Friday, 29 March 2013

Flash Fiction Friday #4

Monkey Tail

The day I was born was filled with surprises.

Firstly, my parents were expecting to have a baby boy, and this mistake may have been caused by surprise number two; I was born with a tail. It wasn't the kind of tail you might expect - all pink and useless and misshapen - on the contrary, my tail was glorious even then. It was a long and slender thing, covered in beautiful chestnut brown fur. It tapered off into an elegant point which was as white as freshly fallen snow. I swirled it around like a master before I had even managed to squawk out my first cry.

My parents and doctors had planned to remove my tail when I was very young. The doctors assured them that I would be far too young to remember that I ever even had a tail, and my parents didn't want to have child with a mutation, so they agreed. When they eventually found out that it couldn't possibly be removed without paralysing me from the waist down they wept for days.

I very quickly learnt that my tail was an extremely versatile tool indeed and we soon became the very best of friends. As I grew older I insisted on doing absolutely everything with it and annoyed my poor parents immensely. I completely refused to use my hands at meal times and would grip my food with my tail instead, and nothing was out of reach once I had learnt to use it as a climbing tool. My parents often found that I had freed myself from my playpen walls and I could scale the kitchen cupboards as easily as crawling.

When I started school and learnt to write my name with my tail, my teachers disappeared, but my handwriting was the best in the year so no complaints could be made. Some of the other children could be mean; pinching my tail when I wasn't looking and pulling on it as I walked past in the halls, but mostly people were fascinated by it, or jealous. I made many, many friends in those first few weeks and we tore around the school as if we owned it.

*** To be continued.... ***

Fairy Tale Half Sleeve.

I've been so busy with work lately that I've had no time at all to blog or catch up with the ones I'm reading, so I'm looking forward to spending this lazy Easter weekend doing just that!

I finally got around to taking a few pictures of my new Arthur Rackham and fairy tale inspired half sleeve, which I had done last Friday (I can't believe its been a week already!) I wasn't able to get very good photos of it unfortunately, but I did the best I could. Its quite flaky and fuzzy at the moment as its healing, so its not quite looking at its best just yet but I couldn't wait any longer to show it off!

The whole thing was done in one go and took 5 long and painful hours to complete. I'm so glad now that I got it all done at once though - I would have kicked myself if I had given up or wimped out halfway through, and I feel like I really achieved something now. You cant really tell how big it is from these photos, but it goes right from my wrist (the mermaid is from an original Arthur Rackham illustration and is riding a giant fish) to right up over my elbow and onto my upper arm, so its more of a 3/4 sleeve really i guess. The dragons face is right on my elbow and was mostly definitely the most painful part to have tattooed! Little Red Riding Hood came a very close second on the pain scale (as she is right in the inside crease of my elbow) and she has the wolf's shadow on a teapot moon behind her which is poring out the sea down the inside of my arm. I cant wait until its completely healed and I can start having it shaded and coloured in muted, watercolour tones!

On a little side-note, the A-Z Challenge starts on Monday and I'm so excited to get going with it! I've already got a few of the posts written and am anxious to share all the wonderful mythical creatures I've found with you!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Anatomy of Japanese Monsters.

These interesting illustrations come from the book Yōkai Daizukai by manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, and they show cross sections from 85 'Yōkai' - the traditional monsters and demons from Japanese folklore.

The illustrations show each of the monsters internal organs and gives information about their functions and about the creatures themselves. I wish I was able to read Japanese so that I could buy myself the book, as they are both hideous and fascinating.

Here are some translated exerts for you to enjoy:

The Hyōsube, a child-sized river monster (a relative of the kappa) from Kyushu that lives in underwater caves, ventures onto land at night to eat rice plants. The monster has a relatively small brain, a nervous system specialized in detecting the presence of humans, thick rubbery skin, sharp claws, two small stomachs (one for rice grains and one for fish), a large sac for storing surplus food, and two large oxygen sacs for emergency use. A pair of rotating bone coils produce an illness-inducing bacteria that the monster sprinkles on unsuspecting humans.

