Sunday, January 13, 2019

Character study of Bradamante

Joseph Campbell famously described the commonalities of myths and stories told throughout the world as “the hero with a thousand faces” meaning that regardless of the name of the particular hero or the locale in which a monster was fought - there was an underlying mythos capturing our imaginations. That is why heroic stories persist throughout the ages and continue to be propagated for new generations. One method that allows readers or audiences to recognize the significance of what role each character plays in the story whether they are hero, ally or adversary is by using stock figures or archetypes. I use the term archetype differently than what was described by Carl Jung, so I am not limited to his set of twelve archetypes. My use is more in line with recognizing stock figures that become icons in literature and drama.

From the Ariosto Room in the Il Casino Giustiani Massimo al Laterano in Rome, Italy. Picture credit to Marco Ferrara.
Bradamante is the niece of Charlemagne and a respected warrior maiden. Ariosto praises her beauty as well as declaring her to be equal in “courage, might and expertise” to that of her famous brother Rinaldo, (Orlando furioso, Canto II, verse 31).
Archetypically, I feel that Bradamante’s character had two major influences. The first was the Greek Goddess Athena.

From the Louvre Museum in Paris.
 She was the goddess of wisdom and victory and known for her cool-headed strategic planning. No man ever captured Athena’s heart.
The second influence was of the historical figure of Joan of Arc or Jeanne d’Arc. I find that comparison more compelling and I feel that it was not incidental, but instead a deliberate attempt by Ariosto to invoke the parallels between the literary heroine and the real life French martyr. Jeanne d’Arc who was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. She had been known for riding a white horse, carrying a banner made of white fabric, was called “the Maid,” had cropped hair and dressed in men’s clothing.
Jeanne d'Arc, St. Étienne Cathedrale in Cahors, France

Bradamante was a young woman, most likely a teenager, and is described as having a white shield with a white plume (Orlando furioso, Canto I, verse 60) and is often referred to as “the Maid.” The color white is known for the symbolic virtues of purity and innocence. Bradamante also had cropped hair, due to a blow to the back of her head by an enemy warrior near the end of Boiardo’s poem Orlando innamorato (Book III Canto v, verse 46) and a hermit cut her hair to tend to the wound. (Book III, Canto ix, verse 61)
Ariosto neglected to mention the length of Bradamante’s hair until finally in Canto 25 when her twin brother Ricciardetto relates a tale to Ruggiero of how people commonly confuse him and his sister Bradamante since they have such great resemblance to each other. The confusion about her sex was compounded when she lost her tresses due to the head injury.  (Orlando furioso, Canto XXV, verses 22-24)

Bradamante also disguised herself as a man when she approached the thief Brunello at an inn and sought to have him serve as her guide to find where Ruggiero was being held captive.

“Name, sex, race, family and place of birth
She hides, watching his hands for all she’s worth.” (Orlando furioso, Canto III, verse 76)

The greatest differences between Bradamante and Jeanne d’Arc is that the literary heroine is revered by her king, never accused of heresy, has a love life, and a much better fate than the historical figure.

Here are more artistic renderings of Bradamante.

Illustration by Gustave Doré based on Orlando furioso, Canto III, verse 9. (Doré was inspired to begin his drawings before reading the entire poem to discover in Canto XXV that Bradamante's tresses were cut to make her resemble a boy.)

Plate 20 by Jean Honoré Fragonard of Bradamant fighting Atlante on the hippogriff.  
I happen to have purchased that image when a facsimile of it was sold on eBay. The scan is from my copy.

Of all the characters in Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso,  my favorite is Bradamante. She is a strong heroine who rarely loses her temper. Twice she gave into seeking revenge. Once was going after Martisino and the second was Pinabel. Both times she suffered due to her lust for vengeance. In Fate of the Saracen Knight, Bradamante hears rumors of Ruggiero being romantically involved with another warrior maiden. Will she suffer if she sets out on another quest for vengeance?

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Interview with Professor Awesome: Annotated

I had a rollicking good time talking with Professor Richard Scott Nokes over Skype on December 8th, 2018.

After finishing the interview, I realized that I had forgotten to bring up a few things I wanted to mention. I gave a lot of advice on the writing process and thought hyperlinks might be helpful for those interested in following up on them.

One aspect of the interview that makes this a little out of the ordinary was the time spent getting the tech stuff working.  We spent over half an hour trying to get the Skype application to record. After several failed attempts, Professor Nokes got it working. He started to record, but I didn't see the banner at the top indicating it was recording. I didn't want us to begin talking in earnest and have to start all over again.

I mention this because that mistake on my part is the first half minute of the video. After we stopped talking Professor Nokes spent about an hour editing the raw footage and uploaded the unedited raw footage. D'oh!

