Category Archives: Random Mythology

Witchy-reads

The moon shines bright and clear
bathing the world in pale light
Mist – peculiar –
clouding being and senses.

Magically radiates the spot,
calling us with its might.
I must away – it is Walpurgisnight!

– Schandmaul: Walpurgisnacht

Today is one of those magical nights.
Whether you call it Beltane or Walpurgisnight/Walpurgisnacht does not matter, as long as you yourself know what you’re celebrating. 😉

I like the mystique about these days and am curious to learn more about it.
One day I would even like to spent the Walpurgisnight near Thale  or on the Brocken (Harz), where the witches are supposed to meet and dance in this night.But maybe I’m just a bit too spoiled by Faust’s adventures there. 😉

The last few Walpurgisnights – and this one again – we spent in in Penzlin, sitting on the meadow below the outer wall of the old castle and enjoying a good chat, possibly mead and – if we celebrated the day before – left overs from my Dads‘ birthday party. 😀
It’s a nice atmosphere especially, when towards the end of the night the bonfire is lit and illuminates the area.
But that’s not all there is to Penzlin.
Back in the middle ages the castles‘ dungeon was actually used for torturing witches and you can still take a look at some of the instruments.
I remember a tour we got there during my school days where a few of the students had to actually sit inside in the wall-chambers and the chair version of the iron maiden.
But I digress.

Walpurgisnight is an evening full of magic and witches, so I thought instead of telling you things about it that you already know, I use the chance to write something again and suggest a few of my stories for those interested in reading them.
They aren’t entirely on topic, but they have witches and magic, so enjoy the read! 🙂

The Winter Solstice and Aequus (German): Follow magical creatures through their celebration of different mythical nights.

Wenn die Seelen wandern geh’n: (When the souls are wandering) Another magical holiday as we follow a young witches journey through a Samhain night.

Herzlos: (Heartless) A young man troubled by love makes some drastic changes with the help of a witch.

Eisige Zutat: (Icy ingredient) A sorcerer’s apprentice has to make a special errand for his master – much to his dislike.

Back from a Dream: After what he thought was a mere nap a man returns home to find his castle in ruins.

As you might have noticed do Schandmaul play a larger role in some of these stories. As mentioned did I take the introductory quote from their song „Walpurgisnacht„, but that’s not all. The title of „Wenn die Seelen wandern geh’n“ is a line from their song „Klagelied“ and Back from a dream portrays a small part of their song „Reich der Träume„. They’re songs are not just great, but also a great inspiration.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed these stories and feel free to check out the songs involved in them. 🙂

Have a save night!

PoiSonPaiNter

© Schandmaul drummer Stefan gave me a „go ahead“ to try telling more of the stories in their songs back in 2014, but I don’t claim any rights for their work.

Happy Halloween!

Meh, I really wanted to participate in Ed’s Capturing History Challenge: Spooktacular, but I just don’t have a picture of all those places around here, whose stories are worth to be told.
And there are a lot of stories. From the witch trials in Penzlin, over tales of Klabautermänner or Mermaids in the Baltic Sea or the many lakes of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, to the Petermännchen from Schwerin castle and the Oaks of Ivenack, up to many tales of White Women and Black Dogs/Poodles.

You might remember that I already talked about my Halloween experiences in Germany and my plans for last years Halloween – though I still haven’t written down the tales of that trip – so this year I decided to tell you a few of the tales that are said to have happened in my home town Jarmen – the name might sound familiar if you read A Song of Ice and Fire by the way. 😉

So I looked through the many books we own and found a copy of a myth collection called „Der Schatz von Meesiger – Sagen aus dem Kreis Demmin“ (The Treasure of Meesiger – Myths from the county Demmin) that was re-released a couple of years ago.
Even though the county Demmin doesn’t exist any more – thanks to the Kreisgebietsreform that split it apart – Jarmen itself is still a small town in the Vorpommern part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that is situated directly at the river Peene – commonly referred to as the Amazon River of the North – and has an interesting history by itself (we were Swedish for a while and we have a Griffin in our coat of arms).
So enjoy a little dive into the myths surrounding the place I call home. 🙂

The Devil is the real Deal

Years ago when the apartment building my family lives in wasn’t build yet a storehouse and stables for the stage coach stood in its place.

One night one of their coaches was filled with so many people that an old man had to sit with the postillion in the coach box. The two began talking and the old man turned the conversation towards belief. The postillion declared that he did not believe in anything, not even the Düwel (lower-German for Devil) himself. The old man then suddenly declared „Denn’n Düwel gifft dat“ (The Devil exists) and snatched the whip away from him. He cracked it loudly and the horses stopped in their tracks, all windows and doors of the coach opened and a smell of tinder and sulfur hung in the air and the old man was gone. The postillion now certainly changed his belief.

Two farmers who lived in the same area had a different meeting with the Devil. They made a deal with him to always have enough money as long as the Peene would have enough water. Then one summer the river dried out more and more and was nearly gone. The brothers, who had not thought of the deal in the times they faired well now remembered it when money no longer came into their pockets. They believed everything to be over and just became idle and melancholic, while waiting for the Devil. So one day he came to collect them and in the following year the water in the Peene flowed high again.

A White Woman in the Smithy

As the stage coaches weren’t the only business it is not surprising that there was a smithy in Jarmen as well.

One day the apprentice, who lived in the attic of the smithy came to his room and saw a lady all dressed in white standing on the stairs to his room. In his drunken state he thought her to be his master’s young wife and sent her a friendly greeting that she did not return. He turned around and believed to see her walk through a closed door and vanish, frightened he got up to his hay bed and did not find any sleep that night.
The next day he told his master about it and asked him for advice. He just told him to do „gor nix“ (nothing).

