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Showing posts from June, 2019

A Dunwich Horror

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Today being the summer solstice we made the annual pilgrimage at silly o'clock in the morning (which is why I look like death warmed over) to Dunwich beach in Suffolk to watch the sunrise and pay tribute to the Shining One. Being so far east we get to see the sun before pretty much anyone else in Britain.
For absolutely no sensible reason beyond sleep deprivation I have decided to record a tale I have not told in a long while of how the American author H P Lovecraft paid a visit, as a sensitive and some might say overly imaginative young man, to his English relatives - and included a fateful visit to the seaside. Lovecraft is now famous for his eldritch horror stories whilst Marcus Rushbridger, who was mildly more successful with his tales of boys' own adventure in the far flung reaches of Empire, is now quite forgotten and out of print. Doubtless the envious Howard enjoys a smirk from beyond the grave.
All of this is, of course, as absolutely true as any electioneer's pr…

Agneta

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This story was not originally set at any specific time of year, but I've put it at midsummer to celebrate the solstice. It is a Scandinavian tale that has a lot of variations, in which the princess Agneta is wooed (or bewitched) by the Merman who is sometimes also referred to as Sjokunungen, the Sea King.
He charms her in to the waters where she finds a new life - at least for a while. The ending is somewhat harsh (or is likely to be thought so by any child with a parent so little interested in them) - some interpreters see it as an allegory for a young woman being led astray from her Christian faith before eventually hearing the call and going back to the fold. Others give it a feminist spin of the girl again being seduced, somewhat like Kore or Red Riding Hood, before overcoming the "brain washing" of her abductor and returning to her true life. You may see something entirely different in it.

The at work is by John Bauer, a wonderful illustrator of fairy tales. Both t…

A little music

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On Wednesday 19th June I am giving the final talk in the public lecture series at West Suffolk College (free to attend, starts at 6pm - but arrive a little earlier for refreshments - and will also include local flautist Clare Mellor playing Debussy's "Syrinx", and Greek cakes and snacks being sold by the lovely people at Cafe Kottani). Drop me a line at work, so that I know how many people to expect - robin.herne@wsc.ac.uk

The talk is on The Great God Pan and his influence in literature, mythology, poetry, theology, art etc. It will last an hour, and I take no responsibility for what might ensue if he turn up to listen to what is being said about him! To get in the mood for that, here is my recording of another one of Saki's wonderful short stories, "Music from the Hill", in which a very silly woman and her lugubrious husband find out why one should never offend ancient deities... especially when in the woods.


The Ferret God

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Some while ago a friend, Mike the Mead-maker, suggested I record a favourite tale of Saki's, Sredni Vashtar, which raises the question of Divine Functionality (is the simple definition of a deity simply that at least one other person treats it as divine, regardless of whether it does anything remotely divine or not?) as well as being an entertaining warning to overbearing adults.

I wonder if Steven Moffat was inspired by the name when dreaming up the alien menace of the Vashta Nerada that hunted through the Library in Doctor Who? Though aside from the name, they have nothing else in common.


Fairies

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This poem is an excerpt from the much longer poem, "Plea from the Midsummer Fairies" by Thomas Hood. With midsummer just around the corner, it seemed appropriate. When my brain starts working again - hopefully this side of Ragnarok - I will write something original and record that.


The Cynotaph

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This poem comes from the Ingoldsby Legends collection, and exists as a somewhat odd counterpoint to the mournful Power of the Dog poem by Rudyard Kipling. Like that, this is inspired by the death of a dog but takes a comedic route and provides the poet with the opportunity to take a swipe at the funeral practices of the great and good.


Together forever

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This is the tale of how the stunningly handsome Hermaphroditus met the beautiful but unbalanced bunny boiler Salmacis, and eventually became the being we know today. As an account of  obsessive love, it is rather disturbing given that the victim can never escape the clutches of their "stalker". A less unsettling interpretation might be that this describes a psychotic fracture where the fixated Salmacis internalises an imago of Hermaphroditus (his falling into her pool) forever in her unconscious, partially losing her own individuality along the way. Whilst the real man legs it stage left, she spends the next thirty years rocking and twitching in a room whose walls are smothered with photographs of her idol, refusing to wash the hand that touched his cheek.
The traditional myth speaks of the curse on the pool at Caria, near the bottom of Mount Ida where the waters feminised men. Given today's gender politics this view would doubtless be lambasted as sexist, patriarchal, …