The Fantasy Genre: Why I Fell in Love

dragons-1514416_1920I’ve been an avid reader of fantasy for more than thirty years. I remember the first book I read in the genre was Raymond E. Feist’s Magician Apprentice, but it wasn’t the main character, Pug, who captured my attention in the beginning, though I would fall head-over-heels in love with him later. It was the magician, Kulgan.

A rotund man with a long beard and wisdom beyond what was normally possible, Kulgan could reach out into the world and accomplish things no one else could. I was hooked. I wanted that magic in my own life, the ability to see things others missed and the knowledge and wisdom to guide others. I wanted to know about things unseen by normal folks and to understand the mysteries of the universe.

Granted, that’s putting a lot of pressure on a fictional character and a world that was beginning to embrace home computers, but that’s what I wanted, and I wasn’t about to settle for anything less.

As the characters in the series grew into some of my best friends, I branched out and read other authors. I was captivated by these worlds of mystery and magic, of hidden realms and dark secrets. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be there, to walk the roads of Midkemia, or to stroll the paths of the Four Realms, or to climb the mountains of Middle Earth. I wanted to see nature unharmed by human progress, to wander the wilds where creatures from our darkest fears roamed free. I wanted to see dragons and speak with elves, and I wanted to burrow into the earth in the dwarven mines.

And nothing’s changed.

Aradia's Secret Cover with BookI still have that longing, but the chances of being able to experience them in reality is slim without some serious advances in science. A bit ironic, I suppose, that the discipline that prevents the existence of the things I most want to see in our world would be the only chance of seeing them in another, but that’s the way it is. Instead, I opt for studying mythology and ancient cultures, those who believed that magic was possible and that the gods affected the world they lived in.

And I write.

I create worlds that contain all the elements I wish were in this one–the mystery and magic, the creatures that are more than human, even the evil that no one wants to confront. Wizards reach out and grab hold of the matrix of the universe, while elves travel through primeval forests. Dwarfs dig deep into the mountains to bring forth hidden treasures, and demons roam with humans. They aren’t perfect worlds by any stretch, they’re places to go on a rainy Sunday, places where magic is real.

 

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

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Getting Started in the New Year

IMG_20171208_162057We’ve completed the first week of the new year, and I have to say I can’t complain. I hope everyone else is having a wonderful start.

Those who’ve been around a while know that I’m a folklore and mythology junkie, and I did a post a couple of weeks ago about my reading traditions for the holiday season.

We have a lot of traditions for the holiday season, and many of them originated from our ancestors’ desire to ward off the cold of winter and revitalize the world, particularly crops and animals, come spring. There are also a good many traditions whose original purpose was to protect against the creatures that roamed the darkness. A plethora of gods and demons were active during the dark, winter months, and any of these could cause difficulty for those who lived during that time.

In our modern world, we look at a lot of the superstitions of old as silly and ridiculous, beliefs of those who simply weren’t smart enough to know better, but I’ve found myself realizing that there is value in these beliefs–they offer us mystery and magic in a world where none seems to exist.

monster-773309_1920Think about it… We have TV shows like Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and many others that offer us a glimpse into a world that our science tells us isn’t real. Yet, even though we may scoff at the possibility of monsters, ghosts, and demons, we still watch the shows. Why?

Because, at the end of the day, the possibility of these beings touches something within us that we’ve lost with our modern world. We’ve lost the ability to wonder and to be amazed. Most of us can’t even look up at the stars and wonder anymore because of city glow. We can’t walk in the wilderness because there’s little of it left. Our amazement comes from the capabilities of the newest electronic and not from the possibility of what may exist beyond our five-sense perception. We no longer connect to the parts of ourselves that lurk just beneath the surface of everyday life, the part that makes us one with the world around us.

I really started thinking about all this during the holidays when I realized that, while the decorations were pretty, there wasn’t any sense of anticipation about the holidays, it was just another day of things to do that really didn’t have much meaning beyond cooking and buying presents. Reading about older holiday traditions helped to bring meaning to this year’s series of special days.

