Archive for December, 2012
It seems that every year around this time (if you tune into conservative media) all of Christendom comes “under attack” by godless atheists and pagans that want to take the Christ out of Christmas. It’s an abomination! A travesty! A sickening display of moral decay in the United States! It’s clearly the worst thing to ever happen to Christians in the history of their religion!
Okay, you can put your sarcasm shields down.
Every year, I want to tear my hair out while I watch people that are, realistically, pretty well off complain about how their vast majority is under attack. They complain and whine on live TV about persecution but there are places in the world where people are actually being persecuted for their beliefs or for the way they were born. People not wanting nativity scenes on every inch of public land or having someone say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is not the worst form of persecution happening in the world right now, not even by a long shot. It’s not even as if there’s a lot of people that are clamoring to end the now three month long domination of everything ever by the Christian holiday. Even if every atheist in the country were up in arms about it, it still wouldnt be the worst thing to ever happen to Christians! It’s like, “Hey guys, maybe you should take a look at a the big picture?” Or maybe they should just take a few deep breaths and calm down.
I think most problems can be made a little easier by taking some deep breaths but that seems beyond most of humanity.
That said, the few people on the other side that actually want to make a big deal out of nativity scenes or Christmas trees or whatever should also probably take a deep breath and a step backward. The holiday season is a pleasant time, we should aim to be more inclusive and to celebrate the one thing we have in common at this time of year: buying a bunch of shit from China.
Thanks, China, for bringing us all together.
EDIT: Woops, I dropped the ball on this one. It’s been a while since I read the Hobbit and the version I read was a super old one my grandfather had. I’m not sure if I just failed to remember things properly or if the text was actually different, but I did not remember Bilbo talking to Gandalf about the ring. I’ve changed the text in the second panel so it’s not totally inaccurate. My bad!
Damn it, Bilbo! If you’d just told someone about that ring, maybe we could have avoided that whole mess with the war! Oh well…at least it will make for a decent series of books and some extremely profitable films.
Alright, so Bilbo does eventually tell Gandalf about the ring after The Hobbit, and Gandalf was supposedly already suspicious about Bilbo’s sudden skill at burgling after living a life where nearly every moment of the day was filled with stuffing his face full of food. All that wasn’t really covered until later, when Tolkien decided to include The Hobbit in the much larger epic of The Lord of the Rings. What is really interesting about all this is the idea that one simple action, one small event, ended up having such far reaching consequences for an entire world. If Bilbo had never gone on his Journey, would things have played out as they had? If he had told Gandalf sooner and more clearly about the ring, would he have investigated it properly?
Maybe if he’d let Gandalf take it away for examination, we could have been spared the horror of “Terror-Bilbo” in the Lord of the Rings movies. Then again, we’d probably have to see a horrifying Gandalf or something later…There’s probably no good solution there.
Anyway, as I’ve said before, The Hobbit is probably one of my favorite books of all time and definitely my favorite of Tolkien’s works. It’s a wonderful story, packed with adventure and powerful themes. I’ve always loved the purity of the tale and how rich its world is. Part of me sort of wishes that Tolkien had just left it as he’d originally intended it: a singular tale from a fantasy world with no connection to anything larger, but it is interesting to see how he ended up bringing the two tales together. It does make for a few confusing elements, but they are mostly retconned in later works and it never makes the reading unenjoyable.
Regardless of whether or not you prefer the Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, it’s hard to deny the quality of Tolkien’s works. They’ve made a lasting impression on the world of fantasy literature that we’ll continue to see for many years to come and now they’re making an impression on film. While I will always prefer the books to the movies, it’s still fun to see them brought to life on screen, to see others’ ideas of what the Shire might look like or how Gandalf might move and act.
…Or how Bilbo might react when the ring is taken from him.
Gods, I think that scene traumatized me for life.
Why make a simple sacrifice and merely hope that it pleases Pele, the fiery volcano goddess, when you can ensure the deity’s satisfaction while also plugging up that volcano for good? Now that’s thinking!
I suppose that if they didn’t have one extremely large person to sacrifice, they could just toss in a bunch of skinny people and achieve the same result.
