Hebrew narrative is full of gaps. It’s part of the literary art. Did Uriah know about David and Bathsheba? With whom did Jacob wrestle? How exactly was Abishai part of Joab’s plot to kill Abner? These gaps excite our imaginations and draw us into the text by means of curiosity and suspense, but they also leave us with niggling interpretive questions. The medieval expositors who engaged in midrash sought (“midrash” comes from the word “to seek”) to fill in those gaps by making connections, seizing on clues as small as stray consonants, drawing in folklore and mysticism, explaining background, imagining.

Here’s an example. In 1 Samuel 28, Saul (who had previously cast all the mediums out of Israel) has been rejected as king and has given up seeking G-d, and now wants advice from the man of G-d who anointed him. This is Samuel, but Samuel is dead, and the only way to consult him is to consult a medium. When he finds a medium and convinces her that no harm will come to her if she conjures a ghost in direct defiance of the king’s (i.e. his own) order, she consents. But as soon as the spirit rises out of the earth, she panics—“You are Saul!” Well, what on earth about the spirit gave her the identity of the flesh-and-bone man standing in her tent? The midrash on this passage explains it thusly: A spirit conjured from the dead will rise feet first, head down, except in the presence of the king. Then, out of respect, the spirit rises head first, feet down. Samuel must have done so, and the sight of him rising, upright, told her everything: This was Saul, the king.

Is that actually how she knew? We can’t be certain, although a possible misspelling in the Masoretic Text, corrected in the Septuagint, might support this theory. Either way, when faced with the question of why the woman, seeing Samuel, suddenly recognized Saul, the midrash expositors devised an explanation which harmonized with the received text, slipping cleverly into the gap the narrator left behind.1

Now, what i am doing with the Yaunsi Heresy i have often called fanfiction. Up till last week all i was doing, aside from switching main and secondary characters, was retelling the story, sometimes as directly as translation would allow. But there is a gap, a rather large gap, in the Budge-Nuzzard. It is a cunning gap, a subversive gap, one that invites wrestling, and i seek now to fill it. For the last year i have been drawing together threads from the Budge-Nuzzard itself—no folklore, no mysticism, but only from my source material—to put forth an interpretation which i believe to be consistent with the story’s own evidence. What has been fanfiction or even simple retelling is now becoming midrash.2

If you have not yet read the Budge-Nuzzard, do start now.

 The midrash on 1 Samuel 28 does not end here, and it is fascinating to read. For an introductory study, see my paper The Witch of Endor: Toward a Literary Treatment, written last spring.

The name of a Hebrew book is taken from the first major word of the book’s text. For example, the first word in Leviticus is Vayikra—“He called.” Rabbah—“great”—is the term given to the expansion of the text via midrash. The midrash on Leviticus is therefore Vayikra Rabbah, and my midrash on the Budge-Nuzzard is properly named Nolad Rabbah, as the first word of that story in Hebrew is Nolad (“It was born”).


Yaunsi 12: The gnawing

וַיָּבֹא בַּלָט יָעוּנְסִי אֶל־הָאישׁ וַיְגַל מַרְגְּלֹתָיו וַיַּעֲרֹק : וְשִׁנּוֹ בִּבְשַׂר רַגְלוֹ הַתַּחְתּוֹן וְרִמָּה בְּשִׁנּוֹ וְרוּחוֹ בָּרִמָּה : וַתָּבֹא הָרִמָּה אֶל־הָאִישׁ מִוִּים־תִי וַתְקַנֵּן בְּרַגְלוֹ הַתַּחְתוֹן וַתְּרִימֵהוּ : ס

Yaunsi went secretly to the man and uncovered the place of his feet and gnawed. And his teeth were in the flesh of his lower foot, and a worm was in his teeth, and his spirit was in the worm. The worm went into the man from Weem-Ti and nustled in his lower foot, and it exalted him.

The Yaunsi Heresy is a midrash on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Yaunsi 11: He opened

וַיִּפְתַח אֶת־הַפֵּתַח יָעוּנְסִי
וַיִִּפְתַח בְּלַט וַיָּבאׁ הַחֶדֶר
וַיִּפְתַח יָעוּנְסִי וַיַּרְא הָאִישׁ
וַיִּפְעַר פִּיהוּ וַיִּצְחַק


הִנֵּה יוֹשֵׁן הָאִישׁ מִוִּים־תִי
יוֹשֵׁן וְלֹא־יוֹדֵעַ וְלֹא־שֹׁמֵר

He opened the door, Yaunsi;
He opened in secret and entered the room.
He opened, Yaunsi, and saw the man—
He opened wide his mouth, and he laughed.

