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Books by Jordan B. Jolley

I’m Jordan B. Jolley, author of The Tales of Draco and Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories. These books go into the depths of folklore and display to the reader what life is really about. Magic spells and creatures of legend are only the beginning of what you may find within their pages. I promise you that if you read these books, they will change the way you see your world.

My Dive Into the Spanish Civil War

If we open up to one another, and seek to understand one another, we can truly achieve total prosperity.

This month, I’ve planned to write a post about death and the macabre that’s ever so present in our literature for the Halloween season, but I have just finished reading my second book on the Spanish Civil War, and I want to quickly share my impressions…

Since my post on thematic importance in a post last year (Theme In Fiction & Why It is Needed), I wanted to read Orwell’s account in ‘Homage to Catalonia’. Unfortunately my library didn’t have a copy of it, so I settled with ‘Road to Wigan Pier’ instead (which I also highly recommend). Last month or so I bought a copy of ‘…Catalonia’, and, like I said, I’ve just finished it. Also at the same time, I decided to read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway, his novel set in the same conflict. During the war, Hemingway went to Spain as a reporter, and used the accounts he had heard from the natives to put in his book; so even though it’s a work of fiction, much of it is based on fact.

While reading these two books simultaneously, I found it interesting how many references they both mention. The P.O.U.M. is brought up a few times in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, which was the anarchist militia that Orwell joined. But what was most interesting were the different viewpoints the writers had. They were not necessarily opposing views, but they were indeed different.

In ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, the story mainly focuses on an American mercenary named Robert Jordan (no relation to the ‘Wheel of Time’ author). His mission is to destroy a bridge with dynamite right before the fascists can use it to carry out an attack. Jordan is aided by a small militia unit within enemy lines, and he falls in love with a young woman named Maria. The main storyline has very little action except towards the end, where the plans on the bridge demolition are being carried out. However, in some chapters one of the militiamen will tell Robert Jordan of his or her experience during the war. The most notable is Pilar’s story, where she tells about how she and her husband helped in capturing a village from the fascists. But after the capture, Pilar’s husband Pablo executed fascist prisoners by shooting them in the head at point-blank. The villagers, most of whom were drunk, tortured other prisoners by forcing them to bullfight and then having them stand at the edge of a cliff only to get shot and fall. This book is dark, and not for the faint of heart, but I felt impressed that Hemingway illustrated how even our ‘allies’ against a common enemy can succumb to committing nasty atrocities. It shows that in war, there are no black-&-white or good-&-evil sides if we allow ourselves to drop every moral virtue humanity holds dear. Sometimes we feel that our atrocities are justified because we convince ourselves that every evil act is committed by the enemy, and that we are only “cleansing” our world. But this isn’t so. Believing in a right means nothing unless you act on it, too; otherwise you’re a hypocrite.

I can’t really say which I like more between ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and ‘A Farwell to Arms’. Both books have dark subject matter, but it’s presented in a provocative manner that exposes to the reader the faults of mankind, so that we may be aware never to repeat them (even though we do).

‘Homage to Catalonia’, on the other hand, is not a novel, but a direct account of Orwell’s experiences fighting for the P.O.U.M. He and his wife originally went to Spain to report on the War the same way Hemingway did. But after spending time in Barcelona, Orwell decided to enlist in the P.O.U.M., an anarcho-Marxist militia. He starts off by talking about his quick training, the militia’s lack of weapons, and the struggle for command. He mentioned how some recruits would constantly argue with the officers over orders. After two weeks, Orwell was sent to the Aragon front, where he recounts the poor conditions of the trenches, the epidemic of lice and rats, and the fact that his unit didn’t even have any rifles for the first few days. He also points out that even though they were on the frontlines, there was very little action against the fascists, save for the occasional firing of an artillery shell that missed badly or a couple of skirmishes here and there. Orwell is also not afraid to bring up some of the faults within the P.O.U.M.

Throughout the book, Orwell discusses the discord among the anti-fascists. Practically each political party had their own armies that didn’t work well with each other. When Orwell was sent back to Barcelona in early May, an intercity fight breaks out when the Civil Guards sack the telephone exchange office. Different parties set up barricades in the streets and begin shooting at each other. What I like about Orwell’s nonfiction works is that he gives his own accounts of a situation before talking about his impressions on it. He points out that each party’s newspapers, particularly the Communists’ ‘Daily Worker’, would often exaggerate, lie, and contradict itself on the May Day shootings. Most of the time they would blame the Barcelona conflict on the P.O.U.M., and began accusing them of being fascist spies. This paranoia spread to the Republican Government, and they declared the P.O.U.M. an illegal organization. Many of the militia’s members, even though some made major sacrifices to fight back the fascists, were arrested and sent to makeshift, overcrowded jails. Orwell (who had been shot through the neck and miraculously survived) mentioned how in the daytime, nobody suspected of them of anything, but at night they had to go into hiding. They ended up leaving for France in the summer of 1937, but were unable to forget their experiences in Spain. Orwell paints an intricate picture of the Spanish people. Though he mentions weird customs and made light of their way of fighting, he loves them and admires their culture.

Orwell mentions the cartoon that shows the P.O.U.M. mask hiding a fascist face.

I really like Orwell’s perception on the War. Even though I don’t agree with everything he expresses, I especially admire his understanding that it is not the Spanish people who are bad, but the hostility of partisan politics that are. You can’t really assume that all of one political party, religion, or race are exactly the same. Each individual has his own rationale for being who he is. He may make ignorant but well-intentioned choices, or maybe his hatred gets the better of him. That is why it is very important that we are educated with humility and truthfulness. Orwell makes a similar point of this in ‘Road to Wigan Pier’, where he expresses distain for hostilities between social classes.

Spaniards, like many people throughout Europe and the rest of the world, has grown so much since its troubling past. Every country on Earth goes through phases of social unrest and civil violence; it is simply an instinctual trait in human beings. If we let ourselves be swallowed up with hatred and violence, we not only have the potential of hurting ourselves and our direct opponents, but also many innocent people who don’t deserve to be casualties. While reading these two books, I thought a lot about its comparisons to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War and the political unrest here in the United States. We tend to harden our hearts, close our ears, and spit hellfire on our perceived enemies – sometimes, ironically, in the name of God. Hemingway and Orwell have shown us what this hostility can lead do, which can sap humanity and drive our society and mankind in general lower than the most savage of beasts. But we are better than that. We can do better than that. If we open up to one another, and seek to understand one another, we can truly achieve total prosperity. You don’t have to agree with someone to understand them. Let’s understand each other and stop the suffering of good people.

Check out these books down below:

Homage to Catalonia

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The Road to Wigan Pier

I hope you liked this post. Please check out my books in the links below and give your support. Thank you!

Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here)

The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

How Folklore Influences Us Today…

“Fairy tales were originally simply the stories people told each other, things that had happened to someone they knew, amazing events they had heard at the marketplace, or the latest news of political events.” -Sherry Bonnice

If you have been reading my blog for some time now, you should know that I avidly study folklore, mythology, and other cultures from around the world. I do this for the sake of my own writing. Since I began to work on the second edition of ‘Rise of the Dragon’, established folklore has played a heavy role ‘The Tales of Draco’ and most especially with ‘Fairy Tales…’. I like to incorporate traditional folklore as a theme in my writing to give them a sense of realism. Many old legends have since become classified as fantasy stories: we know that they are not literal tales nowadays (though many are based on true stories), but we tell them for our entertainment and perhaps use them to express a moral.

While the third ‘Tales of Draco’ novel is being edited, I have had the opportunity to begin my next fairy tale book. Like my preceding installments, I’ve indulged in reading several books and web articles that not just tell old stories, but the folklore and old beliefs surrounding them. A few weeks ago, I found a book at the library simply called ‘Fӕries’ by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. It explains the beliefs of fairies by region, the different kinds of fairies there are – from elves to goblins – and how people use to blame phenomena on them, like fairy rings (a ring of stones or toadstools in a forest) or elf-locks (clumps of tangled hair you get when you wake up in the morning. This book also contains fairy tales following each of the sort of fairy that is explained (hobgoblins, brownies, nymphs, spriggans, shees – the list goes on). And this subject only deals with the fairy alone and not other mythological creatures.