IMG_20171201_230859So, out of all the resolutions I could make for the new year, I think what I’d like to do more than anything else is to slow down a bit, spend more time in nature, and do my best to remember why the days we celebrate matter. I resolve to find the mystery and magic again, both in the world around me and within myself.

What do you resolve to do for this year?

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

 

Charles Yallowitz–Legends of Windemere

Warlord of the Forgotten Age 2Thank you to Lissa for letting me write a post for her blog and helping to promote Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age. With this being the final volume of my fantasy adventure series, I’ve looked back at some of the influences.

One of the biggest ones has been mythologies and folklore, which I went to when it came to designing the Windemere pantheon and monsters. A few minor characters took names from mythology that I liked and it helped forge their personalities, but it had a bigger impact on the world building side of things. This is fairly common in fantasy too with some authors being more blatant than others. I’d put myself in the middle since I always tried to put my own twist on certain things. Still, I can’t deny that mythology had a hand in the creation of Windemere, so I’ll fess up and explain the major areas.

Gods

When I was creating the gods and goddess of Windemere, I looked to Greek mythology to get ideas on how they should act. Fantasy stories tend to have either a multitude of deities for each race that have a clear influence or talk about a small amount that people aren’t sure ever existed. When I saw how often the Olympians got involved in mortal affairs, I wanted to go for that type of world. The gods and goddesses clearly exist because people have seen them and they show up at times. Yet, there was still one really big problem. What’s the point of having heroes and villains if gods are mucking about and can get things done themselves?

The answer came from other stories where mortals turned against the gods and threatened or even killed them. I imagined that happening to the scale where these powerful immortals that control the world are made to feel vulnerable and weak for the first time in their existence. Those who survived would think about how it came about and new gods that ascended from the ranks of mortals would implement the Law of Influence. Now, they have to work through mortal agents and visions. Getting physically involved is a risk and punishable by being sealed for whatever time is deemed necessary. In this case, I looked at what mythology did and created an answer to the problem of gods getting involved in everything.

History

Mythology is filled with large events that explain the creation of the world and various natural occurrences. I wondered if ancient people looked at these as history instead of fiction like we do today. Okay, I didn’t get struck by a lightning bolt, so we can continue. This thought led me to create several big events that changed the world and are talked about by the characters in the same way we discuss our history. These have a magical taste to it like the Great Cataclysm that altered the entire face of Windemere or the ancient Race War where the 8 great dragons pitted the lesser species against each other. Every major event required that I take at least a peek at mythology to see if there was anything I could work with to give me some extra inspiration.

Monsters

This is actually the big one because mythology is chock full of beasties that can suit every fantasy author’s need. I did design my own creatures for some scenes, but those are typically throwing animal parts together until you get something functional. I have this sudden hunger for hot dogs now. Weird. Anyway, I have a book called ‘The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures’ and I crack that open whenever I’m having trouble with a monster. Sometimes I take the whole thing while other times I use the name and design around it. The thing with mythology is that it isn’t as detailed here as your audience might want you to be. You really only get the appearance, eating habits, and a few other tidbits. Even then, you could run into multiple versions of the same critter.

The best example is one of my favorite monsters to use. I didn’t have to do much research for the Griffin/Griffon/Gryphon because it’s fairly popular. People always know that these monsters have the head/front body/rear body of an eagle and the head/front body/rear body of a lion. I mean, they’re the size of a lion/small horse/mini-van/it’s carrying an elephant, so they’re hard to miss. Think there’s even a type that has a serpentine tail, which might be someone getting it mixed up with a manticore. That’s another thing with monsters in mythology. You get a lot of overlapping of appearances and themes. Just look at how similar manticores, griffins, hippogriffs, and the chimera. After all the physical decisions, I give my griffins a few magical abilities and released them into the world. Just another altered addition to an already confusing stable of flying cats with extra parts.

Just to sum stuff up in case I rambled too much, mythology is a great resource and not only for fantasy stories. It’s a fairly popular topic, which you can connect to characters in other genres through names, conversations, and comparisons to situations that they’re in. You can also get some inspiration for dysfunctional families because many pantheons have some messed up relations. One could say mythology is the ancestor of fiction, so we might as well treat it like a resource.

