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Yofune-Nushi

This draconic legend is something of an oddity. It was published in 1918 as part of Richard Gordon Smith’s volume, Ancient Tales and Folk-Lore of Japan. However, many aspects are more reminiscent of European dragon lore. Even the author admitted that the tale couldn’t be authenticated as Japanese. This raises a question: where did the story come from?

Sometime in the 1300s, there lived a samurai named Shima Oribe, who fell into disgrace and was banished by his lord, Takatoki Hojo. Shima was commanded to live on an island called Kamishima, in the Oki island group. Oribe had a beautiful daughter, about 18, named Tokoyo. She was devoted to her father, as he was to her. Alone in her house, she wept for over a year.

When Tokoyo could no longer bear the loneliness and grief, she set off to find her father. She was a courageous young woman who knew how to sail and had learned how to swim from the women of her village. At times, she even dove with them to collect oysters and awabi (abalone). Having sold a few of her fine possessions, Tokoyo made her way to a village called Akasaki, where the Oki Islands could be seen in the distance. She asked the local fishermen to take her there, but her money was nearly gone. They refused to help her.

Tokoyo had a bold heart. She found a small boat and sailed off on her own. Coming to land, she searched for her father. He was not there, so she sailed on, from island to island, day after day, always searching. Despairing, she found a sheltered place to rest on land.

Wait a minute — wasn’t there supposed to be a dragon in this story? Yofune something? Check back on Saturday and see if he shows up!

Not far from where I live, there’s a geographic feature known as the Dragon’s Teeth. This is a series of stone markers erected during the late 1930s.

This was the era of the Civilian Conservation Corps, an employment program during the Great Depression. At the time, a gentleman named R. L. Rutter lived on an isolated property to the north of Spokane. The access road was little better than a wagon trail. It was so narrow that if two vehicles met each other, one would have to back up and let the other get through.

The crafty land holder devised a plan to improve the situation. Rutter volunteered as supervisor, and the CCC workers of Company 949 built an actual road. As a safety measure, they lined the sides with 400 or so large granite stones quarried from nearby hillsides. Work was completed in February of 1938. Because of their fang-like shapes, the installation was dubbed “The Dragon’s Teeth.” The road was named Rutter Parkway in honor of the land holder.

The Dragon’s Teeth have remained in place for 77 years, despite a few careless drivers and the occasional landslide. However, the County has recently determined that the route needs to be rebuilt to take modern vehicles into account. For this to happen, the Dragon’s Teeth will have to be removed.

Various proposals have been made to relocate or re-use the “teeth,” some of which are 5 feet tall. A nearby natural area might use some to mark its parking lot. City and county parks, museums, and historical societies have also been approached for ideas. So although the Dragon’s Teeth may be pulled and placed in storage, I hope they will be seen again — even if not all 400 stand together.

I mentioned last week that Sasquan/World Science Fiction was in my home town. Because I couldn’t afford a hotel the whole week, I actually went “there and back” quite a few times. Today I have some highlights to share, focused on the silly stuff, because that’s how I roll.

Throughout the event, there was one big complaint heard over and over. That was the smoky haze over the city. Spokane is downwind of several large fires, and the prevailing winds brought the fumes our way. It was noticeable most days but worst on Friday, when we had fine soot falling along with smoky smell and limited visibility. People started calling us “Smokane.” Cute, right?

It was disappointing, only in that the haze kept con goers from seeing how beautiful Spokane’s river and downtown core are.

Another highlight was Angela Jones, the boss of the Dealers Room. Periodically, she would make clever announcements from “Ceiling Cat” about opening times, lost items, and mobi-scooters not speeding in the aisles. “Grumpy Cat” joined in when a model of the Hugo base briefly went missing.

Speaking of the Hugos, my husband and I were dithering whether to go in person or watch from the satellite lounge. We went, and I’m so glad we did. It was awesome to sit in the room and feel the energy as the awards were called. David Gerrold and Tananarive Due were great hosts who injected lots of humor.

If you care about the Hugos, I’m sure you know the outcome by now, so I’m not worried about spoilers when I say that No Award took home an awful lot of trophies. I expected this, but it was still strange to hear that phrase, “the voters have decided that no award shall be given,” so many times. You could see on their faces that both hosts were taken aback. At one point, Gerrold reminded that audience that booing is not appropriate during an awards ceremony.

There were many other special moments. Jay Lake (rest in peace) received a posthumous award for service to fandom. It was accepted by his sister and widow, who was too overcome to speak.

Robert Silverberg compared Sasquan to the 1968 Worldcon, in Berekeley CA, when there was rioting outside. He recalled, “Tear gas blew in from one side, and pot fumes came from the other.” Connie Willis also gave a very entertaining, short speech.

Perhaps my favorite moment was when a Dalek robot came out to give the media awards. David Gerrold was holding up a card for it to read, and it said, “My eye is up here, David… Were you looking at my lumps?”

To see the entire broadcast, check it out on Ustream.

