Roman Jakobson and Claude Lévi-Strauss

“Linguistics and Poetics” (1960)

I am not a linguist, but linguistic theory has understandably had a huge impact on the critical study of literature.

Roman Jakobson, like Shklovsky, was interested in exploring the formal function of language on poetics. The question that he hoped to answer was what makes a verbal or written message a work of art. As a linguist, Jakobson built on the work of Saussure (this seems to be a recurring pattern here), expanding on and questioning some of Saussure’s basic notions about the arbitrariness of language and the linearity of the sign. Many of the poetic features that Jakobson notes apply more generally to semiotics, and thus have an application to the study of film and painting as well as language proper.

“The poetic function is not the sole function of verbal art, but only its dominant, determining function” (1264).

from “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances” (1956)

In this short excerpt, under the heading “The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles,” Jakobson lays out the two poles of how meaning is created: relations of similarity, or metaphor, and relations of contiguity, or metonymy. These are how we create value.

Jakobson noted the predominance of one or the other in various types of literature. In the Romantic and Symbolist poets, he noted the primacy of the metaphoric register. In Realist work, metonymy. Jackobson also noted that this oscillation of relations also occurs in other sign systems as well. In film for instance, the close-ups favoured by Griffith were of the metonymic register, while the montage in Chaplin and Eisenstein was more metaphoric. He coins these “filmic similes.”

This structural analysis based on linguistics can be a useful tool and give a critic or theorist a way to get a strong handle on a work.

Jakobson’s friend Claude Lévi-Strauss attempted to apply this same kind of Saussurean structuralism to cultural studies. In his famous book, Structural Anthropology, Lévi-Strauss looks at cultural phenomena as forms of communication, including myths.

I read Chapter XI of the book, “The Structural Study of Myth,” in which Lévi-Strauss investigates the role and function of myths. He compares the seeming arbitrariness of myth against the similarities of myths across cultures and regions. Thus, the link between linguistics and mythology is in how meaning is made in relations between myths.

For Lévi-Strauss, “myth is language” (209). He applies even more linguistic analysis to his exploration of myths, using the term mythemes to describe the discrete units of myths that he is comparing. Thus, myth is made up of the relations between this units. And, like Jakobson notes, these relations are both diachronic and synchronic.

Lévi-Strauss believed that while poetry could not be accurately translated, myth was that which survives the worst translation. The substance of myth is the relations between mythemes.

Lévi-Strauss is one of the first theorists here that I’m not quite convinced by. His theories are the least compelling to me, as his structuralist approach seems at times somewhat arbitrary and yet also too specific.


(and believe that they can REALLY become a thing)
based on evidence in narrative construction

1- Luke isn’t Derek. He isn’t married. He isn’t engaged with another woman. He isn’t a womanizer, no clue has ever led us to believe this.

2.- There is a thing called image-character. According to this theory, George Clooney could never play a truly evil character. For the same reason, CBS’s choice to take Adam Rodriguez is significant. Actor already famous to the public lover of the crime series. (Also his Eric is in love with a blonde, but let’s forget XD)

3.- Having time to make a list of minutes in which Luke is alone with Penelope and they don’t talk about work, compared to when he’s with others and doesn’t talk about work, I think it would be clear how in the 12 season the authors organized the construction in order to integrate Alvez, creating a link with everyone, but particularly with Penelope.

4- Important is the friendship and complicity that is being created with JJ, not surprisingly, as noted already last year by @ramblings-daily​, the editing often focuses on her expressions and reactions to skirmishes between Luke and Penelope.

5-  Even in episode 3, dedicated to the return of Emily, with many moments Emily-Luke, there’s a minimum reference, when Penelope doesn’t want him to come to the bar with them. This’s even more significant, because if they wanted to make us believe in a future Emily-Luke, there would be no need to insert a similar microscene. (And then THE WAY he looks at her)

6-  We don’t know if there was a call between them first, but the first time we see a “call to the Morcia” is in episode 16. The authors did anything to avoid a Derek / Luke confrontation.

7-  The most significant things, in a narrative construction, as already understood by the Russian Formalists (especially Jakobson), are those that play no role in the fabula but are fundamental to the plot. In our case, the most significant are (in my opinion):
-the moment of the remote control (why did he have to take it and play with it? Because it was the only way to get her attention and touch her fingers). Luke stares at her immediately. You see in the first picture, when she starts distributing the folders.

- all episode 14.  Their scenes take up half of the episode. Except one, when JJ and Rossi call Penelope in the office.
*When Penelope gets on the jet everyone is looking at the computer screen, except one. 

