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kopout
2009-03-30, 03:27 PM
split off from lord garth's elf discussion this is for the heated debate about what is an elf and how word meanings change over time.

Jorkens
2009-03-30, 05:19 PM
The other question that I'd stick in on a related note is - why bother doing "Our Elves Are Different"? Or rather, what's the attraction of working with the modern fantasy elf archetype as something to use bits of and subvert other bits of, rather than either coming up with something wholly original that isn't tied to an existing concept, or going back to the original myths to work out something that has some sort of psychological resonance and taps into more universal archetypes?

To be honest, the halfway house of working with an idea that's already out there but which is a bit further from the 'collective unconscious' that manifests in myths and legends seems rather unappealing to me - unless you're doing it for deliberate comedy value, of course.

Eldan
2009-03-30, 05:32 PM
The problem is, if you do it the other way round, you end up with slender, dexterous, forest-living magical humanoid archers called by some nonsensical fantasy name, just because the author didn't wanna name his things elf. And I've seen that quite a few times now. It's even worse with Tolkien's orcs.

Also, I honestly think that it's just a little boring if elves are the same... if people always try to make their elves similar, there's the danger of either ending up with stereotypes and cliches, especially in side-characters (i.e. do we really need more snobby high-elf mages with no other personality traits?), or just making the entire thing so predictable that it's not interesting anymore.

Of course elves should be recognizable as elves, but some variation is necessary. Same with dwarves, which would really need it. (I need to write up this dwarf empire I've been working on for some time now.)

Rutskarn
2009-03-30, 06:35 PM
The other question that I'd stick in on a related note is - why bother doing "Our Elves Are Different"? Or rather, what's the attraction of working with the modern fantasy elf archetype as something to use bits of and subvert other bits of, rather than either coming up with something wholly original that isn't tied to an existing concept, or going back to the original myths to work out something that has some sort of psychological resonance and taps into more universal archetypes?

To be honest, the halfway house of working with an idea that's already out there but which is a bit further from the 'collective unconscious' that manifests in myths and legends seems rather unappealing to me - unless you're doing it for deliberate comedy value, of course.

Well, to address this first point, often appreciation of a work can stem from the gradual evolution of a concept. More significantly, the reinvention of said concept.

Pompous-movie-reviewer grade BS aside, it can be interesting to see a concept looked at from a different point of view. It can even serve to comment on other work--the prideful, racist, thoroughly unpleasant elves of Dragonlance serve as a knowing caricature of the conventional elf archetype. I mean, elves from 90% of fantasy generica are almost as racist and prideful, but these characteristics are blithely ignored within the setting. These qualities are excused, just because they're elves--of course they can act like they're better than everyone else. No non-evil characters hate (or even criticize) these characters.

I mean, look at the 2nd Edition The Complete Elf sourcebook. In addition to being laden with truly disgusting amounts of pro-elf blathery, it has several concepts that are frankly disturbing. For example: the elves actually have a holiday where they hunt down and murder any orc they can find. That includes women, children, and other non-combatants.

Okay, there are different interpretations of the orcs as a race, but come on. A holiday based around orc genocide. A holiday.

Dragonlance, in taking this sort of xenophobic arrogance and treating it for what it is, is more compelling for the deconstruction.

Jorkens
2009-03-30, 07:02 PM
But it seems like there you're essentially writing a fantasy book as a comment on bad fantasy books. Which can be good - I guess it's part of what makes Watchmen interesting - except that you're kind of limiting its relevance to bad fantasy books, rather than trying to do something which is compelling or interesting in some universal way. Or even something which does both - the elves in Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies seem like both a comment on previous sorts of elf and a return to mythical sources.

Also, to my mind Watchmen is more intrinsically interesting because the superhero is a much more universal archetype than Tolkeinish elves, and hence rather more interesting to deconstruct.

Rutskarn
2009-03-30, 07:09 PM
While that's a fair point, I wouldn't say that it's sole purpose is to mock other fictions. Rather, it's to question the status quo of fantasy--which can be important, if the genre has to move on.

Creating an entirely new "world" can, of course, accomplish the same objective, but in a different way. Both, arguably, are occasionally necessary.

BRC
2009-03-30, 07:28 PM
The benefit of using Tolkienesque fantasy (Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Ect), is that it's got some solid concepts that you can work from, things that the reader is assumed to know and understand. It saves an author alot of work that would be otherwise spent in building things from the ground up. It's simply a starting point, and one that you can do alot of good with. Let's take elves, long-lived, nature loving, somewhat haughty (Varies), skilled archers. So, if you want a long-lived character who is a skilled archer, you can just make him an elf and everybody knows what that means. What Tolkienesque fantasy archtypes do, is allow a writer, and a reader to focus on the story rather than the setting. Which can either be a practical expediance, or the sign of a lazy writer.


For an example of why a Tolkienesque archtype is useful. Let's say I am writing a fantasy story, and I need a culture to fulfill a role. Lets say, a culture that believes it's duty is to defend certain ruins throughout the world, and it trains guardians to defend these ruins. Now, If I really wanted to focus on the setting, I would describe this guardian-culture (Lets call them Gurdans), perhaps through exposition. I would have a veteran solider tell stories of their skill with both bows and blades. The reader would learn about this culture, until when I mentioned Gurdans, they would know what I'm talking about...

But let's say I'm trying to write a faster-paced story, and the Gurdans are supposed to be common knowledge. I don't want to waste time with lots of exposition. I don't want to distract my readers by having them struggle to remember about the Gurdans. So, I just say "Elves believe it is their ancient duty to defend these ruins". Boom, the reader knows what I'm talking about, and has some ideas of what to expect.


The problem is that people tend to gravitate towards these Archytypes right away, rather than developing their own unique cultures. When an Author does develop their own race/culture thats not obviously an Orc/elf/dwarf/whatever knockoff, it's considered unusual.

Tensu
2009-03-30, 08:07 PM
Keep in mind Tolkin's greatest regret was that he did what Jorkens and I are saying not to do. Mostly with hobgoblins, but with orcs too.

the "what about originality?" is an argument I've heard before. but if your goal was to be original, you wouldn't be using elves and such in the first place.

as for the familiar argument, elves aren't familiar if they're different in every other book.

as for the "you're just giving them a different name" argument, no, you're not. a wolf and fox are similar, yet different. in the same way, if you'll excuse my lack of a better, less MMO related example, a Tauren and a minotaur are similar, but they are still different. what's more, the more time passes, the more different the two become.

as for the "myths evolve" argument, yes, they do. but it is one thing to add on to a myth and another to re-write it completely. we do not retcon mythology.

BRC
2009-03-30, 09:20 PM
The problem with these archtypes, is not that they are bad archtypes, not in the least. The problem is that they have permeated the Fantasy Genre so much that it's difficult to imagine a fantasy universe without them. Once you've gotten the hero wielding a magic sword against the forces of evil, people will start looking under the mountains for dwarves, and checking the forests for elves. If they arn't present, you've set yourself apart from the Heroic Fantasy genre. Though there are many fine examples of fantasy without these Tolkienesque archtypes (I've recently started re-reading the most excellant Abohorsen trilogy, which dosn't have a bearded midget or pointy ear in sight) they are considered seperate from the norm.

Satyr
2009-03-31, 02:28 AM
Most mythology was transferred for centuries via oral history, which basically means that they were changed every generation or so, because without a written ficiation onf the contents, they are pretty much up to as many arbitrary changes as the narrators intend. Up to the point of a written fixiation, there is no such thing as a "core myth", because they a) change all the time and b) have blatant regional differences due to different cultural traditions, other myths which are included or excluded, and so on. Mythology, as we know it today, does not change anymore, because it is basically dead. If if would be still an alive tradition, it would still adapt and change.
In the case of a written transition, this is slightly different, as the basic text literally doesn't change anymore, but prior to this fixation, there is nothing resembling a generalised or pure form of any narrative - and the written fixation is usually only one interpretation of the older tales by one specific author, which is also some kind of a change, especially when the written form replaces the oral traditions completely.

Oslecamo
2009-03-31, 06:00 AM
Like dragons and other mythical beings, the elfs are whatever the author want them to be.

Even if concepts change during time, at the same time there will be diferent people who have diferent views of the same concept.

Nowadays this is stronger than ever thanks to the existence of

For example while in 4e D&D we have woodsy elves who only live half a dozen centuries in Wow we get elfs who thirst for blood and power. And then we have Harry Potter where they are little green house servants. Ect ect. All at the same time. What of them is correct? All! Because elfs are a fantasy concept. It's suposed to be something that the author made up.

Just like magic changes from fantasy seting to fantasy seting, elfs and other mythical creatures also change.

hamishspence
2009-03-31, 03:48 PM
"the more things change, the more they stay the same" certain archetypes tend to hold, even if the style and presentation may change. the "terrible woodlands race who steal people away to their dark world- cruel, capricious, dangerous" tends to recur again and again in fantasy.

Tensu
2009-03-31, 04:02 PM
BRC: This is a problem if you ask me. Fantasy means fantastic. feeling limited the elves and dwarves is not fantastic.

Satyr: But you find few examples of someone going back and saying "No, that's not true at all! A Doppleganger isn't an eerie distorted mirror imagine foreshadowing your death, it's a shapeshifter!" the worst you'll get is two or three contradictions with one character, nothing to the extent calling a flying eye a dragon or saying ghouls are a type of undead.

Oslecamo: That is all kinds of incorrect. These concepts are important to the history of literature and a part of the identity of a culture, or at least they used to be. You can't go around saying dragons are purple rabbits anymore than I can go around saying Sherlock Holmes was the cheese Wombat king. Mythology and legends, while less so than most stories, do have limits to which they can be twisted, and I demand people observe those limits.

@ Hamishspence: And that has what to do with what, exactly?:smallconfused:

Satyr
2009-03-31, 04:41 PM
But you find few examples of someone going back and saying "No, that's not true at all! A Doppleganger isn't an eerie distorted mirror imagine foreshadowing your death, it's a shapeshifter!" the worst you'll get is two or three contradictions with one character, nothing to the extent calling a flying eye a dragon or saying ghouls are a type of undead.

And so what? Besides, etymological speaking, a Doppelgänger is nothing but a very similar person. Like identical twins. Not really that spectacular.

Tensu
2009-03-31, 05:03 PM
And so what?

and so lines are crossed at a certain point an elf stops being an elf and becomes something else.


Besides, etymological speaking, a Doppelgänger is nothing but a very similar person. Like identical twins. Not really that spectacular.

that's not what everything I've ever read has said.

here's the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppleganger)

BRC
2009-03-31, 05:04 PM
BRC: This is a problem if you ask me. Fantasy means fantastic. feeling limited the elves and dwarves is not fantastic.

That's exactly what I'm saying, these archetypes are homogonizing the genre. For comparison, let's look at Science Fiction. Enders Game (Not quite to sci-fi what tolkien is to fantasy, but it's still pretty important), had the Buggers. An insectlike hive-mind race that attacked mercilessly because they were not aware they were killing individual People. They thought Humans were hive-minds like them, with each human as a drong. So they were slaughtering hundreds of people, but thinking they were doing the equivalent of punching somebody in the face. It's a good concept for a race.

Now, imagine if the Buggers, or somthing similar, showed up in Sci-fi stories as often as Dwarves and Elves show up in fantasy stories. Now, Bug-race hive-minds do show up in Sci-fi, but often enough to become linked to the genre the way the tolkien archetypes have. And because of that, Sci-Fi is, or is at least considered to be, a much more varied and versatile genre than Fantasy. While Sci-Fi spreads from deeply philisophical stories like I Robot, to adrenaline-rushing heroic action stories like Star Wars, and everything in between. Meanwhile Fantasy is, in the public mind at least, all about some guy with some magic sword hacking his way through the forces of darkness and blah blah blah.

hamishspence
2009-03-31, 05:11 PM
it has to do with the fact that elves as "The Fair Folk" are far from their only Old Incarnation- they can be dark and creepy, and Tolkien Elves, or any other "reinvention" does not automatically destroy the old concept.

Eldan
2009-03-31, 05:14 PM
that's not what everything I've ever read has said.

here's the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppleganger)

You have to consider that Doppelgänger as a word is still used often enough in germany to refer to someone who looks alike to someone else. If you ask someone in germany, austria or switzerland what Doppelgänger means, they will tell you it means double, and they will never have heard of any myths about it.

