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What Night for a Knight.

  • pianotm
  • 01/16/2020 10:42 AM
  • 221 views
So, I had to talk about this somewhere. I didn't want to flood the event of the moment info with a wall of text, so I decided that a blog was the perfect place to talk about it.

The original tale is an old Irish story called Orlando agus Mheloira. It is a late legend of King Arthur, but the story doesn't focus on him, but rather it is an adventure/love-story about Arthur's daughter; possibly the only story to portray a daughter of Arthur. It is also insanely, ridiculously, stupidly obscure. When I decided to make a game based on this it was to bring attention to the story. It is one of my favorite Arthurian tales, if not my absolute favorite, and I knew how ridiculously hard it was to find this story. Of course, when I went Googling the actual text, I started to appreciate just how hard this story was to find. In fact, it seemed I was going to have to find the actual book I'd read it in. It shouldn't be too hard, right? The book I read it in was a collection of Arthurian Tales called "The Lost Legends of King Arthur" by John Matthews. I knew John Matthews. He and his wife, Caitlin are both professors of mythology specializing in British (encompassing all of the islands, not just England and Wales) legend. He frequented an Arthurian club I used to moderate. When I was looking for old Arthurian legends I hadn't read, he personally recommended this book to me! This shouldn't be a difficult thing. I knew the name of the book. I knew the name of the author.

Well, it so happens that I didn't remember the exact name, and John has written 150 books on the subject of King Arthur alone. I knew his wife didn't co-write it so that narrowed it down tremendously, but he wrote a lot of collections under a lot of similar names. I finally found a 1946 research paper by Dr. A. M. E. Draak (I'm fairly certain that that's pronounced like Drake.) that gives a full summary of The Knight of the Blue Surcoate. Now, the story itself is in Gaelic, and unless there's anyone willing to translate, I don't think I'll be reading this version, but the summary, that tells the full story, mind, gives me nothing but the Gaelic names, which are unpronounceable to a native English speaker. It is also too thin on details for me to tell an accurate retelling, but I was on the right track. It was only a couple of hours after finding this that I managed to find the specific book that I was looking for by John Matthews in a digital library, and the pdf was available to check out. I still have it in fact. I've still got a week to return it. There's another story in it I'd like to grab for the future.

Now, that's a lot of backstory for this blog, so it's time for me to get into it.

So, in the tale of Orlando and Melora, one of the key villains is none other than Merlin himself. Personally, I never had a problem with this since the story wasn't really about him or Arthur, or the story we all know of the Holy Grail, The Lady of the Lake, Mordred's betrayal, etcetera. Merlin wasn't even the main villain. So, for this game, I've done something interesting. I have bent over backward to make him...not the villain. Oh, he still does the bad thing, but this time, it's not because he prefers a nefarious knight over the heroes as it is in the story, but in this game, it's because he's been manipulated. In the process, this makes the main villain a bit worse than he actually was in the story, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I've been thinking that there's nothing really wrong with Merlin being the villain in this story. It's not a canon tale, Merlin's barely in it, it didn't bother me before, but now I seem intent on fixing the slander of Merlin.

And that's it. Slander. That is not my word. That word came from someone else. I did not have an issue with the "slander" of Merlin. That is a phrase that a very good friend of mine used, and it stuck with me. And I came to realize why I was making several of the changes I was making when I included a certain character amongst the Knights of the Round Table. Tegau Eurfon. Who is Tegau Eurfon? Another story, probably more obscure even than this one, but she's a canon character in the Arthurian legends. Her story, as barely known as it is, is considered to be part of the central story of King Arthur. Tegau Eurfon is the only female Knight of the Round Table. She is the only woman with the right to sit with at the Round Table with her fellow knights. She is the only woman to quest and defend the realm with the other Knights of the Round Table, and she is the favorite character of a very good friend of mine. In fact, I'd have never heard of her, otherwise.

