One of my Christmas presents this year was a copy of Gary R. Varner’s Creatures in the Mist: Little People, Wild Men and Spirit Beings around the World, A Study in Comparative Mythology. At less than 200 pages, the book is only slightly longer than the title, and I’m finding a very good read about faeries, mermaids, giants, and other mythological creatures and their striking similarities across many lands and cultures.
Although Varner is an academic type, this book is written at a very accessible level. Despite a few editorial miscues, I’m finding it to be a very enlightening read. Varner highlights broad themes–for example, the connection between faeries and children, both positively via their associations with childbirth and negatively because of the whole child-stealing thing–that keep showing up in myths from all over the world.
I’m less than halfway through, but I can definitely see this being the sort of book I keep coming back to as I wonder about mythological creatures and their cultural significance.
We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
—Theodor (“Dr. Seuss”) Geisel
As you may have gathered, Children of Pride was not ready for Christmas, as I had at one time hoped. It will almost surely be available some time in January. I’m just waiting for my crack design team to finish work on the cover, and I’d much rather wait a bit and get something we all like than try to rush the process. Creativity tends to work on its own schedule, no matter how much one might wish it were otherwise.
In other news, this morning I passed the 55,000 word mark on the first draft of The Devil’s Due, the sequel to Children of Pride. I’m having fun with this one, getting to show a little more of how magic works in the Wonder as well as some of the differences between the magic of the fae, little folk, and even human wizards and witches. I think those who enjoy Children of Pride (current count: one teenager and three very supportive editors/beta readers) will appreciate how the story expands in this second installment.
Might the nation of Brazil have been named after a mythical Island in the North Atlantic? The Celtic Myth Podshow lays out the theory:
So how did the country called Brazil end up with it’s name ? One theory says that Brazil was initially colonized by people coming from Viana do Castelo (in northern Portugal), and that through the knowledge of legends from the Celts in Galicia, they would have been aware of the lost continent of Brazil. And not only Columbus, but other early explorers from England knew about the lost land of Brazil. According to”The Island of Brazil”, a contemporary account written by William of Worcester (and published in the late 18th century) recalled that when word of a “new land to the west” reached Bristol in the late 1470s this was presumed to be Brazil. In 1480, a Bristol merchant John Jay outfitted at great expense an 80-tonne ship to sail to the island of Brazil, described as “a name often given in medieval European tales to a land far to the west of Ireland”. Setting sail in July 1480 from Bristol, Jay’s ship voyaged west, intending to “traverse the seas.” But the journey ended in failure. English crews had yet to master the new methods of astronomical navigation devised in Portugal and Spain: open, oceanic voyaging – as opposed to island hopping by way of Iceland and Greenland.
In the Welsh and Cornish myths, Bresal was a High King who made his home in the Otherworld “which is sometimes called Hy- or I-Breasal in his honor”. Like in the Irish myth, “His world is visible on only one night every seven years”. Thus, it is clear that the Celts of Galicia, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and sailors from England all knew of the legend of the lost land of Brazil. Would it then be unreasonable to assume that when Portuguese explorers reached South America they mistakenly thought they had landed on Breasal’s world and named the land they discovered “Brazil” in his honour?
A contradictory theory sets the name in a different context:
Of course, it is possible that the name of the country called Brazil is not connected with the Celtic myth – but in my opinion this theory is not convincing. In this account, the word “Brazil” is derived from the Portuguese and Spanish word “Brasil”, the name of an East Indian tree with reddish-brown wood from which a red dye was extracted. The Portuguese found a New World tree related to the Old World brasil tree when they explored what is now called Brazil, and “as a result they named the New World country after the Old World tree”.
File this away with the Cryptozoology Museum in Maine. According to Atlas Obscura:
By day, this family friendly museum is a lighthearted journey through the myths of the Emerald Isle. The exhibits include the history of the leprechaun from the first sighting in the 8th century to Walt Disney’s visit to Ireland, where he found the inspiration for his 1959 film, Darby O’Gill and the Little People. The tour includes rooms full of incredibly over-sized furniture and other optical illusions, as well as an exhibit that features rainbows and pots of gold after a rain shower. Still others reveal cautionary tales, like what happens when you try to catch a leprechaun and additional stories of mishaps and tragedy like the Children of Lir. The tour mixes predictable exploitation of the infamous little legend with mysteries such as Newgrange and other lesser known Irish myths. It ends in an all-too-bright gift shop full of tourist fare and glitter.
I have added a little bit of information about foods that enhance night vision to my thoughts about a possible diet for Norse trolls, dwarves, and other sunlight-averse creatures. If you liked the first version, perhaps you’d like to visit it again to see what’s new.