For a tale years ago that still sends a chill down your spine. For stories told to grandchildren after the sun goes down. For towns where the truth only exists within the boundaries. For deals made down at the crossroads. For strangers in the shadows. For skeptics tinged with doubt. For hands raised to the sky as eyelids fall closed. For a moment of belief.
Bottom Of The River | Delta Rae
Cross Road Blues | Robert Johnson
To Darkness!Kripa | Mumford & Sons feat. The Dharohar Project and Laura Marling
Red Right Hand | Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Plans | Bloc Party
Tower | Zola Jesus
Waiting For The Moon To Rise | Belle & Sebastian
Bones & Skin | Mirah
Full Moon | Black Ghosts
Lamplight | Bombay Bicycle Club
Mockingbird | Anaïs Mitchell
God’s Gonna Cut You Down | Johnny Cash
* All credit for that gorgeous cover art goes to the equally-gorgeous Maddie
New Fair Tales of the Day: Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Germany), 500 previously unpublished fairy tales were discovered. The tales, which date to the 1800s, originally were collected by a historian named Franz Xaver von Schonwerth, “a contemporary of the Grimm brothers.” Now selected tales have been introduced to the world in a book published by Erika Eichenseer, a cultural curator in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz.
Eichenseer says the fairy tales aren’t just for kids: “Their main purpose was to help young adults on their path to adulthood, showing them that dangers and challenges can be overcome through virtue, prudence and courage.”
Clearly, as evidenced by one tale of a maiden who escapes a witch by transforming herself into a pond. The witch then lies on her stomach and drinks all the water, swallowing the young girl, who uses a knife to cut her way out of the witch.
In Japanese folklore, Gashadokuro, also known as Odokuro, are giant skeletons, fifteen times taller than an average person. They can reach huge sizes (up to about 90 feet tall), and are constructed from the bones of people who have died from starvation. Their bones are collected into this giant skeleton creature which is filled with intense anger and a thirst for human blood. He wanders around at night, grinding his teeth and making a “gachi gachi” sound. The giant skeleton towers so high above the ground and walks so quietly that he can be almost invisible. The only warning you get when the giant skeleton is near is a strange and inexplicable ringing in your ears.
If the Gashadokuro finds you, he will reach down with his bony hand and snatch you off the ground. Then he will pluck your head off and suck the blood out of your headless body until his thirst is quenched.
if you want to read it I put it below the cut
This year, in 2012 is the year of the epic Dragon, and every year is named after a different animal. The order goes like this:
And you can probably tell that we have divided years into 12 parts, but I bet you didn’t know that there’s a story behind it, too.
See, once upon a time, the Jade Emperor (or sometimes Buddha), totally had to figure out how to count the years. And since people loved them animals, he thought it’d be best to count the years according to them. But the thing is, since he figured out that a lunar cycle was 12 years, so this totally meant that he could only include 12 animals. And the thing is, he really wanted to be fair and just and not show favouritism, so he thought like, looooong and hard and was like, “Oh yeah! Let’s totally have a race.”
So basically, he issued an edict out to errbody, going, “Ohai, gaiz! We’re doing this whole lunar calendar thing in which like, a year is named after an animal. If you’re totally into that sort of thing, came to me on the 13th day of the 12th month and if you’re the first 12 to make it to mah crib, you’ll get a year named after you!”
Of course every single animal was like, totally into that, and they made a note to go.
Thing is, the cat and the rat also wanted to go, but the cat had a problem. Well, all cats do, ‘cause if you have a kitteh, you know that cats love love love their sleep and this one was no exception. So the cat was all, “Bro, I totally like, wanna be part of the 12 zodiac” and be first, he thought, “so you mind wakin’ me up?”
The rat was like, ” ‘Course I don’t mind, bro,” and he agreed to wake the cat up on that day itself so they can go together.
Awwww, so cute, right? Wrong!
‘Cause on that day, the rat woke up and was all, “Well, this is kinda unfair, right? I mean, the kitteh is all bigger than me and would go faster than me and I totally wanna be first, so I might as well go on ahead,” which is what he totally did.
So the rat scurried and scurried and saw that this HUGE OX was behind him, and he was like, “Shit, man. The ox is gonna catch up to me and he’s gonna be first,” so after all this running and shit, they came across a river. And the rat was like, totally tiny and there was no way he could get across, so he asked the ox, “Hey, bro! If it’s like, totally cool with you, can I like, hitch a ride?”
The ox was like, super nice, so he totally said, “Yeah, sure!” The rat hopped on and they crossed the river together.
Behind them, was this huge-ass fierce tiger, king of the jungle and he also came across the river. So he was all, “Oh man, I so can’t swim across this river, dude,” so he trashed against the current and he finally got across.
The next was the rabbit and when he saw the river, he was all, “Bitch, please, I got this,” and so he like, hopped on the stones to get across, and tada! He was at the other side of the river.
While all this was happening, the dragon was doin’ this like a boss and soaring through the air and like, totally in first place. But when he looked down, he saw all them people going, “Aw man! There’s like, no rain for our crops! We ain’t gonna eat, yo!” So the dragon really hated to see people suffer, so he was like, “F*** this shit, Imma help the people first, and that was what he did.”
Oh yeah, the horse was also behind errbody, galloping and totally unaware of what was also with him, but we’ll talk about it later.
So then came the sheep, monkey,
and cock. I mean, rooster. They saw the river and they were all like, “Oh man, it’s so wide.” But the cock,I mean, rooster, said, “Ohay gaiz I has a raft!” So he took the raft and let errbody sit on it. So when they crossed the river, the sheep nommed like, all the grass and the monkey helped clear it too, so they got across.
Then after all of these animals, came the
puppy. I mean, dog. So he saw the water and was all, “OH MY GOD WATER!” And he started playing in it, totally losing track of time.
All these animals were racing towards the finish line, and like, the rat saw that he was super close to the finishing line, and just before the ox stopped, he jumped off the ox and became the first one to arrive. Then, came the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, and the dragon. The horse galloped in, but when he did this the snake that snuck in his hoof was all, “All right! We’re there already!” and he slithered out, taking sixth place.
Told you there was somethin’ hidden within the horse.
The sheep, monkey and
cock,I mean, rooster came next, then the dog, who was drying himself out. The Emperor saw all of them and was like, “Okay, cool. We need one more.”
Just then, the pig walked in like a boss, going, “Wassup? Sorry I’m late but there was this feast and oh my god there was like, so much food errywhere so I totally had to eat it, yo.”
Then, the Emperor (or Buddha) asked how errbody got here, and all the animals told him the story. So the Emperor was mighty pleased, and that’s how these animals became the 12 Zodiac animals.
At this time, the cat woke up, and he saw that the mouse didn’t wake him up and the race was like, over. He was like, super mad at the rat. When the rat came back, the cat made sure to chase and catch and torture the rat, and the cat has been doing this ever since.
So now you know why these 12 animals are in the zodiac, and why the cat hates the rat like, soooo much.
dang you know what’s infuriating
people dismissing fairy tale/myth heroines as having anti-feminist narratives solely because their heroism is couched in traditional feminine gender roles, i.e. making shirts to save your seven brothers from a lifetime of being stuck as swans
Mandragora has many folk beliefs connected to it, such as the superstition that, when one pulls the root from the ground they will be condemned to Hell. Another story, common in folklore, is that mandrake would grow only where the semen of a hanged man had dripped onto the ground, and to which various healing and/or magical powers were ascribed. Then there is the one about if you pull the root from the ground it will scream, killing whoever hears it.
K, so if you’re not from Asia, you’d be familiar with numerous dragon slaying tales. Hell, even Asians like me are all too familiar with dragon slaying tales, too. I guess in Western culture, these creatures are seen as a source of evil, but in Asia, especially in Chinese culture, they aren’t. They’re normally benevolent and kind, and made of awesome. Funny, huh? There are like, dragons dreamed up in many various cultures, but we choose to think different things about them.
Anyways, this came about in the Xia dynasty, which was like, the first dynasty of China, ever, when people still formed clans and stuff like that. So they had an animal to represent a clan, like a pig or a snake or whatever, to show how bad-ass or not they were. So, over time, since some animals looked wussy, they adopted the fearsome traits of other animals, like joining the claws of an eagle, the body of a serpent, and the face of a lion together and what do you know - they formed the dragon! And shortly after, the dragon clan annexed all the others and came out tops, and became a symbol for the Chinese people. So then the Chinese people thought, “Wow, like, some gods must be at work to make the dragon clan people rulers, and maybe the god was a dragon himself!” So, they gave him the power to rule.” So people actually began to think that the mandate from heaven came from the dragon gods themselves.
