Guest Writer!

Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations is delighted to welcome fellow writer, M. E. Lebron this week.  “The Curse of Candlekeep” is a super spooky read that will keep you on your toes and rushing to read more.  It will be a two part feature.  Next week will be the final installment.  Did I mention there were pirates???

 

PART ONE


Captain Rylan Hale took one look around Candlekeep and decided he hated the town and everyone in it.


Maybe the pirate wouldn’t be so touchy if his ship was in good repair and he was standing on the deck of said ship with the salt breeze caressing his face. But as it was, Queen Hera’s Revenge​ had barely limped its way into port, and now Captain Hale found himself stranded. 

Really, the storm he could have handled. The damage to the ​Revenge ​wasn’t the worst of it either. His bad mood had actually started with the Harbormaster. 

“Welcome to Candlekeep, my good man!” 

Captain Hale barely had one toe on the pier before a foppish man in a tri-corner hat accosted him. 

“My name is Simon Culpepper. I’m the Harbormaster here in Candlekeep. Are you here on merchant business, or simply passing through?” 

Good lord, even his name offends the senses,​ Hale thought. The Captain blinked at the harbormaster, then turned and glanced back at his ship. There on the mainmast, snapping in the breeze, flew a black flag – the mark of a pirate vessel. Hale fixed Simon Culpepper with a pointed stare; the harbormaster’s eyes slowly traveled up to the flag and his mouth formed an “o” of surprise. 

Yes, that’s it. Scuttle away from the fearsome pirate and leave me and my crew alone. 

“I see,” said the harbormaster.

Captain Hale smirked in satisfaction. 

“Well, Captain. I hope you enjoy your stay in Candlekeep. But try not to have ​too much fun, eh?” Simon Culpepper gently elbowed Hale in the ribs, winked conspiratorially, then turned and went on his merry way, whistling as he went. 

Captain Hale had stood rooted to the pier, trying to decide if he wanted to shoot at Culpepper’s retreating back, or throw up. In the end, he settled for being grumpier than usual. 

Now, sitting at the bar in the disgustingly picturesque Albatross Inn, Hale could feel his mood going from sour to rancid. Everyone in Candlekeep was so ​nice. ​The men tipped their hats to him in the streets. The women smiled and bobbed their heads. The barkeeper even tried to make ​small talk​. 

“It’s not natural,” Hale muttered into his tankard of beer. 

The door to the inn squeaked open and two women shuffled inside. A young woman with dark hair gently ushered the oldest woman Hale had ever seen into the inn; the young woman was clearly distressed – and clearly attractive, Hale noticed – but the old woman held his attention. Though the crone looked quite frail, she put up a valiant struggle to get away, the entire time weeping and muttering to herself. 

Captain Hale sat up a little straighter in his chair. Something interesting might happen in this sleepy little town after all. 

The bartender hurried out from behind the bar and took the old woman by the hand, steering her gently toward a table. 

“I’m so sorry, Ned. I don’t know what’s come over Gran. She’s been like this ever since we spotted a ship in the harbor while we were walking the pier.” 

“It’s alright, Sabra dear. Let’s get Neela to a table and I’ll make a cup of tea.” The old woman lifted her head and fixed her eyes on Captain Hale.
“My Corsan,” she said, her voice trembling. “You’ve come home to me at last.” Every head in the bar swiveled in his direction. 

Just great, h​e thought sourly. 

The young woman – Sabra, apparently – made her way over to him. As Captain Hale took in her velvet black hair and sea-gray eyes, he decided his bad mood ​might​ be improving slightly. 

“I’m sorry about my grandmother.” Sabra’s voice was sweet, almost melodic. “Her mind is… not what it used to be. She gets confused.” 

Alright Hale, just tell the girl there’s no harm done and go back to your beer. 

“Who exactly does your grandmother think I am?” 

Drat it, man! 

