This winter tale offering isn’t a traditional Christmas ghost story — there isn’t a ghost to be found. But it’s just the kind of story I like.
“Christmas Eve” is from Nikolai Gogol’s two volume collection of short stories, known in English as Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, the collection that helped make his reputation. Gogol was born in the Ukraine, and all the Dikanka stories brim with bits of Ukrainian folklore and details about Ukrainian village life. This particular story is full of supernatural hijinks, witches and the devil. However, this devil is more comical than frightening, and the whole story feels a bit like a Chaucerian farce. “Christmas Eve” also has a rather cinematic feel, in the way it cuts back and forth between multiple simultaneous situations. No wonder Wikipedia lists four film adaptations, as well as three or four (depending on how you count) operatic versions. It’s a bit longer than the pieces I usually share, but if you haven’t read it before, it’s well worth it. Continue reading →
I’m still working on my hummingbird legends, but in the meantime I thought I’d share this charming tale with you. I found it in a fun 1921 collection called Devil’s Stories: An Anthology by Maximilian J. Rudwin. He intended this work to be the first volume in a series of collections of devil-related literature. Alas, the rest of the volumes never came to be.
The author of “The Devil’s Mother-in-Law” is one Fernán Caballero, the pseudonym of Swiss-born, Spanish-residing Cecilia Francisca Josefa Böhl de Faber, Marchioness de Arco-Hermoso. “The Devil’s Mother-in-Law” is originally from her 1859 Cuentos y poesias populares Andaluces (Popular Andalucian Stories and Poetry), translated into English as Spanish Fairy Tales in 1881. As Rudwin says, “in her stories we find perhaps the purest expression of mediaevalism in modern times.”
Whoosh! It’s been a minute since my last post, hasn’t it?
For some reason, I’ve been listening to what you might call “folkloric music” lately. That is, music that tells a folktale or a tall tale — or at least, a “folktale-like” story. Today’s example: Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.
The song tells the story of a fiddle player named Johnny, who is challenged to a fiddle contest by the devil. If Johnny wins, he gets a solid gold fiddle —
But if you lose, the Devil gets your soul…
Here’s the Primus version, which I admit I like better than the Charlie Daniels’ version. It comes with a cool Claymation video: