The 13th Birthday is the Best

I have never been much of a movie person, but movies based off of books are even worse. They may be good movies, but they are ruined for everyone who knows that the book is much better. I once tried to watch To Kill a Mockingbird, but I never finished it. It wasn’t because I thought it was bad, it was just much lower than my expectations. The Help movie fell a little short of The Help book. While I liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was younger, I now find more pleasure by poking fun at the Narnia movies than actually watching them.

That is why The Lord of the Rings movies are so incredible.

There is a certain amount of ceremony to The Lord of the Rings in my house. First of all, you cannot read the books until you are thirteen years old. You cannot watch the movies until you have read all the books. Then it is a bit of a family affair the first time one of us watches the movies. Everyone has been looking forward to this moment for about a month while the new thirteen-year-old is discovering Middle Earth. We have long discussions about the books where we laugh or moan about old quotes and scenes we have forgotten about. We  throw red herrings into our conversations to keep the person on her/his toes. I have remarked about how so-and-so dies even though they live to the end of the book. I have perpetuated false alarms. I do this because in our excited conversations, at least a few spoilers get dropped, so we have to make something up that is outlandish so that the reader won’t believe anything we say and will continue to read the books with great expectation.

Once we finally get to watch the movies we have to constantly be shushing one another. You may mock Legolas, Arwen, and Frodo, but keep it to a minimum. You may say some of the best lines with characters, but not entire dialogues. You may gasp, scream, etc., but only when it isn’t drowning out what anyone is saying. This is all to make sure that the person watching the movies for the first time gets to fully enjoy it and compare it to the books. That is always so much fun, but the really fun time is when we watch it for the second time.

Sif turned thirteen last October. Sherlock and I strove valiantly not to interject comments and for the most part succeeded. Sif (NOT me or Sherlock) started screaming instructions at the characters without realizing it. She said things like, “No Frodo! Sam’s your friend, not Gollum!” She still claims that she does not remember doing this. (Which means she was watching them the proper way: getting completely lost in the story.) Now we are watching the movies again in 30-minutes-a-night segments.

All of the teenagers and adults in my family have at least one thing in common with each other: their love for The Lord of the Rings. Because of it, we have immediate reference points to knowing how each other thinks. We know what each person’s favorite scenes are. We know that the perfect man for each of us girls would, without a doubt, be exactly like Aragorn. None of us likes eating cherry tomatoes.

I hate this man

We all hate this man

And my dad only has to say one thing to make anything from bacon to tacos be suddenly very unappealing.

meat-is-back-on-the-menu

I don’t consider myself a real fangirl, and I don’t appreciate it when people trivialize LOTR with geekiness. But there is nothing like re-watching three 3-hour-long movies in your own living room on a summer evening. Yes, I laugh too loud. Yes, I still gasp at things I knew were going to happen before hand. Yes, I practically have the entire thing memorized. No, that does not mean I am going to get tired of watching it.

I just love a good book and I love a good movie.

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A Proper Dragon

I have mentioned before that I am not much of a picture person, but I do love illustrations of fantasy things. That is why I have gotten Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by Tony DiTerilizzi and Holly Black from the library more times than I can count, even though I have never read (and am not planning on reading) the other Spiderwick books. I adore just looking at the pictures over and over again.

Illustrations by Arthur Spiderwick

Illustrations by Arthur Spiderwick

But even with art such as this, I always feel like there is something not quite right. I can’t really put my finger on what is wrong. When I gaze at fairytale illustrations or Google dragons and fairies, I get the feeling that real faeries don’t look like that and real castles aren’t really designed that way and real dragons, well, aren’t they supposed to be more fierce, but still beautiful? No one seems to be able to get that ratio of horrible but awe inspiring. That is why I am thrilled that I found Shapeshifters by Adrian Mitchell.

Adrian Mitchell’s writing is fairly good, but the true beauty in the book is Alan Lee’s illustrations.

 

The cover is not even the best part

The cover is not even the best part

His pictures look right. If I wrote a book, I would want him to illustrate it. He has this mystical look about his pictures and yet they look real to me. The horrifying stories have horrifying pictures. There are some awesome pictures of people turning into trees. I did what I so rarely do and read the illustrator’s biography on the back flap of the book. Alan Lee illustrated many of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and helped make The Lord of the Rings movies.

