#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!

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#FolkloreThursday: Four Favourite Fables

Greetings, gremlins. We are back to our Folklore Thursday schedule with a list post! I mentioned in my interlude that I wanted to write a list but didn’t know which list to write. I’m not sure how I decided on fables but decide I did and now here we are with a post. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it? (I jest.)

In my modern fiction (‘modern’ here meaning written in recent years rather than being based in recent times), I tend to shy away from moralising. There are few books that moralise in a way that doesn’t make me want to slam my head into the nearest wall (Wonder by R.J. Palacio is probably the most successful that I have read, but I do shrink back from the idea of it ‘teaching society a lesson’). That isn’t to say that I think books can’t lead towards societal change, they can, I just object to books (and authors) who make that their book’s primary goal. It always seems forced and disingenuous, I much prefer it to happen organically. If that’s the message readers take from the book, great! If it’s shoved down the reader’s throat so that they have no choice but to swallow it, that’s not even in the same hemisphere as fantastic.

Heck, I’m probably against moralising in classics too aside from the fact that I don’t really read them. Folklore, mythology, fables? Come at me. Dickens? Go away, far away. Leave now, and never come back. (There are exceptions, Wuthering Heights and anything by Lewis Carroll being the main ones.)

One of my lingering memories of my early school life is learning about fables (often paired with parables, which would explain why, for quite a while, I thought fables were religious metaphors despite the fact that they, for the most part, originated in Ancient Greece – thanks, Primary School, for that misconception). The Tortoise and the Hare was the obvious feature, there were others but I don’t remember what they were. Alongside the learning about them, we were also asked to write our own. My crude, childish ramblings would have been, I’m positive, about rabbits – if we still have my school books at my parents’ house, I might seek them out and see what moral lessons little!Elou thought needed to be learnt and spread via the medium of probably-brown bunnies.

The fables listed below are not in their original phrasing, if you would like to see them in some of the older forms (there are so many different translations that I wouldn’t know where to start to find the most accurate translation out there), I recommend a trip to Project Gutenberg, which is one of my favourite resources on the internet.

1. The Fox and the Mask

100The Fox and the Mask is one of those little fables that stick with you. Or, it sticks with me anyway and not entirely for the best reason.

The fox, when rummaging around in the belongings of an actor, finds a mask and thinks that it is very beautiful, but laments its lack of sense as this, to the wily fox, makes the beautiful mask worthless.

The overall take-home being ‘what use is beauty without brains?’

I am almost certain that this fable has been used by some male scholar somewhere to prove the hypothesis that pretty women cannot be intelligent (a view that is dangerously taken into some young adult literature, where the popular, pretty girl is painted as stupid and the super special protagonist with all of her book smarts feels superior because of it – this fable is not without its problems).

It’s not the message that appeals to me in this case but the imagery. I love the idea of a fox rooting around and being fascinated by a theatre mask.

2. The Old Man and Death

0133-old-man-deathProbably one of the more famous fables (after The Tortoise and the Hare), The Old Man and Death is a story that I didn’t actually know came from Aesop for the longest time. I love the way the title sounds, I adore literature that involves death as a character (I touched on this in the briefest sense here but I think I might write an entire post about it, or series of posts about death in popular culture… we shall see). I love the way the title sounds, it’s a very pleasant title to roll off the tongue (I prefer it to the alternative used for some translations, The Poor Man and Death).

The story goes thus: a weak old man is gathering (or carrying) a bundle of sticks, and under the weight of the burden the old man falls to the ground. He calls upon Death to come and end his woes because he is too old and too weak to deal with them anymore, but when Death arrives the old man grows frightened and decides he wants a little more time, claiming that he only called upon Death to help him shoulder his burden so that he might be free to go about his business.

The old man has been described as ‘taking liberties’ with Death and I love that, I love the idea of a character dramatically calling on Death to end their suffering on multiple occasions, each time deciding that actually dropping a pile of sticks is probably not a good enough reason to die. Very sorry, Death. Please continue your reaping elsewhere, no reaping needed here. No, sir.