They focalize to Luke’s laughs, when she makes her joke.

*Why does Luke help her get off the sidewalk? Was it really that high? And I repeat it. The way he stares at her, afterwards.

*We have the first “Morcia scene in the office”, with him standing behind her chair, his hand on her backrest, the classic shots typical of Morcia’s moments. There wasn’t a kiss to her forhead, but we can’t claim too much.

*He tells her “hotshot”. She replies “I am a precious cargo”. Luke wants her on the field, Derek never. Derek tries to dissuade her from putting herself in danger (see the episode about the disappearance of her friend Monica). This doesn’t mean that Luke cares less, it’s a different approach. He was never given the opportunity to protect her.

*Garcia is never on the field. The only time she goes to the field is always with Luke. They even go to the house of a potential victim. Just them two. Why?
The moment in the car. We never had a moment of Morcia in the car. Here the editing proceeds a little too much for the ellipsis. I have watched those scenes hundreds of times, but you can’t see where Luke’s hands go, when Penelope says that “the unsub is too smart and he "he’s not as you”, and when she shout “I don’t wanna die” and he “Nobody is gonna die today”. On her hand? On her knee? Somewhere it goes, that’s for sure, we can see a movement. Even before, when he’s turn so suddenly, he keeps her aside to try help her.

*In court. Don’t let me talk about the scene in court. They arrive, and he puts himself right behind her (not random). He sits near her. When the verdict is issued, Luke immediately turns to her (as if he knew it was going to hurt her). He is the only one who remains seated, when he gets up, he tries to console her. He moves carefully, slowly, almost not daring to look at her. He knows she’s giving him this honor only because she’s in shock. Try to imagine this scene with Morgan, the spontaneity and freedom of movements that Derek would have had. Just imagine any Garvez scene with Derek instead of Luke, I did it, it’s fun (I even wrote a story about this).

- episode 17
Penelope has just returned from visiting Reid (that they didn’t show us). Obviously, she’s destroyed. Someone has to console her, but Derek isn’t here. Why not send JJ? Emily? Rossi? Why Luke? When something isn’t justified by a precise function, it’s significant.
Let’s look at how this scene is built. Luke walking down the corridor. He hears a cry. He stops. He looks through the half-open door. So we see Penelope crying. It would be easier for him to pull straight or notify JJ, someone who knows Garcia better and which can help her. But he doesn’t want to. Why? He’ll tell us at the end of the episode. Because he wants to be THAT from which she wants to go when she wants to cry! THIS IS THE LARGEST DECLARATION OF LOVE. As already noted, not ONE, but THE person from whom.  Let’s go back to the scene. He enters and closes the door, she tries to pretend not to have cried. He hesitates before asking her if she’s fine. Anything that he does, likely to be misinterpreted. She begs him, in a whisper, to leave. He’s almost tempted to do it, but then he stops, shakes his head and comes back, after closing the door. For the first time, she allows him to help her, listens to him and doesn’t make fun of him. And then, when he stops talking, there’s a moment they stare at each other. Before the fucking message arrives, “there’s a case”. Don’t try to convince me that something was not going to happen. Luke was thinking this. Maybe a hug. In any case, he had finished saying everything, but he wouldn’t leave.

At the end of the episode. We see Luke coming out of focus in the background. He looks at her for a moment before speaking. So she stares at him like … not like he’s just seeing a work colleague. Extrapolating that frame (number 3), it seems that he is about to kiss her. Look at his face (image 5. It should be illegal to smile like that). OK stop. Look at the way he looks at her. It seems like he wants to ask her a date. The antistress kitten? How sweet it’s? It means “I thought of you while chasing the unsub”. Did Derek give her anything? Help me, I can’t remember it. Then he asks her how she’s (because he really cares). The moment of the declaration. I died the first time I heard it, I’m only dying today to hear again. Both words, the content of what he says; both the tone he uses, shy, but deep, decisive, really, intensely; both his face, as he says it, the fact that he looks at her directly when the sentence ends. And she is silent; what can you say in front of something like that? Then he starts again. And he points out the steps forward between us. She tries to stay cold, but she can’t; she confesses that she’s glad that he’s here (it’s worth a million considering how it had begun) and then she calls him “Luke”. The man’s head explodes. She called him by name! How long she has put us? Six months? And she “Let’s be in the moment”. But he would like more. 

8-  Almost always at a joke of Garcia we see Luke’s reaction. She makes him laugh. Laughing is important in a relationship.