Oh. I probably should have known that.

The Lord of the Rings shaped what makes a good fantasy, movie, and book for me. Apparently I actually looked at the pictures without realizing it because Alan Lee knows the right way to make a dragon.Alan Lee dragonPictures like these almost bring tears to my eyes.

Now that I’m done with this post, I am going on my library catalog to request every book Alan Lee has illustrated. For once I’m not planning on reading a single one.

Who is able to make a proper dragon (etc.) in your eyes?

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How Golf was Invented (And Other Stories)

I have been rereading The Hobbit and I was quite excited to find one of my favorite quotes:

“If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took’s great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul’s head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.”

This quote so pleases me because it is the kind of story I would tell. I think up stories all the time to explain seemingly unexplainable things. Or at least to explain things that don’t have very interesting explanations.

There is a lovely river trail that I like to visit often. Just about every spot has a story behind it that I have unconsciously made up. One of my favorite places has trees growing there that are different from the rest of the trail. They are more like birches as opposed to evergreens. It is a beautiful grove with delicate green leaves making a ceiling overhead. The whole place seems tinted with green light. That’s the place where the faeries live.They are mischievous faeries (because practically all faeries are) and they like to trip joggers and get dogs’ leashes tied around trees. You shouldn’t stay there too long because the Lady of the Wood might find you and take you to her revels forever and you would forget everything else. Of course, that wouldn’t be all bad so you might as well stay as long as you like.

My sister Sherlock is a night owl and sleeps in a lot- especially since it’s summer. Sunny was asking me why she wasn’t up yet. I explained that Sherlock often turns into a werefox at night. She can’t always get up right away because she has to morph back into herself. I then mimed her long snout shrinking back into her face, her legs growing longer, and her tail growing shorter. “And you know why she has such long hair? Because sometimes her fox ears don’t always leave, so she must brush her hair over them so that no one gets suspicious.” I still think that this is the best explanation for Sherlock’s sleeping habits.

I assumed that most people could make up stories on the spot and most people weren’t always content with ordinary explanations. I have discovered that this is not the case. Yesterday I met this girl who loved dragons and had a dragon eye necklace.

It looked something like this

It looked something like this

I was sitting across from her at a long table full of girls. We were supposed to be making conversation, so I asked her where she had gotten the necklace and what kind of dragon it was. She said if she had known someone would ask her that, she would have thought up a good story.

“Here’s what you could have said.”

I started telling the sort of story that my six-year-old brother would have liked. I wasn’t intending for it to be all that great and I just wanted to make conversation like a normal person. I said something like,

“You were on Mt. Bachelor skiing. You aren’t a very good skier so you fell through the snow into a cavern. There you woke the Bachelor Dragon after it had been asleep for a thousand years. Because you are a quick thinker, you used your ski poles to impale the dragon and thus defeated it. You didn’t think anyone would believe you, so you took one of the dragon’s eyes and made a necklace out of it then and there. And yet to this day, no one believes you anyway.”

As I told this story, the table of girls quieted until everyone was listening. When I finished one of the girls said that she wished she could come up with stories like that. Everyone seemed impressed as it my story was out of the ordinary. I realized then that it was. I discovered that I have a storytelling superpower. I can entertain people at will and I am technically a creative thinker.  I also discovered that I need different conversation starters.

Do you like to tell stories? If not, do you have another secret superpower?

 

 

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I Am a Samurai

It has been made rather embarrassingly clear what a Hermione Granger I am.

Hermione from the Harry Potter books is an academic freak. She has never come close to failing a class but constantly worries about it. She is a rule addict who can’t help but please teachers and answer questions. She enjoys learning.

As the series continued, I found that Hermione was definitely one of my favorite characters.

The main reason why I have discovered that I am so much like Hermione is that before I do anything, I like to study it thoroughly. Hermione would read all of her textbooks before the term at Hogwarts would even begin. I recently started doing karate. Before I began I read so much about karate and other martial arts that I may know more than some of the black belts at my dojo. I know the origin of karate. (It was a guerrilla martial art used to fight the Japanese off. The people of the invaded island were not allowed to have weapons, which is why karate means “Empty hands.”) I know the difference between kung fu and jujitsu. (Kung fu is Chinese, jujitsu is Japanese. Karate is a form of jujitsu.) I more or less understand what chi is. (Don’t ask me to explain it, and don’t ask me if I believe in it.)

