"Cheapening the original"- adaptations of classics in high school?:

Total posts: [20]
1 MorwenEdhelwen3rd May 2013 10:45:29 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
So I'm working on Fafnir's Bane, which is a futuristic steampunk urban fantasy High School A.U. (well, the three focal characters, Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun, are high school age). I've recently come across the opinion that adapting tales from mythology into high school actually cheapens the original, because the elements of the original myths don't really fit in high school eg the story of Hades and Persephone has a violent aspect in the abduction- and waters down the original.

A reader of Peggy Orenstein's blog, Simone comments on this subject:

It disturbs me that not only have they turned these strong female goddesses into simpering girls pining after boys, they’ve taken tales of adultery, attempted rape, and abduction and turned them into silly tween “romances”.
which happens to be exactly what I'm thinking. I've always felt funny about books like that.

As someone who's writing a retelling of the Volsunga Saga, a fantastically tragic tale with subplots dealing with honour, suicide, treachery, incest, and cannibalism, which also happens to have high school aged characters, I want to be able to retell this story and keep the spirit of the original without turning Sigurd into a stereotypical hot teen hero (although he is very young and attractive) with a crush on HAWT!android!Brynhild and Brynhild and Gudrun into catty girls who fight over the hot new guy (Erk!) because the saga isn't about romance. The romance is there, but it's not the main part.

So does anyone have opinions on whether or not it is possible to adapt something like that in a high school setting without cheapening it? How would you go about it? I have nightmares about accidentally cheapening the saga.

About the only high school adaptations (not of Volsunga Saga) I liked were Clueless and Ten Things I Hate About You.

edited 3rd May '13 11:08:08 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
2 nrjxll4th May 2013 12:40:12 AM , Relationship Status: Not war
futuristic steampunk urban fantasy

I think the bigger question is why this is in high school in the first place.

edited 4th May '13 12:40:27 AM by nrjxll

3 Eagal4th May 2013 12:46:35 AM from This is a location. , Relationship Status: Waiting for Prince Charming
This is a title.
Well, it seems to me that "cheapen" in kind of vague. Cheapen in what way? Like maybe, trivializing the accomplishments of the characters? Do you not feel you retain their personalities well enough, perhaps?
The madness is catching.
4 MorwenEdhelwen4th May 2013 02:21:36 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@njrxll: Why? They won't have high schools in the future? grin

@Eagal: Trivialising the characters as a whole, I mean Brynhild is supposed to be a proud, honourable Valkyrie, not a boy-crazy girl going, "Notice me, Sigurd!"

edited 4th May '13 3:03:33 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
I think what he meant was "what does this gain by being set in a high school on top of all this stuff".
6 MorwenEdhelwen4th May 2013 02:50:27 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@khantalas: The high school is only a partial setting. Kind of like in That 70's Show.
The road goes ever on.
7 ohsointocats4th May 2013 02:59:23 AM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
People who believe this believe that the stepsisters should have hacked off their toes at the end of Disney's Cinderella.

Look, there is pretty much no way to keep Hades and Persephone's relatively happy marriage after she was kidnapped by the guy unless you 1) play up the creepy as fuck stockholm syndrome or 2) make it Lighter and Softer and have them get hitched or something. The fact is that the social mores concerning women at the time these stories were told have completely changed, so there's no way to keep the same events with the same tone. Something has to change when modernizing.
8 nrjxll4th May 2013 03:02:39 AM , Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up]That's not really a great answer. Honestly, I'm reminded of the old joke:

—>Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

—>Doctor: Then don't do that.

If you think it's going to hurt your story some to set it in a high school, then you better have a pretty good reason for setting it in a high school in the first place. Certainly, one is not suggested by the phrase "futuristic steampunk urban fantasy".

edited 4th May '13 3:02:47 AM by nrjxll

9 MorwenEdhelwen4th May 2013 03:06:14 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up][up] Disney's Cinderella is the Perrault Cinderella.

But still, Brynhild is not supposed to be a frickin' damsel in distress! She delivers a beautiful speech to Sigurd when he suggests that he could divorce Gudrun and marry her which can be paraphrased as "It's too late. It would be dishonourable for me to disgrace Gunnar by breaking my marriage vow."