Again, I’d like to thank Lissa for letting me write a post for her blog. Please feel free to check out Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age and enjoy the adventure.

 

Author Bio & Social Media

Author PhotoCharles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

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Twitter

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All cover art done by JASON PEDERSEN

 

Catch the rest of the LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE on Amazon!

Random Ramble-What To Add

IMG_20160428_203226I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump lately. I’m guessing the new place and new job have me feeling a bit displaced and drifting. However, I have been able to accomplish some sorting and arranging. My bookshelves are now organized by subject, and, after four years of being in boxes, I’ve pulled out my mythology research and placed it in binders. Well, I’ve gotten it ready to place in binders. I still have to get them.

My intention at this point is to add articles about mythology and folklore to my website. The question becomes ‘what should go on there?’ Do I stick with straight facts as found in history, or do I let my brain run wild and include some of the wacked-out theories I’ve considered over the years. (Trust me, my brain can go to all kinds of odd places.)

For example, like many of the conspiracy theorists, I find it odd that so many of the world’s cultures speak of more advanced beings–gods, angels, humans–teaching mankind how to farm, work magic, heal, wear cosmetics, etc. Now, I’ll admit to not being a big one on researching aliens. (Do I think we’re a bit arrogant to assume we’re the only intelligent creatures in the universe? Yep. Do I think others came in spaceships to teach us how to do things? Ehhh. Not so sure.) But that’s beside the point. My point is this: We have a world’s worth of mythology stating we were taught to do things by others. Here’s the kicker: The archaeological record shows an evolutionary progression from one point to another–simple tools evolve into more complex tools, etc. There’s no sign, not that I’ve been able to find, of jumps in technology on the level of the myths. Of course, I haven’t kept up with things as much for the last few years, so I’d need to do some serious research before making any conclusions, even to myself, but it’s something I like to think about.

Random ramble aside, I’d like to know what you think about adding articles to my website. What types of folklore and mythology most interest you? Are you interested in theories and wild imaginings, or would you prefer a ‘stick to the facts as we know them’ approach? What I would like to create is a starting point database of sorts for all kinds of mythology and folklore. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and I think we’ve forgotten the lessons found in these timeless tales. Feel free to leave a comment with your suggestions.

Best wishes!

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

Fairies in Folklore

woman-1489175_1920Even though we live in a world where belief in fairies is considered quaint at best, they still capture our imaginations. From Disney’s Tinkerbell movies to the elves in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to creatures in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, magical beings still have the ability to draw us in and hold us captive. But what are these elusive creatures so prevalent in our folklore and literature? There is no simple definition.

The word ‘fairy’, or ‘faery’, calls to mind tiny beings with an ambient glow, iridescent wings, and a trail of fairy dust, but the word actually encompasses a much wider range of creatures.

The most well-known body of fairy lore comes from Ireland. Here, the Fair Folk are descendants of the Tuatha de Danann, a race of god-like beings who arrived in a cloud of mist from islands to the west. They had mastered the use of magic, which helped them defeat the Firbolg in the first battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians in the second battle of the same name. However, while their dealings with the Firbolg were fairly straight-forward, this was not the case with the Fomorians.

The Cath Maige Tuired, The Second Battle of Mag Tuired, speaks of the Tuatha de Danann’s dealings with the Formorians, including trade and interbreeding. When the Tuatha de Danann were later defeated by the Milesians, they moved into underground hills and formed vast kingdoms where they lived peaceably unless harassed by humans.

While Ireland has the largest collection of fairy lore, the Little People are not restricted to the shores of the Emerald Isle; they are found in some form or another in cultures around the world.

In general, fairies are divided into two main groups: the aristocracy and the peasantry. The aristocracy, said to be descended from the Tuatha de Danann in Ireland, are tall and beautiful with power that far outstrips that of humans. Called the Daoine Sidhe and the Seelie Court, among other things, they live in their kingdoms and tend their cattle. When provoked, however, they react violently. Their arrows cause paralysis and death, and their touch can sicken and kill people and animals. They will damage crops and cattle, the same ones they help propagate when left alone.

The peasantry are more solitary and live in the wilds of nature. They are nature spirits who occupy the dark places of the world. One such place is the taiga forest, which stretches for thousands of miles across Russia. This is a cold place filled with wolves that howl in the night and elk who roam the frozen paths. It is also home to the leshy.

Descriptions of the leshy vary. Some accounts say they are tree-like in size and appearance, while others state they are tiny creatures that can scuttle by unnoticed. Like most fairies, they can change their shape at will, though their natural form is said to be human-like in form with leaf-colored hair and the horns and hooves of a goat.

In Zulu culture, there is a tiny creature known as the abatwa. This being is said to be a hunter who is small enough to hide under a blade of grass and live in an ant hill. They are self-conscious about their size, so if one comes across an abatwa while hunting, it is polite to tell him he was spotted from a good distance away. To insult an abatwa is a death sentence, much like insulting the fairies from Ireland.

If we move on to the folklore of Spain, Portugal, South America, and the Philippines, we find the duende. This creature ranges in size from eighteen inches to three to four feet tall and inhabits houses. While they are neither wholly good nor entirely evil, the duende is a trickster who enjoys tormenting humans. They will steal and destroy property when angered, and their tricks are anything but humorous. They will also torment villages when the mood strikes them.

From Native American folklore, we have Coyote, who might be more accurately considered a god. This spirit is seen as a nature spirit among other things and is known for his trickster attitude. While he’s credited with giving man artwork and fire, he is often portrayed in his more malevolent form. In this form, his tricks come close to being evil, and it’s said he caused misery and sickness to come into the world.

In Italy, there is the Monaciello. This creature is said to resemble a tiny monk similar in appearance to a leprechaun. These creatures supposedly guard wine and treasure. While the typical friar’s clothing is brown, the Monaciello’s is bright red. He lives in houses and takes pleasure in pinching the residents and stealing their clothing. Should the human resident take the Monaciello’s hat, he will be able to claim part of the creature’s treasure in exchange for its return.

On the more malevolent end of the spectrum is the Orculli, also from Italy. These creatures are masters at shape-changing and most identifiable by their stench. They are also cannibalistic and stories tell of them grabbing humans for a snack.

The list of fairy species is enough to fill several volumes, and many have been written, but, in general, they are creatures of magic who are very much connected to the natural world. As man has moved into these natural places, the Fair Folk have been pushed away, as they have no love of industrialization and the trappings of modern life. However, they live on in our stories and imaginations and have a special place in our hearts.

 

FURTHER READING

Appenzeller, Tim. The Enchanted World: Dwarfs. Time-Life Books, 1985.

Appenzeller, Tim. The Enchanted World: Fairies and Elves. Time-Life Books, 1985.

Arrowsmith, Nancy, and George Moorse. A Field Guide to the Little People. Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Mythology. New York: Dell Publishing, Co., 1959.

Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology. New York: Penguin Compass, 1991.

Cole, Joanna. Best Loved Folktales of the World. New York: Anchor Books, 1982.

Hollander, Lee M, trans. The Poetic Edda. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1962.

 

 

For Those Who Like the Mythology

IMG_20160131_181120_975I’ve done a couple of posts about Aradia and the mythology behind the goddess, though it’s been a while. With Aradia’s Secret coming out this week, I thought it would be a good time to list a few links for those who enjoy studying mythology as much as I do.

These are only a few sources, just something to get your feet wet. There are other sources, though not all of them agree on Aradia’s parentage or even if she was actually worshipped.

Best wishes!

http://www.lissadobbs.com

The Internet Sacred Text Archive: I love this site! They’ve got just about any religious and mythological text you could imagine available to read for free. There are also a number of other texts, particularly those written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I can spend hours just playing around here.

Aradia’s Birth from Heaven

Ancient Origins

 

Chimera

The chimera is a creature from Greek mythology. It has the head of a lion, with a goat’s head sticking out of its back, and a snake for a tail. It was said to be the child of Typhon and Echidna, and it could breathe fire. It’s mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and Hesiod’s Theogony. In short, it isn’t a nice creature to meet while travelling.

