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Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2020 10:34AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I've always known that Machen had more than a
> little interest in folklore. His stories,
> especially "The White People", "The Great Return",
> and "The Hill of Dreams", make numerous references
> to his native folk history and alchemical
> occultism. I've never read this piece before, but
> it's fascinating how so many cultures can have
> somewhat similar accounts of hidden beings causing
> mischief. It seems the idea of the "little people"
> as a hidden aboriginal group used to be popular in
> his time, but seems to have dwindled from popular
> imagination today.
>
> My knowledge of Irish mythology and folk culture
> is faint, but that story sounds like something
> Machen would have considered significant to his
> beliefs regarding the little people.
>
> Dale, with your specialty in European lore, do you
> know if Machen's esoteric references in "The White
> People" were based on any real practices or folk
> beliefs? You know, the Chian language, the Mao
> games, the Dols, the Jeelo, the Alala, etc. I
> couldn't find anything about the Aklo letters so I
> assume those aren't real, but anything on the
> terms I listed?


In Hawaiian lore, there's the idea of the minehune (I hope I spelled that correctly), a race of small people who inhabited the islands before the Polynesians arrived around 1500 AD or so. They are associated with furtiveness, etc.

Being irreverent, and yet also seriously speculative, I first played around with the idea that yep, there were earlier inhabitants, and as compared to the Polynesians, who are genetically very large folk, especially the Tahitian subset that colonized Hawaii, and Hawaiian being an imprecise language, over time any group who was noticeably *smaller*, in any sense, might eventually become thought of as elf-like in size. Especially if they were seldom, or never, seen.

Now, all this worldwide talk of there being actual minehune, fairies, little folk, etc., could be put to rest by finding human remains or material artifacts from these folk. There are plausible reasons why we might not, but really, we would expect to find some indications, somewhere, from the locales with the widespread tales of "little people", of their previous existence. But we don't actually see this in the context that indicates direct cohabitation/competition with the large modern humans. This is to say that as far as I know, we can see evidence of Denisovans that overlap in the dimension of time with modern humans, but not in specific locale. This differs from the Neanderthal/modern human overlap in Europe. Trolls and ogres, anyone?

So...

But I had my own theory...

The Hawaiians must have been very hungry after their long voyage. We see no evidence of any minehunes, but we *do* see lots of evidence of large, well-fed Polynesians...

;^)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2020 01:52PM
Quote:
Knygatin
I don't know so much about this, but I'd like to mention that Robert E. Howard also wrote a bit about the little people in connection to his favorite race, the Picts

Indeed, he'd written several different stories about them, chief of which are "The Children of the Night" and "The Black Stone." It seems he was even more directly influenced by Machen's little people than Lovecraft was. HPL's "little people" were a super-advanced civilization of crustaceans!

Quote:
Knygatin
Recent excavations on the Indonesian island Flores have actually unearthed skeletons of an upright standing midget humanoid race that were about 90 cm tall. Not deformed and squat, like the ones you see in Hollywood films, but having gracile anatomy; miniatures of men.

I never heard of this before! I'm looking up these people and I can't believe what I'm reading! If ever there were elves in human history, this is the closest thing imaginable. It's such a shame they went extinct, but then again it's a shame when anything goes extinct, including the giant storks and miniature elephants they lived among. Speaking of which, I've just read that this race of literal little people might have been menaced by those colossal storks, scary to imagine...

Quote:
Sawfish
In Hawaiian lore, there's the idea of the minehune (I hope I spelled that correctly), a race of small people who inhabited the islands before the Polynesians arrived around 1500 AD or so. They are associated with furtiveness, etc.

Thanks for the fascinating story and insight, especially regarding that Polynesians' perspective. I had a feeling you'd contribute something related to Hawaiian lore! It seems no matter what continent or island you go to, there's going to be some stories about hidden people or diminutive people blessing and cursing human existence. It's interesting to wonder where all these similar ideas come from, whether it's psychological or historical.

Quote:
Sawfish
The Hawaiians must have been very hungry after their long voyage. We see no evidence of any minehunes, but we *do* see lots of evidence of large, well-fed Polynesians...