The next night when the twelfth hour came the woman returned and stood in the moonlight above the apprentice‘ bed until he woke up and rose up in fright to flee. The woman pushed him back down and told him he could free her, opening her garments to give him an incentive, but heading his master’s advice he did nothing.
After a moment she leaned back down and whispered to him:
„Tomorrow night go forth towards Demmin. Be at the first cross road at midnight. A coach with four white horses will drive up. Give each horse a „Pfennig“ (Penny/Cent) to eat and throw two more crosswise over the carriage with the words ‚Drive on in Peace'“
The frightened apprentice didn’t know what to do, so he asked for some time to think.

In the following night the White Woman appeared again at his bed and took off her garments without a word, her pale body shone in the moonlight. This view made the apprentice promise to be at the described place the next day.
As announced the coach arrived and he fed the horses the Pfennige and threw two more crosswise over the carriage. It opened and there sat the White Woman and smiled. A gust of wind got up and the translucent garment of the woman flew towards him, entangled him and tried to pull him into the carriage…
In his panic he called out „Drive on in Peace“ and the spook was gone.
As long as he’d been in his master’s service the apprentice never again saw his master’s young wife in the house.

A different tale

I hoped you liked this little look into the myths surrounding my home town and if this is something you’re interested in, let me know and I’ll see what other myths I can dig up.  🙂

If you want to read more spooky stories feel free to go over to DF.PP Entertainment for a collection of stories fitting for the occasion (the majority of them is in German though…). 🙂

I don’t know what this Halloween will bring for me and I’ll spent it with Black Kat, Anice and others from the Black Pack at the Burg Stargard at their Halloween feast, but we’ll see.

So, stay save in this spirit filled night and have Happy Halloween – or Samhain! 🙂

Have a pumpkin for the way

PoiSonPaiNter

(c) All three stories were taken, re-told and translated from the book „Der Schatz von Meesiger – Sagen aus dem Landkreis Demmin“, collected by Karl Schlösser, first published as „Der Schatz von Meesiger – Sagen aus dem Großkreis Demmin“ in 1994 by the Baltic-Verlagsagentur and re-released in 2001, where they can be found as „Der Teufel höchstselbst“, „Der Pakt“ and „Die weiße Dame“

Thor: Movie vs. Myth

The topic of this post is an assignment I got from The Extremis Reviews to see if my work is good enough for me to become a guest author for their page. I’m curious how that will work out, but as usual I do not put too much hope into it.
Regardless of me getting „the job“ or not, I already had thought about writing about Norse Mythology a bit more than the few mentions I had so far. Therefore I also see this as possibility for me to start my work on it properly.
As I mentioned in my review for Thor: The Dark World was I sceptical about the Thor-film in regards to its adaptations of the myths. I already knew a few things about the myths when I first heard about the film/the characters and the more I learned about both the myths and the Marvel-version, the more I was reluctant to actually try it. The way they portray characters and their relationships with each other seemed so wrong to me that I had a hard time grasping my head around it.
So with this post I want to show you some of the major differences between the adaptations of the myths in Marvels Cinematic Universe’s „Thor“ (and its follow-up films) and Norse Mythology itself. Please do keep in mind that I am not an expert on this matter and most of this is recited by memory, so if you see any mistakes you are more than welcome to inform me about them.
What confused me the most when I started watching the first Thor film were the

Family relationships;

especially Loki being Thor’s brother.
Deep down in the back of my mind something practically ranted at me: „He is not the brother. He wasn’t the brother. Was he?“ until I took my Laptop and looked it up.
Needles to say my nagging mind was indeed correct: According to Norse Mythology Loki is NOT the brother of Thor, but instead the blood brother (meaning no blood relationship whatsoever) of Odin, as Loki otherwise would not have been allowed to stay in Asgard due to being a giant. Though he does share some rather funny adventures with the God of Thunder (including for example cross-dressing, but covering that would stray too far away from the topic).
Another strange change are Thor and Sif, which in the original are married, while in the Marvel universe they are but friends. They fight alongside each other with Sif having a crush on him and Thor simply ignoring it and swooning over the „mortal“ Jane Foster. In the comics I believe Sif even becomes a Valkyrie, which would make any proper relationship quite impossible (in the myths they are the ones picking up the fallen warriors that are granted access to Valhalla, their „heaven“).
Not mentioned at all in the films, so far, are other family members of Thor and Loki.
As far as I know Thor has at least two brother’s (Baldr and Hodur) that play a major role on the way to Ragnarök (the Twilight of the Gods, the end of everything that is known). From a bit of research I know that Baldr has an appearance in the comics, but I believe the films will shelve Ragnarök for quite some time to cover other stories before that.
On Loki’s side there are the other pieces missing that are to bring about the end: The monster babies. 🙂
Jörmungandr (a gigantic serpent, large enough to circle the world entirely – and Thor’s arch enemy), Fenrir (an enormous wolf and the one said to kill Odin) and Hel(a – half young and beautiful woman, half rotten corpse and mistress of Helheim/Niflheim, the realm of the deceased that were not allowed to enter Valhalla, whose inhabitants she will lead into the fight against the Aesir at her fathers‘ side) the children of Loki and the giantess Angrboda that are very badly treated in the myths and do not appear in the films or stories of Marvel. Though Hel(a) is mentioned and shown in some of the cartoon versions and even called Loki’s daughter, though no mentioning of her mother or her brothers at all (there also are a wolf called Fenrir and a serpent, but it is not clear if they are in any way related to Loki and/or Marvels versions of them).
And let’s not forget his other two children with his Aesir-wife Sigyn (who is actually depicted in some of the comics and cartoons) that are used for his punishment shortly before Ragnarök (and I better not get into details about this right now, as it is quite nasty).

