research

Scottish & Irish Werewolf Folklore


The Scottish Wulver

Unlike the French loup garou, not all werewolves terrorise humans giving into their blood lust. The Scottish wulver of the Shetland islands, just north of the Scottish mainland, is a benevolent werewolf.

The wulver was thought by the ancient Celts to be its own species between a man and a wolf.

Folklorist Jane Saxby wrote extensively about the wulver. It was described as being covered with short, brown hair with the body of a man and the head of a wolf. Unlike the typical werewolf, the wulver could not shapeshift and was considered a gentle, kind-hearted being.

The wulver was solitary, living in a cave dug out from a hillside. Unlike its western European cousins, it wasn’t aggressive as long as left alone. When it did interact with people and was known to be generous and helpful, particularly to those who were lost, guiding travellers to nearby villages and towns.

The wulver was often seen fishing from a small rock in the deep water known as “Wulver’s Stane/Wolf Stone”. The wulver was known to leave a supply of fish on the windowsills of poor families.

It’s been speculated that the wulver folklore may be based on a medical condition like hypertrichosis (‘werewolf syndrome’) characterised by excessive hair covering the entire body. Another belief is that the wulver is an immortal spirit protecting and watching over the lost and poor of the Shetland Islands.

The Irish Faoladh

Similar to the Scottish wulver, the Irish werewolf or faoladh, differs from the typical western European werewolves and the faoladh was often considered “good”.

The faoladh is a man or woman that shapeshifts into a wolf, and is often a protector or guardian of others rather than an unthinking, bloodthirsty creature.

Wolves were hunted into extinction in Ireland but the country was once called Wolfland up until the Middle Ages, due to the amount of wolves roaming there. They feature prominently in Irish folklore with stories of people transforming into wolves passed through the generations.

In some folklore, the faoladh were that of the Laignach Faelad. These were not doomed, kind-hearted or guardian werewolves, but vicious werewolf warriors mentioned in a medieval Irish text called the Cóir Anmann. Here, a tribe of man-wolf shapeshifters were from what is now known as Tipperary Island, followers of the bloodthirsty Irish god, Crom Cruach (the Bowed God of the Mounds.) These ancient mercenary soldiers would fight for any king willing to pay their price. Their brutality in battle made them desirable to any ruthless and desperate king willing to hire them. The price for their services? Not gold, but the flesh of newborns they would feed on.

References: Folklore Thursday, Werewolves that Fish and Fight in Battles: The Scottish Wulver and Irish Faoladh in Folklore

Short Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Red Riding Hood


Recently I have been exploring the concepts behind the Red Riding Hood fairytale. There are two main versions I have used as inspiration for writing a new short story. The version by Charles Perrault called “Little Red Riding Hood” and the version by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm called “Little Red Cap”. Both examine a young girl who is travelling through the woods and meets a charming stranger who tries to lead her astray. Both versions also share a dark undertone, the stranger portrayed as menacing despite his charming words.

When writing my short story, I wanted to delve into the concept of the forest as a dangerous place, sinister and treacherous for those uninitiated. In my recent reimagining of the red riding hood tale, I’ve included the concept of an unwary youth and the historical setting of pre-Napoleonic France. I’ve included some more modern interpretations like the werewolf folklore of the French “loup-garou” and explored sensitives around homosexuality, the sheltered son of a Marquis seduced by an eloquent nobleman. Here, the passage between innocence and experience of the adult world is represented by the transference of the werewolf curse. This was a complex story to write, delving some darker elements, both historical and modern sensitivities of seduction, society and acceptance of LGBTQI individuals throughout history and still today.

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Horseman

Publisher’s Description

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.

More than thirty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play “Sleepy Hollow boys,” reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?


Review

I recently read Horseman by US folklore and horror author Christina Henry.

Horseman is set several generations after Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones and the infamous headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. The protagonist is Ben, the grandchild of Brom Bones. While playing deep in the woods near Sleepy Hollow, Ben overhears the discovery of a deceased child, head and hands missing. Soon, Ben becomes aware of a malevolent presence in the woods around Sleepy Hollow.

Although determined to uncover the truth behind the murders of children in Sleepy Hollow but all the while, the dark being from the woods is hunting Ben. Tangled deep within the mystery of murdered children, headless horseman and a malevolent force, Ben discovers a terrible family mystery.