“Corsan, my grandfather. He… was a pirate. Like you.”
Interesting. “​ And what happened to him?”
“He sailed away seventy years ago and never returned. I guess my Gran just saw your ship and thought…”
Captain Hale adjusted his hat to a more rakish angle and gave Sabra what he hoped was a roguish smile. “Well, no harm done. Tell your Gran –”
The door flew open and hit the wall behind it with a teeth-jarring ​bang​. Henry 

Bosan, Hale’s first mate, tore into the inn yelling and waving his arms. “Captain! Come quick!” 

Hale rolled his eyes to the ceiling and stood from his stool. “Henry, this had better be good because if not –”
“Captain sir, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. But I swear on my mother’s grave, sir. ​There’s a ghost on our ship.​” 

~*~ 

“Henry Bosan, if you dragged me away from a perfectly good mug of beer for nothing, I’m going to tie you to the prow and let the gulls eat you.” 

Captain Hale had been standing in the belly of his ship for nearly twenty minutes, impatiently tapping his boot against the deck boards. A solitary oil lantern pierced the gloom, swinging gently with the slight rocking of the ship. 

“Sir, there was a ghost. I swear on –” 

“Your mother’s grave, yes I ​know,​” Hale snapped. “I also know your mother is alive and well and living in Raven’s Hollow. She’s quite flexible for her age.” Hale tapped his boot a few more times, then turned toward the ladder leading to the upper deck. “I’m leaving, Henry. Don’t bother me again unless something is sinking or on fire.” 

He placed his boot on the bottom rung when the air went suddenly frigid. Hale’s breath came out of his mouth in a puff of white vapor, and he clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering. 

“It’s the ghost, Captain! I told you!”
Hale slowly turned, his hand reaching for the pistol tucked into his belt.
A figure, pale and translucent, materialized from out of the shadows. Dressed in pirate’s clothes, the phantom held a bloody dagger in one hand, and tucked underneath the opposite elbow was a severed head. 

The phantom turned and fixed its milky-white eyes on Captain Hale. 

“Corsan,” the phantom hissed. 

The hairs on Hale’s neck and arms stood up and goosebumps prickled along his back. 

“I knew you would come for me in the end, Corsan! I should have tossed your bones into the sea.” The phantom raised the knife and lunged for Hale. Hale drew his pistol and fired off a shot – the lead ball passed straight through the ghost and punched a hole through the wall behind it. The ghost bore down on Hale, then passed ​through him. Hale shuddered, feeling as if he’d been dropped into ice water. With a howl that nearly turned Hale’s blood to ice, the phantom disappeared. 

Hale stood for a moment, staring at the spot where the ghost vanished. Then he stuffed the pistol back in his belt and turned to Henry. 

“Bosan, my apologies.” Then the Captain swept up the ladder, across the deck, and down the gangplank. 

That was the second time he’d been mistaken for Corsan in one day. But Captain Hale wasn’t the type to investigate. All he cared about was that there was a ghost on his ship, and if he couldn’t blast it to pieces, he needed some other method to ​get rid of it. 

~*~


Pirates are superstitious creatures. They have to be when dealing with something as wild and unpredictable as the ocean. Superstitions gave a man the illusion of control over his circumstances. But Captain Hale knew of another profession where one needed to be more superstitious than a pirate. And lucky for him, Candlelkeep employed just such a person. 

Captain Hale made his way through the neat little town graveyard to the small church and cottage on top of the hill. The ever-so-helpful barkeep assured him Father Basil Barnes, resident cleric, would be at his cottage this time of evening. Hale rapped on the door and waited. 

A few muffled thumps followed by a “Just a minute!” preceded the opening of the door to reveal a squat, balding man wearing brown robes. Father Basil blinked owlishly at Captain Hale. “Can I help you?” 

“Yes, Father, I believe you can. See, I’m having a bit of a problem with a ghost and I –” 

The cleric rolled his eyes heavenward and shoved his head out the door to peek around the cottage. 

