2023 More Reading: January (+ Old Phuul Update)

Completed reads for January

  • Lilith, by George MacDonald
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (poem), by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Christabel (poem), by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok, by Anonymous
  • The Lay of Kraka (poem), by Anonymous
  • 1066 and All That, by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman

Ragnar Lodbrok and Kraka are Margaret Sclauch’s translation.

A fairly quiet start to 2023 reading, though if truth be told, it’s a case of general mood affecting concentration. January has not been a pleasant month at the psychological level, at least not for the mid-to-late portions.

As noted, I cracked 100,000 words on Old Phuul on 6th January, and finished the draft on 7th January, at 102,172 words. The last three or so weeks have consisted of editing (or breaks from editing). As of 31st January, the revised manuscript sits at 99,672 words, and I do not think it that far off from submission to the publisher (who gets first dibs, as per contract). Curiously, I am still “up” on January overall, having started the month at 94,560 words.

Now, it should be recalled that most edits involve the removal of excess words, sentences, or even paragraphs. You’re trying to remove the fat from your story, while leaving the muscle. My editing does indeed remove words, but it also tends to add to descriptions… which means overall my edits look less extensive than they really are. I find my initial writing tends to be underwritten, as a result of not taking my time in places. So overall, I prefer to think of editing as subtracting “bad words” and adding “good words,” and the net change to wordcount is less important than the polish that goes in.

As an aside, one editing tip I’ve picked up: run a manuscript search for cases of the word “be”. The verb “to be” in its “is/was” forms is, of course, a cornerstone of any writing in English, but the verb in its “be” form is often harder to justify, and often a sign of a weaker sentence. So once you’ve found the words in question, decide if you really need them. In the event, I was able to cull some 80% from the manuscript.

(My other weakness? Overuse of dialogue tags).

Update: 2nd February, 2023: Old Phuul manuscript submitted, at 98,807 words.

Left and Right Alike: Undermining Democracy in New Zealand

Such are the 2020s, the age when no-one, it seems, actually respects the basic underpinnings of democracy. Even in New Zealand. This week, I stumbled across a pair of lengthy and genuinely serious articles, that basically argue that Something is Rotten in the state of New Zealand democracy. One written from a Left perspective. One written from a Right perspective. Both contrive to argue that the very system is systematically rigged in favour of the other team.

It makes one despair. It really does.

To summarise: the Left article thinks local democracy is geared towards the interests of rich, white, racist conservatives. Therefore, we ought to centralise authority in Wellington. Or else just abolish representative local government altogether, and let unelected commissioners do what is necessary – because unaccountable dictators are free to offend people, and so can get on with infrastructure development. The Right article, by contrast, is an extended musing on how democracy encourages the unwashed masses to vote themselves unaffordable social-welfare measures, inevitably bankrupting the state. In its place, the article suggests – in a last-sentence pot-shot – some form of “guided democracy”, a la Singapore.

Now, it is tempting at this point to just shrug. Authoritarianism has been on the rise internationally for some time, and honestly, New Zealand’s predicament is still better than most. We actually get people voting in elections.

(In my gloomier moments, I could even imagine my country eventually evolving into a sort of fossilised remnant of liberal democracy, in a world awash with authoritarian systems. Sort of a politically liberal analogy to present-day Cuba).

But no. I do think democracy worth defending, even if my rants won’t actually make the slightest difference to anyone. So here goes:

(i) https://www.metromag.co.nz/society/the-case-for-abolishing-councils

Cue horror stories about the implicit racism among all those old, rich people.

Now, I am not going to query any reports of rudeness faced by candidates on the campaign trail. But I would point out that the four previous mayoral elections in Auckland were won by a Leftist candidate (insofar as one might call Phil Goff Left). We are hardly talking Tartan Mafia-levels of conservative domination here. Moreover, for all that Collins faced prejudice, he did not exactly preside over a monstrous turnout in Pasifika-dominated South Auckland. He obviously won South Auckland comprehensively, but turnout there was not exactly stellar either. Indeed, rather than the article complaining about how a low-turnout election saw the rich, old, and white stomp all over the Pasifika guy, it might have been better off pondering why so few Pasifika bothered to vote. Surely they cannot be accused of such prejudice?

And that brings us to the so-called structural obstacles:

Oscar Sims, a spokesman for the pro-housing Coalition for More Homes, says local government is perfectly calibrated to exclude people like him or Naera. Its meetings are usually in the middle of the day or early evenings, when younger people are working, studying or putting kids to bed. Agendas and consultation documents are ostentatiously dull; perfect for a retiree to pick over on a rainy day, but inaccessible for people with busier lives. Postal voting favours property owners, who are less likely to move around than renters. So does the rating system, with a yearly bill providing them a powerful democratic incentive. Some homeowners can even vote more than once in local elections, with so-called ratepayer rolls giving them the right to cast a ballot for each house they own in different jurisdictions. “There couldn’t be a clearer example of something designed to entrench the interests of people who own multiple properties,” Sims says. “The system is rigged, and as a result we’re not having our voices heard. We get left out.”

Frankly, I find the listed obstacles hilarious:

  • If a meeting is not held in the middle of the day or in the early evening, one wonders when, exactly, these meetings are supposed to be held. It is not as if these meetings are being scheduled for 3 a.m.
  • The notion that agendas are “dull” is an utterly ludicrous justification for rejecting the legitimacy of democracy. Yes, government can be boring. It’s also important.
  • Postal voting was brought in decades ago to make voting easier, of course. The alternative is going back to the physical ballot box, which would hurt turnout yet further, or moving to online voting, which opens the door for election-hacking.
  • Registering on the electoral roll is both compulsory under New Zealand law, and damned easy to do. If someone is not voting, that’s a symptom of lack of motivation. Not lack of opportunity.
  • The notion that rich people vote more because they have to pay rates is an interesting one. Is the article suggesting that local councils introduce more user-pays services to ensure that the poor have some “skin in the game”?
  • The ratepayer roll system allows people who own property in a jurisdictional area to vote once (and only once) in that jurisdictional area. The underlying justification for that is “no taxation without representation”, so if you are paying rates to a local authority, you get to vote for that authority. Owning multiple properties just means you get to vote once in multiple areas, not that you get to vote multiple times in one area. Now, there is an argument that absentee landlords are to be discouraged for policy reasons, but honestly, it is not as if the existing system is “rigged.”

Really, the arguments, and indeed the entire article, boil down to “people we don’t like won an election. Therefore the entire system must have been rigged.” It’s all nonsense, of course, and the sort of thing one associates with fringes of discourse in the USA. The solution is actually to motivate voters, by giving them something to vote for.

But problem is, the article takes things a step further. Rather than simple sour-grapes, we then get an uncomfortable fetishisation of Tauranga under its Wellington-appointed Commissioner:

Freed from the burden of pandering to those voters, she immediately made moves many local politicians would regard as signing their own death warrants, raising rates by 22% in 2021 and a further 14% this year. The Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance responded by marching on the council, chanting “Two, four, six, eight, we want fairer rates”. But the surprise isn’t that Ratepayers’ Alliance founder Jordan Williams and his acolytes are angry, it’s that many Tauranga residents are not. The impact of the commissioners’ extra spending is visible on the city’s streets. The city is awash in road cones. A $303 million civic centre is under construction.

Here’s the thing: Tolley isn’t actually responsible to the voters of Tauranga. She’s a dictator installed by central government in Wellington. And I could not care less about rates and spending, or how benevolent the dictatorship might be. It’s that the voters of Tauranga have a right to actually have a direct say in how their community is run. For good or ill. Since when did the Left fall in love with Plato’s Philosopher Kings?

(ii) https://www.bassettbrashandhide.com/post/don-brash-does-democracy-have-a-future

And speaking of Philosopher Kings, here we have a gentleman who from 1988 to 2002 was New Zealand’s Governor of the Reserve Bank. The fellow who during the 1990s was utterly free from the burden of caring about democratic imperatives in setting monetary policy. It’s the mantra of neoliberalism – wherever possible, the actions of democratic government are to be restrained and marginalised via managerialism. Unelected experts know better than those dirty, dirty politicians – not only can’t democratic government do anything positive, we must alter the entire system so it can’t do anything at all.

Small wonder, of course, Brash cherry-picks Plato with approval in the article (I say cherry-pick, because one suspects he’s not quite on board with the shared-property notion, or the idea that property ownership can corrupt). Brash’s extended point is that democracy creates a built-in incentive for those pesky populists to redistribute the wealth of the state to their own supporters. It’s a rehash of the old Rogernome view that government must never cater to Special Interest Groups, only with the added lament that elections mean that democratic government must do exactly that.

Now, in fairness to Brash, there is actually some empirical evidence that democratic governments are economically “larger” in terms of service provision than non-democratic ones (a tendency that obviously excludes Communist examples). But there is no particular evidence that social welfare systems bring the system crashing down. Indeed, it is worth remembering that social welfare systems were a product of nineteenth century conservatism. Disraeli in Britain and Bismarck in Germany decided that state-directed poverty relief would go a long way to ensuring that the unwashed masses would not reach for their torches and pitchforks. Twentieth century social democracy built on that, of course. Brash is the sort of defender of privilege who would rather walk pure and unrepentant to the guillotine than realise the shaky foundations upon which the elites actually stand.

(That’s exactly why, via his last sentence, he expresses his private dream of authoritarianism).

But since Brash feels the need to cite Plato, I think it only fair to answer him with Aristotle. Now Aristotle was no populist either, of course. Famously so. And monarchy is his preferred form of government. It’s just that in his Politics, Aristotle goes to some lengths in exploring how democracy (a system he does not like) can be made to work. His conclusion is basically that of Disraeli and Bismarck – if you avoid extremes of wealth, you are going to wind up with a much more stable society than if you concentrate wealth within a small number of hands. The unwashed masses only get uppity if there is poverty in the midst of plenty… but for the life of me, I cannot recall Brash ever acknowledging the problems of economic inequality. For him, the problem is that democracy forces those in power to listen to the peasants (those on the receiving end of neoliberalism) at all.

The Revenge of the Managerialists: Hipkins It Is

Well, that was a disappointment. As of today, the New Zealand Labour Caucus opted for Chris Hipkins as our new Prime Minister, and I cannot help but let loose a cynical cackle.

(Yes, I am aware that the usual online hacks are praising him to the skies. I like to think I have a smidgen of integrity, so I’ll say this: my expectations are so low that anything meaningful out of the remaining term of this Government will be a pleasant bonus).

For the record, I could not care less about Hipkins’ gender or ethnicity, though I would note that he is the first male Labour Prime Minister in over 32 years. Similarly, he is the first Labour leader to represent a non-Auckland electorate in over 29 years. No, my distaste for him comes from what he represents: the smirk of Wellington bureaucracy stamping its managerialist boots upon the face of New Zealand. It is a victory for middle-class technocracy over soul, and while I thought Ardern was often ineffective at achieving her Big Dreams, at least she inspired.

Is Hipkins “efficient”? Sure. Is he a “safe pair of hands?” Certainly. But as Education Minister he has left Students’ Associations (both University and Polytechnic) to rot under a membership system dreamed up by ACT and imposed by National in 2011. Hipkins used to run a Students’ Association. He used to advocate for Student Issues. And yet everything he has done as Education Minister in the Ardern Government is to keep the neoliberal boot firmly planted over subsequent generations of young politicians. He is the Education Minister who also presided over the breaking of the 2017 Fees Free and Postgraduate Student Allowance promises. My irritation has hitherto manifested itself in a couple of grumpy posts:

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2022/02/09/dear-chris-hipkins-new-zealand-wants-the-border-closed/

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/party-like-its-1989-bait-and-switch-is-a-bad-look-mr-hipkins/

In short, he is the sort of Labour leader who will die in a ditch to defend a neoliberal status quo. Not just the status quo from 1984-1993, but the status quo from 2008-2017. We now live in a world where even a return to 2008 is unthinkable. Which in turn means that Labour’s strategy for 2023 will be to ignore Leftist Apathy and compete with National under the mantra of At Least We’re Competent (and to be fair, Hipkins is more competent than Chris Luxon – who himself is running on a policy-free At Least I’m Not Labour position). A Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, both named Chris, both reduced to claiming I Am Not the Other Chris.

Charming.

Into the Valley of Something Unexpected: The Resignation of Jacinda Ardern

One of my earliest political memories is the resignation of Prime Minister David Lange in August 1989. I remember this because of a brown felt-tipped pen drawing I did of the Beehive, the building that houses the Executive of the New Zealand Government. More than thirty years later, we have another Labour Prime Minister resigning. This afternoon, it was Jacinda Ardern.

This one was… unexpected.

Hitherto, mooted Ardern resignations were the stuff of right-wing internet trolls and the occasional media commentator. I don’t think anyone was realistically expecting this. Ardern has not exactly had a pleasant second term, and her Government has spent the last two years literally running away from the reasons it won the 2020 election, but her leading Labour into 2023 was seen as a given.

