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Posts Tagged ‘folk tales’

Here’s a folk story about Uncle Monday, courtesy of the Conjure Woman blog.


Everybody knows that Uncle Monday lives in the swamps of the Deep South. He usually keeps the shape of an alligator, but one of his jobs is to watch over mortal humans. So sometimes he takes the shape of a man and wanders the land. Whenever he encounters someone who is too proud or foolish, he tries to get them back on the right path.

One time, there was an old woman named Judy Bronson. She was a hoodoo doctor of some skill, and it went to her head. Soon she was bragging that Uncle Monday was nothing compared to her. Not only could she help anyone who came to her, but she could unravel spells and send them back at the caster. “Could Uncle Monday do that?” she scoffed.

Word of this got back to Uncle Monday. He was disgusted. “This woman’s pride is higher than a mountain!”

Not long after that, Old Judy wanted to go fishing at Blue Sink. Her neighbors warned her that Blue Sink was a bottomless lake, and besides that, Uncle Monday lived in those waters.

Was Old Judy worried about it? Not at all. Off she went, and just about dusk she threw in her line. Within seconds, something grabbed the bait. Something big, pulling hard enough to worry Old Judy just a little. And a few seconds after that, she found that she couldn’t move at all. Some spell had her paralyzed with her hands locked on the pole!

Old Judy remembered to be scared at last. In fact, she was as scared as a cat in a dog pound. She tried to dig in her feet, but the bottom was to slick. She tried to let go of the pole, but her hands were stuck tight. The harsh tugging continued, and Judy was dragged deeper and deeper into the water.

She couldn’t move, but she could cry for her life. And as she screamed, a beam of light burst out to shine on her. Was someone coming to help her? Well, someone was coming, all right. Far across the lake, a man in flowing robes came walking across the water just like Jesus. An army of alligators swam up behind him.

Who do you think it was?

Old Judy was speechless with terror, but Uncle Monday did not harm her. “I brought you here to learn a lesson,” he said. “You need to get off your high horse and admit your magic is nothing compared to mine.”

Uncle Monday and the alligators slid back into the water. When he left, the light faded and the night was black as pitch. There was Old Judy, paralyzed and alone in the chilly water. Or was she alone? Something scaly bumped against her. One of the gators had stayed as a guard. She felt him with every breath.

Old Judy was furious. She didn’t want to knuckle under to Uncle Monday. But the night stretched on, and she still couldn’t move a muscle. So she had time to think and after a while she admitted to herself that this was some powerful hoodoo and she wasn’t strong enough to break it.

Finally she yelled it out: “I’m not as big and bad a hoodoo doctor as Uncle Monday!”

As soon as she said it, the alligator on guard swam off into the darkness, and Old Judy heard someone calling her name. Her old grandma got worried and came looking for her. Old Judy barely stumbled out of Blue Sink and some of the neighbors came to help her get home. They told her she fell and had a stroke, but Old Judy knew the truth.

From then on, Old Judy threw away all her Voodoo and hoodoo things. She told everyone it was Uncle Monday who helped her to walk again.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

 

 

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Long ago, in the Scottish borderlands, a dreadful wyvern made its lair on the side of Linton Hill. This creature would hunt at dawn and dusk. It wasn’t a picky eater — men, beasts and crops all found their way into its gullet. The villagers fought back, but no weapon could pierce its armored scales.

In desperation, a messenger went to the castle of the local laird, John (or perhaps William) de Somerville. De Somerville was famed as a warrior, reckless and fierce. In this case, however, caution seemed to temper his actions. First, he went to all the villages around Linton Hill, gathering tales and advice. Then he found a vantage to watch the creature in action.

De Somerville observed that the wyvern had an exceptionally large maw. It would snap up and swallow anything in its path. However, when it encountered an obstacle too large to be devoured, it would momentarily freeze with its mouth open. In this, the laird saw his chance.

He went to the nearest blacksmith and directed the man to create an unusual weapon. It was a great spear, but with a wheel on the front. He then stuck a chunk of peat on the tip, covered it with tar, and set it alight. Next followed several days of practice getting his war horse used to having a flaming object in front of it.

When he was ready, De Somerville rode out at dawn. Just as the wyvern emerged from its lair, he lit the spear and confronted the beast on horseback. As ever, the wyvern charged with its mouth open to snatch up a meal. But it had never encountered a person on horseback before. It froze, mouth gaping.