“Dolores, you hateful old hag! I told you last week if I had to banish you one more time, I’d dig up your miserable bones and bury you next to your ex-husband!” The cleric turned to look at Hale. “Give me just a minute. I’ll get the herbs and candles. Tell the townsfolk I’ll fix Dolores real good this time.” 

Hale grabbed the cleric by the back of the robes as the little man tried to retreat back into his cottage. 

“Uh, Father, as interesting as Dolores sounds, she’s not the ghost in question.” 

The cleric whirled around, his eyebrows shooting up. “Not Dolores? Oh, thank the gods. She’s really mean, you know.” 

“No, not Dolores. A different ghost. A pirate. He’s taken up residence on my ship and I want him ​gone.​” 

The cleric scratched his chin and frowned. “A pirate, you say? Interesting. And he didn’t appear until you came here to Candlekeep?” Hale nodded. 

“I see. Well, considering this ghost just appeared, I don’t think the spirit is bound to your ship. I’d say your arrival here triggered the ghost somehow. Considering it’s the ghost of a pirate, maybe you activated a curse of some sort.” 

Hale resisted the urge to sigh in exasperation. “Fascinating. Truly. That still doesn’t tell me how to get the thing off my ship.” 

“Oh, well, you’d need to break the curse, obviously.”
“Obviously.”
The cleric waved his hand dismissively. “Just find out who put the curse on your ghost and they can tell you how to lift it. Should be simple.”


Captain Hale turned and stalked back down the hill. Looks like he’d have to do some investigating after all. 

Read more by M. E. Lebron here!

Dragons Part IV

What could a world-wide flood possibly have to do with dragons?

What do Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Sumerian, Islamic, Buddhist, Babylonian, Aztec, Judeo Christian, Australian, Chinese, and Hawaiian myths all have in common?

Give up?

Each of these vastly different, widespread cultures (in addition to many other cultures) has stories of dragons and a story of a world-wide flood (www.mythoreligio.com).  That’s lovely, but what does a giant flood have to do with dragons, you may ask?  Excellent question.

Sir Reginald III aboard the Ark, enjoying a lovely cuppa. Original artwork by Julia Ruprecht. Check her out @julruprecht on Instagram.

In doing my research for the past few dragon-themed articles, I kept coming back to one question—where did all the stories about man killing great, hateful beasts originate?  Dragon stories populate every major culture in the world.  Surely, they can’t all be symbolic stories.  There’s too much evidence of early people interacting with and fearing these giant creatures (check out the past three dragon posts for more details.  They’re in the archives).  To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, “No survivors?  Where do the stories come from then, I wonder?”

This led me to the great Flood.  The most widely known and accepted flood story is found in the Bible in the book of Genesis.  To recap things quickly:  In the beginning, God created the world, and created man to rule over it (starting with Adam and Eve).  Over time, man became evil, and God was grieved that He’d ever created them.  God brought judgement to the world by way of much (MUCH!) water.  Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives, were found to be righteous.  God commanded Noah to build an ark (think 500-foot-long, multiple storied sea-faring vessel).  At the appointed time, God sent two of every kind of animal into the ark.

Now, going further into the Biblical account, God made Adam and Eve and all land-dwelling creatures on the sixth day.  Including dinosaurs…ergo, dragons (www.answersingenesis.org).  So.  If we can set aside that modern science has told us that dinosaurs were extinct millions of years before humans evolved to walk on land, could this be the link that brings humans and dragons together?

If dinosaurs/dragons were created with man at the very beginning, what if they were still roaming freely about during Noah’s time?  And if God told Noah to take two of each kind, then it stands to reason that Noah could very well have brought on a few pairs of different kinds of dragons.