Now? Well, Ardern is quite within her rights to do this, especially with a young family to raise – albeit, unlike some other commentators, I do not think the critics of her were motivated by misogyny. Labour Prime Ministers must endure attacks from the Right. It is what the Right does. And while I have been perennially grumpy at the Ardern Government for its inconsequential inactivity, I must also pay tribute to her handling of the Christchurch Mosque Shooting of 2019 and Covid in 2020. Ardern was an admirable security blanket for a traumatised nation, even if she and her cohort (with several noble exceptions) are wafer-thin in terms of policy.

(There’s actually a case that Ardern is New Zealand’s answer to Winston Churchill. Someone who holds the country together during crises, but runs into problems when there isn’t a convenient crisis on the horizon).

As to where this leaves the Labour Government, the situation is unclear. Finance Minister Grant Robertson – Ardern’s second-in-command, and a guy with ambition – has announced he’s not seeking the leadership this time. This opens the door, I think, for two possibilties:

  • Chris Hipkins
  • Michael Wood

I’ll be honest – I do not like Hipkins. I have nothing but contempt for his handling of Education, and as Covid Response Minister, I blame him for the Great Backsliding of 2022. But he’s part of Ardern’s little inner circle, which means he probably has the stronger backing within Labour’s parliamentary caucus. The Right also consider him “competent”, though whether that is seriousness or a Brer Rabbit/Briar Patch situation is unclear.

Michael Wood – author of the Fair Pay Agreement system – is the more overtly Left option, albeit a more traditional economically-minded form of Left than the social liberalism associated with Ardern. If Hipkins does not get the requisite 2/3 of caucus, the leadership selection goes to the rank-and-file Labour members, and I suspect they’d prefer Wood. I think Wood would also be able to present himself as a “new broom” better than Hipkins, which might play well in the 2023 environment.

There are also other possibilities, of course. Andrew Little might try again, though I think his previous stint as leader would tell against him there (he’s also lumbered with Health). Nanaia Mahuta might have a go too, but that’s just asking for full-scale Culture War at this point, what with various public relations issues associated with co-governance. David Parker would be a return to 1980s-style neoliberalism, with all that would entail. Or maybe there’s someone else waiting in the wings. We will see.

Whomever takes over, of course, will be in charge of a Government in decline – and currently not on track for re-election. However, the polls are not apocalyptic right now – National/ACT is about five points in front of Labour/Green. It would not take a monumental effort to turn that around. The question is whether Ardern leaving is a net positive or net negative for the Government at this point. Ardern enjoys substantial popularity among her base, but has accumulated various bits of political baggage over the past five years… and the New Zealand Right is thoroughly energised in a way the Left is not.

(I would summarise things as – mainstream New Zealand is grumpy with Labour, but not exactly sold on National. The Right is angry and mobilised, hence the high ACT vote, but the Left is apathetic and unenthused by Labour, hence high Green vote, and godawful turnout in Hamilton West. A new Labour leader might lack the established positives of Ardern, but might also shake the Government out of its doldrums. As I have suggested, I think Wood is a better candidate for that than Hipkins).

There are also a couple of other points to consider:

Firstly, we now have an election date. Saturday, 14th October. This is timed to allow Ardern to leave Parliament in April without needing to force a by-election in her seat of Mount Albert. To be honest, this is the one area where I am slightly grumpy at Ardern’s decision. The election date (which I had picked for 25th November) really ought to be the decision of Ardern’s successor. It’s fair enough for Ardern to quit as leader, but she really ought to have served out her term as MP – she was, after all, elected on that understanding, and by wanting to leave early, she’s tied the hands of the next Prime Minister. In a year like 2023, timing might make all the difference.

Secondly, one thing National can take heart from: unlike Britain and Australia, replacement Prime Ministers often struggle in New Zealand. Between Bill English in 2017, Jenny Shipley in 1999, Mike Moore in 1990, Bill Rowling in 1975, Jack Marshall in 1972, and Keith Holyoake in 1957, that’s quite a track-record of electoral failure. You have to go back to Peter Fraser in 1943 to find a mid-term replacement leader winning the ensuing election. But again, we shall have to wait and see.

Tolkien-Related Stress II: Scanning the Oath of Fëanor 

I have just taken a stab at scanning Tolkien’s famous Ring Verse:

https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2023/01/17/tolkien-related-stress-scanning-the-ring-verse/

I noted that the problem with the Verse is that it is too loose in its accentual nature: it is sometimes unclear where the four stresses are supposed to fall on a given line. I also noted that if Tolkien had chosen a more strict form of Anglo-Saxon verse, these problems would have been resolved.

To illustrate this, let us consider an example where Tolkien does adhere to a stricter form of alliterative poetry. Often only two of the stressed syllables alliterate, rather than three… but no-one ought to be in any doubt where the stresses fall on a given line. And unlike the Ring Verse, there is none of that end-rhyming business, something introduced to English via the Norman Conquest.

The ‘stricter’ example I have in mind is the Oath of Fëanor – or at least the English-language representation thereof.

https://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Oath_of_F%C3%ABanor#The_Oath

Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,
brood of Morgoth or bright Vala,
Elda or Maia or Aftercomer,
Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth,
neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,
dread nor danger, not Doom itself,
shall defend him from Fëanor, and Fëanor's kin,
whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh,
finding keepeth or afar casteth
a Silmaril. This swear we all:
death we will deal him ere Day's ending,
woe unto world's end! Our word hear thou,
Eru Allfather! To the everlasting
Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.
On the holy mountain hear in witness
and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!

Now spot the stressed syllables (in bold):

Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,
brood of Morgoth or bright Vala,
Elda or Maia or Aftercomer,
Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth,
neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,
dread nor danger, not Doom itself,
shall defend him fromanor, and anor's kin,
whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh,
finding keepeth or afar casteth
a Silmaril. This swear we all:
death we will deal him ere Day's ending,
woe unto world's end! Our word hear thou,
Eru Allfather! To the everlasting
Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.
On the holy mountain hear in witness
and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!

Four stresses per line, at least two of which alliterate. Nice and neat and tidy. Say what you like about Fëanor, but he does things properly, so far as getting his verse right.

As clarification:

  • The cornerstone of alliteration in this form is the third stressed syllable. It must alliterate with at least one (ideally both) of the previous stressed syllables on the line. If you have the fourth stressed syllable alliterating too, that’s considered overkill, and was historically frowned upon. Note that Tolkien avoids this trap – the third and fourth stresses never alliterate.
  • The importance of the third stressed syllable actually helps clarify some ambiguities. The line “finding keepeth or afar casteth” repeats both f-sounds and k-sounds. But it’s the f-sound that governs the line here, since the third stressed syllable of the line is -far. Similarly, on the last line, we have repeats of v and m. But the m-sound rules because the third stressed syllable is Man-.
  • All vowels alliterate with each other under this system. Hence Eru Allfather being alliterative.
  • This verse uses enjambment – where sentences can continue across multiple lines. This is actually one of the distinguishing features between Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse verse. Anglo-Saxon verse uses enjambment, Old Norse doesn’t.
  • No kennings. Tolkien does not use them (understandably), but even in his sources they are rarer in Anglo-Saxon than Old Norse.

As luck would have it, we also have an earlier form of the Oath, also in alliterative form:

Be he friend or foe   or foul offspring
of Morgoth Bauglir,   be he mortal dark
that in after days   on earth shall dwell,
shall no law nor love   nor league of Gods,
no might nor mercy,   not moveless fate,
defend him for ever   from the fierce vengeance
of the sons of anor,   whoso seize or steal
of finding keep   the fair enchanted
globes of crystal    whose glory dies not,
the Silmarils.   We have sworn for ever!

Here Tolkien goes so far as to provide us with formal caesura-breaks. Note that the line “of the sons… whoso seize or steal” does not actually break the rule about the third and fourth syllables not alliterating. Under this system, s-sounds and st-sounds are distinct (as are sk and sp), and do not alliterate with each other. We are thus seeing quite a strict form here!

Tolkien-Related Stress: Scanning the Ring Verse

You know it as well as I, the famous Ring Verse from The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien:

Three Rings for the Elven Kings under the sky
Seven for the Dwarf Lords in their halls of stone
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.

Today I thought I would take another stab at trying to scan the blasted thing. This is actually a deceptively tricksy task. You see, outside lines six and seven, which are nice and regular and iambic (and are a translated representation of Sauron’s original “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul”), we are dealing with some form of accentual verse – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accentual_verse – whereby Tolkien puts four stressed syllables on a line, and rhymes the end of the lines. The overall rhyme scheme of the verse is A-B-A-B-A-C-C-A, of course, but the question is: where, exactly, do these stresses fall?

This would not be a problem if Tolkien were running with strict Anglo-Saxon verse: we’d have alliteration to show us the way. Here, we have a looser form of such verse, where we have neither alliteration nor clear caesura-breaks on most lines. And that gets bothersome, because there are multiple different possibilities for the four stressed syllables.

Let’s take these lines individually:

(1) Three Rings for the Elven Kings under the sky (11 syllables total)

Now, it is tempting to shoe-horn some form of regular trochaic interpretation here (THREE rings FOR the ELVen KINGS unDER the SKY), but I reject that on two grounds: based off the One Ring lines, stress really ought to fall on ‘rings’ here, while it also mangles the emphasis of ‘under’.

My interpretation is instead:

Three RINGS for the ELVen Kings UNder the SKY

It feels a tad odd to emphasize ‘under’ over ‘kings’, but I think ‘kings’ can be seen as still coming off ‘Elv'(en). On the other hand, this interpretation actually makes the line anapestic-heavy (da-DUM-da-da-DUM-da-da-DUM-da-da-DUM), and it doesn’t actually feel anapestic. The other option is that the stress falls on ‘kings’ and not ‘under’, but that puts three unstressed syllables between stress three and stress four. Sure, this is accentual verse – it doesn’t matter how many unstressed syllables you stuff onto the line – but I prefer to avoid that sort of gap unless necessary*.

(2) Seven for the Dwarf Lords in their halls of stone (11 syllables total)

Here a trochaic interpretation becomes more viable (SEVen FOR the DWARF lords IN their HALLs of STONE). But as noted before, I do not think we are dealing with regular metrical feet here. This is accentual verse.

My interpretation:

SEVen for the DWARF lords in their HALLS of STONE

This creates a three syllable gulf between stresses one and two, and then another between two and three… but I think it’s the best bet regardless. The alternative would be stressing ‘lords’ and removing ‘stone’ as a stress. But I think Tolkien intends us to take the end-rhyming words as stresses, so that feels wrong. ‘In’ might reasonably be stressed if there were more than four stresses total on the line, but I do not think there is.

(3) Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die (8 syllables total)

This one does not invite a trochaic interpretation at all (NINE for MORtal MEN doomED to DIE only works if you force doomed into two syllables and against all reason put the stress on the second syllable. Tolkien clearly does not intend that here).

My interpretation:

NINE for MORtal men DOOMED to DIE

The irritating thing here is that ‘Mor'(tal), ‘Men’, and ‘Doomed’ are each candidates for stresses, and only two of the three are allowed to be. I prefer to stress ‘Mor’ over ‘Men’ on the basis that ‘Elv'(en), ‘Dwarf,’ and ‘Dark’ are clear intended stresses in their respective lines – we are seeing the adjectives stressed over nouns. ‘Doomed’ flows onto its alliterative partner ‘Die’ so well that I feel the need to stress it, though I can’t see anything wrong with NINE for MORtal MEN doomed to DIE as an alternative.

(4) One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne (9 syllables)

This one just kills any trochaic interpretations stone-dead. No need to even consider ONE for THE dark LORD on HIS dark THRONE. Better is the iambic One FOR the DARK lord ON his DARK throne, but that takes the stress off the end-rhyme.

My interpretation:

ONE for the DARK lord ON his dark THRONE

Stressing ‘his’, rather than ‘on’ might be viable, but I think feels forced in context. ONE for the DARK lord on his DARK THRONE is viable too, I think, but since Dark Lord is not getting treated as a spondee (DUM-DUM), I don’t think Dark Throne should either.

(5) In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie (11 syllables)

This is actually an excellent candidate for trochaic interpretation (IN the LAND of MORdor WHERE the SHADows LIE), but as ever I do not think the verse invites that.

My interpretation:

In the LAND of MORdor where the SHADows LIE

Arguably, this is the easiest line to scan thus far. All four stresses are clear-cut, and while a case can be made for replacing ‘lie’ with ‘where,’ the end-rhyme principle overrules that.

(6) One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them (11 syllables)

Here we depart from the accentual verse to insert a verse-quotation – a translated version of Sauron’s infamous words. Thus we are not dealing with four stresses on this line, but rather five:

One RING to RULE them ALL, One RING to FIND them.

It’s regular iambic trimeter, followed by a caesura-break, followed by iambic dimeter (with a stray unstressed ‘them’ inserted at the end). Nice and straight-forward.

(7) One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them (13 syllables)

A continuation of the Sauron quotation. Which means we are still dealing with regular iambic verse, and not accentual verse.

One RING to BRING them ALL, and IN the DARKness BIND them.

Iambic trimeter, caesura-break, iambic trimeter. Again, forget about the final ‘them’, it is ‘find’ and ‘bind’ that is the relevant stress and rhyme.

(8) In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie (11 syllables)

A repeat of line five.

**

Such is my best attempt to make sense of the Ring Verse. As noted, I think there is some frustrating ambiguity about where exactly those blasted stresses fall.

There are, however, a couple of further points to make.

Firstly, this is far from the only example of Tolkien engaging in such loose, non-alliterative accentual verse. The famous song battle between Finrod Felagund and Sauron is actually covered in this variety of verse – albeit with a different rhyme scheme:

He chanted a song of wizardry,
Of piercing, opening, of treachery,
Revealing, uncovering, betraying.
Then sudden Felagund there swaying
Sang in answer a song of staying,
Resisting, battling against power,
Of secrets kept, strength like a tower,
And trust unbroken, freedom, escape;
Of changing and of shifting shape
Of snares eluded, broken traps,
The prison opening, the chain that snaps.
    Backwards and forwards swayed their song.
Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong
The chanting swelled, Felagund fought,
And all the magic and might he brought
Of Elvenesse into his words.
Softly in the gloom they heard the birds
Singing afar in Nargothrond,
The sighing of the Sea beyond,
Beyond the western world, on sand,
On sand of pearls in Elvenland.
    Then the gloom gathered; darkness growing
In Valinor, the red blood flowing
Beside the Sea, where the Noldor slew
The Foamriders, and stealing drew
Their white ships with their white sails
From lamplit havens. The wind wails,
The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mouths of the Sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn.
Thunder rumbles, the fires burn —-
    And Finrod fell before the throne.

Note the four stresses per line, regardless of how many syllables there are total.

The other point is that the Ring Verse is eight lines total. Now, this would normally be unremarkable were it not for the fact that a distinctive form of Old Norse alliterative poetry (dróttkvætt) is also eight lines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliterative_verse#Dr%C3%B3ttkv%C3%A6tt

The Ring Verse is not actually in dróttkvætt form, of course, but given Tolkien’s love for all things Old Norse, it is at least worth pointing out. We even get a couple of examples – accidental or otherwise – of dróttkvætt-style internal rhyming on some of the lines. Rings/Kings is a full-rhyme, Nine/Men is a half-rhyme, One/Throne is another half-rhyme (and Dwarf/Lords is just plain old assonance)… but they don’t align with the stressed syllables, so it might well just be an accident.

To round off, here is a YouTube recording of the Ring Verse, as recited by Tolkien himself:

*Listening to Tolkien, that first line might well be

Three RINGS for the ELVen KINGS under the SKY.

Review: Lilith, by George MacDonald (1895)

There’s the joke that the difference between the Victorians and our current era is that the Victorians were obsessed with Death and acted as though Sex didn’t exist, whereas current modernity is the other way around. It’s not actually true, of course, but it’s still amusing.

Today, I’m going to look at one of those texts that is important to the development of the fantasy genre, while also rather playing into that particular stereotype about Victorians. Specifically, Lilith (1895) by George MacDonald.

I’d read a reasonable amount of MacDonald’s fantasy works before – insofar as one can actually call him fantasy in a modern sense. Strictly, he’s a writer of dream-adventures after the manner of Lewis Carroll, albeit with a more Christian twist. The Princess and the Goblin (1872), as it happens, was a key influence on Tolkien’s Orcs, while Phantastes (1858) can be considered the first modern fantasy novel for adults, depending on one’s definition. Personally, I would prefer to categorise MacDonald as speculative dream fiction, and give the title of modern fantasy progenitor to William Morris. But that’s just me.

I also think Lilith – a good deal meatier than my previous MacDonald reads – warrants the title of flawed masterpiece.

The flaws leap to the eye, unfortunately. The book is frankly twice as long as it needs to be, takes forever to actually get to the interesting parts, and the prose is weak. It lacks the pseudo-archaic diction of Morris, but in its place you get a verbose and bland nineteenth century narrative style, one that is also laden with melodrama. Just as Morris is no Dunsany, neither is MacDonald, and honestly MacDonald has bigger weaknesses as a writer than Morris.

What made the book interesting for me was twofold: the influences on subsequent fantasy, and its underlying philosophical themes.

Influence-wise, MacDonald is one of those key figures who shaped C.S. Lewis – not so much Tolkien, but Lewis adored him. Together with Morris’ Lady (The Wood Beyond the World) and Rider Haggard’s Ayesha (She), the title character is a clear influence on Jadis the White Witch, the intimidating antagonistic sorceress, who is both evil and attractive. There’s even a moment where Lilith the character is thrown into a closet, in the form of a cat, which naturally evokes a certain magical land in a wardrobe. And she is eventually brought down by an army of children and animals. Meanwhile, MacDonald’s magical mirror-portal presages Lewis’ various connections between Our World and Narnia. Seriously, there are points in this book that read like a Victorian attempt to write a Narnian novel.

Nor is Lewis the only later figure who seems to have been influenced by this book. The Little Ones – literally children who aren’t growing up – might well have influenced James Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904). Or at least Barrie presents a darker and more cynical take on the concept. MacDonald’s Little Ones are, of course, played with full Victorian idolisation of childhood, and prior to the arrival of our protagonist, are intimidated by the evilness of giants (adults). But don’t worry. Their innocence eventually wins through against the corruption of our evil antagonist. They just needed some help.

So far as the philosophy of the text goes, here we are on interesting ground. You see, in contrast to Lewis, MacDonald was a Christian Universalist. He believed that, eventually, everyone would repent their sins, and enter salvation. As such, the book is essentially a case-study on whether the mythical Lilith herself can be saved – and, at the risk of spoiling a 128 year-old book, that is eventually what happens, though not without much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The key theme is articulated by Adam (yes, that one: he spends some time earlier moonlighting as a librarian called Mr Raven), when he tells our protagonist that Evil cannot be killed, except insofar as it is replaced with Good.

MacDonald’s Lilith is thus a case of a redeemed fantasy villain, in a setting where she is not contrasted with a irredeemable villain. Something quite rare in the subsequent genre, I think – even Darth Vader’s eventual turn is set against the irredeemable Emperor. Here? Lilith lives an unpleasant existence, sucking blood and hating her daughter with Adam, until she is finally overthrown and led into repentance. There is no such end for Jadis, Ayesha, or the Lady, while Morgoth, Sauron, and Saruman merely spit on the chance to repent. Albeit, repentance in this case means joining the sleepers in the House of Death.

And that brings us to the theme of Death. Specifically, how in Lilith (the book) it is merely the pathway to capital-l Life. Not something to be feared at all, but rather to be welcomed, a means of ascending to that which is real.

MacDonald arguably strays into over-egging this particular pudding, after the manner of Lewis in The Last Battle, and he also gets into similar territory with one of his other novels, At the Back of the North Wind (1871). But, to be fair, he does at least introduce a couple of caveats into this religious thanatophilia. Firstly, there’s a scene where a despairing old man seeks Death, only to be turned away from the House because he doesn’t actually want what is there – he really just doesn’t want to live. And secondly, while our protagonist in-universe joins his loved-one in this peaceful slumber, the conclusion of the novel involves him waking up back in Our World. He decides against seeking the portal again, and is satisfied to wait for his appointed time.

In short, MacDonald argues one ought to accept Death, but not seek it. It’s rather a shame MacDonald’s prose-writing is so verbose and melodramatic, because as a thematic discussion of a human universal, it’s one of the more intelligent ones in the genre. Far more so than J.K. Rowling’s effort in Harry Potter.

**

So yeah. George MacDonald, nineteenth century pioneer of speculative fiction. While I do think Lilith is his masterpiece, the book has enough flaws that it can make reading it a chore. I have previously noted that MacDonald and Morris are more interesting for whom they influenced than for their literary works themselves… and as much as I admire MacDonald’s creativity and his meaningful engagement with themes, that is a conclusion that has only strengthened with my read of Lilith.

Old Phuul: Draft Finished

About half an hour ago, I became a very happy writer. My long-running effort at writing a sequel to Wise Phuul has finally borne fruit. Specifically, the draft manuscript for Old Phuul – starring Teltö’s elder sister, Rhea Phuul – is now complete at 102,172 words. This makes it a decently meaty book, though a tad shorter than the 108,000 words of Wise Phuul.

In theory, of course, this is just the first draft. And that is true – this is the first time the story has lain complete upon the page, from beginning to end. On the other hand, there have been countless revisions and rewrites over several years, with two full edits in the last couple of months alone. This should hopefully mean that the impending edits of the complete manuscript will take a matter of weeks, rather than months.

All this, of course, is reflective of a very intensive writing period. As of 31st October, 2022, the manuscript sat at around 61,400 words. By the end of November, it was 75,160 words. By the end of December, 94,560 words. I cracked 100,000 words yesterday, and finished the manuscript today. So clearly I can get things moving when I’ve actually got a plan*.

*Within reason. I am very much a proverbial pantser, and a fair number of these scenes were resolved while I was actually writing them.

2022 General Reading: The List

Completed reads for 2022:

  1. On Providence, by Seneca the Younger
  2. On the Firmness of the Wise Man, by Seneca the Younger
  3. Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  4. The Passions of Saint Perpetua and Felicity
  5. Murder is Easy, by Agatha Christie
  6. The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie
  7. The Bacchanals, by Euripides
  8. Alcestis, by Euripides
  9. Medea, by Euripides
  10. Hippolytus, by Euripides
  11. Ion, by Euripides
  12. The Thattur of Sörli
  13. The Phoenician Damsels, by Euripides
  14. The Suppliants, by Euripides
  15. Hercules Distracted, by Euripides
  16. The Children of Hercules, by Euripides
  17. Antigone, by Sophocles
  18. Oedipus the King, by Sophocles
  19. Oedpius at Colonus, by Sophocles
  20. The Suppliant Women, by Aeschylus
  21. The Persians, by Aeschylus
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings [Movie Screenplay], by John Boorman and Rospo Pallenberg
  23. The Seven Against Thebes, by Aeschylus
  24. Prometheus Bound, by Aeschylus
  25. The Lay of Leithian: The Rock Opera (libretto)
  26. Heather Ale (poem), by Robert Louis Stevenson
  27. The Hildebrandslied
  28. Agamemnon, by Aeschylus
  29. The Choephoroe, by Aeschylus
  30. The Eumenides, by Aeschylus
  31. Evil Under the Sun, by Agatha Christie
  32. Appointment with Death, by Agatha Christie
  33. Women of Trachis, by Sophocles
  34. Philoctetes, by Sophocles
  35. Trojan Women, by Euripides
  36. The Saga of Hervör and Heithrek
  37. The Saga of Hromund Greipsson
  38. The Tháttr of Nornagest
  39. Iphigenia among the Taurians, by Euripides
  40. Iphigenia at Aulis, by Euripides
  41. Rhesus, by Euripides?
  42. The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie
  43. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, by Agatha Christie
  44. Poirot Investigates, by Agatha Christie
  45. The Secret of Chimneys, by Agatha Christie
  46. A Pocket Full of Rye, by Agatha Christie
  47. Miss Marple’s Final Cases, by Agatha Christie
  48. By the Pricking of My Thumbs, by Agatha Christie
  49. Cyclops, by Euripides
  50. Electra, by Euripides
  51. Helen, by Euripides
  52. Hecuba, by Euripides
  53. Andromache, by Euripides
  54. Orestes, by Euripides
  55. Ajax, by Sophocles
  56. Electra, by Sophocles
  57. The Frogs, by Aristophanes
  58. The Wasps, by Aristophanes
  59. The Birds, by Aristophanes
  60. The Clouds, by Aristophanes
  61. Lysistrata, by Aristophanes
  62. The Acharnians, by Aristophanes
  63. The Knights, by Aristophanes
  64. Wealth, by Aristophanes
  65. Peace, by Aristophanes
  66. Women at the Festival, by Aristophanes
  67. Women in Parliament, by Aristophanes
  68. The Grouch, by Menander
  69. War in Heaven, by Charles Williams
  70. The Place of the Lion, by Charles Williams
  71. The Girl from Samos, by Menander
  72. The Arbitration, by Menander (and Gilbert Murray)
  73. The Rape of the Locks, by Menander (and Gilbert Murray)
  74. Poetics, by Aristotle
  75. The Life of Plato, by Olympiodorus
  76. Murder in the Mews, by Agatha Christie
  77. Sad Cypress, by Agatha Christie
  78. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, by Agatha Christie
  79. The Shield, by Menander (fragments)
  80. The Hero, by Menander (fragments)
  81. The Farmer, by Menander (fragments)
  82. The Sicyonians, by Menander (fragments)
  83. The Characters, by Theophrastus
  84. The Lover of Lies, by Lucian of Samosata
  85. Parker Pyne Investigates, by Agatha Christie
  86. The Mysterious Mr Quin, by Agatha Christie
  87. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  88. Partners in Crime, by Agatha Christie
  89. All Hallows’ Eve, by Charles Williams
  90. The Sittaford Mystery, by Agatha Christie
  91. 4.50 from Paddington, by Agatha Christie
  92. Narrations, by Conon
  93. The Vampire (poem), by Rudyard Kipling
  94. Progress and Poverty, by Henry George
  95. A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift
  96. The Horla, by Guy de Maupassant
  97. Supernatural Horror in Literature, by H.P. Lovecraft
  98. Towards Zero, by Agatha Christie
  99. Hickory Dickory Death, by Agatha Christie
  100. The Lady of the Barge (collection), by W.W. Jacobs
  101. Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, by St Patrick
  102. Confession, by St Patrick
  103. The Ruin (poem), by Anonymous
  104. The Wanderer (poem), by Anonymous
  105. The Seafarer (poem), by Anonymous
  106. The Wife’s Lament (poem), by Anonymous
  107. The Husband’s Message (poem), by Anonymous
  108. Wulf and Eadwacer (poem), by Anonymous
  109. The Panther (poem), by Anonymous
  110. The Whale (poem), by Anonymous
  111. Widsith (poem), by Anonymous
  112. Deor (poem), by Anonymous
  113. Dream of the Rood (poem), by Anonymous
  114. Durham (poem), by Anonymous
  115. Exeter Book Riddles
  116. The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
  117. The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
  118. Faust, Part I, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  119. Faust, Part II, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  120. Paradise Lost, by John Milton
  121. Paradise Regained, by John Milton
  122. The Nibelungenlied
  123. Agricola, by Tacitus
  124. Germania, by Tacitus
  125. Dialogue on Orators, by Tacitus
  126. The Gods of Pegana, by Lord Dunsany
  127. Time and the Gods, by Lord Dunsany
  128. The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, by Lord Dunsany
  129. The Romance of Tristan by Beroul
  130. The Tale of Tristan’s Madness, by Anonymous
  131. Parallel Chapters from the 1st and 2nd editions of An Essay on the Principle of Population, by Thomas Malthus
  132. The Labours of Hercules, by Agatha Christie
  133. The Seven Dials Mystery, by Agatha Christie
  134. They Do It With Mirrors, by Agatha Christie
  135. Sleeping Murder, by Agatha Christie
  136. Curtain, by Agatha Christie
  137. The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  138. Kingship in Heaven
  139. Song of Ullikummi
  140. Greek Lyric Poetry, trs. M.L. West
  141. Andreas (poem), by Anonymous
  142. Azarias (poem), by Anonymous
  143. Caedmon’s Hymn (poem), by Caedmon
  144. The Fates of the Apostles (poem), by Cynewulf
  145. Elene (poem), by Cynewulf
  146. Juliana (poem), by Cynewulf
  147. Advent Lyrics: Christ I (poem), by Anonymous
  148. The Ascension: Christ II (poem), by Cynewulf
  149. The Final Judgement: Christ III (poem), by Anonymous
  150. The Descent into Hell (poem), by Anonymous
  151. Bede’s Death Song (poem), by Bede
  152. The Fortunes of Men (poem), by Anonymous
  153. The Gifts of Men (poem), by Anonymous
  154. Simple on a Soapbox, by John A. Lee
  155. The Finnsburh Fragment (poem)
  156. Vainglory (poem), by Anonymous
  157. Soul and Body (poem) (2 versions), by Anonymous
  158. Solomon and Saturn (poem), by Anonymous
  159. The Partridge (poem), by Anonymous
  160. Almsgiving (poem), by Anonymous
  161. Pharaoh (poem), by Anonymous
  162. The Lord’s Prayer [Exeter Book] (poem), by Anonymous
  163. Descent into Hell, by Charles Williams
  164. Many Dimensions, by Charles Williams
  165. The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson
  166. The Greater Trumps, by Charles Williams
  167. The Kalevala, ed. Elias Lönnrot
  168. Shadows of Ecstasy, by Charles Williams
  169. Haita the Shepherd, by Ambrose Bierce
  170. An Inhabitant of Carcosa, by Ambrose Bierce
  171. The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (collection), by H.P. Lovecraft
  172. The Emperor of Dreams (collection), by Clark Ashton Smith
  173. A Voyage to Sfanomoë, by Clark Ashton Smith
  174. A Vintage from Atlantis, by Clark Ashton Smith
  175. The Master of the Crabs, by Clark Ashton Smith
  176. The Witchcraft of Ulua, by Clark Ashton Smith
  177. The Last Hieroglyph, by Clark Ashton Smith
  178. The Voyage of King Euvoran, by Clark Ashton Smith
  179. The Testament of Athammaus, by Clark Ashton Smith
  180. The Ice-Demon, by Clark Ashton Smith
  181. The White Sybil, by Clark Ashton Smith
  182. A Night in Malnéant, by Clark Ashton Smith
  183. Sadastor, by Clark Ashton Smith
  184. The Complete Chronicles of Conan (collection), by Robert E. Howard
  185. Tales of Terror and Darkness (collection), by Algernon Blackwood
  186. The Wendigo, by Algernon Blackwood
  187. The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood
  188. The White People and Other Weird Stories (collection), by Arthur Machen
  189. Not So Barren Or Uncultivated: British Travellers in Finland 1760-1830, by Tony Lurcock
  190. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter
  191. The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead
  192. Legends of Aotearoa (collection), edited by Sir George Grey
  193. The Genealogy of Morals, by Friedrich Nietzsche
  194. Vathek, by William Beckford
  195. Folktales of the Maori (collection), edited by Alfred Grace
  196. Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
  197. The Enchantress of Sylaire, by Clark Ashton Smith
  198. The Demon of the Flower, by Clark Ashton Smith
  199. The Devotee of Evil, by Clark Ashton Smith
  200. The Disinterment of Venus, by Clark Ashton Smith
  201. The Satyr (2 versions), by Clark Ashton Smith
  202. The Mandrakes, by Clark Ashton Smith
  203. The Maker of Gargoyles, by Clark Ashton Smith
  204. The End of the Story, by Clark Ashton Smith
  205. The Holiness of Azédarac, by Clark Ashton Smith
  206. The Colossus of Ylourgne, by Clark Ashton Smith
  207. The Planet of the Dead, by Clark Ashton Smith
  208. The Plutonian Drug, by Clark Ashton Smith
  209. The Light from Beyond, by Clark Ashton Smith
  210. The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis, by Clark Ashton Smith
  211. The City of the Singing Flame, by Clark Ashton Smith
  212. The Maze of Maal Dweb, by Clark Ashton Smith
  213. The Chain of Aforgomon, by Clark Ashton Smith
  214. The Dweller in the Gulf, by Clark Ashton Smith
  215. Master of the Asteroid, by Clark Ashton Smith
  216. Double Cosmos, by Clark Ashton Smith
  217. The Supernumerary Corpse, by Clark Ashton Smith
  218. The Stairs in the Crypt, by Clark Ashton Smith
  219. The Dimension of Chance, by Clark Ashton Smith
  220. The Dark Age, by Clark Ashton Smith
  221. Phoenix, by Clark Ashton Smith
  222. The Second Interment, by Clark Ashton Smith
  223. The Uncharted Isle, by Clark Ashton Smith
  224. Schizoid Creator, by Clark Ashton Smith
  225. The Necromantic Tale, by Clark Ashton Smith
  226. In the Book of Vergama (fragment), by Clark Ashton Smith
  227. The Great God Awto, by Clark Ashton Smith
  228. The Bronze Image, by Clark Ashton Smith
  229. The Emir’s Captive, by Clark Ashton Smith
  230. The Letter from Mohaun Los, by Clark Ashton Smith
  231. Thirteen Phantasms, by Clark Ashton Smith
  232. The Epiphany of Death, by Clark Ashton Smith
  233. The Fulfilled Prophecy, by Clark Ashton Smith
  234. The Justice of the Elephant, by Clark Ashton Smith
  235. Monsters in the Night, by Clark Ashton Smith
  236. The Willow Landscape, by Clark Ashton Smith
  237. The Raja and the Tiger, by Clark Ashton Smith
  238. The Phantoms of the Fire, by Clark Ashton Smith
  239. A Copy of Burns, by Clark Ashton Smith
  240. The Venus of Azombeii, by Clark Ashton Smith
  241. The Jewel in the Skull, by Michael Moorcock
  242. Vulthoom, by Clark Ashton Smith
  243. The Haunted Chamber, by Clark Ashton Smith
  244. The Haunted Gong, by Clark Ashton Smith
  245. The Mahout, by Clark Ashton Smith
  246. The Malay Krise (2 versions), by Clark Ashton Smith
  247. The Mad God’s Amulet, by Michael Moorcock
  248. The Sword of the Dawn, by Michael Moorcock
  249. The Runestaff, by Michael Moorcock
  250. The Shadow Kingdom, by Robert E. Howard
  251. The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, by Robert E. Howard
  252. The Eternal World, by Clark Ashton Smith
  253. The Monster of the Prophecy, by Clark Ashton Smith
  254. The Tale of Sir John Maundeville, by Clark Ashton Smith
  255. The Parrot, by Clark Ashton Smith
  256. Checkmate, by Clark Ashton Smith
  257. The Shah’s Messenger, by Clark Ashton Smith
  258. The Resurrection of the Rattlesnake, by Clark Ashton Smith
  259. Something New, by Clark Ashton Smith
  260. A Platonic Entanglement, by Clark Ashton Smith
  261. Fakhreddin, by Clark Ashton Smith
  262. The Ghost of Mohammed Din, by Clark Ashton Smith
  263. The Immeasurable Horror, by Clark Ashton Smith
  264. Murder in the Fourth Dimension, by Clark Ashton Smith
  265. The Perfect Woman, by Clark Ashton Smith
  266. The Primal City, by Clark Ashton Smith
  267. Phantastes, by George MacDonald
  268. The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis
  269. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
  270. The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis
  271. Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis
  272. The Voyage of the Dawntreader, by C.S. Lewis
  273. The Unrepentant Necrophile: An Interview with Karen Greenlee (Jim Morton)
  274. The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis
  275. The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis
  276. Gossip (fragment), by Clark Ashton Smith
  277. The Flirt, by Clark Ashton Smith
  278. The Expert Lover, by Clark Ashton Smith
  279. The Metamorphosis of Earth, by Clark Ashton Smith
  280. The Immortals of Mercury, by Clark Ashton Smith
  281. The Invisible City, by Clark Ashton Smith
  282. The Dart of Rasafa, by Clark Ashton Smith
  283. An Adventure in Futurity, by Clark Ashton
  284. Marooned in Andromeda, by Clark Ashton Smith
  285. A Star-Change, by Clark Ashton Smith
  286. Seedling of Mars, by Clark Ashton Smith
  287. Nemesis of the Unfinished, by Clark Ashton Smith and Don Carter
  288. The Light from the Pole, by Clark Ashton Smith and Lin Carter
  289. The Third Episode of Vathek, by William Beckford and Clark Ashton Smith
  290. The Brahmin’s Wisdom, by Gustav Meyrink