Final Thoughts

Horseman is a dark delight of folk horror and literary reimagining. Christina Henry has created a new legend for the tales surrounding Sleepy Hollow and its folklore.

Conclusion

Horseman is a great read for those who enjoy folk horror. An intriguing blend of the Sleepy Hollow story, a family mystery and dark folklore. Highly recommended!

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Empire of the Vampire

Publisher’s Description

“It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León, half man, half monster and last remaining silversaint – a sworn brother of the holy Silver Order dedicated to defending the realm from the creatures of the night – is all that stands between the world and its end.

Now imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.


Review

One of my recent reads was the grimdark novel Empire of the Vampire by Australian author Jay Kristoff.

Empire of the Vampire follows the last SilverSaint, Gabriel de Leon while imprisoned, he recounts how he found and lost the holy grail to a vampire historian. The world that Gabriel lives in has turned darker and more sinister since a shadow blotted out the sun and the vampires roamed freely. Gabriel’s personal story begins with his childhood and unknowingly not being the biological son of his brutal alcoholic father. Soon after one of his sisters is turned into a reanimated corpse by the vampires. He destroys his sister’s blood-thirsty reanimate by burning her with his touch. When he gets a hunger for blood, he then learns the truth about his heritage. He is a ‘pale blood’, children born from a union between a vampire and mortal woman.

The SilverSaints of San Michon soon come for Gabriel and take him into training where pale bloods form a dwindling army of vampire hunters. Gabriel excels among the SilverSaints but only through acts of heroism. Disliked by his trainers for rashness, Gabriel still can’t explain his unusual and rare powers against the ‘high blood’ vampires. In the midst of his training, Gabriel meets the love of his life Astrid Rennier, a nun in the SilverSorority. Despite the threat of being banished from San Michon for life, Gabriel and Astrid begin a secret affair.

In Gabriel’s retelling of his life, darker elements of his story often overwhelm him. It is in this lingering darkness of the final days before he found the holy grail, a prophesied way to destroy the oldest of the vampires.

Final Thoughts

Empire of the Vampire is an expertly structured novel, the writing and characters alive with emotion and complexities. The accompanying illustrations evoke the world beautifully and add an extra layer to the storytelling.

Conclusion

Highly recommended for readers who like grimdark fantasy, horror and vampires. A fresh take on the vampire trope. A must-read!

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The Girl in the Corn

Publisher’s Description

“Beware of what lurks in the corn.
Fairies don’t exist. At least that’s what Thomas Cavanaugh’s parents say. But the events of that one night, when he follows a fairy into the cornfield on his parents’ farm, prove them wrong. What seems like a destructive explosion was, Thomas knows, an encounter with Dauðr, a force that threatens to destroy the fairy’s world and his sanity.
Years later, after a troubled childhood and a series of dead-end jobs, he is still haunted by what he saw that night. One day he crosses paths with a beautiful young woman and a troubled young man, soon realizing that he first met them as a kid while under psychiatric care after his encounters in the cornfield. Has fate brought them together? Are they meant to join forces to save the fairy’s world and their own?
Or is one of them not who they claim to be?”


*** I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review ***

Review

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fiction novel by US author Jason Offutt.

The protagonist is Thomas, a young boy when first introduced to the to reader who meets what he assumes is a fairy between the garden and the corn field. Thomas soon discovers there’s something frightening about the fairy girl who taunts and teases him. As Thomas grows older, his acquaintance with the fairy becomes more dangerous until he learns that Dauðr,, all-encompassing Death and destroyer of all life has Thomas’s world within its sights. At age eleven, Thomas tries to destroy Dauðr, with the fairy’s help but nearly dies in the effort. The mortal world is saved, but Thomas has no memory of that night which still wakes him screaming from his sleep. In the bleak confines of a mental institution, Thomas finds connections with his first love and a dangerous boy he half-recalls.

Years pass and Thomas reunites with Jillian from their shared days in group therapy. But something about Jillian is familiar to Thomas and it’s not until later he discovers she’s the fairy from his childhood. One of the Alfar, the elves. In desperation to flee Dauðr,, Jillian takes Thomas to Alfarheim, the world of the elves that’s been made desolate by Dauðr,. Resolute to save his world from similar destruction, Thomas and Jillian must combat Dauðr, for the final, desperate time.

