The House of the Wolfings: A Review

William Morris’s The House of the Wolfings will stand as my medieval book of the month.  Though published at the end of the 19th century and set prior to the Middle Ages, it reads very much like a Viking saga–even if the prose is more ornate than the saga writers tended to use.  William Morris numbers as one of those forgotten pre-Tolkien fantasy authors.  I first became interested in him when I heard of how Tolkien borrowed the name Mirkwood from the book under review.  The House of the Wolfings has not disappointed me in the least.

Wolfings

The story appears to be set around the first century AD and concerns the Roman invasion of Germania, but the clans of the Mirkwood are fictional.  The hero of this epic, Thiodolf, leads the Men of the Mirkwood against the invading Romans, and some fantastic elements include the prophecies of the goddess Wood Sun and the Hall Sun, who is the daughter of Thiodolf and the Wood Sun, and an enchanted dwarven hauberk.  The prophecies of these two women and the Romans history of conquest leave the reader guessing up until near the end what the final outcome of the war will be.

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How Something Slightly Vexatious to Me May Turn to Your Advantage

Those of you who’ve read my twitter feed know that I have submitted an entry to Athanatos Christian Ministries 2015 Novel Contest.  With the deadline at 12 PM today, I ardently burned the midnight oil in finishing off my novel and submitted it with around an hour to spare.  I might have used that time to make more adjustments, but my brain felt and still feels rather fuzzy after only two hours of sleep.  And so, after returning from a half-day at work, I was speaking to a friend of mine who made the comment that I had until the 20th to make improvements to my novel.  At first, I did not understand him; but, checking out the website again, it now indicates that the deadline has been extended to October 20, 2014!  I could have had another fortnight to write the book!

Shippou on Inuyasha's Head

In a way, it affords me the opportunity to advertise the contest, and the extension itself indicates that the organizers would like more submissions.  I had felt guilty for not doing so after my friend reminded me of it through a Facebook post on October 1st, but I felt five days was not enough time unless someone–like me–was nearing the completion of his novel.  But, with a fortnight, a very gung-ho individual could write an entire novel.  Their suggested length is 40,000 to 90,000 words, which means one would have to write 2,900 words per diem.  Though rather high, such an output is possible for certain people.  I invite those of my dear readers would hold to the Christian faith and have a novel in progress to submit their work.  Even people outside of the United States may submit an entry as long as the story is written in good English.

Dog x Scissors

I mentioned that I felt guilty for not mentioning the contest sooner.  That is because Athanatos Christian Ministries began the contest with a very laudable goal: to offer talented Christian writers an avenue to publish their work.  The best stories these days seem to be written by people with secular humanistic beliefs, and this has a discernible influence on American culture.  We need more people who adhere to the principles of Christian culture to not only teach doctrine, but to also help people see the nobility of Christian ethics and beliefs through story.  Few mediums are capable of influencing the heart and mind as deeply as story.

A picture of the master himself.

A picture of the master himself.

Though, I have a few caveats for those who are now interested in entering the contest.  First, your essential goal should be to write a story, not to preach.  The values you hold in your heart will be apparent in the story.  No need to belabor the truths of the Faith to the detriment of telling a good tale.  The organizers say that a work like Tolkien’s would be acceptable.  The Christianity in his works is hidden very well, but this does not change the fact that its foundation is Christian.  Whatever you do, don’t bore the judges!

May you have good luck and much fortitude in writing!

What is God’s Will and Why One Should Strive to Follow it

Interestingly, people sometimes become nervous when they hear about God’s will.  Perhaps because they expect it will take a great sacrifice or they associate this term with misfortunes–e.g. “It was just God’s will.”  Yet, who is it that is willing for us to follow His will?  A perfect and infinitely good God who is absolutely merciful and just.  He wishes all things to come to perfection, which for human beings is nothing other than our happiness.

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So, God wishes us to be happy and to be perfectly happy with Him for all eternity, sharing in God’s own happiness.  Therefore, God’s will cannot be other than His Glory and our complete happiness.  Indeed, if we should all become happy in the way that God wished, like the blessed Virgin Mary–the only human being to perfectly follow God’s will in all respects (Of course, Jesus Christ followed His Father’s will perfectly too, but He was also God), then we should all be saints and the happiness of one would increase our own happiness.  How greatly would God’s glory be revealed!  The saints dwell in perfect happiness in heaven and were more joyful on earth than us ordinary sinners.

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Yet, why this hesitation and fear of following God’s will if it leads us to perfect happiness?  The great crosses in the lives of the saints might deter us; yet, is there a life without a cross–that gift from a most loving God?  If suffering be our lot whether we are saints or sinners, why not suffer for the sake of virtue and our happiness rather than going against God’s will?  Is it possible that we shall have a lighter cross by doing what ultimately makes us unhappy, even if it might seem the easier route?

I should like to compare three lives for you, all of which seemed to have been lived by God’s will: St. Padre Pio, Louis Martin, and J. R. R. Tolkien.    One does find crosses therein, but these same people seem to be happier than most.

Padre Eusebio Notte

On one hand, the life of Padre Pio seems to have been stuffed with crosses: demonic persecutions, persecution by church authorities, people maligning his good name, much pain, and many severe physical illnesses.  On the other hand, he delighted to suffer because suffering increased his likeness and closeness to Our Lord and Master–to the degree that he was marked with the Stigmata.  Furthermore, he was able to help people reconcile with Christ through his ministry of the Confessional and his example of a life dedicated to Jesus Christ.  Doing so brought him so many spiritual children than he could have had as the father of a family.  No other kind of life would have made Padre Pio happier.

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You might know that Louis Martin was the father of St. Therese of Lisieux.  If I remember rightly, he owned a jewelry business and delighted in his family: a loving wife, who has also entered the process of canonization, and five daughters who became religious sisters.  He strictly observed the sabbath, exercised patience toward all, was always the first to respond to the village fire alarm, made time for quiet meditation, and loved his daughters dearly.  If he had gone into religion, as he had planned, we would never have had St. Therese of Lisieux, and he would never have enjoyed the love of his family and been an example to all his neighbors.  And despite his illnesses toward the end of his life, he actually seemed to grow happier and holier and edified people even by his death.

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Lastly, Tolkien’s early life also contained suffering: his mother was disowned by her family after converting to Catholicism and she died a widow while Tolkien was in his teens, he was forced to separate from his fiancee for years without contact (save once) and almost lost her to another man, and suffered many illnesses and wounds while at the front lines in World War I–losing all save one friend in the war.  Yet, his mother’s sacrifices increased his fervor for the Faith, his separation and reunion with his beloved purified and strengthened their love, and his suffering in the war increased his understanding.

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Suffering does increase understanding.  How well could Tolkien have written The Lord of the Rings without this experience?  Could he have written the romance of Luthien and Beren?  How much less penetrating his academic articles?  Truth and wisdom are great possessions.  Can anyone doubt that Tolkien was anything less than happy in dramatically reading the first fifty lines of Beowulf before new classes?

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All these lives are happy and according to God’s will.  One might judge Padre Pio’s life to have been more according to God’s will because he’s a canonized saint, but that is speculation: we shall not know until we have arrived in heaven, and I am certain that we shall see all three of them there!  What we can be sure that Padre Pio would not have been happy as a teacher of Old English, Tolkien as a jeweler, or Louis Martin as a monk.  Each person was made to be happy in a different fashion, but all of these lives are focused on Christ and following the Will of God: your salvation and happiness.