So it’s clear I like studying folklore. I don’t mind that. But sometimes I like to ask myself why. Why do I like to use traditional folklore in my books. Why do I study folklorists like the Brothers Grimm, Andrew Lang, and Alexander Afanasyev? It actually stems from my interest in sociology, anthropology, and political science. At first glance this may seem like an unusual connection. Some would even think that folklore or fantasy guides you away from things like that. But in fact, when it comes to traditional folklore, it’s practically the opposite. Another book I had checked out at the library was ‘Children’s Folklore’ by Sherry Bonnice. She says that “[f]airy tales were originally simply the stories people told each other, things that had happened to someone they knew, amazing events they had heard at the marketplace, or the latest news of political events. Eventually, when the fairy tales passed into written literature, they were many times intended for adults, sometimes as political statements. (p. 15)” Bonnice also talks about how children’s folklore has evolved over the years and how it is very alive today. This goes beyond just fairy tales and fantasy stories, but it covers playground rhymes and games (“I’m the King of Bunker Hill! I can fight and I can kill!”), superstitions (“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”), and even child psychology itself (“Pretty much all the honest truth telling in the world is done by children” – Oliver Wendell Holmes {quoted in ‘C.F.’, p. 58}). Generally speaking, folklore that has been founded by our ancestors continue to not only inspire modern storytellers, but to influence the way we speak, how we behave to other people, and what sort of foods we prepare and eat. Yes, folklore plays a very powerful role in our lives today!

Now in the realm of children’s folktales, there are critics who question whether they are beneficial to the development of a child. “For years, theologians, teachers, and psychologists have debated the positive or negative effects of fairy tales on children. They wonder if the cruelty, violence, and superstition found in the tales is detrimental to children’s development. Some of these debates began as long ago as the 17th century when these stories were first written down. (‘C.F.’, p. 99)” Other critics will claim that these folktales are too nonsensical and hinder a child’s coping with the real world. Remember that scene on ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ when Susan tells Fred about why she doesn’t like fairy tales? Even some professors will condemn folktales like that. But in my opinion, and in the opinions of other critics, many children’s folktales are beneficial for handling the real world. Many of the older versions of classic fairy tales are known to have darker content compared to their modern counterparts. For example, before the Grimms’ version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, Red and her grandmother were never saved by the woodsman. The story served as a cautionary tale, since death was always around the corner for everyone in those days. The Wolf, in fact, represented dangers found in the forest, ranging from wild animals to robbers in hiding and much worse. “DON’T go into the woods alone or THIS will happen to you, and DON’T always trust what you see,” was practically the story’s original moral. Bonnice goes on to say, “Some child development experts believe that children who hear about the ‘bad guys’ in folk tales then have the opportunity to recognize a part of themselves… Defining [bad traits] in someone outside themselves {like a fairy tale villain} allows children to recognize it in themselves as well.” I personally believe that many folktales can indeed prepare the reader/listener – child or adult – for reality. We can relate to our fairy tale heroes to put our real challenges in life in perspective. Of course, not all folktales do this. Some stories are purely nonsensical, and have no real morals to learn from, but they are fun to hear anyway, and can perhaps provide ways to cope with the pressures in life. That is okay, just as long as it doesn’t hinder your coping with the real world.

Reading ‘Children’s Folklore’ has, in some ways, given me a clear answer on why I am into folklore. Most of us may not believe in literal fairies or elves or dragons and such, but their presence in our culture can truly aid us in coping with reality – not that it should necessarily show us a way to “escape” reality, but to show us a way to address it with a full potential. That is why I indulge in the fantasy genre in my own books: I can use folklore to discuss our sociality as humans, illustrated in part by dragons. My biggest mission as an author is to discuss why we as humans sometimes cannot get along, and resort to fighting and even murder. We can do better than this! We can be better people! That is why ‘The Tales of Draco’ and ‘Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories’ exist.

References:

  • Faeries‘ by Brian Froud & Alan Lee; published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1978
  • Children’s Folklore‘ (C.F.) by Sherry Bonnice; series consultant, Dr. Alan Jabbour: Folkorist and Former Director of the American Folklore Center; published by Mason Crest Publishers, 2003

I hope you liked this post. Please check out my books in the links below. Thank you for your support.

Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here)

The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

‘The Once & Future King’; An Unusual Masterpiece

“‘I never could stomach these nationalists…The destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.'”

Sometimes I truly wonder if certain things happen by fortunate coincidence or if there is some providence involved. Either way, one can truly be impressed at how one little incident can lead to a lifechanging discovery. I may be exaggerating a little, but it still amuses me how impactful this novel was to me, and I probably wouldn’t have even known about it had I not given in to my curiosity. About five years ago, the summer after graduating high school, I was working at a local thrift store in town (fun fact: it’s the store where Napoleon Dynamite got his suit for the dance), and while organizing the movies on the shelf, I discovered a two-cassette video of the 1967 movie ‘Camelot’ starring Richard Harris. I had never heard of it before, and I was curious to see what it was. I could have easily ignored it, but I indulged myself and bought it at closing time for a dollar. It turned out it was a film adaptation of a 1960 musical. It was a fine movie, but I didn’t really have any deep opinions about it.

Last Spring, however, I decided to look up the musical online, and discovered that it was based on ‘The Once & Future King’ by T.H. White, the full collection of short novels published between 1938 and 1940. I read a short article about the book, and I decided I wanted to read it. I didn’t have the opportunity, though, ’til last month (it was checked out by someone else). I had just finished it last Friday, and I’ve got to say it is one the strangest books I’ve ever read. The library stamped it as historical fiction, so I thought it would be more, should I say, down-to-earth from the traditional ballad. Frankly, Merlyn and his magic, and the depiction of the animals such as the fish, caught me by surprise. My first thought was that it was a silly story, but as I kept reading, I came to learn the key themes of the story.

The beginning of the book surprised me not only with its elements of fantasy, but also the kind of fantasy. I was somewhat aware that Merlyn turned the Wart (young Arthur) into animals, though I thought it was more of a hallucination than an actual transformation. But that didn’t matter to the story; what mattered were the lessons that these animals taught the Wart, especially the badger and the geese. They teach him about the nature of man from a different point of view. For example:

‘The sentries,’ {Arthur} asked. ‘Are we at war?…Are we fighting people?’

“‘Fighting?’ {the Goose} asked doubtfully. ‘The men fight sometimes, about their wives and that. Of course there is no bloodshed–only scuffling, to find the better man. Is that what you mean?’

“‘No. I meant fighting against armies–against other geese, for instance.’

“She was amused.

…”‘Will you stop about it at once! What a horrible mind you must have! You have no right to say such things. And of course there are sentries. There are the jer-falcons and the peregrines, aren’t there: the foxes and the ermines and the humans with their nets? These are natural enemies. But what creature could be so low as to go about in bands, to murder others of its own blood?’

These lessons would later apply to Arthur as he becomes King. I don’t want to spoil the story (and who doesn’t know that Arthur becomes King?), but I will talk about the themes and certain contents of the story. I’ve come to learn that this novel is more of a satire of the Arthurian legend: some attributes to the original legend are either greatly altered or outright contradictory. For instance, Lancelot is described as being the ugliest of the knights, but at least has the reputation of being the best knight of the Round Table. Much of the book focuses on Lancelot, and his struggles and failures to be the “perfect knight”.

