Month: October 2019

“Fire” and “The Legend of Hypermnestra”

I chose to show a similar poem to “The Legend of Hypermnestra” because the poem “Fire” reminded me so much of the legend. I will be using a translated version of the legend since at the time we did not have the pages for “The Legend of Hypermnestra.”

“Fire” by Nikita Gill

“Remember what you must do

when thy undervalue you,

when they think

your softness is your weakness,

when they treat your kindness like it is their advantage.

 

You awaken

every dragon,

every wold,

every monster

that sleeps inside you

and you remind them

what hell looks like

when it wears the skin

of a gentle human.”

 

In the first stanza, I am reminded by the legend the most when Hypermnestra is first described, “//That Hypermnestra cannot handle a knife//” I saw this as them underestimating Hypermnestra. I am also reminded when after the wedding Hypermnestra’s father comes and tells her to kill her husband. Her father expected her to be soft and impressionable to him so she would do as she was told not realizing that her weakness was her strength to save her husband.

This poem and legend were a visual that not every stong woman has to wield a sword or have a way with words to be strong. A strong woman does not have to take a stand against an army to be considered strong. This poem shows that you can be kind and gentle and still be strong to stand up against something hurtful. This legend is showing us that we do not have to stand against an army but to stand where we feel like we should even if it is against our family.

(Davis and Rupi)

This quote/poem felt like it could be applied to the whole of “The Legend of Good Women.”  It can also be applied to “The Book of the City of Ladies” since they are both showing that women are good, strong, smart, and brave even though others (men) are saying that they are not any of those things.

 

Davis, Sarah S., and Nikita Gill. “25 Feminist Poems to Provoke and Inspire Nasty Women.” BOOK RIOT, 1 Apr. 2019, https://bookriot.com/2019/04/02/feminist-poems/.

Davis, Sarah S., and Rupi Kaur. “25 Feminist Poems to Provoke and Inspire Nasty Women.” BOOK RIOT, 1 Apr. 2019, https://bookriot.com/2019/04/02/feminist-poems/.

Divine Intervention: The Book of the City of Ladies and The Lord of the Rings

It’s the hero’s darkest hour. Their friends are gone, they’ve lost faith, and it seems like there’s no hope for a happy ending. Suddenly, a mystical being appears with exactly what the hero needs to conquer their enemy, attend the ball, and/or save the day. Does it sound familiar? It should. This is an example of divine intervention, and it’s a common trope in storytelling. It can be seen in fairytales like Cinderella, where a fairy godmother waves a magic wand to make everything better, classical Greek mythology, where gods and goddesses visit humanity to solve the hero’s crisis, and even popular literature like The Lord of the Rings, where wise and beautiful elves offer guidance, an old wizard offers his assistance, and the rightful king summons a ghost army to end what should have been a major battle in seconds. Divine intervention can also be seen in Medieval works, including Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies.

Christine writes The Book of the City of Ladies kind of like an autobiography. It’s in the first-person point of view, about a woman named Christine who is a good, Christian woman in a society that is very similar to the author’s. She starts by talking about the men in her society have made her feel as though being a woman were a bad thing. Which I’m sure no one in today’s society can relate to. Unlike today’s society, however, Christine doesn’t have strong feminist role models on the internet, or anywhere else really, to tell her that women are just as smart, strong, creative, etc. as men are. So, instead of saying “I know you are, but what am I” like any self-respecting adult would do, Christine falls into despair. But lucky for her, three beautiful women (who are definitely not goddesses; that would be un-Christianly) come to tell her all about women in history who prove that women are cool as heck. They also help her build a city where Christine and other women who are ready to leave the degrading views of women that many people in power seem to have behind them can live together in harmony (think the Amazons, but peaceful).

Wonder Woman Trailer GIF

Christine has long chats with each of the three ladies as they build the city. The first lady, Lady Reason, says that it is her duty to “straighten out men and women when they go astray and to put them back on the right path” (de Pizan 9). This is a lot like what the elves in The Lord of the Rings do. Elrond re-forges Aragorn’s sword and convinces him to take his rightful place as king. Galadriel helps the fellowship get over Gandalf’s “death” and gives them stuff that will help them later on.

Galadriel, Elrond, Celeborn, & Thranduil

The second lady is called Rectitude. She is, according to herself, “the shield and defense of the servants of God” (de Pizan 13). She’s more hands-on than Reason. Where Reason just guides the people she visits, Rectitude actually stands up for them. She’s like Gandalf. Gandalf is a semi-divine being, but he actually joined the fellowship in order to help destroy the Ring, and Sauron, for good. He actively helps Frodo and the other members of the fellowship even after the fellowship breaks apart.

Gandalf

The third lady, Lady Justice, says that her job “is only to judge, to decide, and to dispense according to each man’s just deserts” (de Pizan 14). She only cares about making sure that people get exactly what they deserve. If they’ve been good, she rewards them. If they’ve been bad, she punishes them. She’s kind of like a high-stakes Santa. Lady Justice only answers to God, and God said, “Let there be justice.” It’s a bit like the relationship between Aragorn and the ghost army he uses to wipe out an entire army; they spared his allies (the good) and killed his enemies (the bad).

LOTR The Return of the King – The Black Ships GIF

There are several other examples of divine intervention throughout several different genres and eras. It’s a very well-used trope, but that doesn’t make it bad. I, personally, would love to have a semi-divine wizard to help me out during finals week or have three definitely-not-goddesses come to me when I’m sad and give me an entire book’s worth of examples of why I should build a small city instead of moping. And that desire for some real-life divine intervention that has kept the divine intervention trope relevant in storytelling throughout the ages.

 

Works Cited:

“Galadriel, Elrond, Celeborn, and Thiranduil.” Ask About Middle Earth, https://askmiddlearth.tumblr.com/post/50918699548/hierarchy-among-the-elves.

“Gandalf.” Boostability, https://www.boostability.com/from-gandalf-the-grey-to-gandalf-the-white-4-lessons-in-rebranding/.

De Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. Persea Books, 1998.

“LOTR The Return of the King – The Black Ships.” Gfycat, https://gfycat.com/indeliblegiantdunlin-xegalmothofgondolin-lord-of-the-rings.

Tolkien, JRR. The Lord of the Rings.

“Wonder Woman Trailer GIF.” Giphy, https://giphy.com/gifs/trailer-wonder-woman-super-hero-l0HlRj30AkNQ0gypG.

The Perpetual Search for “True Self”

The search for our true selves is nothing new. This has been the ultimate quest from the beginning of time. It’s wrapped up in every tale of adventure-someone faining for glory, honor, power, etc.. The characters all think if they find what they are longing for, they will find themselves, and if we are honest with ourselves, we are not too far off from our own favorite fictional characters. We all are longing for something, that at times, seems unquenchable, and maybe that’s because, as much as we think we have the authority or the right, we don’t get to define our true selves.

Considering moments from a very small section of literary history, we see the topic of true self in Snow White (filmed in the ’40s, but written in the 19th century), Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies (published in the ’80s), and most recently J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (published in the ’90s). Each of these works uses a mirror to, in some way or another, discuss different aspects of self as the characters attempt to discover their core.

One of the most well-known elements and quotable moments of Snow White is when the queen asks her mirror, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall who is the fairest one of all?” The mirror always tells her that she is the fairest in the land, until one day, its answer is Snow White. As this popular story goes, the queen makes it her purpose to end Snow White so that she can return to being the fairest of all people in her land. That is her deepest desire, and ultimately what she believes makes her complete. If she does not have that, she is lacking-she is not the queen.

Again, we see the use of a mirror in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Here, Harry stumbles upon the mirror of Erised completely by accident and sees his family, all of whom had died many years before, standing behind him. He then brings his friend, Ron, to see the mirror as well and Ron sees a completely different image. He sees himself as head boy and everyone around him is beaming with pride for his accomplishments. A third time Harry goes to find this mirror as to see his family again, and there stands his headmaster, Dumbledore. Dumbledore helps explain to Harry the purpose of the mirror. He says, “it shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” He then says something incredibly profound, “However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth” (Rowling 213). Hold on to that thought as we continue to explore this idea of the true self through one more work.

In Christine de Pizan’s work, City of Ladies, we meet three women that are celestial beings that work unto the Lord. The first woman, Reason, you guessed it, has a mirror. The purpose of her mirror being that “no one can look into this mirror, no matter what kind of creature, without achieving clear self-knowledge” (de Pizan 9). With Reason’s mirror, nothing can be done well without it. It shows the essence, qualities, and measures of all things. Through Reason and Christine’s conversation, we learn of all the angst and questions that have come from men giving harmful commentary on women as a whole. The same commentary has led these women to build a city without men, and full of worthy and virtuous women. The desire to be seen and known as their true selves, full of worth and dignity and the only way to do this, in their minds, is to completely cut out the source of what feels wrong.

The common thread of all of these stories and most any other that we gravitate to because of our common quest is desire: the desire to be most loved in Snow White, the desire for a family or for achievement in Harry Potter, and the desire to be loved, known, and encouraged in City of Ladies. Even the latter, getting the closest to a definition of truest self still does not seem to quite fill the void. It does, however, tap into something deeply important: creation being named only by its Creator. De Pizan interestingly enough relies heavily upon scripture for her conversations between her characters to solidify her argument about how women are to be treated, and while clearly, this fictional story steps out of complete biblical truth, she keeps some of the most foundational pieces. In discussing the creation of woman, Reason says, “[Eve] was created in the image of God. How can any mouth dare to slander the vessel which bears such a noble imprint” (de Pizan 23)? Man! You can’t get any more true than that. We are a people, bought by the blood of Jesus, created in the image of God, and you don’t get to mess with that. The other beautiful thing about that being who we are at our core is that nothing else gets to name us-this includes the things that men have written about women over the years. Those words carry no meaning and no weight when you know whose you are.

