Monday, November 10, 2014

The Life of Hercules: The Argonauts

Eighth of a series. Here are the earlier posts:
This is an illustration I made showing
Mor'gwai (the Argo) sailing away from
the fortress of Vok'seit'chet.  I considered
adapting this for the cover of v.6, but I settled
on the Point of the Monster instead.
(Click for larger view)
       After Jason agreed to sail away from Iolcus on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece, he needed a ship and a crew.  The ship came to be called the Argo after the shipwright who built it, and the crew of heroes who sailed in it were called the Argonauts.
       Sources usually agree that there were about 50 Argonauts.  Obviously, I couldn't utilize all of these characters, so I picked out several that I felt were essential to my version of the story.  Of course Heracles had to be included, since Ki'shto'ba is a stand-in for Heracles.  However, Heracles really played a rather small role in the Quest for the Golden Fleece, leaving the Quest early for reasons I won't go into here.  This aspect plays a significant role in my interpretation, but it would be a spoiler to elaborate too much on it.
       So I went through Robert Graves' list of Argonauts and picked out some that would serve a function in my plotline.
       Atalanta:  I've dealt with her before (in the post about the Calydonian boar).  Thel'tav'a, the female At'ein'zei Intercaste Warrior, fills this role.  Meleager was also supposed to be an Argonaut, but in my tale my termite version of the character is already dead.
       Amphiaraus, the Argive Seer:  I had always intended the 11th Companion to be a Seer, so I sifted through the list of Argonauts to find one, and Amphiaraus stuck out immediately.  If you look him up in Wikipedia, he has a considerable side story of his own but isn't prominent in the Golden Fleece quest.  However, I settled on him for one special reason: his name means "Twice Cursed."  (It might mean, according to Wikipedia, "Twice Ares-like," but I employed the twice-cursed connotation.)  I came up with the idea of a Seer who has seen everything that is to come but can't recall what he has seen until it has happened.  He is cursed to know all and to know nothing, and to be unable to change the future.  How could a person be more doubly cursed that that?  I think that was a brilliant idea, but for the life of me I can't recall how I came up with it.  I named him Da'sask'ni'a, which also means "Twice Cursed."
       Argus the Thespian, builder of the Argo:  Is'a'pai'a needed a ship just as Jason did, and so I made the 12th Companion to be the Bright-and-Dark Boatbuilder, Mo'wiv.  The name Argus means "bright," so this was close enough.  Mo'wiv is a Builder-Worker, a famous shipwright in the lands of the Water People.  I also made him a skilled ship's Captain, because obviously none of the Companions of Ki'shto'ba and Is'a'pai'a knows anything about sailing.  "According to other legends [the Argo] contained in her prow a magical piece of timber from the sacred forest of Dodona, which could speak and render prophecies." (Wikipedia)  From this, and from the knowledge that the early Greeks often painted eyes on their prow, I got the idea for the Moon-Eyes of the Mother.  And all ships need a figurehead, so the running reptile Rin'dog'zei fit perfectly.
       Castor, the Spartan wrestler, and his twin, Polydeuces, the Spartan boxer, known as the Dioscuri, or Sons of Zeus.  In case nobody has guessed it to this point, the twins known as the Shin'ki'no'hna, or Offspring of the King, reflect this pair.  Castor means "beaver," which is impossible to translate into Shshi, so I called that one Ti'a'gwol'a, which means "sweet chewer."  Polydeuces means "much sweeter wine," so I made him Ti'a'toig'a, which means "sweet swallower."  Termites don't box, so I substituted the skill of jaw-fencing (the Water People have those long, narrow pointed jaws, as you've seen in the pictures of Is'a'pai'a). 
       And -- oh, dear! -- I just discovered an error   In the book people are always mixing up the twins because they really are identical. Now it appears even I mixed them up.  I made Ti'a'toig'a (Polydeuces) the wrestler, when it should have been Ti'a'gwol'a (Castor).  Oh, well, if I'm that confused, the readers aren't going to know the difference.  I don't believe I ever wrote about the meaning of the names.
        Sigh.  Moving on ...
       Hylas, squire to Heracles:  This character is, of course, Twa'sei.  Enough said on that.
       Orpheus: Bu'gan'zei the 9th Companion is Orpheus, but you all knew that.
      Tiphys, the Helmsman:  The name means "from the pool" and the minor character Ao'gwai, helmsman for the Quest ship, reflects that; its name means "pool."
        And there you have the Argonauts -- the mor'gwai'zei| -- denizens of the ship Mor'gwai, which means "Bright Water."  This reflects the name of its shipwright, Mo'wiv, even as the Argo reflects the name Argus.

       One other note: a second pair of twins sailed on the Argo -- Idas and Lynceus.  Expect to see this pair turn up in the sequel, assuming I ever get it written!

       And a further afternote:
       Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) has reviewed v.6 The Revenge of the Dead Enemy as follows (thanks, Chris!  You're my true-blue fan!)
       Of all the books in this series, this is the one I dreaded reading.
       There are a lot of prophecies fulfilled, resulting in the loss of great companions and it is the last book of the series.
       The final few chapters not only gripped me with sadness, they helped me reconcile with the losses (Ki'shto'ba's final moments were an astounding fulfilment of a prophecy AND achieved the 12th and final Wonder in a way that is unparalleled by any Shi'Shi) AND gave me hope that another remarkable series may be penned by the author....
       I certainly hope so...

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