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The Legend of Galavant

In my final year of university, I watched a lot of TV. Specifically a lot of North American TV. Orange is the New Black, Elementary, Orphan Black, How to Get Away with Murder. Most of these I had friends who were watching them too. But amongst this cavalcade of well known programmes, I also watched Galavant. And there’s no one quite like Galavant.

How to explain Galavant… It’s a tongue in cheek, fourth wall breaking, deconstruction of quasi medieval, fairy tale esque stories. That’s also a musical.

Warning: Spoilers below

This song summarises the paragraph below. Thankfully, it’s not me singing.

Series 1 opens with a song about Galavant, the hero of seven kingdoms, whose girlfriend Madalena is kidnapped by the evil King Richard and is going to be forced to marry him. Naturally, the hero of seven kingdoms isn’t going to stand for that. Singlehanded, Galavant storms the castle, where the guards willing fall rather than die and he enters the Great Hall, makes a speech about true love defeating all. And then his girl chooses the king. Because fame and fortune. Sorry Gal.

The plot of the series spirals from there, with the main characters of Galavant, a now retired hero, and Princess Isabella, whose land has been conquered by King Richard. You’ve also got Sid as Galavant’s long suffering squire, Madalena, as the sharp worded Queen who thinks Richard’s useless, Richard, who just wants to please his wife and maybe start another war, and Gareth, Richard’s oldest friend and bodyguard.

The songs are composed by Alan Menken and Christopher Lennertz. You might recognise the name Menken from musical films like The Little Mermaid, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Aladdin. Genres range from rap battles to love songs to broadway style duet. Always entertaining, often genre subverting (see below Maybe You’re Not The Worst Thing Ever – yes, spoilers) and the cast isn’t half bad at singing. Actually they’re quite good – especially the Jester.

And talking of the cast, they’re incredible. From relatively unknown actors like Joshua Sasse, Karen David and Mallory Jansen, to more well known faces like Timothy Odmundson and Vinnie Jones. And playing spot the British actor is pretty fun – Karen David was in Waterloo Road, Darren Evans was in being Human and Luke Youngblood was in Harry Potter.. What’s more fun is the guest cast. Weird Al as a monk who took a vow of singing, Kylie Minogue as Queen and landlady of the Enchanted Forest, Robert Lindsay as the most evil man in the land and an excellent wedding planner and Hugh Bonneville as an all singing, all dancing pirate to name a few.

The series suffers a little from a lack of diversity. While some of the main characters stop it being an all white production, there’s some serious room for improvement. Particularly jarring is where Sid, one of very few black characters, is revealed to also be Jewish. It feels a little like too much like trying to put all the diversity on one character.

Also, I’m not sure if Galavant passes the Bechdel test. Madalena and Isabella mostly talk about Galavant when they’re together, Isabella and her mother are usually talking about King Richard, Galavant or Isabella’s 11 year old cousin Harry, and I’m not convinced Roberta ever gets to talk to any other women. Apart from to sing at the female half of the zombie army that they lead about Richard.

However, the series is very funny, a little bit weird and is all about the deconstruction of the princess myth. Which means I am very here for it. It’s got dragons, and zombies and more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at. And most importantly, there’s 2 seasons that wrap up nicely, though there’s room left for a continuation if Galavant gets renewed.

So go, revel in the nonsense and joy that is the legend of Galavant.

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How To Train Your Dragon: Meeting Cressida Cowell

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell was first published in 2003. In 2003, I was in the upper years of primary school and that meant I was the target audience for How to Train Your Dragon. I loved it. I must have done – I still remember the book over a decade later. It’s about Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, “the greatest Viking Hero that ever lived” but focusing on “when he was a very ordinary boy, and finding it hard to be a Hero.” He lives on an island called Berk where there are dragons galore. And, as the title kind of gives away, he learns how to train a dragon, despite the useful advice given in world of ‘How to train a dragon? You don’t’. It was great. Is great, in fact.

Fast forward a few years (seven to be exact), and Dreamworks produced a film of the same name, based on the How to Train Your Dragon series, and it was a huge success. Since then, there’s been a sequel film, tv epidsodes and scads of merchandise, including the stuffed toy version of Toothless (the titular dragon) for whom you can buy a Toothless hoodie.

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Photo credit: Maddie Chambers

Toothless was nervous about the photoshoot, so you should write how cute he is in the comments.

There are now at least 11 books in the series, not that I’ve read any of the others. I was at the upper end of the target audience after all and by the time the others came out I had moved on to the realms of YA with all the tangled love stories and lack of dragons.

BUT, on 17th October I was in Birmingham, which isn’t so surprising seeing as I live there. In actual fact I was in Grand Central – the new shopping centre above the new News Street station – and in Grand Central there is a Foyles. For those who have never heard of it, Foyles is a book shop that apparently until recently only appeared to exist in the South. But now it’s in the Midlands too.

It’s a really nice shop. I’ve yet to leave it empty handed. It’s also the bookshop I first saw The Next Together in after the launch party. An excellent addition to Birmingham, though the architecture isn’t as impressive as the Birmingham Waterstones. (This is an equal opportunities blog for book shops). And yesterday Foyles Birmingham had Cressida Cowell open their children’s section.

There was some very impressive face painting going on, as well as headbands for children and free drinks. Also a Viking.  And most importantly you could meet Cressida Cowell and get a book signed. So I joined the queue. I suppose I must have looked very odd, as I was the only one there without a small child. Which did make me feel slightly self-conscious. But I powered through, by picking up a Margaret Atwood book and feeling very glad that I didn’t have to deal with small children when in such a long queue. Small children have small attention spans.

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Viking, viking, viking.

