The Bear and the Maiden Fair: March in Review

Happy Easter weekend bookwyrms. I don’t do these monthly review posts very often, mostly cos I’m lazy and don’t want to, but also cos I usually just think of them as ‘wrap ups’ of what I’ve already posted, and I find writing those kinds of posts tedious even if I do like reading other people’s. HOWEVER! I like to think my personality comes across in the reviews and various other posts I write, but I often think about how my book pals maybe don’t know a great deal about me beyond the books I read. So, I thought I’d start writing up some semi-regular updates about what I’ve been up to, both in reading and in life. I realise most of you don’t give a shit, but this is mainly an excuse for me to talk about some of the things I’ve been enjoying (and maybe the odd dose of some stuff I haven’t), but for those of you who are only here for the SFF-related stuff, there’ll still be a hefty chunk of that here too. So for those of you who are still here, let’s see where this takes us eh?

Let’s start with that catchy sub-heading for the post. The Bear and the Maiden Fair is a song in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books that I’m re-reading at the mo, and loving even more the second time round to be honest. These books clearly don’t need any signal-boosting but I did just want to mention how much I’m enjoying Georgie Boy’s addition of folk songs and ballads into the mix in book three. Bards and songs are some of my fave staples of faux-European medieval settings and I love the mixture of entertainment, news and propaganda they embody. Sometimes when I’m playing Skyrim I’ll take a seat in the corner of some backwater inn and just sit back with a Blackbriar Mead or Argonian Ale and listen to a bard’s rendition of Ragnar the Red. Ironically though, it was always one of the more tedious parts of reading books like The Lord of the Rings; I’d often just skip over the page-spanning italicised songs and poems Tom Bomabil and the elves would wax lyrical about. I’m really enjoying the way Martin implements it in A Storm of Swords though, you really get a sense of the everyday culture of the commonfolk enjoying a good rendition of the tongue-in-cheek The Bear and the Maiden Fair from the outlaw bard Tom o’ Sevens, but also the propaganda of songs like The Rains of Castamere, which is a play on words and a song that tells of the utter destruction of House Reyne by the Lannisters. The song is essentially a warning not to fuck with Lord Tywin or he will wipe you from the face of Westeros. Oh god, I feel like I could write an entire post on this on its own, but for now let’s rein it in (no pun intended) and say it’s enough to state how much I love these books and if you want to read some OG grimdark without any of the pretensions of some more modern books in the genre, you absolutely gotta read them.

One thing I don’t talk much about is how obsessed I am with podcasts. I listen to an absolute shit ton of them and consequently have a back log as long as my TBR. I’ll probs end up talking about all of them at some point or another cos I tend to have a cyclical manner of obsession, but one of my current loves is The History of England podcast. It’s been going for around ten years now I think and the most recent episodes are still only up to the 1580s, so there’s loads of content to chew your way through if you’re interested in this sort of thing. I started from episode 1, which begins with the Romans leaving Britain and the subsequent Anglo-Saxon period. I love the Anglo-Saxons and find the Heptarchy fascinating. The Heptarchy is the simplified name given to the dominant seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England; the two big players of Northumbria in the north and Mercia in what is now the midlands; then East Anglia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Kent. There’s also the various kingdoms and territories in Scotland and the remnants of the Britons who held out against the Anglo-Saxons in Wales and the kingdom of Dumnonia in modern day Devon and Cornwall. I’ve learned soooo much about the period from this podcast and was listening to it at the same time I was reading A Game of Thrones, which led me to thinking about some of the similarities between Prince Joffrey and the real life English king Æthelred the Unready, which I might also write a full post about some time. Anyway, I’m currently in the Norman period and learning all about the period know as The Anarchy following William the Conqueror’s death, when all his sons fought each other for the crown, and the ascension of the Angevins. I actually knew nothing about the Angevins before listening to this, but they were essentially a French dynasty who ended up on the English throne through Geoffrey Plantagenet’s marriage to Empress Matilda, daughter of the Conqueror’s fourth son, King Henry I of England. A lot of this podcast focusses on the history of royal dynasties which, I’ll be the first to say, is actually a terrible way of studying history. But I love dynastic drama and the history of England is littered with it haha. I’m sometimes surprised more fantasy readers aren’t massive history nerds cos a lot of the drama, intrigue and cloak and dagger we read about in dynastic fantasy fiction isn’t a patch on the shit that happened in real life. Once again I feel I could ramble on about this subject for a long time and really get into the weeds on this stuff, but this is supposed to be just a quick roundup of some of the stuff I’ve been doing so I’ll spare you the details. But The History of England podcast, check it out.