Once I finished the book, I’ve come to really appreciate it. Of course there were some references White would make on human race that are outdated today, but he truly covers the psychology of it in a very provocative manner:

“‘Well,’ said Merlyn, ‘I don’t think he is very different from the others. What is all this chivalry, anyway? It simply means being rich enough to have a castle and a suit of armour, and then, when you have them, you make the Saxon people do what you like. The only risk you run is of getting a few bruises if you happen to come across another knight. Look at that tilt you saw between Pellinore and Grummore, when you were small. It is this armour that does it. All the barons can slice the poor people about as much as they want, and it is a day’s work to hurt each other, and the result is that the country is devastated. Might is Right, that’s the motto. Bruce Sans Pitie is only an example of the general situation. Look at Lot and Nentres and Uriens and all that Gaelic crew, fighting against you for the kingdom. Pulling swords out of stones is not a legal proof of paternity, I admit, but the kings of the Old Ones are not fighting you about that. They have rebelled, although you are their feudal sovereign, simply because the throne is insecure. England’s difficulty, we used to say, is Ireland’s opportunity. This is their chance to pay off racial scores, and to have some blood-letting as sport, and to make a bit of money in ransoms. Their turbulence does not cost them anything themselves because they are dressed in armour–and you seem to enjoy it too. But look at the country. Look at the barns burnt, and dead men’s legs sticking out of ponds, and horses with swelled bellies by the roadside, and mills falling down, and money buried, and nobody daring to walk abroad with gold or ornaments on their clothes. That is chivalry nowadays. That is the Uther Pendragon touch. And then you talk about a battle being fun!’

“‘About three thousand years ago…the country you are riding through belonged to a Gaelic race who fought with copper hatchets. Two thousand years ago they were hunted west by another Gaelic race with bronze swords. A thousand years ago there was a Teuton invasion by people who had iron weapons, but it didn’t reach the whole of the Pictish Isles because the Romans arrived in the middle and go mixed up with it. The Romans went away about eight hundred years ago, and then another Teuton invasion—of people mainly called Saxons–drove the whole ragbag west as usual. The Saxons were just beginning to settle down when your father the Conqueror arrived with his pack of Normans, and that is where we are today. Robin {H}ood was a Saxon partizan.’

“…’And so it comes to this…that we Normans have the Saxons for serfs, while the Saxons once had a sort of under-serfs, who were called the Gaels–the Old Ones. In that case I don’t see why the Gaelic Confederation should want to fight against me–as a Norman king–when it was really the Saxons who hunted them, and when it was hundreds of years ago in any case.’

“‘You are under-rating the Gaelic memory, dear boy. They don’t distinguish between you. The Normans are a Teuton race, like the Saxons whom your father conquered. So far as the ancient Gaels are concerned, they just regard both of your races as branches of the same alien people, who have driven them north and west.’

“‘Uther…your lamented father was an aggressor. So were his predecessors the Saxons, who drove the Old Ones away. But if we were go on living backward like that, we shall never come to the end of it. The old Ones themselves were aggressors, against the earlier race of the copper hatchets, and even the hatchet fellows were aggressors, against some earlier crew of exquimaux who lived on shells. You simply go on and on, until you get to Cain and Abel. But the point is that the Saxon Conquest did succeed, and so did the Norman Conquest of the Saxons. Your father settled the unfortunate Saxons long ago, however brutally he did it, and when a great many years have passed one ought to be ready to accept a status quo. Also I would like to point out that the Norman Conquest was a process of welding small units into bigger ones–while the present revolt of the Gaelic Confederation is a process of disintegration. They want to smash up what we call the United Kingdom into a lot of piffling little kingdoms of their own. That is why their reason is not what you might call a good one.’

“‘I never could stomach these nationalists…The destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.'” This is my favorite line in the whole book.

“…’He doesn’t care of a fig about Gaels or Galls, but he goes in for wars in the same way as my Victorian friends used to go in for foxhunting or else for profit in ransoms…’

“‘The link between Norman warfare and Victorian foxhunting is perfect…Look at the Norman myths about legendary figures like the Angevin kings. From William the Conqueror to Henry the Third, they indulged in warfare seasonally. The season came round, and off they went to the meet in splendid armour which reduced the risk of injury to a foxhunter’s minimum. Look at the decisive battle of Brenneville in which a field of nine hundred knights took part, and only three were killed. Look at Henry the Second borrowing money from Stephen, to pay his own troops in fighting Stephen. Look at the sporting etiquette, according to which Henry had to withdraw from a siege as soon as his enemy Louis joined the defenders inside the town, because Louis was his feudal overlord. Look at the siege of Mont St. Michel, at which it was considered unsporting to win through the defenders’ lack of water. Look at the battle of Malmesbury, which was given up on account of bad weather. That is the inheritance to which you have succeeded, Arthur. You have become the king of a domain in which the popular agitators hate each other for racial reasons, while the nobility fight each other for fun, and neither the racial maniac nor the overlord stops to consider the lot of the common soldier, who is the one person that gets hurt. Unless you can make the world wag better than it does at present, King, your reign will be an endless series of petty battles, in which the aggressions will either be from spiteful reasons or from sporting ones, and in which the poor man will be the only one who dies. That is why I have been asking you to think.”

The first edition of the book "the Once and Future King" of Magneto (Ian  McKellen) in X-Men 2 | Spotern

(It’s been revealed that ‘The Once & Future King’ is Charles Xavier’s favorite book, which I think is amazing. Here, in X2, Magnito is reading it in his prison cell.)

White had revised each of his Arthurian novels before putting them together in 1958. What makes this notable is that he was aware he was writing for an audience who had just experienced World War II. I can’t be sure, but I believe he wrote passages like this in direct response to Nazi ideology. When I read this passage myself, I actually cross-referenced this to Hitler’s contrasting view in ‘Mein Kampf’: (See Chapter 1 on his thoughts of Austria and the Reich; see also p. 633-7: Monarchic Patriotism v. National Patriotism)

White even had Merlyn mention Hitler himself:

“‘…There was just such a man when I was young–an Austrian who invented a new way of life and convinced himself that he was the chap to make it work. He tried to impose his reformation by the sword, and plunged the civilized world into misery and chaos. But the thing which this fellow had overlooked, my friend, was that he had had a predecessor of the reformation business, called Jesus Christ. Perhaps we may assume that Jesus knew as much as the Austrian did about saving people. But the odd thing is that Jesus did not turn the disciples into storm troopers, burn down the Temple at Jerusalem, and fix the blame on Pontius Pilate. On the contrary, he made it clear that the business of the philosopher was to make ideas available, and not to impose them on people.'”

I’ve come to realize that this book depicts fantasy in my favorite sort of way. I’ve mentioned earlier that one of my intentions to writing fantasy is to teach my readers how to handle reality, not to escape from it. T.H. White does this very thing, particularly through Merlyn. According to White, this famous magician ages backwards.; the future is the past for him and the past is the future. That is why he can reference events from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The biggest difference I have in my books is that some of my characters, such as Trihan and Vesuvius, know “our reality” as a foreign world, rather than in the future.

The primary theme White expresses, the psychology of war and racism, is my favorite aspect of his book, as I intend to express similar themes throughout ‘The Tales of Draco’, and his final chapter in ‘The Candle in the Wind’ really brings it together:

{Arthur} had been taught by Merlyn to believe that man was perfectible: that he was on the whole more decent than beastly: that good was worth trying: that there was no such thing as original sin… …he had been destined…against Force, the mental illness of humanity. His Table, the idea of Chivalry, his Holy Grail, his devotion to Justice: these had been progressive steps in the effort for which he had been bred…Might–to have ended it–to have made men happier. But the whole structure depended on the first premise: that man was decent.”

“…During the earliest days before his marriage he had tried to match its strength with strength–in his battle against the Gaelic Confederation–only to find that two wrongs did not make a right. But he had crushed the feudal dream of war successfully {by introducing Total War}. Then, with his Round Table, he had tried to harness Tyranny in lesser forms, so that its power might be used for useful ends. He had sent out the men of might to rescue the oppressed and to straighten evil–to put down the individual might of barons, just as he had put down the might of kings. They had done so–until, in the course of time, the ends had been achieved, but the force had remained upon his hands unchastened. So he had sought for a new channel, had sent them out on God’s business, searching for the Holy Grail. That too had been a failure, because those who had achieved the Quest had become perfect and lost to the world, while those who had failed in it had soon returned no better. At last he had sought to make a map of force, as it were, to bind it down by laws. He had tried to codify the evil uses of might by individuals, so that he might set bounds to them by the impersonal justice of the state…And then, even as the might of the individual seemed to have been curbed, the Principle of Might had sprung up behind him in another shape–in the shape of collective might, of banded ferocity…He had conquered murder, to be faced with war. There were no laws for that.”

