Here is this year’s compulsory Halloween post. It will be kept short because I’ve done one a couple of years ago and another that was a happy birthday post for my dearest great-niece Dezzy, who has always said that she isn’t scared of anything because hey, she was born on Halloween!
I have been on Twitter, where too many people have been complaining that it’s all so American, so why are we having it here?
Thing is, it’s not especially American, having been, in my reading, not a big thing till some time in the 19th century - can any American readers please confirm or deny this?
The other thing is, it came to America from Europe. A lot of traditions were quite old. I believe the bobbing for apples thing, for example, goes back centuries, when it was connected with courting couples, and apple trees came to Britain with the Romans.
The tradition of children in scary costumes also goes back a long way, as parents were hiding their children from real monsters, by confusing them.
It would be connected with the end of the old year, when the veil between the worlds was thin. Of course, we are in spring here, so the seasons are different, but what the heck, why not? It’s not the only festival which is celebrated on its European date.
Here are a few books I have read, on a theme appropriate for this date.
Melissa Marr’s YA urban fantasy Wicked Lovely series features punk fairies with tattoos as part of their culture. Although the author says the tattoo thing was included because she likes tattoos, it works - and she did do her research on Celtic folklore and myth. The winter queen Beira, for example, is right out of the folk tales. Having used some of the same books when researching my novel Wolfborn, I picked up some familiar elements in Wicked Lovely.
Juliet Marillier, a Kiwi author who lives in Western Australia, has written some wonderful fairytale-themed fiction. There is Heart’s Blood, a novel inspired by Beauty And The Beast, set in mediaeval Ireland. The Beast is a lord whose facial issues are due to a childhood illness, and the Beauty is a professional scribe whom he has hired to do a job over the summer. Researching, she finds some scary family stuff in his background.
The same author wrote the beautiful Blackthorn And Grimm trilogy, also set in Ireland, with a heroine who has been through a lot, and is helped to escape from prison by an elf lord, on condition she doesn’t take revenge for a number of years and that she always helps when asked. There are some scary scenes in these novels, but they are not horror fiction as such.
I’ve just finished a novella by P. Djeli Clark, Ring Shout, which is up for a Hugo Award this year, and is a scary tale set in 1922, featuring an African American heroine for whom there is a difference between Ku Kluxers(non human creatures) and Klan. She has a sword that comes when summoned, connected with the horrors of slavery, and three mysterious female mentors who gave her the sword. There are beings who live on hatred, and the film The Birth Of A Nation is involved, stirring up hatred. Very gruesome stuff, but sympathetic characters. I’m not really into horror fiction, but this one impressed me.
I still have some Hugo reading to do, and will share with you.
Perhaps tonight I might finally watch The Green Knight, which I suspect doesn’t have the cheery flavour of the original poem.