Eventually, I made it to almost the front of the line. Cressida Cowell was most excellent with the kids who were in front of me, telling one delighted little girl that as she had red hair, she must be a Viking. When it was my turn, I was completely unsure of what to say and when Cressida asked if there was a question I wanted to ask, I explained that’d I’d loved the book in primary school, and was hoping that my youngest cousin would love it to. And that’s who I got the book dedicated to. (Shhh, it’s a Christmas present.)

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She insisted I was in the photo. She was very lovely.

With the book signed and stamped with a dragon, I also got stamped with a dragon. Apparently it means I’m officially a hero and I had to promise to work to save the dragons. Dream job, achieved. I also got dragon trading cards.

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#tattooideas

And that was it. Aside from snapping a pic of the Viking and asking if he minded terribly if I put it on my blog. Basically, Cressida Cowell was most lovely, Foyles is an excellent shop, and I still have a dragon stamp on my arm.

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A Natural History of Dragons

For my birthday, I was given A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. As in, Marie Brennan wrote the book. She didn’t give it to me. Unfortunately, with exams and the general hecticness of university, I didn’t get a chance to read it until recently. I guess commutes are good for something.

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The book, fabulously displayed by Eddie the dragon.

It wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting a kind of field guide to dragons with anatomical drawings and such. What the book actually is, is an introduction by the fictional Lady Trent to her life, which, it must be said, revolves around dragons.

Set in a fictional world in where it is apparently the 1800s or early 1900s, the world in which Lady Trent lives has real live dragons. Apparently, she has been fascinated by them since childhood and is now an expert in the field. This book is her first memoir, recalling how her obsession began and detailing her first expedition to study dragons.

It’s a well written book, even if I was a little sceptical at first. Like I said, it wasn’t what I was expecting and honestly, the era the story is based on means that as a woman, Lady Trent is discouraged from following her passions. Of course, she overcomes this, but that is largely due to social status and encouragement and permission from her father and later her husband. In the book, she is aware of her privilege, which I greatly appreciated, but this is a trope that I think I’ve read too many times. I’m ready for stories set in a world where women can follow their passions without society telling them that it’s unladylike.

The mythology of dragons in this book is well thought through and consistent, even down to dragon grieving rituals. As the protagonist and narrator, Lady Trent often alludes to vaguely scientific ways of study and understanding the creatures, as you would expect an expert in a burgeoning field to be.

Overall, this is a good book, even if it took me a while to settle into the world it builds. I found out the other day that it’s actually part of series and I do want to read the next one. But I’m not rushing out to Waterstones right this instant. I can wait. And I think that sums up my feelings about this book. It’s enjoyable, but you don’t have to rush to read it. It can wait a while.

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A Week of Impressive German

Do I even need to tell you what I did on Monday? I did prep for tutoring, as ever. All about mythical creatures this week. I also made cheese scones, which I am very proud of because I have no scales so it was all done on guesswork.

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They needed more cheese. But most things do.

On Tuesday, my first class were still doing about houses and furniture. Which is getting a little boring for me, but they’re still enjoying working through the millions of worksheets, so it’s all good. I ended up swapping classes for my second class, and instead of being with the normally rowdy class I was with a normally decent class. Who, on that day, decided to be way worse the normally rowdy class. I have never felt more like an adult than when the words ‘yes, it’s snowing. You’ve seen snow before. Sit down!’ came out of my mouth. My third class were thankfully lovely, and got on with writing about animals fairly quietly.

Tuesday evening I forgot there was a BC Café meeting and skyped England instead. Whoops.

On Wednesday I was at the fire station with one of the classes, who were super excited about the fact that I was going with them for five seconds until they realised I’d tell them off for messing around in the road. The kids were at the fire station to learn what to do in case of a fire and a little bit about what firepeople do. It was very boring.

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The llmenau fire station

So periods 1-4 were spent at the fire station and then in my lesson, instead of being with my normal class, I was with one of the lads who’s at the school on placement, planning a lesson on farmyard animals. He wants to be an English teacher, so it makes sense. It was also the first time anyone with a decent level of English has gone ‘your German’s better than my English, so let’s talk in German.’ Excuse me while I squeal over the fact that my German’s improved.

At tutoring, the kids were awesome at naming the animals, and then describing them. There was a blip when Luka told me that girls can’t like dragons. But I pointed out that I’m a girl and I like dragons, and he conceded that I made a well put argument. By which I mean, he went ‘oh’ and then agreed that girls could like dragons.

The teacher I’m normally with on Thursdays was away so the kids were split up into other classes. I ended up supervising kids in the computer room reading about potatoes. Don’t ask, because I still don’t understand.All I know is that even the kids who normally mess around didn’t.

Friday I was at the fire station again and it was just as boring as on Wednesday. However, I got into an argument about the emergency services number in England after the dude said it was 911. Despite only half paying attention, my deeply hidden inner anti Americanisation, bowler hatted British personality surfaced. Apparently in the German dubbing of Fireman Sam, you have to call 911 to get him to come and save you. My argument was basically ‘it’s 999. I’m from England so…’ But as the kids were gathering their things to go back to school, the guy came over and was like ‘I didn’t realise you were English – your German is so good. Have all of the things ever.’ So now I have a magazine about fire stations aimed at kids, a kids activity book about fire, certificates saying I’ve achieved bronze, silver and gold level fire prevention knowledge and badges to go with them. Which is actually pretty cool.

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Pro tip: Tell people you’re English and you get given stuff.

Saturday I made the two hour trip to Jena in order to some serious shopping. Items purchased include ‘The Shadowhunter’s Codex’ by Cassandra Clare because it was pretty, a copy of ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ which I finished on the train and socks that declare my love of partying.

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You know it’s serious when you find it on socks.

And Sunday was spent not doing a fat lot, other than redying my hair. I’m back to tomato soup levels of ginger. All is well with the world.