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Weird Folklore
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 12:35AM
A thread dedicated to any folklore you'd like to share and discuss. I figured since weird authors were generally well-read in legendry and folklore, then this thread could be of interest here. After all, CAS mentioned all kinds of obscure traditions from the real world, such as geases, Antillia, and an impressive list of mythical creatures from this Oct. 1933 letter to HPL:

Quote:
Clark Ashton Smith
If I were a practising wizard, like Namirrha or Malygris or Nathaire, I'd devise a behemothian Sending and dispatch it to his office. The Sending would include a brace of penanggalans, and about a dozen rokurokubis with jaws elastic as their necks, and a regiment of poltergeists equipped with sledge-hammers. Callicantzaris and vrykolakes and barguests and Himalayan Snow-Men and Eskimo tupileks and the more unpleasant Aztec gods would form the main body; and a mass formation of shoggoths would bring up the rearguard.

Given the number of active members here, I won't insist on any rules. Simply share and discuss what you will, if you think it would be interesting!

I was inspired to start this thread because of Dale Nelson's mention of Lafcadio Hearn, so I thought it might be interesting to share a website dedicated to Japanese legendary creatures. No need to make this thread all about them, just consider it a weird treat! Japan's folk beliefs are so wild, rich, and bizarre that I'm sure CAS would have enjoyed them, and agreed that Tsathoggua and Atlach-Nacha could find a comfortable home in the countryside (accompanied by those rokurokubis he mentioned in the above quote, also from Japanese lore!).

[yokai.com]

Here's the website. Have fun going through the list, or clicking the "random yokai" option. You can expect to find things like colossal skeletons made out of regular-sized skeletons, or poorly maintained Buddha statues that become impish little creatures.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 29 Aug 20 | 12:42AM by Hespire.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 10:49AM
This is great!

I'm going to pass the link to my wife and daughter. My daughter, especially, really likes this sort of stuff.

Thanks, Hespire!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 11:48AM
Thank you, Hespire. This thread should be an interesting place to visit for years to come.

Would anyone (other than me) like to tell about how you became interested in folktales, what you've read and the books you've collected and so on?

One of many things for which I am thankful is that I got on to folktales while I was still a youngster. This happened, especially, as I browsed the shelves of the children's section of the Coos Bay, Oregon, public library in the second half of the 1960s. I took particularly to Northern European tales. One of the great books of my life is the 1960 Viking Press book Norwegian Folk Tales "from the collection of Peter Christian Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe," and illustrated with drawings by Erik Werenskiold and Theodor Kittelsen. The latter artist, by the way, is my all-time favorite artist of the macabre. His sequence of pictures of the Black Death as a crone is memorable. It's probably a good thing that his most macabre work is not found in the Viking Press book I am recommending, and which was such a beloved library book of my boyhood. Later, it was issued in paperback in the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

That book gave me “Soria Moria Castle,” “The Three Princesses in the Mountain-in-the-Blue,” “The Golden Castle That Hung in the Air,” “The Twelve Wild Ducks,” “The Golden Bird” – wonder-tales much to my taste. There were also humorous stories that I appreciated more later on, such as “‘Good Day, fellow!’ ‘Axe-Handle!’” The pictures of trolls, as for “The Boys Who Met the Trolls in the Hedal Woods,” caught these creatures’ combination of large size, earthiness, formidable strength, stupidity, and malice. ....Where Tolkien wrote that, as a boy, he desired dragons with a fierce desire, I desired trolls.

Years later, as a high school teacher in Seaside, Oregon, a colleague and I drove up to Astoria and visited Parnassus Books -- December 1978. This was my first encounter, as far as I remember, with the University of Chicago's Folktales of the World series. I bought Folktales of Norway, edited by Reidar Christiansen. I loaned that copy and it wasn't returned, but replaced it long ago.

A third early folktale acquisition was Jacqueline Simpson's Icelandic Folktales and Legends, which I bought on 19 Jan. 1980 at Powell's wonderful bookstore in downtown Portland -- I'm glad to say that the rioters seem to be leaving it, at least, alone.

And, for the fourth book I will mention in this posting, on 26 July 1989 I bought Dr. Simpson's Scandinavian Folktales at Borene Books in Willmar, Minnesota.

