I recently finished a novella inspired from my initial research for my latest novel draft Ragnarok Dreaming into Norse mythology and Australian Aboriginal legends. On the surface, there might seem little in common between the Viking legends and those of the oldest continuous culture on the planet. The purpose of the novella was not to re-tell any stories or legends, because these are not my ancestry nor mine to tell, instead, I wanted to explore the common elements shared between them. The themes that unite all humanity across time and place. In this, I was drawn as I often am, to the fascinating Trickster figures in legends and stories throughout the world. In Norse mythology, Loki is the Trickster figure and protagonist of the novella relocated into a cosmos inspired by Australian dreaming stories. The Trickster figure who aids Loki is Wahn, the Crow in many Aboriginal legends. The novella was a re-imagining of the parallels and opposites in legends and myth, expanding on what was interesting research for Ragnarok Dreaming.
I am pleased to announce another forthcoming publication with news my short story “A Handful of Dead Leaves” will feature in the Greed (#5, Seven Deadly Sins) series by Black Hare Press. Like all the stories in this anthology, Greed is the central theme with my story exploring the darker side of leprechaun folklore where securing good fortune is always double-edged. You can read more about the research for this story here.
Stay tuned for an update on the release date and for how to purchase this dark speculative fiction anthology!
Uprooted by US author Naomi Novik explores the author’s polish heritage through vibrant folklore in this Fantasy novel.
Although Uprooted began like many fairytale retellings with a naive village girl from a rural village, who is taken by the Dragon and trapped in a tower. This is the basic synopsis of Uprooted but the story is significantly more than that. The villages of the valley ordinarily offer an exceptional young woman from their villages as tribute to the Dragon, who is actually a wizard, and the tower is his stronghold.
In Uprooted, Agnieszka is unexpectedly taken by the Dragon when she is chosen instead of her friend Kasia, the likely candidate. But Agnieszka unknowingly possesses a unique magic of her own, the type and depth which even the Dragon, the strongest wizard in the realm finds difficult to understand. As Agnieszka begins to learn how to handle her magic, she begins to find Sarkin (the Dragon) not as remote or indifferent as she once thought. Along with this, Agnieszka begins to understand how the valley she grew up in, lies within a shadow of a much larger and darker force than Sarkin. The burden of Sarkin’s position was more than life in the tower, standing sentinel against the real enemy, the Wood. For as the Wood grows closer to the capital city, a corruption leeching from it that destroys everything it touches, consuming the humanity to leaving only darkness and rage behind in a humanoid husk. Sarkin and Agnieszka soon find themselves united in a battle to save their country and the heirs to the throne, both from their own family and the Wood. Although Agnieszka‘s own magic is very strong, she is untrained and her power so unfamiliar to the other wizards that it is baffling to all but Sarkin who manages to work with her, blending her wilder magic sourced from the wandering wood-witch, Baba-Yaga, with his own, organised formulas. In the end, Agnieszka is able to find ways to understand that how the corruption of the Wood spreads from a single source, but her and Sarkin must choose to purge or destroy the source of corruption if they hope to vanquish the Wood and free the country from its grasp.
Uprooted was a rich and wonderful tale of magic and transformation. I enjoyed the detailed folklore and historical depth to the novel which made the characters both unique and fitting for the style of a fairytale retelling. A highly recommended read!
The best-selling US author Naomi Novik returns to her Polish heritage in a retelling of Slavic folktales. In Spinning Silver, Miryem is the granddaughter of a prominent Jewish moneylender in the city of Vysnia. In a small village outside Vysnia, Miryem’s father is poorly suited to his position as a moneylender, with his own family living in poverty while the villagers he lends money, live without fear of repayment. When Miryem takes control of money-lending, she hardens her heart to the pleas of her community and soon regains the wealth her own family should have possessed. Myriem’s growing reputation as a moneylender and her bold statement to turn silver into gold brings her to the attention of the Staryk, figures from Slavic folklore hunting the winter woods with desire for gold. Myriem is soon taken by the Staryk king where her words become a magic truth. Incorporated into Myriem’s tale is that of Irina, daughter of a minor duke and unintentionally embroiled in Myriem’s attempts to placate the Staryk king. Irina’s father pays Myriem gold for Irina’s jewellery made from Staryk silver. Irina’s jewellery contains a magical enchantment which captivates the Mirnatius, the young Tsar who soon marries Irina. Soon Irina confronts a hidden, dark menace lurking within Mirnatius and Myriem must choose between a known safety and an uncertain future. Interwoven with the stories of Myriem and Irina, is that of Wanda and her poverty-stricken family who become loyal servants and Myriem’s friends.
Spinning Silver is a skilful retelling of Slavic folktale and traditional lore where battles between good and evil require sacrifices extracting a high cost from those involved. Spinning Silver maintains the fable-like quality in the retelling where all life-lessons offer benefit, not without risk and always requiring a cost.
Idunn is a Norse goddess, the guardian of a sacred fruit that provides immortality to the Aesir. There are several accounts of Idunn in the Prose Edda where she is often described as possessing child-like trust, giving her a sense of naivety. The first account of Idunn is in the Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda, where Idunn is referred to as the wife of Bragi, a god skilled in poetry and knowledge. Here, it mentions Idunn keeps the sacred fruit of the Aesir within a carved wooden box. Every day until the final battle of Ragnarok, the Aesir must eat these apples to remain youthful (although, apples arrived late to Iceland and more likely these were tree nuts, similar to Irish lore). In a later section of the Prose Edda, the Skaldskaparmal, a retelling of a legend about a bargain struck between Loki and the powerful frost giant, Thjazi. Loki promises to lure Idunn and the fruit away from Asgard. In bringing Idunn to Thjazi, the giant takes her to his fortress Thrymheim. During Idunn’s absence and, without the daily renewal of their youth, the Aesir quickly weaken and age. The Aesir question Loki over Idunn’s disappearance and Loki bargains to retrieve Idunn if Freyja gifts him the magic to change form into a falcon. After agreement, Loki flies to Thrymheim during Thjazi’s absence. Finding Idunn alone, Loki changes her into a nut before flying back to Asgard with Idunn in his talons. The Aesir see Thjazi in pursuit of Loki, the giant guised as an eagle. Quickly, the Aesir light a large fire with barely enough time for Loki to return safely into the Asgard fortress. Following closely behind Loki, Thjazi is unable to safely land and still in eagle-form, is burned by the flames and killed by the Aesir.
The anthology Coming to Light was originally published in 1996 and edited by respected academic Brian Swann. The collected literature comprise translated oral tales, songs and poems sourced from numerous Amerindian cultural traditions throughout Canada and the United States. The anthology provides an introductory note by at least one academic or respected source detailing and explaining the historical, cultural and linguistic context of each literature item and thus, allowing insight to better understand each tale. The translations are honest and, without attempted re-fashioning by the translator, each piece is has the sensation that it is told directly to the reader as if by the original orator first-hand. The literature collected within the anthology covers an immense span of style from creation mythologies and stories to cautionary fables of legendary figures and events, tales of heroes and monsters always combined with tasks and tests of moral character.
Coming to Light is an invaluable resource for academic, literature or anthropological pursuit, providing all audiences with a way to appreciate the richness of traditional Amerindian oral traditions.