The movie Excalibur was about so much more than a geek of a young man like myself could grok the fullness of

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2015/09/01 13:57 +00:00, original URI:

Excalibur the movie had a great premise that even a youngster such as myself at the time could get behind.

It was basically adaptation of Malory's Morte d'Arthur (1469–70) recasting the Arthurian legends as an allegory of the cycle of birth, life, decay, and restoration, by stripping the text of decorative or insignificant details. The resulting film is reminiscent of mythographic works such as Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough and Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance.

Though I didn't read any of these things at the time, I read all of them just a few years later when doing research for my paper on The Waste Land by TS Eliot, which I will talk about further some day suon. But for now I will just focus on the movie, and on Michael Everson (who talked about some of the linguistic aspects of the Irish language interest that guided certain aspects of the movie:

"The Charm of Making" per the article in Wikipedia:

According to linguist Michael Everson, the "Charm of Making" that Merlin speaks to invoke the dragon is an invention, there being no attested source for the charm. Everson reconstructs the text as Old Irish: the phonetic transcription of the charm as spoken in the film is

[aˈnaːl naθˈrax, uːrθ vaːs beˈθʌd, doxˈjeːl ˈdjenveː].

Although the pronunciation in the film has little relation to how the text would actually be pronounced in Irish, the most likely interpretation of the spoken words, as Old Irish text is:

Anál nathrach,

orth’ bháis’s bethad,

do chél dénmha

In modern English, this can be translated as:

Serpent's breath,

charm of death and life,

thy omen of making.

Amazing how transfixed I was by a chant that was almost certainly not real related to a language that became the adopted mother tongue of a colleague who I had not even made the acquaintance of, yet...

In any case, the charm was a recurring theme during the film, even in the last time of its occurrence, shown here in a YouTube clip. Perhaps little more than an Eversonian retcon, but it moved the story along better than any macguffin of old might!

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referenced by

2015/09/02 A bit about TS Eliot's The Waste Land, The Fisher King, Mr. King, MS, and the theme of redemption

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