If this could have been the case, then it stands to reason that man and dragons did live together—maybe even up into the middle ages.  Perhaps some of those tales of knights hunting dragons were real.  There are an awful lot of them.  Look at Bishop Bell’s tomb from the late 1400’s (www.creation.com).  Look at the temple at Ta Prohm.  The Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon.  Persian artifacts depicting dragons.  Sumatran art showing warriors hunting a dinosaur-like creature.  China is inundated with dragons in every walk of life.  Ancient Greek pottery shows Hercules rescuing Hesoine from a dragon.  North American Anasazi rock depictions show a convincing Apatosaurus-like animal (www.genesispark.com).

Top Left: Dragon on the Ishtar Gate. Top Right: Stegosaurus from Ta Prohm. Bottom: From Bishop Bell’s tomb.

The point is, every major culture has stories of dragons.  Stories of great floods.  Most of them have stories with interactions between people and dragons.  World-wide coincidence? 

So where are all the dragons/dinosaurs now?  Obviously, they’re extinct.  Although there are still rumors of large dinosaur-like creatures roaming in the forgotten parts of the world like the Congo (www.livescience.com) Australia, and Papua New Guinea.  But what if they became extinct through natural causes?  Like loss of habitat.  Like over hunting.  Like low birth rates. Like any number of things that can and does cause extinction of species today. 

Plesiosaurus Fossil

Is it possible that ancient cultures simply found fossilized bones and concocted their stories from them?  Maybe.  It is just as likely—possibly more so—that they lived with these giant creatures of legend?  You tell me.

Pop up to the top, click the grey Comments, and tell me what you think—Did dragons and people exist together?

Book Recommendations

Fossils by Gary Parker

Flood by Design by Mike Oard

Evolution: The Grand Experiment Vol. 1 by Dr. Carl Werner

Noah:  Man of Destiny by Tim Chaffey & K. Marie Adams (recommended for 16 and up)

The Flood of Noah: Legends and Lore of Survival by Bodie Hodge & Laura Welch

Creative Writing Prompts

The waters rose.  With a heavy heart I watched, safe inside the ark, while our village flooded.  Soon it would just be the eight of us and the animals.  The baby dragon roared beside me from his pen.

I readied my spear.  I’d only have one shot to take down this fearsome creature!

Dragons did/did not live with man.  

Additional Sources

www.mid-day.com

www.hoshanarabbah.org

www.christiananswers.net

www.lyntonlevengood.deviantart.com

Dragons Part I

Dragon.

Fire-breather.  Scales.  Wings.  Terror.  Gold.  Monster. 

All these things describe the age-old King of Mythology, the Dragon.  Nearly every country in the world (yes, dragons are a world-wide phenomenon!) has legends of dragons going back to time before memory.  These great beasts of the air and creatures of the deep crevices populate legends and myths from practically every major recognized culture (https://www.dragon-history.com).  

Meet Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations
Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht
Follow her @julruprecht on Instagram

Most people picture a large, flying reptile spouting flames, ravaging towns and sacking castles when they hear the word “dragon” (Smaug, anyone?).  However, many dragons seem to have their roots in a more serpentine nature.  The English word for dragon derives from drakon—a Greek word originally meaning large serpent (www.britanica.com).  Many legends, particularly in Asian cultures, still show dragons with snake-like bodies and benevolent attitudes.  

Smaug and Bilbo from the Lord of the Rings books
(Check out the Elves post for more info on Tolkien’s creations)

Additionally interesting regarding the serpentine-ness of early dragons are the medieval Christian associations of dragons with the devil (more on European dragons coming soon!).  In Genesis, it is Satan masquerading as a serpent that tricks Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, thus causing pretty much all of humanity’s issues thereafter.  Is it possible that dragons and serpents have this common ancestor and that there may be more authentic cause for the similarities between the two?

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the Serpent

So, the big question…were dragons real?  There seems to be a lot of world-wide hype about a purely mythical creature.  What about ancient texts that refer specifically (and in most cases, give very vivid descriptions!) to giant serpents, great beasts, Leviathan, and Behemoth?  Some of these texts include the Bible, the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, pieces written by Aristotle, Beowulf (what if Grendel and the Great Dragon were real, not just depictions of a pagan society recorded by Christian monks?), as well as several other solid historical sources (www.answersingenesis.org).  Ancient historians and the earliest writers don’t seem to have any problem with a staunch belief in dragons.

