Step into the World of Folklore
In the age of technology, with information so widely available, the need for the mystical to explain the uncanny seems to be fading. But that longing in us to believe in the mystical still manifests itself. Horror and fantasy movies still thrill us even though we know the things we watch are impossible. Early mornings, with mist hanging low over the ground, or the deep dusky colours of a sunset still seem to hold some sort of magic. There are some places where essense of folklore and magic is still ingrained. These are the places where the modern World has yet to totally encroach, and you don’t have to travel as far as you might think to find them.
This seemingly peaceful part of the UK was supposedly home to Jack the Giant Killer and, of course, the giants he was named for. The dramatic, windswept landscapes of this part of the country, such as the granite features of Bodmin Moor, were said to have been built by giants. Unfortunately landscaping was not their only hobby and the disappearance of much livestock and a number of children was also attributed to them. In honour of his heroics, Jack was gifted a sword (having killed his first giant with only a pickaxe) and a belt embroidered with tales of his heroics.
The notoriously craggy coastline, mosaiced with caves and hidden coves were historically host to pirates and smugglers who, with intimate knowledge of the coastline, could import and stash their contraband. But perhaps smugglers were not the only ones to utilise these underground hideouts. Knockers or Bucca were similar to the gnomes and pixies found in much folklore. Standing only about two feet tall, these little, grizzled men lived in caves and tunnels underground and spent their days playing tricks and doing mischief. If you find keys, tools, or food going missing during your time in Cornwall you may need to leave an offering to appease the Bucca. Don’t worry too much though; the crust of a Cornish pasty is enough!
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Wild, ugly, and mischievous is something of a theme in folklore (almost as though representing the wilder parts of human nature) and Sweden does not buck this trend. Trolls are all of these things though also somewhat more dangerous than their Cornish cousins. These creatures were said to live throughout Sweden, and indeed much of Scandinavia. They could thrive in any habitat. Mountain Trolls were said to be the richest, with hoards of gold stashed away, whereas those who resorted to living in rundown forest huts were the most dangerous. Trollkonors – lady trolls – were not common so males would often steal away beautiful young women to marry instead,
Swedish men in the times of magic were not free from the sinister threats – not of death – but of being bound to something for the rest of their life (which may prove to be much shorter as a result). The Skogsra were the nymphs of the forest. Unlike the hairy, ugly trolls, they appeared to men as beautiful young women, though from behind they suddenly appear to be hollow tree trunks. Favour with a Skogsra could mean a good hunt, but more often these women were known for leading men astray. Most stories seem to provide advice as to how to avoid being enraptured by them and meeting some obscure doom. As with much folklore, these tales seem to play on fears and fantasies alike.
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Romanian folklore is deeply tied to nature and suffuse with tales of creation, and of heroes. But the tales that have spread to the wider World are far darker. Life in here was harsh; the people were constantly threatened by war and disease. Vlad the Impaler, though known for his brutality, could be seen as a folk hero by some for his part in fighting against the encroaching Ottoman empire. It is no coincidence that the infamous Romanian became fictionalised as the most famous vampire: Dracula. Romania folklore was the origin of these creatures of the night as well as others such as the werewolf. Said to have given birth to werewolf and vampire alike, the Strigoi were the undead. Unlike zombies, these creatures could transform into any creature, become invisible, and had an insatiable thirst for blood. They were also said to be the source of many diseases. Perhaps it is no wonder that, with such a hard life, the poor used such creatures to explain misfortune and frighten children into being careful.
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Perhaps one of the best known of the mythologies today are the tales from Ancient Greece. This land of cerulean oceans, secluded islands, and mountains was the backdrop to battles between men and gods alike. The gods of Olympia walked (or swam, or flew depending on what form they felt like taking that day) among us. They were known for their imperfections and human qualities: their love, and rage alike. They seem to take all human emotions to the extreme and alter the world around them as a result. Perhaps you will not find them lounging atop Mount Olympus today, but it’s not hard to picture these superhumans in this dreamy landscape.
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