Behold, he sleeps, the Man from Vim-Ti;
He sleeps; and he does not know, and he does not guard.

The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

A readaloud, a plea, and an inarticulate squeal

If you’ve been around my blog for very long, you’ll know that i love The Wingfeather Saga. If you’ve been around only for the last month or so, you’ll know that there’s a Kickstarter happening to fund a pilot for what we hope is a full-length animated series. What you may not know is what these books are about, or why i love them, or when this Kickstarter ends, so i’d like to clear all that up for you right now—because, last/first things first, the Kickstarter ends TONIGHT, and i’d love to see you there.

This series is a whimsical, woeful, wonderful epic about three young siblings who find themselves in the middle of secrets and armies, history and destiny. Their world has fallen to an occupying force of lizardfolk called the Fangs of Dang. These Fangs are venomous and cruel, and they serve an evil lord named Gnag the Nameless. If that were not enough, the Black Carriage roves the land, taking children in the night for some fell and unknown purpose.

But amidst these horrors, there is great beauty and hope in this world. There is danger within and without, but there are also singing sea dragons and love like a warm hearth on a chilly evening. Aerwiar, the world in these books, is wild and weird and more beautiful than i can tell you. The characters grapple with hard truths about their own hearts, and they become something more than they could have guessed. i haven’t wept over any books the way i’ve wept over these. i beg you to read them.

To get you started, here’s a FREE six-chapter preview, and below i’ll read you one of my favorite chapters from the series.

And as i said, the Kickstarter ends TONIGHT—Monday, April 4, 2016—at 9:00 pm Central. This Kickstarter funds a pilot episode, and there are a host of great rewards already funded, from stickers to t-shirts to short stories to a comic book. And since the next step is to find a studio to turn this pilot into a full series, every backer counts. If the sound of this story is compelling to you, now is the time; there is no other. If you can’t afford more than a dollar, that dollar still tells the studios that there is an audience for this series. If you don’t have even a dollar, you can still help by following The Wingfeather Saga on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram, and this is a huge help, because again, the studios are looking at those numbers.

Either way, i hope you enjoy this chapter and go on to read the books. (You can buy them here.) And now i’ll turn things over to Madame Sidler of Ban Rona. She loves the books just as much as i do. 😉


Yaunsi 10: Perhaps, otherwise

וַיּאׁמֶר יָוּנְסִי בְּלִבּוֹ אוּלַי אֶע ֱרֹק אֵת הָאִישׁ מִוִּים־תִי כִּי יַעֲזֹר לָנוּ : פֶּן־יִהְיֶה כִּתְמוֹל שִׁלְשׁוֹם : וַיִּרְמׂשׂ אֶל־הַפֶּתַח בִּשְׁרֹק הַבֻּד־נֻזָּרָד : פ

Yaunsi said in his heart, “Perhaps i will gnaw the man from Vim-Ti, that he may help us. Otherwise, it will be as it was before.” So he crept toward the door, while the Budge-Nuzzard hissed.

The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

A bit of nerdy commentary

Now then, dear readers, yesterday i promised you some commentary on a few of the nerdier aspects of Yaunsi episode nine. Since that time my boy Andrew’s Kickstarter has defied the laws of physics and has exsplatterated the brains of every third backer, and rendered the remainder unconscious. i alone am left to describe to you this scene of horrific and inevitable magnificence, and this is only due to my latent Pan* heredity; i slupped out of there as quick as i could when i saw the tidal wave of psychic gravitational forces heave toward me. (“Heave not!” i said during that moment’s long squirting, but they heeded not.)

*Yes, it is true that i was born and raised in the Green Hollows, but my family is largely of Pan-Weem descent. It is a scandal of which we do not speak broadly. You cannot imagine the dramatics and contretemps (i mean that literally) around holiday dinner tables.

