Monsters and Myth – British Giants – Cormoran

Giants have been a feature in mythology and literature for centuries; Cormoran,  Gog and Magog, Goliath, the giant slain by David, Polyphemus (see my post about cyclopes),  the Brobdingnag giant, from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels,  the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk and many more. Perhaps based on the discovery of huge bones and enormous stone ‘seats’ the mythology around this particular creature is diverse. After all, if you lived a thousand years ago, knew nothing of dinosaurs, or evolution, or science and you dug up a leg bone taller than yourself you might just think it was from a giant man.

For now, I am going to focus on some of the myths surrounding British giants, and their influence on my culture is everywhere. Here are but a few of our larger inhabitants, now lost in the fog of myth.

Today’s guest is Cormoran. He’s a Cornish giant, who features in Jack the Giant Killer, and gets a rum deal as the first giant slain by Jack, a farmer’s son, who is fed up with the local giant raiding his cattle. Luring the giant into a pit trap the wily lad then goes on to receive the giant’s wealth and magic sword. Continuing his adventures in the world of giant-slaying Jack goes on to slay a two-headed Welsh giant, is captured by  Blunderbore, who has sworn revenge for Comoran’s death and held in an enchanted tower. The giant is no match for Jack and ends up as dead as his friend.  Not content with this Jack works his way through the giants’ land, eventually rescuing a Duke’s daughter, whom he later marries. It’s the age old story of the simple lad (Jack, David etc.) overcoming adversity, monsters, wicked creatures and ending up rich and powerful, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake – albeit the bodies of said monsters.

So what of Cormoran – what’s his myth? Said to inhabit and to have built St Michael’s Mount, in Cornwall (which got its name because of a said vision of the Archangel in the 8th Century), he rather a feisty fellow, but not endowed in the brain department. ‘Of fierce and grim countenance’ (James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips 1861) the giant is known for terrorising the neighbourhood and making off with cattle and other livestock. Wading across the river he would steal half a dozen at a time, and tie sheep and pigs around his waist. Some folklore states there were two giants – who fought and killed one another – or the giant’s family also resided there. The giant was said to have six digits on each hand (which would have been useful in hauling rock, no doubt). And during an excavation a skeleton of a very tall man (7 feet or more) was found.

Cormelian was the giantess who also inhabited the caves and brought mayhem. Both the giants are thought to have fetched white granite from the neighbouring area and carried it ‘in their aprons’ to build a stronghold. One day when the male giant was asleep Cormelian tried to get closer greenstone, but awoke her husband, who kicked her, making her drop the stone which came to rest alongside the causeway.  The, of course, Cormoran encountered a young farmer’s lad and his woes became far worse than a clumsy wife and marital abuse.

Cormoran is sometimes linked with Trencrom – and the two are believed to have thrown rocks back and forth at one another, unfortunately one hit the giant’s wife and killed her.

Interestingly the name Cormoran is NOT a Cornish name – it may be a corruption of Corineus – the legendary founder of Cornwall who was also said to have defeated the giant (Gogmagog) near the region of St Michael’s Mount, as told by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s great Historia Regum Britanniae. The base myth may have been of Brythonic (Celtic) origin, and King Arthur is believed to have smote a giant in roughly the same region.

Then came to [King Arthur] an husbandman … and told him how there was … a great giant which had slain, murdered and devoured much people of the country … [Arthur journeyed to the Mount, discovered the giant roasting dead children,] … and hailed him, saying … [A]rise and dress thee, thou glutton, for this day shalt thou die of my hand. Then the glutton anon started up, and took a great club in his hand, and smote at the king that his coronal fell to the earth. And the king hit him again that he carved his belly and cut off his genitours, that his guts and his entrails fell down to the ground. Then the giant threw away his club, and caught the king in his arms that he crushed his ribs … And then Arthur weltered and wrung, that he was other while under and another time above. And so weltering and wallowing they rolled down the hill till they came to the sea mark, and ever as they so weltered Arthur smote him with his dagger.

