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Bilingual Silmarillion Reread

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread, Part 2

For those of you just joining in, I’m geeking out yet again about The Silmarillion. We’re reading it in the weekly book club I go to, and since I’ve already read it multiple times, the group agreed I’d read it in French while everybody else reads it in English.

But since I need to doublecheck the English while I’m reading the French, this is a bilingual reread! Here I’ll talk about the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta, as promised in my last post. Both of these strike me as good straightforward translations, as with the front matter of the book.

There aren’t any changes to the names of the Valar, or to the structure of the overall story of Arda’s creation. Nothing in these two sections stood out for me going through the French edition. I’ll have more linguistic comments to come for the Quenta Silmarillion, though!

Ainulindalë

As is the case every single time I read The Silmarillion, I’m amused about how much shit goes down in the world just because Melkor got initially pissy about not having a solo.

In our reading group, though, we got a bit more into Melkor’s characterization. Mind you, this whole story operates at such a big-picture level that none of the Valar really get much characterization. Just a lot of “this Vala really likes water” and “that Valië really likes trees”.

With Melkor, though, you glimpse a bit more than that. Particularly here:

Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: ‘Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.’

Then the Ainur were afraid, and they did not yet comprehend the words that were said to them; and Melkor was filled with shame, of which came secret anger.

There’s a heaping helping of “sit the fuck DOWN, son” from Ilúvatar here. And a re-interpretation of this story could easily work this smackdown into a more sympathetic portrayal of Melkor.

Valaquenta

We noted repetition between the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta, regarding identifying the Valar and their various domains. This, we felt, was certainly appropriate for the kind of Bible-like, mythic flavor Tolkien was going for. But on the other hand, as modern readers, the others found it repetitive to read. Stylistically appropriate, perhaps, but still repetitive.

This time through, I noticed how the Valar are very gender-essentialist. I proposed the amusing thought exercise of which ones would be good to gender-flip or make completely non-binary in a fan remix of this tale.

Opinions we discussed:

  • Definitely flip Melkor to female.
  • Do the Valar really need gender at all?
  • Non-binary Valar genders would be things like “my gender is I Really Like Water”.
  • Although Ulmo would be pretty nifty non-binary, it’d also be amusing to see Ulmo be female, with lithe mermen attendants.

I’d be tempted to gender-flip Manwë and Varda, while keeping them a couple. And since Tolkien’s legendarium involves so much depth of language detail, I imagine their names shifting too. Manwa and Vardë, maybe.

It’d also be interesting to gender-flip Yavanna, just because she is a traditionally feminine archetype. Dara brought up that Redlance in Elfquest is an example of a character you could get by such a gender-flip.

One more thing I can say: I’m torn about Nienna. I like that she gets to be solitary. Yet particularly in this era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, I cannot help but notice that she is essentially the goddess of emotional labor. To wit: feh.

On the other hand, I also like what this says about Gandalf–who did after all begin his existence as Olórin, a Maia of Nienna. It makes him a Maia of emotional labor, and that’s actually kind of in keeping with what we always see Gandalf doing in The Lord of the Rings! It even gets called out right in the Valaquenta:

But of Olórin that tale does not speak; for though he loved the Elves, he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts. In later days he was the friend of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and took pity on their sorrows; and those who listened to him awoke from despair and put away the imaginations of darkness.

Both sections

Since I can’t read this book as a new reader, I asked for the group’s thoughts on whether these sections worked for them. This is because when I hear people talking about how hard a read The Silmarillion is, these are the bits they’re generally meaning.

The overall census was that the huge infodump of “here’s the creation of the world, and here’s all the Valar and what they do” is problematic. Plus, there’s a lot of tell vs. show: i.e., “Yavanna sure did like trees and animals, so she made those”, vs. actually showing Yavanna making those trees and animals.

Group member Alexis (hi Alexis!) noted that the infodump would have worked much better for her as an appendix to the main story. And that, if a story hooks her on characters and action, she’ll happily go read acres of infodump about them later. But not at the start of the story.

Next post: however many chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion will give me enough notes for a good post!

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread

Bilingual Silmarillion Reread, Part 1

Back in the summer of 2017, just before I went to Quebec for Camp Violon Trad, I put up a couple of posts about rereading The Silmarillion: this initial post, and then this one.

Y’all may notice I never finished those posts. You may further notice that I’d said at the time that I wasn’t going to do a full series of reread posts about the book, but that I would reserve the right to change my mind.

