Author Topic: PC082: The Twa Corbies  (Read 12594 times)

Heradel

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on: December 16, 2009, 06:47:39 AM
Podcastle 82: The Twa Corbies

by Marie Brennan
Read by Elie Hirschman

In all the fairy stories, when the hero is magically gifted with an understanding of the speech of birds, it actually does him some good.  A robin brings him a message from his true love, or a bluebird tells him about buried treasure, or a starling warns him of a traitor among his companions.  It doesn’t really work that way, though — not in real life.  Birds mostly talk about seeds and worms and the breeze and nest-building and the state of their eggs.  I should know; I’ve been listening to them for seven years.

In all that time, they’ve only ever said one thing that interested me, and that one almost got me killed.

Rated PG: For Hungry Ravens, Corpses, and Curses (Not the Profane Kind)
« Last Edit: December 29, 2009, 05:27:00 AM by Heradel »

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lhoward

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Reply #1 on: December 16, 2009, 03:02:15 PM
I enjoyed this tale.  I appreciate Podcastle's diversity in the flavors of fantasy it brings to its listeners, but it was a very pleasant experience to hear a story in a more traditional fantasy setting.  It seems like it has been a while since there has been one of those in the mix.



DKT

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Reply #2 on: December 16, 2009, 04:38:23 PM
OMG Elie Hirschman's raven voices killed in this one. I just about died laughing on my commute in.


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Reply #3 on: December 16, 2009, 07:03:22 PM
Great story.  A framework for lesser writers who got podcasted here to remember.   Respect for readers.  No restatement.  No "its MAGIC and here's how it works , remember its MAGIC and it's AMAZING"  reiteration.  No attempt to better the reader through self examination.  Thank you.
  Personality described by action and verbal interaction, not exposition.  And the raven voices, spot on.

We have been authorized to proclaim this story double plus good.  Congratulations citizen.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #4 on: December 16, 2009, 11:51:56 PM
Made of awesome, like everything Marie Brennan touches, and a wonderful reading with hilarious raven voices. Final opinion: win win win win win.

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THAYPHAP

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Reply #5 on: December 17, 2009, 03:40:46 AM
Great!  Delightful.  I could stand to see this character come back.  Can someone tell me where I can find other work by this writer?



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #6 on: December 17, 2009, 04:14:00 AM
Great!  Delightful.  I could stand to see this character come back.  Can someone tell me where I can find other work by this writer?

http://www.swantower.com/marie/index.html has an index of all the character's work and what magazines and podcasts it can be found at, in addition to some free stuff. She also livejournals at http://swan-tower.livejournal.com/.

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Scattercat

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Reply #7 on: December 17, 2009, 07:07:20 AM
A lovely reimagining of the old poem!  High marks, all around.  The only criticism I can muster at all is that the ravens are a bit too nice in saving the human who has generally been nothing but a pain in their feathered keisters.

And nthing the endorsement of the ravens' voices.  Great fun, this one.



Swamp

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Reply #8 on: December 17, 2009, 07:04:11 PM
A very nice light-hearted tale.  I loved the imagined grandness of being able to communicate with birds meeting the reality of the birds' mundane concerns.  I also liked the return to more classic fantasy fare.  I see this story as a CSI meets Alfred Hitchcock meets Ladyhawk.  (Ladyhawk in terms of lowly character like theif/merchant making a difference, and the fantasy environment.  Well, there is a hawk in the story, too.)

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gelee

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Reply #9 on: December 18, 2009, 02:09:00 AM
Great story. I especially enjoyed the well-drawn characters. Great use of humor, and wonderful delivery. I'd love to hear more stories featuring this character. 



internalogic

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Reply #10 on: December 18, 2009, 02:35:33 PM
OMG Elie Hirschman's raven voices killed in this one. I just about died laughing on my commute in.

Ditto.  Great storytelling.

One of my favorite moments is 22:19  "I had thought they might be able to give me directions on the road"

Something about the timing, the content, and the deadpan delivery of that line just struck me as really, really funny.

It also tells something about the narrator.  You discover that magic exists, capture an actual pixie, and the only thing you think to ask for is to be able to understand birds.  And so they might GIVE YOU DIRECTIONS ON THE ROAD.  He seems like the kind of basically good person who just sort of naturally doesn't think in devious ways because they're more or less at peace with what life is.   Some might say he'd been daft, but I'd bet it's that same quality that leads him to do good/heroic things, and it's probably that very 'daftness' that led him to find the pixie in the first place.

Anyway, thanks for a great story.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2009, 02:40:58 PM by internalogic »



Scattercat

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Reply #11 on: December 18, 2009, 02:50:58 PM
He seems like the kind of basically good person who just sort of naturally doesn't think in devious ways because they're more or less at peace with what life is.

Indeed.  Normally, I get frustrated when characters announce that they don't know why they did X, or when they gripe about a situation which they themselves created and which they're only involved in because of their continuing choice to remain involved.  I've read lists of "advice for writers" which said, basically, "When characters start remarking on how improbable the plot is, that's the author's subconscious trying to tell him/her something."  However, for this particular character, it was made clear that this is just a part of who he is, that he feels this obligation to help even though he doesn't want to deal with the trouble.  Sort of a "doth protest too much" situation; he knows he's making these choices to talk to birds, to investigate the dead knight, to try and 'help' the bereaved widow, and so on.  It ended up working quite well, and it just goes to show that you can never take anything in writing as a hard and fast rule.



Marguerite

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Reply #12 on: December 18, 2009, 06:01:38 PM
Cute story, and great voice work on the ravens.  :-)

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kibitzer

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Reply #13 on: December 20, 2009, 04:14:23 AM
Well, this was wonderful. Simple, well-told and funny. Lovely. I love the idea that having a fantasy wish granted, is actually a complete pain in the arse.

A lovely reimagining of the old poem!

Which poem is that? (I suppose I should google the title)


Heradel

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Reply #14 on: December 20, 2009, 04:46:06 AM
A lovely reimagining of the old poem!

Which poem is that? (I suppose I should google the title)
I believe this one:
http://www.bartleby.com/40/13.html

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Talia

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Reply #15 on: December 20, 2009, 04:46:23 AM
Well, this was wonderful. Simple, well-told and funny. Lovely. I love the idea that having a fantasy wish granted, is actually a complete pain in the arse.

A lovely reimagining of the old poem!

Which poem is that? (I suppose I should google the title)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Ravens

was news to me too.. was really confused about the title, actually, until i googled it. Then I was pleased.



jay daze

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Reply #16 on: December 20, 2009, 09:17:41 AM
I've been reading too much George R.R. Martin.  All I could think was: "Strip the body, get the boots, and move on!"

Perhaps a little too practical of a mind-set for this story.  But once I bludgeoned down my cynical hard-bitten persona I quite enjoyed having a true blue nice guy for a change.

*oh and thanks for the links to the ballad - neat to see the inspiration*



kibitzer

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Reply #17 on: December 21, 2009, 07:12:14 AM
I believe this one:
http://www.bartleby.com/40/13.html

Aha. Thank you. I really should have googled that.


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Reply #18 on: December 21, 2009, 07:39:06 PM
Great story, lots of fun!  The author has a good point, that bird-speech is always extremely useful in the stories.  The voice-acting was superb, and the croaking bird voices were just splendid.  And in the end, the hero just wants the shut the darn birds up.  :)

I didn't care for the title, especially since I didn't know what "twa" or "corbies" meant in the slightest until I read the poem, and since neither word was used within the story I didn't get any closer to understanding while listening.



Scattercat

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Reply #19 on: December 22, 2009, 01:21:57 AM
Aha. Thank you. I really should have googled that.

If it makes you feel any better, I had to google it to remember exactly how "The Twa Corbies" actually went.  I'm a lit nerd, but I'm not yet a big enough one, it seems.

