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Historical novels from the 2nd für das 21st century


Mittwoch, 22. April 2015

And you thought you'd got a new idea, mate?

Isn't it annoying when you design a new idea for your plot from scratch that you are very fond of, and later you discover that someone else has thought it before you?

The two of us have had this experience last weekend. You see, there is this character in "Romanike" who is suffering from polydactyly, a not uncommon genetic mutation that provided him with six fingers at each hand. This defect makes him an outsider in society until he discovers that it allows him to play a string instrument like no one else can do it. My wife conjured that plot element up for him, and we both thought it was very original and convenient - until we watched "Gattaca" last Sunday. That scene with the pianist, you know:

Rats. We have watched "Gattaca" for the first time and haven't been aware of that scene at all, though I take it now that it is quite famous - both of us jerked on the couch when it came. Fortunately, the scene in our book is not that similar that it would make us really look like copycats. Sedigitus (whose very name refers to his most prominent feature - I found it in a list of Roman cognomina and wove his entire story around it) is not playing piano, for instance. What he discovers for himself is an ancient string instrument that is vaguely similar to a lyre: it was called hrôta in Germanic. That's crotta for the Latin-minded among you and Welsh folk players still know it as cwrth. An early depiction is this:

It is well conceivable that the earliest use of this instrument might have been in sacred contexts. Remarkably, the ancient hrôta had six strings. Was it meant to be played by holy men who had six fingers at each hand?

Ah, well, seems there are no really original ideas left in literature. It has all been said before, just not yet by everyone.

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