Origins:

As we already are talking about Loki’s children: Did you know that the eight-legged horse Odin is riding into battle (you can see it when he arrives in Jotunheim to rescue Thor and the others in the first film) is supposed to be Loki’s offspring? And did you also know that he is the mother?
Regardless if you answered these questions with yes or no, it is indeed the case that there is a story in the Norse Mythology about how the wall of Asgard was build and how Loki was forced to trick the horse of the builder into running off so that the builder (who was a giant in disguise) could not finish his work in time. As he had disguised himself as a white mare the God of Mischief returned several months after the ordeal with a foal, Sleipnir, that he then gave to Odin. Speaking of disguises: You think Loki’s illusions are fun? In the real stories he occasionally turns himself into all kind of things including a fish and several different women. 😉
If you think Sleipnir’s heritage is strange then let me tell you what is „wrong“ about Loki’s: In the myths Loki is not just depicted as the God of Mischief, but also as the God of Fire, due to him being a Fire Giant (Loki or Locke even means something like flame if I’m not mistaken) and yes, Marvel turned this around and made him a Frost Giant. Though they turned around something way more hilarious as well.
You remember the king of the Frost Giants, Laufey, who is said to be Loki’s father? Well, in the myths „Laufey“ is the name of Loki’s mother…
Though not a person the origin of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir differs in the stories as well. In Marvel it is said that the hammer was forged in a dying dwarf star from one of the strongest metals in the universe – incidentally the same as Captain America‘s shield, explaining the blast they emit when they collide in The Avengers. The only thing that coincides with the myths, however, is the word „dwarf“.
Mjolnir was forged by a dwarf – or dwarve, as the fantasy version is referred to – that got himself into a bet with Loki when the god had badmouthed the dwarves abilities to forge proper weaponry. While the dwarve worked on the hammer another one was trying to keep the flames steady. As he, however, was distracted by a fly (*cough*Loki*cough*) he failed at his task and the handle of the hammer ended up being rather short. Due to this Loki saw himself the victor, but the Aesir still preferred the dwarves work over the work Loki had presented them.  As the dwarve could not get Loki’s head as he had demanded (cutting off the head without doing the same with the neck proofed difficulty) he instead stitched up the lips of the lying god. Though none of this is portrayed in the Marvel universe, which is rather unfortunate.
What is however portrayed in Marvel and not in the myths are the Warriors Three. I don’t remember something like them existing in the stories as the most frequent companion Thor had on his adventures was Loki.

Appearance

It is normal to change the appearance of characters to fit a different audience, but some decision might be true to the Marvel version, but are still quite different from the Norse one.
So even though Jamie Alexander is a beautiful woman it is indeed unfortunate that she is not depicted with Norse-Sif’s golden hair that resulted from one of Loki’s many mischiefs (and is made of real gold). Other changed hair colours include Thor (red) and Loki (occasionally blond) themselves.
The strangest change however is Heimdal and a former fellow student of mine even declared that she stopped watching the first film as soon as she saw him. It is highly unlikely that someone of Idris Elbas skin-colour would have found his way into Norse Mythology; as Loki’s arch enemy nonetheless. (This is in no way meant offensive and I think Elba does a pretty good job as Asgards gate keeper. It just doesn’t really fit with what the myths tell us.)
But as she so nicely put it: At least Odin has only one eye.

The Nine realms

As I wrote in the review: I do like how they described Yggdrasil, the World Tree, and its connection to the other realms. A nice scientific explanation.
In the myths it is an actual tree that connects the different realms with his roots, trunk and branches. Deep down underneath the World Tree lie the dark realms, like Helheim. Where the trunk stands Midgard stretches on and high above the branches lies Asgard, home of the Aesir. The other realms lie somewhere as well, but I can’t really remember where exactly, sorry.
The difference in this is simply put: No science, actual tree and rainbow.
As you might have noticed I referred to the (main, as there are others too) inhabitants of Asgard as Aesir instead of Asgardians as Marvel calls them. The latter sounds more like simply referring to the alien-species that lives in Asgard than for what it is used to describe in the myths (alien super-human vs. actual god) and it just feels better to use it when talking about them.

Characters Reasoning

In the myths it is quite understandable why Loki turns against the Aesir (you only have to look at how they treat him and his children). In Marvel he is depicted more as a jealous, greedy prat than actually having reason to  behave the way he does.
This however is not really a difference like the others, but I felt like it was worth mentioning.
The few things above are probably only barely scratching the surface of all the differences between Marvel’s version and the original, but I hope I could give you at least a small overview of them. I am also sorry that I didn’t get into too much detail with some of them, as that would have been too Off Topic.
Anyway, I am off to Berlin again for a long weekend and a Van Canto concert and am already curious what kind of replies will await me on my return.
PoiSonPaiNter

Dwarves

I don’t know why, but in general I don’t like dwarves or at least I don’t care about them.
Even though they are one of the classic fantasy creatures (alongside Elves, Fairies, Trolls, etc.) I never really payed attention to them…
All those novels about them, be they by the German novelist Markus Heitz or someone else, just didn’t sound interesting to me.
Only if they were part of a story it was ok for them to be there. They make good side characters and antagonists.
But before I want to give you some examples of dwarves I (dis)liked, I’d like to explain a fact I find rather interesting:
Grammatically there are two plurals of the word dwarf: dwarfs and dwarves. And even though I had dwarfs in mind when I started with this post, it seems I have to go with dwarves, according to this:

„Dwarfs is the standard plural of the noun dwarf. Dwarves is a newer variant popularized (though not invented) by English author J.R.R. Tolkien in his fantasy fiction works, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Tolkien spelling is appropriate when referring to little people in fantasy worlds. Dwarfs is better everywhere else.