Tensu
2009-03-31, 06:16 PM
BRC: I'm not sure if you're for or against me here, but in case it's against, I feel that editing mythical archtypes sticks us in a weird purgatory where everything will always either be tethered to the original in some way, or be so completely out there that it makes people like me go extra berserk. either way, it bad for the fantasy genre as a whole. I think that we should just let sleeping mythologies lie and work to make our own worlds. it's easier than it sounds.

hamishspence: but most of those renderings are... well, wrong.

Eldan: I doubt that. besides, if wikipedia is to be trusted, doppleganger means "double goer", seems like a weird way to refer to a mundane look-alike.

Eldan
2009-03-31, 06:18 PM
Well, I'm from Switzerland, Satyr up there's from Germany, I guess he's german as well... I can asure you, while I have never heard any myths about it, the word is used in day-to-day conversation as look-alike, and that quite often. I don't even know any other word for look-alike, to be honest.

Jorkens
2009-03-31, 07:05 PM
"the more things change, the more they stay the same" certain archetypes tend to hold, even if the style and presentation may change. the "terrible woodlands race who steal people away to their dark world- cruel, capricious, dangerous" tends to recur again and again in fantasy.
Agreed, the basic idea taps into both a sort of unconscious awareness of various incarnations of the elf / fairy in myths, folktales, ballads, older literature and so on and the basic instinct to be nervous about the forests and/or the aristocracy that to a large extent lies behind the myths.

What I don't really get is the idea of writing elves in a way that avoids a lot of that sort of resonance but also cuts down your ability to create a world to your own specifications, and leaves things feeling a bit second hand. I mean, sure it's a bit different to have elves be a bit savage or urbanized or prefer oak cudgels to bows, but not as different (or interesting, to my mind) as coming up with a race that isn't just a standard fantasy race with some of its features subverted and some of them turned up to eleven.

Lord_Gareth
2009-03-31, 07:14 PM
See Tensu, the problem as I see it is that you fall into a camp known as purist - you love the original concepts, and there's nothing wrong with that. What you have to keep in mind, though, is that modern concepts are formed of blended myths with new additions - hell, Tolkein's elves combined the Aos Sidhe, picsties, nordic alfs (who were lesser gods, natch) and just a dash of Mary Sue.

D&D's doppelgangers, on the other hand, are partially based on chinese legends, partially based on hindu legends (where they got the word), and partially their own thing. Even Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy has classic elements in it (silver - the metal of purity - harms the dead. Running water is impassable to them).

There is a middle road between total originality (which is, frankly, impossible) and utter purism, and that means changing concepts, yeah. It's not murder - it's our inheritance. We have the stories and we have the legends, and it's our turn to contribute to them.

Trog
2009-03-31, 07:21 PM
Most mythology was transferred for centuries via oral history, which basically means that they were changed every generation or so, because without a written ficiation onf the contents, they are pretty much up to as many arbitrary changes as the narrators intend. Up to the point of a written fixiation, there is no such thing as a "core myth", because they a) change all the time and b) have blatant regional differences due to different cultural traditions, other myths which are included or excluded, and so on. Mythology, as we know it today, does not change anymore, because it is basically dead. If if would be still an alive tradition, it would still adapt and change.
In the case of a written transition, this is slightly different, as the basic text literally doesn't change anymore, but prior to this fixation, there is nothing resembling a generalised or pure form of any narrative - and the written fixation is usually only one interpretation of the older tales by one specific author, which is also some kind of a change, especially when the written form replaces the oral traditions completely.
This.

Although I disagree that mythology is dead. I think you can look at modern day grey aliens types as the goblins of the 21st century, basically. :smallbiggrin:

Also, just because it's sort of on topic, Raymond E. Feist's novel Faerie Tale is a good look optional (and basically more Grimm's Faerie Talesesque) view of the fey.

averagejoe
2009-03-31, 07:33 PM
Well, I'm from Switzerland, Satyr up there's from Germany, I guess he's german as well... I can asure you, while I have never heard any myths about it, the word is used in day-to-day conversation as look-alike, and that quite often. I don't even know any other word for look-alike, to be honest.

It is acceptable to use doppelganger in such a way in English, I believe, though it is not very common.

BRC
2009-03-31, 07:42 PM
BRC: I'm not sure if you're for or against me here, but in case it's against, I feel that editing mythical archtypes sticks us in a weird purgatory where everything will always either be tethered to the original in some way, or be so completely out there that it makes people like me go extra berserk. either way, it bad for the fantasy genre as a whole. I think that we should just let sleeping mythologies lie and work to make our own worlds. it's easier than it sounds.
I have no problem with these Archtypes, what I don't like is the degree to which they, and the things associated with them, have permeated the genre. I love Tolkienesque heroic fantasy, but I wish the fantasy genre could get beyond that. I wish a story could feature a seafaring race with pointy ears, and not make people think "Sea-Elves". Everything is inspired by somthing else, the problem is that most fantasy writers take their inspiration either from tolkien directly, or from writers who took their inspiration from Tolkien, hence why the genre is homogonized. I wouldn't mind the occasional Bow-shooting elf or hardy blacksmith dwarf anymore than I mind the occasional insectlike hive-mind in Science Fiction, but I would like more authors to at least try to create unique cultures rather than assuming they will use elves and dwarves.

Lord_Gareth
2009-03-31, 07:47 PM
I have no problem with these Archtypes, what I don't like is the degree to which they, and the things associated with them, have permeated the genre. I love Tolkienesque heroic fantasy, but I wish the fantasy genre could get beyond that. I wish a story could feature a seafaring race with pointy ears, and not make people think "Sea-Elves". Everything is inspired by somthing else, the problem is that most fantasy writers take their inspiration either from tolkien directly, or from writers who took their inspiration from Tolkien, hence why the genre is homogonized. I wouldn't mind the occasional Bow-shooting elf or hardy blacksmith dwarf anymore than I mind the occasional insectlike hive-mind in Science Fiction, but I would like more authors to at least try to create unique cultures rather than assuming they will use elves and dwarves.

See, my co-author and I consciously chose to use elves and dwarves because we're planning a deconstruction of Tolkeinesque fantasy, and elves and dwarves are a part of that. Mind you, we're also including wolf-men, winged bat/cat/human hybrids, and a race of shapeshifters that can't even remember their real forms anymore, but still.

GoC
2009-03-31, 08:44 PM
as for the "myths evolve" argument, yes, they do. but it is one thing to add on to a myth and another to re-write it completely. we do not retcon mythology.

Why?:smallconfused:
If everyone decides a certain word means something then that word now has a different meaning in writings of the present era. Whenever you look at old myths you have to look at context. When you look at a book written 100 years ago and you hear the word "elves" then you shouldn't think of the same thing you do when you read something written yesterday.

Telonius
2009-03-31, 09:08 PM
This.

Although I disagree that mythology is dead. I think you can look at modern day grey aliens types as the goblins of the 21st century, basically. :smallbiggrin:

Mythology is by no means dead. Myth is, at its heart, a creative explanation for why the world is as it is. It's stories about the true (whether or not it turns out to be about the correct). Urban Legends still abound. You know that car that gets about 500 miles to the gallon, but was suppressed by the auto manufacturers? You know, the one that's waiting for someone who is worthy to fight The Man and retrieve it for the benefit of all. It's part of mythology. So are Area 51, the Men in Black, the Second Gunman, Elvis, and the Illuminati.


Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do!
Who leaves Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do! We do!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
We do! We do!
Who robs the cave fish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscar night?
We do! We do!

:smallbiggrin:

Scylfing
2009-04-01, 01:21 AM
Eldan: I doubt that. besides, if wikipedia is to be trusted, doppleganger means "double goer", seems like a weird way to refer to a mundane look-alike.

I forget the technical term for it but the German language is seriously full of things like this, where they take two (or more!) words and combine them to mean something else entirely.

Opening to a random page of my trusty Schöffler-Weis dictionary I got "erzeugen," to beget/procreate/produce, but then there's "erzeugensschlacht" (schlacht essentially meaning battle or combat), which doesn't mean begetting violence or creating war like you might think it would, it means the struggle for self-sufficiency.

And yeah it also lists "Doppelgänger" as a double, a look-alike.


Interesting thread topic though, I may come back to this for a proper reply.

Xondoure
2009-04-01, 01:52 AM
In my mind, elves are not nearly as hard to get around as humans. Because we use humans as a base to compare other races, human culture seems to disappear. If you look at it that way, then why is it wrong to change the myth. Even in the real world, different races behave differently in different environments. So as long as the world is unique, the races will naturally behave differently. It is only if the world is second hand that you have a problem.

Satyr
2009-04-01, 02:30 AM
Although I disagree that mythology is dead. I think you can look at modern day grey aliens types as the goblins of the 21st century, basically.

Perhaps I expressed that clumsy - a myth that is not accepted as relevant anymore and has no relevance for a significant as the narative; the other qualities like the concept to explain the unexplainable gets lost in this context, as soon as better explanantions come up.


I doubt that. besides, if wikipedia is to be trusted, doppleganger means "double goer", seems like a weird way to refer to a mundane look-alike.

Would you please accept that people are able to use their mother tongue correctly? Yes, the loan word has a different meaning in English, but that's not that rare.


I forget the technical term for it but the German language is seriously full of things like this, where they take two (or more!) words and combine them to mean something else entirely.

The term is neologism, or Wortneubildung ("word-new-construction") in German, which should pretty much show how comparatively easy it is to create new words in this language. If I want, I create new comparative nouns every day at breakfast.


As a side note, I think I have read that some of the Alfar descriptions within the Edda were mostly mystified descriptions of Fins and Lapps, who were the "strange" and culturally quite different neighbours of the Norse culture. If this fits, the idea of Elves in itself is already a form of adaptation decay.

Tensu
2009-04-01, 03:20 PM
Lord_Gareth: And I believe that middle road should not be walked. (Note this is not to say that I don't want them to ever be used or that I don't want anyone to put their own spin or add-on to things: I'm saying that mythology says Ghouls are a demonic, but "living" race. don't go back and say they're undead. they aren't.):smallannoyed:

BRC: And I agree wholeheartedly. I have my own personal fantasy world I've made that I hope to introduce through novels, webcomics, or video games,, and one of my biggest fears is that people will refer to concepts as they mythical one they most resemble. Another problem with everyone putting their own spin on elves is that it turns everything into just another type of elf. This, as someone who is trying to make a genuine attempt to be original in a culture based on ripping others off, is all kinds of annoying.:smallmad:

GoC: But not everyone has decided that. Heck, some people don't even know what they're missing. Would you rather have Wraith as a synonym for ghost (Booooooooooorrrrrrrrringggg!) Or a ghostly apperation of someone who is still alive that hangs around with ghosts because that person is about to die (creepy as all bloody hell). People often don't know just what it is they're missing.:smallannoyed:

Satyr: I offer my sincere apologies. I didn't notice your location:smallfrown:

Lord_Gareth
2009-04-01, 03:28 PM
Lord_Gareth: And I believe that middle road should not be walked. (Note this is not to say that I don't want them to ever be used or that I don't want anyone to put their own spin or add-on to things: I'm saying that mythology says Ghouls are a demonic, but "living" race. don't go back and say they're undead. they aren't.):smallannoyed:

*Sigh* And this, gentlemen, is what happens when people go to extremes.

So far, all of your arguments are based on how much you love the old concepts. Again, there's no problem with loving the old concepts, but you really should come up with an objective reason that you think there shouldn't be change in mythology. We've already established that mythological retcons were happening since before the written word, so it comes down to your side, which says "inviolate tradition" and my side, which says, "living inheritance".

(By the by, for great fantasy that doesn't involve anything even remotely Tolkein, check out the Monster Blood Tattoo series)

Tensu
2009-04-01, 03:40 PM
No, this is what happens when people go to extremes:


We've already established that mythological retcons were happening since before the written word

old retcons would be disputes as to how Hippolyta died or something. New Retcon completely redefine the source material, often keeping only the name and a single trait vaguely associated with it. I'm not saying we can't argue about how dragons breathe fire or wether or not they can breathe cold as well, what I'm saying is we can't turn them into flying eyeballs or some crap like that.

