Chapters 24 - 26 Portland_Vase_BM_Gem4036_n5.jpg

On page 323: Philippa reads aloud the first verse of the poem written by Keats that had been inspired by the Portland Vase:

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What mild ecstasy?

The Ode is a form of Lyric poem, which is divided into the Strophe, the Antistrophe and the final Epode. It is generally a poem addressed to someone and has an elaborate style of writing. ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is an ode written by Keats, which addresses a beautiful urn or a vase from Greece. It explores the essence that attributes to human happiness, on a universal scale—Beauty. The Ode is divided into five stanzas which address the varied figures and beautiful forms of art, portrayed on the urn.
In the first stanza, Keats calls the vase, an unravished bride of quietness’ relating to the fact that it has existed for centuries and has stood against the eroding effects of the passage of time. He also calls it the ‘foster child of Silence and Time’, both of which are personified here. The parents have conferred eternal stillness, on the urn. The urn is also a Sylvan Historian, since it records a pastoral scene from times immemorial. Keats also feels that the urn is a superior work of art since it depicts the beauty of nature with more panache, than his words. The poet also speculates that the scene is set in Tempe or Arcady, both of which are picturesque places in Greece, favored by Apollo, the god of poetry and music. He, then, wonders about the origin of the maidens and the activity that seems to be taking place.




On page 329, Mr. Rakshasas compare the difficult they will have rescuing Nimrod with the Twelve Labors that Eurystheus set for Hercules in Greek mythology. Do you remember them? Here goes...

Hercules.jpgThe Twelve Labors of Hercules

Hercules performed twelve labors given him by King Eurystheus of Tiryns. For twelve years, he traveled all over to complete these incredible tasks. NOTE: Because different ancient poets gave their own accounts of Hercules's labors, some details may vary.

One: Kill the Nemean Lion

This monster of a lion had a hide was so tough that no arrow could pierce it. Hercules stunned the beast with his olive-wood club and then strangled it with his bare hands. It is said that he skinned the lion, using the lion's sharp claws, and ever after wore its hide.

Two: Kill the Lernean Hydra

The evil, snakelike Hydra had nine heads. If one got hurt, two would grow in its place. But Hercules quickly sliced off the heads, while his charioteer, Iolaus, sealed the wounds with a torch. Hercules made his arrows poisonous by dipping them in the Hydra's blood.

Three: Capture the Cerynian Hind

The goddess Artemis loved and protected this stubborn little deer, which had gold horns. Hercules found it a challenge to capture the delicate hind without hurting it (and making Artemis angry). After following the hind for an entire year, he safely carried it away.

Four: Capture the Erymanthian Boar

The people of Mount Erymanthus lived in fear of this deadly animal. Hercules chased the wild boar up the mountain and into a snowdrift. He then took it in a net and brought it to King Eurystheus, who was so frightened of the beast that he hid in a huge bronze jar.

Five: Clean the Augean Stables

Thousands of cows lived in these stables belonging to King Augeas. They had not been cleaned in 30 years, but Hercules was told to clean them completely in a single day. To do so he made two rivers bend so that they flowed into the stables, sweeping out the filth.

Six: Kill the Stymphalian Birds

These murderous birds lived around Lake Stymphalos. Their claws and beaks were sharp as metal and their feathers flew like darts. Hercules scared them out of their nests with a rattle and then killed them with the poison arrows he had made from the Hydra's blood.

Seven: Capture the Cretan Bull

This savage bull, kept by King Minos of Crete, was said to be insane and breathe fire. Hercules wrestled the mad beast to the ground and brought it back to King Eurystheus. Unfortunately, the king set it free, and it roamed Greece, causing terror wherever it went.

Eight: Capture the Horses of Diomedes

King Diomedes, leader of the Bistones, fed his bloodthirsty horses on human flesh. Hercules and his men fought and killed King Diomedes and fed the king to his horses. This made the horses tame, so that Hercules was able to lead them to King Eurystheus.

Nine: Take the Girdle of the Amazon Queen Hippolyte

Hercules went to the land of the Amazons, where the queen welcomed him and agreed to give him her girdle for Eurystheus's daughter. But Hera spread the rumor that Hercules came as an enemy. In the end he had to conquer the Amazons and steal the golden belt.

