The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #50: Reading of Robert Browning’s Poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Episode #50: Storytime Reading of Robert Browning’s Poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/Podcast%2050.mp3

Last week, we read the Old English fairy tale, “Childe Roland.”  This week, I’m reading aloud the Robert Browning poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” which was the inspiration for Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  It’s quite different from the fairy tale and from King’s books, though it shares the dark psychological bent he gave his long magnus opus.  I found it a difficult poem to read.  Couldn’t quite get into a good rhythm, so there are parts that seem more staccato than I would have liked.  It seemed more like one of those works that tries to evoke a series of feelings and images rather than telling a narrative tale.  It reminded me of the Coleridge poem, “Kubla Khan” (In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree …).  

You can find an interpretation of Browning’s poem on Sparknotes.  One of the takeaways of the poem is there is always sacrifice in the single minded devotion to a goal and sometimes that leads to some culture shock when others can’t quite understand what the goal was all for.  Logan from The Thirteenth Hour figures that at the end of his own long quest, as mentioned here.

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, by Thomas Moran (clicking on the picture takes you to the Wikipedia entry to this poem).

If you don’t know the story of Roland a la Stephen King, I highly recommend reading them or listening to the audio books (which are excellent).  The first novel, The Gunslinger, has a great opening line.  Below are some pictures from the novels in the series.

2016-06-24 14.14.42

The beginning of The Gunslinger

2016-06-24 14.25.30

Susannah Dean takes aim with Roland’s revolver, by Ned Dameron.

2016-06-24 14.30.21

Jake Chambers and Oy on the attack, by Michael Whelan.

2016-06-24 14.31.38

Jake and Roland at the clearing at the end of the path, by Michael Whelan.

As always, thanks for listening!

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and @the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #42: Dragons’ Eyes

Episode #42: Dragons’ Eyes: a Poem and Folk Song from The Thirteenth Hour

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/Podcast%2042.mp3

Today’s episode is about a song that I originally started started writing as a part of a chapter in The Thirteenth Hour.  Finally got around to finishing it.  It’s a bit of a folk song.  Here’s the passage that talks about it:

Then she looked up at me, through reddened eyes, and I struggled to say, “I thought I would never see you again … I’m so glad I found you.”

She nodded, and I wiped her tear–streaked ashen face with my sleeve, trying to maneuver around the burns and scabs. After a time, her eyelids began to fall, and then right when I thought she might be drifting off to sleep, she laughed a little.

“Do you know, Logan, that since you’ve left I haven’t sang or hummed any of the songs I used to like? I just thought of one now.”

Do you remember when I said Aurora could sing? I suppose anyone who can talk can sing, but not everyone likes to. Aurora did. She had a quiet, mid–range, soothing voice that she liked to use when she was at her work, in the garden at the orphanage, or to quiet some of the younger kids there. I was never sure where she learned her songs – I think she made most of them up – and was never sure how she remembered all the lyrics. She did write some down – I think I remember her saying that was her main motivation for learning how to read – but really, it seemed like she had them all in her head. I learned the melodies, just by being around her and hearing her hum them, but kept getting the lyrics mixed up.

“Which one, Aurora?”

She coughed, and said, “Do you remember ‘Dragons’ Eyes’?”

I did – it was, at one time, a ballad often sung to young children to lull them to sleep. Then people forgot about it for a long time until a rather dodgy traveling bard used the melody in a love song that became very popular. His version was the standard tripe about star–crossed lovers who meet, fall in love, fall out of love, make up, break up, etc. So, of course, people loved it. And that’s how they rediscovered the more somber original version.
It told of a magic place hidden from view where anything you wished for could come true. The second verse mentioned a land of gold, and even though that was only one of the possible things one could wish for, it was the one people remembered. But to get there, you needed dragons’ eyes. Once you had them, east would become west, west would become east, and there it would be (to be honest, I never really understood that verse). Anyway, men never found it, the song said, because they killed off almost all the dragons trying to get their eyes, but it was a pair of living eyes you needed.

The last verse, the one the bard used as the basis for his song about human lovers, was actually about two young dragons, a male and his female mate, who’d been wounded and spotted by their human hunters. The dragons managed to crawl into a cave, which the men surrounded. After waiting for a long time, the dragons knew they had to either fight their way out or die in the cave from hunger and blood loss. But they had had enough of fighting and felt too weak to have much of a chance. Finally, they decided that instead of simply giving up and dying where they lay, they would go to the mouth of the cave, but not attack the men. Then the dragon gods would know they were not afraid, and perhaps their deaths would be quick.

And that’s where the song ended. It didn’t say what happened to the two dragons, but I remember hoping that the hunters would be touched by their courage and let them go. They must have, I reasoned, because if they had killed them, the last of their kind, there wouldn’t have been any more dragons today, and of course there were. All in all, a rather strange subject for a lullaby, but it had always been Aurora’s favorite song.

“I remember how it goes, Aurora.”

“Could you … sing it to me? It’s been so long … I can’t seem to remember how it starts now,” she said, looking both sad and puzzled.

My heart sank a little further as I realized the toll the past year must have taken on Aurora if she no longer remembered her favorite song. It meant the girl I knew from yesterday was gone, and a different woman had taken her place. But whoever she’d become, that’s the way it was. I thought of how the tables had turned – Aurora had always sung to me, and now, I would sing to her. (Just be glad you weren’t there).

“Um, sure, Aurora.” I cleared my throat.

A long, long time ago,
From legends dead,
There comes a tale
From which it’s said:

There is a place –
It’s hard to see.
East of here,
And West of there.
Where all the eye can see
Is made of gold.

And so it goes,
The story rolls.
Twisted ’round by man
In ambitions cold …

“Oh, I remember, now,” sighed Aurora. “You know, of all the things that have changed, it’s nice to know your singing’s still the same.”

“Yeah, thanks a lot.”

She laughed. “I always liked your voice, though. Would you mind singing the rest?”

I bumbled on the best I could, though I didn’t remember all the words. But Aurora filled in for me, except for once near the end, when I looked down and found Aurora asleep. I leaned my head on the wall and kept my arms around her as I sang the remaining verses softly to myself, just so I could refresh my memory. One day, under better circumstances, we would sing it again together. Long after I had finished, I heard the melody, which was usually played on a mandolin if an accompaniment was being used. The chords resonated through the night, and something about them seemed to grow in timbre and encircle us in a protective sphere.

dragon

A pixelart dragon from the vaporware Thirteenth Hour game

You can hear an acoustic guitar version on this week’s podcast.  The song will eventually become part of the soundtrack, which you can find here.

Speaking of which, previews and discussion of music and movies that inspired the soundtrack is on Instagram under @the13thhr.ost.  Since Instagram recently changed their videos to allow 60 seconds of footage, I’m considering making 1 min 80s-synth style versions of some of those favorite influential 80s songs.  It’s hard to distill the essence of a great song down to just 1 minute … but it might be a fun exercise and different that the usual tribute.  Look for those soon!

Lastly, check Twitter for weekly and bi-weekly Amazon giveaways (look for #AmazonGiveaway on social media)- free to enter; you can enter each week until you win if you want.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

More on the creative process next week with author Missy Sheldrake.  Preview links below!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/missysheldrake

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/m_sheldrake/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/MissySheldrake/ and https://www.facebook.com/muralsbymissy

GR: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13672249.Missy_Sheldrake?from_search=true&search_version=service

Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B00UVLQWGY

Illustration for Call of Sunteri available on amazon.com and createspace.com

Click on the picture to view a trailer for Call of Kythshire, the first book in the series.

As always, thanks for listening!

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and @the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast Musical Interlude – “Song of an Unsung Hero”

Song of an Unsung Hero: an 80s New Wave Inspired Song

https://archive.org/download/Songs_201608/joshuaBlumSongOfAnUnsungHero.mp3

In The Thirteenth Hour, “Song of an Unsung Hero” is the name of the second half of the book. The name comes from a poem featured in the story about a person who has returned from a long and dangerous quest, successful, but battered and weary, and narrates his inner thoughts while he’s being honored for his success. However, he doesn’t really want accolades. He’s lost something precious in the interim, and no honors or medals will exactly fill the void. He also finds himself thinking that people at the celebration ironically seem more excited than he does – they’re at the party to eat, drink, and be merry – but the real reason for the gala seems lost on them. He feels a bit bitter, self-absorbed, and self-righteous, thinking that, but can’t entirely help it and leaves the celebration alone.

Both the poem and song get at the separation that people sometimes feel after they’ve done something difficult (e.g. returning home from war or some other traumatic situation) and are dealing with the culture shock of not entirely knowing how to relate to the world they once knew in the same way they did before.

The book touches on this theme tangentially, since the main character, Logan, chooses to deal with these feelings in his own lighthearted way, but writing the music to the song allowed me to delve into it further. I thought the somber, introspective nature of the song would fit an 80s new wave emo-style song, like the kinds done by bands like New Order, Fiction Factory, Anything Box, and Tears for Fears.

Though I originally wrote the song with the chords below, I played in the key of C on the track, so if you’d like to play along on the guitar, capo up 1 to transpose these chords up 1/2 step.

B                      A

I saw the world today.

B                                       Esus2

A thousand faces laughing through me.

B                               A

The celebration planned for me,

B                        Esus2

All forgotten instantly.

 

C#m

After all I did and gave

B                                    A

I’m still outside in the rain.

 

B                     A

Outside, looking in.

B                                      Esus2

Don’t want to leave, can’t bear to stay.

B                         A

Who am I?  Who can I be?

B                              Esus2

I don’t know; no one to blame.

 

C#m

So I turned, looked at the ground,

B                              A

Walking away, without a sound.

 

C#m                        A

And the way isn’t lighted, nor are the stars

C#m                                  F#m     B   A   B   A

All alone here, here in the dark.

 

B                A

No, I’m not sad.

B                                    Esus2

I realize this was meant to be.

B

But where can I go?

A
And what do I say

B                                   Esus2

To those that helped along the way?

 

C#m

And I’m turning, looking at the ground,

B                                A

Walking away, without a sound.

Esus2                      C#m

After all I did and gave

B                                 A

I’m still outside in the rain.

Esus2                                        C#m

And I’m turning, looking at the ground,

B                               A

Walking away, without a sound.

Esus2                        C#m                B

Who will speak my name, sing for me?

A                   A

My song to sing, sing for me,

E        A       E

My song to sing.

 

2016-04-28 20.28.44

 

You can find this song as well as other songs written and recorded for The Thirteenth Hour soundtrack in high fidelity here.

Thanks for listening!

 

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and @the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!