Monday, September 16, 2013

The Valley of Thorns: Publishing Progress, and a Word on Adaptation

My rendition of Archbishop Turpin
fighting the black Demon Knight
whose name is Abisme.  My version
 is named Sho'choi'jik'a (Abyss Dweller)
I've just about whipped the third volume of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head into publishing shape.  I done all the peripheral material -- the map (which will be the frontispiece in the paperback), the back of the title page, the Translator's Foreword, the facsimile title page (from where it was first published in the 30th century -- is that a logical contradiction?), a synopsis of v.2 (because this picks up exactly where v.2 leaves off), and a list of characters. 
       For the end matter, I've again included a glossary of words in my termite languages (Shshi language).  I also decided on providing an appendix analyzing the Shkei'akh'zei marching chant word-by-word.  The text includes the chant in the Shshi language, one of the few times I've done that in this series.  Of course, I also put it in English so people who have no interest in conlangs or alien languages in general can simply skip the gobbledegook.
       The origin of the chant is interesting.  The first half of The Valley of Thorns retells the Old French epic poem of Roland and Oliver (Chanson de Roland).  It's amazing how easily that story adapts to the termite culture!  When I read the tale in preparation for using it in my series, I was impressed by the repetition of certain lines.  Here are two different translations of them, followed by the Old French:
High are the peaks, the valleys shadowful,
Swarthy the rocks, the narrows wonderful.
High are the hills and dark the valleys,
Brown are the rocks and dread the defiles.
Halt sunt le pui e li val tenebrus,
Les roches bises, les destreiz merveillus.

And in another place in the poem:
 High were the peaks and shadowy and grand,
The valleys deep, the rivers swiftly ran.
High are the hills and great and dark,
Deep the valleys, and swift the waters.
Halt sunt li pui e tenebrus e grant,
Li val parfunt e les ewes curant.

Parenthetically, it's amazing how much easier it is to read the Old French (if you know a little modern French) than to read Old English.  It's obvious that French has changed less and in a purer line.

Anyway, I took those lines and adapted them into a marching chant as the termite army moves down the Valley of Thorns (my rendition of Roncescalles) toward their hated enemy.  Here's how I did it (even preserving the French poetic form of the half-line break):

The peaks are high   and the valley is shadowed.
Holy Nameless One!    Care for us now!
The boulders are dark    and the defile fearsome.
Holy Sky-Mother!    Stay always with us!
The mountains are high    and dark and great.
Hater of infidels!    Give to us mighty victory!
The defiles are deep    and the river runs always.
Creatrix of Warriors!    To the enemies, death!
Di'fa'kro'mi comments:
        "This went on endlessly and without variation, with the Lieutenants declaiming the forelines and their phalanxes responding with the supplications.  The repetitions contained just enough variety to be confusing, but I could not detect that any Warrior ever made an error in the words it was primed to recite.  When the terrain allowed, they moved in rhythm with the words, a step forward on each half-line.  I was soon falling asleep on my feet, but strangely the litany seemed to speed up the advance and keep everyone moving as one.  I wondered if some separate part of their Warrior-minds remained alert enough to respond in the event of a surprise attack.  I asked who had composed this recitation and my marching companion said it was simply a traditional war prayer, so old that no one any longer remembered its origin.  I found it impressive, but after half a morning of it, I thought I would lose my sanity!"
       I would like to print the Shshi version here, but I don't think the WingDings will display on in some browsers, especially Macs, and I haven't yet set up the text using the substitute syllables, so that will have to wait.
       Anyway, I think I'm about ready to begin formatting for publication.  I hope to get it done at least within two months.  If I can, I want to publish the Kindle, Smashwords, and print versions on the same day.  Stay tuned!