#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!

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#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.

#FolkloreThursday Favourites: Retellings and Folklore-based books

I’ve been following the Folklore Thursday tag on Twitter for a while and it has only just now occurred to me that perhaps I should do some Folklore Thursday happenings on my blog. I am not sure how this managed to pass me by for so long but pass me by it did.

No longer! I am going to try for an interesting folkloric/fairy tale-esque post every week. It’ll give me more excuses to read folklore, so I am excited.

For my first foray into the world of Folklore Thursday, I am going to share some of my favourite retellings and books based heavily on folklore.  Hoorah.

1. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

9781472108685Oh my goodness. I am still not over this book. If you’ve been lurking in this corner of the internet for a while, you already know how much I love this book.

It tells the tale of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, and it is probably my favourite book. It is the book that made me interested in Russian/Slavic folklore and mythology (an interest which is very much bubbling at the moment). It is lyrical and beautiful and dark and painful, and I will never get over it. Ever.

I will always recommend this book, it is the first book I mention whenever someone needs something to read.

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

4407If you’ve not heard of this book before: 1. How? 2. Look it up, look it up right now.

American Gods is fantastic. So fantastic that it will soon be a TV show. I am eager. I’m not sure whether I will actually be able to watch it from my little flat in the West Midlands but I am eager.

Unlike DeathlessAmerican Gods does not just focus on one particular country’s mythology. It has everything, it even creates new things. New gods. New gods which make me want to squeeze them until they break. Ahem. Bit scary there, sorry about that. It’s a jaunt through many mythologies and comes highly recommended.

3. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

276750I discovered this book in college, I think. Someone had found it or been reading it and was outraged by the dark, dark story ‘The Snow-Child’. Of course, I had to read it for myself and then I had to buy the book.

Again, this collection draws from a lot of different places and isn’t just a collection of retellings of tales I was familiar with. My favourite stories are: ‘The Bloody Chamber’ from which the collection gets its name, which tackles the story of Bluebeard; and ‘The Erl-King’, a story featuring a figure from Danish and German folklore, who I’ve been interested in since discovering a wonderfully dark piece of Labyrinth fan fiction which uses the tale as its inspiration. If you like a bit of darkness, give both the Carter and the fan fiction a read.

4. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

24886019Of course, of course, there is another Valente book on here. How could there not be? She just has so many greats to choose from! This book is gorgeous, both in the writing and in the illustrations by Charlie Bowater. I have long loved her work and was so happy to discover that it would be paired with Valente’s writing.

Six-Gun Snow White is a Western take on, you guessed it, Snow white and it’s a take only Valente could think up. I adore it. It’s a quick read, I discovered it last year and I am pretty sure I devoured it in one sitting.  It’s a wonderful twist on the tale and is just as very enjoyable experience all round. Plus, the hardback is beautiful.

5. The Book of Lost Things  by John Connolly

69136I’ve mentioned this book briefly on the blog before. It’s lovely. Aimed at younger readers, it includes a number of different fairy tales as well as a few little things of its own. Definitely one I intend to read to any potential future children I might end up having.

My love for this book also comes from my experience of it. My copy is delightfully deformed. The book block has been put into the hardcover upside down and back to front. I wouldn’t have noticed if not for the fact that I like to look under the jacket. Much to my amusement, I found the embossed cover upside down on the back of the book. It just seemed to suit the novel so well that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

6. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25493853The most recent read of this list, The Bear and the Nightingale is another book based in Russian folklore. I will be posting a full review in the near future so won’t say too much here. I will say that as soon as I saw the cover of this book that I needed it. I didn’t even know what it was about at that point but I needed it. Just look at it, it’s beautiful.

It draws on folklore that I hadn’t yet discovered, which made me deliriously happy and has a wonderful way about it, which I will talk more about in my review.

I know a lot of people had been excitedly anticipating this book until its release on January 12th – it was worth it.

So there you have it. Six of my favourites. I’m always on the look out for more books of this ilk so please do tell me your favourites in the comments – recommend some books! All of the books! I may have a mighty TBR pile but there is always room for more.

Tune in next week (we hope) for a list of books I want to read, and the week after (we hope even more fiercely) for something that isn’t a list.

Have a lovely Thursday!

Review: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

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A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya’s fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace – only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

I have been sat on this review for a while. I wasn’t quite sure how to put how much I loved this book into words. I think the best way is to tell you that after I finished reading it, I bought it for my best friend. I not only wanted her to read it, I wanted her to own it. And now she does.

Catherynne M. Valente has steadily grown to be my favourite author alongside Neil Gaiman and it is in a big way because of this book (as well as her Fairyland series and Palimpsest). Valente is a poet, her work is always very lyrical and inspiring. It is as much her use of language as the stories she tells that makes me love her work so much. It’s so rich and fulfilling, it’s very hard not to feel satisfied while reading her work.

Deathless tells the tale of Marya Morevna, a figure from Russian folklore, and Koschei the Deathless. I love folklore and it is clear that Valente does too, she weaves it together in a way which seems completely natural. Without prior knowledge of Russian mythology, it might take some Googling in some places where Russian terms aren’t explained but it is well worth it.

Valente employs repetition, as you might find in old fairy tales, to great effect. My favourite parts of the novel were those which were familiar. It really added to the magic of the novel. Again, she is very poetic and it’s incredibly satisfying.

The characters were compelling and while I didn’t always like them, I always cared about them. It’s hard to choose a favourite but I did particularly enjoy the domovoye (which, as I do not have the book on me, I may have spelt wrong). It has quite a large cast but that is not to the book’s detriment, in fact, it’s something I really enjoyed about it. I liked getting to know all of the different characters and creatures even if they did hurt my heart.

This book tugged at my heart and is still tugging even though it’s been a while since I finished reading it. I would definitely recommend buying it. It currently lives beside my bed and I don’t see it moving any time soon.

Major Project Musings: Folklore (and a rediscovery of reading)

Since writing my last post, I have now finished The Night Circus and succumbed and read Insurgent too (yes, I read fiction absurdly fast even if it is just on bus journeys* to and from OICPS and Berghahn Books, where I intern – the book was wonderful, by the way) and am now researching for possibilities for my Major Project. For those among anyone reading who might be OICPS students, I had an epiphany while trying to sleep a few nights ago – do not panic, I am pretty sure we don’t need to be planning yet; thinking, probably.

Without having emailed one of my lecturers, I would not be doing what I am doing right now. It would not have entered my mind. I am so glad I sent that email and I am so glad I got the response that I did.** Currently, around writing this blog post, I am immersing myself in Folklore, something which I have always been interested in but have never really delved into properly; I have never really explored many cultures.

I am currently asking myself why. The stories I have discovered this evening are brilliant, and so very different from the ones I am accustomed to even though they do all have the same basic archetypes hidden beneath them. I could go into some lengthy analysis and bow and scrape about how wonderful they are but I promised myself this would be a short blog post so there will be more on folklore, mythology, legends and the cultures they come from later, as the project progresses should I chose to go down this route. (I probably will; it’s this or Lord Dusany, I am almost certain – even if it is completely different to the idea I envisioned earlier.) There shall be no gushing today.

There is something I have learned, over the past few weeks of reading while I travel: I have missed reading and I am so glad to have made it a regular part of my life again instead of doing snatches of reading in the small moments I could steal away from other activities (read: internships, university and etc).

Bring me words.

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* I spend around 6 and 3/4 hours on buses every week.
** Vague and unhelpful, I know.