9-  Penelope wasn’t the only one on the team, nor the first to meet Roxy. First there was Emily. But what was the reaction of the future boss, compared to that of Penelope? Are they comparable? It’s the first time that Luke sees Garcia smiling heartily in front of him. Someone said that if your dog doesn’t like a person, the latter should not like either you. And if she likes her? 

10-  The relationship between Roxy and Garcia is important. Since she     believes Roxy’s is a girl. Why would he have to make her believe this?     Because he was jealous of how she had talked about her boyfriend super-nice and super-crazy for her, who was so skilled in fingering techniques. And then he avenged himself. Then he decides to let her know and enjoys her surprised face. Then her smile. Then Roxy fills her with kisses. And when she asks him “You profiled me?” aside from what he answers, have you seen how he looks at her and how she looks at him? Here I think the actors are a bit ‘out of the character, she smiles too pleased, you can see when the doors close. (Who knows what happens when the doors close…)

And then she decides to fill Roxy with gifts, but she’s still the queen of moderation. He likes to give her nicknames. In the first scene, he doesn’t have the courage to tell her that she was wrong to buy crunchy food because Roxy only eats raw food. How emphatically he denies that he didn’t like the gift or he’s a liar? How bad is he when she gives him of liar? What flirting tone does she use before a case arrives?

In the second scene, Luke holds very little in his looks, especially when she describes herself as a moderate person. When she talks about the pink sweater, he looks at her as if he wants to see it wear at her, instead of his dog. And when she says she’s not the guy to chat front a glass? He looks at her as if to say, “Based on what, you suppose this?" 

11- He likes to give nicknames at her. Let’s forget for a moment that Penelope loves to call him newbie and that Luke loves this even more, just look at the grimaces and expressions that he does when she calls him that.

Luke is the first to give at her nicknames. Few, but beautiful.
* chica * Will we ever have the opportunity to resent this? Tell me yes. I love it.
* queen of ice *
* queen of moderation *
And many other phrases that aren’t nicknames but give the idea of what he thinks of her. For example, which is the largest computer technician of the BAU. He teases her a few times about this. 

12-  Everyone goes to visit Reid in prison, except Walker. But nothing makes you think that Luke also goes to see Reid. Luke goes to jail to talk to Shawn. Because Garcia told him that Reid was wounded. And this thing made her cry. When he talks to Shawn, with that dark look and that angry tone, he is thinking of Penelope crying. He doesn’t like to see Penelope sad.

13- The editing focuses on Luke’s reaction when Emily informs that someone shot Garcia ten years ago. Then Luke turns to look where she disappeared from. And it does it again at the end, when others start talking about the case. He would like to be the one who killed Battle. Think about that when he asks JJ where he’s Battle; he’s already thinking that he has his contacts in prison and he imagined the interview with that bastard, to ask him why he did it. How can one hurt a creature like Penelope? She doesn’t go on the field. She shouldn’t run any more serious dangers than cutting herself off with one of her thousand pens. 

14- Luke knows that Sergio is a cat. But not only. He talks about it as if they’ve known each other for a long time. He no longer walks like an elephant in a crystal ware. There is a certain familiarity between them. A less tense atmosphere. In fact, it seems to me that she has not called him newbie in the 13th season. After the death of Walker, he officially became part of the family. Tragedies unite people. 

15-  Episode 1 of the 13 season. Luke is helping JJ. Penelope arrives. He watches her disappears towards the left side of the screen, in the direction of the SUV with Walker. A second and he’s there, his hands on her shoulders, you notice small movements, he is caressing her and what he would do if he could, only he knows it. So Matt calls him. One time. He hesitates. A second one. He hesitates again and then forces himself to leave her. But he wouldn’t have wanted to. 

16-  In whatever situation they are, Luke looks at her in a special way. In the 13 season, when they talk to Spence, Luke says Penelope is right. He always seems to be thinking of other things, rather what they are talking about. 

17- She calls him "Cool Hand Luke” and he doesn’t hide the fact that he likes it, either by saying it aloud or by expression, for the benefit of JJ, of course. But what he thinks is “How can you say that my hands are cold? Would you like to verify it in person?”.And then, with that damned lamp. It’s one of the jokes she did with Morgan. This is also why Penelope remains in shock when she notices what she has said. And Luke would gladly rub his lamp ….

18-   Shades. Luke’s expression in episode 21 of 12, when he sees Penelope waiting outside the prison. I repeat, for the umpteenth time. How does he look at her? Like a colleague, a person who would like to befriend? NO. ….

19-  Shades 2. When Luke and Walker are talking about music. Penelope arrives. Luke turns as if he feels her energy, turns before he even knows she’s coming. He smiles. But the smile disappears when he sees her face. How bad is for he to see her sad? This is one of the most important evidences, in my opinion. Because less obvious.

