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Back to Suzzallo

The day started off strange (buying drugs for my elderly dog always makes me feel odd — who will give me opiates when I'm old?), but by 10:30 or so I was at Suzzallo Hall for the first time in ages. Things went smoothly from there. For one thing, there was no one in the reading room when I arrived, so I took the senator's desk for myself. For another, John Rateliff soon arrived, and we swapped a few stories of recent work.

Mr. Rateliff is a gentleman and a scholar, and I always feel I've learned something wonderful after talking with him. Today, he showed me the three volumes of Teutonic Mythology (e-text) by Jacob Grimm (translated by Stallybrass). I skimmed a few pages and found it's an absolutely wonderful tour de force of European folktales and mythology. It is densely packed but with more original references and, well, Latin, than something like Brewer's Dictionary. Originally released in 1835 and reprinted in at least four major editions, Teutonic Mythology available online and is in print from Dover (but not cheap). The summaries are hard to resist:

Vol. I: God; Worship; Temples; Priests; Gods; Goddesses; Heroes; Wise-men; 12 other topics.
Vol. II: Wights and Elves; Giants; Creation; Elements; Trees and Animals; Sky and Stars; 7 other topics.
Vol. III: Poetry; Spectres; Translation; Devil; Magic; Superstition; Sicknesses; Herbs and Stones; Spells and Charms.
Vol. IV: Appendix by author; Anglo-Saxon Genealogies, Superstitions; Spells; Index, more.

Of course, the reason I lust for these four volumes is that my current short story project involves Teutonic mythology. However, it's a short story. There is such a thing as too much research, I guess.

In any event, the game design work today went quickly and well: 4,000 words and a crucial map in about 6 hours. Sometimes I do game design to fit a tightly constructed outline, and sometimes I just mess around with whatever shiny objects appears in front of me. It's game design as a mosaic, picking at a recurring character to see if he works, or whether a bit of magic designed for one thing will fit somewhere else. It always surprises me when the jigsaw bits all fit together smoothly, but it happens fairly frequently.

For example, I'm working on an adventure for WotC, in the "Big Adventure" vein of James Jacobs's "Red Hand of Doom". My adventure features a lot of fancy spellcasters, so I figured adding a new batch of spells as a treasure would be a good idea. Where to get some spells on short notice? I remembered a string of six spells I'd sent to Paizo for their media-and-gaming section more than a year ago — and I'd never seen or heard from them since. Turns out that the article was axed in one of the redesigns, so I looted the remains, taking out the juiciest section and transplanting them to a new home in the adventure appendices.

This worked beautifully. The tone of the looted spells is just right for the adventure (not that surprising, I suppose, given that they share an author). Two match one of the monster themes, so they round out a subplot/minor theme nicely. Like a silversmith, you can melt something down and cast it into any number of shapes and settings.

In this case, with some tweaking they look as if they were purposely designed just for this use. After another hour of refinement, the length of the whole thing has double and it is hard to imagine it was ever intended for anything else. Since I like the material and it fits the mosaic, I'm happy to see it saved from the scrap-heap. Sometimes the mosaic method doesn't work nearly as well, and things have to be pulled back out. Not today.

I'm on track for completing the initial 100,000+ word design draft by March 1. As a celebration of progress, I'm sitting at the World Cup with a glass of malbec and a copy of Robert Charles Wilson's short story collection. Can't beat that.

Comments

( 7 sutras — Your wisdom )
mimerki
Feb. 19th, 2006 02:15 am (UTC)
I read the entirety of Grimm's Teutonic Mythology (translator forgotten) at university and can only say that it is a marvelous text. I desire a copy of it to go next to my 13-vol Golden Bough.

Then again, I am delighted with the footnotes in the 13-vol Bough and thus accept my freakish nature...
the_monkey_king
Feb. 19th, 2006 03:08 am (UTC)
I'm deeply jealous that you've read all of the Grimm. Just skimming it made it clear that it is PACKED with the stuff I love.

Golden Bough is likewise on my list of "read in this lifetime", but 13 volumes?! Maybe I'll nibble on the Teutonic Myths for a while before trying to eat the mammoth of Fraser.
mimerki
Feb. 19th, 2006 03:23 am (UTC)
They don't call me the research pagan for nothing. ;)

For normal uses, I suggest reading the condensed 1-volume Golden Bough and counting the 13-vol version as being reference material... Of course, I'm reading *my* way through it, but I'm sick.
godeater_sw
Feb. 21st, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
1-volume Fraser
That's what I read for research purposes as an undergrad writing my Honours thesis (there is a surprisingly deep vein of folklore in Guy Gavriel Kay's early books, and I needed to master it). It's well worth the time spent!
brainstormfront
Feb. 19th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC)
Geez, folks, both of these are must-haves for my library, though if e-text is the only affordable way to do it, so be it. Have a 1-volume of Fraser buried somewheres in storage (so if you want to go digging for it, Wolf, let me know and I'll send you the key to the storage unit) but now desperately want to see/read this Grimm.....especially since it'll impact what I've restarted again today....

Steven
The pagan-geek and research-geek rolled into one
the_monkey_king
Feb. 19th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
The e-text is free (look around that link — you'll see it).

It's much easier to search but harder to write in the margins. :)
mimerki
Feb. 19th, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC)
And the 1-volume Golden Bough is available online here. (It's available other places too, I'm sure, I just know sacred-texts.com has it.)
( 7 sutras — Your wisdom )

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