(Sir Thomas Malory in 1485 in the fifth chapter of the fifth book of Le Morte d’Arthur)

There will be more British giants to follow. Maybe the others will have more luck than our friend, the giant Cormoran…. But I doubt it.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cormoran

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_the_Giant_Killer

The Lore of the Land (Westwood and Simpson 2006).

A Natural History of the Unnatural World (Jo Levy – Carroll and Brown, London)

Author Interview 106 Segilola Salami – Children’s Author/Fairy Tales

 

I don’t often promote books for kids at the library, but this author’s work intrigued me. The books are bilingual – English and Yoruba, that’s a West African Language spoken by nearly 65 million people.  Anyway if you’d like to learn a little more here is some information about the language and people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoruba_language

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoruba_people

Over to you Segilola…

Welcome to Segilola Salami

Where are you from and where do you live now? I’m a Londoner living in London

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.

I write bilingual children’s books. My titles so far are:

  • Yetunde: The Life and Times of a Yoruba Girl in London
  • Learn to Count in Yoruba and English
  • Yetunde: An Ode to My Mother

Where do you find inspiration? My daughter

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I tend to have an idea of the folktales I want to include in my book, so I do a bit of online and offline research, speaking to friends to see what versions they remember. This way I try to get the version I tell as close to accurate as I can. I also add my own twists to it. I do enjoy this because it allows me to relive my childhood.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? I think with my stories, there are some moral guides. This is important, as I hope it teaches children that every action we take has a reaction

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? All my books are available as ebooks. Only Yetunde: An Ode to My Mother is available as a paperbook. I definitely would consider expanding the formats the books are available in in the future

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I do both. When I write my first draft, I take a good few days away from it. I give the manuscript to beta readers to provide feedback. When I go back to the draft manuscript, I sometimes find that with the way I wrote a paragraph, my intentions were not clearly put across, so I have to re-write it. I also apply any appropriate feedback I get from my beta readers. Then I pass the manuscript to the professional editor. When I get the manuscript back, I re-read the editors versions. I find that because I translate some Yoruba words, if the editor changes some key words, the meaning would be lost. So it is important that I then re-edit the editors version.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? As a reader, I don’t think so.

Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes I do

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? As a reader, I never bothered reading reviews. The only time I give a review is when Amazon sends me an email asking for a review. As a reader reviews are not that important to me (as I may not have the same views as the previous reviewer) for works of fiction. I like to judge for myself. If I find a book is badly written, I won’t give the author a second go. If I enjoyed the first book, I would seek out other books by the same author. For non-fiction, I definitely check out reviews to see what people think of the content.

As an author, reviews are super important to help me improve and be better at my writing and that’s why I have a network of beta readers and other authors who I call on to get their feedback. In marketing my books, I have been told that it is important to have reviews as there are some people who only check out books that have reviews.

I think authors should not comment on any published reviews s/he gets. If the author knows the person, then they can talk about the review privately.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? Only for non-fiction

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Yetunde: An Ode to My Mother

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/603700

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1R7OVF3

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1S7GM66

Book page: http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/yetunde-an-ode-to-my-mother/

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/yetunde-an-ode-to-my-mother

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/en/book/yetunde-an-ode-to-my-mother/id1072179529?mt=11

GRs https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28388212-yetunde

 

Yetunde: The Life and Times of a Yoruba Girl in London

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1S0AkQ6

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1KJuXDk

Book trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCMv4wU5sHI

 

Author website: http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Yetunde3DAnimation/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iyayetunde1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/segilolasalami

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7OL37UtAJ-ULNnDGB0SiTg/videos

Google + https://plus.google.com/u/0/+IyaYetunde

Subscribe to Podcast http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/subscribe-to-podcast/

iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-segilola-salami-show/id1091366789?mt=2&ls=1

Stitcher: http://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=85447&refid=stpr

Fantasy, Science Fiction and Literary Heroes in Our Society Guest Post – Sharon Kae Reamer

Name: Sharon Kae Reamer

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? Expatriate American now living in Cologne, Germany.

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today?  It is all-pervasive in the sense that most everyone has seen a SFF movie. But there are many people I meet who have never read a SF or fantasy book. For example, I know many people who’ve seen The Hobbit trilogy and LoTR films but have never read the books. I’ve encountered quite a few people who have told me, flat out, that they would like to read my books but that they don’t like fantasy. I don’t try to argue with them. To each his/her own.

Why do you think this is?  It suggests that genre literature, in particular, speculative fiction, is still not seen to be something ‘worthy’ as literature. Maybe in some sense it is still perceived as ‘pulp’ fiction or escapist literature. It is escapist literature, but I view ALL literature as escapist. Maybe because fantasy and SF are not perceived to have social relevance to the problems we face in today’s world (or even historically). But I think that’s a huge mistake in perception, at least from my point of view. If done right, the speculative genre can be a fantastic mirror to aspects of our culture on this planet.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be? Yes, probably, but as stated above, mainly in the media of film and television rather than books. Although in YA, I think anything is possible these days. It seems to be the playground where speculative fiction is most highly tolerated.

What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life? A hero is someone who has been forced to abandon his or her ‘normal’ life for a greater purpose, be it saving someone they love, a quest to retrieve a magical or scientific artefact for the force of good, or to battle against a negative force to save the world/universe, just to name a couple examples. There are many definitions of what heroism is or does. It can also be a small thing, like being faithful and waiting for someone to return even if there is no hope of it (Ulysses’ wife Penelope comes to mind here).

Ideally, I don’t see a lot of difference between real life and literature heroes, except that real life heroes do not have to deal with magical or science fictional type situations. Doctors Without Borders is a ‘hero’ in real life because they save people. Superheroes in fiction save people but on a much more extravagant scale. But DWB are superheroes to me in real life. J

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books? My heroine from The Schattenreich series, Caitlin Schwarzbach, will risk anything to save those she loves. To me, that is heroism. It’s a quiet kind of heroism. She doesn’t want to put herself in danger, but she does because she can’t stand the thought of anything bad happening to those she loves.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? There are two famous quotes I think summarize the differences in how things work in fantasy and science fiction:

“Science fiction is something that could happen – but you usually wouldn’t want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn’t happen – though you often only wish that it could.” Arthur C. Clarke, 2000

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.” Rod Serling, 1962

In both SF and F, plausibility is a hugely important factor. Otherwise, we cannot take the reader with us. He/she will be left standing in the wizard’s laboratory/launch pad while we go merrily off alone (cackling madly and collecting cats) into the worlds we have built. As a reader, I have to believe that whatever is going on on the page is plausible, be it giant space worms or man-eating unicorns or intelligent slime mold. These things may or may not exist (i.e., they are not ‘facts’ in any sense in the world we live in at present), but if they are presented to be an integral and logical part of the world the author has built, in other words, plausible, then I will accept their existence in that world as ‘fact’ .

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? I came of age in relation to science fiction and fantasy reading in the early eighties. Many of those writers are ones that I still think of fondly. Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, William Gibson, Lewis Carroll, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams. Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley. I could go on for a long time. I don’t know if all their works would still hold up now if I read them again. But it doesn’t matter. They were influential in making me a reader of speculative fiction, and so remain very influential.

