J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion

December 29th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, around Christmas every year. So also this year.

One of the most fascinating stories in The Silmarillion is of course the story of Túrin Turambar. He is regarded as one of the major heroes of his age. At the Council of Elrond, Elrond himself lists the great men and elf-friends of old, Hador and Húrin and Túrin and Beren. But while reading through the Silmarillion, there are few among mortal men that have also added so much pain and disaster to the elves. While a great war hero, Húrin was also responsible for the slaying of the greatest hunter of the elves, Beleg Cúthalion, the strong bow. Being the war hero, he turned the people of Nargothrond away from the wisdom of their history, and even their king, and made the hidden kingdom available for the enemy. How many elves were cruelly slain or taken to captivity in Angband because of Turin’s pride? Thousands! Perhaps even tens of thousands? So how come the elves, ages later, still reckoned Túrin son of Húrin as one of the great elf-friends?

In a Nordic saga style stunt, Túrin finally slew his greatest enemy, Glaurung the great fire-breathing dragon. Glaurung had been a continous danger to all peoples of Middle-Earth, and the end of that worm was of course a great relief to all the elves, even Elrond’s ancestors, the kings of Doriath and Gondolin. Also, we must remember that the lives of the elves are different from that of men. When the elves’ bodies die, their spirits go to Mandos, where they sit in the shadow of their thought, and from where they may even return, like Glorfindel of both Gondolin and Rivendell. But when men die, they go to somewhere else, and are not bound to the world. It seems that elves are more willing to forgive and let grief rest for wisdom over time, than are men’s wont. Even the Noldor who survived the passing of the Helcaraxë forgave and united the Noldor of Fëanor’s people that left them at the burning of the ships at Losgar.

Perhaps that is one of the lessons learned from the tragic story of Túrin. From all his unhappy life, good things happened, and afterwards, the elves forgave and even mourned him and his family.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings

December 25th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, around Christmas every year. So also this year.

2017 was a great year for Tolkien fans. It was the 125th anniversary of the Professor’s birth, and the 80th anniversary for the Hobbit. We also got the magnificent news that Amazon will produce a TV series based on “previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings“. So what storylines would that be? A reboot of the 2001-03 trilogy is out of the question, as Peter Jackson explored and extended more than enough already. So, what do we have left? A lot! Let’s have a look.

The Lord of the Rings and its appendices tells stories in several different timelines. Long before (as in hundreds, and even thousands of years) before the main story, just before the main story (like a few decennials), parallel to the main story, and after.

One storyline could follow the ancient history of Gondor and Arnor. There are lots and lots of substories there. If I should pick one I would like to see, it would be the stories of the kings Arvedui of Arnor and  Eärnil II of Gondor, perhaps started with the Firiel incident. There are lots of exciting points to pick up there. Gondor throne heiritage politics, the war against, and the prediction of the downfall of the Witch King, the flight to Forochel, with the disastrous ship’s wreck in the ice, and the loss of the palantiri.

For the “near history” before The War of the Ring, the obvious choice would be a “The young Aragorn” series, where we could follow Aragorn in his many guises, riding with the Rohirrim, going on raids with Gondor against Harad, in and in constant conflict with Denethor. And his love life, of course, with his meeting and very long-term relationship with Arwen. And speaking of Arwen, her family story is a good storyline, with the love of Celebrían and Elrond, travelling from Lorien to Rivendell, and her abduction, and Elladan and Elrohir’s rescue of her from the orcs. Parallel to that, the story I would most love to see, would be, the story of Denethor. His tragic life is worth a season alone. Another storyline from the years just before The War of the Ring, could be Balin’s attempt to retake Moria, and build  a colony of dwarves. Lots of gore and killing of goblins to depict!

Parallel to the War of the Ring, there are a lot of things going on, that are merely mentioned in the book, and completely forgotten in the movies. The fight in Dale. The Ents’ war against the orcs after the capture of Isengard, the loss of Osgiliath and Cair Andros, to name just a few.

