I have to go do real work now
when I come back I expect to see 50k of Harad fic on my desk, extra credit for accurately patterning it after the Mughal Empire and/or dealing with Far Harad and the Easterlings
also bonus points if the Haradrim are totally unimpressed with the elves.
you guys don’t understand how much I want a post-War of the Rings fic where the Haradrim come to Gondor on a diplomatic mission (in my head it’s to broker a politically advantageous marriage so that Harad will be protected against Gondor’s empire-building, but whatever)
and they pull out all the stops, it’s like that fucking scene from Aladdin because they might have just lost the war but they’re going to show these Men of the North that they are not lesser for it they are not cowed, so it’s mumakil decked in scarlet and gold rope, and the princes riding Haradin horses with purple bridles; legions of footsoliders and musicians singing praises to the Harad emperor—
(…oh, and Elessar Telcontar, they guess.)
the day they march through the great gate, all the rest of Minith Tirith stands still to watch them.
they bring the best poets of the court to perform for the lords of the Anduin, kathak dancers whose grace has caused men to leap from towers, gifts ivory from Far Harad and it’s ridiculous and lavish and bright because Gondor is still wartorn, broken and grey and muddy and how could they hope to compare?
and the emperor comes himself, comes dressed in green with seed-pearls and that’s the scene they’ll all remember—Aragorn looking like a battlefield, dressed in the funereal black of Gondor, and Harad’s emperor, looking like a promised spring.
hey you wanna hear about materia medica? because materia medica is super interesting as a little microcosm of how scientific practice was done in the middle ages
Materia medica, for those who don’t know, is basically the stuff (materia) of medicine—an encyclopedia of the healing properties of everything from plants to drugs to food. It takes its name from De Materia Medica, a 5-volume book written by Roman physician Dioscordes. It’s essentially a record of Greek and Roman medicines, including Dacian and Thracian folk remedies found nowhere else in the historical record. Additionally, De Materia Medica was immensely popular, translated and circulated widely in Latin and Arabic as well as Greek.
(an illustration of a blackberry bush from a 6th century copy of De Materia Medica. The writing is the original Greek, but if you look at an enlarged version, someone has been taking notes in Arabic in the margins. The manuscript was discovered in Istanbul in the 1560s.)
Now, why is De Materia Medica important? Because unlike the rest of the Greek canon, Dioscordes never disappeared from the western world.
I actually think it’s more due to a change in the way we see “disasters.” In the modern (western) world, we’re fairly insulated from natural destruction. A drought that would have wiped out an entire population now just kicks up the price of beef. California has a department of trained professionals set up to disseminate information about and manage wildfires that devastate acres of forest. Our houses are insulated against the cold and we have inoculations against plague. With the exception of massive devastating events, like Katrina or the tsunami in Japan, we regard the natural world as something you can “solve”, something you can protect yourself against.
(And even in those cases, we’re quick to ask why—what went wrong, what protective measure failed, as though natural destruction isn’t a preexisting condition of living on earth.)
But that mentality has not always been the case. If a drought will destroy your livelihood and starve your family; if a flood can wipe out your whole city without hope of rebuilding; if a plague can sweep through and cut your population in half; if a fire means that your cramped building made of mud and straw will burn—with you inside, and take half the city with it…
The natural world isn’t something you can combat, isn’t something you can solve. It’s a thing that happens to you. It’s an act of God because there is no other explanation.
So maybe we can say that Babel and Sodom and Gomorrah are “disaster” stories where people ran, but only because that was the only option. And the fact that you were spared was as much an inexplicable act of God as the disaster itself.
…it’s complicated? I mean, Esther is easily one of the most engaging, most human stories in the Old Testament. But at the same time it’s so distinctly a narrative about the Jewish identity, sustaining and negotiating it in the face of hostility and violence, that I feel weird attempting any sort of sustained commentary on it.
(plus I’ve never actually read a good Christian commentary on the subject—most of them tend to boil it down to “God can achieve anything through unlikely servants!” which, while not incorrect, is a little reductive for my tastes.)
with 3gee's permission, I'm going to pass you over to her. I don't know if she had planned to address the subject herself, what with Purim coming up, but she is bound to have more (and better!) thoughts than I do.
It’s actually just wizzard’s tag, but I’ve always preferred it as a title for Margaret Atwood’s “The Saints”—
The saints cannot distinguish
between being with other people and being
alone: another good reason for becoming one.
They live in trees and eat air.
Staring past or through us, they see
things which we would call not there.
We on the contrary see them.
They smell of old fur coats
stored for a long time in the attic.
When they move they ripple.
Two of them passed here yesterday,
filled and vacated and filled
by the wind, like drained pillows
blowing across a derelict lot,
their twisted and scorched feet
not touching the ground,
their feathers catching in thistles.
What they touched emptied of colour.
Whether they are dead or not
is a moot point.
Shreds of they litter history,
a hand here, a bone there:
is it suffering or goodness
that makes them holy,
or can anyone tell the difference?
Though they pray, they do not pray
for us. Prayers peel off them
like burned skin healing.
Once they tried to save something,
others or their own souls.
Now they seem to have no use,
like the colours on blind fish.
Nevertheless they are sacred.
