Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Author R. Scot Johns Talks About His Love of Norse Mythology and The Saga of Beowulf

Today's guest blogger is R. Scot Johns, author of The Saga of Beouwulf. Scot is a life-long student of ancient and medieval literature, with an enduring fascination for Norse mythology and epic fantasy. He first came to Beowulf through his love of J. R. R. Tolkien, a leading scholar on the subject. As an Honors Medieval Literature major he has given lectures on such topics as the historical King Arthur and the construction of Stonehenge. He owns and operates Fantasy Castle Books, his own publishing imprint, and writes the blog The Adventures of an Independent Author, where you can follow his progress as he writes The Jester’s Quest, his second novel.

You can visit his website at www.fantasycastlebooks.com.

About the Book: The Saga of Beowulf is the first complete and accurate novelization of the epic Old English poem Beowulf, chronicling the tragic wars of the rising Nordic nations, the endless blood-feuds of their clans, battles with mythic creatures in an ancient heroic age, and the final, futile struggle of one man against the will of Fate that made of him a Legend.

The story follows the young Norse warrior Beowulf as he embarks upon a fateful quest for vengeance against the creature that slew his father, setting in motion a sequence of events that will bring about the downfall of a nation, all the while fleeing from the woman he has sworn to love. Based on extensive historical research and steeped in Nordic myth and lore, the saga unfolds across the frozen fields of Sweden and the fetid fens of Denmark, ranging from the rocky heights of Geatland to the sprawling battlefields of ancient France, as our hero battles men and demons in a quest to conquer his own fears.

"An epic adventure 1500 years in the making," this classic tale now comes to life once more in a bold new retelling for a modern audience.

Scot's turn:

How I Came To Love Norse Mythology

Like most fantasy authors, I’ve been greatly influenced by the work of J. R. R. Tolkien. Unlike many of them, however, it was the academic work of Professor Tolkien that inspired me as much as his creative endeavors. Like most adolescent males I was, of course, familiar with the names of Thor and Odin from an early age, run across in fable tales and myths from illustrated children’s books or Saturday morning cartoons and adventure movies. What I didn’t know at first was that the names of Gandalf and more than half the Dwarves of Thorin’s band that I had read of in The Hobbit, derived from that same Nordic tradition.

Not until I delved into The Lord of the Rings and scoured thoroughly its many appendices did I begin to have a sense that there was more beyond the book itself that Tolkien himself had drawn upon for inspiration. From the Eddas has come the list of names that gave us Dwalin and Balin and their kin, and indeed, the race of Dwarves themselves. And thus began my fascination with Norse mythology.

Although the Nordic mythos has much in common with the classical Greco-Roman cycle, drawing as it does upon a proto Indo-European stock, there is in it a fatalistic outlook that is well at home in those cold, harsh, northern climes, an aspect that lends to it a host of cruel and ruthless elemental beings: where Greek myths give us nymphs and satyrs, the Norse tales sing of Frost Giants and Fire Drakes. The Icelandic sagas, that great repository of ancient northern folklore, present us with an endless litany of trolls and ogres and other foul demons, matched in each by equally hardy heroes, both human and divine. The Nordic myths are fraught with sorcery and spells, elves and enchanted treasure.

It is from the Volsunga Saga, for example, and its later Germanic retelling in the Nibelungenleid, that Tolkien drew his inspiration for the story of a mighty Ring of Power, a talisman whose curse of lust and greed is passed to anyone that wears it. This tragic tale would also provide 19th century composer Richard Wagner with the materials for his epic Ring cycle.

In the Old English poem Beowulf, a story set in 6th century Scandinavia, we find a dragon sleeping in a subterranean grotto on a pile of hoarded gold, awoken to fiery wrath by the pilfering of a jewel-encrusted cup by a solitary thief. Not the talking dragon Smaug we fans of Tolkien know so well, but his direct precursor. Indeed, in Beowulf we find a sword blade that melts under the corrosive touch of demon’s blood, a dark haired, dark eyed councilor who corrupts his king with poisoned words, and a confrontation with a mead-hall door-guard, all of which bear a marked resemblance to events in The Lord of the Rings. None of which is surprising, given Professor Tolkien’s status as one of the foremost scholars on Beowulf.

It was this, in fact, that led me on my ten year quest to bring the epic tale of Beowulf to a modern audience in my own heroic fantasy novel The Saga of Beowulf. As Tolkien relied heavily on Norse mythology and lore, and Beowulf in particular, in the creation of his Middle-Earth saga, I drew inspiration from Tolkien’s work in order to bring Beowulf to life once more.

Scot has an amazing website, so be sure to stop by.


THE SAGA OF BEOWULF VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR '09 will officially begin on March 2 and end on March 27. You can visit Scot's blog stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com in March to find out more about this talented author!

As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available.


Cheryl said...

This book sounds so interesting Scot.

Wishing you all the best.


R. Scot Johns said...

Hello, and thank you all for stopping by to read my guest post here on The Book Connection! If you have any comments or questions I will be checking in this afternoon and throughout the evening to reply. So please feel free to post your thoughts.

Good morning, Cheryl! Thank you so much for your support and dedication. All the best to you as well.


Tracee said...

I've enjoyed following you on your virtual book tour. Every time I read a post I am more intrigued!

Storyheart said...

The tour and learning about Scott and the book has been a great experience. I'd love to see it in the movie it was first aimed at before it became a book.

A great read one which I'm sure many will enjoy


R. Scot Johns said...

Good day Tracee and Barry,
Thanks for following along on the tour; it's nice to have a dedicated following! I'm glad you've been enjoying these posts, as they were quite a lot of fun to write. This whole process - from inception to this tour - has really been quite a unique experience, really unlike anything I've done before. Of course, the creation process was something in itself, but I've really enjoying interacting with readers as they learn about the make their way through the book. It's a wonderful shared experience, and one I highly recommend!

Morgan Mandel said...

I see a good movie from this book.
Much success!

Morgan Mandel

R. Scot Johns said...

Hi Morgan!

As I've mentioned in other blog posts, I wrote this as a screenplay first. Now that the novel is finished I've been considering revising it and sending it out to Hollywood again. But I'm undecided as to whether I should divert my attention from working on another book. Still, I'd like to see it on the silver screen, so here's hoping it does become a movie!