3. The Travellers and the Bear

THE-TRAVELLERS-AND-THE-BEAR-1-q6812This is one of those fables which I should have paid more attention to long before I did. Most fables, I like because of the imagery but this one, I enjoy because of the hard-learned lesson it presents. (That said, I do also enjoy bears.)

Two travellers walk among a forest when suddenly a bear comes upon them. Despite having agreed to protect each other one of the travellers, thinking only of himself, scambles up a tree and out of the way, leaving the other on the ground. The second traveller lies still, pretending to be dead and lets the bear sniff him, believing the common assumption that bears will not eat dead meat.

When the bear leaves, the first traveller descends from the tree and, with a laugh, asks his companion what the bear said to him. The second traveller replies that the bear had given him good advice, and warned him not to trust those who would leave him to save their own skin.

Essentially it presents a test of true friendship where, if the first traveller were a true friend to the second, he would not have left him to die at the paws and jaws of the bear. When things get tough, friends don’t look first to protect themselves.

It’s not a perfect message, everyone is selfish, no matter how good a friend they are. In the context of someone’s life, it might not be a betrayal to abandon you to a bear, but something they have to do for any number of good reasons. (The bear metaphor is pretty thin here, I can’t think of a good reason to essentially feed someone to a bear but you get the idea.)

4. The Moon and her Mother

moon-and-motherI’ve saved the best for last. This is my favourite of all of the fables I have ever read and I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon. This is one of those rare tales where I like both the imagery and the moral.

It is a simple story, consisting only of this:

The moon once asked her mother if she might make her a gown.

“How can I?” her mother replied, “Sometimes you’re a New Moon, and other times you’re a Full Moon, and between the two you’re neither full nor new. There’s no gown I could make that would fit all of you.”

The traditional moral is that if you’re always changing, nothing will fit. No one will know who you are and neither will you. Or, if you’re always changing you will never get what you really want. Or alternatively, don’t commit to something you cannot keep to.

I take it to mean all of those things and something different (I alternate) but this is my preferred moral and the moral I will always think of first: there is no gown that is big enough for all that you are. You are so big and complex and detailed that there is no one thing that can epitomise everything about you, and yes, you will change but you will also always be the same; the moon is still the moon even when it’s in its different phases.

When I feel like my skin doesn’t quite fit, I think of The Moon and her Mother and I feel a little bit better.


So there you have it, four of my favourite fables on this very changeable Thursday. (I was going to say gloomy because it was raining but the weather seems to be having an identity crisis. We’ve had blazing sunshine, rain, wind, snow, hail, everything short of storm.)

Do you have any favourite fables? Do you take away different messages than I do? Have you ever made up your own, if so, what was it?

Happy Thursday!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 20

I remember the first time I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I came to it quite late (Season 6 was on TV by the time I managed to catch it). I was 9 or 10, I think, and one of my friends really wanted to show me the musical episode (her family made me a bacon sandwich, they slathered it with butter but I was too awkward to tell them that butter made me sick to my stomach so I muddled through). I remember her trying to get me to sing parts even though I had never seen it before (the result was not pretty) but from then I was hooked.

I would retreat up to my bedroom or my parents’ bedroom before I got a TV for all to myself to watch episodes as they came onto BBC 2. Shortly after I found myself falling in love with Season 6, BBC 2 started playing earlier episodes, I think on Sundays. Whenever I went out I would beg my mum to record the episodes I would be missing for me. (I think I still have my home-recorded versions of Becoming (parts 1 and 2) stashed on a shelf in my childhood bedroom. Eventually, getting fed up of having to record things for me all the time, my parents got me the video box sets for my birthdays and Christmases. I now need to get a DVD box set, as they changed the design when I was half-way through replacing my videos (the shame). It is from there that I found Charmed, and Dark Angel, and fell in love with supernatural fantasy and sci-fi dramas, and later paranormal fiction.

When I think back, so many of my interests now are directly related to discovering that show. Obviously, I couldn’t let the 20th anniversary pass me by without creating a post devoted to my favourite series. I couldn’t decide what to focus on so this will be a mixed bag of favourite episodes, favourite characters and anything else I haven’t yet thought of but will inevitably end up including. I hope you enjoy my lovey, gushy nostalgia.

Favourite Characters

There are so many great characters in Buffy but these three are characters that have always stuck out to me for one reason or another. That’s not to say I don’t love any of the others, I do, they all have their own little sections of my heart. I don’t think there’s a single character that I thought the show could have done without. Good job.

1. Willow Rosenberg

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There has never been a day when Willow was not my favourite. I adore Willow, from nerdy Willow to scary veiny Willow. I think Willow probably had the biggest journey of any character in the show, she is so different in the last episode from the shy, meek little girl we see in the first. She goes through addiction and comes out the other side, she learns to appreciate herself for herself rather than what others think of her, and she becomes so very powerful in the process. (Willow is also part of my two favourite relationships in the entire show so there’s that.)

2. Daniel “Oz” Osbourne

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How could Oz not be on this list? Everything that came out of his mouth was golden. I would love to have even an ounce of Oz’s chill. There is also the matter of Oz and Willow to consider, the amount of love and care he showed towards her, and the ‘Who is that girl?’ moments, before they were officially a thing, stole my tiny heart. Oz is possibly my favourite male character from any show ever. Possibly.

3. Spike

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Spike has made some bad decisions and done some incredibly questionable things (even when he was ‘good’) but I am a sucker for an only-sort-of-if-they-have-to hero. I am not ashamed to say that I have a drinking glass with Spike on it which I still use to this day. I do not condone most of his actions but that doesn’t make him a bad character – it just makes him a mostly bad person (with little hints of goodness here and there).

Drusilla deserves a special mention here because I adore her too. My mad little darling.

Favourite Monsters

I am not counting Big Bads in this section. Other than Dark Willow, I don’t actually have a favourite Big Bad, they were all enjoyable. Warren is arguably the most terrifying because he is real. He is a real thing, a real thing that happens on a regular basis. ThoughtCatalog have a really good article on this, you should read it.

But the little monsters? Yes, I definitely have favourites.

1. Gnarl (Same Time, Same Place – Season 7)

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Gnarl was creepy as hell, his childlike, sing-song way of speaking combined with the slow, painful death he inflicts on his victims (and later Willow, though luckily Buffy gets there and slays him before he can do any fatal damage) is possibly one of the most creepy things that happened in Buffy. It’s an episode I revisit quite a lot, though while Gnarl is incredibly creepy, he is also oddly compelling.

2. Gachnar (Fear, Itself – Season 4)

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In the words of Xander, who’s a little fear demon? Gachnar is ridiculous. The whole episode sets up for something that could be truly terrifying and we get Gachnar. That’s one of the things I love most about Buffy, so often Whedon makes you expect something and then throws something completely different at you – it was never predictable beyond its general premise.

3. Der Kindestod (Killed by Death – Season 2)

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This one freaked me out. It still freaks me out. It’s the face. THE FACE. I do love that he’s wearing a hat though, that’s a nice touch.

Special mention here goes to the Gentlemen from Hush. More on that later.

Favourite Episodes

This was incredibly difficult, as I was determined to stick to three (and a special mention) for every section. My choices are predictable, which only goes to show how good those episodes were. Imagine picking your favourite three puppies of 144 incredibly cute, wobbly little puppy faces – that’s what this decision was like… only scarier.

1. Hush (Season 4)

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Obvious answer number one. But come on? An almost word-less episode which still manages humour and is exceptionally creepy to boot? This episode still scares me.  Tall floating men who do nothing with their face but smile? Eek. Screaming without screaming? Not something I would ever want to happen. If I am screaming, I want people to know about it. It’s so different from every other episode and yet it fits into the narrative perfectly. It definitely showcases the often-forgotten score. I love scores so it was great for me to find an episode which really appreciated its background music (or would it be foreground music in this case?). It’s just an all-round fantastic piece of television.

2. The Body (Season 5)

Excuse me while my heart shatters into a million pieces. This episode was another bold decision from Whedon, no background music, moments with no speech, no monsters to speak of – only death. This episode stands out to me for many reasons but the main one is this:

It’s so heartbreaking and powerful and so apt. Joss Whedon, I tip my hat to you.

3. Once More With Feeling (Season 6)

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This is me, is there any chance I am not including the musical episode on this list? No. No, there is not. It was the first episode I ever watched so it has a special place in my heart for introducing me to the series but it also has singing. I love singing. Despite the revelation at the end, it’s a happy episode. I enjoy it, it gives me nice tummy feelings.

My last special mention goes to both Halloween (Season 2) and Fear, Itself (Season 4) – both Halloween episodes. Other than the three listed above, these are two of my most watched episodes (Becoming part 1 and 2 are also up there). Halloween themed episodes of anything are fab and Buffy is no exception. (Though, Season 6’s Halloween episode left a lot to be desired – it being the episode before Once More With Feeling only served to make the musical stand out more, so I can forgive it.)

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Happy Birthday, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – thank you for being one of the constants in my life. You are truly wonderful.

Did you ever watch Buffy? Did you love it? If you haven’t watched it, why not? I’m curious.

#FolkloreThursday: Mythical items I would love to own

Hi, all. Welcome to another Folklore Thursday post. I love these posts.

This week I’ve been looking up items from myth and folklore that I would love to own, either because they just sound really cool or they would help me in life. I present this list to you for your enjoyment.

1. Valshamr, Freyja’s Falcon Cloak (Norse)

Who wouldn’t want a cloak that allowed them to turn into a Falcon and fly? I’ve always had this whimsical dream that if I ended up in a fantasy novel/world, I would end up being a falconer (who just so happens to be a witch) so having a cloak which would allow me to turn into a falcon seems like a good alternative.

2. Senji Ryakketsu (Japanese)

Senji Ryakketsu is a book from the Heian period of Japan, it contains useful divinations for things like finding lost things and how to go about life. I am pretty sure everyone could do with having a copy. I definitely would. If it could tell me where half of the things I own are, I would be very appreciative.

3. The Crock and Dish of Rhygenydd Ysgolhaig (Welsh)

One of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain from Medieval Welsh folklore, the Crock and Dish is one of my favourite mythological items. Whatever food you might want to have appears in the Crock and Dish. I love food. I would love to have whatever food I wanted on tap. I would probably get incredibly fat but for the sake of having pancakes ready and waiting whenever I might want to eat them, I think I could handle it.

4. The Chariot of Morgan Mwynfawr (Welsh)

Another one of the Thirteen Treasures, Morgan Mwynfawr’s Chariot will take the rider wherever they wish to go, there is no location it cannot reach. No more paying for planes, trains, taxis, petrol. No more getting lost unless you wanted to. It’s perfect.

5. The Sandman’s Sand (Scandinavian/European)

Sand which, when sprinkled on the eyelids, brings good dreams. It just seems like a sweet thing to have access to.

6. Skatert-Samobranka (Russian)

A magic tablecloth! Ignoring the fact that if you say magic words, all of the food and drink you like will appear because we already have the Crock and Dish for that, the magic tablecloth gets rid of crumbs and plates and mess. I am not a fan of washing up so this sounds like the ideal item for me.

So, there you have it. My somewhat silly choices. I would like to think that most of them are practical.

If you could have any item from mythology or folklore, what would you choose and why? Do you approve of my choices? Have I squandered away all my chances at glory by picking things which will enable me to be lazy? You decide. Let me know in the comments if you are so inclined.

Happy Thursday!