Tag Archives: Legend

Odin Speaks: The Legend versus the Myth

Arf. I am Odin. When I speak, you listen, for I am all-knowing and wise.

OdinOnce again, I stumbled across a curious fact while reading some of my more unconventional fare (more specifically, while I was reading a couple books on Atlantis). Apparently, there is a distinction between a legend and a myth. Both are stories, of a sort. A Legend is based on some historical fact; it contains some kernel of truth; however, whatever truth it contains has been buried by an avalanche of distortion and historical debris that has been produced by the many intervening years between the telling of its story and the events that inspired it. A decent example of a Legend is the Legend of Atlantis, told by Plato. A number of the details of the story have been confirmed (specifically a handful of Athenian details), so it seems that some of the story is based on a truth that has been obscured by time.

In contrast to the Legend is the Myth. A myth is also a story concerning events from the deepest mists of time. However, a myth usually involves the activities of some supernatural force: like a hero, demigod, or god. They are heavily filled with symbols and interpretative meaning, but they were never intended to be taken as factual. For example, the Greek Myth of Phaethon’s disastrous attempt to drive the sun god Apollo’s chariot is an excellent example of a myth.

The skeptical lune lurking inside me, however, is not so sure that that distinction can be easily verified. Are we sure Phaethon’s chariot ride is just symbolic? It could (if we stretch the bounds of credulity) involve some half-alien hybrid who got a turn riding his father’s spaceship. That’s not likely, but it’s possible (that’s the problem with having a training in philosophy: just about anything goes—except contradictions—or, alternatively, nothing goes; it’s usually one or the other: Will the sun rise tomorrow? The scientist says, “Of course it will.” The philosopher says, “I don’t know.” It’s the difference between deductive logic, and inductive reasoning. Certainty and probability.)

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Woof.

Book Review: Legend (David Gemmell) (3 ½ *’s)

Legend is the first novel of David Gemmell. It tells the story of Druss, Captain of the Ax, a hero of legend. There are other characters as well, of whom Rek and Virae are probably the two most important. As a whole, the story is about the siege of a great fortress, Dros Delnoch. Much of the book is a build up to the actual siege. The invading army is the barbarian Nadir horde; they sit poised to conquer Dros Delnoch and the Drenai kingdom it protects.

 

The story begins with Rek awakening in an inn with a young woman. He has just had a powerful dream, a vision of a burning fortress and he feels himself tied to that as if drawn to destiny. To add to the tension, he learns that the Nadir horde is on the move. They will soon besiege the mighty fortress of Dros Delnoch. This citadel is the last hope of the Drenai, for if it falls, their kingdom will be left unprotected. Before leaving the inn, Rek encounters a fortune-teller who reads his fortune and tells him … more likely things about his nature, rather than future events. He tells him he is of uncertain character and sporadic courage, a thief and a dreamer, etc… Rek, of course, disregards this and goes on his way. Shortly, he encounters the young woman, Virae, and rescues her from bandits in the forest. They do not hit it off well; at least, at first. However, soon they wind up in bed and provide the romantic subplot for the book. Virae, the daughter of the Earl of Dros Delnoch, is actually carrying a message for her father. Rek, of course, offers to assist, and soon they are swept up in events revolving around the upcoming siege of Dros Delnoch and the legendary ax-wielding warrior, Druss.

 

Strengths: I’d say the greatest strength of this novel is the pacing and the flow. The characters were okay, but he only had 350 pages to work with and even though he popped in and out of heads with great abandon, there were too many characters to fully develop them all. The most important, as I said, were Rek and Virae, and Druss, of course. Weaknesses: well, this is a first novel, and as such, the writing isn’t great—it’s okay, passable, but there are a number of obvious newbie flaws. For instance, the tendency to jump from point-of-view to point-of-view without breaking up the text. Likewise, I think he used the infamous mirror-trick three times in the book. I think that’s a record. Of course, saying that, I used the mirror trick in my first book, too, so I probably shouldn’t complain (for those that don’t know: the mirror trick is when an author uses a mirror to describe a character in that character’s point-of-view. Basically, he looks at himself in a mirror so he can describe himself to the reader. It’s generally considered a newbie tactic. Personally, though, I don’t have a strong issue with it; after all, mirrors are real objects; what else are you going to see when you look a mirror head on? And using a mirror is not an uncommon action.)

 

Anyway, despite the lower quality writing, I’ll give this novel, Legend, by David Gemmell, three and a half stars, or maybe even four if I’m feeling generous, out of five.