That change of mind has now come! And it’s brought about by how the little book club Dara and I are in with a few friends of ours has decided to actually read The Silmarillion.

And, since I’m the only real Tolkien nerd in the group, and have of course read the thing multiple times already, we agreed I’d read it in French while everybody else read it in English.

So here’s an initial post about that. I’m not going to get into as much detail as I have on the posts I’ve done for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings*, but I will talk some about interesting quirks of the French edition as I find them. And I’ll talk about things I notice this time through in general, as well. But mostly I’ll be keeping it pretty high-level. Since I’m doing this for book club as opposed to just doing it on my own time, I need to move through this pretty quickly! But I’m taking notes as I go, and those notes will form the bones of the posts I’ll put here.

About my editions

Le Silmarillion, the Pocket edition published in 2002, is the French edition I’m using for this. And it is, in fact, a copy I bought on that 2017 trip to Quebec! Fun story about that: I bought it at an Archambault in downtown Montreal. Told the guy at the counter that I liked to practice my French, so I was working on rereading a lot of Tolkien. He gave the book a look and said, “That’s a hard book to practice on!” I told him I knew it was hard in English, never mind French.

For comparison, this is the ebook edition I have, and this edition is my original paperback copy. Which would have been the one I snarfed once I read through the Lord of the Rings, and then got all big-eyed and WAIT THERE’S MORE?

For purposes of this reread, though, I’ll be dealing with the ebook version in English. My paperback is one of the few I have that I have specific sentimental attachment to! So I don’t get it out often.

The front matter

A few other notes about the French edition, meanwhile. It’s notable to me that unlike my English copies, the French edition has only Christopher Tolkien’s original Foreword. It doesn’t have the Preface that appears in the English editions, or the full quote of the letter J.R.R. Tolkien sent to his publisher to describe his intentions for the work.

I’m a little sad that the French edition doesn’t have that letter, in no small part because it does have one of my favorite Tolkien quotes.

I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.

I swear, it’s like he was hoping for fanfic. 😉 (And at any rate, that quote right there is part of why I’m a lot more patient with Jackson’s Hobbit movies, as I’ve said before.)

Plus, it’s just nice to see Tolkien’s own thoughts included in the English edition. So, yeah, a bit sad those thoughts aren’t in the French. I must presume that the French translation was done off the first English edition and that they didn’t bother to swing back and translate the additional front matter, for whatever reason.

There’s not much more than that I can say about the front matter here. It’s maybe valuable to read through once for Christopher Tolkien’s commentary. But when I’m trying to work my way through the French, it’s less interesting.

So let’s proceed on into the Ainulindalë, shall we? I’ll talk about that and the Valaquenta in the next post.

—–
*And in case any of you are going, “hey Anna, what about your Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter rereads? We notice you haven’t finished those, either!”, stand by on that. I haven’t forgotten them. And one silver lining in the whole cloud of being between jobs is that at the moment, I’ve got more time to blog! I will be re-awakening those rereads, too.

Other People's Books

Gorgeous French romance covers ebook roundup

La Gouvernante insoumise

La Gouvernante insoumise

Time for another ebook roundup post! Courtney Milan is one of the authors in the narrow band of “historical romance authors I enjoy reading”. And Goodreads has helpfully informed me that she has a giveaway going on their site for the French edition of her book The Duchess War, which is called Le Secret de la duchess! I already have the English edition of this in ebook form, but as soon as I laid eyes on the cover, I jumped on this giveaway, because:

  • Always up for an opportunity to amuse myself with practicing my French
  • Courtney Milan is an awesome writer, and
  • Gadzooks, the covers on the French editions of this series’ books are eye-poppingly gorgeous.

The English edition ones are pretty as well, don’t get me wrong. As romance novel covers go, I like the ones that have vividly colored gowns on the heroines. But oh goodness the French editions. Lovely.

You should, I think, be able to see them here on Kobo’s site!

Also worthy of note: the novella that opens this series, which is The Governess Affair in English and La Gouvernante insoumise in French, is available for free. If you’re a romance reader who likes to read in languages other than English, note as well that she has other translations available for this same book. I saw German, Spanish, and Dutch editions of this available on her Smashwords page. (Note, however, that only the German and Spanish editions as of this writing are free.)