In relation to films, I’d guess T.O.S.S. that my parents let me watch (my younger brother was not allowed to watch it when the series first came out). I was riveted from the very first episode of Star Trek, and still love the concept. I instantly fell in love with the original Star Wars trilogy as well as the first three Indiana Jones films and simply could not wait for the sequels to come out. It was excruciating. There was also 2001, and a slew of others since then. There were also those weird fantasy/horror films, many or most of them black and white films, I remember from my childhood that influenced me a great deal (most of which I saw on television): The 5000 Fingers of Doctor T, The Haunting, all those monster movies, most of which I watched with my Dad – The Werewolf was probably the scariest to me – and Invaders From Mars, any Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode, The Wizard of Oz, Godzilla and Mothra – these were all influential to me growing up. My Dad still enjoys trying to get me to watch films that will scare the crap out of me when I visit him. I’m usually a willing participant, but I sometimes regret it afterwards when I’m trying to get to sleep. The first film I ever saw in the movies was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Kirk Douglas and James Mason which my grandfather took me to see. It made a huge impression on me.

Nowadays, the fantastical or science fictional movie has loads of special effects and is presented so realistically that if I were a kid growing up today, I’d be hooked on SFF all over again.

Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold? My Schattenreich series contains Celto-Germanic deities. Some of the deities portrayed and characterized are purely Celtic. Some have crossover status (i.e., they exist in both the Celtic and Germanic pantheons). My interpretations of these fantastical persons, as such, are vital to the identity and worldviews of the characters in my series. Because the religions I portray do not exist any longer in the modern world in their original form, I don’t really know how important they are to our identity. But because there are a large number of neopagan or modern pagan religions that use some of these divinities in their practice, I believe they have relevance to who we are, even if it is just in recognizing the god/goddess within us. Most of us who have some sort of northern European ancestry can probably relate to the fantastical portrayal of the Celtic and Germanic pantheon. This has continued from early historical times (i.e., during the late Iron Age) right up until the present. I don’t believe in any fantastical creatures, although I think they are important as they give us the means to learn something about ourselves and have formed the basis for our modern culture. In other parts of the world, ancient religions populated with one or more deities are still important to the identity of the cultures. And much of this representation is based on myths, even for the major religions (even those with only a monotheistic pantheon) of the modern world.

So I would say the answer to the second question is: yes, totally.

Here’s some links:

 

http://www.sharonreamer.com/ (website)

http://sharonreamer.blogspot.com (redirects to sharonreamer.blogspot.de)

https://www.facebook.com/sharon.k.reamer

https://twitter.com/sharonkae

http://www.pinterest.com/sharonkreamer/

 

The books in The Schattenreich series (published) are Primary Fault, Shaky Ground, Double Couple, and Shadow Zone. Forthcoming in summer, 2015: Triple Junction (final book)

Primary Fault has been honoured with a Indy B.R.A.G. medallion and Indie Book of the Day.

 

 

 

Character Interview Number Twenty-Three Ronan – Shifter

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s) Ronan

Age: I appear to be about twenty five.

I live primarily in the Atlantic ocean, but roam extensively as a shape shifter. I make frequent visits to Ireland as I have a deep appreciation for the landscape. As a shifter and a creature of the water, I realize I can be very fickle. I don’t think this hurts the people around me, I think they just need to accept it.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? I often come across to humans as having no morals at all, but that’s just not true. Just because I don’t share human morals doesn’t mean I have none.

Would you kill for those you love? I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

Would you die for those you love? Probably not, but who knows? My moods and feelings can change quite drastically.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why? Not really… I treat my relationships quite lightly.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I can influence humans and other creatures through touch, but I need water to conduct this influence. Some people call this manipulative, but I think of it more as persuasion.

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live. I live in the same world that you do. It’s inhabited by non magical creatures and magical creatures alike.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour. Humans have had a superstition about magical creatures since the beginning of time, as they should.

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another? Of course, doesn’t every world? My world has many races of people including fairies, giants, leprechauns and humans. They get along… most of the time. Of course there are always conflicts between individuals.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. There are hundreds of legends told about us. We’ve been called kelpies, selkies, wihwin, nixies and more. Most of my people don’t appreciate these names and stories, but I particularly like the stories of kelpies that are told in Scottland. They’re said to be shape shifters that appear on the form of horses near bodies of water. They lure travelers onto their backs and when a human gets on one, they aren’t able to get off. The kelpie will then walk into the water and drown them. It’s an interesting story, but nonsense of course… most of it anyways.

Author notes:

Book(s) in which this character appears plus links

This character appears in Irish Fantasy Volume I: Drowining

http://www.amazon.ca/Drowning-Fantasy-Hannah-L-Wing-ebook/dp/B00PBLWC2C/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415336424&sr=1-1

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/481203

Author name

Hannah L. Wing

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

http://hannahlwing.wordpress.com/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9824530.Hannah_L_Wing

 

Book Review – The Lore of the Land

The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends, from Spring-heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys  by Westwood and Simpson

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Lore-Land-Englands-Spring-heeled/dp/0141021039/

This is a fascinating book covering every county in England. Tales of ghosts, giants, heroes, villains, monsters, place-names, kings, witches and so much more. England has a very rich history of folklore – some of it very strange indeed! The accounts are about a paragraph or so each, interspersed with longer two-page spreads, images and at 900 or so pages is a hefty read. This is a must for any fan of English history, folk-lore, fairy tales, ghost stories, and the general oddness of folk.

Many of the counties had similar beliefs, some now seeming strange to us and some of the accounts are sad, some funny, and some just plain weird. Most are from the fairly recent or more distant past – when science was in its infancy and religion accounted for most people’s knowledge of the world. Yet it wasn’t clear cut as belief in god went hand in hand with belief in fairies, giants and dragons.  You’d be surprised how many churches were moved; how often the Devil tried to drown/bury or otherwise play havoc with a town; how many dragons and giants stride the land and how many ghosts, headless horses and boggarts haunt us.  This is a book which shows us the mythic past of England.

The book is long but a great resource, and a great book to dip into.

 

Fantasy….it’s everywhere – part 2 – St George and the Dragon

uccello-saint-george-dragon-NG6294-fm

Following on from my previous post about the pervasiveness of fantasy I have been thinking about this a lot. I am British, and Britain has a very rich heritage of myth and folklore; we have dragons, we have knights who slay them, we have mythical kings and magic swords, we have monsters inhabiting Scottish Lochs, we have fairies, pixies and ghosts aplenty, we have heroes and antiheroes.  Yet many people scoff at fantasy, thinking it is simply elves, dwarves or similar; a genre read by geeks and nerds. Well yes, in part it is, but fantasy and folklore have been with us from the dawn of time in one form or another.

Let’s look at one of the best known English myths – that of St George and the Dragon.

Most accounts claim St George was born in Cappadocia, in what is now Turkey, of Darian origin. He enlisted in the Roman army, and quickly achieved a reputation for his physical strength bravery, loyalty and courage and he achieved a rank of Tribunus Militum, in charge of over 1000 men. He was martyred during the reign Emperor Diocletian in 303 AD in Lydda, Palestine, for refusing to persecute Christians, when Diocletion brought in edicts against what was then a reasonably small but vociferous sect. Including the burning of churches, the destruction of holy scriptures and the execution of Christians. George defended the Christians and their faith and was imprisoned, tortured and executed. There are various accounts of is martyrdom, some claiming it took seven years as God restored him to life three times. His fame was carried as far as Russia, with his head was carried to Rome.   His emblem of the red cross on a white background was carried on the tabards and shields of crusader knights. It is also the flag of England and forms the red cross part of the Union Flag of Great Britain. St George is the patron saint of England, taking the role from St Edward the Confessor who is now often forgotten. His tomb attracted pilgrims, and his fame spread when Richard the Lionheart introduced his military cult to England during the crusades and the Battle of Acre, before this his cult appeared in Byzantium.  John Cabot carried his emblem to Newfoundland and both Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake flew his standard. It was also carried by the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower.

Jacobus de Voragine in his Golden Legends (13th Century) speaks of him in Silene in Libya. Another 10th Century account places St George in the fictional area of Lasia, ruled by a tyrannical emperor called Silinus. The area had a lake, inhabited by a venomous dragon, local inhabitants would feed it sheep to keep it passive, and then when these failed to satisfy it, children were chosen at random. One day the lottery fell on the king’s daughter, the king offers half his kingdom if his daughter was spared. This is an idea which appears in other mythology – the king – unable to defeat a monster offers his daughter and riches to a hero. St George, the knight, happened to be passing and wounding the dragon with his lance (and with God’s blessing)  then capturing the dragon with the princess’s girdle allowed it to be led by the noble lady to the city gates, where St George converted them to Christianity and duly slew the dragon.

In some accounts he was the son of an English Lord, Lord Albert of Coventry and his mother died in childbirth. The babe was stolen by a ‘wild-woman’ of the woods (possibly a witch or gypsy) but he eventually outwits her and becomes a knight. Of course after the slaying of the dragon and rescue of the princess he married the maiden, returned to England and lived happily ever after… Although as with many legends another version states he faces a second dragon, in Warwickshire, kills it but subsequently dies of its poison.

Of course this is a religious myth, and many would say not fantasy as such – the dragon represents evil, and those who slay them champions of Christianity. He is also believed to have protected horses from witchcraft – one should hang a flint with a hole over the stable door with verse depicting him vanquishing a hag. But there is more than religious allegory, he epitomised courtly and chivalrous values; he was a warrior, saviour of damsels in distress and vanquisher of monsters.  And some would say religion uses elements we class as fantasy, and ideas which appear in religion appear in myth and folklore. The two are intertwined. The more magical elements of the myth probably appeared after the Reformation, with the overtly Christian inferences stripped out by the Protestants and the more romantic elements of the story take the fore.

His heart (allegedly) lies in Windsor and was a favoured relic of King Henry V, who invoked him at the siege of Agincourt (1415), where the English were victorious against the French, but later kings have claimed his protection and as the patron saint of England his influence is firmly entrenched.   There are other local English myths – including one in an Essex village where a dragon (probably a crocodile escaped from the king’s menagerie) was killed by a local nobleman – one Sir George Marney.    The Uffington White Horse, in Berkshire, England (an ancient white chalk horse cut into the landscape) has a dragon myth.  There is a hill named Dragon Hill, is claimed by Thomas Hughes in his book The Scouring of the White Horse (1859) to have been the site of the slaying of the dragon by ‘King George’. The bare patch is supposed to be where the blood of the dragon spilled, nothing will grow. Hughes cites another region, Aller in Somerset, where a shepherd tells of a hill which saw the death of the dragon and the burial of its slayer. The horse at Uffington is itself curious being linked with Alfred the Great, (878 AD) Hengist the Anglo Saxon leader, Celtic (100BC) but in fact has been in existence since the Bronze Age – around 1000BCE. Brinsop in Herefordshire also claims ownership of St George – its parish church has a medieval carving of the deed being done. The dragon apparently residing in the local ‘Dragon’s Well’ and the next village being known as Wormsley – ‘worm’ or ‘wyrm’ being an alternate word for dragon.

http://www.royalsocietyofstgeorge.com/history_of_st_george.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dragons_in_mythology_and_folklore

http://www.sacred-texts.com/lcr/fsca/fsca16.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Legend

More about other British dragons, warrior kings, magic swords, monsters, ghostly and iconic horses and myths from the folklore rich Isles of Britain next time.

Fantasy… it’s everywhere – Part 1

An author friend recently commented that some of his colleagues and friends show some scorn to his writing because “they don’t read fantasy”. This discussion ended up on the Heroic Fantasy Facebook group and soon a discussion of the genre ensued. Whilst people not enjoying fantasy is entirely their choice it struck me fantasy is everywhere. Of course people have different views and likes and dislikes, and this is what makes the world such an interesting place but think about it for a moment and you will see what I mean.

Wikipedia defines fantasy as Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.

In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist form, especially since the worldwide success of The Lord of the Rings and related books by J. R. R. Tolkien. In its broadest sense, however, fantasy comprises works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians, from ancient myths and legends to many recent works embraced by a wide audience today.”

And again “The identifying traits of fantasy are the inclusion of fantastic elements in a self-coherent (internally consistent) setting, where inspiration from mythology and folklore remains a consistent theme.[2] Within such a structure, any location of the fantastical element is possible: it may be hidden in, or leak into the apparently real world setting, it may draw the characters into a world with such elements, or it may occur entirely in a fantasy world setting, where such elements are part of the world.[3] Essentially, fantasy follows rules of its own making, allowing magic and other fantastic devices to be used and still be internally cohesive.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy

Here’s an example – Father Christmas otherwise known as Santa Claus – An immortal, apparently omniscient being who can travel the world in one night on his benevolent journey to bring presents.  Now we tell our kids about this marvellous fellow, marketing and images are everywhere at this time of year and there is a lot of mythology about him.  Yet the red robed, jolly old man with the flying sleigh is a relatively recent invention based on much older myth. Of a figure personifying Christmas and winter – Nowell (Noel), Lord Christmas and later, in Britain at least, ‘Father Christmas’. He was associated with adult worship, encouraging people to feast and drink, making merry at the birth of Christ. He was often seen as dressed from a bygone era but essentially was supernatural or anthropomorphic personification of the festival. Surely this has an element of fantasy.

Here we have a supernatural being and his magical companions (elves, flying reindeer etc.) so he fulfils at least some of the criteria. He also appears in a lot of fiction – CS Lewis and Tolkien used him in literature, plus of course many more recent writings.

Father Christmas and Santa Claus are synonymous with one another but Santa Claus was St Nicholas, and our modern view comes down from a Dutch story of a saint intertwined with myths of Odin and winter deities. St Nicholas himself was a 4th Century Greek Christian Bishop who was well-known for his gifts to the poor.

So what is my point here? The whole myth of Santa and much of Christmas – such as Yule (a pagan festival) has a lot of the elements of fantasy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus

Not just this particular myth – fairies, elves, dwarves, orcs, heroes, gods, superheroes and fairytales are everywhere. Look at the recent movies – The Hobbit (Fantasy), Thor- the Dark World (fantasy/superhero), even Man of Steel – the latest Superman film has elements of it. After all the idea of a hero endowed with some form of superpower or the reluctant hero (such as Bilbo Baggins) are central to our culture.  The Harry Potter films are the highest grossing films in cinematic history.  Adventure films have an element of this too – think of Indiana Jones – the good guy vs bad guy element with semi fantastic elements (Ark of the Covenent, Holy Grail, an almost supernatural luck). This of course is more subtle than the more obvious sword and sorcery type but seems to me to at least partially fit the criteria. Paranormal romance and fiction is increasingly popular, as is urban fantasy.  Then we have Science Fiction – which often contains elements of fantasy – think of Star Wars – aliens, jedi (wizards), the dark lord (Emperor Palpatine/Darth Vader).  Even Star Trek, and Dr Who – still popular after 50 years or so with heroic and/or other worldly persons fighting monsters, using strange powers or weapons and generally saving the world/damsel in distress if your name is Captain Kirk, and often adding in a subtle moral tale into the bargain.

Take Britain – we have Robin Hood (who may or may not have existed) who stands up against a wicked king and his sheriff to fight on behalf of the poor. Again a personification of the fight of ‘good vs evil’, we have King Arthur and his magic sword, Excalibur. Arthur is entrenched firmly in British culture as is St George and his Dragon.   Sounds like fantasy and folklore to me….

And so the list goes on. One only has to look at the popularity of the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, even Mr Shakespeare wrote fantasy – namely A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest.  Fantasy, myth and folklore tale have been told since first people sat around a fire, perhaps trying to explain the world and the many incredible events therein, and perhaps it was just a way to make things a little more exciting.  Homer’s Odyssey, Norse Mythology and even Indian and Japanese myths and influences are there, and as popular as ever.