20-  Episode with Phil. I have already abundantly told my nonsense about this. But I can repeat it indefinitely. He could choose whoever, he chose her. Luke thinks of all the possibilities that are open to his every choice. Like being able to take the opportunity to hug her a little (even though I’m still waiting for a real hug).

21-  They share the love for animals. Penelope deserves such a person. It’s not a secondary thing, I’m biased, I’m an animalist, but loving animals is a life choice, influencing any other aspect of life. 

22- Luke enjoys making fun of her and provoking her as much as Penelope. 

23- Luke looks at her in every possible moment in which he could well not do it. When Penelope and Emily hug each other. When they find out that Hotch left the BAU.

When she passes a document to him.

24- Penelope remains disappointed when they make the joke of Tara’s brother. But most of all she looks badly at Luke, not because he’s the new guy, but because after Roxy’s presents it seemed like things were moving towards a nice friendship. He disappointed her. He chose the team instead of her. 

25-  Luke is jealous of Penelope. When she is pretty with Walker and shows up first. He tells her something even after they shake hands. 

When she makes a flirting tone saying, “deeper tone voice” to Walker; they show us Luke’s reaction (why? He isn’t her boyfriend)

26- Last, but only by pure chance. Why in one of the last episodes of 12 Penelope is on Luke’s desk?

27- Almost I was forgetting it!

The pun, or […] paronomasia, reigns over poetic art, and whether its rule is absolute or limited, poetry by definition is untranslatable. Only creative transposition is possible: either intralingual transposition–from one poetic shape into another, or interlingual transposition–from one language into another, or finally intersemiotic transposition–from one system of signs into another, e.g., from verbal art into music, dance cinema, or painting.
—  Roman Jakobson, “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation”

anonymous asked:

who are some of your most well known historical figures?

Lydia Koidula, our most beloved poetess and founder of Estonian theatre;

Kristjan Jaak Peterson, herald of Estonian national literature 

Johann Voldemar Jannsen, man who coined word “eestlane” (Estonian) and organised first song festival, man who wrote words of our anthem, crucial figure in National Awakening;

Carl Robert Jakobson, man who wrote “3 Patriotic Speeches”, first person to demand Estonians have same rights as Baltic Germans;

Friedrich Robert Faehlmann, the man who came up with “Kalevipoeg” and wrote a lot of our myths;

Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, writer of our national epic, “Kalevipoeg”;

Johann Laidoner, Commander-in-Chief of Estonian army during Independence War;

Konstantin Päts, man who played important role in gaining Independence, our first president; (controversial figure)

and then there’s people who are historical figures but are still alive, because we’re so cool and have people like that too :)


Happy Birthday to Alla Osipenko, who celebrated her jubilee yesterday (June 16).

Alla Osipenko studied at the Leningrad Choreographic School (now Vaganova Academy) in the class of Agrippina Vaganova.

Upon graduation she joined the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky Ballet) in 1950, and was promoted to prima ballerina in 1954. Her repertoire included: Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Waltz and Mazurka in Chopiniana, Masha in The Nutcracker, Frigia in Spartak, the Mistress of the Copper Mountain in The Stone Flower (1957), and Mekhmene-Banu in Legend of Love (1961). In 1961, while Ms. Osipenko was on tour with the Kirov Ballet in Paris, one of her main dance partners, Rudolf Nureyev defected to the west on her 29th birthday. Ms. Osipenko, who was not a Communist Party member, was under considerable suspicion by the KGB upon her return to the USSR who believed she might have known about the defection ahead of time (she didn’t). She had a rocky relationship with the Kirov for much of the 1960s and Osipenko left the Kirov in 1971.

From 1971 to 1973 she was a soloist of the troupe “Choreographic Miniatures” under direction of Leonid Jakobson. She also danced leading parts of classic and modern repertoire in stagings of well-known soviet ballet-masters. Osipenko then danced the work Leningrad choreographer, Boris Eifman, becoming the first star dancer to champion his work. Ms. Osipenko was married to fellow Kirov soloist John Markovsky who had also left the Kirov to work with Jakobson.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ms. Osipenko moved to the US in the 1990s and worked with the Hartford Ballet Company in Connecticut. She eventually returned to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2000. She also has a longtime artistic relationship with the famed Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov and has appeared in a number of his films including the award-winning international success, Russian Ark. Ms. Osipenko is currently working as a ballet coach with the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg.

Certainly, then, words like mama and dada wouldn’t necessarily stay the same, or even close to the same, in languages around the world and over tens of thousands of years. So what happened?