Final Thoughts

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fantasy novel that uniquely combines the typical American corn fields and Missouri farming communities with the Scandinavian folklore of the alfar, the elves and the destructive force of Dauðr,. Although more explanation of the dimensional existence of Alfarheim is needed and more detail on the folklore of the alfar, The Girl in the Corn was a interesting read.

Conclusion

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and folklore-inspired dark fiction. Recommended for readers who enjoy gothic-style American horror, and horror infused with some Scandinavian folklore. An unusual combination and a recommended read.

Writing

Forthcoming: Dark Poetry

I’m pleased to announce my debut venture into dark poetry will feature in Eldritch and Ether Anthology.

My folklore inspired poems include Scottish female vampire folklore in “My Baobhan sith”, while “The Other” explores dark inner duality and mythologies of the Sun and Moon inspired “A Silver Queen”.

More details to be announced soon!

Short Fiction, stories

Year Three Release

Year Three, an anthology of dark drabbles was published on January 29th by Black Hare Press. Three of my dark folklore drabbles are featured!

If you’re interested in purchasing an ebook, paperback copy of Year Three, more details are available here

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Melmoth


Publisher’s Description

Oh friend, take my hand – I’ve been so lonely!

One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin encounters her friend Karel, half-mad with fear.

He has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with testimonies that speak to Helen from 17th-century England, wartime Czechoslovakia, the sweat-soaked streets of Manila and 1920’s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing a terrible message.

Helen reads its contents with intrigue, but everything in her life is about to change.


Review

I recently read the supernatural dark fiction Melmoth by UK author Sarah Perry.

Melmoth introduces Helen, the protagonist, a translator working in Prague. Helen has a dark past, inflicting harsh self-punishment upon herself. It is the uncharacteristic behaviour of her friend Karel that begins Helen’s dark journey with the haunting spectre, Melmoth the Witness.

Helen’s closest companions in Prague are Thea and Karel, but Karel becomes obsessed with a document given to him about Melmoth. Karel spirals into madness, determined that Melmoth is following him and Helen takes the documents Karel has accumulated. The sudden disappearance of Karel coincides with Helen’s increased preoccupation with Melmoth. As Helen reads more of the history of Melmoth, a woman in black, unadmitted to heaven walks the earth alone with bloody feet finding those who would join her wandering. As Helen questions her sanity, Melmoth invades her life and Melmoth reaches a dark resolution.

Final Thoughts

Melmoth is a fascinating exploration of identity, redemption and guilt. While discovers more about the history of Melmoth, threads of self-doubt are woven throughout to the extent where Helen’s sanity is as questionable as Karel and others who have come into contact with Melmoth. The real and unreal become intricately tied, strengthening the dark psychological horror of Melmoth.

Conclusion

Melmoth is for readers who enjoy atmospheric dark fiction, supernatural and psychological horror. Strong folklore and traditions are well integrated into this dark, suspenseful tale. A highly recommended read!

Short Fiction, stories

Eerie Christmas 2 Release


Perfect timing for horror enthusiasts, Eerie Christmas 2 was released on 11th December 2021 and published by Black Hare Press.

Eerie Christmas 2 features my horror story “The Yule Trolls” inspired by the Icelandic Yuletide tradition of the 13 Yule Lads, mischievous trolls who lure children into misbehaving and the darker end that awaits them with the arrival of the troll witch Gryla. You can read more about the research behind my story here

If you’re interested in purchasing an ebook, paperback or hardback copy of Eerie Christmas 2 benefitting the Black Dog Institute, more details are available here

Short Fiction, stories

13 Lives of Alice Release


I’m thrilled to announce that 13 Lives of Alice, a dark anthology of Alice in Wonderland inspired tales for adults, was published by Black Hare Press on 7th December 2021.

13 Lives of Alice features my dark gaslamp fantasy “The House of the Cat Si” inspired by the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, folklore of the Cat Si, shapeshifting cat fey, and the historical inequalities and special expectations affecting women in Victorian society. “The House of the Cat Si” may contain themes and elements which may make some readers uncomfortable. If you’re interested in the research behind “The House of the Cat Si”, you can read more here.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy in ebook, paperback or hardback of 13 Lives of Alice, you can find more details here.