William Shakespeare seems to have hated hedgehogs. We don’t quite know why, but it could have something to do with how the tiny animal is depicted by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. Special Thanks to Jamie Jeffers of The British History Podcast and Miles Stokes of Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men for providing voicework for this episode.
The Poetic Edda is one of our main sources for Norse mythology, and the poems in it feature tales of gods, heroes, giants, and (of course) Ragnarok. However, not everything in the Poetic Edda focuses on quests, battles, heroes, or monsters. Some of the major poems featuring the Aesir don’t feature the gods fighting frost giants or battling with monsters like Fenris or the World Serpent. Rather, they spend an awful lot of time insulting each other.
In a poem known as The Flyting of Loki or Loki’s Quarrel, the god of mischief crashes a feast and systematically goes around the room insulting each of the other gods. In Harbard’s Song Odin (in disguise as a ferryman) taunts and belittles Thor for no reason at all. Each of the poems is an example of flyting, a Northern European medieval practice of trading comedic, poetic insults for the amusement of onlookers.
Icelandic Dracula, also known as Makt Myrkranna or Powers of Darkness, is amazing. The translator/author Valdimar Asmundsson made significant deviations to Bram Stoker’s text. There’s more sexy moonlight vampire temptation, Dracula is a straight-up supervillain who wants to overthrow the democratic governments of Europe, and there’s an underground ape cult. The book was hiding in plain sight until 2014 when a scholar finally noticed, over a hundred years ago, that the Icelandic novel was a very early variation on Stoker’s vampire tale.
It’s always fun to look back on predictions about the future that were wrong. For instance, Victorian portrayals of the 20th and 21st century had everyone flying around in blimps and ornithopters, which did not exactly come to pass.
Looking back at past predictions is especially satisfying now because we are well into the 21st century. For decades, years that started with “20” (or even “199”) were simply vaguely futuristic. Now, they’re simply a date on the calendar. In this episode, we count through some of the most notable years in science fiction that have already happened from 1997 (Escape From New York) to 2001 (2001) and see how the year from pop culture lined up to the actual year that happened.
Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s most compelling villains. Unlike other tragic figures who do terrible things (Macbeth, Othello, Brutus) Richard does not fall. He does not have some kind of tragic flaw that drives him to perform an evil act. Instead, he is a through-and-through villain from the very first scene of the play, and is all the more compelling for it.
As you can imagine, the actual, real Richard III was somewhat different.
Last week I spoke at a Portland performance space, The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, about some differences between the real Richard and the character in Shakespeare’s play. The event was a benefit show for an upcoming performance of Richard III that Steep and Thorny is putting on, and the evening also featured dancing, music, and other performers.