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justice_turtle ([personal profile] justice_turtle) wrote in [community profile] readallthenewberys2013-07-10 11:54 am

Newbery Honor: The Boy Who Was (Grace Taber Hallock), Part 2

Okay, let's see if I can get any further here. This book has to go back on the 18th, finished or no.

* We're on page 10, hearing about the view from Nino's little mountain meadow where he pastures his goats. It's very pretty, very artistically phrased - Naples and Salerno (the latter being a city on the coast just south of the Sorrento peninsula) are each "held safe in the crook of one arm of the shore".

* When I was reading Nicholas: A Manhattan Christmas Story, I mentioned that it was clearly never intended to go beyond its own place and time - there are precise instructions for getting to a little shop by Madison Square Garden, for instance, but not much description of the atmosphere for children who can't actually go to that shop. This is the opposite. The walking directions are vague and deeply confusing, even in conjunction with a map (though they might make more sense on the ground), but the atmosphere is perfect. This book is obviously intended not for children who are likely to go to Naples, but for those who will never go to Naples. :-)

...I mean that in a good way. ;-) I'm sure I'll get sick of the "world tour" genre of Newbery selections eventually, but I owe most of my own knowledge of geography to "world tour" books, and there's a good case to be made for the idea that one of literature's main functions is to broaden a reader's horizons. Other places, other times, inside the heads of other people...

* Anyway. The artist tells Nino to sit still, then sketches him for about half an hour, on which it is lunchtime.

* When Nino takes their lunch out of his leather wallet or knapsack, he drops the little wooden figures he put in the wallet earlier.

* The artist says "You must tell me what these are. If it's a secret, I promise to keep it." Does anyone else feel this is kind of... intrusive? I mean, Nino has been very nice, but the artist has basically invited himself along and has been nosing around in Nino's business ever since meeting him. I'm sure if he hadn't done there would be no story, but it comes across a bit awkward to me.

* Anyway, Nino has carved the figures of "all the people who once made this coast an exciting place to be" and he wants the artist to help him get paint and color them. The artist agrees to this, and they begin playing with the figures, putting them into a "pageant".

* First come a set of Sirens, intended to have pale green faces and blue hair. These go on a rock overlooking a puddle, on which float two ships - one belonging to the Phoenicians, the other to Odysseus. (I note because it strikes me a bit oddly that Nino says the Phoenicians in their ship should have brown faces, but the only color note about Odysseus is his black hair.)

* Poseidon sits on the shore of the puddle; he will be colored all green except his black hair, and we're informed that "The Greeks called him the god of the dark locks." I googled this phrase and found Wiki claiming that while Poseidon was indeed "described as having a blue-black beard" (citation: John Linton Myres, 1967, Who Were the Greeks?), Odysseus was blond - it's noted that when Athena disguised him for his return home in beggar's clothing, she turned his beard blue-black. None of this is referenced to original sources... *sigh* *pulls out paperback Odyssey, WHD Rouse translation*

* Okay, this has Athena saying near the end of Book XIII, "I will sweep the brown crop from your head", along with other lines about shrivelling up Odysseus's body and wrinkling his skin to make him look like an old man, and again when she actually does it Homen says "she swept the flaxen crop from his head". So that could read as either her making him bald or darkening his hair, but it does seem evident that he didn't have black hair to start with. Let's see if I can find another translation to compare. (Oh, I wish I could read Greek. :P)

* Okay. Samuel Butler's prose translation (scroll up a bit) says "you shall lose all your yellow hair"; Pope's Homer uses "turn hoar the auburn honours of thy head", and again "a sudden frost was sprinkled on his head". Cowper's Homer (scroll up to page 201) says "I will cause thee shed / Thy wavy locks", and again "she wither'd to the root / His wavy locks". The S.H. Butcher & A. Lang - wait, A. Lang? Is this Andrew Lang of the coloured Fairy Books?

* I realize I've gotten a ways away from the original question, but this book... it seems worth putting effort on. It's obviously been written with some care, and googling tends to turn up interesting facts and further questions. :D

* What do you know. It's that Andrew Lang. :-)

* Anyway. Butcher and Lang have Athena say "make waste thy yellow hair from off thy head". And after tussling with the original Greek Odyssey (book 13 is book Nu), Google Translate to identify which line I was looking at, and my basic knowledge of Greek letters and word-roots (thank you, National Spelling Bee!), I located the relevant line, Line 431 of Book Nu/13, which I here transliterate (probably very badly) as: "ten xanthen komen errixen olobola ta mele". Xanthos means yellow, while melas means black; I can't translate any of the other words, but based VERY UNSCIENTIFICALLY on what I know the line is supposed to be saying, I venture to state that Athena has in fact turned Odysseus's yellow hair black. O_O I have no idea why nobody translates it that way. :P

...aaand it was Monday somewhere back there. What did I get, like two pages further? O_O

I now have another interlibrary loan as well, due the day after this one, so I'm going to have to put in a lot more work on Newberys this week if I want to finish either one. :P