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”

Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my dive into mythology in the Grishaverse! In Part 1, I looked into some origins for Grisha in general, Morozova’s amplifiers, and some connections to Russian Firebird tales. This time I’ll be focusing more on specific characters rather than overall themes. I am drawing mainly from Bardugo’s novels rather than the Netflix show, with topics from the Shadow and Bone trilogy to the King of Scars duology. I’ve tried to keep the references general outside of the Spoiler Zone, though. Once again, please note that these posts reflect my own connections between myth and literature as a reader, and that they are not meant to cover every possible mythical reference from the Grishaverse. Continue reading “Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 2”

Red Thread Reblog: Who Mourns the Sirens? — Myth Crafts

Welcome to Red Thread Reblog, a feature that pairs a post about media inspired by mythology with a post about the mythology shown in the media.

A Song Below Water reinterprets the “traditional” siren mythology to reflect the struggles of Black women today, but it turns out that traditional narrative was more complicated as well. The Mythcrafts team, Shiva and Emma, routinely take on topics ranging from (and sometimes blending) mythology, folklore, modern media, science, and spirituality. Sometimes they dive deep and sometimes their posts have a lighter narrative feel. Whichever suits your mood, Mythcrafts is always a good place to stop by if you’re looking for well-researched commentary with a refreshing layer of wit. Their insightful investigation into the evolution of siren mythos reveals how these beings began as bird-like nymphs whose song was simply sad rather than meant to lead men to their deaths. Reading this post was such a revelation, and it makes a perfect companion to A Song Below Water, showing how the image of sirens has come full circle, or perhaps even spiraled to a new level.

Sirens are often mistakenly thought of as a monstrous counterpart to the mermaid; evil temptresses lurking in the sea foam waiting to lure innocent sailors to their death with their songs. This was not so in the classical tradition; Sirens were in fact half-avian and it was their hybrid bird nature that was responsible for […]

Who Mourns the Sirens? — Myth Crafts

Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 1

Considering the popularity of Netflix’s new Shadow and Bone series, I thought it might be interesting to talk about the Grishaverse. For those not familiar with the term, the Grishaverse is a fantasy world where some people—Grisha—are born with the ability to manipulate parts of the physical world, including air, iron, shadows, and light. Leigh Bardugo’s world includes several nations, but the stories mostly center around Ravka, inspired by historical and mythical Russia. Today, I’d like to examine the mythical side of things, the tales that might have shaped the Grishaverse. Some topics will touch on some pretty big spoilers, but I’ll make sure to keep those at the end under a “Spoiler Zone” label for those who wish to avoid them. Continue reading “Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 1”

Quarterly Bestiary: Trolls: From Hostile Magic to Lovable Goofs

Let’s talk about trolls. No, not the online hater type; it’s the original ones from mythology I want to cover today. You probably have your own go-to image of a troll, whether it’s big or small, deadly or cuddly. Yet the name has been applied to a surprising range of creatures, mostly from Scandinavian mythology. Most of the traditional trolls are antagonistic to humans, but beyond that, what makes a troll? Where do these trolls come from, and how did they go from menacing gods and cave explorers to prancing about in children’s movies? Let’s take a look. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Trolls: From Hostile Magic to Lovable Goofs”

Hey, Tolkien, Where’d You Get Those Elves? Part 2: Build an Elf

The road goes ever on…especially when you dig into the origin of Tolkien’s Elves! At this point, I’ve pretty much concluded that there is no single model for the Elves of Middle-earth, but rather that Tolkien incorporated bits and pieces from a variety of influences. And some elements, of course, were original inventions. In Part 1, I went over a few possible inspirations from pre-Tolkien fantasy literature and cultural connections based on his languages. This time I’d like to get more into the true mythological sources. So let’s dive in and see what pieces Tolkien used to craft his Elves! Continue reading “Hey, Tolkien, Where’d You Get Those Elves? Part 2: Build an Elf”

Quarterly Bestiary: Tomte: A Legend of Many Categories

It’s tricky to pin down wee folk, and not just because of their size. Small humanoid beings appear in mythology around the world, and they are especially numerous in European cultures. However, many of the most well-known names are treated as somewhat interchangeable. Research a brownie and you’ll end up with fairies and hobgoblins and so on. So rather than tackle a general category of these tiny people, I decided to focus in the tomte. I’ve been curious about tomtar for a while now, and it turns out the different definitions of them will allow me to touch on a variety of those larger categories without getting in over my head. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Tomte: A Legend of Many Categories”

The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my exploration of the mythology behind the Chinese drama Ice Fantasy! In Part 1, I focused entirely on the original show with only a brief mention of its sequel series, Ice Fantasy Destiny. This time, I’d like to touch on a couple points connected to the sequel as well as more from the original series. After all, this is my last post for 2020 and that was the year Ice Fantasy Destiny supposedly took place. Let’s start with a bit about Destiny. Continue reading “The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 2”

The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 1

It’s that time of year again! In the northern hemisphere, winter has arrived, and in the southern, summer is in full swing. Contemplating these contrasting seasons existing simultaneously has me thinking of Ice Fantasy, the first Chinese drama I ever watched. At first glance, it’s easy to see it as a Chinese interpretation of Western fantasy tropes, with pointy-eared immortal princes and mystical swords. However, look deep enough and you’ll find it actually draws strongly on Chinese mythology with influences from a few other cultures. Since its sequel series is set in then-futuristic 2020, I thought it might be fun to close the year by delving into the mythology within the fantasy. Continue reading “The Mythology of Ice Fantasy, Part 1”

First Blogiversary!

Photo by Genaro Servu00edn on Pexels.com

Illuminating the Fool’s Mirror is officially a year old! Technically, the anniversary for my WordPress account was a while back, but this marks one year ago that I published my first feature-length article. A couple of my blogger friends have recently posted about reaching that first year milestone, including Kacha and Dragon Warrior. Reading about their journeys brought me back to this post that I read when I first started blogging. Can you believe most blogs don’t make it past to their first year? Congratulations to all of you who have one, two, or more years on your blog. I’m so glad you’re here and so happy to be standing with you! Continue reading “First Blogiversary!”