I'm not saying there mustbe only one hydra. I'm saying we can't rob it and/or them of it's/their venom or ability to regenerate.

I'm not the one going to extremes here. You seem to think that just because there was some ambiguity as to who Theseus's father was nothing is sacred. you also seem to think that I think that any kind of break from tradition is taboo. neither of those statements are true.

And I have given examples of how it hurts us. Besides the whole "defaceing the creative history of the human race" thing, there the "it turns everything short into a dwarf, everything with pointy ears into an elf, and everything with scales into a dragon" problem BRC reminded me about, and the fact that it stagnates out creativity by tethering ourselves to played-out concepts, and it creates these debates.

hamishspence
2009-04-01, 04:06 PM
different cultures, different versions of creature, same name. Eastern dragon archetypes are very different from western ones- doesn't mean that the earlier one is the only right one, and the other one is wrong. Nor does it mean "those aren't dragons, they're a creature that the name has become wrongly attached to"

It simply means that different cultures do monsters differently, and the portrayal of a monster or being changes over time. Doesn't mean that later versions are "wrong" and "retcons that shouldn't have happened"

to raise a mildly contentious one, concerning a character from myth/legend/lore:
Satan: God's agent and tester of man, Lucifer the fallen angel, the Archenemy, the Prince of the World, Mephistopheles the Tempter- many archetypes- because mythology changes. That doesn't make the newer versions of the myth wrong- just evolved, different.

Tensu
2009-04-01, 04:12 PM
different cultures, different versions of creature, same name. Eastern dragon archetypes are very different from western ones- doesn't mean that the earlier one is the only right one, and the other one is wrong. Nor does it mean "those aren't dragons, there a creature that the name has become wrongly attached to"

Nice example of the problem. Dragons do not appear in eastern mythology. Longs do.

Long should have been treated as it's own word, not translated to "dragon". a prime example of "everything with pointy ears is an elf" mentality. the name was indeed wrongly attached to them, and it becoming commonplace doesn't change this.

also, you should watch it as to what you refer to as mythology.

hamishspence
2009-04-01, 04:35 PM
point is, concepts evolve- doesn't mean the old concept is being destroyed, since often, someone goes "back to basics" and resurrects the concept in its original style.

( I like Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen's "All myths are true, for a given value of "true")

When I look at the "Our Monsters Are Different" type changes- they don't annoy me, they interest me, especially if the new take still has some of the flavour of the old monster, but given a slightly different spin.

Dervag
2009-04-01, 04:55 PM
Nice example of the problem. Dragons do not appear in eastern mythology. Longs do.Yes. And "Long" translates into English as "dragon."

Now, perhaps to you, "long" translates into English as a half-hour lecture on the differences between Western dragons (who themselves came in a wide variety of different versions) and Oriental "dragons." But to most of us, it translates as "dragon."

And there's a reason for that. Most people with an IQ greater than that of a chimp understand that words in a foreign language will often have a slightly different connotation than the words they "translate" into in another language. This is why foreigners tend to sound awkward in whatever your native language happens to be. It's not that they don't know what the definition of a word is, it's that they don't know the little details about when you are and are not supposed to use the word. So they use the wrong words for the context.

The people you're speaking to have an IQ greater than that of a chimp. We know quite well that "Eastern dragon archetypes are very different from western ones."* That's because the Chinese big lizard-monster myth isn't the same as the Germanic big lizard-monster myth. However, both are myths about lizard-monsters, and the English word for a big lizard-monster with supernatural powers is "dragon."

I assume that in Chinese, "dragon" likewise translates as "long." I can't prove that, but the Chinese have every right to translate it that way without the Chinese counterpart of Tensu condemning them. This is not an ignorant or unreasonable thing for them to do. It does not mean they are not aware of the differences between German and Chinese mythology, or that they are somehow "destroying" German mythology by calling a dragon a long.

The same applies, naturally, when I call a long a dragon.

*From the post you were apparently responding to.
_______

If mythology is to be anything but the obscure domain of scholars whose work is utterly without interest to anyone outside their in-group, it must be a living body of lore. It must be subject to reinterpretation. It must be acceptable to use old ideas as inspiration for new stories, much as Virgil used the Iliad as inspiration for the Aeneid.

This does not and cannot destroy the preexisting mythology, except in your mind. And the fact that in your mind the new stories somehow destroy or corrupt the old ones does not give you sufficient cause to tell me that the new stories are objectively wrong or evil.

Tensu
2009-04-01, 06:09 PM
The people you're speaking to have an IQ greater than that of a chimp. We know quite well that "Eastern dragon archetypes are very different from western ones."* That's because the Chinese big lizard-monster myth isn't the same as the Germanic big lizard-monster myth. However, both are myths about lizard-monsters, and the English word for a big lizard-monster with supernatural powers is "dragon."

and this, right here is the problem. If I wanted to make up a lizard monster with supernatural powers, I couldn't. Society wouldn't let me. It would brand anything I came up with, no matter how far removed from a dragon, a dragon.

This can already be seen i the fact that hydras, salamanders, and sea serpents, basilisks, etc. are classified as dragons in more and more media.

where will the madness end?

averagejoe
2009-04-01, 07:02 PM
I'm not saying we can't argue about how dragons breathe fire or wether or not they can breathe cold as well, what I'm saying is we can't turn them into flying eyeballs or some crap like that.

I'm not saying there mustbe only one hydra. I'm saying we can't rob it and/or them of it's/their venom or ability to regenerate.

Here you seem to be saying nothing except, "The only changes allowable are the ones I think are allowable." What constitutes a difference big enough to justify a name change, or to necessitate one? You say a dragon can't be a flying eyeball. Fair enough, I guess, but then you say that a hydra without venom isn't a hydra, which seems to me to be a change on the order of giving dragons icy breath. I'm honestly not sure what you're suggesting here.


And I have given examples of how it hurts us. Besides the whole "defaceing the creative history of the human race" thing, there the "it turns everything short into a dwarf, everything with pointy ears into an elf, and everything with scales into a dragon" problem BRC reminded me about, and the fact that it stagnates out creativity by tethering ourselves to played-out concepts, and it creates these debates.

How is the evolution of language defacing history? By that argument everyone who is speaking in a language which is in any way removed from the original language is defacing human history. I also don't see how debate harms us. Should we do away with anything that causes any controversy? You seem to have an inflated view of the effects of this practice.


and this, right here is the problem. If I wanted to make up a lizard monster with supernatural powers, I couldn't. Society wouldn't let me. It would brand anything I came up with, no matter how far removed from a dragon, a dragon.

What? Yes you could. For one, all the examples you listed below. For two, you just need to not call them dragons. The fans would call them by their proper names, anyways.


This can already be seen i the fact that hydras, salamanders, and sea serpents, basilisks, etc. are classified as dragons in more and more media.

What? That seems like a shaky claim at best. Examples?

BRC
2009-04-01, 07:32 PM
and this, right here is the problem. If I wanted to make up a lizard monster with supernatural powers, I couldn't. Society wouldn't let me. It would brand anything I came up with, no matter how far removed from a dragon, a dragon.

This can already be seen i the fact that hydras, salamanders, and sea serpents, basilisks, etc. are classified as dragons in more and more media.

where will the madness end?
I think you missed my point. Or, more likely, I didn't properly state my point. Or much more likely, I have since revised my point and am now pretending it was my point all along.

Namely, it dosn't matter what the Readers call your creature. Heck, it dosn't even matter what YOU call your creature. What matters is where you started. The fact that you started with "Hydra" instead of "Dragon" means you are breaking away from the Tolkenian archetypes. The fact that your lizard dosn't fly and breath fire (or Cold, or spit Acid, or somthing that is obviously supposed to be equivilant to Fire), is important. It means your ideas didn't originate with Tolkien (Well, Tolkien copied from mythology ect ect, but you know what I mean). Sure, if everybody starts calling your hydra's dragons, that will make your inspirational effect on the industry slightly less effective, but still. The Important thing is that, when you began listing the things you wanted in your setting, you didn't immedietally write down "Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, Dragons". That alone sets your story apart from the thousands of heroic fantasy stories set in a world that is essentially middle earth with a different map. And because your story isn't "Tolkien with a different map", it gives you freedom, it means people will automatically have to think about your story, rather than sorting it into a bin labeled "Unlikely Hero Travels through a Fantastic Land on a Quest to Defeat a Great Evil". That bin is full enough.

Tensu
2009-04-01, 08:33 PM
Here you seem to be saying nothing except, "The only changes allowable are the ones I think are allowable." What constitutes a difference big enough to justify a name change, or to necessitate one? You say a dragon can't be a flying eyeball. Fair enough, I guess, but then you say that a hydra without venom isn't a hydra, which seems to me to be a change on the order of giving dragons icy breath. I'm honestly not sure what you're suggesting here.



How is the evolution of language defacing history? By that argument everyone who is speaking in a language which is in any way removed from the original language is defacing human history. I also don't see how debate harms us. Should we do away with anything that causes any controversy? You seem to have an inflated view of the effects of this practice.



What? Yes you could. For one, all the examples you listed below. For two, you just need to not call them dragons. The fans would call them by their proper names, anyways.



What? That seems like a shaky claim at best. Examples?

You're absolutely right. I have seen the error of my ways.

Tensu
2009-04-02, 08:34 PM
You're absolutely right. I have seen the error of my ways.

Since everyone has (hopefully) realized this was an april fool's joke by now, let us continue.

Averagejoe: In the dragon example, you are not taking away from the myth or retconing it, only adding too it. In the hydra example you are taking away from the myth.

But evolution of the english language is not what's happening. The oppisite is what's happening: We are refusing to make new words for new ideas. this isn't language evolution: It's language inbreeding.

I was exaggerating for emphasis. I was saying no matter what I call them, society at large will probably end up branding them dragons because it feels like it. and that's not fair to me, or to whoever came up with dragons. or to society itself, for that matter. I just choose a very dra

You mean you've never read a book or played a game that classified those as subspecies of dragon? I find that hard to believe.

BRC: I can see that.

averagejoe
2009-04-02, 09:20 PM
But evolution of the english language is not what's happening. The oppisite is what's happening: We are refusing to make new words for new ideas. this isn't language evolution: It's language inbreeding.

This happens in language all the time. For example, in English you can use the same word for a backless chair, the base of a plant, a bird decoy, and poop. It can be also used as a verb to mean that someone has turned into an informant for the police.


I was exaggerating for emphasis. I was saying no matter what I call them, society at large will probably end up branding them dragons because it feels like it. and that's not fair to me, or to whoever came up with dragons. or to society itself, for that matter. I just choose a very dra

How is it not fair?


You mean you've never read a book or played a game that classified those as subspecies of dragon? I find that hard to believe.

Then it should be easy to think up some examples.

To answer your question, no, not off the top of my head. I've probably read something where there are water dwelling dragons, but they weren't actual sea serpents. I've seen multi-headed dragons, but their heads didn't grow back when cut. Other than that, I dunno.

Tensu
2009-04-02, 10:24 PM
This happens in language all the time. For example, in English you can use the same word for a backless chair, the base of a plant, a bird decoy, and poop. It can be also used as a verb to mean that someone has turned into an informant for the police.

But here people are losing sight of the original concept.


How is it not fair?

How is it not fair? People are spitting all over an attempt to be creative, they are telling artists what their art means, They're insulting the writer of the new material, they're insulting the creator of the old material, there's so may way that it isn't fair, I find it hard to think of a way anyone could possibly think it is fair.


Then it should be easy to think up some examples.

To answer your question, no, not off the top of my head. I've probably read something where there are water dwelling dragons, but they weren't actual sea serpents. I've seen multi-headed dragons, but their heads didn't grow back when cut. Other than that, I dunno.

well, to be honest I can only think of two or three examples off the top of my head, but I know I've seen more.

averagejoe
2009-04-03, 02:46 AM
But here people are losing sight of the original concept.

As with my example. How many people know that to stool, as in become a stool pigeon, is linguistically tied to the idea of decoy birds called stools, or possibly stall (decoy bird, especially a pigeon used to entice a hawk into a net)? The more conventional stool was derived from Gothic stols which meant "throne," and and only after the adoption of chair was it relegated to armless, backless seats? And from this it was used for privy, and then bowel movements? The original concept is lost to all but those who study such things, and arguably even to them.