And of course, even after the the War of the Ring, and the Return of the King, there are stories to follow up. Aragorn’s “negotiations” for peace with his neighbouring peoples, with armed battle as alternative, supported by Eomer of Rohan. The sweet but bitter death of Aragorn and Arwen. The reign of King Eldarion.

I’m optimistic! This is going to be great!

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit

December 24th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “Canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, every year about Christmas. These year, it’s even The Hobbit’s 80th Anniversary, and to celebrate, I have of course read through The Hobbit again.

So many have said so much about this book, so I’d rather show off my newest addition to my Tolkien bookshelf. This is the Swedish 1962 edition of The Hobbit, Bilbo, En Hobbits Äventyr (Bilbo, A Hobbit’s Adventure), and it has quite an interesting history.

In the 50s and 60s, Astrid Lindgren, maybe most famous for her children’s books about Pippi Longstocking, worked as an editor at the department for Children’s literature at Rabén & Sjögren, who published Tolkien’s works in Sweden. Lindgren was very interested in Tolkien’s work, and while she later denied Tolkien as an inspiration for it, she published the quite Lord of the Rings reminiscing Mio my Son in 1954, and later the world beloved classic children’s fantasy novels The Brothers Lionheart and Ronia, the Robber’s daughter.

In the early 60s Lindgren was not content* with the current Swedish translation of The Hobbit, Hompen (translation by Tore Zetterholm, 1947), and wanted to better it. So she opted for a new translation and got hold of Britt G. Hallqvist for the job. For illustrations, she contacted her friend Tove Jansson, now World famous for her Moomin Valley universe. Jansson had already had success with her Moomintrolls, and had previously made illustrations for a Swedish edition of Lewis Carrol’s classic poem Snarkjakten (The Hunting of the Snark, 1959), so a successful publication seemed likely.

Hallqvist translated, Jansson drew, Lindgren published it, and it flopped! Tolkien fans didn’t enjoy Jansson’s drawings much, and the illustrations were not used** again before 1994. By then, the 1962 version was cherished by Tove Jansson fans and Tolkien collectors over the World, and it had become quite hard to find. The 1994 edition was sold out in a jiffy. The illustrations were finally “blessed” by the Tolkien Estate, when they were used for the 2016 Tolkien Calendar.

Jansson’s illustrations were also used in the 2016 Tolkien calendar, which I’m, afraid to say, have not acquired (yet).

I was lucky and found a decent copy of the 1962 edition in a Japanese(!) bookstore on the Net. Now I LOVE this book. Its illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.

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The destruction of Lake Town and the death of Smaug are my personal favourites

The destruction of Lake Town and the death of Smaug is my personal favourite

It makes a great additon to my ever growing list of Hobbits.

This book makes a great additon to my ever growing list of Hobbits.

It would be a pity to let this book stay alone without decent Janssonic company, so I searched a few weeks, was lucky again and found a nice copy of the mentioned Snarkjakten by Lewis Carrol, and an almost mint copy of the absolutely fantastic (in all meanings of that word) Swedish 1966 edition of Alice i underlandet (Alice in Wonderland). If you enjoy Alice, you will love Janssons’ illustrations, even outshining her work on The Hobbit.

Janssons illustrations of <i>Alice</i> were later used in a lot of versions, among them, Finnish, American, British, and Norwegian editions.

Janssons illustrations of Alice were later used in a lot of versions, among them, Finnish, American, British, and Norwegian editions.

For an intensely interesting read about Jansson’s artistic work on these classics: Read Olga Holownia’s essay at barnboken.net.

That’s it. Merry Christmas and happy Youletide everybody!

*) Neither was Tolkien himself. He specially disliked the translation of Elvish names into Swedish, like Esgaroth -> Snigelby (ie. Snail Town!!!). Also interesting: Svensson, Louise, Lost in Translation? – A Comparative Study of Three Swedish Translations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, Lund University 2016

**) Actually, there were other versions with Jansson’s illustrations; the Finnish Hobbit Lohikäärme-vouri (The Dragon mountain) from 1973, and the updated Finnish translation in 2003. The illustrations were also used in this year’s Finnish 80th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit.

