Thursday, 24 November 2016

(Novel) Freyja: the Seven Stories of the World

In the week after his capture, the Thief told the Goddess Freyja the seven stories of the world. While he entertained her, he hunted for his escape.   




This story was written in the G+ stream, a strong collaborative space and the best place in the world to write.


Only part of the first chapter is available on site as the book is being prepared for publication on Amazon in early 2018.



Copyright 2016 Peter Quinton, Published by Peter Quinton
Images: Hati and Wolf Totem, by the Canberra artist Indya


You and I are different and the same.
I wear this totem to remind me of the fragility of life.

Authors Note


I write not by way of explanation nor apology, not here. 

Shh. There is no need to say anymore. I will not make this harder for you. I will understand your silence from here on. I think all we did was to try to keep alive a dream that all of us once wished for, and which all of us kept hoping for, in our own different ways. We did it the wrong way. With just a little hindsight, all the hurt could have been avoided. 

This tale is neither non-fictional nor biographical. Instead, I write only to bring a smile to your face as I try to answer an old question. So old, so obscure and so perplexing. 

I first heard the question from a friend I met as we walked the border. His name isn't heard much these days. Snorri is, was, his name. 

I see you smile at such a strange name. Surely he is one of Tolkien’s inventions. 

No, he is a real man. He is a “law speaker” from the Icelandic Commonwealth. Not a dwarf. It is now nearly a thousand years since he died in his cellar, but I make no claim to be so old. “But how, and where,” I hear you ask. “Not here, not yet,” I reply

Snorri, a learned and confusing man, only asked one question so far as I know. He asked, "What is a wolf?" 

No. Not the real wolves that hunt in the real forests. He asked what was the nature of those other wolves; the wolves that sometimes take a human form. The wolves that sit and pace in the shadows of our despair and loneliness.

I do not know how long this story will take to tell. Maybe seven days or maybe a full moon month. Maybe I will live long enough to finish it, and maybe I will not. The story starts on Sunday, or Dies Solis, in the old tongue. But you command I start right now.

There are lots of reasons for my rectitude. Perhaps I was seeking to delay the completion of this task, or maybe I wished to polish the story. Perhaps it is in deference to the sun god, as we drift into the bitter cold of this year's recession. Or maybe it is pride born of arrogance that I now know the answer. Whatever. I wanted to tell it in my own time, but...

Less you forget, I have told you some of this his-story. But then I did not know why I have to write nor the answer to the question. And because all things fade in time, I will tell this story from the start.

And so I shut my eyes and time drags me, unwilling, into those days that the first people did not name. When first they gave names to days, they looked to the stars and their gods for names. The naming of days became reserved for the church, and the dead hands of empires lying in ruins, far in the past. 

So the days speak the absence of the old gods loudly. But this a story about the last days of the gods and wolves and in the quiet of a day that once only commemorated their absence we can afford to ask Snorri’s question one more time. Who are, were, they?


Chapter One: Freyja


She drifts on the tides of history

When men first saw her, they could seldom believe their good fortune. Lost, vulnerable, in need of everything a man could give, she inflamed their desires, responded to their touch, bent to their dark, same, wants. But when time came to discard her bruised body, they found themselves bound, and then drained, and then consumed.

Time after time, she feasted on the dreams and passions of these men, and then willed them to be no more. At first, she delighted in the simple dreams of these men; those men who studied the currents and farmed the sea. But as she savored each new find, less succor she gained from their shared same lives. 

Until, by accident, he came into her reach. A thief. Far from home. He twisted in her gaze with desperate stories from other worlds. As he sang to her of places far distant, he struggled in her web, fighting for his freedom. 

She paused, unsure. Drawing him close, he offered to close her wounds, and protested his affection, while he hunted for his escape. She was confused but smiled and pondered her decision.

During the first days of his captivity, he started to tell her the seven stories of the world, singing her the songs of the sky and showing her all he knew of love and war. But as yesterday became today, his diversions ceased to be a game. 

One night, as the stars swept over him, she stood beside him as he slept. Suddenly she plucked him from the world, from the past, and dragged him into the future.