The answer lies with babies and how they start to talk. The pioneering linguist Roman Jakobson figured it out. If you’re a baby making a random sound, the easiest vowel is ah because you can make it without doing anything with your tongue or lips. Then, if you are going to vary things at all, the first impulse is to break up the stream of ahhh by closing your lips for a spell, especially since you’ve been doing that to nurse. Hence, mmmm, such that you get a string of mahs as you keep the sound going while breaking it up at intervals. […] Nichols has proposed that the reason a language like Yukaghir’s pronouns for I and you look so much like the mama/tata alternation—as well as why French has moi and toi and English once had me and thou—is because even as these languages have changed over time, the sounds of the words for I and you have been influenced by the way mama and tata differ. The m sound is used for what is closest—mama for Mommy and “me” for the self. The t sound—often learned just after m—is for what’s just one step removed from the closest: Daddy hovering just over there, which we can understand would feel like “you” rather than “(Mommy and) me.

Mokosh - Slavic goddess pantheon. According to some researchers, was the goddess of rain, wet weather and storm (Łowmiański, Borovskij) or hypostasis of Mother Earth (Jakobson, Gieysztor). Caring for the earth, water, rain, women, fertility, sexuality, weaving, spinning and sheep. Perhaps the partner Lord of Thunder (Perun).  : D done with adobe illustrator cc and wacom tablet : )

So @sapph1re-prince requested that I expand upon my statement that the jotnar are strongly affiliated with Finland and the Saami people. Many scholars believe that the ‘conceptual birth’ so to speak of the jotnar and their place in Norse mythology come from encounters between the Old Norse and Saami cultures. There are numerous examples in the lore that are seen as supporting this theory included but not limited to the way trolls and jotnar are described appearance-wise, the locations where they live, and their civilizations and culture(notably magic in this case).

(Before I begin I wanted to remind people that the words ‘jotun’ and ‘troll’ are used interchangeably in the eddas and sagas and therefore things pertaining to trolls also pertain to jotnar. In addition, there’s a strongly accepted belief that the Aesir are to humans like the jotnar are to trolls. I can argue this more thoroughly elsewhere. But this is why many of the quotes I will use will say troll rather than giant or jotun. Now with that stated, let’s begin.)

The simplest place to start is with location (pun not intended). Snorri states that the jotnar live to the North and to the East. Jotunheim and Helheim, both residencies of jotnar and trolls, are associated with the direction of north. The forest of Jarnvidr is located to the East. Geographically, traveling in these directions would lead one to Finland. However, Armann Jakobson also notes that the jotnar aren’t limited to these locations even if they are their main abodes. Jotnar and trolls can be found in any encounter with the wilderness. Wilderness in this case means away from/outside of society. Historically, at least in Norway, the Saami could be found all over even though they were concentrated in the north-east in “Finnmark” as the Saami were nomadic traders. In any case, they weren’t generally a part of “society” itself despite the existence of laws regarding them and their treatment, but rather of the landscape and mostly found in the same directions as the jotnar are.

Appearance wise, trolls and jotnar are often described as having ugly or monstrous features. A common description of troll women in particular is that they have “broad faces” which is a common stereotypical description of Saami women in old and more recent literature of Scandinavia. In addition, their clothes and mannerisms are also said to be foreign:

The trollwomen who haunt a certain subtype of the fornaldarsögur(legendary  sagas)  are  almost  always hostile towards the human men they encounter, usually in remote places far away from human settlements. There are often ownership disputes over fishing-grounds, boats and fishermen’s  huts.  Verbal  violence, often in verse, usually escalates into physical violence. Since trolls are often said to live in the north and to have alien facial features, clothing, and manners, it is no great leap to conclude that many troll-encounter stories have had their roots in real-world meetings and misunderstandings between Norse-speakers and Sámi-speakers.

Noting that the Saami made much of their living by fishing, the frequent interactions between humans trolls around fishing locations would make a lot of sense if they were indeed based on encounters with the Saami people. 