How is it not fair? People are spitting all over an attempt to be creative, they are telling artists what their art means, They're insulting the writer of the new material, they're insulting the creator of the old material, there's so may way that it isn't fair, I find it hard to think of a way anyone could possibly think it is fair.

People are always telling artists what their art means. That's practically all people who appreciate art do, and most often in much less trivial ways than the name of their special little magical creatures.

I don't see how it's an insult, though. To be clear, I never really thought of it as fair, I just never thought of it in terms of fair and unfair. It seems that if you're sensitive to having your works interpreted and insults then writing probably isn't your career.

GoC
2009-04-03, 07:58 AM
GoC: But not everyone has decided that.
Close enough. 99% or so.

Would you rather have Wraith as a synonym for ghost (Booooooooooorrrrrrrrringggg!) Or a ghostly apperation of someone who is still alive that hangs around with ghosts because that person is about to die (creepy as all bloody hell). People often don't know just what it is they're missing.:smallannoyed:
In that case we already have a word for it (ghost) so that word will be used more often and wraith is generally used to refer to something slightly different.


I'm not saying there mustbe only one hydra. I'm saying we can't rob it and/or them of it's/their venom or ability to regenerate.
Wait. Are you arguing that we can't make multi-headed creatures that don't have venom or that we can't call them hydras?:smallconfused:

Tensu
2009-04-03, 09:08 AM
Averagejoe: As Satyr pointed out, what a word means in it's native language and what it means in english can be two totally different things.

the second problem with your example is that I am familiar with all those uses, save the decoy, but that probably because I've never been hunting.

the third is that, even if he stopped calling those things stools, the concept of a stool (chair) or stool (poop) will still exist in the minds of the masses. when we change something wherein the only physical presence it has in our word is a handful of musty old reference tomes sitting in the back of the library, then the vast majority of the populace will lose sight of not only the word, but forget the very idea. and that is tragic.

The storyteller has always been the one making the commentary, not the critics, or at least that's how it was up until the 1900's.

GoC: That's not true. You're assuming everyone who doesn't know any better agrees with you, when f someone brought to light what was happening, thay may very well not. do not count ignorance among your ranks.

but it's not used to refer to a wraith, which is a shame, because a mirror match with a double that has incorpreal and a bunch of ghastly allies could make for one epic fight.

I'm saying that the hydra's poison was a huge part of the creature's danger, and to rob it of that would be to make it no longer a hydra.

hamishspence
2009-04-03, 12:37 PM
I though the signature trait was two heads growing back when one is cut off- thats whats used most often whenever the word Hydra is used in a simile- "conspiracies- like the hydra, grow multiple new heads whenever one is struck down"

Or some similar concept. Poison is a generic trait- lots of monsters have poison breath or poison blood in fiction. Growing back heads in pairs- thats traditional Hydra.

Dervag
2009-04-03, 01:01 PM
and this, right here is the problem. If I wanted to make up a lizard monster with supernatural powers, I couldn't. Society wouldn't let me. It would brand anything I came up with, no matter how far removed from a dragon, a dragon.

This can already be seen i the fact that hydras, salamanders, and sea serpents, basilisks, etc. are classified as dragons in more and more media.

where will the madness end?The reason you perceive madness here is that you are missing something important.

The name of a thing is not the thing itself. The map is not the territory. The fact that I call a basilisk a dragon is irrelevant as long as I preserve the interesting traits of the basilisk. It does not matter whether I call the basilisk a "basilisk" or a "death-eyed land-dragon." So long as the basilisk has features that make it distinct from the classic flying, fire-breathing dragon, why should it matter whether I list "basilisk" as subspecies of "dragon?"

I cannot somehow destroy the concept of the basilisk by referring to it as a type of dragon, any more than the ancient Greeks could destroy Osiris by assuming that Osiris was just another name for Dionysus or Hermes or whatever.

BRC
2009-04-03, 01:10 PM
As a note, according to Wikipedia, the word "Dragon" Comes from Greece.


In Ancient Greece the first mention of a "dragon" is derived from the Iliad where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon emblem on his breast plate.[2]; however, the Greek word used (δράκων drakōn, genitive δράκοντοϛ drakontos) could also mean "snake". δράκων drakōn is a form of the aorist participle active of Greek δέρκομαι derkomai = "I see", and originally likely meant "that which sees", or "that which flashes or gleams" (perhaps referring to reflective scales). This is the origin of the word "dragon". (See also Hesiod's Theogony, 322.)
So, a three-headed Dragon, sounds kind of like a Hyrda. Maybe Home was referencing the Hydra when he used that word. So calling the Hydra a Dragon may not be as bad as Tensu thinks.

GoC
2009-04-03, 01:30 PM
GoC: That's not true. You're assuming everyone who doesn't know any better agrees with you, when f someone brought to light what was happening, thay may very well not. do not count ignorance among your ranks.
Hah!
Everyone I know knows that there are different kinds of elves (including the ones of myth). Does that change anything? No.


but it's not used to refer to a wraith, which is a shame, because a mirror match with a double that has incorpreal and a bunch of ghastly allies could make for one epic fight.
You can still have one of those and you can still call it a wraith. What's the problem?


I'm saying that the hydra's poison was a huge part of the creature's danger, and to rob it of that would be to make it no longer a hydra.
Is that "You are not allowed to call such a creature a hydra" then?

Tensu
2009-04-03, 01:30 PM
Hamishspence: yes, a lot of mythical creatures have toxic blood. only two to my knowledge had such a toxic presence that the land around them died: The basilisk and the hydra. though the Chimera did something similar with fire. The regeneration is the most important issue, yes, and I won't raise a ruckus if someone doesn't remember the poison, I'll just brood silently over it until I get a chance to bring it up again in an internet debate.

Dervag: the individual sins are forgivable. the end result ("if it has scales it's a dragon" mentality) is not.

BRC: I know the etymology of the word dragon. three-headed dragons are very different beasts from hydras.

GoC: Elves, maybe. but this is about all mythical creatures. not just elves.

Because I'm sick and freaking tired of "that's not what a (blank) is! It's (longwinded reference to a movie, game, or book that's so wrong I can barely control my urge to smack them)"

They can call it a hydra, they'd just be wrong in doing so.

GoC
2009-04-03, 02:25 PM
GoC: Elves, maybe. but this is about all mythical creatures. not just elves.

Because I'm sick and freaking tired of "that's not what a (blank) is! It's (longwinded reference to a movie, game, or book that's so wrong I can barely control my urge to smack them)"

They can call it a hydra, they'd just be wrong in doing so.

A. So you concede the elves point?

B. Personally, I haven't run into this little problem so I can't really comment.

C. You really aren't getting the concept that the majority (not you or our ancestors) define the language are you?

Tensu
2009-04-03, 08:13 PM
A. I said maybe. There are plenty of people who don't know a whole lot about elves. I'm not even sure I do.

B. I run into it more often than anyone should ever have to.

C. You're not getting that language is meant to communicate ideas, and that if language takes a turn in which it is no longer possible to communicate an idea, than it is getting worse, not better. I don't expect to change anything, it's just, well, permissium haud malum sto.

You could argue from dawn 'till dusk for the majority, but if the majority was brutally dismembering itself in some manner that was crippling and incredibly painful (but not fatal, because then they'd cease to be the majority) would you? The majority isn't always right. Heck, I'd go so far to say the majority isn't even right often. America doesn't have a true democracy because the FF's realized what so many people today do not: The majority can be really, really stupid.

Jayngfet
2009-04-03, 08:25 PM
Personally I like working with existing copies of fictional concepts and intentionally twisting them. Dwarves and dark elves started out as being more advanced with metal and making unusual legendary weapons, not to mention being agressive and having a strong libido.

I took that and made them into a bunch of hotblooded super robot pilots.

GoC
2009-04-03, 08:28 PM
C. You're not getting that language is meant to communicate ideas, and that if language takes a turn in which it is no longer possible to communicate an idea, than it is getting worse, not better.
The human language can still communicate the concept of mythology elves or hydras so... yeah.:smallconfused:


You could argue from dawn 'till dusk for the majority, but if the majority was brutally dismembering itself in some manner that was crippling and incredibly painful (but not fatal, because then they'd cease to be the majority) would you? The majority isn't always right. Heck, I'd go so far to say the majority isn't even right often. America doesn't have a true democracy because the FF's realized what so many people today do not: The majority can be really, really stupid.
Umm...
That's irrelevant. The majority doesn't define what is true (which is what you're getting at), but they do define the language.

Tensu
2009-04-03, 08:29 PM
Personally I like working with existing copies of fictional concepts and intentionally twisting them. Dwarves and dark elves started out as being more advanced with metal and making unusual legendary weapons, not to mention being agressive and having a strong libido.

I took that and made them into a bunch of hotblooded super robot pilots.

But that isn't retconing the legend. Dwarves built giant robots all the time in norse mythology. My way of doing things grants you a lot more creative liberty than most people assume.

averagejoe
2009-04-03, 09:21 PM
Averagejoe: As Satyr pointed out, what a word means in it's native language and what it means in english can be two totally different things.

the second problem with your example is that I am familiar with all those uses, save the decoy, but that probably because I've never been hunting.

the third is that, even if he stopped calling those things stools, the concept of a stool (chair) or stool (poop) will still exist in the minds of the masses. when we change something wherein the only physical presence it has in our word is a handful of musty old reference tomes sitting in the back of the library, then the vast majority of the populace will lose sight of not only the word, but forget the very idea. and that is tragic.

The storyteller has always been the one making the commentary, not the critics, or at least that's how it was up until the 1900's.

Your first two points seem pretty irrelevant. All the uses of the word I listed were English, and any individual person's knowledge of the subject is quite beside the point.

As for your third point... sooo you're saying that if this goes on then people will lose the concept of, say for example, dragons? Besides the fact that you don't demonstrate any way that this is bad, do we really need to bring back the Bonnacon? (http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beast80.htm) I mean, I don't see the point of holding onto ideas that are no longer useful.


But that isn't retconing the legend. Dwarves built giant robots all the time in norse mythology. My way of doing things grants you a lot more creative liberty than most people assume.

You're calling them giant robots, which they weren't because they didn't use the word "robot." Clearly you are maliciously trying to do all that stuff you're arguing against. You're changing the word "robot" to mean something that it doesn't.

Tensu
2009-04-03, 09:44 PM
GoC: No they can't. Every time I try to it create an argument like this. I can also no longer communicate a concept of anything similar to a dragon or elf for similar reasons.

My point is that the majority doesn't always know what's best for itself, or what it really wants, because most people aren't going to be an expert on the thing being discussed. This isn't because the majority is stupid in general, but rather because they display a tragic ignorance of what's going on.

The majority can't be trusted to make an informed desicion of what is best. That includes what is best for language.

averagejoe:

You used an example from an extinct germanic language (gothic)

it matters because what I'm trying to prevent is something from being forgotten about. that's not an issue with things that really exist.

It's bad because it's part of our history as humans and we're just throwing it away like it's nothing. I thought that things like culture and honor and respect might still mean something to people. maybe I'm wrong.

And who says we don't have a use for the Bonnacon?

While I admit "robot" was probably a poor choice of words, the definition of robot is "a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically" Old Golden bristles certainly qualifies.

Joran
2009-04-03, 10:03 PM
While I admit "robot" was probably a poor choice of words, the definition of robot is "a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically" Old Golden bristles certainly qualifies.

How did you arrive at that definition? I believe Robot was derived from R.U.R., where they are described as basically artificial humans, rather than the current definition that you just stated. However, don't you find that expanding the definition makes the word more useful?

averagejoe
2009-04-03, 10:21 PM
It's bad because it's part of our history as humans and we're just throwing it away like it's nothing. I thought that things like culture and honor and respect might still mean something to people. maybe I'm wrong.

Haha, what? Now the people who disagree with you are dishonorable and disrespectful? That's a fairly wide jump. We're talking about what we name things; it isn't exactly serious business.

Oh, wait, the internet. Right.


And who says we don't have a use for the Bonnacon?

I don't know if we don't have a use for it, but it's pretty stupid. I'm just saying.

Jayngfet
2009-04-03, 10:37 PM
But that isn't retconing the legend. Dwarves built giant robots all the time in norse mythology. My way of doing things grants you a lot more creative liberty than most people assume.

Did the giant robots breathe fire to attack elfin dragonriders? While in the eye of a hurricane? With tornado's in the backround? While it rains swords that shoot lightning?

GoC
2009-04-03, 11:11 PM
GoC: No they can't. Every time I try to it create an argument like this. I can also no longer communicate a concept of anything similar to a dragon or elf for similar reasons.
Umm...
Yes you can.
I shall describe something similar to the dragon but completely different.
Animal A looks reptilian.
Animal A are Fae.
Animal A are intelligent.
Animal A are completely immortal.
Animal A are roughly the size of a nile water crocodile in natural form.
Animal A have wings.
Animal A have a stout body and thickish legs.
Animal A have a snout similar to that of a snake.
Animal A range in color from blue to green to red.
Animal A are playful and curious.
Animal A love science and discoveries.
Animal A value "modesty" wearing clothes made of different cloths according to complicated (to outsiders) rules determined by social status.
Animal A love the plains most of all but also enjoy islands and the open sea.
Animal A have various kingdoms and cultures.
Animal A have a slight racist streak (and a stronger one towards aquatic creatures) and but are friendly enough to other species.
Animal A have a natural tendency to form democracies.
Animal A value individual freedom highly.
Animal A breathes fire.

I could go on, laying out an entire history for these creatures and various societies.


The majority can't be trusted to make an informed desicion of what is best. That includes what is best for language.
Give me an example in history where restricting the natural evolution of language was either successful or a good idea.


I thought that things like culture and honor and respect might still mean something to people.
:smallconfused:
Such things never really mattered. "Chivalry"? Don't make me laugh.:smallyuk:

Dervag
2009-04-03, 11:26 PM
Dervag: the individual sins are forgivable. the end result ("if it has scales it's a dragon" mentality) is not.That begs a question:

By what right to you decide that such a thing is a sin, or that such a thing is or is not "forgivable?" You are not an all-powerful God of Fiction, with the power to make acts sinful simply because they violate your will.

More prosaically, your position to judge when someone is using a word like "elf" or "dragon" wrong is shaky. Your entire argument centers on the idea of received mythological definitions being inviolate, eternal, and sacred. That is undermined by the fact that those very definitions were themselves made up, and that they changed over time. It is then greatly weakened by the simple fact that languages evolve and that this is not a process of decay. It simply is, and it's not something you can really fight or reject, because you don't speak any language which hasn't evolved over time. Which is why we're not having this conversation in Proto-Indo-European.


Because I'm sick and freaking tired of "that's not what a (blank) is! It's (longwinded reference to a movie, game, or book that's so wrong I can barely control my urge to smack them)"And in the name of suppressing such ignorance, you believe that every writer should have to adhere to a rigid, extraordinarily detailed system of fantastic creature-naming that just happens to be the one you would use?
______


it matters because what I'm trying to prevent is something from being forgotten about. that's not an issue with things that really exist.You're fighting a battle that was decided for you before you were born, and you're ticking off a lot of people in the process.

The mythological terms you consider endangered... aren't. They just aren't. Most people don't know precisely what they mean, but you know what? They didn't know before, either.

Except for the Old Norse, a culture which vanished a thousand years ago, there has never been a culture where most people knew what the Old Norse idea of an alf was. And there never will be, because most people don't really care all that much. Scholars will remember, because they do that sort of thing. Hobbyists might remember, same reason. The average person will not, because the mythical bugbears of a long-dead culture aren't really all that important.

The sudden flux of modern fantasy novels which refer to "elves" very different from your classic Old Norse alf do not change anything. The people who now have mistaken ideas (as you see it) about what an "elf" is would not have had a clue what an "elf" or an "alf" was a hundred years ago.

Meanwhile, the scholars who would have known what an Old Norse alf was a hundred years ago still know. The knowledge has not been lost and is in absolutely no danger of being lost. All that has changed is that a word which referred to a concept most people neither knew nor cared about has been recycled. Now it can also refer to concepts that (some) people know and care about. It can still be legitimately used just as well for the old idea, and if you're educated you'll understand. If you're ignorant, you won't, but that didn't change; you wouldn't have understood before the recycling, either.
______


It's bad because it's part of our history as humans and we're just throwing it away like it's nothing. I thought that things like culture and honor and respect might still mean something to people. maybe I'm wrong.I, for one, am completely uncultured, honorless, and disrespectful. And you haven't insulted me personally at all.

And I am also a great liar. Because I'm so uncultured and honorless. Yeah.

averagejoe
2009-04-03, 11:36 PM
Did the giant robots breathe fire to attack elfin dragonriders? While in the eye of a hurricane? With tornado's in the backround? While it rains swords that shoot lightning?

Giant robots attacking dragons by breathing fire at them... tornadoes in the eye of a hurricane... sounds almost like a zen koan. :smalltongue:

Tensu
2009-04-04, 02:18 AM
Average Joe: Do I really think your stance on this shows disrespect? yes, I do. I know that if I ever become a famous storyteller I wouldn't want people thinking it was ever ok to pillage my work so they could be lazy even after it faded into obscurity. I know I couldn't stand it. And I have to much respect for the storytellers of yore to let people do it to them.

Multiple times on this thread I have stated Culture and Respect as my reasons for behaving the way I do in some manner or another, and Multiple times, many people, including you, said that I had "Give no good reasons", thus You said that Culture and Respect, or some since of tact and morality when dealing with the work of others are not good reasons.

GoC: You're missing my point. If you tried to present your work, a fair share of people would start calling them dragons. Heck, other than being fae and wearing clothing there isn't a lot of difference, and people have called more different things dragons.

"irony" and "chaos" come to mind. I can't help but let out a groan every time someone says "chaotic" to describe anything other than Chaos, and I'm pretty sure the word irony will have replaced the entire english language by 2030.

respect does matter. the way people treat you and the way you treat them depends pretty much solely on respect. Honor in battle may be bull, but honor in all other matters is not only valid and admirable, but essential for a healthy society. I'd cite "Lack of Honor" as the number 2 reason we're in the mess we're in, after overpopulation.

Dervag: Again, I remind you, I'm a sucker for drama. I use dramatic words like "sin" and "forgivable" because I'm just a dramatic guy.

you seem to be forgetting that mythology is art. If someone painted a moustache on the mono lisa and claimed they'd "evolved it", they'd put that person away. Why is some art ok to deface and others not? I ask who are you to say that this artist's work is not important and ok to vadalize? who are you to say that a man's life's work should be left in obscurity because it makes something more convienent for you? Who are you to take centuries of cultural tradition and throw them to the wind like they mean nothing? To wipe names from the history books? Who do I think I am? No sir, who do you think you are?

What I'm asking is not that rigid: "do not retcon mythology". it's as simple as that. You're making me out to be some tyrant that I'm not.

I stated that this is not a battle I intend to win: merely one I intend to fight. Something to do with my dated ideals of honor.

The reason I made that statement is that from the beginning I argued that the reason this was important is that is disregards centuries of culture and is disrespectful, and numerous people have told me that I have presented no good reasons as to why not to do that. in other words, I was told by multiple people that honor and culture mean nothing.

Jayngfet: Doesn't matter. Dwarves made all sorts of crazy constructs and magic items. It in no way violates the mythology to have them build giant fighting machines. You're thinking I'm some Tyrant that I'm not. You're not going back and making dwarves fair-skinned: you're expanding on a known and documented aspect of dwarves. You are not retconing mythology.

Joran: I admit I may be victim to ignorance here: It was my assumption that the word "robot" was used to describe mechanical servants (which applies to Golden Bristles) having not read the book, I'm not sure how much the humanoid aspect was stressed. I already admitted it was probably a poor choice of words, but I was repeating words someone else used: Not choosing my own. Nevertheless I should have been more observant and offer my apologies.


Everyone: If you're not going to use dwarves, elves, dragons, whatever, why call them that? You know they're not. I know they're not. Why do it? what are you accomplishing? You asked me what you where losing, now I ask you: what are you gaining?

averagejoe
2009-04-04, 04:31 AM
Average Joe: Do I really think your stance on this shows disrespect? yes, I do. I know that if I ever become a famous storyteller I wouldn't want people thinking it was ever ok to pillage my work so they could be lazy even after it faded into obscurity. I know I couldn't stand it. And I have to much respect for the storytellers of yore to let people do it to them.

But it isn't disrespectful at all. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm a pretty disrespectful guy, and I find the notion of the "sacred" to generally be obnoxious, but I do know when I'm being disrespectful. One emulates something because they found it in some way inspiring. It isn't lazy, it just is. It's a way of showing respect for the source material. I just don't see where you're getting disrespect out of this.


If someone painted a moustache on the mono lisa and claimed they'd "evolved it", they'd put that person away. Why is some art ok to deface and others not?

Entirely different situation. The Mona Lisa is irreplaceable, and representing someone else's art as your own is plagiarism. Now, if someone did a painting much like the Mona Lisa and added a mustache, that would be fine. In fact, plenty of famous, good, and respectable artists do (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Venus) just (http://accel21.mettre-put-idata.over-blog.com/0/02/64/50//jo_titian_venus_of_urbino.jpg) that (http://biblioklept.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/olympia.jpg). (If it's art is it still NSFW?)

(Also, for any of you out there who know art, I can't find one I was looking for because I can't remember the name. It was a painting that looks very similar to Olympia, but instead of a woman it was a feminine man. I don't have my books, and it's bugging the crap out of me.)


What I'm asking is not that rigid: "do not retcon mythology". it's as simple as that. You're making me out to be some tyrant that I'm not.

Just to note: retconning refers to changes made within a work's continuity. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decides to bring back Sherlock Holmes, and explains in his next installment how Sherlock Holmes wasn't actually killed, that's retconning. What you're thinking of is, "Using words to mean different things."


Everyone: If you're not going to use dwarves, elves, dragons, whatever, why call them that? You know they're not. I know they're not. Why do it? what are you accomplishing? You asked me what you where losing, now I ask you: what are you gaining?

Well, I actually am one who finds this practice somewhat distasteful, so I may not be the best person to answer this; I'll take a stab at it anyways.

Making cosmetic changes to already established things can be interesting. One thing I like is seeing different visual interpretations of something that isn't physically real; this seems like the literary analogue of that. I mean, to say that they're not using X creature is a bit arrogant; to reinterpret a thing does not necessarily make it not that thing. As I understand it, this was always the case; everyone didn't think the same thing when they thought "elf," or whatever linguistic analogue.

Plus there's the desire to emulate those who inspired you, but to want to put your own spin on it. It's natural enough for anyone who wants to create something.

Timeras
2009-04-04, 04:47 AM
respect does matter. the way people treat you and the way you treat them depends pretty much solely on respect. Honor in battle may be bull, but honor in all other matters is not only valid and admirable, but essential for a healthy society. I'd cite "Lack of Honor" as the number 2 reason we're in the mess we're in, after overpopulation.
While respect and honor are important, using the name of a mythological creature for a fictional creature that is slightly different from the original is neither disrespectfull nor dishonorable.


you seem to be forgetting that mythology is art. If someone painted a moustache on the mono lisa and claimed they'd "evolved it", they'd put that person away. That is not the same thing.
It´s more like calling a painiting you just made "Mona Lisa". And nobody would care about that.




Everyone: If you're not going to use dwarves, elves, dragons, whatever, why call them that? You know they're not. I know they're not. Why do it? what are you accomplishing? You asked me what you where losing, now I ask you: what are you gaining?
If someone wrote story that contained creatures that are like dragons but differ slightly it would be dishonest to give them a different name and pretend to have invented a new kind of creature.

YesImSardonic
2009-04-04, 08:44 AM
you seem to be forgetting that mythology is art. If someone painted a moustache on the mono lisa and claimed they'd "evolved it", they'd put that person away.


For the record, Duchamp did just that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.H.O.O.Q.).

Dervag
2009-04-04, 05:20 PM
Average Joe: Do I really think your stance on this shows disrespect? yes, I do. I know that if I ever become a famous storyteller I wouldn't want people thinking it was ever ok to pillage my work so they could be lazy even after it faded into obscurity. I know I couldn't stand it. And I have to much respect for the storytellers of yore to let people do it to them.It is to laugh.

Ancient storytellers did that kind of thing all the time. They did it far more openly and blatantly than anyone today, because nobody had ever heard of this little thing called "copyright." See anyone familiar with the history of the bardic tradition for a more complex explanation.


Dervag: Again, I remind you, I'm a sucker for drama. I use dramatic words like "sin" and "forgivable" because I'm just a dramatic guy.To my way of thinking, your choice of such words says something about your motives in advancing this argument, but I've already said enough about that.


you seem to be forgetting that mythology is art. If someone painted a moustache on the mono lisa and claimed they'd "evolved it", they'd put that person away. Why is some art ok to deface and others not? I ask who are you to say that this artist's work is not important and ok to vadalize?You're still missing the point. If I painted a mustache on the mono lisa, I would be vadalizing it. That's true because the Mona Lisa is a real thing, and there is only one of it. Adding random changes to it is thus a way of destroying the original. Vandalism involves destruction.

But if I paint a copy of the Mona Lisa with a mustache (as the famous artist Marcel Duchamp did in 1919), that is not vandalism. I am not in any way damaging the original when I do that. The original is still there, unchanged. I have destroyed nothing. I have created something that may not be very interesting or valuable, but I didn't have to destroy anything to do it.

The same applies when Tolkien imagines a race of semi-angelic superhumans and calls them "elves." Tolkien didn't destroy or damage or vandalize the Old Norse mythology by reimagining it. On the contrary, he revived it, by giving people who weren't scholars of ancient history a reason to care about it.


who are you to say that a man's life's work should be left in obscurity because it makes something more convienent for you? Who are you to take centuries of cultural tradition and throw them to the wind like they mean nothing? To wipe names from the history books? Who do I think I am? No sir, who do you think you are?I'm the guy who's noticed that you're presenting us with a false choice. You're offering us with the alternatives of keeping old lore under glass to preserve it, or destroying it. Neither of those options is real.

Keeping old lore under glass doesn't preserve it; it just guarantees that everyone will forget it faster. Reinterpretation keeps the work alive, and a living work lasts a lot longer than a dead one.

Conversely, as I've said before, you can't destroy a work of art by reinterpreting it.[/QUOTE]

GoC
2009-04-05, 07:39 AM
GoC: You're missing my point. If you tried to present your work, a fair share of people would start calling them dragons. Heck, other than being fae and wearing clothing there isn't a lot of difference, and people have called more different things dragons.
Not a problem as long as you make sure they don't get any misconceptions.


"irony" and "chaos" come to mind. I can't help but let out a groan every time someone says "chaotic" to describe anything other than Chaos, and I'm pretty sure the word irony will have replaced the entire english language by 2030.
Chaos is what mathematicians say it is.:smalltongue:


respect does matter. the way people treat you and the way you treat them depends pretty much solely on respect. Honor in battle may be bull, but honor in all other matters is not only valid and admirable, but essential for a healthy society. I'd cite "Lack of Honor" as the number 2 reason we're in the mess we're in, after overpopulation.
I don't have a clue what honor is and I'm sure I'm not alone in this.


Everyone: If you're not going to use dwarves, elves, dragons, whatever, why call them that? You know they're not. I know they're not. Why do it? what are you accomplishing? You asked me what you where losing, now I ask you: what are you gaining?
A. Doesn't matter. They should have a right to call them whatever they want without anyone freaking out.
B. So you don't have to define a large number of different features but can instead say "Tolkien elves, except blah blah blah.". It's easier, it allows you to use classic archetypes (they're classic because they are/were interesting) and writers are very lazy. Look at all the scaling problems in sci-fi, cases of Did Not Do The Research and the huge number of plot-holes in the media in general. Most of which would be fixable if they'd just spent 10 minutes on them.

Tensu
2009-04-05, 09:44 AM
Averagejoe: I know if someone did to my work half the things they do to the works of Homer and such I'm not sure If I'd ever be able to forgive them fully. And believe it or not I'm actually a pretty forgiving guy. Who knows, maybe they want their work used. Maybe they don't. I think a "no retcon" rule is best because when you retcon their work you aren't actually using it, you make something up and then call it what they called their thing. If you poured your heart, soul, and mind into something only to have someone else re-write it and to have your precious original forgotten in the wake of their bastardization. Would you not feel hurt? Would you not feel insulted?

Just like the concepts of the original beings of myth. Since they dwell in the realm of mind, once they're forgotten, they're gone forever.

I feel it is retconing in a sense, because even if it isn't intended to be a change in continuity, it ultimately becomes one because so many people accept it as such. all debates about definitions aside, you know what I mean.

But it's possible to have a different interpretation without contradicting the myth. I was thinking up a prehistoric-themed fantasy world one day, and remembered that dwarves where said to have once been maggots in the body of Yimir. Thus in such a setting dwarves in an in-between state between maggot and modern dwarf (with very thin beards made of caterpillar-like hairs) would be appropriate in such a setting. things like that. there are lots of ways to put your own spin on something without making it something it's not. like 'fet's Automoton building dwarves.

Timeras

first off, read what I said to averagejoe on your first comment. I know I'd feel disrespected and insulted and I'm not going to let that happen to anyone else.

I'm sure a lot of people would care. and it's more than that, the painting that isn't mona lisa begins to replace the one that is.

depending on the change no it wouldn't you are a perfect example of the problem. not everything with scales is a dragon, my friend, and the more call things dragons, the broader the definition becomes, and the harder it becomes to not write about dragons.

Dervag: And since what we're doing would be considered a crime if it was done to modern works, what makes it ok to do it to ancient ones?

no, I just like to be dramatic. Also I feel very strongly about this.

but you are destroying them. your actions won't kill them soon, probably not in your or even your children's lifetimes, but if this keeps up, they will be forgotten. and that is equivelent to destroying them.

you would revive them a lot better staying true to the source material.

No, you are not understanding what I'm saying. You're making me out to be some Tyrant who objects to any use at all. If you had been paying attention, you'd know that's not true. I want the old material to be used. I don't want it to be retconed.

GoC: It's becoming increasingly harder to ensure people don't get misconceptions in a world where anything that isn't secret racism is perverse innuendo.

No it is not.

Honor is adhering to a belief in doing the right thing and/or a personal set of respectable principles.

Why should they have that right? it's not they're work.

It's just as easy to say "Mythology (blank)".

everyone: I feel that constantly twisting old legends into something they're not ruins their sense of epic and turns them into a novelty act. Nobody is scared of dragons anymore and such. Returning them to their original form has a sense of mystery to it, and I'd argue the original form is better for gaming for these reasons.

GoC
2009-04-05, 12:45 PM
GoC: It's becoming increasingly harder to ensure people don't get misconceptions in a world where anything that isn't secret racism is perverse innuendo.

No it is not.

Honor is adhering to a belief in doing the right thing and/or a personal set of respectable principles.

Why should they have that right? it's not they're work.

It's just as easy to say "Mythology (blank)".

Still easily doable.

Yes it is.:smallbiggrin:
Like most words in the english language it has multiple definitions but the one that will endure after all others have faded is the mathematical one.

Never heard that definition before. So honor is equivalent to "principled"?

Huh? It's a word. You cannot copyright a word. You coin it then people use it as they see fit.

:smallconfused:

Tensu
2009-04-05, 02:14 PM
Never said it wasn't doable: Just much harder than it needs to be.

No, it isn't.
I don't think mathmaticians have any more right to define philisophical/religious terms than game desiners have to define mythological terms. in fact, they have way less.

In this context yes, Honor is equivalent to upholding principles and giving/getting respect. I do this because I respect their work, because I know I wouldn't want what's done to their work done to mine, and because I believe that any kind of propagation of ignorance is wrong. Note that I'm not accusing anyone of being ignorant, and for the record I harbor no grudges against anyone here do long as they haven't accused me of having a god complex for trying to stand up for what I believe in, I'm merely stating that the frequent retconing of mythology does make many people ignorant, and the spread of that ignorance will in time result in a loss of a piece of human history. And I find that tragic. I don't intend to win against this entropy, but the longer I fight, the longer it will be until it happens.

I think the main difference between you and I, GoC, is that you're looking at words, and I'm looking at concepts. I'm trying to defend a concept that, without exclusive rights to it's word, dies, because it has little physical presence in our world, and how long that presence lasts depends on how long people want to.

Maybe my respect for the old legends is a little misguided, but nonetheless it's there, and I'll fight to keep them alive as long as my heart fights to keep me alive, because, despite my inability to get a book published due to laziness, I feel I have a kind of a "heart of a storyteller" and look upon the great storytellers of the past as brothers of sorts.

Yes, I'm aware that I'm completely out of my freaking mind, but I wouldn't want to live any other way.:smalltongue:

Dervag
2009-04-05, 05:30 PM
Who knows, maybe they want their work used. Maybe they don't. I think a "no retcon" rule is best because when you retcon their work you aren't actually using it, you make something up and then call it what they called their thing. If you poured your heart, soul, and mind into something only to have someone else re-write it and to have your precious original forgotten in the wake of their bastardization. Would you not feel hurt? Would you not feel insulted?Since all our evidence of what preliterate storytellers behave like suggests that Homer did the same thing himself, I don't expect that he'd complain. Again, the notion of copyright-as-holy, the idea that because I was the first to tell a story I have a right to control it in perpetuity, is a new one. It has its uses, but it is not one of the ultimate moral truths that should guide all human behavior for eternity.

For most of history, everything was in the public domain, and people got along fine. Artists created works, plagiarists plagiarized, and no one was truly harmed. All that changed was the advent of mass marketing. If I can realistically expect to sell two million copies of my work, then someone who takes my work, changes the names around, and markets it as their own work is hurting me. But a medieval troubadour couldn't expect that. It was no skin off his nose if someone "borrowed" his tale about Roland and the Peers of Charlemagne and transplanted it into King Arthur's Britain. Likewise, it was no skin off the noses of the Nordic skalds when Tolkein decided to come up with a new idea for a fantasy race and call them "elves."
_____


I'm sure a lot of people would care. and it's more than that, the painting that isn't mona lisa begins to replace the one that is.That's a testable proposition, and it's false. Marcel Duchamp's 1919 painting of the Mona Lisa with a mustache did not replace the original. Neither did any of the other twentieth-century homages and parodies of the Mona Lisa. If anything, they made the Mona Lisa more famous by reminding people of its existence. Without all the commentary and parody and homage, it would just be one more painting in the Louvre. It would be nice and unique and original, just like you assume da Vinci would have wanted... but no one except the art historians would care. For most of us, it would be the "Mona Who?"
_______


you would revive them a lot better staying true to the source material.No, I wouldn't. The original source material is very restrictive. With a few notable exceptions like Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, there just aren't that many good stories I can tell about an Old Norse alf that will appeal to a modern audience. The alf is an Old Norse archetype, and it fits into the culture of the Old Norse, not into mine. But the Old Norse are a thousand years dead, so there's no point in writing stories for them.

If I write stories in the style of the Old Norse using strictly interpreted Norse mythology, with no freedom to adapt the terms and archetypes to my own use, most people aren't going to give a damn. They'll pick up books that speak to them, rather than to cultures that died out before their nation was conceived.
______

For an example of why this is a problem, compare two very similar Greek mythical beings: the naiad and the dryad. Naiads were water spirits; dryads were tree spirits. If you look at the original Greek myths, naiads were more likely to be important and to have a specific name. Many Greek heroes and legendary founding figures were married to or related to naiads.

But today, the average person is far more likely to have at least a rough idea of what a dryad is than a naiad. Why? Because modern fantasy has adopted the dryad, but not the naiad. The idea of female spirits who personify bodies of water does not speak to our culture; the idea of female spirits who personify trees, forests, and the wilderness in general does.

We no longer really believe in the kind of pantheism that makes the concept of naiads sensible. Fantastic spirits or gods in modern stories normally represent abstract concepts or individual people; you don't see a lot of genius loci. That makes it harder to write good stories around naiads than around dryads.

Thus, modern writers, game designers, poets, and so on have some interest in including dryads, but not naiads. Which results in millions of people having at least a rough notion of what a dryad is, one that they can easily refine if they care to do so. And many of those same people have never even heard of a naiad. As a result, the idea of a naiad is in far more danger of becoming lost than the idea of a dryad... even though the naiad is normally portrayed more faithfully when anyone bothers to portray it at all.
______


Honor is adhering to a belief in doing the right thing and/or a personal set of respectable principles.And how, exactly, does this adherence require everyone to apply strict conservatism to the definition of fantastic mythical beasts that never existed and never will?
______


I think the main difference between you and I, GoC, is that you're looking at words, and I'm looking at concepts. I'm trying to defend a concept that, without exclusive rights to it's word, dies, because it has little physical presence in our world, and how long that presence lasts depends on how long people want to.My problem with that is that you're trying to keep those concepts hermetically sealed in glass jars, where they'll die of their own accord because they can't change.

A banal analogy:

Butterflies look good. We're glad butterflies exist. One way to appreciate butterflies is to trap them, kill them, and douse them in preservatives. Then we can pin them to boards where people can look at them for centuries exactly as they were when they were trapped.

The other way to appreciate butterflies is to encourage people to create and preserve butterfly habitats, places where butterflies can live and evolve. Then anyone can go to those places and see the butterflies for themselves. Of course, the butterflies will die of old age and be temporarily replaced by caterpillars that don't look as nice. And the new butterflies won't be quite the same as the old ones. But there will still be living butterflies to look at, not dead ones.

Experience shows that when we try to preserve the beauty of a butterfly by trapping it under glass, it's likely to wind up forgotten in some attic, or in the back room of a museum collection. Except for dedicated butterfly collectors, most people won't appreciate the beauty of a dead butterfly pinned to a board. Whereas lots of people can appreciate the live butterflies in a meadow. The live butterfly may not be displayed quite as optimally; it may not have quite the perfect color of that lovely specimen you caught five years ago. But it's alive, and that counts for a lot.

My argument is that the same is true of fictional tropes and concepts. If you try to preserve them unchanged, they wind up becoming forgotten once the context they were created in vanishes. Only people dedicated enough to learn all about the context will be able to appreciate them.

Letting them evolve freely may make them change in ways that their original creators could not foresee. But it also allows them to retain relevance and interest in societies very different from the one the original creators lived in.

Jorkens
2009-04-05, 05:36 PM
I'm trying to defend a concept that, without exclusive rights to it's word, dies,
This is the big question, really isn't it. Do you really think that there's less awareness now of, say, norse mythology than there was fifty years ago before fantasy got huge and people started playing fast and loose with the terminology?

I'm less than convinced. As long as the older ideas have power and resonance and make a connection with people then something which increases the potential audience from a few rather marginalized traditional storytellers and a couple of hundred academics to millions of fantasy fans who have been told that 'you've got to check out these old myths, it's where Tolkein ripped off half his best ideas from' is only going to add to the strength and vitality of the ideas. Maybe at the same time loads of people who previously neither knew nor cared what an alf was now think an elf is a pointy eared archer who lives in the woods, but I don't see how that makes much difference.

Tensu
2009-04-05, 06:54 PM
Dervag: I don't have the patience to read that.

Jorkens: That is to some extent true, but not many people look back, many just accept. While there was ignorance in the past, there could be far worse in the future. I've already seen it begun.

GoC
2009-04-05, 09:02 PM
No, it isn't.
I don't think mathmaticians have any more right to define philisophical/religious terms than game desiners have to define mythological terms. in fact, they have way less.
Chaos is not presently a religuous term.

I believe Dervag is doing an excellent job of arguing these points with you so Ill leave it in his capable hands.

If you don't have the patience to read a well thought out argument (Dervag's) then I don't have the patience to argue with you anymore.

Tensu
2009-04-05, 09:10 PM
Chaos is not presently a religuous term.

yes it is. Chaos is described as the state of the universe before God (or gods, depending on your religion) brought order.


I believe Dervag is doing an excellent job of arguing these points with you so Ill leave it in his capable hands.

Dervag has been very rude and insulting to me and I don't want to discuss this with him anymore.


If you don't have the patience to read a well thought out argument (Dervag's) then I don't have the patience to argue with you anymore.

When everyone posts a novel there's only so much repeating of what has already been said I'm willing to scroll through. You can't expect me to read though eight paragraphs that don't say anything I haven't already heard before, especially when they could be easily summarized in one, and then respond to them all.

Dervag
2009-04-05, 10:24 PM
Dervag: I don't have the patience to read that.No problem. I didn't really have anything to say, anyway. Nothing to see here; move along.


When everyone posts a novel there's only so much repeating of what has already been said I'm willing to scroll through. You can't expect me to read though eight paragraphs that don't say anything I haven't already heard before...How do you know that my paragraphs don't say anything you haven't already heard before if you haven't read them yet?


...especially when they could be easily summarized in one [paragraph].Oh, I could summarize my argument in one paragraph.

What I couldn't do in one paragraph is provide supporting logic for my argument. And I couldn't say anything the important details that people always seem to misunderstand when reading someone else's arguments.

So sure, I could summarize my arguments in shorter form. But I'd have to do it by making them less clear. I have two choices. I can seem logical to people who can spend five minutes reading a document, but boring to people who can't. Or I can seem interesting but illogical to everyone, including the people who can't spend five minutes reading.

I choose the first option.

Tensu
2009-04-06, 10:29 AM
because everyone has been repeating the same two argument against me over and over. and that is "language evolves" and "myths evolve". And I'm not going to be swayed by those arguments for a number of reasons:

1. They take it too far. The word ghoul (or if you want to get technical, ghul) means demon, yet we have ghouls that aren't demons. The word Woad is a reference to the creature's blue color, yet we have woads that aren't blue. The changes being made go against the very concept the creature was conceived in in the first place, defying even the very name of the beast.

2. We're not talking about language and we never have been. We're talking about mythology.

3. The loss of the creature's word could be the death of it's original concept

4. The constant changes made turn them form epic characters from human history into novelty acts.

5. It makes people try and pidgin-hole any new idea into an old mythical creature, which is bad for a long list of reasons I've already gone into.

6. I have some strange moral obligation, real or imagined, to defend their work because I would want someone to do it with mine.

That's not to say I wouldn't listen if a good enough argument was presented: I just have yet to see one capable of convincing me.

I'll admit I overreacted twice over the course of this thread, and I apologize. I'm more than willing to forgive and forget if you are. But I can't help but feel I'm being a little demonized here, and that people think I'm imposing limits much stricter than I actually am. I don't really feel I've done anything to anyone else someone here didn't do to me first, but let's not play the blame game. Let's all just forgive, forget, and see if we can get this discussion civil again.

The_Snark
2009-04-06, 01:47 PM
Tensu, I think the issue most people are taking from your arguments stems from your first point:


1. They take it too far. The word ghoul (or if you want to get technical, ghul) means demon, yet we have ghouls that aren't demons. The word Woad is a reference to the creature's blue color, yet we have woads that aren't blue. The changes being made go against the very concept the creature was conceived in in the first place, defying even the very name of the beast.

Most of the rest of your points are pretty valid; language is only peripherally related (although since words change, you have to admit that the definition of nouns such as ghoul could change), it is a little annoying when the original idea is forgotten, and I can understand being irritated with the tendency to pidgeonhole original ideas as"basically elves/dwarves/dragons, only with..."

But what point 1 says (to me) is that you're arguing that change is bad. I don't know whether that's what you mean, but that's how a lot of your arguments are coming across.

Most people don't agree. I know I'd quickly be bored of dragons, or elves, or fairies, if all of them were the same. (Granted, the variations of those concepts have been explored pretty thoroughly, so they can be boring too.) Changing a myth or story is not inherently a bad thing, nor is it disrespectful to the original. The original is still there, and just as likely to benefit from the contrast as to be harmed. Ask an author (or actor, or director, or what-have-you) whether they enjoyed a parody of their work, and unless the parody is overly cruel or the author overly humorless, most will say yes. Ask about a story inspired by their work, and you don't even have the chance of being offended by the humor. (They might dislike the story for being badly done, but then their dislike comes from the quality, not from the connection to their work.)

If the original story is replaced in the popular consciousness by the changes (see: ghouls, zombies, Frankenstein), that's too bad. Sometimes they're brought back: the portrayal of fairies in a lot of recent fantasy is a lot darker, as a sort of countercurrent to the Victorian storybook portrayal. Whether or not that happens, though, saying that you shouldn't ever change old concepts limits a branch of storytelling that a lot of people find really interesting. There's an area in between "original idea" and "existing concept", and it's not inherently worse than either one.

GoC
2009-04-06, 01:51 PM
yes it is. Chaos is described as the state of the universe before God (or gods, depending on your religion) brought order.
Your use of the present tense is wrong. Change that to a past tense.
And notice something important here. The word chaos has changed it's meaning but the original concept is still there, describable and thriving.


Dervag has been very rude and insulting to me and I don't want to discuss this with him anymore.
I can't say I saw that in his posts but I'm sure it wasn't intentional.
Dervag is one of the few people who's posts I enjoy reading. Informative, polite, clear, thought out (though mistakes are human after all).


because everyone has been repeating the same two argument against me over and over. and that is "language evolves" and "myths evolve". And I'm not going to be swayed by those arguments for a number of reasons:

1. They take it too far. The word ghoul (or if you want to get technical, ghul) means demon, yet we have ghouls that aren't demons. The word Woad is a reference to the creature's blue color, yet we have woads that aren't blue. The changes being made go against the very concept the creature was conceived in in the first place, defying even the very name of the beast.

2. We're not talking about language and we never have been. We're talking about mythology.

3. The loss of the creature's word could be the death of it's original concept

4. The constant changes made turn them form epic characters from human history into novelty acts.

5. It makes people try and pidgin-hole any new idea into an old mythical creature, which is bad for a long list of reasons I've already gone into.

6. I have some strange moral obligation, real or imagined, to defend their work because I would want someone to do it with mine.

That's not to say I wouldn't listen if a good enough argument was presented: I just have yet to see one capable of convincing me.

I'll admit I overreacted twice over the course of this thread, and I apologize. I'm more than willing to forgive and forget if you are. But I can't help but feel I'm being a little demonized here, and that people think I'm imposing limits much stricter than I actually am. I don't really feel I've done anything to anyone else someone here didn't do to me first, but let's not play the blame game. Let's all just forgive, forget, and see if we can get this discussion civil again.

1. Ghoul used to mean demon. Last part of paragraph incomprehensible/illogical/intuitional.

2. You started talking about language "The word elf should mean this".

3. How do concepts "die"? What does it mean to talk about the death of a concept?

4. They can still be epic characters in another piece of literature. Vampires in fiction range from whiney emo teenagers who dislike sunlight to things like Alucard from hellsing or the original dracula. The original dracula wasn't even the first vampire.

5. Disagree.

6. They don't want you to "defend their work" because then their work would die.

That's because of two things: 1. This is a matter of belief, you cannot be convinced of this. 2. You ignore their arguments (like you did to Dervag's).

:smallbiggrin:
I'd like to support the use of the word "Tensu" to describe an unreasonable person obsessed with ancient culture!:smallbiggrin::smalltongue:

Tensu
2009-04-06, 02:20 PM
Snark:Well, I'm less arguing change in general is bad and more that there are good and bad kinds of change.

everyone: One of my biggest problems with language today is that it doesn't evolve: it inbreeds. We are afraid to make up new words. Grammar nazis are perhaps #1 to blame with their "that's not a word" rants. I say if it communicated a point, it was a word. What happens is we use a word that has little to nothing to do with what we're actually describing. Chaos is an excellent example. The end result is a clunky language that makes it hard to communicate.

GoC: It still means demon. and what about woads? that's fun to say. hehe whataboutwoadswhatabotwoaodswhataboutwoadswhatabou twoads

*ahem*

No, I was talking about "elf means this". you could turn that into a discussion about language, in the same way you could argue the word toast is a large body of water, but that's not what's really being discussed.

a concept dies when it is forgotten.

please do not mention the V word. They are the prime example of all that is wrong. poor Succubi and azumen are constantly pushed back by their ever-widening sphere on influence. of course, that not why I don't like to hear/read the word. that's because I'm of below average sanity. but still.