I had much more I wanted to chat about in this post but I don’t want it to go on forever, so I’ll just end with a few personal things and some book stuff and then let you be on your way. First off, I don’t talk about it much online, but I’m a workplace rep for my trade union where I work in the NHS. I’m passionately committed to trade union membership and believe every worker should join one (if you’re reading this and you’re not a member of a union, please for the love of god join one British peeps go here to see which union you can join). Anyway, I’ve just been elected Assistant Treasurer of my union branch, as our current treasurer will be retiring in the next few years and I’ll be learning the ropes with a view to standing for the full treasurer role when she does. If the members do elect me as Treasurer then I’ll be one of three members of our Branch Executive Committee along with the Chair and Secretary, so that’s exciting.

Why you should join a trade union

Finally, my reading for all the grimdark I’m supposed to be reviewing for Wyrd & Wonder is going much slower than expected. I’d hoped by this point to have churned through a hefty chunk of the loose reading list I’d set myself. As it stands I’m not even halfway through, so got a lot of reading ahead of me in the next couple of months, as well as all the books I need to read as a panellist for the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards. Thankfully I haven’t reached the point of resenting the reading commitments I’ve given myself, but I’ll definitely not be promising anything as ludicrous as a review a day for any future reading events. In fact I’m already looking forward to SciFi Month, where my theme is just gonna be A Fucking Free-For-All where I just read and post whatever the hell I want with no schedule whatsoever. Much more suitable for my carefree attitude towards blogging. I read some books and made some posts in March too, but as I said earlier, it’s tedious and I’m lazy, so just go look at the home page if you want to check them out.

Anyway, that’s it folks. Hope this was at least a little bit interesting for you and maybe you know me a little bit better than you did before. If you share any of my interests mentioned in this post, from English history to trade unionism or anything in between, leave a comment, I always love chatting with my bookish pals. ‘Til next time, happy reading bookwyrms.

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16 thoughts on “The Bear and the Maiden Fair: March in Review

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  1. Lovely Post!
    I mostly jump the italics (songs and poems) in narrations. Some exceptions come to mind: „And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low?” – „What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight? Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?“ – and last but not least „Dovahkiin, Dovahkiin Naal ok zin los vahriin“.

    I‘m not a podcast listener, I only read articles and transcripts of interviews. That has to do with my impatience, I like to skip read which I can’t in audio.
    As for unions, I hear you! Just recently, the IG Metall here in Germany had a huge success: either 2% more or one day working less. How awesome is that? I‘m exempt employee, though and probably won’t be able to participate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I actually sang the Skyrim part of your comment out loud 😄 Love that song. I actually just listen to the Skyrim soundtrack on its own sometimes, the music is incredible.

      That’s great news for IG Metall workers! I looked it up and read an article on the agreement cos I hadn’t heard about it but yes, very cool.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I‘m a fan of Jeremy Soul. So many games with his music! Dungeon Siege, TES(O), SW:KotOR, and GW2 (didn‘t play GW). GW2 is the soundtrack that I often played on its own.


        1. I’ve not played Knights of the Old Republic or Guild Wars, or even TES Online tbh haha. I’ve never been that into big online multiplayer games, the closest I got was watching my friend play Ultima Online at his house cos we didn’t have the internet 😆 He even had a second computer so I’d go round his and we’d play RuneScape together in different rooms haha.

          Jeremy Soule does make wonderful music though, he’s such a talented composer. Does he do the music for Pillars of Eternity as well? I adore that soundtrack, use a lot of it as background in my D&D game (or used to when people could come round the house anyway 😢).

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I never played Pillars of Eternity. But MMORPGs were my world until a few years ago.
            As for Tabletop RPG, I had my good share until the 90s. But my daughter is playing a little bit, mostly remote.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. While I find too-long songs inserted in novels quite skippable, there are some that have a special place in my heart, and if I tend to avoid Tom Bombadil’s, I’ve always loved Eorl’s Lament from later on in the story, and a few others, so I would be very, very interested in a full post on this subject! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I regret using Tom Bombadil as an example actually cos I’m a big Bombadil apologist haha. I think he’s a great part of the story and all the haters are wrong. I picked my copy of LOTR off the shelf after I posted this to look at his songs and thought they were very good. I don’t remember Eorl’s Lament off the top of my head, but it is making me want to read the books again, it’s been a long time…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am pro songs in books.
    I am probably unions and a proud union member.
    I am pro podcasts and very interested in the History of England now you mention it.

    That is all.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. *Almost* there. She’s had an honourable mention so far as future wife of Henry II, but I’ve only just got to the death of Stephen so we’re about to embark on the rule of the Angevins proper. I really don’t know as much about this period of history as I assumed I did mind, I’m really enjoying myself. Also very excited to get to King Richard and the Third Crusade.

      Liked by 1 person

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