#FolkloreThursday: The Cryptozoologist Chronicles – the Moon Rabbit

Ah, #FolkloreThursday, how I love you.

What would my Folklore Thursday posts be if they didn’t contain any cryptozoology? Or at least, slight cryptozoology. If you’re new to the term, it is the study of and search for creatures that are not proven to exist – the Loch Ness monster, for example. For the purposes of this blog, I will be writing about/exploring/sharing cool creatures from folklore under the title ‘The Cryptozoologist Chronicles’. I am incredibly excited.


The Moon Rabbit

A lot of mythic creatures and stories originated when man looked up into the sky – so many stories have come from the celestial bodies that we can see from the earth and the Moon Rabbit is no exception. The Moon Rabbit, in its most basic form, is an outline on the moon in the shape of a rabbit. We make shapes from the clouds and the stars all the time, so why not the shadows caused by the craters and textures on the moon?

It is found in a number of different mythologies including both those originating in Asia and Native American folktales. It’s widely believed that the shadow next to the rabbit is a mortar and pestle but what each nationality can’t agree on is what the rabbit is grinding down.

In the Buddhist narrative, the shadow on the moon is not the rabbit itself but its portrait painted by Śakra/Sakka King of the Devas, after the rabbit offered its own meat to Sakka when he posed as a beggar. The rabbit showed its virtue in its selfless offering, so Sakka squeezed the essence from a mountain to immortalise his image in the sky. The Aztecs also believed that the Moon Rabbit was a virtuous and selfless being, offering itself this time as food to Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl, humbled by the rabbit’s intended sacrifice, took it to visit the moon, imprinting its image there so all could remember its generosity.

A Cree story depicts the rabbit riding a crane to the moon, its weight stretching the crane’s legs to the long form we know of today.

The Japanese and Korean versions of the tale lean heavily on the Buddhist story, with the exception that the rabbit is taken back to the moon to live, and while there he pounds out rice cake on his mortar and pestle.

However, in Chinese mythology the Moon Rabbit is known as the Jade Rabbit, and is a rabbit who lives on the moon with the goddess Chang’e. The rabbit grinds out elixirs of immortality for her. It is said that Chang’e sent the Jade Rabbit down to China when it was facing a plague to cure each family that suffered, asking nothing in return but the occasional item of clothing.

Not content with simply being a figure from a story, the Moon Rabbit also came up as a conversation point during the American moon landing. I adore this little detail.

Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, there’s one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin: Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.

I love rabbits, I love the moon, so of course I love the Moon Rabbit. The fact it spans so many cultures is just a bonus. Have you heard any more tales about the Moon Rabbit? Did you know about it before this post? Let me know in the comments. :)

Happy Thursday!

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#FolkloreThursday Film Spotlight: Song of the Sea

song_of_the_seaHello and welcome to another Folklore Thursday post. Today we’re talking about movies, specifically the beautiful Cartoon Saloon creation Song of the Sea.

I’d seen gifs and pictures from this film all over tumblr and I’d long wondered what it was. Then I did some searching and some Amazon Prime subscribing and finally got round to watching it.

But why, Elou? Why are you dedicating a Folklore Thursday post to this film? Well, hypothetical reader of this blog, that is a fantastic question. If you’ve not heard of Song of the Sea, you really need to look it up. Actually, scrap that, I will include a trailer:

Song of the Sea deals with Irish/Gaelic folklore in a way that I have never seen before in an animated film. It’s so beautiful and incredible in a way that feels completely natural. Everything about it has been thoroughly thought out, from the animation style to the music. I love this film enough that I bought the art book, which is an incredible object in itself.

I love it. I’m not ashamed to admit that on a few occasions, I have watched it more than once in a day. It’s such a gorgeous film. A gorgeous film.

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It’s so full of endearing and interesting characters, whose stories are so wonderfully explored even when they’re only in the film for a short time. They’re not cardboard cut-out characters with different faces drawn on. They’re all designed so individually and yet, they’re all so clearly from the same universe, owing to the wonderfully hand-drawn style of animation.

The animation style is perfectly matched by the score. Scores are often my favourite parts of films so I’m always so happy when they’re done well, and this one is magical. Only fitting.

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It’s such a fantastic way to bring old stories to new audiences, specifically young, excitable audiences, but it’s also great for adults too. Especially if you love illustration – you will fall in love with it and you won’t look back.

Happy Thursday!

#FolkloreThursday: The Dream House (Ireland)

9780394751887-us-300Hello, hello. I promised a non-list post this week so a non-list post we shall have. I want to use my Folklore Thursday posts as a way to learn new things as well as a way to share things I already know and love. With that in mind, I’ve added a load of books to my wishlist but I couldn’t resist buying a couple now.

I am now the proud owner of Favourite Folktales from around the World edited by Jane Yolen, part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library – I am now collecting it. I want all of them.

Every so often I will be dipping into this (and any other) book of folktales and reading a story I’m unfamiliar with. My knowledge of folklore is actually quite limited and I want to fix that. This book is a general overview but they have other titles from specific countries and regions (I already own their Russian collection).

I picked a little Irish story, from the Ghosts and Revenants section of the book, named ‘The Dream House’. The section’s introduction calls it a ‘delicious surprise’ and it’s not entirely wrong.

‘The Dream House’ is a tiny little tale which tells of a Mrs. Butler who sees a wonderful dream house when she sleeps. This becomes somewhat of a joke among her friends and eventually they stop talking about it altogether because it disturbs them. She and her husband decide to move to England because Ireland is going through a state of unrest, when they get to England they see many houses but none of them are to their liking. Until they visit a house in Hampshire. This house is the dream house and Mrs Butler knows everything about it, except one. A door has appeared. Since the asking price is so low and it is her dream house, they decide to buy it. It is only after they buy the house that they decide to question why it’s so cheap. They are told the house is haunted… but not to worry, it’s okay… MRS. BUTLER IS THE GHOST. What? I don’t…

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I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was in the ghost section of the book, of course there’s a ghost somewhere. It caught me completely by surprise. I was fully invested in and expecting this to be a story about dreaming. So invested was I that I forgot which section of the book I was in. The story is literally eight paragraphs long. Eight. Eight, and I forgot where I was. Good job, E. Stellar work.

However, I’m not sure it truly is a ghost story. I do think it’s a story about dreams. More specifically dreamwalking. I wonder if Samantha Shannon has read this story, considering her dreamwalking Irish protagonist. I think I shall ask, I am curious.

Though it’s a traditional folktale (which has been made literary in André Maurois’s short story ‘The House’) it reads like something a lot more modern. Perhaps, it is just because I am a modern human female creature and so naturally, my brain will force something modern onto something that’s not. Or perhaps it’s just the nature of folktales. I suppose I will see.

I always took folktales as stories which mean to teach something, not quite parables or fables, but as a vehicle for understanding (a lot of folktales deal with death, for example – more on that in a later entry) but this one doesn’t. This one is just a little jaunt with an incredibly abrupt ending. We never do find out what that door is about. I am definitely going to have to read a few more Irish folktales to see if this abrupt ending is a trend or whether it’s just this story.

It got me hooked, that’s for sure.

Have you read ‘The Dream House’? What did you think of it, if so? Is there a theme of abrupt endings in Irish folklore? We will find out. But not next week, next week I am sharing a film I love (which also happens to be Irish).

Happy Thursday!

#FolkoreThursday: Books I Want to Read

Greetings bloglings. We made it! We are in the second post. Folklore Thursday posts are officially a thing. Pat on the back for me. And for you for reading them.

Today, I’m going to share some of the folklore and fairy tale inspired books that I would really like to read. At least one of these is sat on the desk behind me so I will be reading it very soon. Hoorah! Anyway, without further ado, a list:

1. The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

30052003Look at the cover. Just look at it. It is beautiful and wonderful and I wanted to read it for that. Then I read about it. Now I own it. It is only a matter of time. It’s described as a Victorian murder mystery, delving into folktale and superstition. The title is drawn from the Icelandic Huldufólk, from what I gather they are elves of some description. Having never looked into Icelandic folklore, I am intrigued.

I am unsure what to expect from it, not knowing anything much about Icelandic culture, or even whether it takes place in Iceland, maybe it doesn’t. I will be going into this one blind and that’s fine by me. Come at me, Victorian murder mystery. I am ready!

2. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

30809689It’s a new book by Neil Gaiman. Of course I want to read it. I already know that Gaiman is an exceptional author and that he knows how to handle his mythology so I am expecting great things from this book. I’ve never been disappointed by his work so I am almost completely certain that I am going to love it and I want it to fall from the sky into my waiting hands. Right about now. Any minute now.

No? Ah well, it was worth a try.

I’ve seen a couple of early reviews and from what I gather, it’s been well-received by those lucky few who have read it already. I am jealous. Incredibly jealous.

3. The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente

17694319Yes. It is possible that every single Folklore Thursday post might mention Valente several times. I am not even nearly sorry.

Unfortunately, I am almost certain that I will never get to read this book. It is notoriously hard to track down and when you track it down, it is often incredibly expensive. Cue long sigh. I can dream. And what a wonderful dream it would be.

There is always some hint of folklore in a Valente work. I could probably list every book of hers I’ve not read here and they would all be valid (spoiler alert: there is another Valente book on this list).

4. The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

21075386I am behind the times with this one. It came out a while ago and it has been on my wishlist since then. I just haven’t got round to buying it, and it’s not yet been bought for me by those in possession of my list (for birthday and Christmas purposes, I don’t force my loved ones to by me books – but if I could…). At least, I don’t think it has. I am doubting myself now.

I was mostly drawn to this book because it’s not about humans. It’s about very established mythological beings and I’ve never read a book from the perspective of a golem nor a djinni – heck, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book about a golem or a djinni. I really need to get a wiggle on with it.

5. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

28220892Russian folklore again gimme! (See my last Folklore Thursday post for context.) Vassa in the Night is set in modern day Brooklyn but promises all of the magic and wonder of the folklore it is based on. I want it and I want it now.

I’ve seen it described as quirky, nonsensical and whimsical – three words which just make me more excited. I love a bit of whimsy and a bit of nonsense and the quirkier the read the better. I think this book and I will get on a treat.

I’m intrigued to see how the folklore fits in with modern day Brooklyn, I’d’ve never thought to mesh the two together. I hope it lives up to the magical impression of it that I have so far.

6. Myths of Origin by Catherynne M. Valente

12180219I love a good origin myth, I love it even more when they are well-written, well thought out and completely believable. I know Valente is capable of delivering this so there is no doubt in my mind that these are going to be incredible. Again, it’s an old book but who said these lists had to be new?

Honestly, if I could live in Valente’s books, I would. She’s a poem in human form and I am pretty sure she’s in possession of magic. There is no other explanation. She has to be otherworldly.

Whether she is or she isn’t, she’s definitely talented and for that I am ever thankful.

So those are six books I want to read, which all have at least something to do with folklore, mythology and fairy tales.

Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Will like them? Will I love them? Will I be swallowed whole by a sudden gap in space and time? Who knows. Not me.

Happy Thursday.