Alfablot: A Hidden Festival

As autumn chills into winter, a holiday of that evokes elves comes ‘round once more. No, not Christmas elves. I’m talking about álfablót, a Norse tradition that called on the álfar for protection in the dark months of winter. Unlike commercial Christmas, which thrives by exploding throughout stores ever earlier and ever farther across the globe, álfablót has long cloaked itself in secrets. That means this will be a somewhat shorter post than usual, though I hope I can still share enough details to keep it interesting. Continue reading “Alfablot: A Hidden Festival”

Quarterly Bestiary: Eloko: Beware the Bell (or the Stick)

Sometimes the forest guards mysteries, and sometimes the mysteries guard the forest. Or maybe they’re just hungry! In the case of the eloko (plural biloko), both could be true. An eloko is a powerful little mystery said to haunt the Congo rainforest. I’ve wanted to cover biloko since reading A Song Below Water, which gives the eloko several delightfully modern face. Yet when I started digging, I found that, a bit like Norwegian trolls, biloko wear more than one face in legends too. Clear details about those faces proved frustratingly difficult to sort out in English-language sources. As a result, my image of the eloko is a bit fractured. However, I hope I’ve found enough to give you something to chew on regarding this enigmatic being. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Eloko: Beware the Bell (or the Stick)”

Updates, and Second Blogiversary!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

They say time flies when you’re having fun. Recently, I guess I must have been having too much fun posting since I forgot my own blogiversary! After the dry spell of summer, it was nice to get a sudden surge of ideas. I missed the actual anniversary back in August, so I decided to combine my celebratory post with my regular Updates. Anyway, Illuminating the Fool’s Mirror has been around for two years now, and I’m so happy to still be musing with you! Continue reading “Updates, and Second Blogiversary!”

Monkey in the Middle: The (Nearly) Indefinable Monkey King

I love tricksters, and possibly my favorite is Sūn Wùkōng (孫悟空), the Monkey King. Recently, I got to read Professor Anthony C. Yu’s annotated and revised English translation of Journey to the West /Xīyóujì (西遊記). Seeing the original Monkey King in all his mischievous glory just made me fall in love all over again. His larger-than-life personality is instantly recognizable in every story he appears in. At the same time, however, the Great Sage Equal to Heaven is incredibly difficult to pin down identity-wise. Is he a god or a demon, a mythical being or a novel character? Or maybe he was always meant to be constantly outside the lines. Since the Hong Kong version of his festival was on the 22nd of this month, I thought I’d post a celebration of this quirky hero’s slippery nature. Here’s to you, Marvelous Monkey King! Continue reading “Monkey in the Middle: The (Nearly) Indefinable Monkey King”

Lessons from Dinotopia…Unless It’s the Mini-Series: Review Take 2

All right, here’s round 2! In my first take on reviewing the Dinotopia mini-series (DMS), I focused in on a few close-ups. Now I’d like to frame my discussion with some lessons that I took from James Gurney’s books and the related novels. Because those lessons are why my anger at DMS has lasted so long. Dinotopia was among the first books I practiced reading, and some of its maxims still guide my actions today. Gurney created a richly detailed world laced with creative hope. DMS bulldozed through that vision to pave a simple road, and not a particularly good one at that. If the filmmakers didn’t want to be true to that world, they should have called this “Carl and David in Dinosaurland” instead of pretending it was Dinotopia! Continue reading “Lessons from Dinotopia…Unless It’s the Mini-Series: Review Take 2”

Really a “Terrible Place”: Dinotopia, the Mini-series: Review Take 1

I’m finally ready to trash—er, review—the Dinotopia mini-series. For this review, I’m going to try a slightly different format. I won’t be sorting things into spoiler and non-spoiler because as far as I’m concerned, that show is totally rotten and I am NOT recommending it. I do apologize for including some spoilers from the books by James Gurney and the related novel series, but they were necessary for context. Now, I have a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t watch the mini-series (let’s call it DMS for short), but since I know rants get old fast when they’re too long, I’ll take two approaches to this topic. I’ll start with some quick-fire coverage of a few topics that drew my ire or amusement. Next post will use some of the lessons I took from the Dinotopia books to frame my disgruntlement at DMS. Now, let’s get down to it.

Continue reading “Really a “Terrible Place”: Dinotopia, the Mini-series: Review Take 1″

Spirited Swords, Part 2: Five Living Blades

Welcome back! Ready for more swords? In Part 1, I listed blades that, like the Soul-Devouring Sword in Ice Fantasy, were possessed and/or cursed. These swords were animated or driven by forces that initially existed outside of their steel or bronze. Now I’d like to cover swords in a slightly different category: Living blades. Unlike cursed swords, these weapons have a little bit more ambiguity because they have their own intelligence and therefore their own agenda. Just like with people, whether you get along with a living sword is a matter of personal compatibility rather than because the sword itself is good versus evil. So here are another five blade displaying a different kind of spirit! Again, I will include at least one update of the exact sword in modern media along with one echo, a similar media sword possibly inspired by the myth. Continue reading “Spirited Swords, Part 2: Five Living Blades”

Spirited Swords, Part 1: Five Possessed and Cursed Blades

Greetings on this morning after Guǐ Jie /the Ghost Festival! Contemplating the roaming spirits of this thin time led me to thinking of the Soul-Devouring Sword (噬神劍) from Ice Fantasy. The energy-eating sword spirits possessing it give the sword great power but in their hunger they may strike even when the sword’s wielder would rather show mercy. Searching for a mythological model for the Soul-Devouring Sword turned up several interesting possibilities that I could only cover briefly. It seemed a shame to just leave those blades in my unposted notes, so I’d like to expand on them now. I’ll pair each one with at least one update, where the exact sword reappears in modern media, and at least one echo, original fictional weapons that bear some resemblance to the mythical. In keeping with tone of the Ghost Festival, I’ll start with possessed and cursed blades. Continue reading “Spirited Swords, Part 1: Five Possessed and Cursed Blades”

Double Your Loki: Ragnarok 2 and Loki 1 Review

Welcome to my first official review! I’ll get to that awful Dinotopia mini-series soon, but I wanted to warm up with a more pleasant topic. I’m so used to taking a more objective stance even in the near-reviews where I talk about mythology in media, like Ice Fantasy or the Grishaverse. Those posts also focused on more or less completed series. But sometimes I just want to share my thoughts and opinions about the latest installments of ongoing series. Such is the case with the second season of the Norwegian high school drama Ragnarok and the first of Marvel’s Loki show. So here is my take on these two Lokis who made me smile this summer. Continue reading “Double Your Loki: Ragnarok 2 and Loki 1 Review”

Quarterly Bestiary: Aos Si: The Complicated Neighbors

The word “fairy” can refer to many different types of mythical beings. Both the teeny winged fairies still popularly pictured and the wilder human-sized fae of YA and adult fantasy novels often reflect a patchwork of source material. Since it would take many posts to adequately cover all those sources, I’m going to focus on the aos sí of Ireland today. A fair amount of modern fairy lore hearkens back to these Good Neighbors, who, like most neighbors, were never really good or bad. They were simply their own people, with their own motivations and standards. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Aos Si: The Complicated Neighbors”