In an age when voyagers had no clue where their next food source will be, it isn't too far-fetched an idea. ;)

By the way, that mention I made of HPL's "little people" reminded me that the Mi-Go, or Himalayan Snow-Men, were not merely legendary ape-like animals, but actual fabulous legends, somewhat akin to elves or trolls. They had magical powers, good and bad relationships with humanity (mischievous tricksters, good-natured gift bringers, or man-eating devils), and even religious significance.

And just describing this is making me realize how strange it is that HPL decided the hairy bestial Snow-Men were in fact bat-winged crustaceans!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 7 Sep 20 | 01:53PM by Hespire.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2020 02:53PM
A. Merritt quite wonderfully described the little people in his novel Dwellers in the Mirage. They ran about like "little deer".

When animals are lesser in size, the proportion of their mass weight to body size is also reduced, compared to bigger species. Which makes their movements lighter, more sprightly.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2020 02:56PM
"The Hobbit of Indonesia":

[en.wikipedia.org]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my Grandpa, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

--Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 7 September, 2020 06:28PM
Here's a fanzine with a real Machen folkloric-type rarity in it:

[www.fanac.org]

The "Little People" of the mount and the threatening club seen out of the corner of one's eye suggest something malevolent behind the cute modern picture of the leprechaun leaning on his shillelagh as a supposed walking stick.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2020 07:30PM
In case Dale is hovering around, I just finished reading the tragic, violent, larger than life saga of Grettir, with special interest in his encounter with the undead monster Glam! Those terrible eyes! That massive head! Ahhh! This particular episode seemed like something out of a good weird story, especially Conan.

As you are without doubt the biggest expert in this field among us, are there any stories, songs, sagas, or segments of these things which might interest a fan of CAS or weird fiction? I recall a discussion about the vast difference between CAS and the earthy, brutal farmer atmosphere of northern European tales, and am interested in any bridge, no matter how small, between the two.

That's not to say I need any such connection to continue. I've begun reading the Heimskringla now, thoroughly invested in Odin's travels!

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2020 09:10PM
Hi, Hespire!

There is plenty to interest readers of weird fiction in the folklore and sagas of the North, but (so far as I have read the Northern material and CAS) little indeed that suggests his ornate style and the denizens of his stories.

The one book I would recommend, if I were to recommend only one, for the fan of weird fiction who is receptive to the spell of the North, is Jacqueline Simpson's Icelandic Folktales and Legends. If you can get it from a library, you might also try her Legends of Icelandic Magicians. Her Penguin collection of Scandinavian Folktales is very good.

In the sagas -- you started with the right one! Others you might like are the Saga of the Volsungs and the Laxdaela Saga, the latter of which is mostly realistic, but the Killer-Hrapp material there comes to mind.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2020 09:18PM
By the way, I have just read a new translation of the classic Norwegian folktales collection of Asbjornsen and Moe. Translator is Tiina Nunnally, publisher is the University of Minnesota Press. It has 60 tales. But my favorite presentation of Asbjornsen and Moe is the much less comprehensive collection Viking Press did in 1960 because of the abundant illustrations of Kittelsen and Werenskiold, so I'd take that one if I had to choose between them -- happily, I don't. But the weird element isn't the emphasis here.

This Viking Press hardcover was paperbacked into the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, but if you can, see the 1960 edition for the sake of the artwork.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 23 December, 2020 10:44PM
Thank you very much for these suggestions Dale. I've actually read some of Jacqueline's Folktales and Legends these last couple months, thanks to your high praise of her work. For such a small isolated place, there's no end to its strangely beautiful and shockingly violent tales of hidden folk, mountain trolls, and oceanic nightmares. The story of Hild, Queen of the Elves, with its night-time flight and subterranean descent, is especially wild and suspenseful!

I've jotted down all your suggestions. I might just read those two sagas after one or two segments of the Heimskringla, which is essentially a collection of sagas itself. Realism is no bother to me, in spite of my taste for the weird. I enjoy the frank depiction of brutal men and back-breaking farmers, troubled wives and mad warriors. The occasional troll or tomb-guarding ghoul is a bonus!

