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: A Song Below Water, by Bethany C. Morrow — Emerald City Bookworm

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.

I’ve mentioned A Song Below Water before, but I’ll bring it up again because I really believe this is an important book. Set in a slightly alternate Portland, Oregon, Bethany C. Morrow’s story follows two sisters, Tavia and Effie. Effie is still discovering the magic in her heritage, but Tavia knows from the beginning she is a siren, one of two acknowledged magical human minorities in this world. Unlike the popular elokos who appear across races, sirens are always Black women. And their powers are feared, so Tavia has long hidden her identity. The social justice element is key in this book, something Cristi Smith-Jones tackles with grace in her review on Emerald City Bookworm. I highly recommend Cristi’s site and her reviews, which are detailed and thoughtful, often celebrating OwnVoices works in a variety of genres. She highlights the beauty in A Song Below Water as well as its call for change, and it was through her blog that I first learned of the newly released sequel, A Chorus Rises!

Bethany C. Morrow’s 2020 YA novel A Song Below Water is a timely and necessary story that takes places fantasy elements in a contemporary setting in a refreshing way. It’s an incredible tale about social justice, self-discovery, sisterhood, and the power in finding one’s voice.  I bought the Kindle edition of A Song Below Water […]

A Song Below Water, by Bethany C. Morrow —

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”

Steady Light, Many Names: Five Faces of Venus

After several months as the Morning Star, Venus has returned to the twilight side. It’s still low in the Northern Hemisphere sky, but you might be able to catch a glimpse near sunset. Back when I kept a star journal, this bright light was one of the first I learned to identify and track. It has received many faces and stories throughout the world, with sometimes quite different personalities. To celebrate the return of the Evening Star, I’d like to share a selection of these faces with you. Though I only have room to go into five in detail, I’ll include some of their close relatives or neighbors as well as a few media appearances. Continue reading “Steady Light, Many Names: Five Faces of Venus”

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”

Hey, Tolkien, Where’d You Get Those Elves? Part 1: Stars and Swans

J. R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth have had a profound impact on the fantasy genre, especially his Elves. Rather than the tiny, mischievous sprites found in cookie commercials and some children’s media, his Elves are near human-sized. Immortal and possessing an ethereal beauty, they are generally shown as wiser, more sensitive, and more in-tune with nature than humans. Similar elves have become a common staple in fantasy works. But where did Tolkien get his Elves? Tracing the possibilities turns out to be quite the journey, so I’ll split this into two parts and start with literary and linguistic leads before covering the more mythological ones. Continue reading “Hey, Tolkien, Where’d You Get Those Elves? Part 1: Stars and Swans”

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”