Unfortunately for the dragon, De Somerville did not halt his charge. He ran his burning spear straight into the wyvern’s throat. The monster shrieked and thrashed. Dying, it retreated to its lair, which collapsed upon it. De Somerville was knighted and named Baron of Linton. His family crest depicted a wyvern perched atop a wheel.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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A Swedish prince could not get married until his older brother, a lindworm, found a bride who could love him as he was. After many failures, the human prince despaired. 

In the villages of that land, a young woman heard the lindworm prince was looking for a bride. She was wise enough to seek a soothsayer’s advice before doing anything. It happened this was the very same soothsayer who the queen had once consulted. He told her that if she was brave at heart there was a way to break the lindworm’s curse.

After hearing his advice, the young woman volunteered to be the lindworm’s bride. She came to the forest dressed in many layers of clothing. It seemed odd, but the lindworm was pleased she didn’t scream or faint, so he agreed to the marriage.

What a strange wedding night it was! The groom ordered to the bride to take off her clothes, but she told him he must shed one layer of skin for every garment she removed. With nervous anticipation, they played this game. Over and over, she took off one dress and he shed a layer of skin.

Finally she wore only a shift, while the lindworm had one translucent layer of scales. With a silent prayer, she removed her shift and stood naked. The lindworm coiled around her, slowly and gently.As it rubbed against her, the final layer of scales peeled away. Suddenly she felt not the cold strength of a serpent but a man’s warm arms. By her cleverness and trust, the curse had been broken!


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After consulting a soothsayer, a Swedish queen gave birth to twins — but one of them was a lindworm!

The younger prince grew up to be a handsome man, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile to set hearts fluttering. He began to travel the countryside in search of a bride. As he set out, he passed beside a great forest where all sorts of wild beasts were said to roam.

Without warning, his horse suddenly stopped. The prince, too, sat paralyzed as a huge serpent reared its head from the brush at the wood’s edge. It was a lindworm! As he struggled to reach for his weapons, a cold voice penetrated his thoughts.

“Do not worry,” said the lindworm. “I will not harm you. I am your elder brother.”

“How can this be?” asked the prince.

“Perhaps our mother knows,” the dragon said. “I do not care if you become king, for people mean nothing to me, but I demand this one thing. You will not be married before me. Our mother the queen must send me a bride who is willing to marry me and can love me as I am.”

Though shocked, the human prince said, “I will tell her and find out the truth.”

The lindworm withdrew, and the prince was able to move again. He immediately returned to the castle and told his mother what had happened. Weeping, she confessed all that she knew. Once she had consulted a soothsayer but failed to hear all his words, and so her firstborn had been born a monster. Knowing that he indeed had an older brother, the prince agreed to wait for his marriage.

The queen began a long search for a young woman who would be willing to marry the monstrous prince. Although many went to the forest, each of them swooned or screamed at the sight of their prospective groom. Because they were unwilling, the lindworm prince rejected them one after another.

The human prince began to despair. Would he never have a bride? Come back on Saturday for part three!


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Long ago, in Sweden, a queen was unable to bear children. Desperate to give her husband an heir, she consulted a soothsayer. The old man assured her that she would give birth to twin boys in less than a year. All she had to do was eat two fresh onions as soon as she returned to her castle. The queen was willing to take even this strange advice, and she rushed home without hearing a warning the soothsayer shouted behind her.

Upon her return, the queen commanded two onions be brought to her at once. She ate the first one without hesitation, peel and all. But the peel was so unpleasant that she took time to peel the second onion before eating it. If the courtiers were surprised, they dared not object. And soon the prophecy came true — the queen was with child at last!

In time, she was ready to give birth. The queen was sequestered with her midwife and attendants while she labored to give birth. The waiting king and courtiers heard a sudden shriek — but it was not the cry of a baby. Alas, the queen’s firstborn son was a lindworm! It lay on the floor in scaly coils, with two clawed limbs slashing the air.

Horror overcame the queen when she saw this creature. She somehow found the strength to seize the lindworm and fling it out the window. Then with a groan she fell back into labor and soon delivered another child. This one was a healthy, normal baby boy. Her dream had come true. The king celebrated his good fortune of having a son, while the queen, midwife and attendants all agreed the first birth was never to be spoken of.

And so the younger prince grew up without ever knowing he had a monstrous twin brother.

Come back on Tuesday for part two!


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Last time, I mentioned the Lagarfljot Worm, a lake-dwelling cryptid believed to exist in Iceland. According to the story, the creature was a heath-dragon or lingworm kept as a treasure guardian, but it was thrown into the lake when it grew too large to control. I’ve heard of lindworms, two-legged and wingless dragons of Germanic myth, and the lingworm doesn’t sound too different.

However, the story made me wonder what a heath-dragon might be, legendarily speaking. Just when you thought the Internet could tell you absolutely anything… I can’t find them. So I’m left to speculate.

Let’s see… Obviously, heath-dragons must live on the heath. Heath is any area of open land with poor soil, so it is left uncultivated. Bushes like heather are the main vegetation. You won’t find a lot of cover on the heath, nor large animals for prey. So while many great dragons are found in magnificent mountains or darksome forests, heath-dragons might be creatures on a lesser scale. Small enough to conceal themselves among the heather, they could be ambush hunters preying on rabbits, stray sheep, and the occasional unwary traveler.

Or, perhaps heath-dragons represent a younger stage in draconic life. Only when they grow older and more powerful can they claim those magnificent mountains and darksome forests.

Well, friends, can you help me out? I’d love it if you can suggest any legends and tales about heath-dragons!


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Legend tells that a dragon named Blue Ben once lived in the county of Somerset, on the west coast of England. He dwelt in shale caves near the sea, so if his fiery breath over-heated him he could dip into the waves and refresh himself.

Blue Ben was huge, as all dragons are. Due to his great size, he sometimes got stuck in the mud flats along the Somerset coast. The legend says that, in order to save himself, the dragon built a limestone causeway so he could reach solid ground without becoming trapped.

Ben seems to have been a mild-mannered dragon. There’s little mention of him ravaging the countryside or devouring livestock. Alas, being a good neighbor did not spare the mighty beast. The Devil himself happened to spy the dragon frolicking in the waves. He cast a spell that chained Blue Ben’s will. Poor Ben became the Devil’s steed for a wild ride all through the fires of Hell.

No one knows how long this went on. The dragon ultimately freed himself and escaped back to Somerset. Desperately hot and tired, he flung himself into the water to cool off as he usually did. Alas, he had chosen a spot far from his causeway. As he emerged from the sea, Blue Ben became stuck in the mire. No matter how he struggled, he couldn’t get free. In the end, he succumbed to his exhaustion and was entombed in the mud. A sad end for such a magnificent creature.

True fact #1: Blue Ben’s “causeway” is a naturally occurring limestone formation that resembles a paved road. Several sections can be seen along the coast, near the town of Kilve.

True fact #2: In the 19th Century, a shale quarry outside Kilve yielded the fossil skull of an ichthyosaur. The local people immediately proclaimed that this was the skull of Blue Ben. The fossil can still be seen in a Somerset museum.


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About 100 years ago, a little town called Spoonville stood on the shore of Lake Michigan. Business came and went with the seasons, and times were often hard. Then a clever businessman thought of a plan to draw more tourists.

Moe Kopple was his name, and he ran a nice restaurant and bar right near the shore. When business got too slow, he would get one of his buddies to row out on the lake and then come back with outrageous stories of a water dragon! These stories would run in the local newspaper, and then in the larger papers, and soon a horde of tourists would show up to try and catch a glimpse.

Every year or three, there would be another sighting. Moe always asked a different friend to row out there, so it wouldn’t look too suspicious. Besides, the business was good for everyone, so it became the town’s secret.

One year, Moe asked his friend Sam McGeever to go lake-monster hunting, and he readily agreed. But Sam came back greatly excited. No more mysterious waves or vague shapes — Sam was full of details about the horrible lake monster. Moe scoffed at first, but Sam was totally convinced of what he’d seen. Eventually Moe went out with him to see for himself.

The two men set off in Sam’s boat, Moe teasing that this must be a hoax because everyone knew lake monsters weren’t real. Sam set off straight for a particular spot, and soon Moe saw a commotion ahead of them. To his shock, a terrifying creature erupted from the water. It was huge, with green scales, blazing red eyes, and billows of smoke from a fanged maw. The monster swam toward them. Yelling with fear, both men seized the oars and rowed back to Spoonville as fast as they could.

