Dragons and Constructed Languages

The Dragon's Cave by Georg Janny, 1917

The Dragon’s Cave by Georg Janny, 1917

The earliest written work in any kind of the English language is Beowulf, which has a horrible, treasure-hoarding dragon in it. Because he was a philologist (expert and critic of written languages and language histories), and arguably the foremost scholar on Beowulf, J. R. R. Tolkien knew all about the dragon, and wrote a bunch of stories for his kids, which eventually mutated into a novel, The Hobbit. Beowulf‘s dragon is a creature of mindless animalistic greed and savagery, but Smaug, the dragon and central antagonist of The Hobbit, can talk. Imagine him voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. But if Bilbo Baggins can understand Smaug, and there isn’t any magic involved here, they share a common language, Fire-Drake and Hobbit. One of the reasons for J. R. R. Tolkien’s works’ staying power is that the world created for them is fully realized enough to bear up under questions like this. So, what language do Bilbo and Smaug share?

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth books, including The Hobbit, and all of the books in The Lord of the Rings, English is used as a stand-in for Westron, a hypothetical fictional language commonly spoken on Middle Earth. As a philologist, though, Tolkien created several full-fledged languages, and even language families and language histories (!!), to inhabit his fantasy universe. Elvish languages, such as Sindarin, are a language family, and have their own fictional history. In a very real way, The Lord of the Rings isn’t a fictional work with made-up languages in it, but rather Middle Earth’s fictional languages happen to be wrapped up in a pretty neat story.

The connection between dragons and artistic languages doesn’t stop there, however. You probably know at least three words in Dovahzul. Click and drag between the brackets to reveal. [ FUS RO DAH! ]

The main plot-line of the 2011 video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim revolves around dragons. Taking a step further still from Smaug’s command of Westron, not only do these dragons talk, but their language has the power to change reality. In this game, words spoken by someone who truly understands them become focused into a Thuum, or Shout, with different effects depending on the meaning of the words, from breathing fire, to knocking enemies backwards, to turning invisible, or revealing the presence of the undead. The acquisition of words in this language is pivotal to the gameplay in Skyrim. The developers of the game created Dovahzul as a complete artistic language to serve this purpose, and all of the dragons in the game speak the language as well. Over time, the language was expanded and fleshed out by the fanbase, and now Dovahzul is a full-fledged artistic language.

Brush up on your vocabulary and grammar here!

Duck Duck Goose

The ducks and geese have paired up for the spring, and you know that this means! Goose attacks are going to be pretty likely. Don’t get Tyrannosaurus rek’d by a goose. They can be very aggressive, especially when nesting.

goslings

If you can see these, the parents aren’t far behind…

An adult goose can weigh 15 lbs, so be careful.

As for the ducks, here’s a fun experiment to try. Go look at some mallard ducks. You can find them in parks with ponds, or other places near water. Usually, the males have green heads. Compare the number of males (drakes) to the females (ducks). Notice anything unusual? I’ll hide what you’ll probably find out in this bracket, in white text. Click and drag between the brackets to reveal the spoilers. [ There will probably be more drakes than ducks, by a pretty large margin. ] Weird, huh. Why do you think that is? Click and drag for the answer.

[ Females sit on the nest and are more vulnerable to predators, which probably leads to to the sex imbalance. Birds have a similar sex determination system to us mammals, so you can assume that there’s an even number of male and female ducklings hatched. ]

And that’s not all the duck weirdness going on. If you saw the ducks at just the right time, in mid-summer, you might not have noticed any drakes at all. Ducks moult completely, losing all their feathers, and, while they grow back in, they’re flightless, and very shy. Right after this, and before growing in their breeding plumage for the fall, the drakes’ feathers come in looking just like a duck. This brief, non-breeding plumage is called eclipse plumage. The only way to tell while the males are in eclipse is that male mallard ducks’ bills are yellowy or olive, not orange-y black.

drake/duck pair

This is a drake/duck pair of ducks. The drake is the one with the green head.

drake in eclipse

This is actually a drake mallard, disguised as a ladytypes duck, which are supposed to be camouflaged against predators anyway.