Anyhow: I scarfed the French edition of the novella for important Gorgeous Cover and Language Nerdery reasons. Which also reminded me that I needed to do an ebook update in general, as my inbox is teetering! So here you go.

Acquired from Kobo

  • La Gouvernante insoumise, by Courtney Milan. French translation of her novella The Governess Affair, which is book 0 of her The Brothers Sinister series. (Or, in French, Les frères ténébreux.)
  • Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey. SF (of the alternate history variety). Book 2 of her River of Teeth books. Liked book 1 quite a bit, so had to get this one too!
  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. SF. Book 1 of her Murderbot Diaries series, which I am getting on the general grounds of being highly amused at her protagonist being an android calling itself Murderbot. ;D
  • Bloodline, by Claudia Gray. I’ve already read this; it’s the Star Wars novel Gray wrote to give some lead-in to the story in The Force Awakens. Snapped this up when it went on sale for a good price, because I quite enjoyed this story, and all the mileage of Leia being badass.
  • Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen. Book 1 of her Shadow series. This was another one I nabbed because it went on sale for a low price in digital format. Had my eye on this one due to a genderfluid protagonist!
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire. Book 2 of the Wayward Children series, another of the Tor.com sales I jumped on a couple weeks ago. Read this pretty much as soon as I got it, because I was looking forward to reading the story about Jack and Jill and their door!

Acquired from Barnes and Noble

Grabbed these two books after meeting their authors in passing at Orycon this year, and being deeply amused that they were billing themselves as the gayest table in the dealers’ room. I had to reward that kind of promotional spirit!

Also, I had to spend some of the credit I still have at B&N.

Those books, both of which are put out by NineStar Press, are:

  • Ardulum: First Don, by J.S. Fields. SF. Lesbian protagonist! She’s a smuggler confronted with a slave girl who resembles one of the deities from her homeworld.
  • Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, by L.M. Pierce. SF. Intersex protagonist! And I gotta say I love the title.

8 total for this post, and 58 for the year.

Bilingual Lord of the Rings Reread

Bilingual LotR Reread: The Fellowship of the Ring: Chapter 2 (French commentary)

Been a while since I did a Bilingual Lord of the Rings Reread post! but since I was reminded I needed to continue doing a proper reread thanks to this post over on Tor.com about certain actions of Gandalf, here, let’s get back into this a bit with the French commentary for Chapter 2!

(Notably, the poster on Tor.com was writing about things Gandalf did that really rather made him out to be a jerk, and there’s interesting commentary in the comments about how the movies have influenced Tolkien fandom a lot in that regard. Certainly one of my things about Gandalf turns out to be exactly that, more movie-influenced than book-influenced. More on this to come!)

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Bilingual Lord of the Rings Reread

Bilingual LotR Reread: The Fellowship of the Ring: Chapter 1 (French commentary)

Finally, another post in the Bilingual Lord of the Rings Reread series! This post provides my commentary on the French edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, and specifically on Chapter 1.

As I get into the bilingual commentary on these chapters, I’m going to be following a similar format to what I’m doing in the Harry Potter Reread posts. So I’ll be borrowing many of the same headers I’m using on that series!

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Trilingual Harry Potter Reread

Trilingual Harry Potter Reread: Book 1, Chapter 10: “Hallowe’en”

Back at last to the Trilingual Harry Potter Reread! When last we left Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry and Draco had spent a lot of time going “grr” at one another, setting up a long and honorable tradition of them doing that all throughout the series. Now finally I’m heading into Chapter 10, wherein we’ll finally settle the triad of three primary characters into place–courtesy of a troll!

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Bilingual Lord of the Rings Reread

Bilingual LotR Reread: The Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue: Concerning Hobbits (French commentary)

Welcome back to my reread of The Lord of the Rings! As I’ve posted in my previous post, this reread is now bilingual, since I’ve been regretting not doing that properly for a while. And since I do have French editions of this trilogy, though not German editions yet, so it’s bilingual instead of trilingual.

To refresh your all’s memories, my commentary post on the Prologue of Fellowship is here. To this, I will now add some commentary about what it says in the French edition! I’m going to do this similarly to how I’ve been doing the Harry Potter reread posts, limiting the lingual commentary a bit so that I can keep the length of the posts down to something manageable.

So here we go! This is mostly going to be a bunch of commentary about various worldbuilding terms, given that they’ll be important once we get into the story proper. Once I’m past the prologue I’ll kick into the format I want to use for these posts.

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