Chapter 2: Tuesday, Justice, and Chaos


During the first days of his captivity, the thief told Freyja the seven stories of the world, singing her the songs of the sky and showing her all he knew of love and war. 

This is the first story the thief told her, on the day they called Tuesday, in honor of the god of justice.

Her eyes, wide open, ask for a story. Clouds drift through the hills, like warm winter sheets hiding moist vales and tall gums. She touched his nose and called for a story about her. A story told to her, where she can see her eyes and no one else’s reflected in his. So, he told her this story about the coming of the wolf age. But her eyes dimmed as the night deepened, and fell asleep asmile. 

The thief speaks:

This first story is the oldest story we humans know. It takes many forms, but I will tell it to you


***

The remainder of this book is being prepared for publication on Amazon in early 2018.






End Notes


Authors Note

The reference to Snorri is to the Icelandic law speaker Snorre Sturlason (1179? - 1241). Snorri’s name is rendered a number of different ways in English, most recently morphing into Snorri Sturluson. A history of the man is set out in the translation of Heimskringla edited by Erling Monsen and translated by AH Smith, 1990, Dover Publications.

Chapter 2, (Tuesday) Chaos: Thief’s 1st story: justice and chaos

This is one of the oldest stories I can reconstruct. This fragment deals with two wolves from Icelandic lore, Fenrir, and Garn (Garmr) and follows on from my lecture "On Certainty". The story is based on the Heimskingla (Snorre Sturlason) and The Poetic Edda.

Chapter 3, (Wednesday) Start: Freyja as child – Thief’s 2nd story: bone girl

Freyja’s story of childhood deals peripherally with two wolves from Icelandic lore, Freki and Geri (wolf guards of Odin). Descriptions of Odin's hall are taken from the Heimskingla (Snorre Sturlason) and The Poetic Edda. The story of the Rus funeral is adapted from Ahmad ibn Fadlan's eye-witness record.

The bone girl story is from the story that has entered into popular culture, but which originated in a short five line spoken-poem given by Mary Uukalat to Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Estes retold the story as "The Skeleton Girl" using it to demonstrate lessons about love and relationships in "Women Who Run With the Wolves", 1992, Ballantine Books. The story now has been retold on many occasions (including a number of animations). I have retold the story from the perspective of the fisherman.

Chapter 4, (Thursday) End: Thief’s 3rd story: the final journey

Freyja’s flight briefly introduces the Midgard Serpent, a wolf in the form of a dragon encircling middle earth, and the journey of the dead to the stars.

The Thief’s story is an ancient one about death. It probably predates organized religions and is adapted from a story told to Charles William Peck, an Australian school teacher, 120 (?) years ago by a storyteller from the first people.

Chapter 5, (Friday) Edge: Freyja as lover - Thief’s 4th story: love on the edge of time

The Thief’s story is based on the diaries and notebooks of William Dawes and contemporary accounts and letters.

Dawes 'base' diaries remain missing (but then, academics have been claiming his material has been missing for years). There is some possibility that the diaries were lost after his later marriage, or after his death (in a hurricane in Antigua that destroyed some of his personal papers).

The Notebooks were 'rediscovered' in 1972 by the librarian Mander-Jones. They are published by the SAchool of Oriental and African Studies at http://www.williamdawes.org/index.html

His Metrological diaries were 'rediscovered' in 1977 in the Library of the Royal Society in London by McAfee. The diaries were only subjected to detailed comparative analysis in 2009 by Gergis, Karoly, and Allan: http://climatehistory.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Gergis_Sydney-Cove_AMOJ.pdf

Letters from Dawes to Maskelyne (including a sketch of the proposed observatory are summarized in an article on The William Dawes Observatory: http://www.southastrodel.com/Page031b.htm

In passing I note Watkin Tench's remarks in 1793 on scarification and the epithet "white" at Port Jackson (his references to Dawes are also worth looking at):

"But the love of ornament defies weaker considerations: and no English beau can bear more stoutly the extraction of his teeth, to make room for a fresh set from a chimney sweeper; or a fair one suffer her tender ears to be perforated, with more heroism, than the grisly nymphs, on the banks of Port Jackson, submit their sable shoulders to the remorseless lancet.

