Over the Hills and Everywhere


While he pounded, the carpenter told of a nation of folks in Europe, that used to believe in somebody named Thor, who could throw his hammer across mountains and knock out thunder and lightning.

And he talked about what folks believe about wood. How some of them knock on wood, to keep off bad luck. How the ancient folks, lifetimes back, thought spirits lived in trees, good spirits in one tree and bad spirits in another. And a staff of white thorn is supposed to scare out evil.

“Are those things true, Mr. Carpenter?”

“Well, folks took them for truth once. There must be some truth in every belief, to get it started.”

“An outlander stopped here once, with a prayer book. He read to me from it, about how Satan overcame because of the wood. What did he mean, Mr. Carpenter?”

“He must have meant the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden,” said the carpenter. “You know how Adam and Eve ate of the tree when Satan tempted them?”

“Reckon I do,” Little Anse replied him, for, with not much else to do, he’d read the Book a many times.

“There’s more to that outlander’s prayer,” the carpenter added on. “If Satan overcame by the wood, he can also be overcome by the wood.”

“That must mean another kind of tree, Mr. Carpenter.”

“Yes, of course. Another kind.”

Manly Wade Wellman’s “John the Balladeer” stories are full of the folklore of the Ozarks and Appalachians (and other places, as well). On The Hills and Everywhere is actually a Christmas story, but it seems appropriate for this Easter Sunday, as well.

Wishing a happy and beautiful Easter to those who celebrate it, and a beautiful day to those who don’t.

You can read my previous post about the John the Balladeer stories here. The collection of John the Balladeer short stories is now only available here online. It’s out of print, but supposedly Amazon still sells used copies.

The painting above is Gordon Hill (1897) by T.C. Steele. Sourced from WikiPaintings.

Holmes vs. Dracula! Sort of…

Tim Prasil recently started a series on his blog called “In the Shadow of Rathbone” about the actors who have played Sherlock Holmes (and secondarily the actors who have played Watson) since the landmark portrayal of the great detective by Basil Rathbone (Introduction post here, Part 1 here). Reading his posts reminded me that I’ve never posted about this “Holmes vs. Dracula” story:

Miloska, white as a sheet, pressed herself against the portrait of the saint as if she was begging for her protection. From out of the brush, a man slowly approached her.

A man! No, it was a wraith! It had a dark, hate-filled face in which burned two hideous eyes!

“The man from the portrait,” muttered Tom anxiously. “It’s him…”

Count Ion Nedelcu Dragomin, the heir of Dracula, the Red-Eyed Vampire!” said Dickson…

– from “The Red-Eyed Vampire” (or “Heir of Dracula”)

Okay, it’s not really Holmes versus Dracula. It’s Harry Dickson (the great London-based American detective, residing at 221B Baker Street) fighting against Count Ion Nedelcu Dragomin, the Bohemian descendant of Vlad the Impaler. Close enough, right?


Covers from the German series. Note the change in title.

Harry Dickson (“the American Sherlock Holmes”) is probably as popular in France as Sherlock Holmes himself. What became the Harry Dickson series started out in 1907 as an unauthorized German series of Sherlock Holmes adventures called Detectiv Sherlock Holmes und seine weltberühmten abenteuer [Sherlock Holmes and his World-Famous Adventures], with a most awesome set of covers by Alfred Roloff. After ten issues, the publishers changed the name (on the cover) to Aus dem geheimakten des welt-detektivs [From the Secret Files of the World-Detective] — though “Sherlock Holmes” still solved the cases inside. 230 issues of the series were published, with Roloff painting covers for the first 125.

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Ghostly Lover: from the Sioux and from Japan

While flipping through my copy of American Indian Myths and Legends yesterday morning, I stumbled upon this gem, collected in 1970 from a Brulé Sioux informant at Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It’s a terrific ghost story all on its own, but it caught my eye for another reason as well. Before I give you the reason, though — the story:

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RSS: Sometimes Old School is Best

I went back to using RSS to follow blogs and other websites recently; I don’t know why I ever stopped. My email doesn’t get clogged by notifications anymore, and I don’t lose blog updates in the ever-flowing stream of Twitter or Facebook or the WordPress reader. I can follow any blog on any platform as long as they have an RSS feed, and I don’t need to have accounts on every possible platform, either, just Feedly (and not even that, if I didn’t want to sync between devices).