If you want to take your bird-observing to the next level, check out the Bird Guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Or, check out a handy, portable, and comprehensive identification key from the library. Ducks are really odd, actually. If you want to do more than dabble in a different sort of dabblers, read this book for a deep dive into the wood ducks, the most fabulous of all ducks. Ducks and geese hatch ready to follow the parents around, and start life out with a leap from the nest. Watch hooded merganser ducklings take the plunge.

Happy duck-watching!

Homestuck and Other Forum “Games”

pesterchum interface

Pester your chums about good storytelling!

Homestuck will devour your life. If you’re not already reading it, it’s a mildly interactive (via the comments) webcomic about a computer game (and also… about computer programming). Much, MUCH better than it sounds, and I don’t want to spoil anything. Also, if you’re not already reading this rampaging juggernaut of popular culture, throw away your spare hours and read it already.

Okay, so the rest of you who are still reading this post have clearly already been following Homestuck, and need something else to help you flush your spare minutes down the Toilet of Really Good Interactive Fiction. Never fear, I have your fix right here. If you want your horror fiction to come with lots of heart, and actually lots of hearts (some critters such as earthworms have like ten hearts), then Bogleech has created the immersive storyline for you! Go introduce yourself to Awful Hospital right away.

Or, if you dare, take on the Ultimate Time Sink: TV Tropes, a wiki-style catalog of all of the tropes in fiction. If fiction were a building, then tropes are like bricks and basic building materials. If you want to explore a work of fiction, like Watership Down, it’s got a list of tropes that compose the work. If you want to explore a single trope, like when a character tells the truth but is never believed, you can do that too, and it will list examples of works in which this trope appears. It’ll ruin your life but improve your writing. Needless to say, be careful of spoilers!

By the way, several library branches are hosting fan fiction workshops this Summer, so polish up those drafts and get ready!

Kelly Creagh Presents: Fan Fiction Frenzy

6/22/2017 @ Southwest, 2 – 3 PM

6/24/2017 @ Highlands – Shelby Park, 2 – 3 PM

6/29/2017 @ Shawnee, 4 – 5 PM

7/13/2017 @ Fern Creek, 2 – 3 PM

 

rabbits

Absolutely relevant I swear. Read Watership Down if you haven’t already.

Summer is Coming

Wolves in the forest

Johannes Jansson/norden.org [CC BY 2.5 dk (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/dk/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Although we don’t have a cycle of seasons that results in years-long Winter, or Summers that take up most of an entire generation as in Game of Thrones, Louisville’s Summer IS coming. Months of sticky heat and near 100% humidity are just around the corner. Are you ready for it?

Come to the library and stock up on DVD series to bingewatch, catch up on comic books and manga, get a book to read, play games, or just hang out with your friends.

Check in on the Teen Blog to get your fix of the weird and wonderful, and keep you up on upcoming programs and special events! You can also check the calendar – filtered for teen programs – here, if you haven’t found it already.

Summer is Coming: feels good doesn’t it?

wolf rolling

Retron at English Wikipedia [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

All Things Board Games!

Do you like to play board games? Are you looking for some new titles? I personally really love all things gaming. A few good games that I’ve played and/or learned about recently that are a lot of fun…

Zombie Dice:

zombie-diceIt’s quick, fun, and easy to play. Basically, you play as a zombie, and you have dice that have a brain, an explosion that’s supposed to represent a shotgun, and a set of footprints on each die. Depending on what you roll shows whether or not you a) ate the person’s brain, b) they shot you, or c) they got away. You pick three dice out of a cup, roll them, and then based on what you roll you can either keep going or tally up your score–you get points for how many brains you eat. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins!

If you’re looking for a game with a little more intrigue, perhaps you could try…

Coup:coup

Coup is also very fast paced, and a lot of fun to play. You are the head of an Italian family, and in an intense power struggle with, well, all of the other people you are playing with, who are also heads different Italian families. This game uses cards with different characters on them, and each of the characters have different moves that they can do, all of them pretty much involving whether or not they are going to steal your or another person’s money, which is given to you each round with cardboard coins that come with the game. Each player is given two cards, one face up, and one face down. The fun part is tricking other players into thinking that your face down character is different from the character you may actually have.

You can chose to fake out the other players by using moves that other characters have, even if they aren’t a character you actually possess. But, other players can call you out, and if they are correct, you will lose the character that they call out. If your accuser is incorrect, then they lose a character instead. The last person standing is, of course, the winner.

