Tonight sees the final session in Finding Inspiration Through Folklore, a series of community workshops supported by Creative Scotland. We will be holding a sixth and final evening with story-sharing, music and song next month. More details to follow!
Things have been so busy recently, with the upcoming launch of my third novel The Unmaking of Ellie Rook (Polygon) that there hasn’t been time to update the blog on a weekly basis.
However, let’s take a look at what we’ve been doing over the last few weeks.
In Week Two we looked to the woods for inspiration and shared some stories inspired by trees and forests. Remember that old recording of ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic?’ The song has been referenced in dozens of films and TV productions- often very unlikely ones such as Fear and Loathing in LA, Peaky Blinders and various psychological horror films. This is a prime example of society making its own mythology, placing an innocent children’s rhyme within an inappropriate or dangerous setting.
This gives us the distinct feeling that something is ‘off’- it is disorientating and ‘uncanny.’
The uncanny is the psychological experience of something as strangely familiar, rather than simply mysterious. Although Sigmund Freud wasn’t the first expert to discuss this phenomenon, he did attempt explain it in terms of the ‘home.’ He claimed that the word comes from the German Heimlich, or ‘homely’, so ‘Un-Heimlich’ means the act of meeting something unexpected on familiar territory, either physically or mentally.
No discussion of the forest could be complete without reference to my own favourite story, The Erl-King by Angela Carter. Carter certainly viewed fairy tales as a way of exploring ideas of how things might be different. “My intention was not to do ‘versions’” she wrote, “or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories and to use it as the beginnings of new stories.”
For me, this is what is so inspirational about folk tales. They grow in scope and importance with each telling; every generation finds a new relevance and as creatives we have a chance to ‘make it new’.
In Week Three we looked at ‘what lies beneath’ and acclaimed local storyteller and musician Ken Johnston came along to share his take on the world of water, from selkies and kelpies, to the shipyards and fisher lore. Such an interesting evening!
Week Four was all about the fabric of these islands. Are you a beachcomber of a rock-climber? Most folk will admit to having a little obsession with stone in one form or another.
‘Certain natural rocks and boulders, appealing to the untutored imagination, were believed to be living objects with power to help or hurt mankind.’
~ J.M.McPherson, Primitive Beliefs in the Northeast of Scotland
Our ancestors took the stone obsession to a whole new level. In the Middle Ages ‘stone worship’ was condemned by the Church and among the acts of heathenism banned by King Edgar in the tenth century. It had little effect. It’s easy to see how certain stones of quirky appearance became the subject of superstition and folk belief.
This week, we’ll be looking at the characters to be found in folklore. From witches to trolls and everything in between- they all have a story to tell…