12 days of Varnish

December 19th, 2017

While Varnish is most famous for its speedy caching capabilities, it is also a general swiss army knife of web serving. In the spirit of Christmas, here’s Twelve Days of Varnish Cache, or at least, twelve Varnish use cases. Read the rest of this post on Redpill Linpro’s Sysadvent calendar.

Dynamic DNS helper scripts

December 1st, 2017

While dynamic DNS is a wonderful tool for automation and orchestration, tools for easy cleaning up and logging changes are needed. This post describes a couple of scripts that may help.

Read the rest of this post on Redpill Linpro SysAdvent Calendar.

copr packages of varnish-5.2, varnish-modules and miscellaneous vmods for el6 and el7

October 27th, 2017

Some weeks ago, the Varnish Cache project released a new upstream version 5.2 of varnish cache. I have built a copr repo with varnish packages for el6 and el7 based on the fedora package, and a selection of matching vmods.

The following vmods are available:

Included in varnish-modules:
vmod-cookie
vmod-header
vmod-saintmode
vmod-softpurge
vmod-tcp
vmod-var
vmod-vsthrottle
vmod-xkey

Packaged separately:
vmod-geoip
vmod-basicauth
vmod-curl
vmod-digest
vmod-memcached
vmod-querystring
vmod-rfc6052
vmod-uuid

Please test and report bugs. If there are enough interest, I may consider pushing these to fedora as well. Packages are available at https://copr.fedorainfracloud.org/coprs/ingvar/varnish52/

Diana Wynne Jones: The Lives of Christopher Chant

February 18th, 2017

Det er mangt å bruke drageblod til, hadde det bare ikke vært så vanskelig å få tak i. Dessuten er det veldig forbudt, siden det er et så kraftig magisk stoff. Og det finnes nesten ikke i Verden 12A. I andre parallelle verdener derimot, er det ganske lett å få tak. Man trenger bare noen som kan skaffe stoffet, og noen som kan smugle det fra en verden til en annen. Da vil man bli veldig, veldig rik. Såfremt man ikke blir oppdaget, så klart.

Den unge Christopher Chant er utpekt til å bli den neste Chrestomansi, noe som ser ut til å bli en ensom sjebne. Han drømmer rare drømmer. Det er nesten som om han går inn i en annen verden. Og duverden hvor mye morsomt man kan finne på der. I en av verdenene finnes det f.eks en utrolig søt jente som Christopher har lyst til å bli mer kjent med. At hun også er en gudinne i den andre verdenen skremmer ham ikke. Onkel Ralph er svært interessert i disse drømmene, særlig siden Christopher faktisk kan ta med seg ting fra drømmen og ut i sin egen verden, så Onkel Ralph og Christopher gjør hemmelige eksperimenterer sammen, for forskningens skyld, så klart.

Vi hopper i tid fra Charmed Life, en generasjon tilbake, til Chrestomancis oppvekst. Det er en søt liten historie, litt forutsigbar, men det er så sjarmerende at det ikke gjør noe. Den unge kostskoletrollmannen som roter seg bort i magiske drømmer er et kjent tema i nyere bøker også. Anbefales for dem som liker fantasy for barn.

Diana Wynne Jones: Charmed Life

February 11th, 2017

Gwendolen er et fantastisk hekseemne. Naboene vet det, ja hele Coven Street vet det. Lillebroren Eric, stort sett bare kalt Cat, dilter etter, og er egentlig fornøyd med at det er Gwen som får oppmerksomheten. Han trenger den nemlig ikke. Gwen og Cat ble foreldreløse etter en båtulykke, der foreldrene druknet. Og siden Gwen har et slikt fantastisk magisk talent, blir hun ikke overrasket da de blir kalt til å bo på selveste Chrestomanci Castle, den magiske myndigheten for hele England. Det som kanskje er litt overraskende er at Cat også skal være med.

En god start på en fin fantasy-serie med trollmenn og hekser for barn og ungdom. Kult å lese en pre-Harry-Potter-historie i genren. Artig vri med long-world-konseptet, med mange parallelle verdener. Litt gammelmodig i stilen kanskje, men stor underholdningsverdi. Noen litt underlige friheter underveis, feks en detalj: Jeg sliter litt med å se hvilken rolle kirken har i boka. Den er tilsynelatende viktig for landsbyfolket, og Chrestomanci har respekt for den, men hvilken funksjon har en kristen kirke i et magisk samfunn?

