Hi, everyone! It feels like I took an unintentional hiatus last month, mostly due to a sudden bout of indecision and holiday distraction. Now I think I’ve got my schedule (such as it is) straightened out, so I thought I’d have some fun by trying something new. I may have mentioned that I do some fiction writing, and I thought maybe it’s time I start sharing some of that on my blog. For starters, I’ve got slightly revised versions of some super short pieces originally shared on Twitter, but I hope to eventually share some longer stories. Continue reading “Testing Out a New Idea”
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”
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)”
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!”
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”
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”
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
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”
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”
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”