The Mannen-dake ("10,000-year bamboo") is a bamboo-like monster that feeds on the souls of lost travelers camping in the woods. Anatomical features include a series of tubes that produce air that causes travelers to lose their way, syringe-like fingers the monster inserts into victims to suck out their souls, and a sac that holds the stolen souls.

The Kuro-kamikiri ("black hair cutter") is a large, black-haired creature that sneaks up on women in the street at night and surreptitiously cuts off their hair. Anatomical features include a brain wired for stealth and trickery, razor-sharp claws, a long, coiling tongue covered in tiny hair-grabbing spines, and a sac for storing sleeping powder used to knock out victims. The digestive system includes an organ that produces a hair-dissolving fluid, as well as an organ with finger-like projections that thump the sides of the intestines to aid digestion.

The Kijimunaa is a playful forest sprite inhabiting the tops of Okinawan banyan trees. Anatomical features include eye sockets equipped with ball bearings that enable the eyeballs to spin freely, strong teeth for devouring crabs and ripping out the eyeballs of fish (a favorite snack), a coat of fur made from tree fibers, and a nervous system adapted for carrying out pranks. The Kijimunaa's brain contains vivid memories of being captured by an octopus - the only thing it fears and hates.

A-Z Challenge.
Theme Reveal

So, today is that day that I announce that I shall be taking part in the 2013 A-Z Challenge. If you haven't heard about this then head on over to here to have a little look at what its all about, and maybe sign up too! Its still not too late to join!

Mini Lobo of Some Dark Romanic is the brain behind todays 'big reveal', where people taking part in the challenge can let everyone know what theme they will be using for their posts. 
For my A-Z I shall be writing about Mythical Creatures. Beasts from folklore, myths, religions and traditions from all over the world. I want to concentrate on the lesser known creatures for this challenge, so you'll see no unicorns, fairies or trolls here Im afraid! I'm hoping that we'll learn some interesting and obscure things along the way and I hope that you're willing to join me on this alphabet adventure! I cant wait to get started on April 1st!

During the month of April, all my other posts will be put on hold with the exception of Flash Fiction Friday's, which will carry on as normal. I started writing these with the aim to write one small story every week and I feel like giving myself a month off would be cheating.

If anyone here is also doing the A-Z Challenge then please leave me a comment and I'll pop on over to take a look at your offerings :)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Oz The (not so) Great & Powerful.

After watching this trailer for the new Oz film I was beyond excited when I went to see it on my Birthday - it looked so exciting, colourful and completely rammed full of magic and adventure! However, it was not at all what I expected.

I went into the cinema with such high hopes and was fully ready to be blown away by the story and visuals to come, but when the movie started I found it to be painfully slow and badly acted. As the beginning of the movie is made to look like an old fashioned film I thought that perhaps the bad acting and slowness was also intentional - to further mirror the old films it was based on - so I remained positive that things would improve once we travelled to the wonderful land of Oz. However, again I was sadly disappointed.

Yes, some of the visuals in the movie are quite nice, but its nothing we haven't seen before. In fact, the landscape of Oz reminded me so much of Tim Burtons 'Alice In Wonderland' that it completely pulled me out of the film. Many of the scenes in 'Oz' are so obviously green/blue-screened that it makes the whole movie look cheap and laughable - the scene where Oz and Glinda are travelling inside bubbles is one very good example of this. I'm hoping that the effects look better on a smaller screen, but on the big cinema screen things just looked far too fake for me. I never truly felt like Oz was a real place in which these characters were adventuring and therefore, couldn't fully immerse myself in the story.

Sadly, the acting remained very wooden throughout the movie and I didn't really care about what happened to any of the characters, with the exception of the china doll (who really was the best part of the whole movie). The character of Oz himself was extremely sleazy and grating, and I certainly didn't grow to like him more as the story progressed, which I guess should have been the case.

I wanted so badly to like this movie, and it had so much wonderful potential, but unfortunately I just couldn't see past its many, many flaws. It seems that film-makers seem to have such trouble with converting fairy tales into films and I'm crossing my fingers so hard that the upcoming
Jack The Giant Slayer movie is one that does it right! I'll keep you posted.