@Unblinking: So do you not like any literary allusions, or do you just object to those which you aren't familiar with?  I mean, given that the story is literally a creative retelling of the poem/song of the title, and since that poem/song is sufficiently esoteric that non-English-majors are unlikely to recognize it (or even English majors who didn't take any medieval lit classes), it would seem apropos to make the allusion as clear as possible in order to facilitate an understanding in the reader of what, exactly, is being done with the story.



cdugger

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Reply #20 on: December 22, 2009, 02:52:46 AM
Well, this was wonderful. Simple, well-told and funny. Lovely. I love the idea that having a fantasy wish granted, is actually a complete pain in the arse.


Saves me having to type it in!

Ditto!

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Unblinking

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Reply #21 on: December 22, 2009, 05:50:21 PM
@Unblinking: So do you not like any literary allusions, or do you just object to those which you aren't familiar with?

Neither, actually.  But I didn't even know it was a literary allusion until I read the comments thread.  I like titles that say something about the story without giving it all away, and "The Twa Corbies" was such a complete non-entity in my memory association that it provoked no reaction of any kind in my mind.  If the title had been something which described this story in some way that was meaningful to me, I would've liked the title better.

Actually, the only thing it made me think of was to relate "Twa" to "Twee" as in "Twee fairies", so I thought Corbies might be a type of fairy, but that association didn't lead anywhere useful.

In any case, I really enjoyed the story, which is much more important than the title.  And the title served its purpose for some by helping them associate with the original so it worked for others, just not for me. 



Gallagher

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Reply #22 on: December 25, 2009, 06:37:05 PM
I remember reading this story once and the poem for a class. It must not have impressed me much at the time because I completely forgot what happened.

So I got to hear the story for the first time and I really enjoyed it. The voicing was great on this one good job to the reader. I really like the story itself because this is a character I have always been better able to relate to. A character who just does what he feels is going to turn out for the best even if it is something he is unsure of. I can relate this character to the Bilbo Baggins I read about when I was younger.

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Reply #23 on: January 02, 2010, 10:59:25 AM
I have to say that while I enjoyed this story, I was not quite as enamoured with it as some of the other forum posters. To start with the good, however, I really did like the main protagonist. He was a really well written, three dimensional character. His decency as a human being shines through, and he can never resist the urge to help someone - dead knight, lady, injured birds - no matter how much he knows he'll regret the consequences. It also blinds him to the duplicity of others until way too late. And then, I got the feeling that he enjoys grumbling about the birds way more than he is actually bothered by them. I really, really loved this character, both as a protagonist but also as an example of good writing.

Where the story fell short for me, however, is the plot. Specifically, I had two major problems with it. The first is that I didn't understand how the murder took place. It was established that you cannot enter the town without passing a guarded gate. But yet, the lord seemed to be able to be able to enter town, get a ring from his wife, and leave town dying without anyone seeing him. Or did she somehow kill him on the way to town? But if so, why did she do it so close to the town? And if he was riding to town, why tie the spell to his signet ring, which I assume he wouldn't be wearing on the road? I'm either missing something here, or the murder itself makes no sense whatsoever.

The second problem I had was the behavior of the birds, especially at the end. The narrator gets the power to talk to birds, but he also seems to have the superpower of letting birds around him act non-bird like. Hitchcock movies aside, birds of different species don't cooperate in this manner, especially if they don't share an interest. I can buy that the Hawk would remain loyal to its master, and why the crows would feel some sort of fondness for the narrator just because they know he can speak with them. What led the other birds to risk their lives to help?



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Reply #24 on: January 02, 2010, 05:00:37 PM
Great!  Delightful.  I could stand to see this character come back.  Can someone tell me where I can find other work by this writer?

In addition to the full-fledged listing from electric paladin, I'd like to note that Marie Brennan has twice before been featured on PodCastle.  Her story A Heretic By Degrees, and her miniature The Princess and The... can be dug up out of the archives.

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