I think that is pretty cool. I consider origins of sayings or words to be quite interesting anyway. And having a plural for a fantasy version of something is, well, pretty cool. 🙂
But now onwards to some of the different dwarves that crossed my path so far.
The first dwarves every kid notices are probably the seven dwarves from Snow White. So did I. Probably. My favourite dwarf however in Disney’s Snow White was the grumpy one, but even as little kid I felt somewhat betrayed when he turned into one of her willing „slaves“ towards the end. Still I kind of vividly remember the scene where the dwarves chase the queen over the edge of the cliff. Pretty cool scene. Though  I kind of felt bad for the queen…and annoyed by Snow White…so not one of my favourite versions of it. But Once Upon a Time‘s Grumpy kind of makes up for his cartoon versions lack of personality(?). His rough attitude and his comments are just hilarious and fun. And I really liked the story of how his name changed. Yet, it is a creepy thought thinking about dwarves hatching from eggs….I’m not sure whether I’ve read/heard something akin to that before…I just don’t want to think about it…
Another Snow White adaptation with focus on the dwarves is from the German comedian/actor Otto Waalkes: 7 Zwerge – Männer allein im Wald (7 Dwarves – Men Alone in the Wood), where nearly every dwarf is portrayed by a German comedian (including Otto).  It is a pretty funny movie that gives a different view on the whole story. And of course the re-occurring joke – as none of the actors is that small – that it is a prejudice that dwarves are small.  🙂
Well, there are far to many versions of this fairytale to explore them all and I don’t really want to dwell on Snow White any longer (or even get into the latest versions with Snow White and the Huntsman or Mirror Mirror as I’ve seen neither of them so far.)
As you read in the quote earlier the word „dwarves“ was popularized by Tolkien and he has quite a bunch of dwarves in his stories – so I heard. I belong to those people that never read Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Though I watched the LOTR movies. Well, and didn’t understand them, but that is a different topic…maybe one day I will read the novels…
Even older than both Snow White and LOTR are myths surrounding dwarves. They were mostly depicted as miners or other craftspeople, so they are more common in areas where those industries where widely spread. Unfortunately (or luckily?) I do not live in such areas, so I can’t tell you any local myths. But I can however tell you about the dwarves in Norse myths. 🙂
The dwarves that have utterly complicated names, which I can’t remember. But I know that they forged things like Odins ring, an automatic boar, Thor’s hammer Mjölnir and one of them sewed Lokis lips when he had told one to many lies or rather mocked them one to many times. One does not mock a dwarf. 😀
Just as one does not make fun of a certain warlock, but this is about dwarves, so my focus will not be on Richard form the webcomic Looking for Group. The comic has its fair share of dwarves, with the bardic smith Pella being the most famous one. A kick-ass woman that knows how to swing her hammer for forging and her axes in battle. She has however a relationship of understanding for the warlock, but no I am not diverting to give him attention. He already gets that more than enough in the comics. 😀
Speaking of attention: I’d like to draw your attention to some other dwarves.
The dwarves I used in my own stories.
For once there is Bogie the tall dwarf from my „Weltenbaum“ (Worldtree) short stories. He is among the youngsters from the Underworld who find their way unto the Surface, into the world of humans. These stories are written in German, so it might not be understandable for some. Not sure if I’ll translate them one day, but after reading them again I might at least add some more to them or edit them a bit.
Nevertheless, I’d also like to introduce you to the newest addition to my blog: „The Quest for Ore“ – whose title is obviously not inspired by Van Canto’s „Quest for Roar„.
An English short story inspired by my first experiences with Minecraft – the more or less addictive game, where you have to build your own world through crafting blocks into whatever is possible.
As the guys I’m playing with are planing to create a dwarven city I started thinking about stories about dwarves. And the one above is the first product of that.
There probably will be more – one other is already half done even – stories within this world I created for it. I’m kind of curious what I will come up with next.
But what I write in this case might be inspired by running around in Minecraft, but it is not a tale from what I actually experienced. And I think you can’t call it a FanFiction either.
(Spoiler: E.g. did we run through the „mines“, but we did not encounter any spiders.)
And yes I know: You don’t really read that the characters are supposed to be dwarves. They could just as well be humans.
But I think they are (still nameless) dwarves that will get some screentime again.
And I have to say: It was fun writing a normal fictional story again, instead of adding something to an existing world.
PoiSonPaiNter

Manga & Scanlations

What you can read below is the basis of my presentation for an oral English exam.
I couldn’t cover everything in the short time frame we had, but at least you will be able to read the entire composition.
Would have been a waste to just stash it away.

Do you know this guy?
What about him?
Do you have any idea what the general difference between them is?
No?
Well, let me tell you: Thor is a comic, while Nura is a Manga.
And  I hope you will be able to tell the difference between them after you read this post.
According to my topic – Manga and Scanlation – I will not just talk about Manga, but also about Scanlations, what they are, how they are made and what is good and bad about them.

But let me begin by looking at the difference between Manga and comics.

As you might know Manga are the Japanes equivalents of Western Comics like Marvel’s Thor for example.

But what exactly is a Manga?

The word itself can be divided into the Japanese phrases Manaimless or whimsical and Gapicture or drawing, giving an impression of unplanned continuity as the term is originally used for both comics and cartooning.
Comic in turn is used for both Comic strips (or Cartoons) and Comic books of certain series.
As a result the word Manga mostly stands for Comics originally published in Japan.
An exception for this are „Comics“ that copy the style of the originals, but are from a different country like Germany for example.
Unlike the western versions Manga are not published page- or strip-wise, but as chapters.
Varying from series to series they are published in anthology magazines in a weekly, monthly or random rhythm – which I’ll return to later on – and in lower frequencies as volumes of collected chapters.

