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Help: Adapting a classic legend?

GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Mar 13 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Mar 13 - 05:41 PM
GUEST,Grishka 26 Mar 13 - 07:02 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Mar 13 - 08:05 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 26 Mar 13 - 08:06 PM
Jack Campin 27 Mar 13 - 08:38 AM
GUEST,Grishka 27 Mar 13 - 11:33 AM
zozimus 27 Mar 13 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 27 Mar 13 - 05:10 PM
Bert 27 Mar 13 - 05:31 PM
GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1 28 Mar 13 - 12:02 AM
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Subject: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 05:26 PM

How do the writers on Mudcat adapt legends, myths or folktales when they retell them?

I've put most of my other projects on the back burner, and my current project is an urban fantasy, a futuristic retelling of my favourite Norse saga, the thirteenth-century Icelandic Volsunga Saga, the legend of Sigurd the dragon slayer and the Volsungs, Brynhild, Gudrun and a cursed hoard of treasure, and one of the many sagas that inspired Tolkien in his Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings (Aragorn's upbringing in Rivendell under the protection of Elrond, the reforging of Narsil, his ancestor Isildur's broken sword) and which also inspired Wagner in his Ring Of The Nibelung opera cycle.


I've covered two major scenes (the story of the dragon's hoard, the encouragement of Sigurd to kill the dragon.) Now I'm up to the famous reforging scene, but I have no idea how to adapt that to a futuristic setting, even though the setting is one where the Norse gods run a mega corporation, and dragons, elves, dwarves, "hobbits", trolls, goblins/orcs and the rest have come back to Earth, as the concept is that these mythological and fantasy creatures originally came here from another world. I have some idea of how I want to rework it, but I'm only slightly comfortable with my idea of "dragons can only be killed by magical dwarven-made swords". Could someone give me some suggestions? Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 05:41 PM

This site needs an edit button for posts... anyway, could this thread please be moved to BS?


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 07:02 PM

Hi Morwen, still cooking projects...

When retelling a story, you must start with a "bottom line" - related to the original one, but not identical, and pointed at present-day audiences or readers. Sagas have many such bottom lines, so you can choose one. Then fit the rest of the story to your message - change it if it does not fit.

If you win the Nobel Prize in Literatur by this method, you will not be the first one.

A shorter folk tale might be easier for a start. The standard fairy stories have been "retold" in thousands of versions; reading and analyzing some of these may help you a lot.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 08:05 PM

@Grishka: Thanks! Yeah, a lot of people have told me that and say that, (but I need to keep it in mind) that the aim in doing a retelling is to find the core, or the bottom line as you call it, of the original and work that in.

•(Rambling thoughts)*

For example, I see this one as having three cores, and none of the is about killing a dragon. One is about the negative effects of greed; Andvari's hoard affects everyone that comes into contact with it, and leads (indirectly) to their deaths. There's a reason why everyone either dies or is psychologically broken at the end. The other is about the meaning of honouring your obligations and dishonouring yourself (related to the first one, and it's more of "how greed can lead to corrupted morality/dishonour") Brynhild has been forced to break her oath to marry the man who rode through the fire, dishonouring herself. Sigurd is also dishonouring his obligation and himself by tricking her into marrying Gunnar, but also honouring his and Gunnar's oath., so honouring your obligation may also lead to dishonour. Avenging your relatives as in "sins of the fathers" is also related to this. The "core" is essentially something that makes the story

The other one is the idea that the fate of a large number of people is inexorable and hard to change- that some actions are regulated by fate, and because you can't fight fate, you shouldn't try to change it.

As to shorter tales; IMO, say, the Grimms' early version of Rapunzel has the core of "overprotection of children, especially girls, is bad, because they'll eventually have to deal with the world on their own, and be unequipped to deal with it. Children need to mature away from their parents." Cinderella is essentially about stepparents and stepchildren competing for attention/resources with biological relatives. The core is essentially the part of the story that defines it, that makes it universal.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 08:06 PM

EDIT: *them*.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 08:38 AM

One tack might be to make the dragons into New York commodity brokers, the dragon slayers into the 9/11 hijackers and the magic sword into a couple of airliners.

I suspect that somewhere in the back of the minds of people who do spectacular terrorist attacks is some piece of myth like this, whatever religio-political belief system may be overlaid on top of it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 11:33 AM

Many old myths, religious or not, tell us more about our motives than theorists can, such as psychologists, theologians, or ethicists. Therefore the "core" of a good story, however simple or complex, cannot be pronounced equivalently in a theoretical essay, let alone in a single sentence.

A reteller has the right, and in fact the duty, to modify the message, or at least shed a new light on it. Simple analogies are not worth telling.

Another hint: all old tales about inevitable fate are inevitably not really about inevitable fate, otherwise there would be no point in inventing them.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: zozimus
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 11:52 AM

Listen to Con Fada O' Driscoll's version of "Ben Hur" for a classic example of how to retell a story.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 05:10 PM

@Grishka: [QUOTE] Many old myths, religious or not, tell us more about our motives than theorists can, such as psychologists, theologians, or ethicists. Therefore the "core" of a good story, however simple or complex, cannot be pronounced equivalently in a theoretical essay, let alone in a single sentence.

A reteller has the right, and in fact the duty, to modify the message, or at least shed a new light on it. Simple analogies are not worth telling.

Another hint: all old tales about inevitable fate are inevitably not really about inevitable fate, otherwise there would be no point in inventing them. [/QUOTE]

You're right.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: Bert
Date: 27 Mar 13 - 05:31 PM

Tell us more about the reforging scene.


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Subject: RE: Help: Adapting a classic legend?
From: GUEST,MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 12:02 AM

@Bert: In the original source, the hero, Sigurd the Volsung, tests and breaks two other swords. Finally he brings the fragments of his father's sword to the dwarven blacksmith Regin who's also his foster father (and made the first two swords) and then when that one, the broken sword, is reforged, he tests by dropping a piece of wool into a river and the sword cuts the wool.

I don't really want a suggestion on how to adapt it so much as how to go about adapting it following Grishka's advice, which is good btw.


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