Carving of the Gilgamesh story

Tell me, what other creatures do we know for certain existed that may seem like dragons? 

Join me next week and we’ll look more into this phenomenon that swept Europe in the middle ages…the dragon-slaying knight.

Tell me in the comments, do you think dragons were/are real?  Why or why not?  Go to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” and you’re good to go!

Book Recommendations

Siersha of Errinton by Shari L. Tapscott

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Dragon Rose by Christine Pope

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS

Smoke drifted from the beast’s nostrils as I stood, frozen in time and place.  Giant orange eyes gazed balefully at me.

Dragons were/were not real.  Here’s why:

The dragon motioned with its scaly arm.  “You may take one item from my treasure horde.  But be wise in what you choose.”  I stared at the vast pile of riches before me.  What would best aide me in my quest?

Trailer for I Am Dragon–the original is in Russian.  And it’s on Prime.  I highly recommend watching in the original language with subtitles. 😉

 

Mythological Bestiary: Dragons

And no self-respecting blogger would do a post on dragons without including Smaug. 😉

Smaug “I am fire!”

Additional sources:

www.designbolts.com/2012/12/05/20-amazing-beautiful-digital-art-desktop-wallpapers-in-hd-quality-2013-edition/

www.theverge.com/tldr/2015/3/4/8150917/smaug-the-hobbit-virtual-reality

www.tattooforaweek.com/en/Serpentine-Dragon-Temporary-Tattoo

wonderfulgraceofjesus.wordpress.com/tag/in-christ/

www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/myth-gilgamesh-001927

hk.asiatatler.com/life/dinosaur-fossils-collectors

The Loch Ness Monster

Urquhart Castle sits a silent stone sentinel, guarding the vast waters before it.  Waiting, watching, for a glimpse of its most famous inhabitant.  The Loch Ness Monster.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Nessie, possibly the most famous mythological marine creature in the world, is said to exist deep in the murky waters of Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland.  Many people claim to have seen this large, long necked, flippered friend.  Some sightings date as far back as Pictish stone carvings (think back before Rome invaded England!  That’s old!).  A 565 AD biography of St. Columba contains the first written mentions of Nessie.  It’s said that our mysterious beastie chomped a swimmer and was poised to go after another, but St. Columba commanded it back, and the creature obeyed (www.britanica.com).

St. Columba rebuking the monster

Loch Ness, with a depth of close to 800 feet, and a length of nearly 23 miles, has plenty of places for a giant marine creature to hide.  The loch is filled with fresh water and holds a larger volume of fresh water than any other lake in Great Britain (www.history.com).  What if Nessie really has been hiding for centuries?  Could it be possible?

Ariel view of Loch Ness

Let’s look for just one minute at a real creature that has indisputable proof of existence in the fossil record.  Meet the plesiosaur.  Plesiosaurs had a small head, long willowy neck, a plump, rounded body, and four flippers (www.britanica.com).  Sound a bit like the common description of our favorite loch-loving friend? 

 

Plesiosaur Skeleton

What if dinosaurs didn’t all die out however many years ago?  What if some of them survived?  Maybe even secretly thrived?  Could Nessie be one such creature?  Scientists are still discovering new land and marine animals every year.  Why couldn’t Nessie have escaped notice?  Especially in the deep shadowy waters of a giant lake, or if the Nessie population is small.

Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht
Follow her @julruprecht on Instagram!

The most famous Nessie photograph, captured in the early 1930’s, was proved to be a hoax in 1993. However, it’s important to note that of the three men who concocted the toy submarine-based photo, one of them claims to have seen the Loch Ness Monster and remains a believer (http://www.unmuseum.org/nesshoax.htm).

The “Original Sighting” of Nessie

What do you think?  Is Nessie real, or has she always just been a hoax? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Go to the top of the post, click the grey “Comments” and it’ll take you right there.

Book Recommendations

Dragons of the Deep by Carl Wieland

The New Answers Book 1 by Ken Ham

The Fossil Book by Gary Parker

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS

“Look!”

“Where?”

“There!”

“Is that…” the words died away as a head towered out of the water.  Beady yellow eyes fixed on us as the sun glinted off rows of tiny, needle like teeth.

The Loch Ness Monster is/is not real.  Why or why not?

Nessie was my best friend.  Only no one else knew she existed.

 

The Loch Ness Monster Myth

National Geographic on Loch Ness Sightings

The History Channel on Loch Ness

Award winning, professional harpist, Tiffany Schaefer, plays a beautiful rendition of the Scottish song, “Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon”

 
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Loch-Ness-monster-legendary-creature

https://www.visitinvernesslochness.com/property/urquhart-castle/

http://travelinos.com/castles/n22-16194-Urquhart_Castle

 http://anomalyinfo.com/Stories/565-ce-st-columba-and-beast-river-ness

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/loch-ness-from-above-veli-bariskan.html

https://www.britannica.com/animal/plesiosaur

http://livingdinos.com/the-cryptids/marine-cryptids-sea-monsters/living-plesiosaurs/

Fairies

Did you know that there are hundreds of different types of fairies?  And most of them are not the cute, sassy Tinkerbell variety, though most are considered magical (rest assured, I’ll be featuring many of them in future posts)!  Fairies throughout history have been so feared that at one time, people wouldn’t even mention their names, referring to them only as The Little People, Hidden People, or sometimes The Gentry (https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Origins-of-Fairies/, https://fiveminutehistory.com/the-history-of-fairies/).  All that aside, I’d still sign myself up for a Fairy Godmother given the chance.

Because fairies encompass so many different forms, there seems to be a fairy for literally every shape, size, occasion, and country (Tinkerbell, Lucky Charms, Cupid, jinnis/genies, anyone?).  And fairies are a lot older than you might expect—the earliest fairies are featured in Greek mythology (https://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/faeries.html)!  While not on par with the gods and goddesses, think of fairies as spiritual beings one rung down the ladder—more like a demi-god.

Original artwork by local artist, Julia Ruprecht
Follow her on Instagram @julruprect

Most dismiss any Fae creature (anything belonging to the realm of the fairies) as purely imagination, though there are many (and several current) accounts of run-ins with the Wee People.  Do please share your story in the comments if you’ve had such an experience!  I’ve not yet been so lucky myself (although I do have friends who have found fairy rings—places fairies are said to dance).  Historically, these tiny creatures transcend the corporeal realm into the spiritual one.  Many stories associate the Fae with angels, or their equivalents in other religions (https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Fairy).   

A Fairy Ring
Discovered and photographed by Jenny Johnson

Fairy lore seems especially prevalent in Britain and Ireland (which probably accounts for most of my fascination).  In Ireland, some buildings had their corners cut off so they wouldn’t be in the middle of fairy paths.  And in some houses, front and back doors were built perfectly aligned and left open certain times of the year so the fairies could traipse through undisturbed (https://fiveminutehistory.com/the-history-of-fairies/). All legends aside, the word fairy didn’t appear until the middle ages in Europe.  The word probably comes from the Latin word fata—The Fates (https://www.etymonline.com/word/fairy).  Regardless of the origin, fairies continue to fascinate people on a global level.  Why are we so preoccupied with these tiny magical beings?

Do we long for a simpler time of childhood when all fairy tales were real?  Do we catch glimpses of them from time to time that give us that strange feeling in the pit of our stomachs?  Are they simply figments of human imagination created to explain the misunderstood?  Or are they perhaps real, waiting just beyond our realm?

Do you believe in fairies?

 

Creative Writing Prompts:

If you were a fairy, what’s the first thing you’d do with your magic?

