A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 28: Fantasy Squad – Xena (and other female warriors)

XMy options were limited today, so I had to find a best fit. I was going to talk about Xelhua, one of the seven giants from Aztec mythology. But Xelhua doesn’t work for two reasons: one, I’ve already done giants, and two, I cannot find any references to the giant in fiction.

But I will tell you this interesting fact, because the Greek reference might amuse you. Xelhua sought refuge from the flood by climbing to the top of Tlaloc’s mountain. It has been noted that Tlaloc (along with Quetzalcoatl) was a version of Atlas, one of the Titans. There are depictions in temple art, of a bearded man supporting the four quarters of the sky.

Xena by karracaz Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Sci-Fi©2007-2015 karracaz
Xena by karracaz
Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Sci-Fi©2007-2015 karracaz

But let’s move on. Today I decided to use Xena, not only because she fits nicely into the theme, but to represent all kick-ass female warriors. There are a  number of them in the squad, and though Xena herself won’t be joining the party, she can be used as an example.

Xena is known as the Warrior Princess and Destroyer of Nations. She had her own show, Xena: Warrior Princess, and appeared regularly in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. She was a woman to be feared and certainly earned a name for herself. Though she made many mistakes, she chose a different path and sought redemption, eventually sacrificing her life to save thousands of souls.

Because I enjoyed the top ten list yesterday, I decided to deviate a little and, using Xena as an example, I’ve listed a few of my favourite female warriors below. I haven’t put them in order, I’d like to know how you would rate them. I’m sure I’ve missed a number of kick-ass women, but I know you’ll help me out!

  • Michonne – The Walking Dead
  • River Tam – Firefly
  • Black Widow – Marvel
  • Wonder Woman – DC Comics
  • Yu Shu Lien – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Selene – Underworld
  • Alice – Resident Evil
  • Storm – X-Men (Marvel)
  • Ellen Ripley – Alien
  • Leeloo – The Fifth Element

So, who did I miss? Who are your favourite female warriors? Can you believe that this post will be the last with a Greek reference?

Until next time. Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 13: Fantasy Squad – Kelpie and The Kraken

KYou get a two for one deal again today because, although I’d planned on kelpies, you know I can’t resist delving into a little myth and the Kraken is a particularly scary beast! So, let’s call it a bonus, and the Kraken a formidable opponent to the squad! Not that kelpies are all puppies and rainbows – rarely are they depicted as benevolent.

Kelpie by vegarBlack Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy
Kelpie by vegarBlack
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy

Kelpies

Also known as water kelpies, they are part of Scottish folklore. Kelpies are a shape-shifting water spirit, inhabiting the lochs of Scotland. They are associated with the horse and appear either in horse or human form, or a combination of the two. Here’s a thought – wouldn’t it be fun to combine two myths together and have an amalgamation? A blending of the kelpie and centaur – a keltaur or a cenpie (no that one definitely doesn’t work!)

But I digress. Though there are differing views on whether kelpies live in or beside the water, most will agree that they are spirits of the loch. Due to a belief that kelpies retain their hooves, even in human form, this lead to an association (in Christianity) with Satan. Robert Burns alludes to a Satanic association in his poem Address to the Devil.

Kelpies can be found in works of art, The Kelpie, for example, by Herbert James Draper. In 2013, two thirty metre steel structures were erected in Falkirk – The Kelpies.

Do you have anything to share about these intriguing creatures. How do you think they are presented in film or literature?

Kraken by MaBuArt Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2010-2015 MaBuArt
Kraken by MaBuArt
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2010-2015 MaBuArt

Kraken

The Kraken is a legendary sea monster from Scandinavian folklore, said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. A truly horrifying monster, often described as a giant squid. Early stories compare the Kraken’s size to that of an island and, according to folklore, the beast was often confused for one! It is not, as some believe, part of Greek mythology, though a Kraken did appear in the movie Clash of the Titans. Who could forget Liam Neeson (as Zeus) and those magic words ‘Release the Kraken.’ He just has one of those voices…ahem, back to the point. The Kraken from the movie may have been based loosely (and I stress loosely) on Scylla, who was said to have been one of Poseidon’s conquests and turned into a monster by a jealous Amphitrite – nothing worse than a woman scorned!