What you really missed was the cool introductory musical theme song that precedes his interviews. To get you in the proper mood, here is the music you should hear before his interviews:


And here is a re-posting of the interview with time stamps of my annotations.

At 2:04 I mention that my series is based on the legends of Charlemagne that were told and retold in the south of France and north of Italy for several centuries. For those interested in learning more, Fordham University has a website dedicated to those legends.

2:55 I mention one of the most famous contributions to the legends of Charlemagne, The Song of Roland or La Chanson de Roland. Here is a link to Fordham University's online translation and a link to's trade paperback version.

3:50 I show my copies of Barbara Reynolds' translations of Orlando furioso. Here are links to those copies on Part One and Part Two.  Those books are my preferred version of this epic poem. They are in verse and there is a lot of white space, so I find it easier to read. Guido Waldman has a one volume version, and it is written in prose. I find it difficult to read because the font is so small, and there is little white space. Here is a link to his version on

A free online version by Project Gutenberg can be found at this link. A fair bit of warning though. This is the William Stewart Rose translation. I started reading this epic poem by printing out a few cantos of this version and found it utterly confusing. Later, once I read the versions by both Reynolds and Waldman, I went back and checked a few choice passages. Rose refused to translate some of the bawdier ones. Bummer.

(As a side note: I do not recommend the latest translation of Orlando furioso by David R. Slavitt. That is because his publisher heavily abridged his work and deleted numerous cantos that cover the Bradamante and Ruggiero story. I disagree with the editorial decision to cut my favorite storyline from the poem, and so I cannot recommend that version. )

5:50 Professor Awesome asks me to define Saracen. Here is a link to one online definition from the Online Etymology Dictionary.

I use Saracen in my title as one of the magic terms that helps to conjure the genre, time period and meaning of the novel in as few words as possible. Fate is reminiscent of the Oracle of Delphi and those in Greek mythology trying to change their destinies. Saracen is a term that went out of use after the Medieval period. Knight is also a Medieval term used in regard to war and chivalry.

Together the three terms should help readers know this is an epic historic fantasy set in the Medieval period.

8:50 I show my copy of Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, translated by Charles Stanley Ross. This is the full unabridged version by Parlor Press. Here is a link to's trade paperpack.

Warning: there is a previous edition by Ross that was abridged and did not include Book III of Boiardo's tale. Bradamante and Ruggiero meet in Book III, Canto iv. I was disappointed after finishing that abridged version to realize that it did not include the scene that I most wanted to read.

10:00 Discussion about fantasy elements in realistic settings.  I realize in retrospect, I didn't really answer Professor Awesome's questions about this aspect of my story.

I agree that it is difficult to strike a balance between fantasy and realism. I am retelling a story about a war that never took place between the North African Muslim army and Charlemagne's Frankish army. My goal was to make the setting feel like Medieval Europe (and North Africa) that would include historically accurate details about Roman artifacts, cultural beliefs, religious restrictions, etc. And then, there is magic, but few have the ability to cast magical spells. They are: Atallah, Melissa, and Maugis. Aistulf was given a magical book which has allowed him to cast some spells, but he is not a wizard.

For the most part, the characters live in a realistic and non-magical world, but there are times when flights of fancy come into play. The flights of the hippogriff is the most notable.

Orlando furioso included iconic visits to the Underworld and the flight to the moon by Aistulf. I had to include them, but I wanted more realism in the storyline to at least help me to "buy the premise." I feel that if I can't buy it, I can't sell it.

22:15  I mentioned writing a Master's Thesis. For anyone interested in it, here's a link to Sonoma State University's library copy of The Cultural Evolution of the Cave Man.

And here is a link to the Fifth year Harry Potter Fic that I wrote back in 2003.  It won the Readers' Choice Award for novel length story on the now defunct website

24:30 Question about how to begin becoming a writer.

25:15 My answer: find a writers group or club. I mentioned the California Writers Club.  My branch of that statewide organization is Redwood Writers.

Here are links to other writers groups that focus on genre fiction:
Romance Writers of America. 
Sisters in Crime.
Historical Novel Society.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

27:00  I mentioned the challenges of getting the Point of View or POV correct. To give a little more information here is one article about the differences in POV choices. Here is a link to an article about POV violations.

And here is where my annotation, really takes off. There are many other aspects of the craft of writing that I learned over the years from belonging to my writers club. My branch has had workshops about various topic as well as talks at our monthly meetings or sessions in writers conferences. Each one of these topics is worthy of extensive blog posts or entire books.