Prejudices and Genres

The most common prejudice regarding Manga is that every character has huge eyes and cute looks.
While this might have been the case with the first series that swapped over the ocean in the 1970s/1980s, it is no longer. Or at least only characters that are intended to be the cute ones (especially children and/or young girls) have this features.
Nowadays character designs have more harsh lines and look rather realistic, yet not as abstract as a western Character like Thor does.
The stories itself range in the same genres as their western counterparts.
You can find pretty much everything from mere Romance over Action up to pure Fantasy or SciFi.
This again is diverted into Manga for females (Shoujo) or males (Shounen) and those in turn into different age groups (children, young adults, adults).
But the way it is portrayed differs from the majority of Comics.
While having a tendency to using comic relief characters and scenes, they always have a serious narration.
Even Manga for children have certain morales within them, while wrapped in light-hearted stories suitable for the reader’s age.
Regardless of genre or anticipated reader-base Manga always teach you something about the culture and/or history of Japan.
For example the rather new series called „Nurarihyon No Mago“ (literally: „Nurarihyon’s Grandson“, translated: „Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan“/“Nura – Herr der Yokai“).
Like several other series this one centers around a young boy, Rikuo, who has a rather unusual heritage. He is the grandson of the leader of all Youkai (Japanese monsters from folklore) and Rikuo as quarter Youkai not only has to take over his grandfather’s position, but also has to cope with being human for the majority of the day and Youkai at night.
And while doing that you also learn about the different types of Youkai that are believed to exist on the Japanese isles.
Additionally, it criticizes the thoughts of excluding someone because he/she is different, which is one of the main topics of a lot of Manga.

In short: Manga are Japanese Comicbooks with a variety of genres for all ages.

Manga vs. Graphic Novel

Though some people – retailers even – claim Manga to be „Graphic Novels„, which by the common usage of the term is quite incorrect.
As I said at the beginning: Thor is a Comic.
It is full of colour pages, has either a concluded or ongoing plot and is read from front to back and from left to right.
This, can be considered Graphic Novel.
It also consists (mostly) of colour pages and is read the same way, but is sturdier than the Comic and potentially also contains short narrative texts.
And Nura thus is still a Manga.
It has usually black and white pages, occasionally colour pages and most importantly is read from back to front and from right to left.
And while Comics and Graphic Novels have glossy paper Manga usually have sturdy, yet still more paper like pages.

But regardless of those differences, let me digress a moment into the Japanese Manga market itself.

Contrary to the way Manga are usually published in Western countries (almost) everything in Japan starts with an anthology magazine.
Within each magazine – as the name would suggest – you have the newest chapter of several different Manga series.
Furthermore, these series are collected according to their topic and the magazines theme.
For example the most famous magazine – the Weekly Shounen Jump – only contains Manga series primarily aimed at boys (Shounen) with lots of action, fights and comedy.
Series which are published in one of the Jump magazines (Shounen, Monthly, V Jump for example) are most likely to become bestsellers, simply because these magazines attract a lot of people ranging from the youngsters up to adults who have bought these magazines in their youth.

You can imagine a magazine like this: The Weekly Shounen Jump for example has currently about 21 series. Every week the creator of the respective Manga writes, draws and simply finishes a new chapter of about twenty pages – with the help of his/her assistants.

The German and the American Manga publishers tried to adept this concept, but failed in both cases as the Western audience seems to prefer the collected Volumes instead of buying the anthologies and then buying the volume versions as well.
The American version „Shonen Jump“ was based on the Weekly Shounen Jump, but modified for an American audience including information on Japan itself and other gimmicks.
It lasted from 2002 until winter 2011.
The German versions BANZAI! for boys and Daisuki for girls had a similar demise. While BANZAI! only lasted from November 2001 to December 2005, due to a discontinued license for the published series, Daisuki managed to stay in business from February 2003 until June this year (2012), when the sales became too low the be bearable any more.
Two to three months after a Chapter is published in the magazines the original chapters are collected into a volume per series; the so called Tankoubon.
When this is released the official translators begin their work, causing a gap between the original and the translated versions (i.e. the series „One Piece„: current Japanese chapter: 685; current Japanese volume: 67 – until chapter 667; current German volume: 63 – until chapter 626) that the Scanlators wish to fill.
Therefore the Japanese magazines provide the basis needed for Scanlations.

But what is a Scanlation?

The word „Scanlation“ is a portmanteau of the words scan and translation. This way the meaning of the word lies within the word itself.
Basically a Scanlation is the process of scanning, editing and translating Manga/Comics from their original language into the translator’s language.
In most cases this is done by non-professionals, by fans who just want to provide a certain series for other fans/readers.

But before Scanlations had been even thought of there were the so called „FanSubs“, which provided fan-made subtitles for Anime (Japanese Cartoons) that aired at that time.
In the late 70s to early 80s fans started to send tapes with the translations from fan-group to fan-group, to share their work.
Coming from there people started to buy the Japanese magazines and/or Manga as well.
They bought the original and put a translation note inside it and send it off to whoever wanted to read it as well.
It was a small community at first, but „thanks“ to the Internet the whole process evolved.
People started to scan the pages, but still only enclosed the translation until the point when some of them started to include them in the scanned pages.

The Scanlation process

From that time on many Scanlation groups went by a simply yet effective process that can be seen in the following chart:

The Process of Scanlating a Manga chapter

What you also can see is that in each stage there are different people involved.
But it all starts with someone buying the magazines I mentioned before.
This magazine is then dismantled into single pages – either by cutting the spine of the book with a razor blade or putting it in a microwave causing the glue to melt.
The scanned pages are now called „Raw“s and are put online via different file sharing systems or send directly to the Translator and/or Cleaner.
This position can be hold by the same or different persons.
The work of a translator is what the name suggests, he/she translates everything in the chapter from sound effects, over thought- and speech-bubbles, to author’s comments, as close to the original meaning as possible.
The work of a Cleaner is a little less clear, it consist of cleaning up the scanned images (removing spots that shouldn’t be there as well as removing the original texts), converting them to black-and-white and adjusting the brightness and contrast levels until they look like the versions you see in published volumes – the scanned pages usually have a more grey colour instead of plain black and white.
When both the translation and the cleaning are done the Typesetter uses both things and puts them together.
Depending on how fast a Scanlation group wants their work to be published the finished chapter has to go through a Proofreader, who checks if everything is done correctly. Afterwards the result is right away posted online or send off to Aggregation websites, who basically are libraries for all the different series. With this the newly released Japanese chapter is scanlated and shortly afterwards available for the foreign audience.