The Hawaiian people have long had a rich history of myth and legend with a plethora of divinities, culture heroes, and their own unique take on ideas seen throughout Polynesia. One of these uniquely Hawaiian gods is Pele, the ambitious young goddess forever linked to the volcanoes of the Hawaiian islands. In many versions of her origin story, Pele is the daughter of Kanehoalani and Haumea where she lives on a mysterious free-floating island in a region known as Kahiki. In these stories, she is usually drawn toward fire and heat, preferring to keep near the fireplace in her family home and is depicted as a passionate and ambitious young woman. Pele, in a moment of passion, seduces the husband of her sister, the sea goddess, whom she quarrels with quite fiercely. Because of her temper, Pele’s father decides to send her away from Kahiki with some of her brothers in a canoe. The group eventually lands in Hawaii, much of which is just reefs and shoals at this time. She sends one of her brothers to build up the land so that people might one day make a living there. Pele settles on the islands and uses a digging stick to create “fire pits” and uses a divining rod which she strikes into the ground to create volcanoes. Eventually, her sister finds her and the two fight in one final epic battle. Pele is torn apart and her bones are scattered, but her spirit remains and resides in Hawaii where she becomes a goddess.
Pele, in her new form, acts much as she did in life. She is impulsive and temperamental. She is destructive and dangerous, but she is also a creator goddess. People fear the power of her fire and lava, but she is also seen as the driving force that created Hawaii in the first place. In this respect, Pele is much like the Hindu Shiva: a divinity that deserves respect and fear for its destructive power, but though this power may destroy the works of man, it is also a transformative force that makes way for new things and new life.
When Europeans first came to Hawaii in the late 1700′s, they returned with amazing stories about the islands. Later visitors would keep records and write about some of the religious practices of the people that lived there. Out of the many rituals observed, one of the most iconic has been human sacrifices to Pele thrown directly into the opening of a bubbling, lava-filled volcano. It’s an image people in the west are familiar with from books, television, and film, but, like many of the more outrageous things Europeans recorded in those days, it seems unlikely that it happened often if it happened at all. While it’s true that there were some (pretty rare) human sacrifices to the gods on the islands of Hawaii, there haven’t been any reliable recordings of this particular ritual being performed. There is, however, some substantial evidence that people would offer the bones of deceased loved ones to volcanoes or place the bones in volcanic vents so that they might be one with the gods of the islands. It’s possible that this image was distorted and has become the dramatic sacrifice to Pele or some other god that we know and love today.
Can Sinbad the Sailor go anywhere without getting shipwrecked? I’m pretty sure he cannot. Whether it’s setting sail to look for treasure or just going down the street to visit the local apothecary, he somehow manages to ruin his vessel and survive while his crew perishes.
If only this sailor knew how to sail.
Sinbad (or Sindbad) the Sailor is the star of a seven part tale within a tale included in the 1001 Arabian Nights. Of the seven voyages Sinbad takes around the seas of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, he is shipwrecked five times and meets terrible danger on each voyage. Somehow the fellow lucks out every time and returns home with vast riches and usually with the bad news that his crew mates have all been slain. You’d think that someone famous for being a sailor and explorer of that caliber maybe wouldn’t end up shipwrecked so much, but I guess that wouldn’t make for a very good story, now would it?
Sinbad’s adventures make for some of the most fun bits of reading in The Arabian Nights. With seven journeys full of magic, monsters, and other dangers, Sinbad displays great courage, strength, and wit and is easily one of the most well developed characters in the stories presented, and possibly one of the best developed characters in short fantasy fiction for quite some time. As unbelievable as it may be that someone would find himself shipwrecked time after time and yet continually return to the sea, Sinbad’s nature compels him to seek adventure. Having returned from his first voyage a wealthy man, any other man would have simply retired from sailing to live a life of luxury, but not Sinbad. Soon after his return home, he is struck by boredom and wanderlust and, rather than be sensible about it, decides to get on another boat. Where others might seek only physical treasure, Sinbad seeks something more. Sure, he returns each time richer than the last, but it is clear that what he truly craves is new experiences. Material wealth is never enough for Sinbad, he is always ready to take to the sea, to experience life and to face its dangers with cunning and courage. As reckless as he may be, there is something terrifically admirable about his strength of spirit.
Eventually, he does settle down with plenty of money to keep him happy and healthy until the end of his days, but I always picture him staring out the window toward the sea, wishing he might return to those cerulean waves once more.
I think it’s safe to say that even if he never went out to sea again, Sinbad had a life well lived with experiences enough for at least ten men.
Even after settling down, I’m fairly sure Sinbad would find some way to shipwreck himself even if he didn’t head out to sea. Going down to the apothecary, walking the dog, taking the garbage out for his wife, there is nothing he couldn’t manage to shipwreck himself doing.
And each wreck would just be another story to tell, another adventure experienced. Maybe that seems a little more mundane than his famous voyages, but I’d be incredible interested to know how one could get shipwrecked on his way to the doctor.
There’s a story there somewhere.