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.
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.
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.
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. “
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.
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.
An must-have collection for anyone interested in Russian folklore and those surrounding Baba Yaga and her different guises in Russian fairytales. Highly recommended!
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.
Of all the characters in myths and legends told around the world, it’s the wily trickster who provides the real spark in the action, causing trouble wherever he goes. This figure shows up time and again in Native American folklore, where he takes many forms, from the irascible Coyote of the Southwest, to Iktomi, the amorphous spider man of the Lakota tribe. This dazzling collection of American Indian trickster tales, compiled by an eminent anthropologist and a master storyteller, serves as the perfect companion to their previous masterwork, American Indian Myths and Legends.American Indian Trickster Tales includes more than one hundred stories from sixty tribes–many recorded from living storytellers—which are illustrated with lively and evocative drawings. These entertaining tales can be read aloud and enjoyed by readers of any age, and will entrance folklorists, anthropologists, lovers of Native American literature, and fans of both Joseph Campbell and the Brothers Grimm.
In a collection of tales that span a continent, one of my favourites is the northern tales of the trickster Raven, the creation of daylight and stealing the moon from the Haida and Tlingit cultures. Another of my favourites were the tales of Iktomi, the spider-man from the plains Sioux and Lakota cultures. Lastly, were the tales of Coyote stealing fire and the sun from the Klamath and Miwok cultures.
American Indian Trickster Tales is a skilfully told collection of legends and folklore from North America. The range of stories covered stretches from Tricksters including Coyote, Iktomi, Raven and Hare among others. A masterful storytelling that evokes the moral tales, the amusement accompanied by illustrations.
A wonderful collection of First Nations legends from around North America. Highly recommended for readers of folklore and legends and anyone seeking Trickster tales!