Summarizing this into a few words: Scanlations are fan-made scans and translations of (mostly) Japanese Manga that are published online and (usually) available for everyone.
Yet scanlating and distributing any series is illegal.

Reasoning against Scanlations

I’d like to give you some of the reasoning of the publishers and retailers and show you why they are not that valid.

Demand and Prices

The main reason for publishers and retailers to claim that Scanlations are evil is that they ruin the sales. When people have a free version the companies do not see a reason why they should buy the official version.
But that is not really the case.
A lot of fans still buy the volumes and the merchandise accompanying them.
Of course there are still those who only read and not buy it, but the overall tenor in Germany is still positive.
Even though the sales for the anthologies I mentioned earlier dropped that far that their cancellation was necessary, the sales for Manga were and are still increasing.
It is a bit different in America though, where you can see the negative effect on the demand-supply curve.
The demand is still there and increasing, yet not that many people are willing to buy the volumes at their current price, still their non-buying causes the publishers to increase the prices again, so they will be able to cover their costs, which again leads to less people buying it and so forth.
But with the current prices it really is not that surprising that people stop buying the printed versions.
An average Volume in Germany costs around 7 Euro, while the American versions are around 10 Dollars, which adds up to quite a fortune with each bought series.
Besides it is quite a temptation if you have to pay for this when you could have this for free and just some days after the official release.
Manga fans want to stay up to date with their favourite series, explore new ones and simply want to try out things. Scanlations grand people access to these things without having to pay for them.
This gives people a chance to read them, not just when they are short on money, but also if they simply want to try it and are afraid to make a misinvestment.
This way of thinking is similar to what people think of libraries.
If you wish to try a book without having to buy it you go to your local library and take it from there.
The Aggregation websites I mentioned earlier are nothing different.
Like in every other scene as well: Those who want to buy them will buy them – regardless of the price.

Besides, not wanting to buy the Tankoubon volumes doesn’t mean a fan isn’t willing to buy other merchandise or special features, such as plush toys, figurines, special volumes, artbooks, novels and so forth.
Yet theses things are rarely sold in your local bookstores.
Though you might have the chance to buy them in a well-equipped Comic store it still is very unlikely.
The best chance fans have to buy additional stuff is by using the Internet or attending Conventions.

Just a small excursion on this before I continue with the next problem:

Conventions or Anime Conventions are meetings for fans from fans and/or supported by studios or publishers. For several days fans can indulge in their fandom: Buying the stuff I mentioned before, attending discussion panels, participating in workshops, while dressing up as their favourite Characters – called Cosplay. (There are all kind of other Conventions as well, but covering those does not serve the purpose here.)

Wrongful profit

The next problem with Scanlation is that some of the Aggregation websites try to make a profit of their work, by forcing readers to log in and pay a monthly fee (like libraries) to read (and/or download) as much Manga as they wish or simply gaining money from advertisement on their sides.
But this is in my opinion an even worse Copyright Infringement than hosting the Scanlations in the first place as the authors (and other people involved) don’t see a cent of this money (as they’d to through library fees).
In 2010 36 Japanese publishers and American publishers like VizMedia, TokyoPop and Yen Press formed a coalition to fight the “rampant and growing” problem of Scanlation.
They tried to force these sides into closing.
Though only the three biggest Aggregation websites at that time – OneManga, MangaHelper and MangaFox – are remembered to have closed their doors because of this.
Still from their ashes several other websites like MangaStream or MangaReader rose to popularity, as the readers looked for a substitution.
Afterwards not that much has been publicly heard of similar actions.
For a short period of time MangaStream had put down its releases of the Weekly Shounen Jump series due to VizMedia starting a new campaign, claiming that they will only host reviews and release notes for the chapters.
Only a few weeks later they started to publish the series again by saying, that they will be removed after 60 hours.
By now they stay longer in their directory but less than the amount of time on other sides where you can read them years after they were published.

Declining sales?

While it is good that the publishers and creators wish to protect their rights this might not been the best way to try this.
It is the same principle as with the movie or music industry.
Publishing without permission is forbidden, yet it is still practised – regardless of the consequences.

The Sales of the Weekly Shounen Jump magazine

In Addition to that did the sales of the anthology magazines in the Japanese Manga market decline in the recent years.
It is still higher compared to those in the western market; yet lower than their own former sales.

From 1995 to 2005 the sales of the Weekly Shounen Jump magazine halved, only having a slight increase again in 2005.
I would have liked to explore more on this graph, but the data it contains is slightly biased as it sometimes shows the circulation of New-Years‘ issue, the average circulation or the bestselling issue, but it gives a good overview over the situation.

Therefore I’d like to show you this graph here with the First Week Sales of the Manga series Bleach for its last ten volumes.
As the sales are cumulated from the day of their release until the Sunday of that week it is not always the same amount of days a volume has been available.

Bleach Sales per Volume in the first three days

For better comparison I calculated the amount of sold volumes for three days, as this was the number of days the most volumes had been published.