…Man must be ready to say: Yes, since Cain there has been injustice, but we can only set the misery right if we accept a status quo. Lands have been robbed, men slain, nations humiliated. Let us now start fresh without remembrance, rather than live forward and backward at the same time. We cannot build the future by avenging the past. Let us sit down as brothers and accept the Peace of God.

“Unfortunately men did say this, in each successive war. They were always saying that the present one was to be the last, and afterwards there was to be a heaven. They were always to rebuild such a new world as never was seen. When the time came, however, they were too stupid. They were like children crying out that they would build a house–but, when it came to building, they had not the practical ability. They did not know the way to choose the right materials.”

“…the nations and the classes and the individuals were always crying out ‘Mine, mine,’ where the Church was instructed to say ‘Ours.’

“If this were true, then it would not be a question only of sharing property, as such. It would be a question of sharing everything–even thoughts, feelings, lives. God had told people that they would have to cease to live as individuals…God had said that it was only the men who could give up their jealous selves, their futile individualities of happiness and sorrow, who would die peacefully and enter the ring. He that would save his life was asked to lose it.”

“…Perhaps war was due to fear: to fear of reliability. Unless there was truth, and unless people told the truth, there was always danger in everything outside the individual. You told the truth yourself, but you had no surety for your neighbour. This uncertainty must end by making the neighbour a menace…”

“Suspicion and fear: possessiveness and greed: resentment for ancestral wrong: all these seemed to be a part of it. Yet they were not the solution…”

Arthur reflects on these thoughts as his castle is being bombarded. He summons a page:

“‘Tom of Newbold Revell…We seem to have involved a lot of people. Tell me, Tom, what do you intend to do tomorrow?’

“‘I shall fight, sir. I have a good bow.’

“‘And you will kill people with this bow?’

“‘Yes, my lord. A great many, I hope.’

“‘Suppose they were to kill you?’

“Then I should be dead, my lord.'”

“‘Could you understand if I asked you not to fight tomorrow?’

“‘I should want to fight’…

“‘Everybody wants to fight, Tom, but nobody knows why. Suppose I were to ask you not to fight, as a special favour to the King? Would you do that?’

“‘I should do what I was told.'”

“‘For some reason, things went wrong. The Table split into factions, a bitter war began, and all were killed.’

“‘No,’ {the boy said}, ‘not all. The King won. We shall win.'”

“‘Everybody was killed…except a certain page…'”

“‘This page was called young Tom of Newbold Revell near Warwick, and the old King sent him off before the battle, upon pain of dire disgrace. You see, the King wanted there to be somebody left, who would remember their famous idea. He wanted badly that Tom should go back to Newbold Revell, where he could grow into a man and live his life in Warwickshire peace–and he wanted him to tell everybody who would listen about this ancient idea, which both of them had once thought good. Do you think you could do that, Thomas, to please the King?’

“…’I would do anything for King Arthur.’

“‘That’s a brave fellow. Now listen, man. Don’t get these legendary people muddled up. It is I who tell you about my idea. It is I who am going to command you to take horse to Warwickshire at once, and not to fight with your bow tomorrow at all. Do you understand all this?'”

“‘Will you promise to be careful of yourself afterward? Will you try to remember that you are a kind of vessel to carry on the idea, when things go wrong, and that the whole hope depends on you alive?'”

“{Arthur} remembered the aged necromancer who had educated him–who had educated him with animals. There were, he remembered, something like half a million different species of animal, of which mankind was only one. Of course man was an animal…And Merlyn had taught him about animals so that the single species might learn by looking at the problems of the thousands…The fantastic thing about war was that it was fought about nothing–literally nothing. Frontiers were imaginary lines. There was no visible line between Scotland and England, although Flodden and Bannockburn had been fought about it. It was geography which was the cause–political geography. It was nothing else. Nations did not need to have the same kind of civilization, nor the same kind of leader any more than the puffins and the guillemots did. They could keep their own civilizations…if they would give each other freedom of trade and free passage and access to the world. Countries would have to become counties–but counties which could keep their own culture and local laws. The imaginary lines on the earth’s surface only needed to be unimagined. The airborne birds skipped them by nature. How mad the frontiers had seemed to Lyolyok {the Goose}, and would to Man if he could learn to fly.”

“There would be a day–there must be a day–when he would come back to Gramarye with a new Round Table which had no corners, just as the world had none–a table without boundaries between the nations who would sit to feast there. The hope of making it would lie in culture. If people could be persuaded to read and write, not just to eat and make love, there was still a chance that they might come to reason.”

One interesting fact about this is that the page was meant to be Thomas Malory, who wrote ‘Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur)’ in 1470. White based his book off Malory’s work.

You can sum up White’s message with one simple phrase: “Might is NOT Right”. It was especially appropriate considering it was written in a world suffering from war and fear. It’s still appropriate today, and it has been since Cain slew Able, as White puts it. As you can see, ‘The Once & Future King’ is not escapist fantasy; it deals with subjects all too familiar to us. It’s literature like this that clings to future generations. Scholars study works like White’s to find wisdom that does not change even through the passage of time.

All these thoughts have come to me after reading this book; and I probably wouldn’t have ever read it had I not worked at that thrift store five years ago and decided to buy a video for a dollar simply out of curiosity. Is this the butterfly effect? Is this a fortunate coincidence, or is it providence?

If you liked this post, please be sure to check out my books listed below. Thank you. Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here) The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here) Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here) Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

Great Experiences at the North Logan Book Fair…

[Book events are] always a pleasant experience for me, since it gives me an opportunity to not only talk about the synopsis of my first book to the patrons, but to share with them the themes and morals in my writing.

On Wednesday, August 3rd, I had my last book event of the summer. This has been a very optimistic season for me, as I haven’t had a summer with so many events and in places such as Las Vegas. I did not have to travel far to my last event, only to North Logan, Utah. Back in June, the North Logan Library contacted me and invited me to have a canopy booth at their book fair, which was to be held in the soccer field at Greenville Elementary School across the street from them. Several more authors had attended, including ‘Janitors’ author Tyler Whitesides, whose canopy was left to mine. All throughout the day, most of the authors stayed in their booths signing books to interested readers. This is always a pleasant experience for me, since it gives me an opportunity to not only talk about the synopsis of my first book to the patrons, but to share with them the themes and morals in my writing. It was a hot day, but at least I had my trusty canopy to keep me shaded.

Similar to my singings in Sandy, I had the opportunity to not only speak to potential readers, but also to the other authors. It’s fun to learn about their personalities and preferences in their writing. The best part, in my opinion, is discussing our philosophies in our writing. Many authors have very personal messages they want to share to their readers. For instance, the neighbor on my right was Dwayne Madry, author of ‘The Bloodlines of Sahael’ (check out his book here). He told me that his book is afro-centric fantasy with biblical ties. “Dark racial fantasy like you have never experienced before!” as said on Amazon. Madry and I had a meaningful and reasonable discussion on the nature of racism, radical nationalism, and ignorance. He also mentioned that his book was controversial, and he wanted it that way: something that was thought-provoking. I haven’t read his book yet, unfortunately, but I’m definitely considering it.

Along with these canopy booths, the library had also set up a panel for authors of various genres. Of course I was in the fantasy panel, as with Whitesides, and others I have met in previous events. I haven’t really done an official panel like this before, and I think it’s a great thing to get in touch with the audience. We could talk, make friends, and promote our work. After the panel, I had a time slot where I did a reading of the ‘Tul-kind’ story in my second Fairy Tales book, the same story I had done in my Sandy reading.

This may have been my last summer event, but it’ll more than likely not be my final one of the year. School is about to start, and I am already in contact with several schools who have invited me to visit and share my books. Schools have excellent potential for events, and now that Covid restrictions have relaxed, I am hoping to take full advantage of it. Book events are great not just for the authors, but for optimistic readers at well. They strengthen the writing community and it encourages more people to read, which is an activity that is beneficial to the development of the individual mind.

If you liked this post, please be sure to check out my books listed below. Thank you.

Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here)

The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

Many of Our Favorite Movies & Plays Have Come from Books…

If you love these movies and plays, that’s wonderful! I love most of them, too. All I ask is that you appreciate the original works and the original creators; better yet, read and listen to what these authors have to say. They are great authors, and the things they write may change your life for the better. They’ve definitely changed mine.

Now that my two main book trips for the season are out of the way, I have the opportunity to write this post. I’ve been meaning to do it in early July, but I didn’t have much time to do it. Now I can.

Books has influenced our society in many ways. There have been treatises that have sparked the beginnings of political revolutions, there have been novels that have ushered in new philosophies, and there have been stories that have altered the very fabric of human culture. When typically considering a popular franchise that began as a book or series, you might think of some works like ‘A Game of Thrones’ or ‘The Hunger Games’. But oftentimes, many of our beloved movies and plays have been based on works when we are not aware of it. Sometimes we didn’t know, and sometimes we deliberately try to forget the original work. Many of the examples I’ll be sharing will be books that have been adapted into Disney movies, as they surely prove my point.

Regarding my interest of books that have been adapted, it all started when I was reading an article about ‘The Fox & the Hound’. It was there that I learned that the film was based on the 1967 novel by Daniel P. Mannix. After reading a little about the novel, I decided I wanted to read it. The book is out of print, unfortunately, but my local library had a copy, so I checked it out. The book, I had discovered, had little resemblance to the movie. The animal characters were not anthropomorphic (they didn’t speak verbally to each other), and the story follows Tod and Copper’s relationship as the hunter and the hunted, rather than bonding in an unlikely friendship. According to the author, the book was inspired by Mannix’s real experiences with semi-tamed foxes who didn’t mind his presence. He was able to observe and study the behaviors of these animals, and at the same time he interviewed various hunters about their experiences going after foxes. Mannix’s intention was to express what goes through the minds of the bloodhound and the fox on the opposite ends of the hunt. Though I don’t agree with everything that Mannix says about the animals, I truly enjoy his realist approach and his narration following the minds of these two characters.

Title Card for the 1981 Movie

Since it was such a truly captivating animal book, Daniel P. Mannix won the Dutton Animal Book Award for it. This caught Disney’s attention, and the producers– Ron Miller, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Art Stevens–wanted to use the book as the basis for the animated film. Production began in 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1981 when it was released. The movie didn’t perform well in its original run, but it has since become a beloved classic. And though the plot of the film differed greatly from the novel, there are many scenes that reflected its source of inspiration. For instance, in the book, Tod intentionally leads his pursuer, Chief, onto a railway line, knowing that the morning train was due to come by. When the train does come, Tod quickly jumps into his designated turnoff. Chief isn’t aware of the train, and is hit and killed by it. This in turn was based on a true story Mannix had heard from a foxhunter. This scene is resembled in the film, only Chief doesn’t die, and Tod did not lead him there on purpose.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the movie. It’s one of my favorite Disney films. I think it’s beautifully animated, has great music, and possesses strong emotional scenes. But for me, I think I will always favor the book. Its emotional scenes strike even harder than in the movie and the illustrations are wonderful, but it’s the realistic story that captivates me. That is why I think it’s a shame that the book has since become forgotten by most people, and has become out of print. It’s as if Disney taken its soul and left the body for dead! I know that’s harsh, but I think this is a tragedy. Worse yet, when typical Disney fans hear about the book, they only regard it as a dark, twisted tale where our favorite characters die by the end. Though the novel is dark, it’s not twisted. In fact, I think the dark tone delivers a powerful strike to the reader’s heart.

“The Master went to the wall, took down the gun, and loaded it. Copper barked and cavorted happily. They were going hunting again, and surely the Master would take him? Yes, the Master called to him and, leaving the people, they went outside.

“The Master led him the little way from the cabin and, sitting down beside him, stroked his head. Copper licked his face and shined. They had killed the great fox, the fox that had eluded them for so many years. Now they were together again, and happy, for nothing could separate them.

“The Master made him lie down, and then held one hand over his eyes. Copper lay trustingly and contentedly. The Master knew best. Did he recall the many good times they had had together and this last great run–a day and a night and part of another day? Of course he did. Copper gave the Master’s hand one last lick. He did not care what happened as long as he would never be separated from the Master, for he had killed the great fox, and in this miserable, fouled land there was no longer any place for fox, hound, or human being.” These are the closing lines of the book.

Those who have read the novel told me they had cried at the end. The dark themes of ‘The Fox & the Hound’ are not twisted, but a blunt reminder of the reality we live in.

‘The Fox & the Hound’ was only the first novel that got me thinking about original works. I have since read ‘The Hundred & One Dalmations’ by Dodie Smith (1956), ‘Bambi, a Life in the Woods’ by Felix Salten (1923), ‘The Jungle Book’ by Rudyard Kipling (1894 & ’95), ‘Old Yeller’ by Fred Gipson (1956), ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ by Carlo Collodi (1883), ‘Mary Poppins’ by P.L. Travers (1934), ‘Peter Pan & Wendy’ by J.M. Barrie (1911), and the number of classic fairy tales that have evolved over the years. My idea for this post came a few months ago when I was talking with a friend over a pizza dinner. We covered several topics on literature, and eventually we started talking about Pinocchio. As with ‘The Fox & the Hound’, typical Disney fans who have learned about the book, but never read it, criticize its dark and “twisted” story, especially the part where Pinocchio gets ambushed one night and is hanged. They come to the conclusion that the author Collodi hated children. But the truth is far from that. The book strongly teaches young readers the consequences of good and bad choices. Pinocchio, being inexperienced as a boy, has to be reminded by the Talking Cricket, Geppetto, and the Blue Fairy–the lattermost, in the book, takes on a motherly figure to him. Following the book’s full release in 1883, it had become an icon of Italian literature (“A universal icon and a metaphor of the human condition, the book is considered a canonical piece of children’s literature and has had great impact on world culture,” says Wikipedia). The book is still the main Pinocchio story in Italy and the rest of Europe; but in North America, we immediately call back to the 1940 film. Again, the movie is by no means bad, and is also one of my favorite Disney films. But again, it’s not fair to criticize the book’s content when you haven’t read it, and intentionally shun it because… Disney.

Most of these books have been adapted into wonderful movies. But there is one that rubs me the wrong way, and that is ‘Mary Poppins’. I’ve actually never seen the movie, and it’s not the movie itself that I have a problem with–it was the production of the 1964 movie. After reading the book, I thought it was fine, but it wasn’t my favorite one to read; however, I have a lot of respect toward Travers, as her version of Mary Poppins was heavily based on her childhood nurse, and is a very personal character to the author. In my mind, Poppins was somewhat of a jerk, but that was how Travers wanted to depict her. It’s unfortunate that Walt Disney practically swindled her to produce his movie. Read this Reader’s Digest article to learn more about it.

And it’s not just Disney adaptations that seem to overshadow the books. What about ‘The Phantom of the Opera’? Most of us think of the 1986 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, or even the 1925 silent film. It began as a 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux. I don’t think “‘The Fox & the Hound’ effect” was intentional here, but that’s how it came to be. Then there’s the ‘Les Misérables’ musical (which I have performed in), adapted in 1980 from Victor Hugo’s 1862 titan of a novel. However, I think the original is still well-known. People know ‘Les Mis’ is Hugo’s work.