(These are my own views and opinions, please don't let them put you off going to see this movie. Who knows, you may absolutely love it and completely disagree with me. Let me know if/what you did like about it - I'd love to have my eyes opened to some good in it.)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Flash Fiction Friday #3

This weeks Flash Fiction Friday is a day late because I completely forgot that yesterday was actually a Friday. Apparently my brain is a day behind at the moment. Hopefully it will catch up to reality soon though.


Ham Sandwich

She takes another bite of her ham sandwich before realising that it might seem inappropriate and could offend. Trying to swallow it discreetly a lump sticks to the side of her throat and makes her choke. There is a splutter of an apology as a soggy mass of bread and ham flies from her mouth and lands at the hosts feet.

They snort in disapproval, looking from the congealed sandwich remains to her blushing face, and then back again.

She moves forwards; attempting to pick it up before they realise the choice of filling, but it's too late and no amount of apology will make it right.

'How dare you?!' He squeals in a rage, 'Get out of my pen!' With that, the pig turns around and trots back into his sty.

Hanging her head in shame, she is left alone to realise that this means the loss of yet another friend.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Little Red Birthday-hood.

In honour of my 23rd Birthday I am treating you to a very special re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood - my favourite tale! This re-write takes the form of a recipe and I think it is just wonderful.



Journeybread Recipe

  1. In a tupperware wood, mix child and hood. Stir slowly. Add wolf.
  2. Turn out onto a lightly floured path, and begin the walk home from school.
  3. Sweeten the journey with candied petals: velvet tongues of violet, a posy of roses. Soon you will crave more.
  4. Knead the flowers through the dough as wolf and child converse, tasting of each other's flesh, a mingling of scents.
  5. Now crack the wolf and separate the whites - the large eyes, the long teeth - from the yolks.
  6. Fold in the yeasty souls, fermented while none were watching. You are too young to hang out in bars.
  7. Cover, and, warm and moist, let the bloated belly rise nine months.
  8. Shape into a pudgy child, a dough boy, lumpy but sweet. Bake half an hour.
  9. Just before the time is up - the end in sight, the water broken - split the top with a hunting knife, bone-handled and sharp.
  10. Serve swaddled in a wolfskin throw, cradled in a basket and left on grandmothers doorstep.
  11. Go to your room. You have homework to be done. You are too young to be in the kitchen, cooking.

Monday, 11 March 2013

- Norwegian Folklore -
The Nøkken

After seeing the stunning folklore themed portraits yesterday by Eyes as Big as Plates, I started to drown myself in traditional Norwegian and Finnish folklore. I met a whole host of fantastical creatures and read a mountain of wonderful stories, many of which will more than likely end up on here so that I can share them with you.

The Nøkken is a very dangerous and extremely frightening creature from Norwegian folklore. He lives in rivers, lakes and ponds which have water lilies growing in them, in order to more easily lure people to their doom when they try the pick the beautiful flowers. 

He is believed to be a shape-shifter who can take many forms depending on his victim. If he wanted to lure in young women then he would pose as a handsome man playing a fiddle or harp. His beautiful music would seduce them and trick them into a watery grave. He also commonly appeared as a stunning white horse which would happily let young children climb onto its back before diving back into the water and drowning them. Sometimes he would take the form of a wooden boat, a tree stump or a floating log and he could make the the waters edge appear further in than it really was - tricking his victims into falling into the deep water. In some stories he can even become invisible. (I think the Nøkken is definitely in the running for my top 5 most terrifying folk creatures!)

Nøkken -  By Theodor Kittelsen
His true form, however, is far, far from beautiful or alluring. The Nøkken has skin like that of a drowned corpse and is covered from head to toe in seagrass. His huge mouth is filled with razor sharp teeth and his glowing yellow eyes can often be seen floating just above or in the water.

Thankfully there are a few ways to protect yourself from this truly frightening creature. One way is by spitting and then throwing a steel needle or cross into the water, and if you speak its name then the Nøkken will die.
"Nøkken! Nøkken! needle in water. Virgin Mary tossed steel into the water! You are sinking I am floating!" 
- a riddle for protection. 
Boy on White Horse - By Theodor Kittelsen
In the tales and descriptions of the Nøkken we can see similarities with other pieces of familiar folklore, the most obvious of these is the Scottish Kelpie, as both of these creatures take the form of beautiful horses who intend to drown the guliable and unweary. We can also see hints of the will-o'-the-wisp in the Nøkken's glowing yellow eyes.

As a tool for teaching and keeping people safe the Nøkken, Kelpie and Will-o'-the-wisp are all equally brilliant. They teach us to be weary of water, to stay away from its treacherous edges even if flowers tempt us closer. We are taught not to talk to strangers or go near wild animals, no matter how beautiful they or their music may seem to us. And if we see strange glowing lights we most definitely must run away as fast as we can!

So the next time you're walking past a lake or river and hear a piece of enchanting music, I hope you'll remember these warnings and turn the other way. 
Better safe than sorry.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Folklore Portraiture.

'Eyes as Big as Plates' is a stunning series of photographic portraits by the talented Riitta Ikonen (Finland) and Karoline Hjorth (Norway).
"Inspired by the romantics’ belief that folklore is the clearest reflection of the soul of a people, 'Eyes as Big as Plates' started out as a play on characters and protagonists from Norwegian folklore. During a one month residency at the KINOKINO Centre for Art and Film in the South West of Norway, the Norwegian photographer Karoline Hjorth and I collaborated with sailors, farmers, professors, artisans, psychologists, teachers, parachuters and senior citizens... The series has since moved on to exploring the mental landscape of the neighbourly and pragmatic Finns. In June 2012 Finnish senior citizens modelled in the wilderness of south and eastern Finland."

Click HERE and HERE to see more photos from the series.
I love the look and feel of these portraits - bringing the everyday and the mythical together in a perfect mix of strange and spooky. They have an extremely earthy, natural look to them, despite their subjects wearing modern day clothing. 

That last photo definitely reminds me of my trip to find the treasure of Callow Pit the other day. Mist and fog are my very favourite weather types - the whole world feels more magical when its covered in fog, and maybe a bit more frightening too!

I would love to find out which characters from Finnish/Norwegian folklore these portraits are based on, so that I could gain a better understanding of the photos - plus the characters just look so interesting! I'm sure their stories must be more than wonderful.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Flash Fiction Friday #2

Lavender Dream.

The breeze was gentle and filled with the scents of baby powder and warm milk. Pale lavender petals descended from the clouds, taking their time on the journey down, enjoying the view and eventually coming to rest amongst the rows of wheat in the field. Hidden insects went about their secret business, filling the air with a gentle hum, and children played in the nearby woods, their chatter floating across the countryside.

In the dusty corner of an empty cottage, unseen by man or beast, a dense shadow was starting to form. It was the thick black of lost memories and forgotten dreams, deeper than the deepest cavern and gave off the smell of burning flesh. No one was there to see the shadow grow, but grow it did; thicker and further inside the cottage. The old foundations groaned in their knowing – It had come.

If anyone had cared to look over at that old cottage they would have seen nothing but a dark black stain in the fabric of the world, spreading slowing outwards, growing wider and more rotten before their eyes. However, no one did look and no one did care. 

The world was left to melt away into shadow, unseen by anyone except the petals falling from the clouds.

The Treasure Of Callow Pit.

I have recently resolved to read more local folklore - folklore from the places close to home, so that I am able to visit the sites where they took place. One such story which I happened across is 'The Treasure Of Callow Pit', which is a piece of folklore from Norfolk UK - the place I call home.
"The village tradition states that an iron chest, filled with gold is engulfed in Callow Pit. Many years ago, two adventurous men, availing themselves of an unusually low state of the water, determined to obtain the treasure. Having formed a platform of ladders across the pit they inserted a staff through the ring in the lid of the chest, and bore it up from the waters; and placed the staff on their shoulders, preparatory to bearing off their prize... Unluckily, however, one of them triumphantly exclaimed: 'We've got it safe, and the devil himself can't get it from us.' instantly the pit was enveloped in a 'roke' (reek, or cloud of steam) of a strong sulphureous smell and a black hand and arm - no doubt belonging to the personage thus gratuitously challenged - emerged from the water, and grasped the chest. A terrific struggle ensued: one party tugging to secure, the other to recover the prize. At last the contest ended by its subject parting, being unable to bear the enormous strain on it. The chest, with the treasure, sank beneath the water, never again to be seen." 
- from 'The Lore Of The Land'
At the end of the tale we are told that all the two treasure seekers managed to walk away with, was the ring from the top of the chest. The ring was placed on the door of Southwood church and apparently 'the incredulous may convince himself of the truth of the legend by beholding it.' Southwood church fell into ruins in 1881, and the ring was moved to the neighbouring village of Limpenhoe, where it was fixed to the church's north door there. The north door of a church was commonly known as the Devil's Door, so this placement seems very appropriate.

Limpenhoe Church.
So off I went with my story and my sat-nav (a modern treasure seekers must-have item!) and had a lovely drive to Limpenhoe. The day was extremely misty and it only got worse as I drove deeper into the countryside. I took this as a very good sign indeed! The devil must have known I was coming and was either warning me away or trying to hide his treasure - obviously my reputation as a world-class treasure hunter proceeds me.

I tried not to get my hopes up too much as I walked towards the church - there was no guarantee that the ring would still be there. As I drew closer I let out a squeal of delight. There is was! In all its ring-like glory!

The Devils ring on the door of Limpenhoe church.
Theres only so many photos you can take of a ring and a door...
I can quite believe that this is a ring off of an ancient, lost treasure chest. It certainly looks old enough, and the surroundings were perfectly spooky enough. Nothing weird or suspicious happened when I touched the ring, which I was quite disappointed about, but for my first little 'Folklore Tour' I couldn't have asked for better! Unfortunately I could not go on a search for Callow Pit and the treasure itself due to the fog, and the fact that I was alone. I certainly want to have someone with me if theres a chance I might meet the Devil! I will definitely be looking for it when the weather brightens up a bit though and I'll let you know if I ever find that chest full of gold. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

This little trip has certainly made me want to delve further into my local folklore. Being able to actually visit the places I read about, and touch the relics from the stories is bringing a whole new depth to my obsession!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

'Red' - an animated short.

The story of Little Red Riding Hood has always been my favourite Fairy Tale and this animation is such a charming re-telling of the classic tale.

I would give anything to own a wolf hat like that!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Etsy Finds.

 We all know that Etsy is a treasure-trove of wonderfulness and creativity, so I thought I would put together a little collection of Fairy Tale themed items which I've happily stumbled across lately.

This Snow White skirt would be just perfect to wear for a picnic in the forest!
(via made with love by hannah)
This necklace is just so cute.
(via Bookish Charm)
With these super cute doll patterns you can make your own Fairy Tale characters.
I think Little Red Riding Hood is my favourite!
(via Gingermelon)
I am in love with these Fairy Tale postcards! (for full set click link)
They are such a modern, fresh take on the familiar tales.
I think the 'Beauty & The Beast' and 'Snow White' ones are especially brilliant!
(via Serious Whims)
I had no idea you could buy magazines on Etsy, but this one by The Filigree sounds magical!
It features breaking fairy tale news, articles, event calendars and astrology. That piece on fairy captives swarming an apple orchard has definitely sparked my interest!
I've already bought myself a copy and am anxious to receive it!
How beautiful is this Fairy doll house?!
I'm sure the fairies in my garden would just love this!
(via Enchanted Woodland)

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Tattoos In Folklore

As work is soon to start on my own tattoo, I thought it would be interesting to look into the folklore and myths that surround tattoos. I didn't know much at all about this subject when I started looking into it, and I managed to find out some very interesting things.

When we think about tattoos most people picture the traditional sailor, covered from head to toe with old fashioned ink - anchors, naked women and sailing imagery. Many of the traditional tattoos that sailors had have meanings and superstitions behind them.

Pig and chicken tattoos were believed
to prevent drowning.
  • A pig and a chicken tattoo on the feet would keep you from drowning if your ship went down. This was believed because the wooden pig and chicken crates would float when the rest of the ship sank, meaning that these animals were often the only survivors of wrecks.
  • A tattoo of the North Star would unsure that you always found your way home.
  • Sailors would have a cross tattooed on each wrist and ankle to unsure that they would get a Christian burial if they were washed ashore - even if they were washed ashore in several pieces!
  • A tattoo of an anchor meant that a sailor had crossed the Atlantic. 
  • 'Hold Fast' was commonly tattooed on the knuckles as this was thought to give sailors a good, strong grip.
  • A sailor would get a sparrow tattooed for every 5000 nautical miles they had travelled. However, a dagger through a sparrow symbolised a lost comrade. 
Tattoos of 'Hold Fast' would ensure a strong grip.
In some rural and Bedouin areas of Iraq tattoos are used as a form of folk-medicine called 'Dakkah'. This treatment involves a specialist putting tattoos on the pain centres of a patients body - including the face/head for headaches, and the back and limbs for backache or joint pain.

The meaning behind having a teardrop tattooed below the eye is extremely well known - it shows that the person has committed a murder. However, this tattoo is also common within gangs and an unfilled teardrop can mean the death of a friend. This teardrop is only filled in when the person has avenged their loss.

In Russia images of Lenin and Stalin were traditionally tattooed on the chest, as it was believed that firing squads were forbidden to shoot at an image of their leaders. And Russian prisoners often get an image of a spider in a web tattooed on their shoulder - if the spider is climbing up the web it means the person is committed to a life of crime, and if its climbing down it means they are trying to break free of the criminal lifestyle. In Russian prisons a man with no tattoos at all has absolutely no social status.

In the Hindu religion henna tattoos are applied during the wedding preparations.
Many religions include tattoos and in Thailand Buddhist Monks also work as tattoo artists during an annual March festival. The tattoos they apply are intended to work as amulets which keep evil away or bring strength to their wearers. A traditional Buddhist tattoo is the Lotus flower, which symbolises purity and can be any colour except blue. Hindus (the Brahmins) traditionally had a series of lines or circles tattooed on the forehead, cheeks or chest to show their servitude to God and some temple girls received tattoos of sacred symbols on their shoulders and breasts to unsure the salvation of their souls. Henna is used within the Hindu religion to decorate hands and feet with semi-permenant tattoos, and traditional Hindu wedding preparations include applying henna tattoos on the bride and groom-to-be. The darker the henna ends up the deeper their love in marriage will be.

This is an endlessly fascinating subject and something which I will definitely be looking into in more depth in the future. My next aim is to find some fairy tales which feature tattoos.
If anyone has some interesting tattoo meanings or stories I would love to hear them! What pieces of tattoo folklore do you know?

Friday, 1 March 2013

Flash Fiction Friday #1

Today is going to be the start of a little weekly post that I'm calling 'Flash Fiction Friday'. 
I'm not sure if I'll manage to remember it each week, but I'm definitely going to give it a good go. I come up with the titles first and then write a story to fit it, so they can sometimes be quite surreal. They will mostly be around 100-200 words, so even if I'm feeling really tired and lazy I should still be able to manage it every Friday. I think that setting myself the goal of writing at least one short story a week should be pretty doable and its something which I've been meaning to do for a while now.

I can't promise that they'll be lovely and happy, and I certainly can't promise that they'll be good, but I hope that you'll bravely put up with them and maybe even enjoy some of them.

Blackberry Thorn.

You stand in a small clearing; birds chatter all around you but not a single one can be seen, as if they disappeared long ago and their songs are just an echo of what once was.
Tall, thin trees are rooted into the ground as far as the eye can see. They are as black as coal and wear not a single leaf on their spindly branches. Unlike the birds, the leaves can be seen. They now lay peacefully on the ground, blanketing it in a pattern of white and grey which makes your eye spin.
You spot a single spot of red jumping out at you from the monochrome ground and slowly bend to pick it up. Turning the glossy business card over in your hands you briefly wonder how it ended up here and who it belonged to. Surely birds, even vanishing ones, dont carry business cards.
Squinting at the black text you read one simple sentence:
'You are all that remains.'
A single tear rolls down your cheek as you realise that the birdsong has stopped.