Saturday, 15 April 2017

M is for... Mouse, Bird, Sausage


Once upon a time, in a little cottage in the woods, there lived a mouse, a bird and and sausage. They lived together for many years in harmony and friendship, all helping each other and sharing the daily chores.

The bird flew out into the woods every day to fetch wood. The mouse would set the fire, collect water and set the table for meals. The sausage would cook all the meals.

One day, while out collecting wood, the bird came across an old friend who laughed at him for working so hard when his friends did so little. The bird thought about this and became quite mad, so he flew home and insisted that they all swap jobs the very next day. The mouse and the sausage argued against the change, but the bird would not back down, so eventually they all agreed.

The next morning the sausage headed out to collect wood from the forest but he did not return. Fearing something may have happened to his friend, the bird flew out to see if he could find him. He eventually found the sausage in the mouth of a dog. The bird begged the dog to let his friend go, but the dog claimed that the sausage had been carrying forged papers and so would have to die.

Filled with grief and sorrow, the bird flew back home again to tell the mouse what had happened. However, when he got inside he found that while trying to cook a meal the mouse had accidentally fallen into the pot and boiled to death.

The bird was devastated and flew about the house in a rage. In his carelessness he scattered the wood from the fire around the house and soon the little cottage was engulfed in flames. The bird quickly rushed to get some water to douse the flames, but he fell down the well along with the bucket and drowned.



This strange tale was collected by the brothers Grimm and included in their published collection 'Kinderind Hausmärchen' in 1812. 
It went on to be featured in all seven editions.

Friday, 14 April 2017

L is for... Leshii


The Leshii is the sprit of the forest in Slavic folklore.

Every forest has its own Leshii who lives deep within the trees with his wife and children. The Leshii normally takes the form of a man with hair and beard of leaves, grass and vines, but he can also take on the shape of any animal or plant - from a tall tree, to a single blade of grass.

The Leshii is the guardian of the forest and protects all the animals living there. He is thought to be an evil spirit by some but is, in fact, more like a tricksy fairy in nature. 
He does enjoy misguiding travellers and leaving them lost within the woods, but if he is befriended, however, he will pass on his vast knowledge of magic.


If there is more than one Leshii in a single forest then they will fight violently to claim the territory as their own, leaving a trail of fallen trees and scared animals. 

When travelling through the forest it is sensible to take a gift of bread for the Leshii to ward off his troublesome nature.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

K is for... Kodama


Kodama (木霊) are small forest spirits from the folklore of Japan.
They are thought to inhabit trees and make strange echoing sounds. If you hear the sound of a falling tree at night, this is also thought to be the sound of a Kodama. 

They are said to take on the appearance of atmospheric ghost lights, beasts, and sometimes they can even take on human form.
Some believe that Kodama look just like real trees and are rooted to the ground.

Kodama are beilieved to have magical powers and if someone tries to cut down a tree in which one of these little spirits lives they will be badly cursed.

However, if a Kodama is treated well it will be kind and protect houses and villages.

In some areas of Japan small shrines are created at the bases of trees to honour the Kodama. These shrines are still worshipped at today by some people - showing that a belief in the little tree spirits still exists in some places.


In Hachijo-jima, in a village called Mitsune, they still celebrate the "Kodama-san" with an annual festival where they give thanks and show their respect. During this festival they ask for forgiveness and the Kodamas blessing when they cut down trees.



Kodama also appear in the anime movie Princess Mononoke which was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
In this movie they are shown as cute little bobbled-headed creatures who run around in the forest. (as shown above)
All of Miyazaki's movies are really beautiful with wonderful storylines and characters, with Princess Mononoke being one of his very best! So definitely check it out if you haven't already seen it.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

J is for... Japanese monsters

For the letter J we're heading back to Japanese Yōkai!

These interesting illustrations come from the book Yōkai Daizukai by manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, and they show cross sections from 85 'Yōkai' - the traditional monsters and demons from Japanese folklore.

The illustrations show each of the monsters internal organs and gives information about their functions and about the creatures themselves. 
I only wish that I was able to read Japanese so that I could buy myself the book, and read all of these fascinating entries!

Here are a few translated exerts for you to enjoy:

The Hyōsube, a child-sized river monster (a relative of the kappa) from Kyushu that lives in underwater caves, ventures onto land at night to eat rice plants. The monster has a relatively small brain, a nervous system specialized in detecting the presence of humans, thick rubbery skin, sharp claws, two small stomachs (one for rice grains and one for fish), a large sac for storing surplus food, and two large oxygen sacs for emergency use. A pair of rotating bone coils produce an illness-inducing bacteria that the monster sprinkles on unsuspecting humans.


The Mannen-dake ("10,000-year bamboo") is a bamboo-like monster that feeds on the souls of lost travelers camping in the woods. Anatomical features include a series of tubes that produce air that causes travelers to lose their way, syringe-like fingers the monster inserts into victims to suck out their souls, and a sac that holds the stolen souls.


The Kuro-kamikiri ("black hair cutter") is a large, black-haired creature that sneaks up on women in the street at night and surreptitiously cuts off their hair. Anatomical features include a brain wired for stealth and trickery, razor-sharp claws, a long, coiling tongue covered in tiny hair-grabbing spines, and a sac for storing sleeping powder used to knock out victims. The digestive system includes an organ that produces a hair-dissolving fluid, as well as an organ with finger-like projections that thump the sides of the intestines to aid digestion.


The Kijimunaa is a playful forest sprite inhabiting the tops of Okinawan banyan trees. Anatomical features include eye sockets equipped with ball bearings that enable the eyeballs to spin freely, strong teeth for devouring crabs and ripping out the eyeballs of fish (a favorite snack), a coat of fur made from tree fibers, and a nervous system adapted for carrying out pranks. The Kijimunaa's brain contains vivid memories of being captured by an octopus - the only thing it fears and hates.

Which Yōkai is your favourite?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl of Ink & Stars

Title: The Girl of Ink & Stars
Author: Kiran Millweed Hargrave
Published by: 
Chicken House
Publication date: May 5th 2016
Format: Paperback

Source: Own copy (Amazon)


I was so excited to read this one. 
I was hoping for magic and adventure, myths and legends, friendship and bravery. 
And while a did get all of that (ish), there just wasn't enough of it. 

Not enough magic by far. 

I understand that this was kind of a magical-realism novel, but apparently that genre is just not for me. 
They always leave me wanting so much more. 

The plot was intriguing but ended up being a bit dull unfortunately.
We follow Isabella as she embarks on a dangerous journey to find her friend. 
She travels through unknown territories, getting attacked by strange creatures and eventually finds out that the whole island is in danger of being destroyed. 
I LOVED the idea of an ancient fire demon living under the island and how the stories and myths that Isabella loved so much seemed to be coming true. 

But it fell flat. 
(I hate the 'realism' part of magical-realism!)

I did enjoy the friendship between Isabella and Lupe though. 
I thought it was sweet and fierce and they were just so lovely together!
And I'm glad there wasn't any romance featured in this story. I panicked that it would be for a second there, but it's all clear! *phew*

I also really enjoyed the cartography - the information given about it, the stories that were told, the design of the pages which featured beautiful cartography illustrations throughout, and both of the maps at the beginning and end of the book.
This book really is very pretty.
Cartography has always facinated me, so it was nice to see it featured in a book.

Unfortunately, I just felt like this book was lacking that special something. 
It didn't ever grab me.
Some parts dragged. 
It shouldn't have been as dull as it was. 

I wanted more!