Ten: Capture the Cattle of Geryon

Geryon, a winged monster with three human bodies, had a herd of beautiful red cattle. He guarded his prized herd with the help of a giant and a vicious two-headed dog. Hercules killed Geryon, the giant, and the dog and brought the cattle to King Eurystheus.

Eleven: Take the Golden Apples of the Hesperides

The Hesperides were nymphs. In their garden grew golden apples protected by Ladon, a dragon with a hundred heads. Hercules struck a bargain with Atlas, who held up the earth. Hercules shouldered the earth while Atlas, the nymphs' father, fetched the apples.

hercules_cerebus.gifTwelve: Capture Cerberus

Hercules was ordered to capture Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the underworld, without using weapons. Hercules wrestled down the dog's wild heads, and it agreed to go with him to King Eurystheus. Cerberus was soon returned unharmed to the underworld.







Mr. Rakshasas also mentions the riddle of the Sphinx. Do you know what it is?

“Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?”
"There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first."

The Riddle of the Sphinx

SphinxGiza.jpgThe Sphinx is said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and to have asked a riddle of travelers to allow them passage. The exact riddle asked by the Sphinx was not specified by early tellers of the stories, and was not standardized as the one given below until late in Greek history.
It was said in late mythological lore that Hera or Ares sent the Sphinx from her Ethiopian homeland (the Greeks always remembered the foreign origin of the Sphinx) to Thebes in Greece where she asks all passersby the most famous riddle in history: “Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?” She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus solved the riddle by answering: Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then walks with a cane in old age. By some accounts (but much more rarely), there was a second riddle: "There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first." (answer: day and night—both words are feminine in Greek.)
Bested at last, the tale continues, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died. An alternative version tells that she devoured herself. Thus Oedipus can be recognized as a "liminal" or threshold figure, helping effect the transition between the old religious practices, represented by the death of the Sphinx, and the rise of the new, Olympian gods.

On page 329, Mr. Groanin is watching cricket on the television. What is cricket?800px-Pollock_to_Hussey.jpg
Cricket is a bat-and-ball team sport that is first documented as being played in southern England in the 16th century. By the end of the 18th century, cricket had developed to the point where it had become the national sport of England. The expansion of the British Empire led to cricket being played overseas and by the mid-19th century the first international matches were being held. Today, the game's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), has 104 member countries. With its greatest popularity in the Test playing countries, cricket is widely regarded as the world's second most popular sport .



In chapter 25, Groanin, Mr. Rakshasas and the twins head off to the North Pole by way of Moscow...

Moscow_collage_new.jpg Moscow is the capital and the largest city of Russia. It is also the largest metropolitan area in Europe, and ranks among the largest urban areas in the world. Moscow is a major political, economic, cultural, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the world, a global city. It is also the seventh largest city proper in the world, a megacity. The population of Moscow (as of 1 June 2009) is 10,524,400.
It is located on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District, in the European part of Russia. Moscow sits on the junction of three geological platforms. Historically, it was the capital of the former Soviet Union, Tsardom of Russia and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. It is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, one of the World Heritage Sites in the city, which serves as the residence of the President of Russia. The Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) and the Government of Russia also sit in Moscow.
Moscow is a major economic centre and is home to one of the largest numbers of billionaires in the world; in 2008 Moscow was named the world's most expensive city for foreign employees for the third year in a row. However, in 2009, Moscow moved to third after Tokyo and Osaka came in first and second, respectively.
It is home to many scientific and educational institutions, as well as numerous sport facilities. It possesses a complex transport system, that includes 3 international airports, 9 railroad terminals, and the world's second busiest (after Tokyo) metro system which is famous for its architecture and artwork. Its metro is the busiest single-operator subway in the world.
Over time, the city has earned a variety of nicknames, most referring to its pre-eminent status in the nation: The Third Rome (Третий Рим), Whitestone (Белокаменная), The First Throne (Первопрестольная), The Forty Forties (Сорок Сороков.). A person from Moscow is called a Muscovite in English, Moskvich[ in Russian.

They land at Sheremtyevo Airport in Moscow....
Svo_terminal_2.jpgSheremetyevo International Airport (Russian: Международный Аэропорт Шереметьево, Mezhdunarodniy Aeroport Sheremet'evo IPA: [ʂerʲiˈmʲetʲjivə]) (IATA: SVO, ICAO: UUEE), is an international airport located 29km (18 miles) north-west of Moscow, Russia. It is a hub for the passenger operations of the Russian international airline Aeroflot, and one of the three major airports serving Moscow along with Domodedovo International Airport and Vnukovo (the IATA area code for Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo is MOW). It is the second largest in Russia (after Domodedovo); in 2007 it handled 14.04 million passengers (10% increase with respect to 2006) and 117,044 tonnes of cargo (5.6% increase).