I don’t think it’s a crime to love the adaptations of these books. Many of us have strong emotional or nostalgic connections to them. I do, too, but I think it’s sad when the adaptation tosses the original work aside. You don’t like to have to favor the original work over the adaptation, but you can at least respect it for being the foundation of the version you love. I remember going to Disneyland my senior year in high school. On the second day I was there, a flashflood hit the park. There was almost a foot of water on the footpaths, which was actually the most fun part of the whole trip. But later that evening, my knee–thanks to an ACL sprain from playing basketball–began to feel sore, so I took refuge in a shop in Downtown Disney and waited for my group to arrive. While waiting, I saw a shirt for sale that had young Tod the fox on the front. I stared at it thinking how many people would see that shirt and think of Disney, and yet I kept thinking all about the novel, that Tod and Copper were created by Daniel P. Mannix, not Walt Disney (Disney was already dead by the book’s publication, anyway). Disney did not create Bambi, that was Salten. He did not create Mary Poppins, that was Travers. Disney, love him or not, was not the creator; he was the adaptor. Webber was not a creator; he was an adaptor. If you love these movies and plays, that’s wonderful! I love most of them, too. All I ask is that you appreciate the original works and the original creators; better yet, read and listen to what these authors have to say. They are great authors, and the things they write may change your life for the better. They’ve definitely changed mine.

(Note: Some of these books are out of print, and hard copies of them can be expensive to buy; but you can either try your library or buy them as an e-book.)

If you liked this post, please be sure to check out my books listed below. Thank you.

Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here)

The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

Event Recap: Las Vegas Book Trip

So far I’ve had great experiences at Barnes & Noble stores, so it looks like I’m going to keep doing that.

This has possibly been the most unusual book trip I’ve ever made. Of course, this event was a huge step forward for me. This has been my first book trip outside of Idaho or Utah since 2016 when I first met Christopher Paolini.
This was also one of my first events in a major city, that is if you don’t include Sandy into the Salt Lake metro. It was also a major step for being in such a lavish city like Las Vegas.

My plane was scheduled to leave the Salt Lake Airport at 10:19 pm. on July 14. Being late in the day, I spent all that morning and afternoon finalizing my plans and getting my luggage together. I made good time getting to the airport, which is about an hour-and-a-half drive for me, and everything was going smoothly. However, it was just before I reached the airport when I was notified that my flight had been delayed for an hour. I wasn’t surprised, nor was I worried. Things like that happen. But not long after the flight was delayed again to 12:01 am. I was a little annoyed by this, but again I didn’t think too much of it. I simply sat at my gate and read a good portion out of ‘David Copperfield’ (it’s funny because I was going to Vegas). Then again, just before midnight, the flight was again delayed to 2:01! At that point I was pretty upset, so was everyone else. I was getting worried, too, as the other flight to Vegas had been cancelled. I was debating on leaving and driving all the way for the entire night. But luckily I was able to board my flight, while also gaining the extra hour.

I had a reservation for the Luxor since May. Strangely enough, it was one of the cheaper places to be. I figured I could save money by avoiding the restaurants and shops and especially the casino. After checking in, I simply had a sandwich and went to my room to get some much-needed rest. For those of you who love Las Vegas, and have spent time at the MGM Resort, you might disagree with me when I say that I wasn’t too thrilled about the place. It was breathtaking, yes, and it definitely lives up to its “relaxing” reputation, but I am not one to gamble or drink alcohol. All the drinks and food there were very expensive, anyway. I had breakfast at the Buffet; and though I was not at all disappointed with the food, I have had the exact same meals at different places for a much better price, and have even prepared some of their dishes myself. For a single time there, I did not mind the high price, but I know now that it’s not worth going back again and again when I can have the same food for a much better cost. Overall, I didn’t hate my time at MGM Resort, but I believe it is not my preferred environment. I’m not that reckless party type, if you know what I mean.

On Friday the 15th, I had my presentation at the Clark County Central Library at 3:30 pm in their main conference room. Frankly, the event was quite underwhelming, and there were several factors why. First of all, the people in charge of the event told me they had never received my promotional material I had sent them about two months in advance. I never received word about the issue, either; so the library virtually did no promotion for the event. I don’t think it was strictly anyone’s fault, so I’m chalking it up to miscommunication. The event wasn’t a total waste, though, as people came by out of curiosity, and I had deep conversations about theme in literature, particularly in Collodi’s ‘Pinocchio’ (Pleasure Island? Vegas?). So yes, the event did not live up to my expectation, but it turned out well in the end. That night I took my time wandering around the Luxor, Mandalay Bay, and Excalibur, but again I did not indulge in any activities. I did, however, catch a glimpse of the Thunder from Down Under doing a photoshoot, but I was not all that interested.

Saturday the 16th was my book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Summerlin on Charleston Boulevard. Unfortunately I could not schedule anything with the one on Rainbow Boulevard, but I didn’t mind that. The book signing, in my mind, definitely made up for Friday’s slack. I signed many books, and I talked with many interesting people. I really only signed ‘Rise of the Dragon’ and ‘Fairy Tales… 1’ books for shoppers, but that is how my signings typically turn out. I intended for the signing to last about two hours, but like with Sandy, I stayed for several more hours. I’m glad I did, too. I did not do better than both my Sandy days put together, but I signed more books that day than I did in each of those Sandy days alone. So far I’ve had great experiences at Barnes & Noble stores, so it looks like I’m going to keep doing that.

My flight back to Salt Lake was going to take off early the next morning, so I decided to turn in early that Friday night. But at about midnight, I heard police sirens just outside the hotel. I looked out the window to see about a dozen emergency vehicles entering the resort; seconds later dozens of people ran in panic across the parking lot! I wondered if there was a shooting somewhere in the resort, but I didn’t know for sure. I decided that staying in my room was my safest option, and to not go near the window or the door. At the time, I thought about the horrible killings that had happened in 2017. The shooter then was in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which is adjacent to the Luxor! It turned out there was no shooting, thank goodness, but that some man had thrown a large rock at the glass doors at the MGM Grand. Witnesses had said it sounded like gunshots, and there was a lot of panic around the resort. I don’t blame anyone for that, considering the ugly history there. (Learn more about the incident here.)

Sunday’s plane was on time and I travelled home, physically and mentally exhausted.

Not only was this book trip a pleasant experience for me, I learned a lot of things about marketing as well. I feel like I could have done more to insure a more successful presentation at the library, and now that I have experienced it, I’ll know what to do next time for better insurance. Of course Las Vegas, like every other major city in the United States, is a place of many faces. There are good neighborhoods and those that need improvement. The library’s location falls under the latter; and even the Strip has its good and bad areas. I have to say that Summerlin is my favorite part of the city, being a quiet, modest neighborhood with pretty, native trees. Like I said, this was my most unusual book trip, but I had a great time and I’ve learned a lot. For those of you just starting to read my books, I hope you enjoy them!

If you liked this post, please be sure to check out my books listed below. Thank you.

Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here)

The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

Book Trip Recap: Sandy, Ut

…I find it beneficial for my own writing career to reach out and socialize with other authors.

The Sandy trip has come and gone, and now I’m getting ready for my next trip in Las Vegas. Sandy was a quick two-day event, but it was very impactful. I sold many signed copies of my books at the Barnes & Noble, and even more e-books. I don’t make much on e-books, but it doesn’t matter to the reader if he or she still enjoys it.

List of Authors who Attended the Event

As you can see, there were many different authors who came to this event, and there are a few big names like Dan Schilling (‘Alone at Dawn’) and Jennifer Nielsen (‘Ascendents’ series). The sign said I would be there on Friday 2-8 pm and Saturday 12-3 pm, but I was able to stay the entire time. I was able to sign many books to ambitious readers, as did the other authors present. Jennifer Nielsen actually came on Saturday, and I believe most of the people who came that day came for her, as she had the longest line. We had a chance to talk to each other, and we shared positive information to each other. The other New York Times Bestseller, Dan Schilling, shared a table with me, which I think was an incredible opportunity. We talked about each other’s books, and he told me about his experiences overseas, and how he was on the mission of the Blackhawk Down Incident. Having gone through so much, he had much to say about war in human nature. We discussed how violence is a still strong instinct in our nature, and how war has evolved since the days our species learned agriculture. I found it interesting since these are core themes in my next Tales of Draco novel. I’ve also had friendly conversations with Justin T. Call (‘The Silent Gods’), Clay Harmon (‘Flames of Mira’), and Brooke Stayrook (‘Tell Me a Tale’). For me, I find it beneficial for my own writing career to reach out and socialize with other authors.