In the world of Grevared, the Chimera lives mainly within the forests of E’ma Thalas, though it can be seen in the mountains of Moirena as well. It is a reclusive creature and will attack on sight. It’s primary diet consists of other creatures, with asacon and yeasacon being its favorites. It doesn’t hesitate to attack the elves and wizards of E’ma Thalas, and both of these groups tend to avoid it.

In Moirena, the creature is sought by the demons for breeding purposes, for they believe that each chimera can only be bred once before it loses ferocity. Demons who can capture the chimera and bring it home unharmed gain status among the community and have a greater chance of survival.

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

Dream Gods Woes

img_20150505_200403We spend almost a third of our lives asleep, and while we sleep we dream. We get images of things from our waking lives, and we also see images that seem to come from somewhere else altogether. Some dreams are pleasant, restful experiences, while others are nightmares that leave us stumped as to their origin. This has been the case for humanity throughout all of recorded history. Even as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, people have recorded their dreams and tried to glean meaning from these nocturnal visions.

One of my current works in progress deals with a dream god, but I’ve had some difficulty deciding how to represent the god. While there are lots of different night deities, there are actually few that specifically represent dreams. I found this extremely odd simply because so much importance is placed on dreams and their meaning throughout history and mythology.

Most of us have heard of the Sandman. This mythological creature puts sand in the eyes, particularly of children, to help them fall asleep at night. (http://www.sleepdex.org/legends.htm). However, this benevolent creature did not begin as a benign friend of children. In the original folklore, he’s a gruesome character that will punish those who don’t fall asleep right away with nightmares and other horrid punishments. There is even one tale of him taking the eyes of naughty children to the moon to feed his own offspring. (https://vanwinkles.com/the-twisted-history-of-the-sandman).

The Sandman is said to have originated as a transmutation of the Greek god Morpheus. More than any other culture, the Greeks had dream and sleep gods, and Morpheus was the dream messenger of the gods. It was his responsibility to provide glimpses into a person’s future and to shape their dreams to reveal truths. Morpheus was chosen for this task because he was the most able to transform himself into any human and mimic their traits more exactly than the other Oneiroi. (http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/morpheus-the-god-of-dreams/)

There are many mentions of prophets and wise men interpreting dreams, and there are tons of tales of gods who created while asleep – Vishnu being one of them – but these weren’t really what I was looking for in the research. What I finally settled on for my own work was to name the dream god Yukamalu and have him as an amalgamation of other dream gods. In Grevared, the gods battled for dominance when the universe exploded, and only the strongest survived. Those who were mostly destroyed combined into single deities, so Yukamalu came into being as a deity with multiple traits. Now I just have to figure out just what those traits are and whether he’s going to be a benevolent god or a more malevolent one.

 

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

Populating the Kingdom of Emerell

Moirena and the Kingdom of EmerellThe Kingdom of Emerell lies in the western quadrant of the continent that also contains Moirena in the world of Grevared.  Its primary port is the city of Flameport, though there is a secondary port in Bruihull.  Ravenhost is the largest city, capital, and the center of government.  While The Kingdom of Emerell is ruled by a monarch, it is an elected monarch rather than one who rules by divine right.

The Everstone Mountains separate The Kingdom of Emerell from Moirena, but, in spite of this range, Emerell is mostly flatlands.  This allows for plenty of farming along with mining in the mountains.  The primary exports are metal and minerals along with weapons and other smithed goods.  The Kingdom of Emerell is a prosperous and peaceful place, despite its close proximity to Moirena, which is inhabited by demons.

The Kingdom of Emerell is populated by dwarves, and here’s where I had some difficulty deciding which versions of the myths I wanted to pursue.  In Tolkien’s works the dwarves are short and stocky with long beards.  They are excellent metallurgists and love all things to do with metal and jewels.  They are creatures of the earth, though their creator stepped outside the will of Ilúvatar when he created them.  However, the dwarves exist in mythology, particularly Norse mythology, and in most of these myths, they are nothing like the creatures in the world of fantasy.

