Episode 51
June 5, 2023

Looking Kinda Gross

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned discuss Jared’s choice of topic: Sir Orfeo. The Orpheus myth is one of the most mysterious ones in the open-ended collection of tales that make up what is termed ‘Greek mythology,’ something that Tolkien would have learned about by default as part of his standard late Victorian/Edwardian education. But his particular exploration of that myth wasn’t via one of those texts, but a translation of a Middle English poem by an anonymous author, itself based on a Breton source, that fused elements of the most famous Orpheus story – trying to win back the love of his life from the land of the dead – with elements of Celtic faery and myth as well as recent English history. Yet Tolkien’s work is one of his most mysterious efforts in turn, first presented by Christopher Tolkien along with the translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl, but, as the younger Tolkien explained, unaccompanied by any notes, introductory paragraphs or even an exact date of creation to determine what inspired him to make the translation or for what purpose it might have been intended. Can more be said about how old and familiar myths get reset and recontextualized across human history, reflecting the situations and biases of their times? Is there anything about the poem or the translation that stands out as uniquely or distinctly Tolkienian based on his other work? What about the land of the dead makes it such an unusual place all around, especially considering the fates of those who are there? And drawing on our separate news discussion about the continuing WGA strike and its impact on The Rings of Power season 2, how complicated is it to shoot a TV show anyway? (It’s very complicated.)

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Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. Harps do have power in the right hands.

Support the WGA strike! It’ll help Oriana among many others. Lots of good pieces out there, including interviews with Michael Schur, David Simon and Hollywood Teamster leader Lindsay Dougherty, plus this barnburner of a piece from one of the striking writers, Ron Currie.

The Rings of Power cast talk about things. Kinda vaguely, but anyway.

So the WGA strike didn’t deter Amazon from getting the second season of The Rings of Power done, apparently.

Check out the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Here’s the page for The War of the Rohirrim.

Sir Orfeo! Want to try and read along in the original? Here’s one of the texts with some guidance as needed.

The Orpheus myth is indeed pretty darned complex!

David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years? Well worth your time.

The history of Winchester is a little involved…

There’s a fair amount out there about ‘the Greek tradition’ and Victorians – have a read here for some more of that.

As for the fairies/faery in Celtic tradition and the dead, there’s a lot there too. Here’s a starting point.

Hadestown! It was and is a hit indeed. (And if you’d like to hear the original version.)

Support By-The-Bywater and our network, Megaphonic. If you do, you can hang out with us in a members-only Discord and hear an exclusive interview with Jared.