Jeg kommer nok til å lese resten av Chrestomanci-serien, tenker jeg.

Ingvar Ambjørnsen: Natten drømmer om dagen

February 7th, 2017

Hvem har ikke tenkt på å bare stikke fra alt en gang? Sune har gjort det en gang for alle. Han dro til skogs, og ble der. Han ble der fordi han fungerer dårlig sammen med andre. Det er ikke det at han ikke liker andre mennesker, han har til og med venner blant andre som lever på siden av samfunnet. Han kan bare ikke være sammen med folk. Det funker ikke.

Sune kan skogen, og overlever uten annen hjelp enn et hyttebrekk i ny og ne. Han vet hvor han skal finne nøkler, eller bryte seg inn og ødelegge minst mulig. Så spiser han av maten og drikker av vinen som er lagret der, og han reparerer gjerne ei takrenne eller maler ytterveggen med det samme han er innom. Eller han stjeler en båt og slår seg ned på et skjær med ei lita hytte for vinteren, og bidrar med vedhogst og reparasjoner.

Så treffer han ei dame på flukt gjennom skogen, og fortellingen endrer karakter.

Viktigst av alt i denne boka er det Amjørnsen skriver om skogen. Det er herlig. Vi blir med ut. Vi kjenner lukta av mose og gran, kjenner dråpene som drypper ned og gjør jakka våt, kjenner kveldskulda som kryper opp gjennom skoa, og sola som titter fram på lysningen og varmer. Det er en naturopplevelse bare å lese, og skogen kaller på dem som hører. For garvede Ambjørnsen-fans er det også artig med et gjensyn med forfatterens gamle venn Fetter Flein. Det var lenge siden sist.

Det er litt rart er det å lese om vennene Sune har. Noen må hjelpe når det kniper, og de som kan hjelpe finnes. Noen som kan lege. Noen som kan fø. Noen som kan frakte. Noen som kan gi husrom. Et helt lite samfunn, på siden av samfunnet faktisk. Sune fungerer som sagt dårlig sammen med andre, og vil snart ut igjen. Men fortellingen tar et lite hvileskjær, og sier en hel del om det å gi av det lille man har.

Mot slutten går det litt over stokk og stein og på havet. Sune blir tvunget inn i situasjoner han ikke trives i. Hvordan går det videre? Det er en historie jeg gjerne skulle likt å høre mer av.

Georges Simenon: Maigret og avdøde herr Gallet

February 3rd, 2017

Maigret blir kalt ut for å etterforske mordet på herr Gallet. Han tar toget ut på landet og besøker enken og sønnen. Det er noe galt med hele stemningen, men han klarer ikke helt sette fingeren på det. Enken er overbevist om at mannen fremdeles er i live. Hun fikk jo postkort fra ham senest dagen før, etter at liket ble funnet. Så selve mordstedet, et enkelt hotellrom, tett opptil et forfallent herskapshus. Her er det også noe galt. Gallet er skutt fra utsiden av vinduet, men ser ut til å faktisk blitt drept med kniv. Det viser seg at videre Gallet har lurt sin kone i 18 år, og ikke gått på jobb, men snarere på tiggerferd. Maigret finner flere spor, men de gir ikke mening. Etterforskningen går i ring, og han må grave i fortiden til Gallet, til han endelig finner ut av gåten. Her er alt feil, alt er falskhet, og løsningen omfatter utpressing, indentitetstyveri, svindel, samt en hel masse trist løgn og bedrag.

Her er litt av alt. Her er liket som forsvant, det lukkede roms mysterium, fotsporet som peker feil vei, den hemmelige hagen, mannen som skiftet identitet, den blaserte sønnen, og den fortvilte enken. Men også Maigrets langsomme tristesse, for ikke å si fortvilelse over all falskheten han møter, men samtidig hans iver etter å løse mysteriet.

Litt gammelmodig oversettelse, men det går. Maigret anbefales!