Maybe this is why all of the metaphors held in place by mirrors representing true self will never be sufficient-why they will never “give us knowledge or truth.” We don’t get to define truth for ourselves because truth has been defined since the universe was created by someone full of far more reason, rectitude, and justice than we ever can have. Truth will always evade us when we are looking for it outside of its source, and this is why it seems to be our permanent zeitgeist and our never-ending quest.

Works Cited:

De Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. New York. Persa Books 1982.

Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Mexico. Scholastic Books 1997.

Chaucer Helps.

Have you ever experienced a truly traumatic experience in your life? Something so dampening on your spirit; so draining that any positive thoughts fade and you are relinquished of your need for answers and are filled with a fire. Anger has now taken over the joy you once felt, and that joy will cease to exist until a sufficient answer presents itself. You know what I’m talking about. If you’re anything like me, you are at this moment filled with THAT kind of everlasting disappointment. That right. I’m talking about the HBO Series Game of Thrones.

Now to give you a spoiler free description of the show, Game of Thrones is a Medieval based series that chronicles the struggles of the Noble Families of Westeros and their quest to have someone head the Iron Throne (Whoever does is the ruler of all the kingdoms in Westeros). These families include the Starks, the Targaryens and the Lannisters (With some major curveballs). The show is so successful through the first few seasons at keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat. What happened? 

The final season of a wonderful series really dropped the ball and I mean bad. Some of the key elements of the shows success included its’ lack of predictability and ability to develop multiple characters thoroughly. These elements really drag the viewer in and help develop emotional ties between characters, and as some of your favorite characters start to fade away you begin to make the logical and illogical connections as to how the series may end. Let’s just say the series finale they had chosen was not one of the viable options. It lacked any element of surprise and effective dramatic build up. So I tasked myself to search for answers. 

In my attempt to discover any sufficient answer, I stumbled across an interesting article. The article touched on the unfinished nature of the actual novels by George R.R. Martin, and it’s incompleteness in comparison to Chaucher, and the Canterbury tales incompleteness. So in the midst of this post naturally this is one of the first ideas that had come to light for me.  Though the mode of storytelling differs respectively, the essential idea is that the unfinished nature of each of the works leaves readers a chance to contribute their own narratives to the tale-telling competition. 

Inspired to do a little more research on the subject, they do have more than one unifying element. Among those you can see that they are both medieval works, they both have elements of women in power, magic, and they both connect characters that are interacting from different social classes. In this blog I want to explore the elements that unifies them specifically through the Wife of Bath’s Tale and the goal is to do so without spoiling the show to anyone who might be interested!

One of the most interesting characters in the show is Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi (Mother of Dragons). As I can understand, if you haven’t seen the show this can seem like quite a loaded title. But I assure you it’s fitting for one of the most well developed characters in any show ever. Her brother feels entitled to the iron throne (as his father was the last ruler of the Iron Throne) and will do anything to get it. In the very first episode he sells her to a brute named Khal Drago, who she marries and is initially raped by. This situation reminds me of the Wife of Bath’s tale, how a great knight and warrior rapes a defenseless peasant woman and is then sent on a task to find out what women want which is sovereignty over all men. Though similar punishment isn’t placed upon Khal Drago, one could argue that it was her brother who sold her that actually received the punishment, as he sold his sister for power, in the selling of her he sold his power and became a second rate citizen among the Dothraki, elevating his sisters position unintentionally among people that hold no weight for the value of his family history. As for the sovereignty over men, Khaleesi embodies this quite fully herself as she desires to be the Queen of the Iron Throne to rule every man in the Kingdom. She wants her rise to power to be through the favor of the people and not through conquering by force, which she can do at her will. This sense of temperament reminds me of Queen Guinevere, as though she had the choice to kill the knight she saw no justice in it, and wanted to make him work for his life. Danaerys is the embodiment of power and in the same respect does not intend to abuse it but to use it in a logical, tempered manner. 

Another interesting character in Game of Thrones is Melisandre, the red priestess. She has magical powers! None of which I’ll mention in my consideration to you but she is not generally thought of as a good or bad character. All that you need to know is that she’s very old but can make herself look young and she is very powerful. This is pretty similar to a character in the Wife of Bath’s tale, the ugly old hag. She makes the knight a promise to tell him what women most desire as long as he does whatever she wants next. She plots to marry him, so that he must fulfill a marriage debt and he being repulsed by her image cannot, so she gives the knight a choice and the knights reply, sufficiently satisfies her needs so she ultimately gives the knight what he would like. The knight, being a noble in these times was considered to be a great man. Similarly to the old hag, Melisandre holds this control over man and is even a guardian to man, as we come to find out. Her magic among other things keeps her looking young similarly as to how the hags magic changes her from old to young, and the old essentially fades as the living prosper.

Now there are many other connections between the Game of Thrones and Medieval Literature, but my favorite among the two extend to some of the most powerful characters! These connections give me life and excite me for the anticipated fan fiction and hopeful completion of the literary series. As for the show, good luck.

References :

Unfinished business

The Wife of Bath’s Tale

https://gameofthrones.fandom.com/wiki/Melisandre

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/medieval-literature-scholar-see-game-thrones