Regarding the ornate style of CAS, I think the closest you'll find to it in northern literary tradition might be the Finnish Kalevala. Not because they are especially similar in themselves, but because the Kalevala also delights in its rich and colorful descriptions of nature, magic, and strange characters or creatures, when it isn't delving into domestic life and brutal, melancholic drama. There are certainly more sorcerers and magical beings in that text, and a whole world of lust, than there are warriors. Worthy of a read I say!

I'll be glad to delve into this snowy northern world again this holiday. Christmas is not only a time for warmth, but supernatural horror as well, at least that's what Nordic countries have taught me!

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 24 December, 2020 05:53AM
A random comment - and probably a redundant one, as I’m guessing everybody knows anyway - but the metre for Hiawatha was directly inspired by the Kalevala.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 25 December, 2020 10:45AM
I love Kalevala, Hespire! The complete version I've read is Keith Bosley's, but I mean very soon to take up Magoun's. The missus found a copy in good condition for me in a thrift store... for a penny!

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 30 December, 2020 07:32PM
I've been reading Folktales of England by Katharine Briggs and Ruth Tongue. There's one funny story after another; but sense of wonder or weirdness? Not in the stories I read today. So I like the book, but it helps to show how if you are after "weird" folktales, not just any folktale collection will do.

Having said that, I'll mention (again?) that "Yallery Brown" from England is one of the outstanding weird folktales.

[smartkids123.com]

Brrrr!

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 30 December, 2020 08:41PM
P.S. If anyone does have access to Folktales of England -- a volume in that nifty Folktales of the World series that the University of Chicago used to publish -- he or she might check ""The Fairy Follower," "The Green Mist," "The Hunted Soul," "Anne Luker's Ghost," "The Son Murdered by His Parents," and "The Foreign Hotel." These have at least a bit of creepiness. But it would be a shame, if you have the book in hand, not also to read some of the ones that are just good humorous entertainment, such as "The First Banana," "The Pious Lion," and "The Tortoises' Picnic."

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 4 January, 2021 11:00AM
I've been invested in folklore studies for years now, so I have nothing against other forms of folktale, folk song, etc. I love a good story about luckless lads, poor farmers, and dimwitted devils. And whenever the Kalevala is mentioned one must always remember there are many chapters about beer-making, boat-building, wedding ceremonies, and other domestic affairs! I don't remember why this thread was made, but judging by the title I must have singled out folklore that is "weird", in the genre sense (emphasizing the supernatural and its effect on people), simply because this is a CAS fansite, but anything goes if you ask me.

I rarely venture into England, so I thank you for that story of Yallery Brown. It amazes me how frightening these diminutive comical creatures can be, and not to mention inexplicable! Must have been eerie for a Christian to wonder the history of all those stones.

Re: Weird Folklore
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 24 January, 2021 05:02PM
I'm a bit late to this party, and I'm not sure how much I can usefully say. Do not most folk tales and fairy tales tend to contain fantastic elements almost by definition? Obviously a narrower meaning is in mind -- fairy and folk tales that contain certain of the same elements we associate with (for instance) the weird tales of CAS and REH and HPL. But how to define what is being looked for?

Dale came up with an excellent example of a weird folk tale with Joseph Jacobs' YALLERY BROWN. Maybe that is the best example from Jacobs. But would it be stretching too far to also mention THE KING O'THE CATS, THE LAMBTON WORM, THE PIED PIPER, THE GOBLIN PONY, or THE HEDLEY KOW? Those are just stories from Jacobs whose weirdness stuck in my head. I'm sure one could make arguments for others as well.

One might exclude KING O'THE CATS on the grounds that talking animals are common in children's stories, and a talking animal is the main fantastic element in this one. But in the WHITE PEOPLE, Machen has Ambrose remark on how horrified we would be if an common animal were to actually talk to us. KING O'THE CATS strikes me as a story that tries to capture some of this weirdness and horror. Or maybe it's just trying to be funny. Your mileage may vary.

Tolkien cited THE JUNIPER TREE, from the Brothers Grimm, as a story that made an impression on him because of its weird and grisly elements.

I could easily dig up many more examples of weird folk tales collected in the 19th century. But maybe we could discuss what we are looking for first.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 24 Jan 21 | 05:14PM by Platypus.

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