I discovered the woods by our house just as the year was turning.
I’d seen them before, of course. In any stroll along the pavement past the art school towards the conference center, looking across the brackish water of the reservoir, the woods were obvious enough. And I knew, in a vaguely academic way, that people sometimes went for walks in those same woods.
With the longest, darkest night of the year upon us, we wish you the joy of it. There’s a reason, I think, that so many cultures celebrate these nights—why such a cold, dark time is full of lights and laughter and merriment.
Almost everyone has heard The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. In this tale, the duckling looks so ugly that he’s excluded by other animals and even his family. He leaves home and suffers a lot all the way, but finally he becomes a beautiful swan.
We sat down with Kate Wolford for a long-distance discussion about—well, about the weather, and how it shapes the stories we tell.
It’s another grim and heartbreaking day in the world. We’ve had too many of these lately, and Friday 13 seems particularly bitter and bitterly pointless. Other, better, more eloquent writers can tell you what’s happening, and give some shape to the numb weariness that overtakes us. Today, we want to celebrate life as usual, the ordinary everyday, boring days when nothing remarkable happens and good days when something hilarious happens.
In honour of the season, here for your reading enjoyment is an eerie Scots ballad by George MacDonald.
John is taking the week off. But don’t worry you can still get your weekly fix of Folklore goodness.
The Mid-autumn festival in China venerates 嫦娥 (Cháng’é), the moon goddess. Like the rituals in last week’s post, the folktales about her reflect the season’s liminality and uncertainties, as she moves from mortality to immortality, from living on earth to living on the moon.
Autumn is a liminal season, and so we turn to festivals that celebrate limninal spaces: summer and winter, birth and death, wandering and belonging, time past and time future, heaven and hell.