Seeing these sales figures would suggest a decline, but it is not as simple as that.
The story of a series is just as important as the overall popularity of it.
For example volume 48, which is the peak here, is the ending of the first major plot arc in the entire series, so everyone wanted to have it.
Volumes 49 to 54 are an interlude arc for the main character to regain the powers he had lost in the previous arc.
With 50 and 51 being the ones with the most progress and 53 being the one with the return of much anticipated side characters.
And even though it is the final arc the sales for volume 55 are still lower than those of the previous arc.
When this volume was released in June 2012 the story had just begun and it wasn’t clear where it would lead, so people might have wanted to look at what will happen before they bought the volume, besides they probably were still disappointed at the interlude arc, which wasn’t that good.
Looking at the complete sales figures this volume would have been the second bestselling one beside volume 46.
My prediction for volume 57 is that the sales will rise again, as the story this time is pretty cool.

You see a decrease in sales in this field is not only because of general reasons like lack of money or interest, it also depends on what the volume contains that the buyer wishes to read over and over again.
Regarding Scanlations this can be done on the Aggregation websites as well, but it is always a different feeling if you hold the volume in your hands and turn page by page than simply clicking a button on your keyboard to do the same.

But not everything is bad with Scanlations

Thanks to Scanlations a lot of series made their way into peoples mind.
Scanlation groups came across series they would enjoy reading and translating, thus creating a fan base for series that none of the official publishers would have thought of.
And this effect can be seen in both the German and the American market.
For example the series Ao No Exorcist (Blue Exorcist), which is a huge success in Japan, had its first Cosplayers long before it was even licensed in Germany.
The new(!) German publisher „Kazé“ then took it into their repertoire to give in to their needs.
As well as the series „Maid-Sama„.
If I remember correctly some girls suggested this series to be published when representatives of „CarlsenComics“ and „TokyoPop“ held a panel at the Hina Matsuri – a Japanese cultural feast in Hamburg.
And what happens if publishers do not comply to their readers wishes can be seen by the American branch of TokyoPop, which had to close because they diverted that much from their main aspect – selling Manga – that they weren’t able to uphold their business.

Another reason for fans to prefer the Scanlations is that these translators put more heart into their work, they translate what is said – unlike some publishers who translate what they wish it to say – and try to keep it as close to the original as possible, even including some of the Japanese words.
Official translators try to translate everything, only recently did they start to include words like „-sama„, „-san„, etc. simply because they noticed the audience know these words and a formal translation wouldn’t work.
Though you feel kind of stupid when you read the translators note still in the 50th volume as if you still don’t know what it means.
Often the official translators change the names to become such the western audience are more familiar with or translating it with the wrong pronunciation – especially with names that contain an „R“ – (Luffy  -> Ruffy – One Piece).
Sometimes they try to include the pun intended with the name to be in the translated version as well (Usopp -> Lysop – One Piece).
Scanlation translators simply leave the names as they are and do the same with catchphrases and speeches.
They look at the tone of the conversation and translate it that way, while the professionals create a rather unemotional translation.
This, beside the fast and free availability, is one of the reasons readers tend to use Scanlations.

Anyway, to summarize this:

Publishers do not like Scanlations and try/tried to stop them, yet at the same time they use them to gauge peoples interest in certain series to see whether or not it would be profitable to sell them.
Yet with the prices they are selling them for, they consequently force their readers to look for alternatives, thus supporting the Scanlation market – if you want to call it that way.
With the current way of thinking and the lack of money within the reader’s hands it is most likely that Scanlations might exceed the printed volumes, thus causing the downfall of the print media.
Yet there still will be people who wish to buy these things – either to collect them or simply to read them as book.
If both Scanlation groups/Aggregation websites and publisher would find a compromise for their readers that would be affordable and have at least the same standards the Scanlations already provide they would be able to stop this conflict.

But let’s recap what I told you today:

I talked about Manga and how to distinguish them from Comics and Graphic Novels.
Then I talked about Scanlations and the process of making them.
Additionally, I explored a bit on how Manga are generally published in Japan.
At the end I looked at the pros and cons of Scanlations, leaving you with the thought that both parties – publisher and scanlators/readers – have to change their minds on this „problem“, so they might be able to solve it.

And I hope you can now look through the links above and are able to tell the difference between Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga and Scanlations.

References:

Other interesting things to read:

© I own none of the above mentioned Comics or Manga, though I do own issues of them, but no Copyright at all. They all belong to their respective creators. The pictures provided here, were simply used for visualization.
The Chart for the Jump Sales was taken from „The Rise and Fall of Jump„, as well as the data for the Scanlation process chart and the Bleach volume Sales were taken from „Scanlators tell their Stories“ and „Bleach Volume Sales„.
No Copyright Infringement is intended by any of this.
If you would like to use my graphs (Scanlation Process and Bleach Sales) or any of my conclusions please send me a note as I’d like to know how you interpret (and use) them.

Mephisto

One of the most fascinating characters that ever originated in German literature.
Johann Wolgang von Goethe used him as the antagonist for his tragic novel: Faust.

Faust is the story of Doctor Heinrich Faust, who strives for wisdom and uses any means necessary to satisfy his thirst for it. Even making a compact with the Devil –  in this case the devilish character that is Mephistopheles (or short: Mephisto).
An ambiguous man that even describes himself as such:

Part of that Power, not understood,
Which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good.[…]
I am the Spirit that Denies!
And justly so: for all things, from the Void
Called forth, deserve to be destroyed:
‚Twere better, then, were naught created.
Thus, all which you as Sin have rated,—
Destruction,—aught with Evil blent,—
That is my proper element.
(See [PGE])

Or in the old English version:

Part of that power which still
Produceth good, whilst ever scheming ill.[…]
The spirit I, which evermore denies!
And justly; for whate’er to light is brought
Deserves again to be reduced to naught;
Then better ’twere that naught should be.
Thus all the elements which ye
Destruction, Sin, or briefly, Evil, name,
As my peculiar element I claim.
(See [HCE])

Or the ever so great original version:

Ein Teil von jener Kraft,
Die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft.[…]
Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles, was entsteht,
Ist wert, daß es zugrunde geht;
Drum besser wär’s, daß nichts entstünde.
So ist denn alles, was ihr Sünde,
Zerstörung, kurz, das Böse nennt,
Mein eigentliches Element.
(See [PGG])

Sorry, I simply had to show these different versions.
I personally prefer the last one. Not just because I am German, but simply because I adore the German language so much. If I find the time for it I might record those three quotes to show you verbally the difference in the sound of them, which in my opinion makes the German the outstanding winner – if it would be a competition.

