It’s only #FolkloreThursday on Twitter. Heard of it? I hadn’t. But I am excited to find out more. Here is an Independent article that explains how it all came about. Now this morning my part-time interest is trending.
I have been casually collecting Lore of the Land on Pinterest for a while. It is a collage of curios for fun but also because it interests my main protagonists in my work in progress. What I find so fascinating is how these stories still engage us and, in the case of superstition, still inform our choices. Or have you been putting umbrellas up indoors recently?
I have found some of the best storytelling in recent years on podcasts that address folklore, myths and legends. Here are some of the places I have been getting my folklore fix recently:
- In Myths and Legends Podcast Jason Weiser retells classic tales in a modern voice. He offers a compelling soundscape, and offers an accessible way into these tales. As he says every episode, “Stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories you might not have heard.” It’s my go to relaxation podcast because even when there is horrific violence (looking at you Greek Myths) he covers it with a light touch and wonderful dulcit tones. It’s a great way to gain a wide knowledge of classics and stories from antiquity.
- Another great way into a lot of different tales is the very fun Spirits podcast. Two women have an intelligent discussion about tales from around the world. They do a monthly “urban legend” episode from listeners tales. These are fun but some of their memorable episodes are collating topics and similar stories from around the world. Episode 45 about Werewolves sticks in my mind as does Episode 112 on Mythological Cross Dressing. Their conversational style means there is always something interesting to find out about.
- One that is off-air, but has a great archive is Singing Bones which seeks to further our understanding of the symbolism in these folktales.
How these stories can help your writing
Whether or not the stories themselves form the basis of what you are writing, listening to story-telling podcasts allow you to go over the principles of story very easily. Often these are the works that has formed proclamations there’s only six types of stories or two types or more. Is your main character going on a heroes journey? From rags to riches? Knowing these structures inside out is helpful, even if you want to turn them on their head.
Unless you are going to write in great depth about a particular myth or folklore, the podcast gives you just enough to feel more informed. I also think there is a massive skill in rewriting or retelling that could he very helpful if you are struggling with writer’s block. Use a story you know as a writing prompt, if nothing else to get the pen moving.
And of course, they could give you your next great idea. I love Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch which rewrites fairy tales. Not to forget The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter. These are both stunning works of fiction in their own right.
It would be hard to write a concise list of all the novels inspired by great myths! But if all stories “are born from old” then who knows where inspiration may strike.
One novel I read recently that features folklore is the excellent The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola (review to follow).
I love how she knots the local beliefs of the residents of Skye into her twisty thriller.