In Norse mythology the giant Ymir is slain by Odin and his brothers, and the giant’s body is used to create the world.  Maggots form on the body, and it is from these creatures that the dwarves are formed.

In The Poetic Edda there is a list of dwarves found in the poem Voluspo.  In this poem a witch is called up from the dead to speak about the creation of the world.  The first few stanzas describe this, but the dwarves don’t come into play until stanza 8.  At this point giants rise up from Jotunheim, and the gods met to decide who is going to raise up the dwarves.  In stanzas ten through sixteen there is a list of dwarves, though most scholars think this is interpolated, and there is mention of the dwarves leaving the mountains to seek a new home.  As to the list of names, it is one any Tolkien fan will recognize.

The Poetic Edda isn’t the only mention of the dwarves in mythology and legend.  In one legend they were seen by a peat cutter who noticed a glow while winding through a series of boulders in search of peat.  The peat cutter peered into the cleft in the stone and saw small creatures about as tall as his waist working their forge.  According to this story, the dwarves were difficult to see because their skin and aprons were as gray as the rocks around them, and their bodies resembled boulders more than men.

Dwarf legends aren’t restricted to Europe, either.  They are also present in Central America, South Africa, and North America.  In all of the legends, however, they are associated with the earth and the things that dwell within it.  They are harsh and vengeful creatures when crossed or wronged, and they are superb artisans who imbue their creations with magic. The Poetic Edda is filled with stories about them, and we see them in the folklore of just about every country.

If we return to the European side of the world, we have the leprechauns of Ireland, who became prominent in folklore in the middle ages.  Modern descriptions speak of tiny creatures who wear green, make shoes, and hoard pots of gold, but prior to the twentieth century, these beings were described as wearing red, and their wardrobe differed according to locale.  According to Yeats, the solitary leprechauns wore red, while the trooping fairies wore green.  Now, another difference between these leprechauns, who are often considered to be a type of dwarf, and the dwarves of Norse and other mythologies, is their origin.  The leprechauns are said to be some of the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann, who are the progenitors of the fairies.

So, when it comes to deciding who will populate the Kingdom of Emerell, I have tons of options and myriad folktales on which to draw.  I’m thinking I may go with the majority of the population based somewhat on the Norse mythology and create branches of the population from other mythologies.  I think this will give me the variations and richness of culture that I’m looking for in my countries.

 

Sources:

Appenzeller, Tim.  The Enchanted World: Dwarfs.  Time-Life Books, 1985.

Arrowsmith, Nancy, and George Moorse.  A Field Guide to the Little People.  Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda, 1936 at sacred-texts.com

 

The Kingdom of Emerell

 

 

The Kingdom of Emerell lies in the western quadrant of the continent that also contains Moirena in the world of Grevared.  Its primary port is the city of Flameport, though there is a secondary port in Bruihull.  Ravenhost is the largest city, capital, and the center of government.  While The Kingdom of Emerell is ruled by a monarch, it is an elected monarch rather than one who rules by divine right.

The Everstone Mountains separate The Kingdom of Emerell from Moirena, but, in spite of this range, Emerell is mostly flatlands.  This allows for plenty of farming along with mining in the mountains.  The primary exports are metal and minerals along with weapons and other smithed goods.  The Kingdom of Emerell is a prosperous and peaceful place, despite its close proximity to Moirena, which is inhabited by demons.

The Kingdom of Emerell is populated by dwarves, and here’s where I had some difficulty deciding which versions of the myths I wanted to pursue.  In Tolkien’s works the dwarves are short and stocky with long beards.  They are excellent metallurgists and love all things to do with metal and jewels.  They are creatures of the earth, though their creator stepped outside the will of Ilúvatar when he created them.  However, the dwarves exist in mythology, particularly Norse mythology, and in most of these myths, they are nothing like the creatures in the world of fantasy.

In Norse mythology the giant Ymir is slain by Odin and his brothers, and the giant’s body is used to create the world.  Maggots form on the body, and it is from these creatures that the dwarves are formed.

