We’ve all heard of unicorns and dragons, vampire and werewolves, but some of the most interesting stories told are centered around creatures we’ve rarely heard of. Katherine Arden’s “The Bear and the Nightingale” is rich with Russian folklore. House spirits, Domovoi, and other demons who have co-existed with humans are being driven out of existence by the invasion of Christianity. No longer are villagers allowed to leave offerings to the creatures who have protected their hearths and stables.
So distraught are they, that even the demons of the forest are being driven out, allowing Karachun – the winter demon “death” to freeze over the world and kill all the humans.
In my own stories, I have gone deep into Maori mythology, basing my book, Walking Sticks on the legend Patupaiarehe, fair skinned fairies who lived in the mist and feared fire and sunlight. In my story, a Maori chief captures one of the fairy-like creatures and keeps her captive, hoping she will produce a son for him, with his strength and her magic. But three times she gives him daughters, all of which he kills – one by fire, one by drowning and one by suffocation.
So distraught by this, the mother murders the chief and escapes. She gathers her daughter’s skulls and fashions them atop of walking sticks, preserving their spirits inside so that someday the girls could have a chance at life by inhabiting the bodies of other girls – and of course, that is where the story really starts, when a teenage girl receives the sticks as a gift.
Obscure creatures are a way to add freshness to stories. So next time you pick up a book, or sit down to write one, think about find something that not only entertains you, but teaches you about something new and exciting.