Monday, January 16, 2006

The Fairy Goblet

"When e'er this cup shall break or fall,
Farewell the luck of Eden Hall."

So goes the ancient warning.

Dr. Damery Dionysia Tempest is a myth-buster, one might say.
As a forensic consultant, she cuts through all the superstition, the "satanic-panic" and supernatural crap surrounding occult-related material, events, practises and beliefs.
Then she got hi-jacked into the past.

Looking for more adventures and other mysteries for my pragmatic heroine to solve and survive, I've come across The Luck of Eden Hall.

The legend is an origin myth for an exquisite beaker or chalice owned by the Musgrave family of Eden Hall and Hartley Castle near Penrith in Cumberland.
According to tradition, a butler surprised a fairy revel by the well called St. Cuthbert's Well, found the drinking cup and refused to return it. As the elvenkind fled , one spake the warning couplet.

The flare-mouthed drinking cup is 13th c. translucent Syrian glass, etched with arbesques and enamled in blue, white and red and gold leaf detail. It's leather carrying case, stamped with vine leaves and marked "I.H.S." is English or French work of the same period and suggests the reign of Henry IV. Suggests it arrived in England as a crusader souvenir.
The legend suggests a bastardization of several folk tale elements, but the basic tale is the theft or retention of a powerful talisman (the magic drinking horn) as why the old order of things has fled.

Neat story. Fits my criteria for exploration. The chalice actually exists. It's authentic. It's in the Glass Gallery of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
But, Houston, it lacks a necessary componet of "blood and need": the basic machina of Damie Tempest's transportation.
I haven't found any clear connect between the Musgraves or their predecessors in title to the Conyers of Sockburn and Hornby Castle. Therefore - and Jason, Archer and R.J would certainly understand this - there is an absence of "the color of right" to adopt the story. My imagination suffers from a certain crippling criteria, ie. there must be some "truth" in the logical outline or I'm lost and mute.


AE Rought said...

It is a fascinating snippet of history, is it not? I watched an hour long dissertation on this topic on TLC, or some such channel.

I agree with the need for a ring of truth. Funny, coming from a fantasy writer...

Happy Monday, Bernita!

Bernita said...

Happy, happy to you, A.E!
Who is another one with multi acceptances. Beginning the year right.

Rick said...

Bernita - Anything to keep you from inventing a fictional counterpart, filling in the necessary gaps? The crusader origin invites its own riffs - not Holy Blood, Holy Grail excess, but everything that the crusades open themselves to.

Another thought. This is a story about time travel. In your genre or mood you are no way obligated to deal with the temporality complications, i.e., the Grandfather Paradox - but if you can do so gracefully, without a beeping, LED-blinking hard-SF intrusion, so much the better.

Something is bouncing around my head about how so long as the chalice is not broken, the time streams won't go haywire ...

AE - Doesn't the ring of truth apply even more to fantasy writing? It's an extension of the general rule that fiction has to be plausible, while fact is under no such obligation.

Anonymous said...

I understand your frustration. If I don't believe something is plausible, I can't use it either. Better to create something entirely fictional than grab onto something true which doesn't actually fit.

Bernita said...

You're right, of course, Rick.And thank you. I'll think about those possibilities.
The "riff" in the lute, the flaw in the reflection, is me.
I just can't do it unless I know there is a genuine, real connection.
Besides, you have no idea how ornery genealogists can get, and there are a lot of them out there.
I can't tell you how relieved I was to find a well-researched book on the Conyers family and the Falchion and discover that my historical extrapolitions fell into the realm of possible and the reasonable.
It's a delicate thing to create a myth while debunking it.To base a fantasy, an alternative wonder, on as much actual 'real" as you can manage. To affirm the corpus of magic at the same time you deconstruct it's foundation with an alternative mystery.

Bernita said...

Exactly, Jason.
Fortunately, there are several other tales that are susceptible to association.
Further research might throw out a connection I can tweak, of course.
Here, I'm proscribed by the parameters I set up in the first book: that the central artifact is real.Visible. It's history known and verifiable.

Rick said...

Bernita - Almost the only thing I know about genealogy is that genealogists are obsessive!

But there is always the reverse maneuver, of bringing in the chalice as a red herring. That way you get to have the cake and eat it too. For most readers it will just be a suspicious gun that turned out not to be the murder weapon. For those few who know - and were ready to jump you for making an implausible connection - it's a chance for a knowing wink.

Bernita said...

Yep, they can be a hostile lot, with torches and sharp hoes and pitch forks and things.
You're giving me ideas and possible solutions, Rick, thank you so much.

AE Rought said...


Some facts are of essence necessary when writing fiction. For me, especially, the meat must be juicy and the blood must be really red! *insert evil laugh*

Seriously, though, perhaps a ring of truth is necessary, but does it not then ring hollow when creativity is forced into that obligatory box known as 'plausibilty?'

R.J. Baker said...

I like the myth and the possiblities of its use.

You know if you change some notes it's not the same song...especially, if you make it your own.

I think great possibilities lie therein.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

The book has to have life. You have to be quick, Rick.
And I opine your are.

Bernita said...

Taking you literally, A.E., about blood 'n guts, I agree.
In the second book, I have my Damie come across a butchered body bleeding in the snow.
Perhaps having her think she could never eat strawberry icecream again might be a little over the top?

Tsavo Leone said...

Nice visual though... raspberry ripple anyone?

M. G. Tarquini said...

When e'er this cup shall break or fall,
Farewell the luck of Eden Hall.

Best not to let my kids near it, then.

Bernita said...

You're right there, R.J., because it's such a rotten myth.
The possibilities arise when one tries to deconstruct it and ask such questions such as:
Wotinhell was a butler doing fetching water? Wouldn't he have a lower servant fetch water?
Is this a modernization of seneschal?
Wait, it's a holy spring, perhaps.Is there a connection with religous observance here?
Is it a gloss over an older pagan ritual?
Did the king then reigning on one of his perambulations give it to the family as a mark of favor and an unrelated legend get attached to the chalice?
One has to consider these and many more.

Bernita said...

D'ya think raspberry ripple might be better than strawberry ripple, Tsavo?
Chose strawberry 'cause it's more popular but I want to get it right.

The Musgraves thought that way too, Mindy. They kept it in a box and the children weren't allowed in the room when ever it was taken out.

AE Rought said...

Actually, Bernita, I would think it should be raspberry coloured, more than strawberry. Fresh blood, if thickly spilt, is very dark, more of a raspberry dark than a strawberry bright. IMHO

Bernita said...

it's been awhile. Perhaps I should go bleed in a snow drift to make sure.

Rick said...

AE - I don't see plausibility as a box so much as cargo netting that holds things together. Isn't that what plot is really all about?

Not that plot is necessarily the most important quality in fiction, but it is like the physicists' saying that time is what keeps everything from happening all at once. Plot is what keeps everything from being all jumbled up.

Bernita said...

Ivan, my golden one, you are so right.

Dennie McDonald said...

Oh Geeze all this talk (and only a couple of hours of sleep) of raspberry vs strawberry blood is making me a little queasy and oddly, ready to run the kiddos up to the ice cream shop!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Waaaa...My sinuses are so bad, that I didn't understand anything I read, except the butchered body in the snow part???