|Name:||Jack-o-Lantern Challenge, Flaming Pumpkins of Death Challenge|
|Date(s):||2011 - 2014 (annually in October)|
|Founder:||my_cnnr & trueriver|
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From 2011 to 2014, the Jack-o-Lantern Challenge was held annually in October by Mary Renault fans in the maryrenaultfics LiveJournal community. Participating members carved their pumpkins using motifs taken from or based on Renault's books.
In 2011, in addition to the usual annual Spooky Story Challenge for Halloween, the moderators of MRF (my_cnnr and trueriver) decided to add an art-based activity as well. In a post made 9 October, they challenged members to carve a Renault-themed pumpkin, and then share its image with the rest of the community. They accompanied the challenge with a vid of a flaming pumpkin, and suggested that members likewise immolate their creations.
Comments to this initial post demonstrate that several fans were intrigued by the idea. However, in the event, only two members participated besides the moderators themselves. In all, three pumpkins were carved. The remaining fan, fearing that pumpkin-carving would prove too difficult, opted instead to draw Renault-themed jack-o-lanterns.
In 2012, after a poll to judge members' interest (held October 5th), the Jack-o-Lantern Challenge was issued again. This resulted in four carved pumpkins, plus one pumpkin-themed drawing. The reveal was on Halloween.
For the challenge, my_cnnr created a banner to head the post in which the jack-o-lanterns were presented. This composite was of glowing eyes and mouth of a jack on the left side against a background of shaded paper on which letters were dimly visible on the right side.
In anticipation, an ITOWverse story about the challenge, "The Pumpkin Owner's Manual: Guide to Good Carving", was posted by greerwatson on 29 October 2011 in connection with the Spooky Challenge. It quickly elicited a second story, ""Comparative Botany", posted by essayel later the same day. The former describes the reaction of two characters from The Charioteer on reading about the challenge in the Renault Times. The second follows up with Alexander the Great's confusion on receiving the Ancient Greek edition of the newspaper, pumpkins being unknown in his day.
fawatson then (belatedly) followed up with four ficlets posted in November 2011: (a) about Jan Lingard (from Purposes of Love) reading about the festivities after the fact, (b) in which Alexander arrives with a baggage train of pumpkins, (c) Ralph Lanyon and Sandy Reid receive another edition of the Renault Times reporting additional festivities, and (d) the Renault Times article reporting on pumpkins at the Thesmophoria festivities. No explanation for how Alexander the Great acquired pumpkins (unknown in his day) is ever provided.
- my_cnnr carved the stylized image of a Minotaur (referencing The King Must Die), and posted four pictures of it (as it was carved, lit up, set alight, and well aflame)
- trueriver carved the initials "TC" (for The Charioteer), and displayed the jack-o-lantern with a photograph of a little boy, representing the hero of the novel as a small child
- fawatson created a Minotaur lantern, with carved features, a pair of peeled parsnips for horns and some salad greens for hair
- greerwatson drew two pictures
- "The Theatrical Jacks": a pair of pumpkins with "sad" and "happy" faces, representing the tragic and comic masks associated with Greek drama (referencing The Mask of Apollo)
- "Gyp and Jack": a jack-o-lantern being eyed suspiciously by an Airedale terrier, representing Laurie Odell's dog Gyp from The Charioteer
Some Jack-o-Lanterns Created for the 2011 Challenge:
For 2012, my_cnnr created a banner for the post in which the jack-o-lanterns were presented. To symbolize the main interests of the community, she positioned a stone head of Alexander the Great on one side, and part of the horse sculpture used in the main MRF banner on the other. In between was a picture of a generic jack-o-lantern, appearing to sit on a stone window ledge. Behind it was a barred window, with trees beyond. A washed-out, greenish colour lent a spooky effect.
The following jack-o-lanterns were made:
- fawatson carved a stylized Cerberus, and posted two pictures (as carved, and lit up)
- my_cnnr carved Olympias, represented by a Medusa head, and posted four pictures of it (one lit, four in flame)
- charlie_cochrane carved an owl, representing Laurie's house on the wedding night, and posted a picture of it (lit up)
- trueriver carved Alexander the Great with long white strands of paper hair, and posted two pictures (as carved, and lit up)
- greerwatson composited a picture of Greek horseman (taken from a vase) chasing a pumpkin, as an illustration for the previous year's ITOWverse stories about "pumpkin polo"
Some Jack-o-Lanterns Created for the 2012 Challenge:
For 2013, my_cnnr created a banner to head the post in which the challenge was made and discussed, and to which the pictures of the jack-o-lanterns were later posted. To create the banner, she combined pictures of several of the pumpkins from previous years on a background representing rocky ground. A white frame was added, and the picture set at an angle on a greyish wood texture, to look like a photograph lying on a plank of old wood.
The following jack-o-lanterns were made:
- greerwatson composited photographs of a pumpkin and a candle with a silhouette of a war elephant (referencing King Poros's elephants in The Persian Boy), itself composited from several sources
- my_cnnr carved a cartouche of Alexander's name as written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, and posted three pictures, all of it lit (two in the dark, and one by flash so that the exterior could be seen)
- trueriver carved a cottage under a shape representing a moonlit sky (referencing a scene from The Charioteer), and posted three pictures of it (two as carved, with different lighting; and one lit up)
- fawatson carved a silhouette of a hoplite's head, with red tissue paper crest on the helmet, and posted two pictures of it (as carved, and lit up)
Photos of the jacks were posted to MRF on 31 October 2014.
Some Jack-o-Lanterns Created for the 2013 Challenge:
For 2014, my_cnnr again created a banner to head the post in which the challenge was made and discussed. This time she superimposed a glowing hoplite head (the same one that she used in making her 2014 jack o' lantern) upon a pumpkin, positioning them on the left side of the banner on a stormy-looking near-black ground.
The following jack o' lanterns were made:
- greerwatson composited photographs of a pumpkin and a modern reproduction of a Greek hoplite's helmet to produce a picture of "hoplite Jack"
- my_cnnr carved a silhouette of a Greek warrior's helmeted head, and posted two pictures of it lit (one in the dark, and one by flash so that the exterior could be seen)
- trueriver carved the shape of the braid on the sleeve of a wartime Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve uniform (referencing a character from The Charioteer), and posted a photo of it lit up, with a candle beside it
- fawatson carved Zeus's thunderbolt and Poseidon's trident (crossed with each other), and posted a picture of the pumpkin lit up
Some Jack-o-Lanterns Created for the 2014 Challenge:
- The Jack-o-Lantern Challenge was issued in the post "Mary Renault...meets Jack" (members-locked) on 9 October 2011.
- The two ITOWverse stories about the Jack-o-Lantern Challenge appear in the maryrenaultfics post "ITOW: The Pumpkin Owner's Manual: Guide to Good Carving" (members-locked).
- Pictures of the jack-o-lanterns created for the Jack-o-Lantern Challenge were presented to the community in the post, "The MRF Halloween Lantern Carving Challenge" (members-locked). The post was made 29 October 2011, but kept screened until 31 October (Halloween).
- Photos were posted to the "2012 MRF Jack-o-Lantern Challenge" on maryrenaultfics LiveJournal community (members-locked).
- Photos were posted to the "MRF Jack-o-Lanterns" on maryrenaultfics LiveJournal community (members-locked).
- Photos were posted to the "MRF 2014 Flaming Pumpkins of Death" on maryrenaultfics LiveJournal community (members-locked).