I’ve been thinking a lot about ravens lately. Probably in part because autumn is here and Halloween is approaching, and the general atmosphere outside has been rather raven-esque. It’s probably also because I’ve been reading—and just recently finished—Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Excellent book by the way, I highly recommend it for anyone who likes both 19th century literature and fantasy heavily steeped in folklore. Ravens play a big part in that book, and so it’s gotten me thinking about them, both in general as well as how I’ve used them in my own writing.
If you’ve read any of my stories, then you probably already know how much of a part nature plays in them. Particularly trees. My stories often take place in woods or forests, or even if they don’t, trees will often sneak in somewhere to play a significant part (like in The Forgotten Web).
The Hazel and Holly story is a little bit of both. The first half of that story takes place in a woodland area, and then we have the names of many of the characters based on trees and flowers. Honestly, the naming convention is a result of the story stemming from a post written for the A to Z Challenge last year, which I then took and ran with and started posting on the blog.
In Sweden, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the traditional Yule Goat—or Julbocken. The origins of the Yule Goat aren’t exactly clear. Some seem to think there’s a connection between the Yule Goat and Thor’s goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, who pulled the thunder god’s chariot. There’s another theory of the last sheaf of grain in a harvest having magical properties. I like this theory, as it rather explains why Yule Goats are made of straw.
There’s a fantasy and science fiction bookstore in Stockholm I like to visit on occasion. When I do, I usually walk out with a pile of books to add to my already towering to-be-read pile, and my last visit there was no exception.
Incidentally, that was the visit where I bought The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs, despite the fact that there was no blurb on the back cover or inside or anywhere. It was all just propaganda/hype from reviews and such, which I often ignore. I was annoyed and kept ranting, “Why is there no blurb? Do they think they don’t need one?” etc. I think I was mostly annoyed because I was curious and wanted to read it, but I didn’t want to reward that little marketing ploy. Anders, bless him, just shook his head while I ranted and took the book from me and added it to the pile. I’m actually reading it now and enjoying it, so it all worked out. Also, I will say it was kind of exciting starting that book. It was like opening an unlabeled mystery tin can, which could either contain tasty cling peaches in light syrup, or some kind of meat-like hash made with cigarette ashes and rat whiskers.
Every year around Christmas time I get ideas in my head of all the food I’m going to make. More often than not, it never actually happens. Last year, though, I made a breakthrough and actually made the applesauce I had been intending to do for years, and some crisp flatbread to boot. Success!
This year, it was supposed to be spiced wine — or glögg, as the Swedes call it. But then I was in the liquor store and they had so many varieties of glögg that I caved and bought a bottle. I’m still pretty excited though, because this is the real deal, and not the 2% alcohol stuff we normally get in the regular stores (you have to go to dedicated liquor stores here to get proper booze). I’m excited to see how it tastes. If it’s underwhelming, I’ll probably revisit making my own glögg next year.
I had to Google this one, due to a distinct lack of any Z related people or creatures in my books at home. Plus, my brain feels fried after writing about Yggdrasil. So we’re going to wrap up this challenge with a nice “easy” one.
“Zhulong” literally means “torch dragon” (or Zhuyin—“illuminating darkness”) and is a solar deity in Chinese lore. With the body of a serpent and the face of a human, Zhulong created night and day by opening and closing his eyes, and created the wind with his breath.
While kind of creepy in having a human face, he’s still very interesting. I’m not familiar with Chinese mythology, and I like the concept of a dragon playing a part in creation.
Shokuin (Zhuyin, the spirit of China’s Purple Mountain) from the Konjaku Hyakki Shūi by Toriyama Sekien (Japanese, *1712, †1788) via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Zhulong on Wikipedia
And that brings us to the conclusion of the A to Z Challenge! I thank everyone who’s stopped by and commented. It’s been great meeting new folks and reading so many interesting posts this month. (Exhausting, but still great.) Thank you all for making my first A to Z a good one.