Oh yeah - before I forget, we have this saying called 龙的传人, (long de chuan ren,) which means descendants of the Dragon, a saying which has lasted from Ancient times till today. Back then, the Chinese really did believe that they were descendants of the dragon, which is really cool if you ask me. I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want to be the descendant of this really kick-ass creature?
Anyway, there were like, a wide variety of dragons. They come in all shapes and sizes, can be invisible - or not. They can fly and they can swim, and some even guard the palaces of the gods or support them like pillars, and some make rain and wind to blow to help the crops grow, and some watch their treasure, stuff like that.
The Buddhists also think there are as many dragons as fish in the sea, which is like, a lot, and they think the number of dragons is equal to a sacred number which is cooler than like, infinity or something.
Anyway, there are five dragon kings according to legend, one for each direction, so you have the Dragon King of the North, East, South and West, and the one in the centre, who is like the chief. They eat pearls and opals, and have five legs - with one in the centre of the body, don’t ask me why. Their breath can boil fish, or set fire to them, whichever method you prefer. Oh yeah. They can also cause mountains to move and tidal waves, so don’t mess with them. Basically, they’re freaking epic. And the best part? They can communicate with each other telepathically, and they report to the Jade Emperor at the end of every year.
And if you look closely enough into the waters, you might just see their palace of transparent stones and crystal doors. How awesome is that?
If you want more dragon awesomeness, come back next week for a dragon story!
Love, betrayal, incest, adultery, idealism, chivalry, sorcerers, knights, Christians, Pagans… it’s all right here. From the very beginning of its creation all the way to a modern feminist retelling, I’ve tried to collect an extensive history of the Arthurian legend. This is in no way a full account but it’s a good start.
De Excidio Brittonum by Gildas (~540) [PDF]
History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth (~1136) [PDF]
Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth (~1150) [PDF]
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (~1350)
Le Morte Darthur by Thomas Malory (1485)
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1983) [PDF]
Related anthologies that have Arthurian legends in them:
I’m also including The Romance of Tristan and Iseult [PDF] [ePub] While technically not an Arthurian legend, it has many of the same themes and the story of Lancelot and Guinevere has strong roots from this tale.
Where Western tales begin by shifting us to another time—’Once upon a time’ they say, meaning elsewhen, meaning then rather than now—Russian skazki make an adjustment of place. ‘In a certain land’, they start; or, ‘In the three-times-ninth kingdom …’ Meaning elsewhere, meaning there rather than here. Yet these elsewheres are always recognisable as home. In the distance will always be a wood-walled town where the churches have onion domes. The ruler will always be a Tsar, Ivan or Vladimir. The earth is always black. The sky is always wide. It’s Russia, always Russia, the dear dreadful enormous territory at the edge of Europe which is as large as all Europe put together. And, also, it isn’t. It is story Russia, not real Russia; a place never quite in perfect overlap with the daylight country of the same name. It is as near to it as a wish is to reality, and as far away too. For the tales supplied what the real country lacked, when villagers were telling them and Afanaseyev was writing them down.
Real Russia’s fields grew scraggy crops of buckwheat and rye. Story Russia had magic tablecloths serving feasts without end. Real Russia’s roads were mud and ruts. Story Russia abounded in tools of joyful velocity: flying carpets, genies of the rushing air, horses that scarcely bent the ground they galloped on. Real Russia fixed its people in sluggish social immobility. Story Russia sent its lively boys to seek the Firebird or to woo the Swan Maiden. The stories dreamed away reality’s defects. They made promises good enough to last for one evening of firelight; promises which the teller and the hearers knew could only be delivered in some Russian otherwhere. They could come true only in the version of home where the broke-backed trestle over the stream became ‘a bridge of white hazelwood with oaken planks, spread with purple cloths and nailed with copper nails’. Only in the wish country, the dream country. Only in the twenty-seventh kingdom."