So to calm my mind as the incomprehensible forces of Andrew’s Kickstarter continue to be unfeld, i shall regale you with the following nerdy bits of heresy-writing. If you also would like your sanity shattered by the ravenous glories of a fully-funded pilot for the Wingfeather Saga Animated Series, i encourage you to click over to his Kickstarter and see the many-splendored devastation for yourself. Meanwhile, on to the heresy.

Yesterday’s episode contained a pun, the likes of which i could not have conceived but was gloriously conceived in me during a moment of mad scribbling right before Hebrew class last week. “Oh my word. i love my heresy!” i whisper-shrieked to myself there in my seminary classroom. Then things got a little awkward.

The word in question is בֶּגֶד (beged). It’s a common enough word (it occurs in the vocabulary list in chapter 11 of our textbook), and in every biblical occurrence but two, that word is correctly translated “clothing” or “garments.” The exceptions are in Isaiah 24:16 and Jeremiah 12:1 where it is instead rendered “treachery.” Consider what we know of Yaunsi the Pan—what little clothing he wears. Consider that he and Cheresh are fellow Pans (Pannim, in Hebrew). Consider the horror such a word would certainly convey to these Pans of grand descent. Fie on those treacherous cake-turners!

Now while we’re talking about the Pan tradition of going scantily-clad (our family has left that tradition behind; worry yourselves not), Cheresh’s word choice when describing Yaunsi’s potential shame is quite strategic. You may recall that in episode one of my heresy, our narrator (is that me or not? you decide) said that Yaunsi did not cover himself with much clothing. The same word, “cover” (כסה, kasa), Cheresh uses here. Is this another reference to the Pannic feelings of repellence toward clothing? Hrrmm.

Oh, one more thing. In Hebrew, pronouns and verbs always agree in both gender and number with the nouns they represent. When i have referred to the Budge-Nuzzard in the past, i have thusly used a masculine singular pronoun and verb conjugation (third person, in Hebrew, is used for he/she as well as it. You may recall some consternation regarding this in episode eight). This time, however, Cheresh refers to “The Budge and its Nuzzard.” Which pronoun, which number, does he use? Plural, yes? Nope. Still singular. ::shudder:: (i had a very bad moment a couple of weeks ago while rereading the original Budge-Nuzzard episode “Gloaning.” But what horrors i saw in those words will have to wait for a later commentary. You are not yet ready to hear my brain’s ravings on this matter.)

Now then, let us all go forth with greater insight, fear, and glee. And while you go, do consider giving yourself up to the inexorable resplendence of Andrew’s Kickstarter.

See you next week. (Unless Andrew’s Kickstarter swallows the sun.)

Yaunsi 09: Visiting wickedness

וְהַדָּבָר רָעָה בְּעֵינֵי יָעוּנְסִי וַיּאׁמֶר לֹא עָשׂה אֶעֱשֶׂה אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה כִּי הוּא הוּזָר לִי : וַיִּשְׁרֹק חֶרֶשׁ וַיּאׁמֶר הֲלֹא שָׁמַעְתָּ כִּי מִן־יְמֵי עוֹלָם הַבֻּד וְנֻזְּרָדוֹ פָּקַד עַלֵינוּ רָשָׁע : הוּא לֹא חָס וְעָשָׂה דְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁמֹעַ לַחֲרֹד : אוֹ הֲלֹא שָׁמַעְתָּ כִּי הֶהוֹפְכוֹת־הָעֻגוֹת עָשׂוּ בֶּגֶד עַלֵינוּ : וְעַתָּה תָּחוּס לוֹ : אִם עוֹד הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה רִשׁעוֹ כִּי רָק עַתָּה תְּכֻסֶּה בְּבּוֹשָׁה אֵין מִסְפָּר : עָרֹק תַּעֲרֹק אֵת הָאִישׁ : וַיָּפָס : ס

But the thing was displeasing to Yaunsi, and he said, “i will certainly not do this thing, for it is loathsome to me!”

Cheresh hissed and said, “Have you not heard that in days long ago, the Budge and its Nuzzard visited wickedness upon us? It showed no pity, but did things which to hear are to tremble. Or have you not heard how the cake-turners dealt treachery upon us? And you would show it pity! If it again does its wickedness, you alone will be shamed beyond measure. You will certainly gnaw the man.”

He vanished.

*Stay tuned for a bit of nerdy commentary tomorrow!