Author Interview!

Author Sacha Black interviewed me last spring, and that interview is now live. Check it out here!

Thank you so much, Sacha.

To Sasquan!

The rest of this week, I’ll be at Sasquan (World Science Fiction). It’s in my home town. How could I skip it? Monday til Wednesday I’m helping set up the art show. Starting Wednesday I’m on panels. Here’s my schedule. If you’re coming to Sasquan, I’d love to meet face to face!

Wednesday, 4 pm — Open Mic reading, Cabaret Rm.

Thursday, 11 am — Writing for Children in the Inland Northwest, Doubletree Salon 4
3 pm — Why SF Needs a Young Adult Magazine, Convention Center 300C

Friday, 10 am — Autograph Session, Convention Center Hall B
3 pm — YA Book Blogs, Convention Center 303A

Saturday, noon — YA/MG Resource Roundtable, Convention Center 303A
4 pm — Characters With Character, Doubletree Spokane Falls Suite A/B

Sunday, 10 am — YA/MG Roundtable (Workshops, mine is on World Building), Doubletree Salon 4.
11 am — Northwest Fandom, Then and Now, Convention Center 300D

I expect to find all sorts of inspiration, so look for my next post in a week!

Previously, I related how Sir John Lambton unwittingly loosed a lindworm that ravaged his home.

As a returned Crusader, Sir John was not afraid of battle. But he remembered that he’d already thought he killed the creature once before, and so he sought aid. A wise woman lived in the village of Durham, not far away. Sir John told her why he must defeat the lindworm and asked for her advice. The wise woman told him to put spear blades on his armor and that he must face the wyrm in the River Wear. If he fought it on dry ground, he would surely lose.

But there was more. Because he had turned his back on this task as a young man, a curse had now grown up with it. To break the curse, Sir John had to slaughter the next living thing he saw after defeating the wyrm. If he failed to do this, the curse would fall upon him and his family. For nine generations, not one of them would die peacefully in bed.

Sir John returned home and explained the wise woman’s instructions. His father agreed to help fit the armor with spear heads, and they planned that , if Sir John defeated the wyrm, he would blow his horn three times. The father was then to release his favorite hound. Sir John planned to kill the hound and avert the curse.

When all was ready, Sir John went down to the River Wear. The lindworm was now wrapped around a rock at mid-stream.The moment it saw him, it attacked! They first fought on the bank, where the evil beast tried to catch him in its coils. Luckily, the sharp blades kept it from getting a grip. Sir John struck back, but soon discovered that any piece of the wyrm he lopped off would instantly re-attach itself and the wyrm was just as strong as ever!

Remembering the wise woman’s advice, Sir John backed into the river, where the current was strong. Now when he cut the beast, the pieces floated away and could not re-grow. Not long after, Sir John finished the lindworm off and sounded his horn three times. Alas, the father was so relieved to know his son was alive, he forgot about letting the hound go first. He rushed to the riverbank, where Sir John was aghast to see him. For in order to lift the lindworm’s curse, he would have to kill his own father!

As a loyal son, Sir John could not bring himself to do that. The two men returned home and killed the hound, but it was too late. Though the Lambton family eventually rebuilt their fortunes, the curse shadowed their descendants. For nine generations, no man of that family died peacefully in his own bed.

Last time, I started the story of the Lambton Wyrm, one of the best known legends from England. I paused when Lambton, having fished a baby wyrm out of the River Wear, threw it into a well and left it to die.

A few years passed and the impulsive young John Lambton became a more responsible man. Eventually he decided to join the Crusades and make up for the incident with the wyrm, and other sins. His father, who was a knight and lord of the country around there, gave his blessing.

Sir John Lambton fought honorably in the Holy Land, but when he returned after seven years something was terribly wrong. The countryside was deolate, his proud castle home shabby and crumbling. Only a few sickly servants remained with his poor old father. When Sir John asked what had happened, he heard a tale of woe.

It began with a well near the River Wear. The water became foul, so that all who drank it fell ill. Then livestock started to vanish. The father investigated the well and found deep, slithering tracks around it. They led to a nearby hill. There the horrified father discovered a lindworm, so large that its coils passed seven times around the hilltop. Because his son was far away, the father called for aid. Many knights came to battle the dreaded wyrm, but none could defeat it. It often grew so angry that it pulled up a tree with its tail and flattened everything for miles.

This creature terrorized the land for months on end, snatching first the cattle and then young children. Peasants fled the area, and soon the lindworm came to the lord’s own castle. As a desperate measure, the father put out a trough of milk from nine good cows. This treat calmed the wyrm and it went back to its hilltop. However, the wyrm came to expect this bounty every day — and it was still growing!

As he heard all this, a great weight fell upon Sir John, for he knew where the lindworm came from. He had brought this vile creature into the world and he would have to deal with it, just as the old man foretold.

Come back Saturday to find out how he did!

PS — I’ve recently updated my book pages. Please take a look!

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