The wind whispered through the grass, ruffling my wings like shimmering gossamer.  Spring was coming, the time we fairies danced on the lawn, sprinkled the grass with dew, and opened the flowers each morning.  But this year, there was a problem.

I am the reason humans fear the Fae folk.  It all started as an accident…

Book Recommendations

(Ya’ll, I LOVE a good Fae read, please leave any other book suggestions in the comments! Go to the top of the post, in the grey text above the title, click “Comments” and you’re good to go!)

The Creepy Hollow Series, by Rachel Morgan

The Goblin Wars Series, by Kersten Hamilton

Pippa of Lauramore, by Shari L. Tapscott

No post on fairies would be complete without these two classic scenes from Peter Pan–apologies, the first is really grainy.

I do believe in fairies!

Beautiful dance of the fairies 

www.fairies.zeluna.net 

www.disnerdadventures.blogspot.com 

Centaurs

I’m pretty sure that centaurs were the original poster children for naughty drunken Greeks.  These half human—half horse creatures were known for being wild, barbarian, lustful lushes.  However, when sober, some were upheld for their wisdom, self-sacrifice, and strength (https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/myths/centaurs/).

Even their origins suggest their baser natures—Centaurus (the first centaur) was born when a fiendishly wicked king had an affair with (who he assumed was) Hera—the queen of the Greek Pantheon.  Hera actually turned out to be a cloud Zeus had formed to look like his wife (https://www.ancient.eu/Ixion/).  Anyone else get totally lost trying to follow the convoluted love triangles (quadrangles?!) of the Greek gods?  One possible origin for the centaur is from cultures that did not have horses seeing riders fluidly moving on the backs of their mounts for the first time.  It could also be a reference to traditional ancient bull-hunting.  (https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/myths/centaurs/).    

Centaur from Greek Pottery

Centaurs perpetuate Greek mythology and seem to represent the two sides of man.  Chiron, arguably the most famous centaur (and Percy Jackson’s instructor for my book-loving friends), was wise and brave.  He tutored famous Greeks such as Hercules and Achilles (keep that heel covered!), and he embodied the classically tragic noble death.  Though he was immortal, when Chiron was accidentally wounded by an arrow dipped in the blood of the Hydra (um, gross), he suffered great pain.  When Zeus demanded a sacrifice to free Prometheus, Chiron volunteered—both to be finished with his pain, and to heroically liberate Prometheus (https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Centaur/centaur.html).  

The Hydra…poor Chiron!

On the other side of the metaphorical coin, centaurs were often known to pull the chariot of the god Eros (I’m pretty sure they picked up their relationship advice from him).  For those of you who aren’t into root words, the word erotica comes from the same root as Eros.  I’ll just leave that there.  Frequently drunk and slaves to their animalistic lusts, I’m sure the race of centaurs was procreated with great fervor.  For this reason, the Greeks seemed to look down on the mythical race of centaurs in general (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Centaur-Greek-mythology).

Mosaic of centaurs pulling a chariot

Many conflicts surrounding centaurs seem to feature the human struggle between civilization and complete savagery.  It poses an interesting question about the internal struggles of humanity.   

On which side of the centaur coin do you think man most frequently falls?  Why?  Leave your comments below! 🙂 

 

Writing Prompts:

You are a centaur.  Are you the wizened sage, or the lascivious lush?  Why that one?

 

The wind whipped my tail against my chestnut-colored flank.  I crossed my arms over my chest as the wind teased the hair on my nape from its warrior’s knot.  The decision before me would change the fate of man forever.  Using all in my wisdom, I must choose to…

 

Book Recommendations:

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by: Rick Riordon

Ella Enchanted by:  Gail Carson Levine (okay, so there’s only a few brief mentions of centaurs in the book, but it’s one of my all-time favorites)

The Chronicles of Narnia by:  C. S. Lewis (Glenstorm is my favorite centaur!)