Here are two books that I recommend:

David Corbett's book: The Art of Character 
Jordan E. Rosenfeld's book Make a Scene

Other topics that perhaps I should try to expand on as topics in the future include:

Compelling dialogue
Establishing setting

***One thing that I meant to bring up in my discussion with Professor Awesome, but forgot are the sheets of paper affixed with blue painters tape to the wall behind me. Those are the months of June, July, August and September of the year 802. That was one way for me to determine when different plot events took place.

The calendar was found at This also includes the phases of the moon.  I include that information in my story. If there's a mention of a full moon, I'm not making it up. And, if I have my characters do something outdoors at night and I don't want a full moon's worth of light - I will make it rain or overcast or foggy.

Using a calendar to structure your underlying plot will give backbone to your story. I recommend all writers have a beginning day and year in mind. Then establish your timeline of events accordingly to that date. It will help you to avoid continuity errors.

I had a friend whose manuscript I read as a critique group partner. Her novel had the climax of her story being on the Thanksgiving holiday. The problem was that she had not been as careful in planning the events as she should have been and she had two Wednesdays worth of chapters. There was a line where she stated it was Wednesday, but I knew it wasn't. That's because I ground myself on the days of the week and other nitpicky details. I then gave suggestions as to how she could move certain events to still make her climactic events happen on the day she wanted.

The use of a calendar to determine the dates of plot points is something I recommend every writer use.  

The calendars on my office wall are hard to see, but the events in the months of July and August
are written in pencil, because those already took place in Quest of the Warrior Maiden. Fate of the Saracen Knight takes place in the months of July and August. The different color Post-It notes represent different character POVs that are being represented in chapters or are background information for me to know who was where and doing what on that day. For example: blue is for Bradamante, dark orange is for Ruggiero, yellow is either Renaud or Aistulf, light orange is for Rodomont or Akramont.

I tend to write one action/adventure sequence before switching to a different character's action/adventure sequence. Later, to balance the work I will shuffle the chapters together. To achieve balance, I may have to switch the days of different plot points. Having those plot points on color coded Post-It notes helps me visually re-organize and balance my storyline.

Once I start working on Volume III, I will update those calendars and create new months. ***

 32:30 I couldn't remember the name of this website that is accessible to all writers wherever you are: Absolute Write online website. There is also Absolute Write Chat and forums.

Wattpad is another global forum for writers and readers.

So if you live in a rural area and/or cannot find any writers groups in your local area you can try one of those two online websites. Go schmooze, find like minded people and engage with them.

38:30 I recommended the book Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff. Oops. There are twelve guideposts for actors, I misspoke and said ten. Humor is Guidepost 4. Here is a small excerpt to demonstrate why I adore Shurtleff's book and his advice.

"Humor is not jokes. It is that attitude toward being alive without which you would long ago have jumped off the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge.

Humor is not being funny. It is the coin of exchange between human beings that makes it possible for us to get through the day. Humor exists even in the humorless.

There is humor in every scene, just as there is in every situation in life. There is humor in Chekhov (too seldom found) and even in Eugene O'Neill (virtually never found). When we say about a life situation, "And it's not funny, either," we are attempting to inject humor into a situation that lacks it. We try in life to put humor everywhere; if we didn't, we couldn't bear to live." - page 53
So yes, as writers, we need humor in our writing. Even if the only humor in a scene is gallows humor.

44:30 There was a mention of Medieval Conferences. I twice attended the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I delivered papers about Carolingian legends and Ariosto. I will be delivering another paper in May 2019 in a session organized by the Société Rencesvals. My paper is titled "To Die For: Duels by knights in Orlando innamorato and Orlando furioso over swords, horses, heraldic symbols, and women."

I delivered the paper "Orlando furioso's archetypes and the twisting of expected plot conventions" at the 15th Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society in 2016. 
Here is the website for the International Courtly Literature Society North American Branch and to if you are interested in seeing my paper.

( I should at some point finish writing citations of the two papers I delivered at Kalamazoo and upload them to One of my papers, "Ludovico Ariosto’s Legacy: Inspiring Countless Artists, Playwrights, Novelists, Filmmakers, and Puppet Theater" was filled with images and the challenge I have is finding good online sources for those images and then go through the cumbersome process of MLA citation. That shows my work ethic that I don't want to publish a paper online without my citations being in order. That will probably wait until some rainy day when I am procrastinating from doing other writing.)

I think that's all for now.

Here's a reminder that the both Quest of the Warrior Maiden and Fate of the Saracen Knight are discounted in the month of December. If you know someone who loves reading and would like to fill their physical or digital bookshelves, please send them the gift of reading. Or give yourself a gift and be transported back to the time of Charlemagne.