They drift through the atmosphere,
their blue eyes sucked dry
by the ordeal of seeing,exuding gaps in the landscape as water
exudes mist. They blink
and reality shivers.
cyrano writes her poems—in the margins of her books, on the backs of receipts, once in chalk on the courtyard wall, scraps of paper left in her boudoir and among her needlework and beside her plate, each dedicated to her lips, her eyes, the light as it lay on her breast in that morning, the way that she throws her head back when christian’s fingers—
well. it was unfortunate that the maid found that particular scrap of verse before roxane did.
so roxane begins writing back, though there seems little guidance in the canon of letters on how a lady writes to her love. Yet roxane scrawls couplets on the edges of invitations she knows he will see, stitches odes on his handkerchiefs—once, she wrote a whole ballade to the thrusting of her knight’s sword on a roll of butcher’s paper, and delivered it to cyrano wrapped around a sausage.
(that one made cyrano turn the color of a radish and stare at her like she was a foreign creature. It is called a euphemism, my love, she had told him demurely, as christian almost fell over laughing.)
christian finds their skirmishes of lovemaking endlessly amusing, and pronounces each word perfection itself, which—while charming, makes him a singularly unhelpful editor.
…he makes up for it in other ways.
it would be so frustrating though
because every time Christian invites him to stay after dinner—just a little longer, my friend, you will finish the bottle with me, surely?—Cyrano laughs and Cyrano drinks and when Cyrano wins a hand of cards he smiles ruefully and says malheureux en amour, no?
and Christian (drunken, affectionate, wondering if Cyrano’s tongue would taste of poetry) leans across the table and clasps the back of Cyrano’s neck. Cyrano sways forward, until their foreheads touch, and Christian can feel the heat of his flushed face. My friend, Christian said softly, my brother and brother-at-arms. Can you not see the love that is yours for the asking?
for a moment, Christian thinks—but Cyrano only smiles, pats Christian’s cheek. Thank you, my friend. But I have grown too maudlin, I should see myself from your company.
(after he has gone, Christian stumbles into bed with Roxane, and when she asks, his only response is a frustrated whine)
and because every time Roxane stands on tiptoe to kiss his cheek, her lips lingering a little longer than befits counsinly affection, Cyrano turns his face, steps away, and she can see him instructing himself not to make much of it, that there is no hope, not with the wedding band around her finger. He is an old warhorse, lamed and ugly—how is he to ensnare something so swift, so beautiful as the hart?
(Roxane knows this is what he thinks, for one Sunday after mass, Christian brings her a poem of such aching, thwarted love that she cries from it. Why will he not see? Christian sighs when he embraces her. Perhaps God gave him too much nose to make up for his poor sight.
He is afraid, Roxane said softly. He is so afraid.)
finally, they decide they are done with games. My wife has written you a love poem, Christian says, offering it out to Cyrano as they make their way to Ragueneau’s shop one morning.
This declaration brings their ambulation to an abrupt stop.
I—what? Cyrano stammers, staring down at the folded sheaf of paper as though it might burst into flame.
Well, technically it is from the both of us, but she is its author, being vastly more gifted in the art.
Cyrano stares at him as though he might burst into flame.
Would you just…read it? Christian says, trying not to laugh at the expression on his friend’s face. I have been assured it is beautiful and meaningful.
Gingerly, Cyrano takes the note and they walk on. At Ragueneu’s, Cyrano is silent, reading, and Christian watches him—watches him pale and blush at the words, watches him dart glances up at Christian—little flashes of disbelief, of longing, of fear.
(Roxane knows them both too well, Christian thinks fondly.)
Finally, Cyrano sets down the pages, and meets Christian’s bald gaze. I—I do not know what to say. None of my fine words—they have not prepared me for this.
Then let me suggest some simple ones, Christian says, clasping Cyrano’s hand. We love you. Come to dinner tonight.
Roxane is waiting at the door for them. In the gathering dark, she kisses first her husband and then her bullrush knight.
And then they go in to dinner.
Reasons your fave is problematic
- Descended from Adam and thus bears the mark of Original Sin
I HAD LOTS OF OPINIONS SO MANY OPINIONS INTRICATE AND DETAILED OPINIONS AND PREDICTIONS AND SO MANY FEELINGS EVERY EPISODE WAS A REVELATION AND THEN THE WRITERS DECIDED TO RUN THE SHOW OFF A CLIFF STEPPING ON ITS WOMEN ALL THE WAY AND I’M NEVER GOING TO FORGIVE THEM
or, as my helpful tag novel put it:
I’ve decided that all I will ever need in my life is Aramis pulling d’Artagnan aside one evening, pouring him a generous glass of muscadet, and saying
let me tell you about cunnilingus
okay so I am one of the everyone currently watching the musketeers and oh my god tonight’s episode was so cute particularly this part when puppy mcdoofus face accidentally confesses he loves his married radiant landlady and makes this face
you can see him thinking SHIT UM FUCK FUCK FUCK AHHHH FUCK WAIT I CAN FIX THIS UM I CAN TOTALLY FIX THIS WHAT ABOUT ADMIRATION AND RESPECT BITCHES LOVE ADMIRATION AND RESPECT.
NOT THAT I THINK YOU’RE A BITCH, I MEAN, I LOVE YOU, SO—