"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself."-Brad Cameron

Friday, March 22, 2013

Making the Myths Innocent

Perhaps my biggest struggle in trying to write YA fiction that borrows from Norse Mythology, is attempting to tame stories that can sometimes be full of rather bawdy material. The real labor is in trying to turn them into something considered innocent. Sometimes the task becomes a process of pure translation as I take a story like “The Necklace of the Brisings” - a tale that has the goddess Freyja spending four nights in a row with four different dwarfs - and then retell it, introducing my main characters into the roles normally reserved for mythical creatures. The subject of extreme violence can also be problematic. For instance, the myth of “Thor and Geirrod” - a story that portrays a violent, rather grotesque death - describes Thor hurling a flaming ball of iron at a giant, puncturing a large hole in his midriff. In my retelling, Zeke Proper takes on the role of Thor and begins to discover his own hidden, inner strengths.

As an example, I would like to delve into the next installment of the Zeke Proper Chronicles: The Gates of Asgard. I will begin by exposing portions of Chapter Twelve: “Geirrod’s Stronghold“. In keeping with the adventures that the Mist plays in the young hero’s quest, the narrative has the Proper brothers, Zeke and Devon trapped in the Mist in a palace made of roughly hewn timber and logs. The stronghold belongs to Geirrod, a giant who, in the original telling of the myth, faces off with Thor in a furnace-filled room. The furnaces contain molten iron that Geirrod picks up with tongs and hurls at Thor. Geirrod’s hatred toward the god is magnified because Thor killed Hrungnir - strongest of all the giants. However, Thor takes the battle in the end because he catches the tossed ball of fire in his iron gloves. After a moment of hesitation, Thor hurls the ball back at Geirrod, thus destroying him.

The Zeke Proper Chronicles’ version goes something like this:

Zeke and Devon followed the servant…Soon they arrived in their original place of captivity, a place where the ceiling domed high, where the walls were covered with pine logs, and where the smoke of furnace fires drifted heavy in the air, making the room too warm for comfort. Staring at them from the far end of the hall was a giant of a man. His hair was long and hung past his shoulders in blond and red waves. A bristly beard of the same color covered his face. He was tall, but more than that, he was strong. Neck muscles flexed when he moved, blending with ripples of strength in his arms and chest.

Geirrod stretched forth his hand, but it was not to greet Zeke or Devon; it was to pick up a pair of tongs. With them, he reached toward one of the red-hot furnaces and retrieved a glowing piece of coal.

“Welcome to my palace!” he shouted, and aimed the fiery lump straight at Zeke.     Zeke continued to stare, feeling as if time had suddenly stopped as he watched the sizzling missile advance toward his face.  At the last moment, just before the red-hot coal struck him, he bent, his thigh muscle crying out in pain. The burning lump of coal jetted past him, struck the log wall behind, and sputtered to a dead, black ember.

“Ah! You’re quick, boy. I’m quicker, though. In the end I’ll see ya burn!”

Devon ran up from behind Zeke, grabbing him by the shoulder. “The staff, you idiot! Use the staff!”

Zeke rose quickly and used the strength of his arms to push himself into a standing position. He gripped the staff with both hands holding it like a baseball bat. Geirrod sent another molten missile at Zeke’s face, but this time Zeke stood his ground with his feet square and his eyes watching as the ball of fire approached.    

Zeke swung Sinmora’s staff with every ounce of strength he possessed. He connected with the glowing coal like a major-leaguer, its trajectory bending toward Geirrod. Everyone who stood as witness in the great hall, giants and dwarfs alike, scrambled under the tables as Geirrod himself tried to step behind one of the hall supports. However, the fiery ball punched through the support, passing through the giant’s midriff, and continuing through the wooden wall finally lodging itself in an earth slope outside the building.

Geirrod stood up straight - a strange, defeated look on his face - and looked down at the hole in his chest. He gasped and then hissed, as if all of the hate and venom built up inside him suddenly escaped. He gave one violent jerk, gurgled and was dead.

The third installment of The Zeke Proper Chronicles - The Gates of Asgard will be out this summer. Order your copies of Book One and Two and get caught up in the myth.


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