Now Moe was worried. He told Sam not to talk about the monster any more, for fear of the consequences. If a tourist got eaten, they might never come back again! Sam brooded angrily. He enjoyed the attention from telling his amazing stories, and wanted to show  that he wasn’t a liar. A few days later, he told a friend he was going back out to find some sort of proof. Moe rushed to the dock, trying to dissuade his friend, but it was too late. Sam had already rowed away.

Neither he nor his boat were ever seen again.

 

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here is an Irish dragon tale.

Long ago, a great serpent lived in the sea off Ireland. They called him Master Stoorworm. Of course, such a mighty beast had a mighty appetite. He ate so much fish that the poor fishermen could hardly catch a one, but was that enough? Oh, no! Every morning, he rose up near a town and he yawned seven times. His yawn was so mighty that his tongue lashed out and seized seven things from the town. People, cattle, you name it.

The people cried out to their king for relief against Master Stoorworm. Some of them wanted to put out sacrifices, hoping to appease the monster, but the king would not hear of it. Instead, he proclaimed that anyone who could slay Master Stoorworm would be given his daughter’s hand in marriage and a prized sword as well. No fewer than thirty-six warriors took up this challenge, but alas! When they actually saw the beast, they all fled in terror.

In this town there was a young man named Jamie. He was so small that everyone laughed when he said he would take up the challenge. Undaunted, young Jamie gathered an iron pot with some coals, and some peat. He stole a boat and paddled out to the place where Master Stoorworm usually surfaced.

As soon as the creature appeared, his mighty yawn sucked poor Jamie down his gullet. Instead of trying to escape, Jamie paddled deeper until he reached the beast’s belly. Soon he saw the monster’s liver pulsing above him. The brave lad used the coals to light a peat fire. With this he set the liver on fire. Master Stoorworm writhed in agony! He lashed the sea into foam, but Jamie kept the fire burning hot.

As the sea dragon struggled, pieces of his body flew off. First some teeth fell and created the Orkney Islands. Then more teeth created the Shetland Islands. Finally he lost the rest of his teeth and created the Faroe Islands. Once the dragon’s teeth were gone, Jamie let go of the liver and paddled back out the way he came.

But Master Stoorworm had reached his end. Dying, he curled up in a ball, and his body became Iceland. Even to this day, the fire Jamie lit still burns deep under the ground in Iceland.

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A travel writer comes to a secluded island, searching for his next great story. Blessed Island is at the center of many rumors. There might be a lost Viking burial site, or perhaps a secret fountain of youth. The native orchid, Little Blessed Dragon, is either poisonous or rejuvenating depending on how it’s brewed. Eric Seven has an open mind about all of this, though perhaps he’s become jaded after visiting so many paradises-on-Earth in his career. What he actually finds is the last thing he expected: love at first sight.

Even while entranced by the lovely Merle, Eric knows there is something amiss. This paradise does seem lost, at least to technology. Electronic devices mysteriously lose charge, and there is no electricity to restore them. The residents, led by Tor, are nothing but helpful, and yet they pop up to intervene whenever he tries to research his article. Soon he begins to forget why he came, or that there was ever a life before Blessed Island.

On the brief adventure when he escapes surveillance, Eric stumbles into enigmatic terrain of eyes painted on rocks and the weirdly beautiful orchids. There’s a huge old house, or maybe a church, crumbling away on a headland. Inside it, a massive painting depicts the chaotic ritual sacrifice of a Neolithic king. And then things get bad…

This award-winning fantasy spins a complicated tale of love and destiny. In some parts horror, in some parts angsty YA fantasy, it moves from ancient to modern times, spiraling in a way that draws the story together slowly. The text itself is complicated. There’s no single plot arc, but a series of 7 short stories, each with multiple chapters, which weave together to reveal the mysterious connection between Eric and Merle.

Although the book has been described as horror,  I didn’t find it especially horrifying. The atmosphere is creepy rather than gory, which is appropriate for the YA audience. I did find myself questioning if this is the right audience, though. It takes a patient reader to follow the threads of this story.

The writing is really excellent. Midwinterblood won the 2014 Printz Award. It is a good read if you’re up for a challenge.

 

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