On page 332, Philippa creates a perfect facsimile of the canopic jar, "Just like a Russian Matrushka doll."

Matrushka.JPG
A matryoshka doll, also known as a Russian nested doll or a babushka doll, is a set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside the other. The word "matryoshka" (матрёшка) is derived from the Russian female first name "Matryona" (Матрёна). The word "babushka" is the Russian word for grandmother.

Gee, my grandmother was Russian, and I always thought that a babushka was the word for the old scarf she wore around her head.



When they have difficulty getting through customs, Mr. Groanin jokes that he thought they were headed to a labor camp in Siberia.


Labor_Camp.jpgA labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons. Conditions at labor camps vary widely depending on the operators.
During the period of Stalinism, the Gulag labor camps in the Soviet Union were officially called "Corrective labor camps." The term labor colony; more exactly, "Corrective labor colony", was also in use, most notably the ones for underaged (16 years or younger) convicts and captured besprizorniki (street children, literally, "children without family care"). After the reform of Gulag, the term "corrective labor colony" essentially encompassed labor camps.




Norilskland.jpegNorilsk (Russian: Нори́льск) is a major city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located between the Yenisey river and the Taymyr Peninsula. It was granted city status in 1953. It is the northernmost city in Siberia and the world's second largest city (after Murmansk) above the Arctic Circle. Norilsk with Yakutsk and Vorkuta are the only large cities in the continuous permafrost zone. Norilsk is also the northernmost city on the planet with a population over 100,000. Population: 134,832 (2002 Census); 174,673 (1989 Census). MMC Norilsk Nickel, a mining company, is the principal employer in the Norilsk area. The city is served by Norilsk Alykel Airport and Norilsk Valek Airfield. Due to the intense mining, the city is one of the ten most polluted cities in the world.

Khatanga_CityRussiaSiberia.jpgKhatanga (Russian: Хатанга) is a village (selo) in the Taymyr Peninsula, in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located on the Khatanga River, south of the Arctic Ocean. It is one of the most northern inhabited localities in Russia (see Northernmost settlements). Its elevation is 98 ft (30 m) above sea level. Population: 3,450 (2002 Census). The name Khatanga means "large water" in the local Evenki language. The settlement is known to have existed since the 17th century. It is served by Khatanga Airport.
Khatanga is sometimes visited by Western sightseers touring the surrounding natural wilderness in Siberia. Amenities in Khatanga include an airport, a hotel, a natural history museum, and weather reporting stations.
Beyond the Yeniseisk Taiga begin the lowlands which at no point rise more than a few hundred feet above the sea. They slope gently towards the Arctic Ocean and are covered with lakes, scanty forests and marshes, and as they approach the ocean they assume more and more the character of barren tundras. Beyond 70 N trees occur only along the courses of the rivers. Two ranges however break the monotony of the lowlands, the Tungusk which stretches N.E. between the Khatanga and Anabar Rivers, and the Byrranga Mountains which skirt the N.W. shore of the Taymyr Peninsula. The shores of the Arctic Ocean are indented by deep estuaries, that of the Taz penetrating 600 m into the interior of the continent and that of the Yenisei 300 m Taymyr. Thaddeus and Khatanga Bays arc wide and deep indentations, ice-bound almost all the year round. Taymyr peninsula between the Yenisei and the Khatanga is a stony tundra.

Taimyr.jpgTaymyr Peninsula (Russian: Полуостров Таймыр, Таймырский полуостров) is a peninsula in Siberia that forms the northernmost part of mainland Eurasia and Asia. It lies between the Yenisei Gulf of the Kara Sea and the Khatanga Gulf of the Laptev Sea in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia.
Lake Taymyr and the Byrranga Mountains are located within the vast Taymyr Peninsula.
The peninsula is the site of the last known naturally occurring muskox outside of North America, which died out about 2,000 years ago. They were successfully reintroduced in 1975.
Cape Chelyuskin, the northernmost point of the Eurasian continent, is located at the northern end of the Taymyr Peninsula.

Cape Chelyuskin

Eurasia

Srednij Island