That these scarifications are intended solely to encrease personal allurement, I will not, however, positively affirm. Similar, perhaps, to the cause of an excision of part of the little finger of the left hand, in the women, and of a front tooth in the men; or probably after all our conjectures, superstitious ceremonies, by which they hope either to avert evil, or to propagate good, are intended. The colours with which they besmear the bodies of both sexes, possibly date from the same common origin. White paint is strictly appropriate to the dance. Red seems to be used on numberless occasions and is considered as a colour of less consequence. It may be remarked, that they translate the epithet white, when they speak of us, not by the name which they assign to this white earth; but by that with which they distinguish the palms of their hands."

I have mostly ignored academic commentary on the material which has become a plaything in the history wars, climate change disputation, uncertainty theory, and cautionary feminist critique. Much of the discussion about the events tell us more about the commentator than the time. There have been some recent considered works of fiction and non-fiction on Dawes, (which I have likewise disregarded in writing this story) but which have been prepared by those who have studied this history in microscopic detail and which I have enjoyed reading/viewing after forming my view on the material:

Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (2008, fictional, second book in a trilogy of novels by Kate Grenville about early Australia)

Keith Vincent Smith, who was senior researcher for the first episode of the film documentary First Australians and who has written about this period in a number of places (eg. see his review on Grenville at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/on-fact-and-fiction/story-e6frg8q6-1111117879082)

Jeremy Steele, The Aboriginal Language of Sydney (2005)

It is uncertain when Dawes met Patyegarang. Smith considers that in may have only been a period of about three months in 1791 (there is a reference to them being together in his notebooks in mid-September 1791). Departing from Smith, I do not think an earlier date can be ruled out. They may have met as early as the observatory designs were sketched (designs April 1788) or the observatory commissioned (1st August 1788). If that is the case, it is possible that the relationship persisted for 2-3 years. A letter written by the free settler Mrs. McArthur on March 1791, suggests that Dawes had acquired sufficient command of the Eora language to have formed some views on the history/religious beliefs of the first people (something that would require far greater lead-time than a relationship stretching July-September 1789). On a less scientific basis, Dawes dissuaded Mrs McArthur from pursuing an early avowed interest (with him) in the night time field of astronomy (which might have revealed the relationship) and instead directed her in the daytime pursuit of botany (not without her enigmatic observation that he "is so much engaged with the stars that to mortal eyes he is not always visible").

After reading this chapter, my friend Monique Helfrich posed a number of questions. Firstly, when old langages disappear, do the named things disappear too? Is there an association between the capacity to express ideas and violence ("For thoughts, perhaps , we need words to think... But for feelings ? Those who can't express their feelings in words, are they suffocate by unexpressed (and then unexplained) feelings")? I responded by noting that Dawes lived by himself in his observatory so far from the colonial base at Sydney, within months of the settlement being founded. Perhaps it was his humanity that commended him to the First People, or maybe Patye placed him under her protection, or maybe the first people placed trust in their capacity to influence the colony through him. Whichever is true, his actions in defying Governor Phillip were brave and principled. (I also mentioned that the French astronomer Joseph Lepaute Dagelet wrote a letter to Dawes while travelling with the illfated Lapérouse expedition in L’Astrolabe and La Boussole (perhaps the last communication from the expedition). I could only translate a little of the letter, which is reproduced at: http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/archive/discover_collections/society_art/french/letter/letter.html). I thought that the distinction Monique drew between thoughts and feelings was correct; i do not doubt for one moment the depth of feeling some of my long-term parrot mates have for each other. I was staggered by the number of words and sophisticated phrases in the Eora language to deal with relationships, both of a tender and relationship basis, perhaps outstripping common English formulations. An example might be language structures surrounding falsehood and imagination. The language allowed them to easily distinguish between non-reality due to falsehood and that due to imagination and that due to dreams. It allowed for rapid communication, where a language without that facility might be stuck trying to explain the long way. Then there is the role of fire, which as civilisations we have given away to central heating and air-conditioning. Love without a fire is like a long-stemmed flute with no champagne. Monique Helfrich responded by noting that she read the long letter Lepaute Dagelet wrote to Dawes. She admired the passion of these scientists and researchers. They needed and wanted collaboration in interest of their thirst of new knowledge.

