Mmoatia: Ghanaian Tricksters of the Forest

Terracotta head (mma), art of the Akan people of Ghana

Terracotta head (mma), art of the Akan people of Ghana

Mmoatia (singular, aboatia) are forest dwellers known to the Akan or Ashanti people of Ghana. In traditional religious thought, they are seen as a subclass of abosom, intermediary spirits or deified ancestors. They are believed to be very short in stature, standing not more than one foot high—although this may be a reference to carved wooden representations of them and not to the beings themselves. They have curved noses and yellowish skin. Their feet are said to point backwards.

These beings communicate with each other through a unique whistle language, and whistling in the bush is a sure way to draw their attention.

They are credited with a phenomenal knowledge of medicines, which they are willing to impart to herbalists or medicine men. Sometimes Ghanaians are taken by mmoatia that live deep in the woods. Some who are captured by the mmoatia begin to learn their ways and emerge after several years as herbalists. The mmoatia have always lived in the jungle and know how to use its plentiful resources to cure to all diseases. Their favorite food is bananas.

Mmoatia are divided into three tribes or bands: Black Mmoatia are harmless, but Red and White Mmoatia are always up to some kind of trickery—though they are not truly malevolent like the sasabonsam, a vampire-like ogre. Mmoatia signify unpredictability, mockery, and trickery. They function as messengers between the realms of spirit and corporeality—messengers of the abosom.


If You Ever Wanted to Visit a Stone Age Settlement…

Denmark has a theme park for that. Land of Legends (Sagnlandet Lejre) features living-history type recreations of life in several historical eras: Stone Age, Iron Age, Viking, and even some nineteenth-century farming cottages. As Atlas Obscura explains,

From the Stone Age to the Iron Age, Land of Legends attempts to mix fun with the gritty realities of pre-industrial society. The park was actually established in 1964 as a site where archeologists and anthropologists could attempt to recreate ancient civilizations among the natural bogs, lakes, and woodland of the area. The researchers would reconstruct Iron Age farming equipment and housing, attempting to learn more about era’s in the distant past by experiencing them. The actual benefit of the experiments were controversial, but people flocked to the site to watch the pioneering scientists work.

Today, the site has embraced the public’s interest in its work and evolved into a park that invites visitors to come and experience life in the past for themselves, all while the experimental reconstruction continues. The major historical reconstructions at the site now include the original Iron Age village, a Stone Age camp, a Viking market, and a smattering of 19th century farm-cottages. Visitors can try their hand at some labor intensive farming, ancient handicraft, or simply watch the archeologists work.

Environmental and Historical Preservation of Faery “Homes”

Whether out of respect for faeries, the environment, or history, a number of archeological sites and stunning natural vistas have been preserved in northern Europe, as Melissa Marshall describes in an article at Atlas Obscura titled “Fairy Forts, Dens, & Glens: When Places Are Preserved by Mythical Belief.”

In an effort to avoid the wrath of the fairies, communities of the British Isles and Ireland have protected the fairy “homes,” and as a result have preserved sites of great beauty from development and destruction, which is a kind of magic in itself. Conversely, more than a few lovely spots have become damaged and even threatened with destruction by enthusiastic fairy hunters.

Ireland’s Fairy Forts — more properly known as ring forts — are the remains of strongholds and other dwellings dating back as far as the Iron Age. However, local tradition holds that fairies make their home in these ring forts and terrible luck will come to anyone who participates in their destruction. These folk beliefs seem to only date back to the 12th century, but they were strong enough to allow thousands of ring forts to grow wild as the rest of the land was being cultivated for human use.

In modern times, folk beliefs alone have often not been enough to preserve these archaeological sites. In Iceland, protection of elf homes (elves being supernatural cousins of faeries) is codified into building codes and even made a semi-official vocation at Elf School,  and yet some cynics avow that non-believing environmentalists might be exploiting folk beliefs to protect the island’s pristine eco system.

It’s a very interesting article that addresses the many conflicting motivations—and results—of setting aside certain places “for the faeries.”

Hercules Trailer

This trailer for the Hercules movie starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson looks a lot more herculean than the other Hercules movie that came out a while back. Apparently, it takes place after the famous Twelve Labors, but there are flashbacks. I spotted Cerberus, the Hydra, the Nemean Lion, and the Erymanthian Boar. At least we’ll be treated to a Hercules who actually bears some resemblance to his myths.

I’d still love to see a Hercules movie where the hero is called by his Greek name, Herakles. Especially if his immortal father is called Zeus, not Jupiter.

(H/T: io9)

I’ll Be Back!

I haven’t posted much lately for a few reasons:

(1) I’ve recently gotten back from a business trip and have needed to get back up to speed at my day job.

(2) I’ve been busy celebrating my little girls’s thirteenth birthday.

(3) The MERCER BEARS and their NCAA championship run have consumed a fair bit of my attention span.

But don’t lose hope. I’ve also managed to get a fair bit of writing done on The Devil’s Due, the sequel to Children of Pride.

If you have a question or a topic you’d like me to blog about, please feel free to leave me a comment!

The Hero’s Journey

Over at Fantasy Faction, Aaron Miles explains the concept of “The Hero’s Journey,” a very common structure for stories old and new that have been told all around the world. Joseph Campbell first drew attention to this structure, and Christopher Vogler adapted it for writers. As Aaron explains,

The overall arc is called a journey, even if the protagonist doesn’t actually travel very far. The events listed in the stages can be physical or metaphorical, and subject to interpretation. Not every story will fit the pattern exactly, following the same progression, or even contain all the elements of the formula. An author should not feel bound by this idea, or feel that their story must conform to it, but at the very least they should be aware of the structure, and have a basic understanding of the different elements.

Children of Pride might be read as a kind of “Hero’s Journey.” At least, I had those themes and structural elements in mind while I was writing it. I’d love to see some middle- and high-school essays on the topic, actually. 🙂

Tolkien’s Beowulf Is Coming!

Via The Guardian:

John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, said the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf had “a deep and detailed impact on what Tolkien wrote – from his earliest poem of Middle-earth, written in September 1914, right through The Hobbit with the theft of a cup from a dragon hoard, and The Lord of the Rings with the arrival at the halls of Rohan”.

The author also, said Garth, changed attitudes to Beowulf “completely in a 1936 talk which rescued this marvellous poem from being treated as a mere quarry for historical enquiry”.

Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien, will be published by HarperCollins on May 22. And there was much rejoicing!