In that Arthurian club, I talked about earlier; it was run by a friend from Singapore. She'd probably give full details of who she is because that's just her, but I will only give her first name; Karen. She is a neurophysicist (at the top of her field) and she is also, on the side, an expert in Arthurian lore. She is Chinese but clings to her 14 percent English DNA and proudly declares it for all to hear and read. She has traveled England many times and has even taken selfies with celebrated Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe (there was a vicious rumor about his death--which was false, though, given his age, it wasn't a bad guess--and she was rather broken up about it.). It was her that insisted that the legend of Orlando and Melora unjustly slandered Merlin.

I suddenly realize that many of the story decisions I'm making for this game are based on Karen's opinions. So, I suppose I should explain Tegau Eurfon. If you Google "Tegau Eurfon", you'll find the following: "The wife of Caradoc Briefbras in Welsh tradition. She had three treasures: a mantle, a cup, and a carving knife." (R. Coghlan) This isn't really a whole lot. "Briefbras" (Short arm) is a French mistranslation of the Welsh "Vreichvras"(Strong-arm). When Caradoc's mother caused a serpent to attack him, Tegau Eurfon helped to rescue him, but in the process, she was bitten in the breast. Rather than let the venom kill her, she chose to amputate the breast. By way of thanks, Caradoc made for a prosthetic made of gold (Eurfon means "Golden-breast".). Cretien renames her Guiner in Perceval. Unfortunately, any story you'll find will downplay her importance significantly (especially when one considers that Caradoc wasn't just a character in Arthurian legends. He was an actual person, which can't be said for certain of many Arthurian characters.).

Now, if I keep going, I'll start getting into the old discussions that I had with Karen and then this just going to keep going on and on. I simply wrote this because I found a bit illuminating how some of my more interesting ideas for the few departures in this story aren't originally mine and I didn't even realize it.

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You can't really let things like this weigh you down. It's human to take from past stories and weave them into our own. It's how those stories stay alive in the human conscious. So many people have told their own interpretations of this or that person through-out history that if we had the originals to line up against what we think we know about that person, we'd be incredibly surprised at how much of a difference there is - and what actually made it through the tellings to today.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nothing is new under the sun and taking old things, repurposing them into something new, is normal. So, ya know, don't fret it.

Like, for example, just yesterday I was watching an anime that had Oda Nobunaga reincarnated as a Shiba Inu - and him looking at how he was represented in the modern era and going "but it wasn't like that!" and in my mind I was going "What if the real Nobunaga saw everything that his name had been applied to over the ages since his death? What would he feel? How would he react?"

In the end I figured he was dead. It didn't matter how he'd feel about it, just like it doesn't matter what stories are told about us after we're gond. We won't know, we won't care, we don't get a say in what of us gets passed on and what doesn't. Those who knew us will paint us differently than how we percieved ourselves. They see what they see of us, our motivations guessed at and our feelings unconfirmed. They'll pass that on to others and what, in the end, does it really matter?

We've always been - even now, when we're alive - part of the grand story that people tell. We've never been who people see when they look at us, not completely. And they will never know who we really are even those who know us best, so... what? Does it matter? People will love or hate you based on what they see of you and it's always been that way. People will make fun of you or take you seriously based on their experiences with you, too.

It's just what life is - leaving lots of little stamps that make up a picture of you, but that picture will never, ever be all that you ever were. So, essentially, it really isn't an issue that we do the same to others, because we do. We can never know all that they were, all that they could have been, all the thought or felt or did and why.

That's why I think it's fine to mess with historical knowledge and use it for your own. All that they were has been twisted and lost to time - as with everyone the further you go from people who actually knew them being alive - so does it really matter if you make Merlin a cross-dressing asshole who married a frog?

No. It really doesn't. Do what you want, he doesn't care.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
23906
Well, to be fair, I'm not worried about Merlin being a villain. I'm just musing over the fact that I'm going out of my way to change that and the fact it's because it bothered someone I knew. Merlin being the villain had really put her off the story. I think what's striking me is just how tremendous an influence she actually has been on me. I didn't realize it...like, at all.
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