Chapter 6, (Saturday) Names: Freyja as homemaker – Thief’s 5th story:

The description of Freyja's house is modeled on a letter to Gallus (XXIII) by Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny the Younger) giving a stunning picture of Pliny's home at Laurentine.

The original story about the Pagan priestess Steinvora and the Christian missionary Thangbrand is found in the old Icelandic Saga: Njal's Saga  (http://sagadb.org/brennu-njals_saga.en).

Interlude 1: 
The story about shadows is adapted from CW Peck's retelling of a Booandick story. The underlying argument, about the relationship of things to ideas is partly based on the arguments of Eco and Camus about precision/order and partly on the metaphysics of map-making.

Chapter 7: 
The exchange between Solon and Thepsis (archetypes respectively of political power and the theatre) is reported in the ‘Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Plutarch,' Translated by John Dryden, Edited by A. H. Clough. Solon’s words were: “Ay,” said he, “if we honor and commend such play as this, we shall find it some day in our business.” The second old man is the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and his reflection on unreality is taken from ‘Meditations.'

The thief's 2 sixth stories about transference are based on original research. The story about Salem is framed around a speech i gave a number of years ago on hysteria.

Freyja's short story of the Sun in this chapter are based on the Sagas, the Heimskingla (Snorre Sturlason) and The Poetic Edda.

Chapter 8, (Sunday) Reality: Thief’s 6th story:

The exchange between Solon and Thepsis (archetypes respectively of political power and the theatre) is reported in the ‘Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Plutarch,' Translated by John Dryden, Edited by A. H. Clough. Solon’s words were: “Ay,” said he, “if we honor and commend such play as this, we shall find it some day in our business.”

The second old man is the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and his reflection on unreality is taken from ‘Meditations.'

The Thief' 2 sixth stories about transference are based on original research. The story about Salem is framed around a speech i gave a number of years ago on hysteria.

Freyja's short story of the Sun in this chapter is based on the Sagas, the Heimskingla (Snorre Sturlason) and The Poetic Edda.

Chapter 9, (Monday) Insight

The short stories of the Man in the Moon, Hati and Hyrrokin are based on the Sagas, the Heimskingla (Snorre Sturlason) and The Poetic Edda.

The extracts attributed to Omar are to the Eleventh Century astronomer-poet-public servant Omar Khayyam from Naishapur. The quotes are literal translation of the poet’s quantrains (a stanza of four lines, especially one having alternate rhymes). Omar Khayyam’s work is known in the West from the lyric translations of Edward Fitzgerald (which in turn changed a little between various editions)
The three passages quoted are rendered by Fitzgerald in a different form:

XVII
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, that great Hunter--the Wild Ass
Stamps o'er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.

XX
Ah! my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears
To-morrow?–Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.

XXVII
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in I went.

XCII
Indeed, the idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much Wrong:
Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.


The extract attributed to Snorri is from the Prose Edda (Snorre Sturlason).

Acknowledgements


For some time now I have been building a collection of what i think of as proto-stories (stories where i can find resonance between the saved stories of the first peoples of many places from the Yuin and Wiradjuri of my land to the Inuit, Icelanders and steppe nomads of the Northern Hemisphere).This is perhaps a futile pursuit because cultural contamination is almost instantaneous, and what is sometimes considered ancient is simply an echo of an invading people. But it would not be proper to overlook the fact that this story selects and retells a number of those stories (perhaps some that have previously been overlooked or placed in a narrow social or cultural context).

Rather than simply presenting the stories as a collection, i am treating them as non-fiction, with the chance to retell them in the context of a story. The stories themselves can be dry, often intended for leaders rather than children, so placing the stories within a novel also gives me the chance to play with them. I spent a while a couple of years ago cutting up the sagas and looking for internal patterns. One i did not expect to find was the association the sagas made between each of the great 'named' wolves and each of the days of the week. I wondered whether this was just a side theme, something for the storytellers to fill the prose with, and the listened to nod their heads at. But then i noticed the gaps and i wondered whether it was possible to reconstruct them using even older stories of the first people. Likewise, the story of Freyja is woven into so many different patterns. The fracturing of the Danelaw left many of the pieces scattered, it is hard to work out what is original and what is an embellishment. In this story, i have called her the goddess of sensuality, in whose honor we venerate Friday (Freyja’s Day). A shapeshifter, she can with ease don the form of a lover, an eagle or the other goddesses or gods. Sometimes she is thought to be the consort to Odin (as the goddess Frigg). Freyja lives in the moment, and that moment may be her as a child, a lover, a homemaker or seer. The world view here is alien to that we have today, where we tend to reject these combined attributes and instead have moved to highly artificial single-point in time images of body and self.

