research

Isle of Skye: Fairy Glen

The Isle of Skye is rich in fairy lore. One of the most magical-looking is the miniature landscape of grassy, cone-shaped hills and whimsical rock spirals of Fairy Glen.

There is no documented folklore linking the landscape to the realm of myth, and there have been no actual sightings of fairies, Fairy Glen is rich in folklore. You can easily imagine the the fairy folk in this landscape.

There is another explanation for the rock formations found at Fairy Glen. The geological formations are the result of a landslip, triggered by volcanic activity on northern edge of the Isle of Skye about 60 million years ago. The resultant lava flow that would have covered northern Skye was 1,200m thick.

To many, this otherworldly landscape was created by the fairies. There’s belief the fairies still live here, hiding in the crevices…Remember it’s important to leave Fairy Glen as you found it: the fairies are watching you.

research

Legend of the Pussy Willow


“The Legend of the Pussy Willow”

In an old Polish legend, many springs ago, a mother cat was crying at the bank of the river where her kittens were drowning.

The willow at the river’s edge longed to help her, so they swept their long graceful branches into the waters to rescue the tiny kittens who had fallen into the river while chasing butterflies.

Each of the kittens gripped tightly to the willow branches and were safely brought back to shore.

According to the legend, each springtime since, willow branches sprout tiny fur-like buds at their tips where the tiny kittens once clung.

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.

reads, Recent Reads

Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales

Publisher’s Description

Baba Yaga is an ambiguous and fascinating figure. She appears in traditional Russian folktales as a monstrous and hungry cannibal, or as a canny inquisitor of the adolescent hero or heroine of the tale. In new translations and with an introduction by Sibelan Forrester, Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales is a selection of tales that draws from the famous collection of Aleksandr Afanas’ev, but also includes some tales from the lesser-known nineteenth-century collection of Ivan Khudiakov. This new collection includes beloved classics such as “Vasilisa the Beautiful” and “The Frog Princess,” as well as a version of the tale that is the basis for the ballet “The Firebird. “


Review

I recently read the folklore text Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairytales translated by Sibelan Forrester.

This was a fantastic selection of translated tales about the three different guises of Baga Yaga. The Russian witch who dwells deep in the forest in a house built on chicken legs and travels through the air in a mortar and pestle has many forms. Sometimes Baba Yaga is presented as a helper like the Tsar Maiden tales, while other times she steals naughty children or accepts them from their parents and eats them. Still other tales, she provides advice which can be both blessing and curse. She is a prominent figure in the tales of Vasilisa and is featured in the tale of the Firebird.

Final Thoughts

Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairytales was a well-translated version of the tales and beautifully illustrated with as many different visual representations of Baba Yaga as there are literary ones within this collection.

Conclusion

An must-have collection for anyone interested in Russian folklore and those surrounding Baba Yaga and her different guises in Russian fairytales. Highly recommended!

research

Folklore of Bluebells

The feared fairy bell and impending death


According to English folklore, Bluebells were often used to call fairies…If you “rang” a bluebell like you would any normal bell, it was believed fairies would come to you. But fairies are notoriously dangerous bargainers and the need to call fairies for aid must be great to risk the summons.

There is another folklore that states if you hear a bluebell ring, somebody close to you will die. Bluebells growing en masse in a field were best avoided.

reads, Recent Reads

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!

reads, Recent Reads

South of the Sun

Publisher’s Description

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

This is an enchanting illustrated book of fairy tales – but not the kind you read to children at bedtime. They are strictly for the grown-ups. Often dark, the stories visit places where things don’t end happily ever after, where a single decision can haunt you forever. But there are also tales to make you laugh out loud, stories of sweet revenge and scenes of sheer delight in the world of magic and the fey.

All the stories, lyrics and poems have something in common, a contemporary edge. Even those set in earlier times have a modern sensibility that reflects the 21st century and celebrates Australian landscapes, characters and voices.


Review

One of my recent reads was South of the Sun, an anthology by the Australian Fairy Tale Society.

South of the Sun contains many great fairytales and retellings. These are some of my favourites. “GPS” by Cate Kennedy is a retelling akin to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ but with a chilling modern take. “The Timbers of a Chicken” by Rebecca-Anne C. Do Rozario reminiscent of tales of Baba Yaga. “The Snow-Gum Maiden” by Anezka Sero was an Australian interpretation of the classic Northern European ‘Snow Maiden’ fairytale. “On Pepper Creek” by Kathleen Jennings was an Irish immigrant tale. “The Karukayan Get Revenge” by Ronnie Wavehill was an indigenous tale of Australian merfolk. “All Kinds of Fur” by Danielle Wood is a dark retelling of Australian colonial times. “Riverbend” by Rachel Nightingale is a uniquely Australian fairytale of drought, modern science and magic. “The Tale of the Seven Magpies” by Angie Rega is a retelling of the Crow fairytale trope, cursed brothers and the sister sewing shirts for her brothers.

Final Thoughts

South of the Sun is a unique collection of fairytale retellings infused with the multicultural nature of Australia. The anthology contains retellings from Germanic, African and Eastern Europe cultures as well as uniquely Australian takes on classic fairytales.

Conclusion

A wonderful collection of Australian fairytale retellings with beautiful illustrations. Highly recommended for readers of folklore, fairytales and retellings. A must read!

reads, Recent Reads

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!