#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!

#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!

#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!