Posts

Tolkien’s Ace Princess?

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  The Rings of Power: Amazon Studios, 2022 Like many, I have been enjoying Amazon’s new drama series, The Rings of Power , based on JRR Tolkien’s mythos regarding the Second Age of Middle-Earth, Númenor and the Undying Lands. It’s driven me back to the source texts, to discover from where the creators of the series got their ideas.  One of those source texts is the book of Unfinished Tales . And that’s where I discovered the story of Aldarion and Erendis. It’s an unusual tale for Tolkien, in that it deals with the breakdown of a marriage. And while it provides canonical precedent for the Elves asking the Men of Númenor for help against the growing threat of Sauron’s return, that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about ace representation. Many people will find Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit pretty ace anyway. For me, the film trilogy in the 2000s was the beginning of my journey back to my true self. In my head, Legolas is ace. There’s nothing I know of in Tolkien to eith

Howl’s Moving Castle: Always More To Discover

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  Warning: contains spoilers for the books and film. This year’s theme at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is “Back to the Movies”. I’ve decided to go as a character from one of my favourite films ever: Howl’s Moving Castle . For that reason (as if I needed a reason!) I’ve been re-watching the film and re-reading the sequels, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways . And as with the moving castle itself, there is always more to discover. Here are some of them. The Magician’s Cape  I’ve been reading this Swedish fairy tale by Anna Wahlenberg as part of my ongoing quest for asexual fairy tales. I think it could well qualify! But I couldn’t help noticing the similarities to Howl’s Moving Castle. The titular magician has a castle high on a mountain, in front of which “he conjured a wonderful garden where magnificent flowers glowed… There the magician would lie on a velvet couch under the branches watching beautiful young girls dance on the lawn, and sing and play the guitar.” Furthermore,

Mid-year Book Freak Out

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 I got this list of questions from watching Jen Campbell’s YouTube channel (although someone else created the list). I think it’s mainly aimed at YouTubers, but I’ve adapted it to my own purposes, because it looked like fun.  A selection of books. Best book you’ve read in 2022 so far. How can I possibly choose? I’ve bought a lot of folklore books this year, mostly second-hand, which are all great. A very beautiful, illustrated book of Fairies and Elves . Likewise, an illustrated book of Celtic Pilgrimages. I enjoyed Storyland by Amy Jeffs, which is new this year. I loved The Last Firefox by Lee Newbury.  Best sequel you’ve read. Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory, which is the sequel to Tidelands. I listened to the audiobook version. New releases you haven’t read but want to. So many. The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield. Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman. The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola. To name but three.  Most anticipated releases for the second half of the year. The House of Fortu

Mythical May: A Picture Journal

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 The “Merry month of May” has been filled with myth, legend and folklore for me. Here are some highlights. 1st May On May Morning, following the rare Black Moon, I walked the Pilgrim’s Way with my family, barefoot across the sands to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. That evening, we created a fantasy version of the island in a game of Wanderhome . 2nd May A visit to the amazing Barter Books in Alnwick, where I bought two books: Celtic Pilgrimages and Folk Tales of the British Isles , both of which I’m working my way through. Also that day, our crowdfunding campaign for the third Asexual Fairy Tales was successful. The book will be coming out in October! 5th May A visit to the new Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic in Todmorden, with its excellent folklore library. Can’t wait to go back and do some proper research! 11th May Bought this book ( Storyland by Amy Jeffs) which I’ve just finished reading. I highly recommend it. She retells - with notes - all the medieval “origin myths” of t

Sorry, I’ve Got No Head!

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In my latest book, More Asexual Myths & Tales, I retell a story from Latin America that I call “The Wife With the Flying Head”.  Support  More Asexual Fairy Tales  on  Kickstarter . I first came across this story in Jen Campbell’s  The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers   (2021). As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to retell it.  It’s about a wife who - whenever she is in bed with her husband - finds her head detaches from her body and goes flying about without her body.  The symbolism really related to my experience of being a married ace.   I traced a source tale in  The Journal of American Folklore   (1907). That version is taken from El Salvador, but there are versions of the “flying head” myth across Southeast Asia and Latin America, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Bali, Chile and Argentina. Readers from those cultures may recognise it as a vampiric creature, and probably know a lot more about it than I do. In my story, it’s not vampiric; it’s just a flying

Help! I’m Made of Glass!

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I’ve written on a third collection of Asexual Fairy Tales. It’s crowdfunding now on this link . One of the tales I discovered - and which I retell in the book - comes from the pen of Miguel de Cervantes, the 17th-century author of  Don Quixote.  It’s called “The Glass Lawyer”. The title character Tomás Rodaja, a lawyer from Salamanca, has never been in love. When a lady’s advances to him are snubbed, she feeds him a potion she believes to be an aphrodisiac. But instead of having the effects she hopes, it makes him ill. And when he recovers, he finds he has developed a strange condition. He believes he is made of glass. I won’t tell you the whole story. (You’ll have to wait for the book!) But Tomás becomes terrified of being touched in case he breaks, and travels around in a packing case full of straw. What is interesting about this story is that, although it’s fictitious, there was a condition known as Glass Delusion, documented from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Sufferers inclu

A Mermaid Saint

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Two mermaid dolls 27th January is the feast day of St Muirgen, also known as Li Ban or Liban. She appears in a number of old Irish annals, such as the Martyrology of Donegal and the Annals of the Four Masters. There's nothing unsual about that: the history of Ireland is crammed to bursting with saints and martyrs. But what's unusual about Miurgen is that she is a mermaid. According to the stories, she was three hundred years under the sea, until the time of the saints. At that time, a man called Beoan was on a mission to Rome, at sea in his curragh (ship) when the ship caught a mermaid (liban) in its nets. She told him she was the the daughter of Eochaidh from Lough Neagh, who was changed to a mermaid when her family was drowned. They brought her to land, where she was baptised by St Comhgall under the name Muirgen (traverser of the sea). The calendar of St Oengus says of her: My God loved Muirgen, A miraculous triumphant being. I love it that there is a mermaid saint! That som