The Wind Waker and the Book of Kells

When I first saw designs for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I thought the cell animation looked terrible. That all changed when a friend of mine gave up playing videogames for Lent, giving me custody of his Gamecube for 40 days and 40 nights. After seeing the prologue and title screen for the game, I realized that the artwork in The Wind Waker may have been inspired by the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Examine the artwork:

The Wind Waker

The Book of Kells

This artwork has a prominent feature uncommon to Japanese animation: the eye shape. The football-shaped eyes set close to the nose rarely appear in Japanese animation (or even in Western animation), but if you look at the picture, you will see the similarities.

Take a look at the posture in the next two pictures:

The Wind Waker

The Lindisfarne Gospels

Examine the profiles of Link and the right-facing angel. Both pieces show an ignorance of physical form typical of medieval artwork (the important thing was the message–nobody was interested in accurately depicting the human body).

One thing is conspicuously absent from the Wind Waker artwork: knotwork. The Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels are famous for the knotwork covering their carpet pages and bordering other pages (though the Lindisfarne Gospels have some pages with plainer borders). I can think of several reasons for The Wind Waker not depicting knotwork:

  1. The level of detail necessary was too complicated for the videogame.
  2. The swirls in the smoke and zigzags in the borders and in gameplay are intended to give the same effect.
  3. Knotwork would be too specifically Celtic.
  4. The style is based on woodcut prints, not the Book of Kells.

Point 4 requires consideration. The relatively monochromatic Wind Waker art resembles woodcuts more than richly-colored illuminated manuscripts. It is likely that both forms of art had a great influence on The Wind Waker. Woodcut art has been practiced in Japan for centuries, but still, Japanese and Western woodcuts do not have the distinct eye shape used in The Wind Waker. Thus, it is likely that woodcuts had a greater influence on the prologue art, which reveals the game’s background in book format, while the actual character design had more influence from the Book of Kells. Compare the Japanese woodcut below with the above artwork, and you’ll see that Wind Waker’s ignorance of accurate form is far closer to European than Japanese art. (I wish I could scan some pictures from The Book of Kells to help the comparison, but I think it’d be just a smidge illegal.)

European woodcut

Japanese woodcut

Link as depicted in The Wind Waker

For another Celtic influence on The Wind Waker, consider another aspect of the game: the music. The prologue music is reminiscent of what many people would consider “medieval” music before it goes into the main series theme. The title screen theme for the game begins as a slip jig, music in 9/8 time which is traditional to only Irish music, Scottish music, and Turkish music. I think I hear bagpipes, too. (Forgive me for speaking in such general terms; I’m poorly educated in music.)

Medieval Europe has had an influence on the Legend of Zelda series from its very beginnings. Link’s clothing, sword, shield, and bow hearken to European history and myth. The Wind Waker is the most specifically Celtic of them all, which was a surprise for me when I first played the game, but the scholar in me loved it.

A Guide to Old English: Seventh Edition

I’ve used 3 different Old English grammar books, and A Guide to Old English: Seventh Edition by Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson has one very important thing that no other book has—an assumption that the reader does not have a teacher. In fact, that’s the first statement in the book after the table of contents and a note on abbreviations. Mitchell and Robinson begin a quote on how lectures are not any better than reading the books from which the lectures were taken, so unless experiments are involved, students are better off reading for themselves. How seriously Mitchell and Robinson intend this comment to be taken is unknown, but it is encouraging for an ānhaga[1] like me.

Table of Contents

  • Orthography and pronunciation (including examples for comparison in ME as well as explanations in formal linguistic terms)
  • Inflexions
    • pronouns
    • adjectives
    • numerals
    • verbs
  • Word formation
  • Syntax
    • word order
    • sentence structure
    • clauses
    • parataxis
    • concord
    • use of cases
    • articles, pronouns, and numerals
    • verbs
  • History
  • Bibliography
  • Practice sentences
  • Practice texts
  • OE to ME glossary

I extensively tabbed my edition so I can easily find my way around the book. I like that the introduction gives a number of paradigms, the order in which to learn them, and the order in which to attempt the practice translations once the paradigms are learned. Readers can have the satisfaction of completing some translations before memorizing all the grammar rules.

A Guide to Old English does not give translations of the practice sentences or the texts. However, the glossary includes declensions and conjugations for most words, as well as the text and line in which that use can be found. Troublesome phrases are translated in footnotes. This, coupled with the ease of finding full translations from other sources, makes practice translation an achievable goal.

A Guide to Old English does not contain a ME to OE glossary. I have never heard of an edition that does since these books are intended for translation, not for generating new sentences, but I thought this worth noting. It’s my only complaint. However, the authors offer suggestions for further reading to perfect one’s OE skills.

My copy of A Guide to Old English was a gift, and the price is not printed on the cover, so I don’t recall the exact price. It was around $50, which is what Amazon shows for the non-discounted non-special-Amazon price. If buying locally, it’s worth waiting for Barnes & Noble to put out a discount coupon, but this book is easily worth the cost. Amazon shows that the 8th edition is out. You can buy it here. Since the 7th edition was great, I can only assume that the 8th is even better.

[1] I expect you to look that up.

Le Morte Darthur: Norton Critical Edition

When I began researching Arthurian literature, my first order of business was to find a good copy of Le Morte D’Arthur. I already had a version with modernized spellings, but since I like to get as close to the original as possible, I find those more difficult to read than the Middle English. I had an extremely difficult time finding a version without modernized spellings. This surprised me since Malory’s easy dialect makes the huge number of available translations and modernizations largely unnecessary for anything but leisure reading. In the end, I purchased the Norton Critical Edition of the Winchester Manuscript. I have a deep hatred of Norton because of those many years that I was forced to haul around the massive Norton anthologies, but I’m forced to admit that Norton critical editions of single works are marvelous.

Awesome things about this edition:

  • The Norton edition uses the Winchester MS with bits from Caxton’s edition where the Winchester is lacking. The Winchester MS is generally considered closer to Malory’s writing than Caxton’s printings.
  • The Winchester MS has no divisions, but Stephen H.A. Shepherd adds them for readability, correctly documented so as not to affect authenticity.
  • The Winchester MS has proper names written in red ink, which the Norton replicates by using a gothic font. Not only does this make scanning pages easy, but it’s also interesting to note places where scribes forgot to switch back to their black pens.
  • Malory’s dialect is a relatively easy read, so a gloss is unnecessary for all but the most difficult phrases.
  • Like all Norton Critical Editions, this volume contains several scholarly essays in the back, plus several useful fragments from Malory’s source material. My favorite is Mordred’s threnody from the Alliterative Morte Arthure, which is my favorite of all Arthurian death-speeches. My volume of the Alliterative is heavily modernized, so having this speech in a more authentic format pleases me.

Less awesome things about this edition:

  • Archaic letters are modernized. U/v/i/j usages are standardized. This makes the Norton less awesome than if those letters have been preserved as originally written, but it doesn’t affect readability the way a complete modernization does. (I must admit that the u/v/i/j standardization makes reading much easier.)
  • I would have liked to see more extensive footnotes with cultural commentary. I have learned more from footnotes than I have from all the graduate classes, book introductions, and scholarly articles that I have read. Footnotes are probably sparse since Le Morte Darthur is already a lengthy work, but I felt that including more information would have enhanced the experience.

The Norton Critical Edition of Le Morte Darthur gets mixed reviews on Amazon, but I highly recommend it for research. If I can get ahold of a copy, I would like to compare the Norton to the Oxford University Press edition of the Winchester MS. Oxford is my preferred publisher for scholarly works (unless the Early English Text Society is available), but I couldn’t find the Oxford edition when I did my original search. The Oxford has far more reviews than the Norton, but reviews of that specific edition seem to be mixed in with reviews of Malory’s work in general. I can’t be certain if the Oxford is a translation or a transcription.

For now, my recommendation rests with Norton. If the Oxford is obtainable, reviews will be posted in the future.

Dear Patron: I Saw Sequentia!

Dear Patron,

Since you’re quite slow in finding me, I’ve had to take my education into my own hands. I went to see Sequentia this weekend, no thanks to you. Luckily, I had friends who were willing to put me up for the night. It was quite a long drive to get there. Considering the price of gas, it would have been cheaper to fly, but that might have complicated other matters.

The performance, you will be pleased to hear (or not hear, I know how it goes) was fabulous. I was lucky in that Mssrs. Bagby and Rodenkirchen were performing on a tall stage, so I was still able to see them. You see, the front two rows were reserved for patrons of the theater, so I had to sit further back, despite arriving an hour early when all of those seats were empty. I’ll bet you probably sponsor theaters, so if you were really concerned about my education like a patron ought to be, I probably would have been able to sit close enough to figure out what’s inside the symphonia. I was so excited to figure out what it is since the definition isn’t very helpful, but after 10 minutes of listening to Mr. Bagby crank it, I still couldn’t figure out what’s in the box.

Nevertheless, I had a fabulous evening. They performed “The Lay of the Last Survivor” from Beowulf and A fellr austan um eitrdala from Edda.I was finally able to see a performance from one of the greatest medieval music performers, and such an experience is priceless.



PS: I found out what’s in the box.