Anyway, by now I am not so sure if the idea for the Mephisto-character really was created by Goethe or even the old stories about the Faust content (the lore about Johann Georg Faust, Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus).
Simply by reading quite some bit of Norse mythology made me realize that one „character“ does have quite similar traits…

Mephisto is the master of lies, Lord of the Flies, Rats and what not. Someone who wants the human existence to end. Permanently. By all means he tries to win his bet with god. To win Fausts soul. The ambiguity I mentioned earlier is kind of his trade mark. He tries to win by causing evil deeds, but the result is not always evil. For example does he cause – through Faust’s wish – Gretchen’s tragedy, but instead of wanting his live to end (by saying his catch-phrase: „Verweile doch du bist so schön.“/“Ah, still delay—thou art so fair!“/“Linger awhile! so fair thou art!”) because of the bliss he had with the girl, Faust simply wants more. Knowing more. Experiencing more. Living more. He is not satisfied. Yet he learns what the girl had to suffer through because of him and it makes him realize his mistakes and trying to save her. And even though Mephisto claims the girl to be lost, god claims her soul to be saved.  Faust kind of grows character-wise from this and strives for a different woman – Helena.
The point is: Mephisto tries to get to his goal without a care of what happens to the ones around him: The deaths of Gretchen’s matron and brother, the pregnancy and the punishment of the girl for killing her own child is the content of the tragedy. Yet the devoted girl is still able to ascent to heaven.

A similar ambiguity can be seen in the myths concerning the Norse god of mischief: Loki.
If you look at the story about Balder’s death for example you can see a similar tragedy.
When everything except the mistletoe had vowed to not harm Balder and everyone was throwing things at him, Loki simply did what he considered fun: He disguised himself and talked Balder’s blind brother Hodur into throwing a sharpened mistletoe at his brother, while guiding his hand. Never intending to kill the beloved god he caused his death by this, as the twig went right into Balder’s heart. As everyone mourned for him they hoped to fulfill Hel’s (Loki’s daughter’s) condition for Balder to return to the realm of the living. Only one person – a giantess who is said to be Loki in disguise again – did not care whether he returned or not, thus Balder would have to stay in the realm of Hel (Helheim) till Ragnorök, where he would be one of the sole „survivors“ and creators of the new world, after the end of everything.
In short: Loki tries to mock the Aesir’s behavior regarding Balder’s invulnerability and causing the biggest tragedy in the Edda, still his „victim“ later has a new role in the recreation of the world, which wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the trickster.
On a German (unofficial) page [LGM] about the Norse mythology it is even concluded, that his doings, despite their evil intent, caused more good things then bad. And that sounds fairly familiar. 😉
Even though I only display shortened versions of both „stories“ and there would probably be a more fitting one for Loki (e.g. the tale of Mjölnir), you might be able to see my point nevertheless: Two characters – one from German lore, one from Norse mythology, who display the same mind set. Doing how they please to accomplish what they want. Making intentionally evil deeds that cause more good than ill. Characters that play with the people around them, to trick them into doing what they see profit in.
Neither of them is (completely) evil (hence the ambiguity). They both just follow someone else’s plan. Bound to act according to it, regardless of all their effort to act on their own „free“ will.
(And seemingly I was not the only one who came to this conclusion, though I did not find an official source [UPG] either…)

I find this characterization quite fascinating and not just for me it is the source for inspiration for characters with similar traits. It is hard for me to grasp – let alone explain – why I like it, but I am mostly compelled to favourite them over the simple minded or less complex characters. Therefore one of my favourite characters in the book I’m co-writing is not even based on/inspired by Mephisto, but will also get a scene that is inspired by the myths concerning Loki – looking forward to officially writing that one.

Reading Faust and being taught of it by a teacher with so much passion for this piece, simply made me inherit this passion. Therefore I think I can claim it one of my favourite books.

Still other authors used Mephisto in their work as well. Not just in Marvel Comics did he became „real“ again (which is pretty funny, as they also have a Loki…), no also a quite new Manga series has a character named „Mephisto Pheles“ (honestly: Took me a while to get that one, as I’m too used to the short version …). I am talking about Kazue Katou’s „Ao No Exorcist“ (Blue Exorcist).
A story about two brother’s whom discover their heritage as sons of Satan. One of them (Rin) who has inherited their father’s (blue) flames and the other (Yukio) already being an Exorcist, who is now guiding his brother to become one as well.
Mephisto is the (demonic) headmaster of the Exorcist school and seems to have his own plan(s) concerning the brother’s. He puts them into several trial fights to see how they are able to cope, even using his own (demonic) brother as bait.
He is capable of using magic. Even going as far as to turn himself into a small terrier like dog. (Another trait all three characters share: Shape shifting 😉 )
In the Anime-version there even is an episode where it is said, that he is the Mephisto Faust made the compact with, though I still prefer the Manga-version…
My fascination for this series – and the kind of character – caused me to write this: Not His Day
A little parody about Mephisto. (Some more information on the creation process can be found, if you follow the above link to the story on Fanfiction.net.)

One thing is clear to me: If I ever would get to own a poodle, I’d call it Mephisto – just for the heck of it. 😀

PoiSonPaiNter

Sources: