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CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2020 05:10PM
Thinking about Lovecraft yesterday, and how he seems to be a materialist with lingering ties to the unknown that he expresses in his work (thanks, Dale!), I also thought of some specific CAS stories.

It came to me that CAS's best work routinely employs such character attributes as dignity and nobility (e.g., The Witchcraft of Ulua, as per Sambon and the preceding "sage and archimage" whose name eludes me now), pathos (The Last Hieroglyph), bathos (The Voyage of King Euvoran) hubris (The Seven Geases), and other character traits found in classical sources.

I then superficially tried to find examples of this in Lovecraft and I don't tend to find these. I *do* find the Faust legend, however.

Comments?

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2020 05:15PM
This new thread you've started, Sawfish, prompts me to think I do want to revisit CAS. (And thanks to all who put up with me here -- I know I don't say a lot about CAS on this CAS-slanted forum.) I mean to read those stories you listed before long.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2020 05:25PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This new thread you've started, Sawfish, prompts
> me to think I do want to revisit CAS. (And thanks
> to all who put up with me here -- I know I don't
> say a lot about CAS on this CAS-slanted forum.) I
> mean to read those stories you listed before long.


I look forward to your thoughts on this, Dale.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2020 05:28PM
I am delightfully loaded right now with books to read -- my own, and books from the library -- with more on the way, but I do want to do this CAS reading. Your list sounds like just what I need to consult, because I have tended to think of CAS perhaps too much as writing the same sort of thing.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 14 Feb 20 | 05:29PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 February, 2020 05:57PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I am delightfully loaded right now with books to
> read -- my own, and books from the library -- with
> more on the way, but I do want to do this CAS
> reading. Your list sounds like just what I need
> to consult, because I have tended to think of CAS
> perhaps too much as writing the same sort of
> thing.


No rush. When it comes, it comes--and it'll be worth the wait.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 15 February, 2020 04:15PM
I take it that CAS, in "The Voyage of King Euvoran," was intentionally over-egging the pudding -- ?

"Far up in the cliffs there were strange columned eaves like the dwellings of forgotten troglodytes" -- "Then, like things of nightmare, the monsters began to invade the hatches and assail the ports" --

This reminded me of the perhaps solitary blemish in Lovecraft's "Colour Out of Space," in which (I quote from memory) some uncanny lights are described as moving about in a way like that of "corpse-fed fireflies dancing a saraband."

If you're already describing something very strange, likening it to something equally strange, or perhaps not quite as strange, may be a blunder unless there's an intention of bathos, as Sawfish suggests.

The island of birds reminded me a bit of the medieval Voyage of St. Brendan -- but not very much! The whole story might idly be considered as a sardonic parody of the monk's voyage, with a very different protagonist who has a very different motive, and very different landfalls. I don't suppose it's likely that any such thought crossed the mind of CAS.

Tolkien wrote a poem, "Imram," that retells the Brendan story. [englewoodreview.org]

….I thought a little more, and (if you think the Tolkien connection is far-fetched, get this) I thought of one of my all-time favorite novellas, Tolstoy's "Father Sergius." This deals with, not a king, but an aristocrat who is looking to marry a high-ranking lady but finds out she was a mistress of the tsar. Motivated at least in part by spite he becomes a monk and excels as a model of monastic discipline. He has various exploits, among which is his becoming known as a miracle-working holy man who heroically resisted a pretty seductress by cutting off his finger when his desire for her became unbearable, only later to couple with a buxom innocent of probably lower than normal intelligence; and ends as a forgotten nobody without documentation. But he achieves some contentment at the last. As, I take it, does Euvoran -- and I liked well that CAS didn't have him come to some grotesque death, which is what I would have expected. (I might not have been quite accurate about "Father Sergius," but pretty close. It is one of the author's late masterpieces and deserves to be better known.)



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 15 Feb 20 | 05:09PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 February, 2020 04:42PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I take it that CAS, in "The Voyage of King
> Euvoran," was intentionally over-egging the
> pudding -- ?
>
> "Far up in the cliffs there were strange columned
> eaves like the dwellings of forgotten troglodytes"
> --
>
> This reminded me of the perhaps solitary blemish
> in Lovecraft's "Colour Out of Space," in which (I
> quote from memory) some uncanny lights are
> described as moving about in a way like that of
> "corpse-fed fireflies dancing a saraband."
>
> If you're already describing something very
> strange, likening it to something equally strange,
> or perhaps not quite as strange, may be a blunder
> unless there's an intention of bathos, as Sawfish
> suggests.