Whether you envisage a giant squid with tentacles or a huge monstrosity with rows and rows of sharp teeth, the Kraken would make an excellent big bad. Since we have a water theme going, how would the kelpie (with or without a few friends from the squad), defeat such a beast?

As always I welcome your thoughts.

Until next time. Thanks for stopping by.

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Mel

A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 11: Fantasy Squad – Jersey Devil and the Jabberwock

JMy topic de jour is actually two-fold. I’m hitting a run of difficult letters when it comes to creature representation in media, but both of the squad members today are kind of fun. There is also a link, tenuous though it might be, to dragons.

The Jersey Devil by Sparkleee-Sprinkle Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Macabre & Horror©2012-2015 Sparkleee-Sprinkle
The Jersey Devil by Sparkleee-Sprinkle
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Macabre & Horror©2012-2015 Sparkleee-Sprinkle

Jersey Devil

This creature comes from Native American folklore and is also referred to as the Leeds Devil. Said to inhabit the Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey, this legendary beast would make a gruesome sight; with its goat’s head, leathery, bat-like wings, horns, clawed hands, forked tail and hooves. The creature also moves fast and emits a blood-curdling scream. I’m sure you’ll agree that it is the stuff of nightmares.

The legend is an interesting one, and a popular origin story details the Jersey Devil as the offspring of Mother Leeds – her thirteenth child to be exact. Reputed to be a witch, Mother Leeds gave birth to the creature (who was perhaps fathered by the Devil), at which point the newborn killed the midwife and fled.

The Jersey Devil is a cultural icon in the state, inspiring several organisational nicknames.

This is the point where I came unstuck. There are reportedly several television programmes and movies incorporating the Jersey Devil, but I only know of one. In Episode 9 (Season 7), Dean, Sam and Bobby hunted a Jersey Devil in Supernatural. If you know of more references in media I would love to hear about them.

Jabberwock by Ravenfire5 Fan Art / Digital Art / Drawings / Other
Jabberwock by Ravenfire5
Fan Art / Digital Art / Drawings / Other

Jabberwock

Jabberwocky is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll. It is included in his novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There – the story details Alice’s journey within a back-to-front world of a looking glass. The poem has been translated in many languages and the lexicon studied quite considerably.

Artists have illustrated the Jabberwock in a variety of ways. Sometimes the Jabberwock is a huge, monstrous beast with bat-like wings, and others the creatures is depicted as more dragon-like in appearance. Whatever the interpretation, it is clear Carroll intended the Jabberwock to have bite!

Jabberwock in Media

  • The song Beware of the Jabberwock was written for Disney’s Alice in Wonderland – a musical rendition of the Jabberwocky verse.
  • The poem was inspiration for the 1977 film Jabberwocky by Terry Gilliam.
  • In Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the Jabberwock makes an appearance and is voiced by Christopher Lee. A version of the poem is also spoken by the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp.
  • The Jabberwock also featured in Peta Sergeant’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, as a human-shaped monster who was able to detect fear in others.
  • The stage musical Jabberwocky by Andrew Kay, Malcolm Middleton and Peter Phillips, also follows the basic plot of the poem.

Both creatures are fascinating, especially their different origins. What do you think of the poem, or how do you envisage the Jabberwock? Have you encountered the legend of the Jersey Devil? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The post today was also part of Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.

Mel

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A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 10 : Fantasy Squad – Imps

IWe’ve hit one of those days again – a mythical creature who isn’t represented in any particular form in media. There’s the obvious reference from Game of Thrones, and a variety of others, but due to the mischievous nature of the imp, this trait is often overused, as is their link to witches and warlocks. In Germanic folklore imps are seen as lesser goblins, and in most cases they are small, unattractive and wild creatures. Some say imps are the offspring of the devil.

Imps are sometimes considered to be fairies, they have also been compared to genies and in some cases can grant wishes. This is represented in The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson – a kind of genie in a bottle story. In Jack the Giant Killer (1962), reference is made to the imp in a bottle, though this creature is actually a leprechaun.

imp_by_doppelganger95-d4qn02h
Imp by d-oppelganger Manga & Anime / Digital Media / Drawings©2012-2015 d-oppelganger

I researched the imp before writing my fantasy story The Contract, and decided to put my own spin on these mischievous creatures. I named them hympes, a race led by Hympe King, Tobias Locke, and had a great deal of fun creating their history. As The Contract will be released at the end of the month, I decided to share a snippet with you today.

The main protagonist is a witch named Maddison, who is a freelance mercenary. She allows herself to be captured in order to find Tobias Locke. In the following scene she is locked in a cell – I cut to the section which reflects my interpretation of the hympe.

Excerpt from The Contract

Testing her magic, she used second sight to explore her surroundings. The image was strong and clear; she was in a six by eight foot cell. Aside from the pit in the centre, she found nothing out of the ordinary.

Her hands were bound above her head, connected to a thick, coiling chain which linked to matching cuffs at her ankles. There was something odd about her binds. For one, she could feel the low hum of power in her hands. Her hair stretched reflexively, winding around the chains and testing the cold metal.

Someone was bound to the restraints. She felt it like a punch to the gut, and for an awful moment thought it might be Tobias. She pushed out, seeking the energy, feeling the pain. The connection jolted through her, momentary and yet stronger than anything she’d felt before.

Her eyes blinked open. It took a moment to adjust to the darkness. As she waited, she chanted softly, her hair still curled around the chain. She felt the moment the metal gave way. The cuffs on her hands and feet went with it and she was free.

A man crouched beside her. She could see an outline but nothing more. Taking one of the gold rings from her hair, she tossed it between them and waited for the soft glow to reach him.

His eyes took her by surprise; a dark, stormy grey. He was broken, barely holding it together, and angry she had summoned his true form.

“What’s your name?” she asked, her gentle tone shocking her.

There goes my reputation.

“What difference does it make?” he said, his voice rusty from disuse. “They’re going to kill you, force me to absorb your death, and then it will start all over again when they drag in their next prisoner.”

“I’m not that easy to kill.”

He eyed her warily before glancing at the light between them.

Maddison didn’t take her eyes from him. He had the finely sculptured features typical of a hympe. They were often described as small and ugly creatures. Nothing could have been further from the truth, not in their true form at least. There were many forms, including those forced upon them during the trials. His face could never be described as ugly, even the darkness she saw reflected in his eyes had a painful beauty.

He was tall, judging from the long limbs. Not as tall as Tobias though, or as pretty.

And where the hell did that come from?

“How long is left on your contract?” she asked.

His laugh was bitter, a hollow sound which told her how close he was to the edge. “You think I give a shit about the trials? Two years or twenty, I won’t make it to the end of the year.”

“In that case, why don’t I make it easy for you?” She didn’t want to fight him. Something about him pulled at her. She was testing him.

He snorted. “Spare me.”

“Aw, is the poor little imp feeling-”

His hand shot out, but she was quicker. Her braid snagged his wrist before it reached her, a mistake she recognised too late. Her hair was the most sensitive part of her magic, and since his senses were now wide open, the connection fused them with the force of their combined power.

***

That’s about all I wanted to say about the imp, so now it’s over to you. What stories, if any, do you remember? How do you envisage these creatures? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time.

Mel

Designed by Doobster (Mindful Digressions)
Designed by Doobster (Mindful Digressions)

A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 9: Fantasy Squad – Harpies

H

Harpies are one of my favourite mythical creatures, next to Sirens. Granted, the two are often mixed up, but there is something fascinating about hybrids, especially those with wings!

