Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Magic In Fantasy: Drawing On Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth



Here we are on 1 September—and absolutely time for a little more magic in Fantasy!

Currently, I’m sharing three books each month where the magic and/or magic systems have spun my reading wheels.

The element today’s books have in common, besides my liking their magical vibe, is that they all draw on myth, fairytale, or folklore to spin their reading spell. Arguably all Fantasy does so, but these are works where that particular aspect really caught my attention.

Consistent with previous posts, I’ll begin with an older publication and move forward to something more recent. I *believe* they’re all YA, too, but if not published as such, they certainly have that ‘feel’ to the storytelling.

Magic In Fantasy: Drawing On Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth

The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

In The Godmother, author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough takes a number of classic fairytales, such as Snow White (only in this case it’s Seven Vietman Vets on a sweatlodge retreat rather than seven dwarfs), Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Puss In Boots, and weaves them into one story, set in contemporary Seattle. The Godmother premise includes a secret order of fairy godmothers, or godmothers with magical power at least, who endeavor to undo harms and right wrongs. The godmother on the case in Seattle is Felicity Fortune, with a magical budget to work within and a great many dilemmas to set right.

Although it’s been a while since first reading, I remember my fairytale lover’s delight at recognizing the interwoven fairytales in this book, and also my admiration for the author’s deftness in stringing them together into a seamless whole. Like fairytales themselves,
The Godmother has its dark side, but it also has a great deal of humor and a light touch that I really enjoyed. I found it quite magical, in fact.

Another two books were published subsequently:
The Godmother’s Apprentice, for those of you who like your fairytales and folklore with an Irish twist, and The Godmother’s Web set in the American Southwest and drawing on Navajo and Hopi folklore.

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Transitioning from 1994 to 2009, and not only from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern, or even to New Zealand, but right to my home city of Christchurch, I come to Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead.

Guardian of the Dead
is an intriguing mix of urban fantasy brought together with Maori* legends of the patupaiarehe (fairies) and taniwha (think a cross between demons and dragons, that can be either malign or benign), as well as the myth of Hine-nui-te-Po, the Great Woman of the Night and goddess of death.

There’s also an element of Greek myth woven into the story, which makes for a fun read, magic-wise.

*Maori are New Zealand’s tangata whenua (literally ‘people of the land’, or first people).

The Library Of The Dead by T.L. Huchu

The Library Of The Dead is a 2021 publication, set in a dystopian, not-too-distant future Edinburgh where the heroine, Ropa, is a licensed medium-cum-psychopomp. Her main work, or “dayjob” is carrying messages from the dead to the living (for a fee, of course), although she also casts out spirits and learns magic from her grandmother, who is from Zimbabwe.

Ropa’s power, in dealing with the dead, draws on her grandmother’s teaching, and she uses the music of the mbira, aka an African thumb piano, to communicate with the ghosts. Yet the magical beings she must deal with are also drawn from Scottish folklore, such as “brounies”, as well as an underground society of magicians, based in the Library of the Dead.

Sounds like fun?—I thought so, not least for the storytelling’s dynamic blend of magics. 


Previous Posts In The "Magic In Fantasy" Series: 

January 1: Happy New Year – Ushering In A Year of Friends, Fellow Authors, & Magic Systems

January 5: 
An Interview with AK Wilder – Talking Magic In Her New-Out Crown Of Bones (AMASSIA #1) 

February 1: An Interview with T Frohock 
– Talking Magic In A Song With Teeth & The LOS NEFILIM Series

March 1:  An Interview with Courtney Schafer – Talking Magic In The "Shattered Sigil" Series

April 1:  An Interview with Kristin Cashore –Talking Magic In Winterkeep & The "Graceling Realm" Series


May 1: An Interview With Lee Murray – Talking Magic, the Supernatural & Horror

June 1: An Interview With Amanda Arista  Talking Magic In the MERCI LANARD & DIARIES OF AN URBAN PANTHER Series


July 1: The Magic of Magic In Fantasy -- & A Solstice Shift

August 1: More Magic In Fantasy: Lighting The Spark


About The Author:

Helen Lowe's first  novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we

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