I now know that karate is probably the best sport I could possibly do. I like that our uniforms (called gis) feel like I’m wearing pajamas. I like that we get to go barefoot. I am such a hippie. If I could go barefoot everywhere I, without a doubt, would. I like that there is a lot of yelling. Naturally, I have a loud voice and I would like to yell everything I say, but everyone else hates it when I do that. In karate we’re required to yell. It’s called a kiai and is done at almost every punch, block, and kick. Karate comes with its own culture and language, Japanese. I love cultures and languages. I like that I’m supposed to slowly work my way up through different goals before I do anything too crazy. I’m a klutz, and I don’t mind wearing a white belt to warn everyone of the fact.

One of the best things about the dojo I go to is that it has a library. It’s one little shelf in the corner. I may be the first person in many moons to check out a book, but that just means more books for me. I am currently reading Code of the Samurai translated by Thomas Cleary (the original book was called Bushido Shoshinshu by Taira Shigesuke). It inspires me to become the best samurai I possibly can be. It also inspires me to give lectures about it to anyone who will listen.

I’m sure Hermione would be proud. Since I can’t be a witch, I might as well be a karateka.

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Christian Feminist

I naturally lean towards being a feminist. It seems fair that women should be equal with men, and if everyone were to believe that, a lot of problems in the world would be solved. There is one main reason why I am not sure I can be a wholehearted feminist. It’s the fact that I am a Christian and believe that the Bible is more accurate than my ideas of what is fair. It seems that Christianity and feminism are at odds.

That is why I am incredibly excited that I read Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James. The part that excited me the most was the chapter, “The Ezer Unbound.” I was so excited about it that I launched myself out of bed where I was reading to yell at my dad about it. Then I came back to my bedroom to yell at Sherlock about it. Then I gave a speech about it to my other sisters. And then I calmly told my mom about and yelled, “Isn’t that awesome?” when I finished. Now I will write about it.

But first I must explain more about where I am coming from. The Genesis account about how the woman was made has often annoyed me. God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so he decided to make a “suitable helper” for him. Is there not anything more dull than being a suitable helper? Sure, I’m happy to help, but really? That is the only reason why women were created? To be a helpmeet and to live in man’s shadow and assume he knows best?

John Milton’s Paradise Lost is an epic based off of the Genesis story. Milton does not have a very high view of women. He ends up saying that it is Eve’s fault that the entire world has fallen. Anyway, when he describes Eve for the first time when all still paradise, he says that she is “heaven’s last best gift.” My lit. teacher loved that phrase. She would quote it constantly and say that it was the Christian worldview for. She compared it to other cultures who believe that women are a curse. I did not like that quote. “Gift” implies that we are now owned. And what were the other gifts? The earth, the stars, the animals, the plants. Women are just one more gift for men. Everything is made for men, but we happen to be their best gift. No thanks.

Now here is the exciting part: the Hebrew words that are now translated as “suitable helper” are the words “Ezer-Kenegdo.” The first word, ezer, is what made me jump out of bed to tell my dad. The word ezer is what God calls women in Genesis. After that it is used for warriors and for God Himself. It means ally, comrade in arms, savior, defender, or, as Sherlock said, “The Cavalry.” That word means that God calls women to be like Himself and be a strong helper for his people. We are his battle maidens, like Eówyn, the Amazons, and Queen Boudicca. We are strong, we are powerful, and we are necessary.

The other word, kenegdo, is what separates Christian feminists from secular feminists. Secular feminists are known for competing with men or trying to do away with men in their lives. It is often an understandable reaction. But women are supposed to be kenegdo. To define what this means I will use a quote from Half the Church which is quote from Victor Hamilton: “[Kenegdo] suggests that what God creates for Adam will correspond to him. Thus the new creation will be neither a superior nor an inferior, but an equal. The creation of this helper will form on-half of a polarity and will be to man as the South Pole is to the North Pole.” Kenegdo means so much more than “suitable.” It means that men and women were created as individual but equal beings who compliment each other and  work best when in harmony with each other.

