Warwick Goble The Feathered Robe Illustration Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales

Seeking the Swan Maiden

Have you ever heard that an adult swan can break a person’s arm?

Disappointingly enough, that’s a myth.

But in the past few days, I’ve learned that swan-maidens are absolutely capable of breaking a mind. There are just so many variants, so many connections between stories, so many different directions to take.

But I used some restraint and included just a few of the variants I found, some main themes, and a good number of illustrations — a more pleasant version of my own journey in pursuit of the swan maidens.

Poem: The Selkie’s Complaint

Since it’s National Poetry Month and also crunch time in my classes, I thought I’d get in a quick post with a poem of my own. I actually wrote this seven years ago (!!!!), though I’ve tweaked it a little. It’s based off a bit of lore I came across online, that one way to summon a selkie (specifically, a male one) is to shed seven tears into the sea.  

Fittingly enough, I composed it in the shower.

The Selkie’s Complaint

Down on the strand where no one would follow
I knelt in the sand, wetting my knees,
and into the water I dropped seven sorrows;
with the last, a man arose from the sea.

Clad to the waist in tumbling wavelets,
he held me in place with well-oiled eyes.
A hint of annoyance lit his dark gaze,
as might be reserved for a bothersome fly.

His mouth when it opened let out a voice
raspy and thick, unused to speech,
but the words themselves held clear enough meaning:
“This soup is already too salty for me.”

I’ll get more in-depth about selkies — what they are, the tales told about them, and so on — in my next post.

Vampire World Map Blood Splatter Header Amanda Cibulka

A World Map of Vampires

I’ve been wanting to write about vampires since I started this blog, but — there are so many vampires.

So. Many. Vampires. And I hate to leave any out.

So I made an interactive map marking vampire legends and beliefs around the world (mostly using this list for reference).

I did my best with pin placements. Some are placed randomly within a country because they apply to the whole thing, while others indicate a more specific region or even a single location. Each marker includes the area it applies to in parentheses, so you can tell whether it’s for a whole country or a particular place.

Click on a pin to see the creature/legend it marks, with a link to more information.

Update: This map now includes many other creatures besides vampires. But you can toggle the view to see just the vampiric creatures (indicated by red markers) by clicking on the little box-and-arrow-looking icon in the top left corner of the map and unchecking all but the Vampires and Revenants checkbox in the side menu that pops out.

Herbert Cole for "Mr. Fox" in Rhys, Ernest, "Fairy Gold: A Book of Old English Fairy Tales"

A Tale Too Long Untold

In the process of writing the last few posts, I find my mind returning again and again to “The Story of Mr. Fox” and “The Sweetheart in the Wood,” unconsciously conflating some details, and wondering: What made her take that severed hand, when she herself was in mortal danger? What was it like, to walk home alone through the forest carrying that lump of flesh? Where was it kept between then and the dinner party? And this is what came of those wonderings.

Stubborn Bloodstains and Magic Cats (Murderous Suitors, Part 2)

If we learn anything from tales like “Bluebeard” and “How the Devil Married Three Sisters,” it’s that the real crime is not disobedience or even murder–it’s lack of caution. After all, the only reason anyone in those stories got caught–both the women and their homicidal husbands–wasn’t stellar detective work, but their own carelessness in tracking blood around or giving people access to their murder-room.