Monday, June 4, 2012

The Legends of Troy

       First, I want to make an addendum to the previous post ("Characters and Elements Found in Myth and Folklore").  I thought of four more elements of epics that I've worked into "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head" series. 
       No. 1: funeral games.  That custon isn't practiced in Lo'ro'ra among the Little-Head Shshi, but there are certain other fortresses that have invented it.  In the Iliad a whole section is devoted to the funeral games for Hector.
       No. 2:  battle frenzy and, as an adjunct, the battle taunt, where two Warriors trash each other verbally before a combat. 
       No. 3:  the significance of returning the bodies of dead warriors to the enemy for proper disposition.  I've already made the point in "Termite Queen" that the Shshi practice necrophagia and therefore it is traditional and even obligatory that one side in a battle to return the opponent's dead bodies.  This fits right in with the Greek emphasis on retrieving their dead. 
       No. 4 (and not least):  the powerful, storied, perhaps enchanted weapon, like Excalibur.  You can't have a heroic tale without such a weapon of lore!  You'll find out how I managed that, since Shshi Warriors grow their own weapons upon their bodies.
       Now to the Troy legends.  Everybody (at least in the Western world) knows the story; it's engrained in our culture.  Even if you've never read the Iliad or the Odyssey, you know the tales from children's books or from movies like the latest one "Troy," or from reading other retellings or studying myths in school.  Everybody knows that Paris the Prince of Troy fell in love with Helen the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta  and carried her off during a visit to that place, upon which the Greeks set out with a huge fleet of ships to attack Troy and bring her back.  Everybody knows about Achilles and his one weak spot (which gave its name to the Achilles tendon), and about the nobility of Hector the Prince of Troy, and about the Trojan horse.  However, the fact is that Homer's Iliad ends with the death of Hector.  It contains nothing about the death of Achilles at Paris' hand, or the death of Paris, or the stealing of the Palladium (the statue of Pallas Athene that would keep Troy safe as long as it remained within the walls), or even the episode of the Trojan horse.  The valuable thing about Robert Graves' Greek Myths is that he gives the whole story in segments that draw on all kinds of original sources, not just the Iliad.  And he gives all the alternative versions.  This made it really valuable in helping me pick and choose which incidents or versions would be most adaptable to termite culture.   And you might be surprised how adaptable the story is. 
       Of course, it was impossible to include every one of the myriad characters or all the tortuous complexities of the plot twists, and there were times when I had to make serious adjustments to meet termite requirements.  An example is the episode of Briseis, the Trojan female who is abducted by the Greeks and over whom Achilles and Agamemnon are quarreling at the commencement of the Iliad.  Termite Warriors do not abduct female Alates for sexual purposes -- they have no sex drive or functioning organs.  So I had to find a different reason for a high-ranking Alate to be abducted and I think I did that successfully.  The important thing was to provoke the Achilles character so that it would be sulking in its "tent" at a crucial moment, causing the Patroclus character to respond to "Hector's" challenge in its place. 
       In Graves' interpretation of history, the Trojan War wasn't about the abduction of Helen at all but was really a trade war (see p. 302 or Graves' The Greek Myths, v.2 [Penguin Books, c1955])  Troy happened to be in a good location to control the entry to the Black Sea.   Obviously, in the landlocked home of the Northern Shshi, I couldn't create a contest for naval supremacy, so I made the conflict begin as a quarrel over a river ford.  Hence, my Troy gets the name "Thel'or'ei," meaning "Good Broad Ford."
       The mythical Hercules didn't take part in the Trojan War, but somewhere in his Greek Myths (and for the life of me I can't find the reference again, but I remember it), Graves mentions that Hercules is associated with fighting at Troy, probably in earlier conflicts over the city, so I felt justified in allowing my Hercules stand-in Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head to play a part in the War of the Stolen Mother.  Ki'shto'ba is not equivalent to any particular character in the Troy stories but is a kind of catalyst, voice of reason, and savior.  Di'fa'kro'mi obviously fills the role of Homer (albeit our Remembrancer is not blind).  And our little Worker/trickster is in this book -- who else? -- Odysseus, a trickster character in his own right -- responsible for both the stealing of the "Palladium" and for the building of the "Trojan Horse."
       And one word about Cassandra:  I was annoyed to say the least that she was omitted completely from the movie "Troy."  In that movie there was no Seer whom nobody would believe, and nobody ever said anything like "Beware Greeks bearing gifts" (unless I fell asleep at the wrong time -- it wasn't the greatest movie in the world).  "Cassandra" plays a big part in my interpretation.  And let's not forget Aeneas, who fled the burning city of Troy carrying his father on his back.  How does that work?  At some time in the near future, you'll be able to read "War of the Stolen Mother" and find out!


  1. Blogger needs Like buttons. There's not much I can say here besides awesome idea, looking forward to read it! :) (BTW, Termite Queen is at the top of my reading list now. Will start it soon.)

    1. I don't know how to get that button - I'll check that out. But I do have the Share to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ buttons above.
      I'm in the process of making one final pass-through on "War of the Stolen Mother" before beginning to format it for print publication, and I know this sounds highly egotistical and immodest, but every time I finish a chapter, I sit here and effuse, "This is one of the greatest stories ever written! I can't believe slews of people aren't going to want to read it!" ;:)
      But like I said above, I did have great material to work with! And it IS smart to read TQ first, because it gets talked about a lot in all the "Labors" volumes.