It also occurred to me that RSS is really the best medium for following small-scale amateur bloggers like me, especially ones who are social-network introverts. I don’t blog on an absolutely regular schedule, and my tweets and facebook updates tend to get lost amongst others who status-update or tweet (or in the case of WordPress reader, simply post) more frequently than I do.

So I’ve added a “Follow me on Feedly” button to the side of my blog; if you use another RSS reader, like Bloglovin or NetNewsWire, there is a generic RSS widget, as well. Even if you follow me other places – Twitter, WordPress, or Google+(*) — please do consider also following me (and other bloggers you love) via RSS, so you will be sure to never miss my blog updates. Thanks!

(*) I’m on Facebook, too, but it’s my personal account, not a Multo page. Strictly speaking, the Google+ account is also a personal account, but I only use it to announce blog posts.

Floods, Tides and Crabs: More Folktales


Yesterday, I shared a flood story from the Igorot, a mountain people from the northern Philippines. Today, I have a short flood story from the Bukidnon, an indigenous people from the southern Philippines (Mindanao). According to this story, the flood wasn’t caused by any angry or careless deity (or the deity’s sons) — but by a crab.

This is verbatim, from Mabel Cook Cole’s Philippine Folk Tales (1916).

A long time ago there was a very big crab which crawled into the sea. And when he went in he crowded the water out so that it ran all over the earth and covered all the land.

Now about one moon before this happened, a wise man had told the people that they must build a large raft. They did as he commanded and cut many large trees, until they had enough to make three layers. These they bound tightly together, and when it was done they fastened the raft with a long rattan cord to a big pole in the earth.

Soon after this the floods came. White water poured out of the hills, and the sea rose and covered even the highest mountains. The people and animals on the raft were safe, but all the others drowned.

When the waters went down and the raft was again on the ground, it was near their old home, for the rattan cord had held.

But these were the only people left on the whole earth.

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Fire and Flood: An Igorot Folktale

A recent discussion about the new movie Noah started me thinking about flood myths from around the world. Here’s a version from the Igorot people, mountain dwellers from the Cordillera region of the northern Philippines (Luzon). It’s not only a flood story, but also tells the origin of fire.


Once upon a time, the world was flat, and had no mountains. One day the two sons of Lumawig, the Great Spirit, wanted to go hunting for wild pig and deer. In order to drive the prey into their traps, the older brother had the idea to cover the earth with water. This would cause the mountains to rise up, driving the deer and the boar to the highlands, where they would be easier to catch.

So the brothers caused the water to flow all over the earth, and after it was covered they used their head-basket [supposedly where headhunters keep the heads of their victims; also used as a traveling basket] to set a trap for their prey. They succeeded not only in catching many wild pigs and deer, but people, too (I suppose the people became, umm, head-hunting trophies).

Meanwhile, Lumawig looked down from the sky and saw that all the earth had been covered in water, and almost all the people had drowned. Only one spot on earth had been left dry — Mount Polis — and on that dry spot were the last two people on earth: a man named Fatanga and his sister Fukan.

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The Venus of Ille

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This is from the opening of “The Coffin Man” by Mike Mignola, art by Fabio Moon. The story is included in the Hellboy 20th Anniversary Sampler being given away for free at my local comic book store (It’s fun! Go find it!). The piece is set during Hellboy’s “Mexico period” some time in the 1950s; the anecdote that Hellboy is telling in these panels is just a tale he’s telling in a bar, and has nothing to do with the rest of the story.

But it smells like something out of 19th century weird fiction, don’t you think? Perhaps it’s a story that’s already been told somewhere in the last two decades of the Hellboy series, but if so, I don’t remember it. I got curious and tried to look for it, but some casual web searching hasn’t turned up anything yet. Do any of you know where this might be from?

Fortunately for this blog, the four panels above reminded me of another great example of 19th century weirdness: Prosper Merimee’s “The Venus of Ille” (1837).

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Twenty-five Views of the Alhambra

Many of you are familiar with the (multiple) series of Japanese woodblock prints known as Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji; Hokusai produced a series of that name, and so did Hiroshige. You may also be familiar with Henri Riviere’s homage to Hokusai and Hiroshige: Thirty-six Views of the Eiffel Tower (video of all 36 prints; link to a book of the prints).  This is my contribution to the genre.

In the blockprint series, the monument in question isn’t always the focal point of the images. Riviere’s images are especially subtle; I still can’t find the Eiffel Tower in several of  the scenes. My photos aren’t always so subtle; I was in full-blown tourist mode, after all. Still, the Alhambra dominates the older section of Granada in such a way that when I looked through my snapshots, I discovered its distinctive towers peeping out from unexpected corners. I’m especially proud of my photo of the Alhambra through the windows of the Generalife. I hope you enjoy.

The Divided Child: An Ifugao Folktale


Búgan was the only child of the god Hinumbían and his wife Dakáue. They lived in Luktán, the highest level of the Sky World. Búgan’s parents wanted her to get married, but she wasn’t interested in any of the available bachelors in Luktán. So her parents sent her down to a lower sky region, but there was no one there she wanted to marry, either. Then they sent her down to the lowest sky region, Kabúnian, which is the level just above the earth, and tried to set her up with Bagílat, the god of lightning.

Nothing doing, said Búgan.

“That Bagílat, he’s always running all over the Sky World, from the north to the south, from the east to the west, sending lightning bolts down to earth and destroying the plants and the trees. Why would I want to marry him?”

“In that case,” said Bagílat’s father, “maybe you should just go back home, to Luktán.”

But Búgan didn’t want to go home. Instead she went down to earth, to a place called Pangagauan, where she saw a young Ifugao man named Kinggauan, digging pits to catch deer and other game in. He was a poor man, so poor that he’d worn out his only clout [loincloth] and had to go about naked. He must have been handsome, too, because when Búgan saw him, she was filled with pity and decided that she wanted to marry him.

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The Spectre Girl

Death it is i who makes you serious let us embrace each other plate 20 1896 jpg HalfHD

Tim Prasil recently passed me a story called “The Spectre Girl” from the May 18, 1833 edition of The Dublin Weekly Journal; it had come to him because it was allegedly an occult detective story. It’s not, at all — but it is an interesting variation on the White Lady folktale.

The White Lady is a mysterious woman in white often spotted near roadways. She tends to be the ghost of a woman who died a tragic death, sometimes murder, sometimes suicide. Many white ladies (like this one) are also variations of the Vanishing Hitchhiker urban legend; though phantom hitchhikers in general aren’t always in white, or even always female. La Llorona, who drowned her children, then killed herself in remorse, is another white lady variation.

This particular white lady is unusual, in that she is a frequent (though not liked) customer of the regular stagecoach service:

“Here’s a young lady,” said the conductor, “who will not take up much room;” and a small figure in white appeared upon the steps. “She will not trouble you much, for she is deaf and dumb. I know her, and have already taken her to Lyons. The devil be with her!” said he, in an under tone; “she has always brought me bad luck…”

Though they behave as if she is an ordinary (that is, living) person, the locals have nicknamed this mysterious girl the “little dead woman,” and there are definite hints that she is indeed dead: her skeletal appearance, the unaccountable chill in the stagecoach after she enters. What’s she up to? Where is she going? The author never spells it out definitively, but the outcome is telegraphed quite strongly. Anyone who reads ghost stories can guess what’s going to happen.

But that’s the nature of a classic urban legend or campfire horror story, isn’t it? The tale is a translation of La Fille Spectre, originally published anonymously in the 1833 French collection Le Salmigondis: Contes De Toutes Les Couleurs, or Hodgepodge: Tales of All Colors. The term contes is often used to refer to fairy tales (contes de fées) or other folktales that were traditionally transmitted orally, but published in a more polished literary form.

A little digging around revealed the tale’s author: Agathe-Pauline Caylac de Ceylan, comtesse de Bradi (1782-1847), who was known for her historical novels, set in Corsica. She was an admirer of Walter Scott — hence her regional historical novels — so it’s not surprising that she would write a few folktale-influenced stories, too.

You can read “The Spectre Girl” at Google Books.

The image above is La Mort: C’est moi qui te rends sérieuse; enlaçons-nous (Death: It is I who makes you serious; let us embrace) by Odilon Redon, 1896. Sourced from WikiPaintings.