieval and Old Welsh sources. The great virtue of King Arthur’s Children is how methodically Tichelaar goes through every mention of a character being a direct descendent of Arthur and examines all possible ways in which that mention interacts with other versions of the story.

The first section of the book concerns the Welsh traditions, which give Arthur three sons: Gwydre, Amr, and Llacheu. They have brief mentions—and in the case of Gwydre, only one undeniable mention—and thus little is known about their stories; nonetheless, they are the oldest mentions of Arthur’s progeny.

The most substantial section of the book discusses Mordred and the myriad portrayals he has had. Popularly he is Arthur’s bastard son, but in some tales he is legitimate, in others he is a nephew, in still others he is a brother, and sometimes he is not said to be related to Arthur at all. Scottish traditions even regarded Mordred as the good and legitimate king of England, with Arthur the evil imperialist usurper! This section really shows the diversity of the legends.

The third section is more interesting from a historical perspective, as Tichelaar looks at Arthur’s descendents and heirs. The English monarchy has often claimed descent from Arthur, but I was surprised to hear that those of Belgium and the Netherlands also make the claim. There is virtually no possibility of these claims being true even if there was one man who was the real King Arthur, but it’s still fascinating to explore all the possibilities.

The final section of the book deals with modern literature. Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset is identified as the first twentieth-century novel to give Arthur a child—a daughter—although the role is minor, since the infant dies soon after birth and serves mostly to provide a source of tension between Artos and Guenhamara. Discussions of other authors follow: Barbara Ferry Johnson, Catherine Christian, Parke Godwin, Vera Chapman, Susan Cooper, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, Bernard Cornwell…even Stephen King’s Dark Tower series gets some attention! Not all sources seem legitimately relevant (such as the 1995 movie A Kid in King Arthur’s Court), but no one can deny Tichelaar’s thoroughness. This discussion of modern treatments is a great way to trace the legend’s influence, although Tichelaar does mix in a lot of these analyses in the earlier sections of the book, to distracting effect. I’d have preferred that he keep all the modern novels that deal with Arthur’s children in this final section, rather than sprinkling a lot of his discussion of them in the earlier sections as well.

As the subtitle indicates, Tichelaar is interested in the way Arthur’s children have been used by various authors. He believes in the possibility of a historical Arthur and goes to great lengths to see if any of the sons and daughters mentioned stand a chance of also being historical, or if not, then at least part of the earliest stories. Mostly this is done by checking what is said of them against the more venerable facts of older traditions. Tichelaar’s detailed examinations of the conflicting theories of various authors and later scholars is welcome, though often confusing for someone like me. I feel that many of the theories Tichelaar brings up rely too heavily on literary or mythical analogues, such as similarities in names and story events—many of which sound unlikely to a non-specialist. However, Tichelaar knows that the flexibility of Arthurian legend is such that it is extremely difficult to be dogmatic on almost anything. When discussing the more far-fetched theories of other scholars (such as the death of Llacheu coming from the tale of a Welsh solar god, or Norma Goodriche’s theory that Lancelot and Mordred were brothers because the Irish gods Lugh and Dylan might be interpreted to be brothers), he often comments on their unlikelihood. All the same, with subject matter as nebulous as this, it’s good to treat all legitimate possibilities seriously.

I cannot claim to know how exhaustive Tichelaar’s work really is, but it appears very thorough. I found King Arthur’s Children to be very interesting, and I’m glad to have it in my Arthurian collection.