It certainly can be purple, that's for sure.

But oddly, I like it in limited doses.

The irony is good, too. The symbol of the king's royal house, selected for its uniqueness, is anything but, and it's revealed by implication that they were basically swindled by a common sailor.

As a sort of comic aside, did you ever watch the Bladder Adder comedy series?

At one point in it, the English King arranges for a political marriage between his son and the Infanta of the Spanish royal house. A member of the supporting cast engages in rhapsodic speculation about how beautiful the Infanta will be will, saying something like:

"They say the Infanta's eyes are the color of the Bay of Biscay as the sun rises in midsummer...".

Another character wheedles from him that not only has he not seen the Infanta's eyes, but has never seen the Bay of Biscay, either, and says...

"So you're comparing one thing you've never seen with another thing you've never seen?"

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 15 February, 2020 05:11PM
I added some remarks to my previous posting on this story. But that's a good point about the swindle!

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 February, 2020 07:22PM
This is great!

Now I'm going to get, and read, "Father Sergius". It strikes me as "my kind of story"... :^)

Back to Euvoran. His ultimate fate is trivial, non-heroic, isn't it? The gazolba bird is so common that it becomes the common basic resource for the remainder of his life.

This is to say that the greatly esteemed totem of the house of Euvoran is completely trivial.

It even turns out that he has a bald spot and he had used the crown to cover it, adding to his outrage when the reanimated bird flies off.

And the whole charade is set into motion by a character very much like a modern homeless person, at least in relative status.

There was the element of hubris too, I suppose, but the overall quality was grossly comedic, flavored with irony.

The Seven Geases is more conventionally concerned with the fall of the mighty. The proud brought low...

Two things occur to me: the cycle stories are a lot more like The Arabian Nights than most other pulp fantasy writers' stories; and these same tales are morality tales, many of them.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 15 February, 2020 07:49PM
"The gazolba bird is so common that it becomes the common basic resource for the remainder of his life." Common, like bread. It's the basic source of nourishment for them. As such it's more valuable than the stuffed bird for the king. (I'm so glad CAS didn't end the story with the King of the Birds stuffing Euvoran. That would have been a possible surprise ending, but a bit cheap.)

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 15 February, 2020 08:05PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "The gazolba bird is so common that it becomes the
> common basic resource for the remainder of his
> life." Common, like bread. It's the basic source
> of nourishment for them. As such it's more
> valuable than the stuffed bird for the king. (I'm
> so glad CAS didn't end the story with the King of
> the Birds stuffing Euvoran. That would have been
> a possible surprise ending, but a bit cheap.)


I agree.

I don't think he is conventional, when at his best. This is why I tend to like him.

There *are* conventional stories he wrote, however. But the three main cycles: Zothique, Hyperborea, and Averoigne, seem to be more inspired, some how. To me, the Averoinge are the darkest, and there is an almost palpable *filth* to them, it seems to me. Devoid of any nobility, it seems like--not the opposite of nobility, but the *absence* of it--an important distinction.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 15 February, 2020 10:07PM
Sawfish Wrote:

> ….the cycle stories are a
> lot more like The Arabian Nights than most other
> pulp fantasy writers' stories....


I don't know The Arabian Nights well. A little acquaintance through children's books and odds and ends. The impression I have of them is that there is not very much mysteriousness in them, nothing haunting about them. There is plenty of interest in luxurious possessions, in outwitting or being outwitted, in rather extravagant magic -- that sort of thing, if I'm not mistaken.

More to my taste has always been Northern European myth, legend, and folklore, so as soon as I met them I took to things like "Soria Moria Castle," Grettir's Saga, "Yallery Brown," The Princess and the Goblin and Lilith, The Water of the Wondrous Isles, etc.

The Oriental element is pronounced in Lord Dunsany's dream-worlds stories... and these I have found long since no longer appeal to me. I wonder if I would stick with The Shaving of Shagpat if I tried to give it a rereading. I've had Vathek for years and never felt inclined to read it! I'm more interested in Walter de la Mare than in Borges (who seems to have some taste for the North, though; but it's much more a leaning to the East I see in his fantastic stories [his stories of knife-fights in Argentina do nothing for me]).

This East-North contrast might be worth a thread of its own if the distinction makes sense to folks here. Of course the East is more than the Arabian Nights. What things that you have read fall more into the one category or the other? Of your favorite authors or stories, do you see more of one or the other of these.

(By Near East, I am thinking of the region characterized in the Wikipedia entry below, including the Arabian peninsula.)