During the course of writing the story, many people gave me assistance along the way. As of today, about 100,000 people have read part or all of the story. I would like to firstly express my appreciation of those who have patiently waited as it has unfolded.

Some of you have gone a little further, directly or indirectly offering support and advice. In this regard I would like to thank +CR Bravo  for her advice and suggestions through the process as we worked on a separate collaborative project. +Monique Helfrich has been a well spring of constructive thought, challenging the story in many different ways, and inviting me to reconsider my own approach to feelings and thoughts. +Ann Pollak helped me untangle some of the themes, in her own beautiful prose “Unexplained visitations, a scar where there was no breach, time that cannot hold to a line, places that struggle to occupy the same space perhaps separated only by a thin membrane of time: it's a confusing world for an ordinary mortal” (i trust that one day we will be able to enjoy her own writing). This time Ann also reminded indirectly me of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam which sent me back to his original writing rather than that of inspired Edward Fitzgerald. I thank +Chris Sutton for his interest and his pictures of Dawes Point which kindled renewed interest in the story of Patye and Dawes. I thank +Zeljka Rakocy, who gave me strong encouragement throughout this process, +madhura ravishankar who quietly encouraged from the sidelines, +Michael A Koontz (one of my favorite on-line writers) for his comments (and am looking forward to his take on the saga cycle), and +Daniel Martin (a superb Australian artist) who gave support a couple of times when I needed it. As in the past +Kitten KaboodleInc ,  +Klara Moody , +Laisa Gran , +Flo Franc , +Aure Martinez , +Trudy Grossman , +Charleen Stokes , +Edneuza Nascimento Silva  and +Renee Leach gave me gentle pushes from time to time. My friend +marilyn David has the knack of pointing me in the right direction, and this time you made me smile with your “Where we headin to Dearest Quinton?”

I would like to thank +Shirley Caslick for her interest and support (and treasure her comparison with Dean Koontz) J. Shirley told me that she “…read forward is to get the story. Read backwards by paragraph is to understand”. Until she wrote this, I did not realize that this is how I read challenging texts as well. I appreciated your comment +Lacey Reah touching on "Women Who Run With the Wolves" – I wish that more people took the time to read this important work. I have the highest regard for the insights of both +Al Chris and +shonie Hutter (and Shonie's wolf) and take great pleasure knowing that you are near when I am writing.

I also express my appreciation to all of those who took time to comment on the draft book or accompanying imagery during the writing process. Writing is a lonely task, your interest was greatly appreciated: norsi norsi , Peter Kofi , ahmed melhem , Al Chris , andrei caldare , Beatrice Esheru , Benedetta Di Primio , Beshoy Nabih , Buyi Sithole , chandler khorton , Cosmic Rock-N-Roll Cowboy , Dale Kearns , Damaris Akyoo , Edgar Lillane , Elias Magul , Eniola Lawrence , Farhan Molla , farnoosh taheri , Fredlyn Teague , Gary Brown , Glenda Blount , Justice the slayer , Kinnie Keet , Kwaku Stephen , le thuy van , Long Nguyễn , Loupu Sumo , Mable Msiza Msiza , Mahidi Hassen , malak ahmad , Martin himmaste , Mhmed Dorgham , MR.chalenge , Mudy Kipetu , Orxan12 Abbasov12 , Peter Ndungu , satinder kaur , steven leno , sunita Rana , talia hunt , Temitope Mary , Thokozozani Nxumalo , whatsupgirlet love , Zahra Ahmad , ‫ابو قاسم‎‎  , ايمان الشمري 



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