#FolkloreThursday: Retellings and Adaptations I covet

Greetings on this, the first Folklore Thursday post in quite a while. I’ve missed these posts and getting to completely nerd out over folkloric things so I am very pleased to bring them back.

While looking through my reader today, I saw two really interesting posts about retellings and adaptations, one from Mikaela at The Well-Thumbed Reader and the other from Heather at The Sassy Book Geek. I’ve been trying to think of a list post, and as if by magic, these two posts appeared and I just had to throw mine into the pot too!

These are folk tales that I love and that I haven’t read/seen any retellings of but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. (Please let me know if you know of any!)

1. Chang’e (China)

Chang’e is the Chinese moon goddess, who I have mentioned before. There are lots of stories that can be drawn on and I would be happy with any of them. I am obsessed with the moon, so any story involving it makes me happy and would make me a very happy reader. It has tragic elements, a husband and wife separated (regardless of whether they started as immortals but were punished with mortality, and thus probably deserved it, or whether they were human and definitely did not deserve their separation), a plague, and would make for some very interesting reading. Plus, I could imagine Chang’e as both a delicate and a fierce female protagonist, and I am very much here for a three-dimensional heroine who is not just strong. I would love to read more Eastern-based literature.

2. The Enchanted Quill (German)

The Enchanted Quill features a crow whose feathers, when used to write, make wishes come true, three sisters (two of which are snide and unforgiving, and one who is full of intrigue and cunning and blushes at the thought of a little crow), and of course, the transformation from animal to prince… for a price. I love crows and other birds hailing from the Corvidae family, they carry with them a little bit of magic; the crooked kind of magic that I can’t seem to get enough of (there’s that word again…). It has echoes of Beauty and the Beast, another story I adore, but brings its own little twists and turns to the transformative archetype.

3. The Seven Ravens (German)

Again, I am bringing you Corvidae and potentially fabulous female characters.  A mother and father have seven sons and want desperately to have a daughter. Eventually, they do and she is a sickly little thing so the sons have to go fetch water for her baptism (either to make her better or to ensure she’s accepted into heaven in the event that she dies – I am unsure which), the sons fail horrendously and so the father wishes them into ravens. Years pass, the daughter grows strong and discovers that the ravens that always seem to be around are, in fact, her brothers and goes off on an adventure to restore them to their human form. I love a good adventure story.


So there you have it, three folk tales that I would love to see adapted or retold in some way or another. There are more that I can think of but it’s late and I need some sleep (cue yawning).

Watch this space for part two, coming to a Folklore Thursday post in the probably-not too distant future.

Are there any folk tales you’d love to see retold? What are they, and would I love them? (The answer to that last bit is probably yes.)

Happy Thursday!

The Perks of Supporting Authors on Patreon

Ah, the fabled second post. Nice to meet you, post, I’m sure we’ll get along swimmingly.

I’m incredibly vocal about the things I love, particularly the authors I love. One moreso than others. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know exactly who I mean. I have her words tattooed on my bicep, I make excuses to mention her work in my posts because I love it so much, and get a little bit too excited when she responds to me on Twitter. (It’s shocking that I’ve not reviewed more of her books because I’ve certainly read enough of them! I will be fixing that oversight in due course.)

Being a book blogger, I love to support authors in whatever ways I can, from tweeting about them to buying their books and attending their events. Having worked in the publishing industry and knowing authors both indie and traditionally published alike, I know that writing books is not the most lucrative of businesses, there is a huge investment of time and not always a huge monetary return so I like to do whatever I can to ensure my favourite authors can continue creating new content for me to enjoy.

When Catherynne M. Valente announced her Patreon, I jumped at the chance to support her.

valente patreon

I am all for authors offering exciting exclusive tidbits but that’s not the only reason I decided to donate a little chunk of my money every month – it makes me feel good. I feel like I am part of something, and that’s a glorious feeling.

The wonderful thing about Valente, in particular, is that she’s not just posting the expected sneak peeks and previews into her work, she’s also sharing everything from recipes to adorable photographs of her pets. She hosts live streams and live tweets very questionable films as chosen by her patrons. She’s not just about helping herself though, she helps the budding writers in her fan base with monthly articles (endearingly known as experiments) aimed at helping us all to grow into better, more effective writers – and she makes the effort to not only read the things we come up with but give feedback too.

Cue Exhibit A, in response to an article about writing beginnings:

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I may have almost cried when I read that comment and I am not at all ashamed. This screenshot makes me happy and I intend to keep it forever.

It’s so rare, what with the prevalence of celebrity status now-a-days to feel a connection to your idols beyond the fact that you love them. Because of Patreon, I was able to be involved in a video chat with my favourite author on my birthday. I cannot express exactly how much that still excites me.

Patreon is such a good service and if any of your faves use it, I would highly recommend donating if you can. It’s such a fulfilling thing to do and you get to sit smugly in the knowledge that you are reading things that no one outside of the publishing industry has read yet. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a little bit special. If you have a little to spare, why not support someone you love and help them do something they love?

Taking my own advice

Hello (she says and her voice echoes around the internet and disturbs the spiders in their webs). How are we all? It’s been a while. Tell me lovely, interesting things you’ve been getting up to in the comments. I’ve missed responding to comments.

In my last post, I was having a bit of an existential crisis. And that’s totally okay. It happens. It is a part of life. Recognising that you’re having issues and working on them is all part of self-care.

Upon writing that post, I decided to take my own advice and have a bit of a break from blogging – I was incredibly busy with some exciting freelance work and keeping up with both paid work and blogging on top of my full-time day job was getting a little difficult. But I’ve loosened up my schedule and we are back in business.

Since I’ve been gone, I’ve mostly been marathoning things on Netflix and it’s been bliss. I also had some lovely family time, went on several dates with the other half (including a visit to the Black Living Country Museum and seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming), went to see the Addams Family at the Birmingham Hippodrome with my wonderful Mum (review to come) and spent last weekend feeling pretty fabulous with my friends while dressed as a space/moon princess. I was blind all day because I wasn’t wearing my glasses but I reckon the hazy vision only added to the otherworldly vibes of the day.

Posts will be a bit sporadic while I get back into the swing of things (you may even get two today… maybe) but we shall definitely be swinging again soon. (Oo-er.) I will also be responding to all of the emails you’ve been sending me so watch your inboxes!

Have a lovely evening, bloglings, I’ve missed you.

The Quarter-Life Crisis

I am in a reading slump. I don’t get them too often at the moment so I think I just need to switch out the book I’m reading. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, I am, but I don’t think it’s what I want to be reading right now.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about.

When I hit twenty-five, I didn’t really have a quarter-life crisis, I was happy floating along and nothing really changed with my age. Fast forward a year.

I recently turned twenty-six (you may remember a vaguely uplifting post about it), when that happened I had a grand plan and life was good and I was feeling determined and optimistic about the future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a plan and am feeling determined but I am also feeling incredibly anxious.

Everywhere I look, my friends from all periods of my life (from primary school through to my master’s degree) seem to have their lives together, they have great jobs, great houses/flats, some of them are buying houses. They’re going to exciting places and having exciting adventures. (Now, that last bit is something I like to observe from afar, I am a homebody and I’m happy to just chill locally – that’s not to say I never want to go on holiday but I’m more focussed on saving at the moment and that’s okay.) I see my friends getting new jobs and moving up in the world, getting higher salaries and more respected in their fields, and then the panic sets in.

Maybe, it’s just because this month is an expensive month for me, filled with various car-related payments (insurance, service, road tax – yay!). I’m not able to put anything in my savings for a while and that freaks me out. But I find myself panicking that my life is going nowhere, and thinking that I should be at the same stage as the other people I know. Now, rationally, I know that all of my friends have probably had this exact feeling despite how put together they look on the outside. I know for a fact that I have been one of the people inspiring the panic for at least one of my friends (she told me so), so I must not be doing as badly as I think but the problem is that once I think it and feel it, it’s a hard feeling to shake.

My self-confidence ebbs and flows. I can take compliments now, I am practised in the art of agreeing when people say nice things about me and not only agreeing but believing it too. But that confidence doesn’t extend to my worth as a person, I find it very difficult to imagine myself as someone who adds to the environment I am in, I know I am good at things but I never think I am good enough at those things (to be worth hiring or paying or sometimes just being around). I know that this is probably being exaggerated by my current lack of money and the worries that come from that.

I will probably be okay in a few weeks but until then, I will be huddled in the corner, like Golem, whispering my precious over all of the five pence pieces I can find.


This has been a blog entry, I think. I honestly don’t know what this was but I needed to write about it, so here you go. My humble Monday-evening-but-posting-Tuesday offering.

#FolkloreThursday: The Cryptozoologist Chronicles – Pontianak

We’re chronicling some more cryptozoology this week, and I am very excited about it. This is another creature that I found while writing a drabble. I like to use folklore in my writing, so it’s no surprise that I find a lot of cool things. Unlike my last creature, this one actually did end up as the focal point of some of my writing and I’ve fallen a little bit in love – as much as you can fall in love with something as dark as this, that is.


Pontianak

The pontianak is a vengeful spirit from Indonesian and Malaysian folklore, also known as kuntilanak or matianak. Taking the form of an often pregnant woman, with long hair, a bloody white dress, and long nails, the pontianak hunts men. It is said that the pontianak can present itself as a beautiful woman to seduce its victims. If caught in this form and pierced in the nape of the neck by a coffin nail, the pontianak will stay a beautiful woman and a good wife. However, once the nail is removed, it will take its original form and kill the man who inflicted goodness upon it. Unlike most spirits, the pontianak has a physical/corporeal form.

The kuntilanak, in particular, is said to be able to transform into a bird and drink the blood of virgins and young women. It is summoned and sent to make women fall gravely ill.

Both variations are the ghosts of women who perhaps either died in childbirth or died violent deaths (presumably at the hands of men). They are ever-searching for their unborn child, including within the bodies of their victims.

Those unlucky enough to be seduced by a pontianak are not in for a pleasant death, the creature will remove and eat the organs, often while the victim is still living. It’s unsurprising that it is the subject of so many Indonesian and Malaysian horror films.

If a pontianak is near, you might smell something sweet and floral which sours into a smell of decay, or you might hear the wailing of a baby. This is perhaps my favourite detail, a nice smell (representing the presenting human form) which then turns horrid, like the monster behind the beautiful face.

There are variations of the pontianak throughout the world, particularly in India and Pakistan. The closest Western relative is probably the vampire.


Happy Thursday!

Words I Love: crooked

crooked – adjective

  1. bent, curved, twisted out of shape.
  2. dishonest, illegal

Origins: From the Middle English ‘crook’ (noun a hooked staff belonging to a shepherd or verb to bend), or possibly from the Old Norse krókóttr, which means something along the lines of ‘cunning’.

I’ve mentioned ‘crooked’ a lot in my Words I Love posts and thought I would go with my past-self and make ‘crooked’ my next word. A lot of my associations with this particular word probably come from the crooked man nursery rhyme.

There was a crooked man,
and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat,
which caught a crooked mouse,
and they all lived together
in a little crooked house.

I heard and read it so much as a child that it’s gotten itself stuck in my brain and may never leave. It’s been the starting point for horror films and antagonists in games, and books (I am looking at you, The Book of Lost Things, which is a book everyone should read especially if they love fairy tales) for years, and I completely understand why.

It’s such a wonderful (if creepy) image, a crooked man.

Weirdly, my imaginings don’t give me a one-way ticket to Creepyville Towers; when I see the word ‘crooked’, my mind leaps straight to old and rickety, all twisted limbs and slow walking, it takes me somewhere eccentric rather than somewhere dangerous. Still cunning but not necessarily evil.

Crooked is elderly but still full of wit, where the cunning comes from being underestimated and knowing about it. Crooked brings to mind Baba Yaga, Rumpelstiltskin, Moana’s grandmother (in the most wonderful way possible), Madam Mim (who wasn’t really bad, who I adore). When I am old and decrepit, I hope that I can be one of those crooked little crones that you might find in a fairy tale. Not an evil one, obviously, but the kind that looks like they have a secret (and does indeed have one), and the kind that does inexplicable things for what seems like no reason but actually has a plan.

Crooked brings to mind ramshackle buildings and shanty towns, fairy tale locations, leaning towers and dark woods with twisting branches. Crooked is a little bit magic, a little bit dark, and a little bit whimsical.

Is it any wonder that I love and use it so much?

#FolkloreThursday Film Spotlight: Tale of Tales

Hello, lovely readers. I have a confession to make before I launch into this blog entry. I had no idea the film I’m about to talk about was based on a book. I am terrible. I now want to read said book though, so there’s that at least.

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From the bitter quest of the Queen of Longtrellis, to two mysterious sisters who provoke the passion of a king, to the King of Highhills obsessed with a giant Flea, these tales are inspired by the fairytales by Giambattista Basile.

The above is taken from IMDB. Obviously. Otherwise, I would have known it was actually based on something. I went into this film blind, I’d seen maybe part of a trailer beforehand and was intrigued enough to watch it. I am glad I did.

It’s an incredibly strange film, weaving what at first seem to be three completely separate stories together. The first, a queen who will do anything to have a child; the second, two sisters who win the love of a womanising King by use of trickery and magic; the third, a king who finds and nurtures a flea, loving it more than his own child resulting in his daughter being married off to an ogre.

Naturally, I love it. I adore stories, and if a film has more than one it’s going to be a guaranteed hit with me. Combine that with the fairy tale nature and setting and you’ve got an instant love. This film is dark. It’s also whimsical but the dark kind where you’re not sure if what you’re watching could possibly have a happy ending or whether everyone is going to die horribly.

The film is stunning. From the costumes to the sets, to the music and through the colouring, it is gorgeous. It’s exactly the kind of rich beauty you want from a fairy tale film.

From what I gather of the book, these are only three of an incredible number of tales that could have been used, and now a small hopeful part of me is crossing her fingers and wishing on every star that they turn this into a series of films, each with three tales beautifully produced until the whole book has been done. It is only a vague hope. It will probably never happen. A girl can dream.

It harkens back to the 80s fantasy movies that I adore, only darker and with better visual effects. Definitely, check it out if you’re a fan of fantasy and fairy tales. I love it. Love it.

Happy Thursday!

Review: Release by Patrick Ness

31194576Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

Before we start: A big, big thank you must go to Walker Books for sending me a review copy. You make my bookish dreams come true, my friends.

Release is a day in the life of Adam Thorn, interspersed with a day in the life of a ghost, spirit and faun (stick with me). Where Adam’s sections are poignant and at times heartbreaking, the fantastical sections are a mysterious meandering journey for answers, for, as the title suggests, release. The two storylines meet with their need for release and while Adam’s story didn’t need the magical realism to work, or to be enjoyable, it was an intriguing addition (even if it has left some reviewers torn).

It’s a book of details, we see the kind of detail that can only be built into a novel that takes place over one day. There is no skipping over important details, every feeling is felt, every confrontation confronted and every revelation revealed in front of our waiting eyes. I like this. I like books which deal in detail. During my Creative Writing degree, we studied a module called A Day in the Life and this book would fit right into the reading list, I wish it were around when I was doing that course. It’s so engaging and a lot can be learned about writing from it, as well as it being a great reading experience.

Due to the degree of detail, we get to know the characters rather well, and what lovely characters they are. Adam is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast in the form of Angela and Linus. They are excellent. They are everything I wanted them to be and more.

Release deals with a lot of big things in a short amount of time but I think my favourite thing about it is its portrayal of relationships, romantic, familial and platonic. Every kind of relationship is hard and messy and Release doesn’t shy away from that. Ness is great at making you feel things. I felt my heart clench in moments between Adam and Linus, and I felt it break in a scene with Adam and his father, it swelled every time Adam was with Angela.

It is a sensitive representation of what it is like to be gay in a religious family that doesn’t agree with homosexuality but it packs one hell of a punch when it needs to, and emphasises that family isn’t just what you are born with, it’s what you choose. It’s a deeply personal novel, while it’s not about Ness and the characters are not people who are in his real life, you can tell he drew from his own experience and I think that’s what makes it so powerful.

The magical realism wasn’t as poignant, and that seems to be the problem for readers who didn’t like those parts, but it was interesting and it did a lot to break up the utterly terrible day Adam was having. I love a bit of fantasy, so I enjoyed it. I liked puzzling together what Katherine (a murdered girl, the ghost who has risen from the lake) was looking for, and how that linked her with the Queen (a spirit also inhabiting her ‘body’). Though it deals with murder and blame and addiction and all the mess therein, it stopped the novel from being depressing – if we had just had Adam’s day going from bad to worse to absolutely horrible, I think it would have been hard to get through. The fantasy adds something to puzzle over, something to distract, and it made each scene with Adam easier to digest. The fantasy is a palate cleanser between the meaty courses of the novel.

It does offer some light at the end of the tunnel, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are moments of dazzling brightness, alongside the dark. It’s not a novel where everything is tied up at the end, there are things that we don’t get to see (which happen after) that I am still curious about and I like it when books leave me curious. Sure, I will never get the answers I want but I will be thinking about it for days, and that’s what you want from a book. You want it to stick with you, and Release does.

One phrase we should really stop using

I might be alone in this. I might be the only person who thinks that this phrase is vile but we’re going to discuss it because I have an opinion, and opinions make for good blog posts (make a great post from a neutral standpoint, I challenge you). I don’t know when I started disliking it, but it occurred to me the other day that I definitely do dislike it and it’s actually quite creepy.

The phrase in question goes thus:

“[…] at the tender age of ______”

Everyone has read/heard/said that phrase somewhere. I think the eagle-eyed among you may even be able to find that very phrase somewhere in the recesses of this blog (I would be interested to know if you can, if anyone who isn’t me can be bothered to look – there are a lot of posts…). It looks pretty innocuous. It’s not rude, it’s quite common, what could possibly be wrong with it?

Well, pull up a chair, my curious little friend, for I am going to tell you. (We’re using our English Lit. degree today, pals, buckle up!)

It all has to do with three things: A) who is saying it, B) who they are saying it to, and C) the word ‘tender’, and we are going to discuss these in reverse order (because the rules of chronology are apparently too hard for me).

‘Tender’ isn’t a horrible word, it’s quite a good word. It can mean gentlekind-heartedaffectionate, and I have no doubt that when the phrase first came into fashion it was these definitions that were originally meant but that’s where my first problem arises. There is no gentle age. There is no affectionate age. Either you are affectionate and gentle, or you’re not. It’s not age which determines gentleness but experience, which brings me to my next definition.

‘Tender’ can be taken to mean inexperienced. Sure, you can be waxing about how you, at the tender age of five and three quarters were unaware of the trials and foibles you would be put through in your teens, and that is your right, but what about when someone else says it about you? I’m getting ahead of myself. One point at a time, Elou. I suppose I can accept the phrase when it is used in this way. You talking about your inexperienced self. That’s okay. That’ll get a pass.

But let’s look a bit more at ‘tender’. ‘Tender’ is sensitive to pain, ‘tender’ is vulnerable, ‘tender’ is easy to cut or chew. ‘Tender’ is delicious. How many times have you, when asked how the meat you are eating is have praised it as so tender? I have, many times. Now think of talking about a child at a tender age. Shudder.

On to point B. If you’re using the phrase you’re either talking about a child or someone who was a child at the time you are referring to, or you are probably ironically referring to yourself being at a tender age even though you are 32. Again, if you’re talking about yourself, fine. Go ahead, say what you will, enjoy yourself. But saying it about a child, or adolescent is still a bit creepy.

Think about it, you’re pointing out their inexperience, their vulnerability, you are bringing into focus the fact that they are weak and you, in comparison, are strong. The speaker gives themselves the power, which brings me swiftly to point A: who is saying it.

Imagine a professor or teacher, haughty, a middling age, let’s say 40-50. He has a slight paunch and a habit of talking down to people. Now, imagine him talking about a young girl at the tender age of eight.

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Tell me that isn’t creepy?

Take into account who he could be talking to, a colleague of equal age? A parent? The child herself? None of these options feel good to me.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I just blowing it out of proportion and taking an innocent phrase to a darker place, a place where it has no business being? You decide. Answers on a postcard. Or, you know, in the comments.

#FolkloreThursday: An Endless Story (Japan)

Hullo, hullo. It’s one of those Thursdays where I read a folktale that I’ve never read before and relay it for your enjoyment, mostly marvelling at the ridiculousness of it all. I love folktales. I love how weird and wonderful they can be, how different they can be across different cultures, and how they manage to stick around despite how incredibly old they are.

This week, we’re travelling to Japan for a tale with a very misleading title. It is called An Endless Story and yet it is quite possibly the shortest story in Favourite Folktales from around the World.

So, we jump right into the story and discover that the rats of Nagasaki have all jumped onto a ship to Satsuma because there is no food. All is going well, they’re on the ship, they’re sailing but then… they happen across another ship, equally filled with rats. These rats were from Satsuma (can you see where this is going?) making their way to Nagasaki because there is no food.

We have a dilemma on our hands and what do the rats decide to do?

(I’m not sure you’re ready for this. Are you ready for this?)

(Okay, okay. You’re ready.)

The decide to jump into the sea. And drown. 

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Of course, there was no other place in the whole of Japan that might have had food for them. They were clever enough to sail across the sea but apparently, geography was possibly not their strong suit.

So there you have it, An Endless Story made Endless only by the fact that the rats are jumping into the sea one-by-one and that it ends with an ellipsis.

Save a life, feed a rat.

Happy Thursday!