[en.wikipedia.org])

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 11:30AM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
>
> > ….the cycle stories are a
> > lot more like The Arabian Nights than most
> other
> > pulp fantasy writers' stories....
>
>
> I don't know The Arabian Nights well. A little
> acquaintance through children's books and odds and
> ends. The impression I have of them is that there
> is not very much mysteriousness in them, nothing
> haunting about them. There is plenty of interest
> in luxurious possessions, in outwitting or being
> outwitted, in rather extravagant magic -- that
> sort of thing, if I'm not mistaken.

I'm not widely, or deeply, read in the sense that an academic would be, so my comment is more of an enthusiastic dilettante's. I have read various version of the Nights over the years, piecemeal and incompletely. My daughter introduced me to Gilgamesh piecemeal (she wanted me to read some of her papers and I read some extended excerpts on which the papers were based), and very little else.

WRT to the comparison with The Arabian Nights it was mainly organizational and structural: the Nights and the CAS cycle stories are each in a known and uniform environment, informed by established cultural icons that are associated with each universe. E.g., nations, established societies, known and recognized deities or demigods, etc.

Each seems to use a sort of standard conventionalized magic, which is seldom the main focus of the tale, but is instead a narrative device to either advance the plot, or to provide a key mode of initial impetus to the story. To that end, magic is minimally used.

The mood of each suggest to the reader a degree of opulence (not Averoigne, though), and exoticism--in the case of the Nights, at least here in the west.

>
> More to my taste has always been Northern European
> myth, legend, and folklore, so as soon as I met
> them I took to things like "Soria Moria Castle,"
> Grettir's Saga, "Yallery Brown," The Princess and
> the Goblin and Lilith, The Water of the Wondrous
> Isles, etc.

To the degree that they are folk tales I enjoy them, but have never done well with pantheons, and stories directly concerned with the actions or motives of gods within the pantheons. I often get confused by the characters, like in a Russian novel, and when my daughter introduced just a little of the Hindu pantheon, I ran screaming from the room...

>
> The Oriental element is pronounced in Lord
> Dunsany's dream-worlds stories... and these I have
> found long since no longer appeal to me. I wonder
> if I would stick with The Shaving of Shagpat if I
> tried to give it a rereading. I've had Vathek for
> years and never felt inclined to read it! I'm
> more interested in Walter de la Mare than in
> Borges (who seems to have some taste for the
> North, though; but it's much more a leaning to the
> East I see in his fantastic stories ).
>
> This East-North contrast might be worth a thread
> of its own if the distinction makes sense to folks
> here. Of course the East is more than the Arabian
> Nights. What things that you have read fall more
> into the one category or the other? Of your
> favorite authors or stories, do you see more of
> one or the other of these.
> (By Near East, I am thinking of the region
> characterized in the Wikipedia entry below,
> including the Arabian peninsula.)
>
> [en.wikipedia.org])


I'm not read much in any of these areas, Dale, but one outstanding exception was that I somehow was introduced to the existence of the Icelandic sagas, which are folk history, of course, and the few I read onlne were very, very powerful accounts. Jealousy, envy, revenge, etc. Something ike the Illiad, but small scale.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 02:08PM
Sawfish wrote:

>I have read various
> versions of the Nights over the years

I wondered if there was one you thought was worth recommending. On hand I have an edition of selections from the Burton version, which Arthur Machen, as I recall, thought was a monument of indigestible writing. I doubt I will keep it. There's a volume of Arabian Tales in the attractive Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library. But really I have many hundreds of pages of folktales on hand already that I haven't read once. There was a nice series, Folktales of the World, from the University of Chicago, that gave details about when and where various tales were collected; the series was aimed both at folklorists and the general reader. Incidentally the general editor, Richard Dorson, was a friend of Russell Kirk, the noted author of ghostly stories. I suppose they might have had some conversations on which it would have been fun to listen in. There was a book, aimed at children, of Nights stories, reprinted by Scribner 25 years or so ago, with charming paintings by Maxfield Parrish. And I'm wondering if I haven't seen that Pauline Baynes illustrated a selection of Nights stories for young readers. She was the artist for the Narnian books, Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, etc.

Re: CAS's use of a rich dramatic palette
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 16 February, 2020 02:10PM
Sawfish wrote:

>….when my daughter introduced just a
> little of the Hindu pantheon, I ran screaming from
> the room...

I used to teach a world literature course and would show the students the three films of Peter Brooks' Mahabharata. You just kind of have to roll with it -- all those names, etc.

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