5. You can disagree all you want, but I see it happen every day.

6. I disagree. Their work will survive longer if it isn't constantly retconed.

I don't ignore your arguments. I only skipped over dervag's because it was very long and I've been in discussions where it took one hour to read their post and one hour to respond. Never again.

Tensu already has a meaning, just not in any language in this dimension:smallbiggrin:

konfeta
2009-04-06, 03:40 PM
everyone: One of my biggest problems with language today is that it doesn't evolve: it inbreeds. We are afraid to make up new words. Grammar nazis are perhaps #1 to blame with their "that's not a word" rants. I say if it communicated a point, it was a word. What happens is we use a word that has little to nothing to do with what we're actually describing. Chaos is an excellent example. The end result is a clunky language that makes it hard to communicate.

@Tensu:

Consider the alternative.

A new word for every new concept we come up with. And you think that will somehow make for a more organized language that's easier to communicate in? The sheer amount of information you would need to memorize, the amount of energy you would have to put into creating new words and associating exact, all-encompassing, new meanings with these words would probably end up killing most children before they leave kindergarden. Or they will simply forget most of it, and start merging similiar concepts under roofs of single words or phrases.

Our minds simply do not work in manner to accommodate your vision of nomenclature. Our process of thought seems to revolve around grouping and organizing concepts. Tell me, when you think about the people in your school or workplace, do you instantly recollect every individual and that individual's traits and interactions between the individuals? Or do you generalize them into a crowd, and work your way down from there if you want to recollect something specific?

Apply the exact same human thought process to mythology words. There are probably hundreds of different iterations of what the common person calls "elf." Almost nobody can and almost nobody will care too memorize individual names, while keeping in mind some nebulous "original." It is simply alien to our manner of thought. We will simply adapt a word that, for whatever reason, has come to have an number of associated properties that generally represent the defining qualities of these different iterations of humanoid races.

This is not inbreeding. This is how language has worked for the past what, 10+ thousand years? It is not the job of language to preserve concepts of ancient cultures. Language describes what is relevant to the modern culture. You say the point is to preserve the wonders of ancient mythology? If mythology goes against language, it will lose. One is history, a mostly static collection of information. Other is a dynamic sum of communication between every human who speaks it. These aren't even in the same league as far as relevance to the modern man is concerned.

It doesn't matter what is the original meaning of the word. When the majority of the people who use the language decide on a new meaning to that word, the purpose of language has been accomplished. Whenever the majority is "qualified" (And who the bloody hell decides that? Dead cultures? Please...) under some arbitary standards is irrelevant because majority is the primary qualification when it comes to language. That's the whole point of the thing.

That is, if you come up to a person, and say "elf," that act is very, very likely to evoke Tolkienesque imagery of what Tolkien described as elf. That is the function of language. If you say X, it will cause the person you are speaking to think about concept Y. If you desire to be clear or are referring to something more specific, you delve into the specifics, exceptions to the imagery, additions to the imagery. If you wanted to talk about concept Z, you do not use the word X to describe it because according to the language you are currently conversing with, the word X no longer describes concept Z.

There is a world of difference between how you think language should function and how language actually works. There is no intellectual property inherent in language. It is perhaps the most democratic thing humans have. It works on what is current as opposed to what is past. If you have a problem with people referring to hydras as dragons, tough luck. Take a deep breath, and ignore them. Language would not have survived if we used a new word for every new concept we came up with. Poor "original" hydras and chimeras and whatnot would be neccessary casualties of the process IF there was no one left to care about Greek mythology.

Tensu
2009-04-06, 04:30 PM
Pay attention.


2. We're not talking about language and we never have been. We're talking about mythology.

that said, I don't see how having five words with five different meanings is any more confusing than one word with five meanings.

I'm not arguing against words having multiple definitions, it's only when one of the definitions is forgotten that I have a problem.

SlyGuyMcFly
2009-04-06, 04:35 PM
Interesting discussion. I´ll throw in my 2 cents on the matter (do we enough to get us all a beer yet?)


On the whole elf thing: I don´t see the problem really. Take for instance the word "car". A car is a vehicle, with an internal combustion engine, 4 wheels, and at least 2 doors. But after those basic conditions, cars vary a lot. Size, engine capacity, number of doors, colour, fuel type and a plethora of those extras named with 3 letter acronyms. "Elf" works out the same way. Elves are thinner that humans, have a predilection for magic, are agile and dextrous, and have long lives and excellent senses. After that they vary a great deal, size, culture, degree of magicalness, all of which depend on the author´s view on what makes a good elf, just like cars depend on the manufacturers view on how to make a good car.

So what if the concept of elf descends from an old Norse myth? What makes it so important to set what an elf is in stone? The fact that an old myth is old?


As for this:


One of my biggest problems with language today is that it doesn't evolve: it inbreeds. We are afraid to make up new words. Grammar nazis are perhaps #1 to blame with their "that's not a word" rants. I say if it communicated a point, it was a word. What happens is we use a word that has little to nothing to do with what we're actually describing. Chaos is an excellent example. The end result is a clunky language that makes it hard to communicate.

I´m willing to bet my two cents that in the past 50 years the English language has had to invent more words than it has "co-opted" old words into having new meanings.

Dervag
2009-04-06, 06:25 PM
because everyone has been repeating the same two argument against me over and over. and that is "language evolves" and "myths evolve". And I'm not going to be swayed by those arguments for a number of reasons:Actually, I made a number of other arguments that you appear not to have any interest in, seemingly because I explained them at length. Having already explained these arguments at length, I see no reason to go into them again. If you suddenly become interested in knowing what they are, they are a matter of record and can be found earlier on this page, in the posts you couldn't be bothered to read.


everyone: One of my biggest problems with language today is that it doesn't evolve: it inbreeds. We are afraid to make up new words.Laser. Blog. Ditz. Downer. Socialite. Kafkaesque.

The defense rests.
____


that said, I don't see how having five words with five different meanings is any more confusing than one word with five meanings.That's a cognitive psychology question; ask a professional. Using one word to cover five similar concepts seems to work better than using five, even if I lack the specialist knowledge to explain why the human brain works that way.

If you need proof, consider how many nouns have adjective or verb variants. There's no reason why we should use the same root for "speed," "speedy," and "to speed [up]." Or rather, no reason except that it's easy for us to remember one set of syllables and modify it as appropriate to cover three related things. It's much easier than remembering three unrelated sets of syllables that mean three related things.
_____


I'm not arguing against words having multiple definitions, it's only when one of the definitions is forgotten that I have a problem.I would argue that you propose the wrong solution to your own problem, for reasons I have already discussed before at length.
_____


On the whole elf thing: I don´t see the problem really. Take for instance the word "car". A car is a vehicle, with an internal combustion engine, 4 wheels, and at least 2 doors. But after those basic conditions, cars vary a lot. Size, engine capacity, number of doors, colour, fuel type and a plethora of those extras named with 3 letter acronyms...To make matters worse, "car" originally meant "two-wheeled war chariot."

If we applied the same standard to "car" that Tensu seems to be applying to "elf," we'd be calling vehicles that only exist in museums "cars." I have a horrible suspicion that we'd still be calling the thing in your driveway an "automobile horseless carriage" or something like that. Though it's more likely we'd call it an "auto" or some other neologism.

Tensu
2009-04-06, 06:50 PM
There seems to be great confusion as to what I'm arguing for.

I'm not saying that things that are similar need to have completely different words.

what I'm saying is that what well call X is barely, if at all, similar to X.

just take ghouls for example.

So here's a question: why are we making up new words for some new concepts but re-using old ones for others?

BRC
2009-04-06, 07:02 PM
There seems to be great confusion as to what I'm arguing for.

I'm not saying that things that are similar need to have completely different words.

what I'm saying is that what well call X is barely, if at all, similar to X.

just take ghouls for example.

So here's a question: why are we making up new words for some new concepts but re-using old ones for others?
Because humanity is contrary and illogical. Sure, if we were rational, we would make up new words for things to differentiate them. Like seperating the firebreathing giant lizard of European myth from the powerful intelligent being of chinese myth, rather than just calling them both "Dragons". We would differentiate between the tall, elegant forest dwellers of Tolkien's stories from the short little guys that work for Santa. We, as a culture, would decide what a Troll was, and make up new words to seperate bridge-dwelling monsters from little plastic guys with colored hair. However, we don't, and personally, I don't mind. Provided things stay internally consistant within a story. If you want to go through fiction, find things that share a name yet really deserve seperate names (Like Trolls), go right ahead.

Tensu
2009-04-06, 08:16 PM
Because humanity is contrary and illogical.

Wow... good point...

Dervag
2009-04-07, 11:01 AM
There seems to be great confusion as to what I'm arguing for.

I'm not saying that things that are similar need to have completely different words.

what I'm saying is that what well call X is barely, if at all, similar to X.The problem I have with that is that you're referring to fictional chimeras that exist only in our minds as objective realities. Thus, elves are objectively a certain kind of being in your model of mythology. Likewise dragons, ghouls, the Chinese long, dryads, and so on.

So when you say "What you call a ghoul isn't a ghoul; real ghouls are demons," I may be using the word "ghoul" improperly. But you're certainly using the word "real" improperly.
______

Mythology is, by definition, something that does not exist in real life and only exists in the collective consciousness of the societies that use it. As that consciousness shifts, it stands to reason that the mythology itself will shift with it. The concepts within a given mythos aren't real. They don't have any underlying physical nature that we can point to and say "this is an X." With things that have physical nature like blocks of iron or stars in the sky, we can point to them and give them names. And if someone uses the wrong name, we can say, "No, that is not a tree. That is a potato." And we will be able to back that up.

But for things that don't have a definition nailed down, it's a lot harder. For instance, what does "civilized" mean? Were the ancient Romans "civilized?" They would say yes, but then they would go down to the Colosseum and watch gladiators tear into each other on the weekend. We would not say the ancient Romans were "civilized." But it was the Romans who invented the word "civilized" in the first place. How can the word no longer mean what they meant by it?

Easy. Language evolves, especially language that points to abstract concepts which do not have a physical existence. Like myths.
_____

And once again I refer you to the post of mine that you didn't bother to read. I still think there are arguments in there which are relevant. It's not as if you have to respond to the whole thing, or even any part of the thing.



So here's a question: why are we making up new words for some new concepts but re-using old ones for others?To try and give an answer more specific than "people are crazy:"

When one word has two different meanings, we can usually trace one of the meanings back to a common meaning that they both evolved from. For instance, once upon a time, "green" meant only a color.

Then the environmental movement got started. The movement was trying to find positive words for doing things that benefit the environment. There weren't any such words in English before, or at least no specific ones, because the concept didn't exist.

So they needed a word with positive connotations, something that would make people think of things they like. And they picked "green." "Green" calls up associations with beautiful landscapes, gardens, things like that. It's easy to remember.

And so "green" became a sociopolitical term, in a context which had nothing at all to do with the actual color green. The environmental movement is not colored green any more than it is brown or blue or red or any other color. It's a concept, not an object with a color. But it gets called green for reasons that are easy to understand.

hamishspence
2009-04-07, 02:04 PM
I kinda liked The Fifth Element's use of Green as a slang word for "Yes" or possibly "clear"

Silly, but very entertaining.

(Dallas rants ending with- "Green?!" Ruby- "Super-green")

Avilan the Grey
2009-04-08, 03:52 PM
(Don't know if I missed a post making my point, but here it is)

Another "problem" hinted at before is that the same name can mean different things in different countries. Or even within the same country.

Swedish trolls (in our myths and folklore), for example, are nothing like English trolls, and only quite similar to the trolls from norway... Neither is our fae, which our trolls are not even remotely similar to, which is what started this debate to begin with (we call them Älvor (elfs. Name obviously coming from the norse Alfs, but they are not too similar with those either)). Not to mention the fact that the further north you go within Sweden the more likely it is that what was supposedly done by trolls, are actually done by giants instead... (same stories, just replaced trolls with giants)...

Kneenibble
2009-04-09, 10:53 AM
In Latin, green is a verb.

This thread is excellent discourse, i'faith.