I recommend all of these books. To underscore my love of them, I will confess that, if I had to cut my present library of some 4000 books down to 200, I expect that all four of these books would make the cut.

That's a reflection of my love. It's not to say that, if your passion is for CAS, these would be the folktales you would like more than any others. That's probably not true. The Norwegian tales are redolent of forest and mountain, of peasants and an appreciation of the mother wit that gets someone out of a scrape. My sense is that Smith's taste was more for the elegant, the bizarre, the perfumed, the bejewelled, and perhaps the folktales from Persia and the Arabian peninsula would supply them. I'm frankly not much acquainted with those, although I note that the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore library includes a volume. But I'm not sure that those are the qualities one would actually find in the authentic Arab folktales. Does someone know more about them?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 29 Aug 20 | 11:52AM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: charaina (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 12:24PM
Are there a lot of references to things like monsters, weird dreams, etc. and the like in Lovecraft’s letters with folks like CAS, Wandrei, etc.?

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 12:38PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The Norwegian tales
> are redolent of forest and mountain, of peasants
> and an appreciation of the mother wit that gets
> someone out of a scrape. My sense is that Smith's
> taste was more for the elegant, the bizarre, the
> perfumed, the bejewelled, and perhaps the
> folktales from Persia and the Arabian peninsula
> would supply them.

Smith read widely. He was much influenced by H. C. Andersen's fairy tales.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 12:39PM
Gosh, Kittelsen is really *something*, isn't he?

I did "KIttelsen" in Google images and what a treat!

Thanks, Dale.

BTW, I live in PDX, I'm sure we discussed this before. It's not the same as it was only 4 years ago, and I hope it can come back, but it's more than merely COVID ("merely"!) that has affected its tenor and outlook. Everyone here *must* choose a side, there is only *one* right answer to any question, and to me, this is just plain ugly. I've never yet belonged to a "side" and I'm too old to change this now.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 12:44PM
Sawfish, you must be speaking for a lot of "invisible" people in Portland. I hope you all will be able to make some good changes for your city come about when it's time to evaluate the people in charge now.

But, yeah, isn't Kittelsen amazing? Whew. Macabre, but not nauseating.

His feeling for the macabre and the weird seem to me to come out of deep, deep roots in the Norwegian countryside and folk world. If you can, take a look at that edition of Norwegian Folk Tales.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 01:21PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish, you must be speaking for a lot of
> "invisible" people in Portland. I hope you all
> will be able to make some good changes for your
> city come about when it's time to evaluate the
> people in charge now.
>
> But, yeah, isn't Kittelsen amazing? Whew.
> Macabre, but not nauseating.
>

To me, the best of his stuff I've seen just now is strangely subtle... Like "Black Death"...

[www.alamy.com]

You look at it, and at first don't know what, exactly, to make of it.

Then you see the raven zooming in, and you know...

And then you think: "Wow. That could have actually happened many times, during the plague times...".

A lot of them are a bit over-drawn--too directly suggestive--for my taste, what with looming, glowing eyes, but then you see this one:

[www.artnet.com]

...and this one conveys a situation about as hopeless as it can get.

I also saw some of the others that must have been related to the Black Death theme, and they, too, are really haunting.


> His feeling for the macabre and the weird seem to
> me to come out of deep, deep roots in the
> Norwegian countryside and folk world. If you can,
> take a look at that edition of Norwegian Folk
> Tales.

So much stuff, too!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 01:59PM
In case anyone would like a little help with the question "What's out there?" -- here are a couple of folktale series.

(A) Folktales of the World, published by the University of Chicago Press

1.Germany
2.China
3.England
4.Ireland
5.Norway (Ian Myles Slater's review at Amazon says it was #5)
6.Hungary
7.Japan
8.Israel
9.Mexico
10.Greece

There certainly were releases in the Folktales of the World series for Chile (hardcover only?), Egypt (released in paperback, but perhaps not numbered), France (possibly only in hardcover), and India (this was released in paperback, but perhaps not numbered). That makes 14 volumes. There was also Folktales Told Around the World.

In Folktales Told Around the World, Richard Dorson mentioned Folktales of the West Indies as another projected volume. It seems volumes for Switzerland, Scotland, Southern Africa, Turkey, and the Philippines were projected but were not published. The Told Around volume thus presents quite a lot of material that ended up not being published in the series because (apparently) it ended after 15 volumes.

