Sunday, June 6, 2021

THE STRANGE MYTHOLOGY OF BEARS

Arctolatry-bear worship

Bears may have been the first animals worshiped in the Paleolithic era, as evidenced by ocher-painted bear skulls arranged in Neandertal shrines, signifying the oldest human/animal relationship. If you've ever seen a brown bear walking upright, it's uncannily human-like in its stride. Bears were terrifying and shamanic figures in prehistoric times. They appear in numerous guises as gods, in fairy tales as heroes. In American Indigenous folklore, they are the king of the beasts, wise and moral. Inuit hunters learned patience from the polar bear, Tuurngasuk, the Great Spirit who devours the shaman and returns him whole and powerful and ready to aid his people.

In Ainu myth, bears are sacred. A young bear is captured and treated like a king for a year, before being sacrificed. In Korea, Ungnyeo is a bear who wanted to be human and was made so by a god. In Hindu mythology, Jambavana is the king of bears, created to assist the god Brahma.

There are many bear goddesses throughout the world. Dea Arturio is the Celtic bear goddess. The bear is the sacred animal of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. In Greece, young girls would wear bear masks and act predatory in order to honor Artemis. The bear was also Ursa Major, the constellation, to the Greeks, named after the huntress Callisto, who was cursed into bear form by a jealous Zeus. In many ancient cultures, the bear is considered a Mother, a deity of resurrection and birth, of protection.

Ildiko is a Hungarian bear goddess. Mielikki is Finnish, and both are associated with forests. In Finnish folklore, bears seek to reincarnate through women, so women must keep away from a bear's funeral feast. The bear, the king of the forest, was never called by name, but referenced through euphemisms such as The Honey Eater, Golden Light Foot, The Fur Robed Forest Friend. Norse berserkers wore only bearskins into battle because the bear was sacred to Odin.

In fairy tales,, bears are creatures of wisdom and savagery. In East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the bear befriends two sisters and helps them on their quests. Eventually it is revealed he is a cursed human. When one of the sisters falls in love with him, he transforms into a man. Goldilocks and the Three Bears is about a girl who colonizes the house of three bears and has the nerve to complain about everything.

In Fiction, Phillip Pullman's Iorek Byrnison is a standout, a polar bear in The Golden Compass who is a scarred, alcoholic warrior. /Who doesn't love Baloo, the mentor, from The Jungle Book? There is Bluebear from Walter Moers The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear. Katherine Arden's The Bear and The Nightingale has Medved, the evil bear. On a gentler note, we have the intrepid immigrant Paddington Bear. And, of course Winnie-the-Pooh. 

Bears have been revered by many cultures throughout history, and mostly as a mother. They are the true queen of the beasts.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

TIME OF THE DARK BY BARBARA HAMBLY

 

THE TIME OF THE DARK series, published in 1981, is one of my favorite fantasy series. Here's why:

Gil, a student of Medieval history, dreams of a strange world haunted by monstrous, shifting creatures called The Dark. She also dreams of the prince and the wizard trying to save this dream kingdom. When the wizard shows up in her kitchen one night, Gil--along with a motorbike-riding young man named Rudy--are dragged into a world in which they quickly need to learn how to survive, with swords and magic. It sounds cliche, but Hambly creates such fantastic, realistic characters, while vividly painting a world you could believe she visited. The devil's in the exquisite details. It's a dark, gorgeous,and intensely human story. Gil and Rudy's journeys are harrowing--he becomes an apprentice wizard and she becomes a soldier, nascent abilities made irrelevant in their modern lives--but they also find family in this terrifying and beautiful world.

THE CHARACTERS make the story. Ingold is the wizard, an old war veteran turned magic user who was a red-headed troublemaker in his youth. Minalde is the young queen and mother of the kingdom's infant heir and she's a Snow White who has to transform into a ruler, fast. Alwir, handsome and raven-haired, a warrior and an aristocrat, is her older brother and becomes a memorable villain. Ice Falcon is a cold-hearted young soldier from the White Raiders,a nomadic people who terrorize the borders.

AUTHOR'S HISTORY: Hambly has a Masters in Medieval History and it shows. She's also written about a band of mercenaries and a group of wizards, set in the same world, as well as a separate series about a free man of color who solves mysteries and another series about Victorian vampires.

WHY I LOVE IT: The interesting characters, pungent details, and tense plot.

FAV SCENES:

When Gil discovers Ingold the wizard sitting in her kitchen and offers him a beer, which he graciously accepts, figuring out how to open the can.