Maybe that part could be set in the Nibelungs' house. Brynhild and Gudrun are old friends or something. In my version, when they put the forgetfulness potion in Sigurd's drink, Brynhild, who has accompanied him to the Nibelungs' feast, notices something's wrong when he suddenly forgets who she is. She gets Gunnar to take him home to his foster father's house, so that she can find a way to make him remember her again. (She's staying with him). While in his semi-amnesiac state, Sigurd begins a relationship with Gudrun. Gunnar convinces Sigurd to shapeshift and pretend to be him, then convince Brynhild to be his official girlfriend some weeks before the incident, because he is also in love with and wants to marry Brynhild. Sigurd does this even though he feels uneasy and has a vague sense that something's missing, because Gunnar is a genuinely nice guy.

In the original Volsunga Saga, Brynhild is not at the Nibelung court when they spike Sigurd's drink, but still in the castle on Mount Hindfell. Sigurd is not living with Regin, his foster father, because Regin is dead by then. Sigurd's potion does not wear off for a long time until Brynhild discovers the deception.

edited 4th May '13 5:15:44 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
10 DeMarquis4th May 2013 04:57:41 AM from Hell, USA , Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
If your mythic retelling is character driven, then it works like this:

Character X does Y. Character X then feels Z because they did Y.

If "Z" is, say, guilt, then "Y" could be anything that inspires guilt. Cheating on a test, lying to a loved on, killing an innocent person, obliterating the universe. It doesn't matter what it is. What matters is the depiction of the guilt. That's what myths, legends, and high literature do, use action as an opportunity to express character. Brunhild could be a cosmic warrior or a high school athlete, provided she's expressing the same character traits, the same emotions, then it doesn't matter. A king can kidnap a princess and make her his wife, or a business executive can seduce his secretary, provided that the two of them are expressing the same personality traits in relation to one another, it's directly parallel.

That's why myths are still relevant today. Because the emotions expressed and the character traits revealed are still direct parallels to the way people act today.
I do not compromise—I synthesize.
11 MorwenEdhelwen4th May 2013 05:14:58 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] Or she could be both... when are you going to email me?

edited 4th May '13 5:17:04 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
I'm with Nrjxll on this one. The Urban Fantasy Steampunk elements are interesting enough, why waste it on highschool shenanigans?
13 dRoy4th May 2013 07:33:59 AM from The Happy Place , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Perpetually clueless
There is barely a good reason to set any story in a high school setting other than the author is a highschooler (or only recently out of it) and the target audience is highschoolers.
Mother of god...You turned one of the hardest and best Champions into an absolute joke. - Zelenal
Or it's a coming of age story in a setting where people that are most likely to go through such stories are high schoolers.
15 MorwenEdhelwen4th May 2013 05:56:43 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] It is a coming-of-age story. It's no accident that in the original, the teenaged Sigurd lives on Mount Hindfell with Brynhild as her husband and they conceive a daughter after killing Fafnir and Regin. The incident symbolises sexual autonomy after the removal of adult influence.

edited 4th May '13 6:36:43 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
16 MorwenEdhelwen5th May 2013 10:39:30 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
Also, there's an incident in the original that I overlooked Sigurd taking revenge on Hunding's sons for their killing his father. Here it's murder. How on earth do I not have "Oh BTW, Sigurd, your dad wasn't KIA at all. No, he was killed by that Manipulative Bastard Hunding and his kids come out of left field?

edited 5th May '13 11:53:27 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on.
17 KyleJacobs6th May 2013 12:48:06 AM from DC - Southern efficiency, Northern charm , Relationship Status: One True Dodecahedron
What was the father? Cop or soldier?

If cop: Offed in what looked like a routine bust gone wrong, turns out to have been part of something much bigger.

If soldier: Offed by Unfriendly Fire.

If other: Fuck if I know, it's almost 4 in the morning.
18 MorwenEdhelwen6th May 2013 03:04:10 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Kyle: I originally thought he was going to be a soldier, but maybe he could be a cop in the National Guard or something.
The road goes ever on.
19 nrjxll6th May 2013 02:42:24 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
You know, I've just realized the other thing that's bothering me about this: it seems to be going on the assumption that high school means "Hollywood High". I spent four years in the place and I never met anyone who really fit the standard student stereotypes.
20 MorwenEdhelwen6th May 2013 04:33:32 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
Me neither. Yes, the Hollywood version of American high schools is quite common.
The road goes ever on.
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Total posts: 20