(B) The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library contained the following 20 books and a very few more. Information is transcribed from a list that I photocopied from somewhere.

African Folktales (Abrahams)

Afro-American Folktales (Abrahams)

American Indian Myths and Legends (Erdoes and Ortiz)

Arab Folktales (Bushnaq)

Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies (Roberts)

Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Eighty Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Andersen)

An Encyclopedia of Fairies (Briggs)

Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Yolen)

Folktales from India (Ramanujan)

French Folktales (Pourrat)

Gods and Heroes (Greek mythology, Schwab)

Irish Folktales (Glassie)

Norse Myths (Crossley-Holland)

Northern Tales (Eskimo, etc., Norman)

Norwegian Folk Tales (Asbjørnsen and Moe)

Russian Fairy Tales (Afanas’ev)

Victorian Fairy Tale Book (Hearn)

Yiddish Folktales (Weinreich)


Of course, there's no reason to limit oneself to books in a series, nor will most people want to "collect 'em all" in a series -- I sure haven't. But what I've seen of these books leads me to speak well of them as fare for grownups.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 02:05PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Norwegian Folk Tales "from the collection of Peter Christian
> Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe," and illustrated with
> drawings by Erik Werenskiold and Theodor
> Kittelsen.
>
> ....Where Tolkien wrote
> that, as a boy, he desired dragons with a fierce
> desire, I desired trolls.
>


John Bauer was another children's book illustrator who liked trolls.

Brother Martin

If someone else cries ...

Troll lunch

Mother-love

Troll at the door

Humpe

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 02:05PM
Now, to come back to the focus on weird folktales -- what about getting down to cases?

I'll recommend a few particular ones.

"Mujina" by Lafcadio Hearn in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things from Japan.

[www.trussel.com]

"Yallery Brown" by Joseph Jacobs from More English Fairy Tales (this is like something out of M. R. James)

[en.wikisource.org]

"Trunt, Trunt, and the Trolls in the Fells/Mountains" from Iceland (I have this in one of Dr. Simpson's books)

[52books.blogspot.com]

That last one reminds me rather a lot of Blackwood's "Wendigo" -- do you agree?

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 02:24PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> ... isn't Kittelsen amazing? Whew.
> Macabre, but not nauseating.
>
> His feeling for the macabre and the weird seem to
> me to come out of deep, deep roots in the
> Norwegian countryside and folk world.


He is great. My guess is that he must have witnessed some gravely miserable situations in real life.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 02:36PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Dale Nelson Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> >
> > ... isn't Kittelsen amazing? Whew.
> > Macabre, but not nauseating.
> >
> > His feeling for the macabre and the weird seem
> to
> > me to come out of deep, deep roots in the
> > Norwegian countryside and folk world.
>
>
> He is great. My guess is that he must have
> witnessed some gravely miserable situations in
> real life.

Hah! Yes!

Goya-like...

Good discussion; I am enjoying this a lot...

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 03:07PM
Quote:
Sawfish
I'm going to pass the link to my wife and daughter. My daughter, especially, really likes this sort of stuff.
Thanks, Hespire!

I thought you and your family might find it interesting. Have fun! Using the "random yokai" option, I discovered several things even I never knew, like a shadowy black monk that crawls into your home to steal your breath in your sleep, and a large crustacean with an ape's face that only leaves the ocean at night, and the various histories of foxes that disguise themselves as humans!

Quote:
charaina
Are there a lot of references to things like monsters, weird dreams, etc. and the like in Lovecraft’s letters with folks like CAS, Wandrei, etc.?

Plenty. That "behemothian Sending" I quoted is perhaps the most impressive, with its mention of Indonesian, Inuit, and English monsters. Lovecraft and his friends had a lot of enthusiasm for myths and folk beliefs, and often referenced them casually in their letters. I recall HPL and CAS mentioning Persian mythical traditions (such as Rustam, Simorgh, the Shahnameh, etc.) in relation to their orientalist friend Hoffmann Price. And in one letter exchange HPL and Robert Barlow discussed the linguistic and cultural history of Satyrs. Robert E. Howard shared quite a few things with HPL out of Voodoo folklore and Texan ghost stories, some of which would later be integrated into his horror and adventure stories. And of course HPL and CAS got a kick out of referencing their own alien mythologies.

