research

Iceland’s Yule Trolls

In Icelandic tradition, the Yule lads are thirteen trolls who arrive, one one each of the 13 days before Christmas then depart in the order they arrived, on the subsequent days following Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the troll witch Gryla, leaves the mountains to enter the city, seeking any children who had been ill-behaved or were without the protection of their parents. These she would take back to her mountain dwelling, cook them into a stew for her lazy troll husband.


The thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads are names for the acts they are most famously known for, often tormenting human communities. More can be found at the Smithsonian Magazine here.

Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds
Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans
Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
Pot Scraper: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)
Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb

Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland


Since 1746, the Yule lads became less scary, depicted as mischievous, trickster characters illustrated as jolly ‘Santa Claus-like figures’ who left gifts for the well-behaved children in their shoes and potatoes for the ill-behaved ones. In earlier times, the Yule lads were emaciated and clothed in rags. There is a current movement in Iceland to return the Yule lads to their more traditional vagabond nature, the desperate orphans who accompanied Gryla.

Short Stories

The Wendigo & Psychological Horror

Another of my recent work-in-progress short fiction pieces, has been a psychological horror story inspired by wendigo psychosis an unusual form of ‘cultural psychosis’ specific to First Nations peoples of Canadian-North American Great Lakes regions where belief in a supernatural being, the wendigo, provides a unique cultural framework for a psychosis. This psychosis has specific disease symptoms which like the cultural belief – is unique – and found nowhere else in the world.

What is a wendigo then? It is a legendary being originating from northern Algonquian First Nations oral folktales and legends (recently popularised in supernatural fiction and movies), described in varying ways but, almost always, as a ravenous cannibalistic monster with an insatiable hunger. Historically, the First Nations peoples including the Algonquian, Cree and Ojibwa attributed wendigo possession to those driven mad in the harsh winter months of isolation and deprivation who resorted to cannibalism, often without a famine present.

In this short story, I was interested to take wendigo folklore and wendigo psychosis deliberately outside its necessary cultural context to explore the shadowy boundary between reality and insanity, and the inherent horror of uncertainty: a human monster or monstrous possession? This story was written through a single character’s point of view, exploring the darker, unintentional psychological motivations of a declining mental state and attempts to rationalise violent, aberrant behaviour.

Short Stories

Magicians, Curses and Egyptology

I’ve become fascinated by the Gaslamp fantasy subgenre lately and decided to explore it a little further in another short fiction piece, this time set in an alternate Victorian-era Dublin. The Victorian era saw the expansion of the British Empire into more countries and with it, an expansion of the arts and sciences. Coinciding with the expanding interest and enlightenment of the literature and sciences, the pre-Raphaelites, the social movement of collected artists, poets and some writers inspired by a more utopian ideal that was a counterbalance to the more confining and conservative values of the Victorian era. The development of the Industrialisation and the increasing commercialism of many once-family or artisan craftsmanship was another opposing point to the pre-Raphaelite movement and desire to escape social oppression of the increasing Industrialised era. For the Sciences, the Victorian era saw an expansion of the natural and mathematical sciences which blossomed under the Enlightenment period, the challenging evolutionary theories of Darwin and the engineering developments famous under Industrialisation being just some of the social and intellectual expansions during the Victorian age. An interest in other cultures and histories also followed with the expanding British Empire bringing the cultures of the colonies into close contact with those of Britain. Archaeology became a strong interest with Ancient Egypt a particular fascination for the Victorians.

In the recent story, I have explored some of those pre-Raphaelite social movements and the Victorian conservative social values through an alternate Dublin, the social inequalities experienced by several LGBTQI characters. The Victorian interest in Ancient Egyptian archaeology and history (Egyptology) also coincided with the development of a considerable fraudulent artefact trade alongside a trade in the more genuine artefacts. Inspired by the popular ‘urban myth’ of 1922 and the curse of pharaoh Tutankhamen tomb, I incorporate the Ancient Egyptian goddess Serket, symbolised by a scorpion, her prominence in death rituals and favoured by poisoners and assassins. The Gaslamp fantasy elements in this story include a secretive Dublin magician and a death curse. It has been a delight to write and I hope to explore some more Gaslamp fantasy stories next year.

Short Stories

Liminal world of Inuit folklore

I have been writing a new short fiction work inspired by the liminal folklore in some Inuit cultures. The liminal folklore I was interested to explore are closely linked to the harsh environment of northern Canada, from the permafrost and sea ice, where the risks from exposure and isolation are very real. The First Nations are the indigenous peoples of Canada and the Inuit “the People” occupy the traditional northernmost lands- called Inuit Nunangat, encompassing the northwest territories, northern Labrador and northern Quebec, consisting of 35% of Canada’s landmass and 50% of the coastline. To the Inuit, the land, water and ice are vital parts of the whole.

In a landscape of treacherous sea ice, blizzards and permafrost, traditional stories are told throughout generations to provide warnings for the dangers in disobeying laws and customs which are often closely tied to the history and landscape. There are several different beings in Inuit folklore that prey upon those who stray from the camp, children who become lost and the disorientating danger of the permafrost. Among these are the Taqriaqsuit or the “shadow people”, beings who are invisible or half-seen, who are heard but not seen but where a veil must be crossed between our world and their own. Beings also exist beneath the the sea ice, the Qallupilluk are child-snatchers who prey on children who stray too close to the dangerous frozen waterways and pack ice.

My latest short fiction work has been an interesting endeavour to explore unforgiving natural environments and internal psychological upheaval where the liminal world of the Taqriaqsuit and the Qallupilluk merges with the eerie north Canadian landscape and half-seen beings of folklore become a new reality.

Short Stories

Dystopian Apocalyptic Fiction

Recently, I’ve finished writing a short story that was originally a novelette written for the Higher School Certificate Extension II English course when I was seventeen. Topical for 2020, the story is set in the near future, after the collapse of global nations, a Third World War and climate disasters. Speculative fiction at its core, a volatile figure, the veteran warrior and vampire suffering from post-traumatic stress holds the answers to reuniting two siblings who never thought to see each other again. I was interested in exploring parallels throughout history, the repetition of similar events, where in the story, the decimation of organised nations by governmental decay has a parallel in the fall of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the dark ages. Similarly, the effects of conscription on battlefield tactics and society has a parallel in the modern history throughout World War I and the Vietnam Wars. The addition of climate induced crisis and detrimental environmental impact is yet unprecedented on a global scale but seems possible for our future.

Short Stories

Poisoned Fruit & Cursed Futures

I recently finished writing a short fiction piece inspired by poisoned apple folklore and legends, the most familiar being the story “Little Snow-White” published by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in Children’s’ and Household Tales (commonly known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales) between 1812-1814 . There are, of course, countless folklore and folktales surrounding betrayals and murder often delivered through gifting a consumable item. The apple or similar fruit in folklore is often connected with a betrayal which can be symbolised by a literal poisoned fruit, a cursed future and sometimes, by both. In my short fiction piece, I explored this concept through the idea of dynasty, a kingdom dependent on a ruling dynasty who renew their pledge to withhold their birthright, the use of magic except by the Queen in defence of the kingdom. As with many folktales, civil unrest leads to the Queen’s betrayal, in my short fiction, by her own sister where betrayal sets in motion a greater chain of reactions. I wanted to explore the role of the Queen, in seeking retribution for her betrayal how extensive a curse might be when her vengeance is levelled against her sister’s reign.