Magic is another tie between jotnar and the Saami. As I mentioned in this post  while they (the Saami) didn’t practice seidr, it was a popular belief that they did and had other ‘exotic’ magics. In Norway, “people who seek prophecies are said to gera Finfarar ‘make a journey to the Saami’, fara at spyria spa ‘go and ask for prophecies’, fara a Finmarkr at spyria spadom ‘go to Finnmark to ask for prophecies’, or trua a Finna ‘to believe in the Saami’.” (McKinnell) In addition to the links to Saami practicing seidr-like magic, Odin obtained the knowledge of the runes from hanging on the branches of Yggdrasil, going into another realm, a realm of supernatural beings, namely trolls and jotnar as they inhabit the world of Niflheim. In addition, some of Finnish magical practices closely mirrored those of the Norse. It’s possible that they learned them from the Norse, but if the myth of seidr being taught by Gullveig is true and Odin going to a supernatural realm to obtain the knowledge of the runes is to be believed, then it makes sense that the Norse absorbed Finnish practices. Notably, Odin learned the magic of the runes from his trip to the land of the dead and one of the well-known magics of the Finnish peoples is called “rune singing” which in function is basically galdr: spells performed by recitation. In addition, there is the concept of a “luonto” which very strongly parallels the Norse belief of the fylgja. Both are aspects of the soul that are also separate from it, both are animal form, and both are tied to the nature of one’s being defining their strengths and weaknesses. Therefore if we assume the myths to have some historical basis for their conception, the source of these magical practices being the Finnish peoples makes a lot of sense.

(Note: I’m admitting here the above waffling on switching to using Finnish peoples/Finns in place of Saami is because of a current lack of specific knowledge in the area of Saami belief and religion. So for safety’s sake I’m using a more general term for this post so that even if I’m not specific, I’m also not misportraying the Saami beliefs with my current lack of knowledge.)

In addition to these similarities between jotnar and the Saami, the Norse peoples had a habit of attributing supernatural abilities to ethnic foreigners. See this excerpt from Lindow:

I cite these verses not only because of their chronological primacy and in support of my conviction of the continuity of Scandinavian folk belief, but also to demonstrate that from the very first, notions of ethnicity and social boundaries have been associated with the supernatural. Both Sveigõir and Vanlandi got into trouble away from home, where, as we might suspect, the “other” forces were at large. Sveigõir had been to Turkey and Scythia before encountering the dwarf in the uncharted tracks of eastern Sweden, and Vanlandi fell fatally in love in “Finland,” which in its strict geographical sense here presumably means the land of the Saamis and is in any case located conceptually north of Uppsala. The farm at Steint presumably had human inhabitants, but being far from Uppsala, it also had supernatural ones, and they controlled the feature of the landscape - itself obviously with a strong supernatural component - for which the farm was known. The “Finland” of this early narrative goes a step further, for there the beings themselves are endowed with dangerous supernatural powers of magic. The nightmare who attacked Vanlandi may have been the sorceress employed by the “Finns,” or it may have been called up by the sorceress, but in either case the “Finns” are the outsiders and the dangerous ones. In fact, the “Finns,” imbued with magical powers, are stock figures of Old Norse-Icelandic literature. 

In the same paper, Lindow also notes how ethnic foreigners with dark skin were called “blámenn”. “Svart” is the word used for dark skinned Norse peopls. The Black Sea is called Svartahaf, not Blatthaf. The use of “bla-” as an adjective is clearly used to denote otherness from the known and familiar. Blámenn are often described as having monstrous traits, like in this description: “blacker than pitch, hard tempered and beaked, long-bearded and the beard black and hideous, the hair black and so long that it reached his toes, the eyes as if fire were to be seen in them, and there flew sparks out of them like bubbling iron. From his mouth and nostrils flames came like sulphur, and he had wings and feathers like bramble and thorns”. They’re also frequently linked to berserkers, which possess supernatural strength and the ability to transform in some tales.

So as you can see it’s well known that the Norse were incredibly xenophobic and they would project their fears of ethnic others by transforming them into monsters. Furthermore, they also projected themselves into the Aesir insofar as the Aesir are tied to humanity’s needs, struggles, and attributes. As Schjødt explains:

This indicates (and further examples could be mentioned) that the Aesir in some way can be seen as the representatives of the humans of the culture which created the mythology that we usually call the Old Norse or pre-Christian Scandinavian. The relation between the Aesir and the other groups of beings within the mythology should thus be seen as a reflection of the relation between the ‘in-group’ and various ‘out-groups’. It has thus been argued that, in some way, the Sami to the north of the Germanic speaking Scandinavians were mythologically reflected in the giants or, as they are often called in the mythological texts, the jotnar.