The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.

Something beautiful

i am going to cry my way through this post, i promise you.

A little over two years ago, Andrew Peterson launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish the last book in his YA fantasy series, The Wingfeather Saga. i loved Andrew already as a singer/songwriter and author, and since that Kickstarter i’ve come to love him as a brother and friend as well. i’m grateful beyond words for his trust as he has welcomed me into his books’ story.

And now that story which i love so much has taken a huge leap forward. This morning, Andrew launched the Kickstarter campaign to create a pilot episode for an animated series. This has been in the works for months, and now within the first six hours of the campaign, over six hundred backers have joined forces to raise more than 40% of the initial fundraising goal. That number climbs every second. Andrew and his story are easy to to love, and are well-loved. i knew this. But what a thing to watch unfold.

This morning i learned all over again what a gift it is to love and to serve and to be trusted. i learned what a holy thing it is to be undone by the overwhelming support of one’s community. i learned that librarian shoes are running shoes. And we are running. Run with us. 🙂

In the words of Andrew Peterson:
Rabbit Room
Wingfeather Website


Yaunsi 08: Wafting contemplations

וַיַּחֲשֹׁב חֶרֶשׁ וַיַּעֲלוּ מַחֲשַׁבֹת כְּעָשָׁן מִּלֵּבוֹ הָעִלִּי : אַחֲרֵי מַחֲשַׁבָה אֲרֻכָּה וְחֹשֵׁב מְאֹד וַיּאׁמֶר חֶרֶשׁ לֵאמֹר תַּעֲרֹקוֹ : וַיּאׁמֶר לְיָעוּנְסִי תַּעֲרֹקוֹ הָאִישׁ : פ

Cheresh thought, and thoughts rose like smoke from his upper heart. After long thought and much thinking, he said, “You much gnaw it.” (!) He said to Yaunsi, “You must gnaw him—the man.”

The Yaunsi Heresy is a new work of fiction in classical Hebrew based on A.S. Peterson’s lobidious tale of the Budge-Nuzzard. It will be published in serial. Click “Yaunsi Heresy” above to read from the beginning.


A noun is born

Warning: Extensive nerdery ahead.

Last week’s Yaunsi Heresy episode (#07) required me to create a brand-new Hebrew noun. i wanted to reference the contact nodule in the Budge-Nuzzard, but there’s no such word as “nodule” in Hebrew.

Since a nodule is a round growth (like we get on our aspen trees around here—five thousand feet is not quite high enough for the poor things), i looked around for words that had to do with roundness or swelling. There were a few (mostly in Leviticus). But then i found a particular verb root—בעה, pronounced ba’ah—with a parsupplimous lexical range. It means to swell, boil, bulge, inquire—even to inquire of a prophet. Perfect! Now, how to make a noun out of a verb root? Easy, right? i mean, i have an 800-page syntax textbook here.

Well, it turns out that there’s about a billion ways to make a noun. There are several different ways to vocalize the three consonants of a verb root. Plus, there are also a few different prefix forms—all of which come with their own assortment of vocalizations. According to that 800-page textbook of mine, some vocalization patterns tend to be found in particular classes of nouns, such as occupations or abstractions. Two of the weirder categories are colors and sounds/noises. (!) Many of those patterns could be tossed right out.

After all this i still had a few options left, but finally (and with the help of not one but two professors), i settled on a mem-prefix form. (A mem is the letter that looks like a little cat: מ. It sounds just like our letter M.) This form is one of the more common ones and, according to said 800-page tome, is often used of instruments such as keys or knives. A contact nodule seemed to me to be right at home with that sort of device.

Done, right? Nope. Next problem: Vowels. Out of three consonants, two of mine were weak. This introduces two levels of vowel changes! And did i want a masculine or feminine noun? There are some reasons to prefer one over the other, but none seemed relevant in this case, so it was my choice. In the end, those weak consonants and their pesky vowel changes made the decision for me. Feminine it is. It would’ve taken too much trouble to figure out which vowel to use for a masculine version.

This whole process took about two weeks, but hinneh! Now there exists in the world a very flexible Hebrew word for “nodule.” Be assured that you will see it in action again in a later episode. 🙂

My brain has children. Mav’ah (מַבְעָה) is one of them.

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