Quote:
Dale Nelson
Would anyone (other than me) like to tell about how you became interested in folktales, what you've read and the books you've collected and so on?

An excellent place to start, Dale, and a fascinating history you've shared! Like you, my enthusiasm began in my early childhood. I was too different from the other kids to make friends with them easily, so books took up some of my time, especially my school's books on Greek myths, which excited me as a fan of Ray Harryhausen's films Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, but I also got to read the myths of Aztec, Inca, Hindu, and other traditions. My interest in these subjects never waned, though as I grew older and found history and anthropology more interesting, I started delving even deeper into the cultural development of myths, and found myself identifying with these lost times and distant countries more deeply. They gave me a feeling of belonging, mysticism, and nature's splendor in a highly urbanized area I didn't like.

Your passions and cultural preferences are fascinating, and it goes to show how unimaginably huge the world of folk beliefs really is. I like to learn all I can about different traditions (which admittedly does not make me an expert in any of them), but as I grow older I find myself becoming most interested in the traditions of northern cultures, such as the Inuit, Icelandic, and Finnish people (the Finns had their own myths! They did not worship Thor or Odin!). The quiet, snowy, wooded North suits my personality well. And I also find myself increasingly drawn to Japan, my mother's homeland. Japanese stories are so utterly strange, so unbelievably imaginative, compared to most traditions I've explored, but with a sense that all these surreal things are simply a normal part of life.

I'm a bit swamped at the moment, but I will give Kittelsen a try and comment on it later! I'm also interested in checking out the books and stories you listed.

Quote:
Dale Nelson
It's not to say that, if your passion is for CAS, these would be the folktales you would like more than any others. That's probably not true. The Norwegian tales are redolent of forest and mountain, of peasants and an appreciation of the mother wit that gets someone out of a scrape. My sense is that Smith's taste was more for the elegant, the bizarre, the perfumed, the bejewelled, and perhaps the folktales from Persia and the Arabian peninsula would supply them. I'm frankly not much acquainted with those, although I note that the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore library includes a volume. But I'm not sure that those are the qualities one would actually find in the authentic Arab folktales. Does someone know more about them?

CAS is one of my favorite authors ever, but I appreciate myths and folk beliefs from all around the world, especially the North, which is quite different from most of what CAS wrote! Even his stories of Hyperborea, which take place in prehistoric Greenland, have more in common with the Arabian Nights and Medieval European adventures than with the Eskimos or Vikings. As a bit of a writer myself, I wish to express some of the vivid weirdness CAS impressed in me while embracing a more earthy, folksy feel. I think this is more than possible, and I think Japanese traditions come relatively close to that feeling. Ancient and Medieval Japan had such bizarre monsters, weird supernatural ideas, an appreciation for beauty and ephemerality, and a good sense of humor, all qualities of CAS' best stories, but with the simpler perspective of farmers, fishers, etc.

Regarding Arab folklore, my early days as an HPL fan drove me to read as much of the Arabian Nights as I could, and I can confirm that CAS' fiction has a lot in common with it. In the 1001 Nights you'll find stories of foolish or adventurous royals, horrific deaths, ancient riches, ruined cities of mystic grandeur (including one in which the dead are posed as they were in life, a very Zothique-y idea, yes?), and the hidden worlds of entities far older than humanity. The influence is definitely there, and CAS even mentions things like afrits, jinns, and the Roc and Simorgh in some of his work. That's not to say they're exactly the same, of course, and I know very little of Arab traditions beyond the 1001 Nights and some Islamic beliefs.

Lafcadio Hearn was an author CAS admired greatly, and while I'm not sure how much CAS knew about Japan, he certainly knew some things, and I can see a subtle influence from Hearn's books in his writing.



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 29 Aug 20 | 03:49PM by Hespire.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 29 August, 2020 09:57PM
I've mentioned Jacqueline Simpson as editor of a couple of folktale collections. A third worth your attention might be -- if you can find it -- Legends of Icelandic Magicians.

She was president of the Folklore Society. She has also, delightfully, contributed to a fanzine for M. R. James fans, and a number of stories by her are collected in a book:

[www.lulu.com]

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