Rudy, learning how to control his latent magical abilities, tries to hide from the White Raiders by appearing as a dung beetle. The White Raiders instantly spot him, and, later, Ingold asks Rudy when has he ever seen a dung beetle in that world.

If you're looking for something to replace Game of Thrones, this rich, dark, portal fantasy is for you.



Tuesday, March 2, 2021

WHY IT'S SO GOOD TO BE BAD: WRITING THE FEMALE ANTIHERO

'Trickster dwells in the realm of shadow, but perhaps that is for our salvation.' C.G. Jung 



The antihero. The trickster. Why are they so appealing? They toe the line between good and bad, but never commit any atrocities that would turn them into the villain. The outcome for them is usually redemption--but not always--and victories come at a cost that's bittersweet. Antiheroes aren't the White Hats, the knights in shining armor. They surprise and delight and sometimes disappoint in delicious ways. They're spiky, unreliable, always have a trick up their sleeve, and we never know what direction they're going to take. The female antihero isn't afraid to walk in the shadows, to do what must be done, and never considers herself to be the hero. She likes that she can be bad and people expect it of her. Or she's flawed and has no desire to be perfect. Being morally ambiguous, she can surprise us. Antiheroines have been dismissed as Bad Girls, but they're more than that. They're not heroes by any means, and would scorn being called one. They aren't in the story for the glory--they're in it for the mayhem. But, occasionally, instead of spiraling towards self-destruction, these ladies can rocket into a crazy noble orbit.



Antiheroism used to seem solely a male domain, but folklore and mythology are peppered with female tricksters: Morgan le Fay, Circe, Lilith, Kali, Hecate, The Morrigan, the Kumiho. And it seems female tricksters are a lot scarier than their male counterparts. These ladies control dark magic and the elements of night or nature. They rule in the world of tempests and moonlight and are often associated with death.


Classic literature brought another Renaissance of trickster girls. The most infamous are Becky Sharp in William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair; Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary; Catherine Earnshaw from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights; Emma Woodhouse from Emma by Jane Austen; Estella Havisham from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. They are all young, supremely selfish, and devious. The characters who encounter them often regret doing so. But these ladies are fighting against the limitations of their eras, when women were considered useless and frivolous. They aren't going to settle for what society demands.

Some of my favorite antiheroes in books and film:

    


    Harley Quinn (DC Comics)

    Villanelle (Killing Eve)

    Faith Lehane (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

    Beth Harmon (The Queen's Gambit)

    Lada Dragwyla (And I Darken by Kiersten White)

    Jude Duarte (The Cruel Prince by Holly Black)

                                         Jame Kencyr (Godstalk by P.C. Hodgell)

   


 Mia Corvere (NeverNight by Jay Kristoff)

  Morgaine (The Book of Morgaine by C.J. Cherryh)

  Miranda (Maledicte by Lane Robins)




We need more female antiheroes, more tricksters from people of color, women and girls whose venture into chaos shakes things up. Who are your favorites?

Sunday, January 31, 2021

HOW TO KEEP YOUR SANITY AS A WRITER



Here are a few things that help me to avoid the depths of despair:

NEVER forget why you write: Because you LOVE it.

INSPIRATION. This is the driving force. What gave you the IDEA? Another book? Pinterest images? Films? TV series? A song? Revisit what inspired you. For me, my inspiring idea usually becomes the book's THEME.

IMAGINATION. You have to feed your brain dragon. As above--books, films, TV series, magazines, music.

READ. Read writers you love so that you REMEMBER WHY you love to write. But also read books outside your comfort zone. Expand your interests. There are compelling non-fiction books. There are exquisitely realistic fiction books.

BLOGS. Visit blogs about writing for strategy. Visit author blogs for advice.

SELF-PUBLISH. Remember self-publishing and small presses are an option. Make sure you invest in the two most important aspects of your book--a professional EDITOR and a gorgeous COVER. Then you need to invest in a marketing campaign.

FUTURE PROJECTS. always have a list of books you're looking forward to writing. This means you'll finish the story you began and you'll already have a few plot lines and characters for future fun.

SUPPORT. Connect to other writers via social media or writing groups.

TAKE A BREAK. Take a nap. Take a walk. Get some tasks done. Get away from the story so that you can THINK about the story.

JOURNAL. Keep a journal of future ideas. This keeps your creative fires burning. Write down everything. Cool character names. Weird little sentences. Fabulous words. Gorgeous descriptions.

That's it! Happy writing:)