In addition, the treatment of the jotnar by the Aesir is quite similar to the way indigenous peoples throughout the world were treated by colonialist societies. As Philip J. Deloria notes in Indians in Unexpected Places, “In one set of narratives, Indian women, linked to the land itself, gave themselves metaphorically to colonizing white men, engendering a peaceful narrative of cross-cultural harmony in which whites became indigenous owners of the continent through sexualized love and marriage stories such as that of Pocahontas.” Look at the story of Freyr and Gerdr and you will see a clear echo of this theme. Gro Steinsland argues that there are multiple examples of this hierogamos (divine marriage) between jotnar and gods or men in the hopes of causing the descendants of the gods and men to have authentic and rightful ownership over that giant’s domain. Lotte Motz agrees with this for the most part, though denies that it was a requirement for sacred kingship even if it was one method. She also notes several instances of these marriages in the sagas: “King  Hölgi  of Hålogaland  married  Thora, the daughter of king Gusir of the Bjarms and Finns, who is a giant in some texts. We may point to yet other giant kings and their dominions:  Gusir of Finnmark and  Bjarmaland,  Dofri of Dofrafjall,  Geirroðr  of Jötun- heimr.  King  Snær  had  three  daughters  and  one  son;  the  son  Þorri inherited Gotland,  Kvenland,  and Finnmark.”

In addition to the colonial narrative of integrating the land and “natives” into society, there is a strong narrative in Norse mythology that the jotnar are doomed to disappear, that they are outdated and not meant to prosper. When Ragnarok comes, the jotnar will not be reborn in the new world. This theme of “primitive savages” naturally disappearing and being left behind is a prominent narrative in America regarding Native Americans. We have a tendency to view them as a thing of the past. Hell, my niece was taught at school that they no longer exist; they’re just gone. It is mythic canon that the jotnar are primordials linked to the land, the things that came before. And the Saami are the indigenous people in Scandinavia. The Germanic tribes moved into Scandinavia, meaning the Saami were there beforehand. Just like the jotnar, they were there before the gods came about. And it is mythic canon that poems like Vafþruðnismal symbolize the belief that the jotnar were ultimately to lose out to the superiority of the Aesir.

So, yeah. Whether you agree or not, there’s substantial evidence for it. There’s also a strong tie I believe between Jotnar and Bears which are important animals to the Saami; the Norse treat bears and jotnar with similar attitudes. But I need to do a bit more reading on that so that’s another post.


Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend by John McKinnell

Where Do the Giants Live? by Armann Jakobsson

Indians in Unexpected Places by Philip J Deloria

The Perception of the Saamis and Their Religion in Old Norse Sources by Else Mundal

Wilderness, Liminality, and the Other in Old Norse Myth and Cosmology Jens Peter Schjødt

Kingship and the Giants by Lotte Motz

Giants in Folklore and Mythology by Lotte Motz

Supernatural Others and Ethnic Others: A Millenium of World View by John Lindow

Nasty, Brutish, and Large Cultural Difference and Otherness in ‘the Figuration of the Trollwomen of the Fornaldarsogur by Sandra Ballif Straubhaar

Trollwomen by Sandra Ballif Straubhaar

anonymous asked:

I don't mean to bother you but I've been wondering if Ithunn's apples keep the gods young why is Odin always depicted as an elderly man? I always imagine them as always looking like they're in their late 20's-early 30's Sorry, I just keep thinking about this

It’s a valid question! Not only is he depicted in art as old he’s also called an old man in the lore itself. For instance in Völuspá the volva calls him aldni kom (old one) in stanza 28.  And yet, old age is something seen as detrimental in Old Norse society. In Hrafnkels Saga, for instance, it is said that “everyone becomes argr (commits ergi) who gets older.” Men who commit ergi become less honorable and less masculine. In Norse society, old age was associated with physical decline and loss of bodily strength. So it’s very worth asking why the supposed patriarch and greatest among the Aesir, the War-Father and Terrible-One, would be constantly represented as an elderly man, a figure that is explicitly physically unimposing in the Norse worldview.

The most obvious reason is that while old age was associated with the flesh weakening, there was an inverse growth relationship of wisdom vs physical strength. Childhood was associated with the absence of andgit or understanding/intellect whereas old age was the absence of one’s physical strength. The theme of wisdom and knowledge as being highly important in Norse culture is illustrated by almost all of Odin’s major tales. In Vafthrudnismal he seeks out knowledge from the giant at the potential cost to his life. He sacrifices his eye to drink from Mimir’s Well and hangs for nine nights on Yggdrasil to gain the knowledge of the runes. In Voluspa and Baldr’s Draumr Odin seeks counsel from the land of the dead. He learned seidr almost certainly for this ability to access the land of the dead and plumb its depths of knowledge for himself without killing himself again like with the quest for runic knowledge. Huginn and Muninn fly the world everyday, bringing back knowledge for Odin at the end of the day. Frequently the gods must rely upon their own cunning rather than weapons or strength of any sort in order to overcome dire situations. The mead of poetry, a magic and therefore type of knowledge in and of itself, is considered one of the most valuable items in the world. All of these factors emphasize Odin’s association with knowledge as his most important aspect, not his war-aspect. Therefore it makes sense to constantly portray him as older because great age equates to great wisdom.