And, if you’re into really complex games…

Betrayal at the House on the Hill:

betrayal-at-the-house-on-the-hillThis game is pretty complex and involved… It’s almost RPG level as far as board games are concerned. You’re part of a group that is investigating a haunted house. (Think Scooby Doo or even Supernatural.) Each member of your party has different skills and you move around using cards with different scenarios. As you move through the house, you draw board pieces that actually determine the way that the house is put together. At some point there is a betrayal in your party… each time you play, the game goes a different way, and there are a number of scenarios that you can play through. When I played with my family around Christmas, my dad ended up turning evil, and invisible. He stalked through the house and ended up killing off our entire party! It is a really fun game, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. There are a lot of things you have to keep track of, and the game can run really long, depending on the scenario that gets picked.

Do you have any board games you played recently that you really liked? Any you would recommend playing? Let us know in the comments, we at the library would love to hear from you!

– Shannon, Highlands-Shelby Park

Bored? Help People Right NOW

You just don’t know what to do right now, and you have a few minutes to kill? Help somebody out! Here’s some great citizen-science and crowdsourcing projects that you don’t want to miss.

Louisville Leader Transcription Project

Can you read? Can you type what you read? Help the University of Louisville digitize and make machine-readable and searchable its Louisville Leader articles. Read the instructions, and transcribe articles for U of L so that people can use a database to search the contents. You can help make this historic community newspaper accessible to historians and everyone! This project includes everything from wedding announcements to sports reporting. I saw an article just the other day about a Central High School basketball game.

zooniverse.org

This is a platform for helping scientists crowdsource citizen participation in research. Everything from counting birds to sorting drawings to looking for space dust. One-stop shopping for a huge array of citizen-science initiatives.

Building Inspector for NYPL

The New York Public Library wants to make a digital time machine out of their maps. You can help them by playing a series of games that input data while exploring old maps of New York City. Protip: there were drug stores across from drug stores, in the 1850s. I can only conclude everybody was sick literally all the time.

These projects are more than just fun–they make resources available to researchers and the public and help advance our knowledge in history and science!

– Katherine, Young Adult Services, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Movie trailers of books?? What? How? Where?

Many publishers of modern young adult fiction understand that kids are very visually driven. So to market their books to the “teen” population, some have begun creating “Movie trailers” of their books. You get to jump into the story visually and decide if you want to give the book a try. Here are some of my favorites:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Girl Power Graphic Novels

If you like comics and love a great story full of action and girl power, you can’t go wrong with these three new graphic novels.

Princess with a crown

Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley

Princess Adrienne gets tired of waiting for a prince to rescue her and takes matters into her own hands. She escapes from her tower with the help of Sparky the dragon, and she sets off on an adventure to rescue her sisters.

Girl in rollerskates on book cover

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid signs up for roller derby camp even though her best friend wants to go to dance camp. She works hard to master her skates while she makes new friends and finds a place on the roller derby team.

Ms Marvel book cover

Ms Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Start here to watch Kamala Khan morph from ordinary Muslim girl to extraordinary superhero while remaining true to herself. Two more issues are coming soon!

What are you reading this summer? We love to see your recommendations!

-Susan, Teen Services, Iroquois Branch

Hit the Road This Summer With Paper Towns

The next John Green phenomenon is here!  If you loved The Fault in Our Stars, check out Paper Towns.

Imagine the guy or girl you’ve been in love with since childhood shows up a month before your high school graduation in your bedroom window with black face paint in the middle of the night. They want you to go on a revenge drive with them.  Would you do it?

Quentin “Q” Jacobsen finds himself in this exact position when Margo Roth Spiegelman recruits him to be her accomplice on an epic night of pranking. Margo has devised a revenge mission on all of the people she feels have hurt her throughout high school.  There are eleven parts to the plot, and Margo needs someone (and more importantly, a car) to help her complete her plan.  However, the next day Margo disappears.  She leaves a trail of mysterious clues for Q and he sets out on hilarious and exhilarating road trip with his friends to find her.

The movie is coming to theaters on July 24th.  Be sure to read the book before you see the movie, so you can see what changes from the book to the movie.  Stop by any library location afterward and let one of our teen or children’s librarians know what YOU think of the changes. We love talking about books!

-Heather, Children and Teen Services, St. Matthews Branch