In The Poetic Edda there is a list of dwarves found in the poem Voluspo.  In this poem a witch is called up from the dead to speak about the creation of the world.  The first few stanzas describe this, but the dwarves don’t come into play until stanza 8.  At this point giants rise up from Jotunheim, and the gods met to decide who is going to raise up the dwarves.  In stanzas ten through sixteen there is a list of dwarves, though most scholars think this is interpolated, and there is mention of the dwarves leaving the mountains to seek a new home.  As to the list of names, it is one any Tolkien fan will recognize.

The Poetic Edda isn’t the only mention of the dwarves in mythology and legend.  In one legend they were seen by a peat cutter who noticed a glow while winding through a series of boulders in search of peat.  The peat cutter peered into the cleft in the stone and saw small creatures about as tall as his waist working their forge.  According to this story, the dwarves were difficult to see because their skin and aprons were as gray as the rocks around them, and their bodies resembled boulders more than men.

Dwarf legends aren’t restricted to Europe, either.  They are also present in Central America, South Africa, and North America.  In all of the legends, however, they are associated with the earth and the things that dwell within it.  They are harsh and vengeful creatures when crossed or wronged, and they are superb artisans who imbue their creations with magic. The Poetic Edda is filled with stories about them, and we see them in the folklore of just about every country.

If we return to the European side of the world, we have the leprechauns of Ireland, who became prominent in folklore in the middle ages.  Modern descriptions speak of tiny creatures who wear green, make shoes, and hoard pots of gold, but prior to the twentieth century, these beings were described as wearing red, and their wardrobe differed according to locale.  According to Yeats, the solitary leprechauns wore red, while the trooping fairies wore green.  Now, another difference between these leprechauns, who are often considered to be a type of dwarf, and the dwarves of Norse and other mythologies, is their origin.  The leprechauns are said to be some of the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann, who are the progenitors of the fairies.

So, when it comes to deciding who will populate the Kingdom of Emerell, I have tons of options and myriad folktales on which to draw.  I’m thinking I may go with the majority of the population based somewhat on the Norse mythology and create branches of the population from other mythologies.  I think this will give me the variations and richness of culture that I’m looking for in my countries.

 

Sources:

Appenzeller, Tim.  The Enchanted World: Dwarfs.  Time-Life Books, 1985.

Arrowsmith, Nancy, and George Moorse.  A Field Guide to the Little People.  Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda, 1936 at sacred-texts.com

 

 

Golem

Golem JuiceMention the word ‘golem’ and most folks think of the creepy little critter in The Lord of the Rings, but the mythological creature is actually, to me at least, much more terrifying to consider.

The most famous golem in mythology is the Golem of Prague. This creature was created by Rabbi Loeb around 1580 when the Jews were threatened.  This site provides one version of the ritual that brought the creatures to life, but I know there are others.  There are also several versions of the story, and some alternate stories can be found here.

A number of years ago, we won’t say how many, I was doing research into the golem and came across one of the rituals.  I wish I could remember where I found it, but it basically stated that the golem had to be created out of soil that had never known human touch.  There was a period of purification that came before the creation, and the incantation for the ritual took about thirty hours.  If even one mistake was made in the incantation, then it had to be begun again, which could extend the time needed to create the golem.  Now, this isn’t something I’d have the time to undertake, no matter how nice it would be to have a creature that obeyed commands.

Golems do not have the ability to think for themselves.  All they can do is follow the commands of their creators.  This being the case, the creator has to be extremely specific with instructions, for the golem won’t infer from anything said.  It will follow instructions literally.

The book Sefer Yezirah supposedly contains the instructions for creating the golem, but the instructions have to be interpreted, and each Rabbi who has decided to make a golem has interpreted it differently.

Golems are said to be great creatures for manual labor and defense.  However, over time they become unstable and will rampage and possibly harm others.  For this reason, it is important that golems only remain active for a short period of time for a specific purpose before being deactivated.

 

 

 

 

http://www.gods-and-monsters.com/golem.html