I recommend Half the Church to all men and women. Its message is inspiring, exciting, and could change the world. This message has always been with us in the Bible, I, at least, couldn’t quite see it.

Now I know God is certainly good. And I’m more than a feminist; I’m an Ezer-warrior.

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Jane and Prejudice

One of my least favorite questions is, “What are some of your favorite hobbies?”

This question is almost always asked by people that you don’t know very well but would like to impress. People like obscure relatives, job interviewers, and practically any adult in the world. When the question is asked, I immediately forget about all of the impressive/not-really-weird things I do and come up with answers like,

“I enjoy growling at and chasing my 4-year-old sister around the house”

“I teach my brothers the codes of chivalry by pretending to be a dragon”

“I go on frequent long walks. Alone. And in the rain. That way I don’t have to talk to anyone”

and things like that. In order to keep the job interviewer or other adult from writing me off as immature or a sociopath, I will instead make them think that I am a nerdy academic who rarely sees the light of day by saying,

“I read- a lot.”

The follow-up question is usually, “What kind of books do you read?” I’ll generally answer with some kind of mumbled statement of,

“Classics… and fantasy.”

(Classics make me look better. I know, I am terrible and you may call me a teachers pet if you like, but I did get a job.) Usually the questioner will think of the only classic writer I would possibly read: Jane Austen. “Do you read many of her books?” The answer is,

“No.”

I can appreciate that Jane Austen is a talented author, but why do people have to assume that because I am a girl and I read classics I must like her books? I have read Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. I preferred the second, but not by much. Her books are about silly, shallow people who go out on rides and walks and do matchmaking. By the end everyone is married because they could have hardly been content if they had not been.

Like I said before, Jane Austen has some very clever writing and witty quotes, but her stories are boring.

I recently dared my sister Sif to read a Jane Austen book, and then we would do something special together. I’m not really sure why I did it. I suppose I thought that because generations of girls have adored these books she might too (and I thought she should branch out from reading The Lord of the Rings and Robin Hood.)

I would like to hear from anyone who does like Jane Austen and tell why they do. In my feminist way, I see her books as being glorified Cinderella stories. The main female characters may be smart and witty, but they are always saved by a man in the end. Am I too biased? Am I overlooking the real messages?

Let me know.

 

 

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A Summer of the Past

I am finally in my last week of school. Technically all I need to do to finish is practice my contest speech a million times before Friday. A million is a lot of times to practice something.

Anyway, I have been doing what I traditionally do before the official beginning of every summer: make goals. I love getting things accomplished. It makes me feel worthwhile and at peace with the world. I also like to plan ahead which is why before every new season of the year I make goals and resolutions. Like New Year’s resolutions, summer resolutions don’t often go as planned.

One summer I decided I was going to read Anna Karenina. I got about halfway through.

Another summer I decided to learn how to cook. To this day, the most complicated thing I can make is chocolate chip cookies (and that’s only because I can eat batter when I start to get bored).

Another summer I decided to finish Algebra I before school began. Hah!

This summer I have made a goal that I can’t not succeed at. (I probably just jinxed myself.) Because this is my last summer of childhood, I am going back and reading all of my favorite childhood books. As I am remembering what books I read when I was nine or so, I realized that I read in phases. I had my horse phase in which I read every single book by Marguerite Henry. I had my Wizard of Oz phase in which I read every book by L. Frank Baum. I had my Little House on the Prairie phase and my Anne of Green Gables phase. Now I am going to relive each of these phases. I’m a little bit scared. I’m worried that I have changed so much that I will no longer like all of these books. I know I will read these books differently than I did.  Already I have gotten Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and it is much, much smaller than I remember.

Maybe if I don’t like the actual stories, I will enjoy reading them because it makes me remember what sort of person I used to be. I have noticed that before. Sometimes I’ll go through old read-alouds again and I will remember all of the discussions we had in between paragraphs. I’ll remember how easily I used to get scared and how easily I used to cry. I often wonder if I have gotten more jaded and hard or if I have simply matured. I guess I’ll find out this summer when I reach into the unknown of forgotten childhood books.

Somehow I doubt that a truly jaded seventeen-year-old would make this her summer goal.

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