On Friday night, I went to an authentic Mexican restaurant, a friendly place that served great food. On Saturday, after the second signing, I went to see the Real Salt Lake soccer team play against the Colorado Rapids. RSL jumped out with a 2-point lead, only to have Colorado tie the game, much to the fans’ dismay. I sat in Section 8 above the southern goal. In fact, I wasn’t that far from the drums. The game was by no means boring, as many say about soccer. Watching the game was fun, and the atmosphere boosted the experience. In one instance, when Colorado was set up for a penalty kick, someone below me threw a couple of bottles onto the field and gave offensive gestures. I don’t think I can ever get that invested in a sports team. (You can watch the game’s highlights here. You can see me in the stands on the right side of the field in a blue shirt.)

It was over 100 degrees out there!

This was a very exciting weekend, both for the signings and the game. Now I’m preparing to leave for Las Vegas. You can learn more about that trip here.

If you liked this post, please be sure to check out my books listed below. Thank you.

Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here)

The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

Upcoming Book Trips

See you in Sandy!

I was hoping to write a post about original works that have become cultural icons before my Sandy trip. But I haven’t been able to find time to start it, however, in preparation for this trip and the Las Vegas trip the week after. I’ll write it then. As for now, I’m getting ready for the next two weekends. You can learn more about them in the ‘Upcoming Events’ tap and @thetalesofdraco on Facebook. See you there!

Thoughts on the ‘Iliad’

The characters, both mortals and gods, are very clear reflections of the nature of the carnal man.

There has been a particular book I’ve been wanting to read from the library, but it’s been checked out by someone else. I didn’t bother to put it on hold, since there were other books I wanted to read. This time I checked out the ‘Iliad’, one of the most classical stories in existence by the Greek poet Homer. My library has two copies of that book; one, a small and battered paperback – and the other, a large, leatherbound hardback with gold-colored trim on the pages and a ribbon bookmark. I checked out the former of the two, as the story was in prose form. But after reading several chapters (called “books”), I decided to check out the other version, too, as it was written in poetic form (set in A,A,B,B rhythm). I had the poetic version to look up various expressions and metaphors I had come across in the prose version.

Since the ‘Iliad’ is a timeless classic, I felt I had to talk about it in a post, especially because of the war depicted in the book, considering my opinions on such matters in literature.

In case you don’t know, the ‘Iliad’ is set during the Achaean, a Grecian alliance, invasion of the city-state of Troy. Agamemnon, King of the Achaean league, is obligated from a dream to march his armies to conquer Troy. However, his most prominent ally, Prince Achilles, refuses to join him over a quarrel with a woman. Agamemnon, with his military and his allies, sail to Troy anyway. But before the battle begins, Prince Hector of Troy proposes a warrior from each side fight in a duel, and the winner will be given the woman Helen to be his bride. The duel falls through, though, and the battle ensues. Hector, being a demigod, leads his soldiers and pushes the Achaeans back to their ships and Agamemnon faces defeat, with the help of Zues, Apollo, and various other Olympian gods. But they are saved when Achilles is convinced by his naiad mother to forgive Agamemnon and join the Achaeans. Achilles, with the help of Hera and Poseiden, leads the driving force that pushes the Trojans back to their city, and he kills Hector while avenging his friend Patroclus, who was killed earlier by the Trojan Prince.

I might have to say that this story is not exactly for the faint of heart. The descriptions of battle can be quite, should I say, detailed. There are instances when someone is speared in the belly, the groan, the temple, or even the eye, and the reader is given a fine description of the wound and the “bowels that gush out”. Now if you have read some of my previous posts, you likely know that I am not fond of glorifying war in literature; and, frankly, the ‘Iliad’ does just that. But there were two reasons why I did not shun the story:

First of all, this is the voice of the ancient world. Even though I read a translated work, and not in its original poetic form, I still had a clear idea of the thoughts and imaginings of the author. It was fascinating to read some of the similes and metaphors mentioned in the book, because they are still relatable today. One of the most common metaphors I found was the comparison of a party of soldiers chasing another party or a lone man to a pack of hounds tracking a lion or a boar. Another time there is a comparison to a boy who builds a sandcastle only to crush it with his feet (haven’t many of us done this before?).

Second of all, and this goes along with the metaphors, it is a clear window to human behavior, and how it has not changed at all over the centuries. I am a succor studying behavior like this with an anthropological eye. Obviously, the ‘Iliad’ is the work of fiction, but like the best of fiction always does, it mirrors very real subjects. I don’t like the glorification in war, but I can clearly see why people like Nestor, Odysseus, and Achilles relish in the thought of slaying their fellow men. You can even see this carnal human behavior in the Olympian gods. Zues and Hera naturally take opposite sides. Aphrodite sides with the Trojans because her brother Ares does. Ares, in fact, despite being the God of War, is seriously wounded twice, once by the mortal Diomedes. Hera, angry with Aphrodite, shoves her to the floor, and slaps Artemis and dumps out her quiver of arrows, saying that as a huntress she knows nothing of war. The funny thing about the Olympian deity is that these gods and goddesses act no better than mortals. Oftentimes they act like children.

The most interesting thing I read in the ‘Iliad’, in this air of anthropology, is when Achilles avenges Patroclus’ death. When Patroclus is killed by Hector, a terrible battle is fought over the possession of his body. Achilles is determined above all others to retrieve it. He ends up killing Hector for it, and now the Achaeans possess Hector’s body also. Achilles sees to it that Patroclus’ body is properly cremated, while he abuses Hector’s body by dragging it behind his chariot and leaving it on the battlefield to rot. The irony I see here is that King Priam of Troy, along with Zues, consider it too cruel for Hector’s body to be treated so poorly – all the while the Trojans were likely intending to do the same to Patroclus’ body had they kept it. To me, whether Homer intended to do this or not, this part of the story is an allusion to the hypocrisy in which a person or a party believes the cruel things they do are justified, whether it’s something major like in battle or partisan politics, or something minor like taunting an opposing sports team or giving an insult to weaken the opposing argument. I consider this an old human instinct that’s still very strong in our species today; I call it tribalism. This doesn’t have anything to do with tribal nations, but the instinct that drives us to take a side of an argument or a team. Even I can’t help siding with the Celtics against the Warriors in the NBA Finals when I really don’t care who wins or not! When we are caught up in this, we can fall into a belief that our “tribe” is righteous, and we must do everything we can to weaken our so-called enemy. We don’t necessarily want to destroy our enemy, because we need them to sustain the strength of our tribe. For example, in the chapter on totalitarianism in ‘Europe: A History’, Norman Davies says “the rise of fascism was a godsend to the [Stalinists]…” A radical party or tribe benefits greatly from your opponent, so you don’t want to destroy them because you constantly need to assure yourself that you are the stronger and more righteous tribe. You need a them! You don’t have to worry about doing something cruel and inhumane, because in this mindset you believe that these acts are justified! This is a lot to take in, but these are my thoughts brought on by the ‘Iliad’.

Fate, from Britannica

One major theme this book has is Fate. Like Pain and Panic, fate is personified, traditionally by three women who weave, measure, and cut the thread of a person’s life. Fate practically means that whatever happens in your life, your choices, and your death, have been predetermined. In the ‘Iliad’, both Hector and Achilles are fully aware of their fates in the war, that they would both eventually be killed. But that does not discourage them; they march out onto the battlefield knowing very well that they would fall by the spear at any time. Reading this provoked my memory about something I read about World War I. In 1918, the Allies were pushing back the Germans of the Central Powers out of France. The German soldiers were in poor condition, with too little provisions and too little morale. They knew they had already lost the war, and were desperate that peace would soon be signed to end their suffering. However, some superior officers, also knowing of their fate, ordered their men to charge, knowing full well it would end in a gruesome defeat. Their reasons for these charges wasn’t to beat the advancing Allies, but to die for their country in an act of national fatalism. But many of the soldiers hated that idea and mutinied. I feel for those soldiers. Is it really worth dying for a country in such a way? What would this country mean after death in the eternal spectrum? The soul of a German holds just the same morality as a Frenchman, or an Englishman, or an American, or anyone else. If our spirits are eternal, why devote yourself to die a fatalist death. A soldier who dies defending their land, or dies to save the life of others, is a different matter. But dying just because you can’t win? Why?

Obviously, these thoughts go far beyond the ‘Iliad’ itself, but it was the ‘Iliad’ that made me think about these things. One thing I like about this book is that neither the Trojans nor the Achaeans are seen as the heroes and the other the villains. It is merely a story about a war. The decision on who is good or bad is up to the reader. The characters, both mortals and gods, are very clear reflections of the nature of the carnal man. Whether you agree with me or not, I believe that the soul is eternal, and our time in mortality is only one short but important phase of it. I believe we are capable of learning to be above carnal ferocity, and come together in peace and true happiness. Thank you Homer.

Learn more about the ‘Iliad’ here.

Learn more about ‘Europe: A History’ here.

This is a reminder that I will be visiting various bookstores and libraries this summer, including in Las Vegas. My next event is June 18 at Eborn Books at Towne Centre Mall in Provo, Utah. Learn more about upcoming events here.

If you liked this post, please be sure to check out my books listed below. Thank you.

Rise of the Dragon from The Tales of Draco – book one (click here)

The Six Pieces from The Tales of Draco – book two (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 1 (click here)

Fairy Tales, Fables & Other Short Stories – Collection 2 (click here)

Escapism in [Modern] Fantasy

Every work of fiction falls under some degree escapism: the pleasure of diverting ourselves into a reality that only exists in the mind.

Every work of fiction falls under some degree escapism: the pleasure of diverting ourselves into a reality that only exists in the mind. In this post, I will be talking more about literary escapism in the sense that the author deliberately pushes a narrative of “escaping” from reality, often as a means to mentally transport ourselves away from the woes of life and compensate it with “good conquering evil” and heroism for the right. It’s obvious that the fantasy genre does this most often, and with the strongest emphasis.

Escapism has always been present in stories of fantastical elements, as in epic poems and simple folktales, but it seems that the theme has taken on a different manner from the 20th century onward. In ‘The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe’ (C.S. Lewis; 1950), for example, the three children flee the London blitz to their uncle’s home, where they then stumble through the mysterious wardrobe into the magical land of Narnia. Another case is ‘The Wizard’ (Gene Wolfe; 2004), where a teenager is suddenly swept away into another world and turns into an adult and goes to slay a dragon. Sometimes the story takes place entirely in the fictional world, as with ‘The Last Unicorn’ by Peter S. Beagle (1968) and ‘Eragon’ by Christopher Paolini (2003); other times the story is about a character who “escapes” the dull life and falls into a world full of wonder and adventure.

It’s the latter kind of fantasy books that carry my strongest opinions. I don’t necessarily have a hatred of escapism where a character stumbles into a new world (I call runaway escapism), but I’m not too fond of it. In the first ‘Beyonders’ book (Brandon Mull; 2011), if I remember correctly, the pre-teen protagonist Jason gets eaten by a hippo and suddenly finds himself in Lyrian. In ‘Stoneheart’ (Charlie Fletcher; 2006), the pre-teen protagonist George punches the head of a small dragon statue and suddenly every statue in London comes to life. In the first ‘Adventurer’s Wanted’ book (M.L. Foreman; 2009), pre-teen Alex Taylor works in his stepfather’s tavern, a life which is very boring to him; then, one day, he enters a bookshop and the bookkeeper sends him off to an adventure in a magical world, and suddenly his life isn’t so boring anymore! If you know of these books, you must have noticed that they are targeted toward middle-grade readers from ages 8-13 with characters they can relate to–and that the protagonist enters the fantasy world within the first few chapters, as if the author was desperate to get them out of the real world as quickly as possible. Again, I don’t hate these books, but I don’t really like the rhetoric that our world, reality, is boring, and that the only way to have a true adventure is to get away from our world. I don’t agree with this at all; I believe there is much adventure and wonder in reality as long as we look for it. Besides, even though I don’t think the concept of this form of runaway escapism is bad by itself, one can develop an unhealthy habit of living more in a fantasy than in reality, so to speak. One may have a hard time coping with real struggles in the real world if their only way to cope is to run away. I hope I’m not sounding too harsh. If you like the books I’ve mentioned above, there’s no harm in that. Some books that do this runaway escapism, like ‘Harry Potter’ (J.K. Rowling; 1997-2007) and ‘Fablehaven’ (Mull; 2006-10), are ones I like; perhaps because the runaway aspect is more subtle and there’s no major scorn of reality.

I should also mention a thing that really does bother me in fantasy escapism, and that is glorifying war. I’ve already made a post here if you wish to read it.

And now to talk about escapism versus realism in my books, particularly ‘The Tales of Draco’:

In my early days of writing the original draft of ‘Rise of the Dragon’ as a freshman in high school, I began the book with a strong air of realism. But as my sophomore year came, I started to study various works of fantasy in my English 10 class. Early in the school year we did an assigned reading of ‘The Hobbit’, and around that same time I indulged myself in various modern fantasy books for personal reading. I mostly read dragon books at the time because I was writing one myself. Consequently, I entered a “fantasy phase” all throughout that year and my junior year. Dare I say, I was at that point where at times I wished I could transport myself into a fantasy world, too. This greatly affected the development of ‘Rise of the Dragon’. Suddenly, I wasn’t satisfied with my original realist take in my novel, and I made drastic changes to the manuscript (this was back when I did my initial writing on a computer). In the prologue, I had Elemek, the dragon of old, say that he did not like the first earth at all. Later, in several places, I had Jacob express his longing to leave the first earth and live in the simple pleasure in the magical world of Elsov. Also at this time, I was going through some tough stages of OCD; I struggled a little in school, and I was extra sensitive with my writing–everything I wrote seemed wrong, and I rejected it. It was a hard time, but by my senior year I was getting treated for my OCD, and my thoughts on escapism reverted to what it was four years before. I had grown a lot as a writer since then; my novel was published in its first form at this point. It was at my time of graduation when I learned to appreciate the world around me. “Adventure is everywhere; you just have to look for it,” was my unofficial model. After my graduation, I began to read more and more classic works, and in 2018 my interest in folklore and fairy tales took off.

As of now, my views on fantasy and folklore are much different from what they were seven years ago. I have to say that with my fairy tales, I don’t really like to have very outlandish plots or settings, like a lot of folktales of old. I like to have a sense of realism in my work, despite the fantasy setting. The reason is, and it’s especially true with ‘The Tales of Draco’, I do not intend to use elements of fantasy, or the setting of Elsov, to draw the reader away from reality. Of course I write about dragons and nymphs and kangrui and the like, but I use them to symbolize various things of reality, like struggle for survival or war or political science. Dragons, for instance, represents man’s struggle between carnal barbary and brotherly love. The different kinds of elves (Kuslans, nymphs, krankelfs/mares, etc.) are illustrations of nature and natural phenomena. I like to have fun with fantastical elements, of course, as other authors like Brandon Mull and Charlie Fletcher do in their books. The bottom line is: I like to use fantasy as a reflection of reality, and to present the various ways people have done in reaction to very real conflicts. I’m a succor for history as well as folklore, and they definitely go hand-in-hand.

Everything I’ve talked about with escapism and realism in fantasy are entirely my opinion. I can’t tell you that realism is better than escapism, or vise versa. It’s up to you to decide what you like better. Every author has a right to write whatever story he or she wishes, and every reader has a right to like whatever story he or she likes. That’s the magic of literature.