As ever, the list’s appearance is distorted by having to list short stories read individually online, rather than as part of a collection (the Smith stories being real villains here).

2022 was a notable reading year, in that for the first time in a while, I really launched into re-reads – coming back to stuff I hadn’t read in ten, or twenty, or even twenty-five years. But I also got through copious material I had never read before. I managed the complete surviving corpus of Ancient Greek drama, and a decent slice of the surviving Old English literary corpus, while Agatha Christie (fifty books) is now my second most-read author in terms of quantity, behind Michael Moorcock (fifty-six). I re-read the complete Narnia, while also working my way through the seven Charles Williams novels.

2022 – Blog views by country

As per my blog tradition, here is where my blog viewers came from in 2022:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. New Zealand
  5. Australia
  6. The Philippines
  7. Germany
  8. France
  9. Brazil
  10. Spain

The top five remain as in 2021. The Philippines rose from #15 to #6, France from #12 to #8, and Spain from #11 to #10. Germany dropped from #6 to #7, and Brazil from #8 to #9. Sweden dropped from #7 to #12, India from #9 to #13, and The Netherlands from #10 to #14.

Most viewed post of 2022: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2019/01/08/a-tolkien-reading-order/

Most viewed post of 2022 that was actually written in 2022: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2022/02/24/screen-depictions-of-elrond-galadriel-and-other-elves-through-the-ages/