The second main reason is that he is seen as the patriarch of the Aesir. At least, he is in the Icelandic lore that makes up the majority of what has survived. In many other traditions he isn’t but it’s undeniable that probably well over 50% of heathens today derive their practice from Icelandic tradition thanks to the Eddas being the main source of knowledge on Norse mythology. So most of what survives and continues to grow today frames Odin as the patriarch of the gods. The father’s role in Norse society was varied. To his sons, the father’s duty was to be his first teacher and to continue to be his teacher, passing down knowledge and lessons as the boy becomes ready for them. Generally this was done with stories, which means it is probably worth noting that many poems were to tell stories so this is very much within Odin’s domain as a god. Fathers would also advise their sons to listen to other older figures not because they were high of rank but because they were wise and could pass down even more knowledge, further preparing the boy for life. How most would probably assume that once the son comes of age he is no longer obliged to bow to his father’s words, but Armann Jakobsson has illustrated that this isn’t true. There are at least five historically attested chieftains who lived past their sixties and maintained highly respected figures until their deaths. Njal’s Saga provides a literary example of an old benevolent patriarch that up until his death is still seen by his family as the authority and his blessings were needed when it came to decision making. As such, despite the fact that age is associated with becoming “less manly” it doesn’t always strip a patriarchal figure of their authority. And if Odin is supposed to the the Allfather, well, there’s no way age would take his authority from him and in fact having him be old and still the one in charge ony further exemplifies his strengths.

On the topic of a patriarch passing down wisdom to their family, well, part of gaining wisdom is also through applying knowledge. The Wanderer’s travels are all part of gaining more knowledge. Look no further than the advice given in Havamal stanza 18: “Only that man who travels widely and has journeyed a great deal knows what sort of mind each man has in his control; he who’s sharp in his wits”. Heck, the entire poem is about disclosing knowledge learned through life to whomever is listening. This poem is possibly the most exemplary of Odin as a patriarch in the lore for this reason. And with that in mind, the older he is the more time he’s had to travel and gain experience to pass down.

In the end,  Odin is a god of crossing boundaries. He leaves no line uncrossed. If he can be a man who practices seidr, a man who turns into a woman and into an animal, if he can be an othbreaker and remain unpunished and honorable, if he can be patriarch of the Aesir but bloodbrother to a jotun, then what is to stop him from being young but also old, frail and wise but also the Warfather? As Jakobson says, gods set the rules for mortals but violating these rules and “getting away with it is what being a god is all about”. 

Sources referenced:

Odinn as Mother: The Old Norse Deviant Patriarch by Armann Jakobsson

Age Matters in Old English Literature by Jordi Sánchez-Martí

Iron Age Myth and Materiality by Lotte Hedeager

The Patriarch: Myth and Reality by Armann Jakobsson

#Mayakovsky... 'on a generation that squandered its poets)...

i feel/like a soviet factory
manufacturing happiness.
i don’t want/to be plucked
like a flower/after a the days work
i want the heart to be paid
its wage of love/at the specialists rate
i want the factory/committee
to put a lock on my lips
when the work is done
i want the pent to be equal to the bayonet
and i want stalin/to report in the name of the politburo
about the production of verse
as he does about pig iron and steeeeel
thus, and so it is/we’ve reached
the topmost level/up from the workers hovels
in the union of republics
the appreciation of verse/has exceeded the prewar level

Mayakovski – quoted in Jakobson (On a generation that squandered its poets…) in the fabulous Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time…

Though really if Jakobson and I were sitting drinking espresso in some small place in paris we’d be lamenting of the way the spectacle has generated a generation that squandered its intellectuals…

The poem is decapitalised…

On December 22, 1926 Trubetzkoy answered me with one of his most significant messages: […] The general outlines of the history of language, when one reflects upon them with a little attention and logic, never prove to be fortuitous. […] If Saussure did not dare to draw the logical conclusion from his own thesis that language is a system, this was due in large measure to the fact that such a conclusion would have contradicted the widely accepted notion of the history of language, and of history in general. For the only accepted sense of history is the notorious one of ‘progress’, that queer concept which as a consequence reduces 'sense’ to 'nonsense’.
—  From “Chapter 5: Speech Artefact” in Word, Sound, Image: The Life of the Tamil Text by Saskia Kersenboom.