 

Who remembers this gem from the 1940’s?

 

Sources:

https://www.cgtrader.com/3d-print-models/miniatures/figurines/centaur
https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Centaur/centaur.html
https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Hydra
https://www.globalgayz.com/tunisia-bardo-museum/
 

Werewolves

Werewolf.
The word conjures up all sorts of images.  Blood-thirsty beasts.  Slashings.  Mangled corpses and full moons. Sparkly vampires and nemesis-turned-allies.  London.  Lycanthropy.  But where did the stories of these legendary mythical creatures get started?
No one is completely sure where these terrifying beasts made their entrance into society and into the collective societal fear.  According to History.com, some scholars believe that the first written tales of werewolves were in The Epic of Gilgamesh (at least 7th century BC according to www.britanica.com), but werewolves also make an appearance in early Greek mythology with The Legend of Lycaon.  The Saga of the Vosungs from Nordic histories again provides mythic evidence of these monsters of the darkness (www.history.com).  One could travel up the Nile and see many references to Anubis with his jackal’s head—also notably an Egyptian god of death.
The interesting thing here is that multiple advanced cultures the world over have legends of werewolves—whether they are shifters who can assume the form of a wolf at will, or who only turn under the watchful eye of the full moon, or who are akin to demons sent as a scourge upon mankind. 
What led ancient man to his rivalry with the werewolf? There are several possibilities.  The first possibility, of course, is that werewolves are real, and have walked among us for centuries (the documentary, The Bray Road Beast, makes a compelling case). Another possibility is that as people were bitten by rabid animals, wolves in particular, the consequent infections caused people to think the afflicted was turning into the creature that had bitten them.  Werewolves could be a response to brutal serial killings that looked similar to animal maulings (www.historicmysteries.com).  
Arguably the most famous werewolf account took place in Gevaudan, France in 1764.  It was a miserable time in France.  The Seven Year’s War, in which France had suffered heavily at the hands of Britain and Prussia, was facing economic hardship and censorship in the press.  Because of all the political censoring, the press turned to the sensational to garner more subscriptions.  This is where the beast got its vast notoriety, even drawing hunters from far away Normandy (who were unsuccessful).  Witnesses described a giant beast with features like a wolf, only much larger and much more terrifying.  After 30-35 deaths, at last the great beast was brought down in June of 1767—so it was assumed, as the death rate decreased (www.smithsonianmag.com).  At any rate, the large amount of deaths, the publicity of the press, and the terror of the villagers led to the creation of this particular beast and gave credence to the popularity of the werewolf.
It would be remiss to discuss werewolves without a nod to “legitimate lycanthropy” (Webster’s modern definition states lycanthropy is the belief that one can change into a wolf).  Medically termed hypertrichosis, it is a condition in which a person is covered in excess hair all over their bodies (www.dictionary.com).  This, too, could be fodder for the myths surrounding the werewolf.   
Whatever the case, this undying piece of lore has fitted itself into the fabric of mainstream society worldwide and continues to capture imaginations everywhere.
 

Creative Writing Prompts:

 

Mist rose in the dark night like tendrils of hair floating in water.  Suspended against the black night, a ripe moon rose and cast its watery light upon the silver hair of a creature poised on a rocky outcropping.  With a toss of its magnificent head, a lone howl could be heard all throughout the valley below.  Terror lodged in the heart of the villagers as…

 

Are werewolves real creatures that have perhaps been hunted to extinction, or that survive in the shadows of today’s society, or are they a complete work of fiction?  Why or why not?

 

The shriek pierced the night as the great beast took chase after…

 

You have been turned into a werewolf.  Recount the day you received that fateful bite.

 

 

Recommended books for ages 16 and up:

April White’s series:  Immortal Descendants

Melissa Haag’s series:  Judgement of the Six

 

 

“Werewolves of London”

 

 

www.dictionary.com

www.history.com

www.historicmysteries.com

www.smithsonianmag.com