As this feature is about the portrayal of mythical creatures in media, at least in part, I did a little research. Most of my knowledge comes from Greek mythology, and though I’m familiar with some of the following interpretations, I was surprised at how many references there are. These are just a few:

Harpies by Sophia-M Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2012-2015 Sophia-M
Harpies by Sophia-M
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2012-2015 Sophia-M
  • Harpies are featured a great deal in Anime and Manga. I don’t have enough knowledge to comment on these representations, but if you do – please share.
  • Betty Ross was temporarily turned into a Harpy in The Incredible Hulk – the delightful Bruce Banner made a deal and found a cure.
  • In Jason and the Argonauts (a particular favourite of mine), harpies torment the blind prophet Phineus, by stealing his food. There are only two of them, when traditionally they come in threes.
  • They are portrayed as monsters in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie.
  • In The Tempest, Ariel disguises herself as a harpy.
  • Harpies appear in various table top and video games.
  • They were frequently portrayed as monsters in The Adventures of Sinbad.
  • They appeared in Charmed as minor demons.
  • Hercules (The Legendary Journeys) and Xena (Warrior Princess) both include harpies.
  • They are Hades‘ minions in Clash of the Titans (remake). In this interpretation they don’t appear as bird-women. They snatch people and drag them to the Underworld.
  • Harpies feature in the epic Latin poem The Aeneid by Virgil.
  • They are based in hell in Dante’s The Divine Comedy.
  • In the Grey Hawk adventure novels (Book 5) – a harpy plays the female protagonist – a heroic one at that!
  • Harpies are a kind of gate-keeper in Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series – maintaining curfew at Camp Half-Blood and eating those who break the rules!
  • As with most of the mythical creatures I’ve dealt with so far, most interpretations are dark. In the 2007 TV Movie – Harpies, they are demonic winged monsters.

There is clearly a pattern, one I would like to see balanced out a little. What are your thoughts? Do you think harpies deserve their bad reputation, or should there be a touch of bitter and sweet when portraying these creatures? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.

Mel

Designed by Doobster (Mindful Digressions)
Designed by Doobster (Mindful Digressions)

A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 3: Fantasy Squad – Centaurs

CYou might already know of my fascination with Greek mythology, and I could talk for hours on the subject. But this theme is not about focusing on one particular interpretation – it’s about how centaurs are represented in media. Plus I think they make an excellent addition to any fantasy squad! I am slightly disappointed centaurs weren’t featured in the movie remake of Clash of the Titans. Having said that, I get far too distracted by Perseus and, okay that might have something to do with Sam Worthington.

But I digress. We’re talking about those beautiful creatures who have the head, arms and torso of a man (or woman) and the body and legs of a horse. I imagine them as wild, stubborn, and noble creatures. In literature and film they are often described as warriors and I can totally get on board with the whole archery element. Not that I have an obsession with archers, and certainly not of the emerald variety. Nope, not me.

by SnowSkadi. Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2008-2015 SnowSkadi
by SnowSkadi.
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2008-2015 SnowSkadi

Centaurs are represented well in literature and film thanks to authors like C.S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan. In The Chronicles of Narnia, centaurs are noble, loyal and protective creatures; skilled and gifted in healing. In the Harry Potter books, they live in the Forbidden Forest and are skilled in archery. They also have an interest in astronomy. Staying with the intellectual theme, in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, centaurs were seen as wise.

I didn’t catch the series, but there are many references to centaurs in Xena: Warrior Princess. They are also used frequently in games; Dungeons and Dragons, Tomb Raider, and Mortal Kombat, to name a few.

What about you – do you think centaurs are worthy of being in a fantasy squad? What is your favourite interpretation?

Thanks for stopping by
Mel

NB: I ‘borrowed’ my nifty new badge from Doobster, who didn’t officially register for the A to Z, but who is participating anyway. I’ll let him tell you all about it here!

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A to Z Blogging Challege – Day 2: Fantasy Squad – Banshees

BOkay, so we’re only on day two and we’ve hit a slight snag. My brain keeps yelling at me that this is B – a friendly letter, one which should conjure a bounty of beautiful beasts. And there are indeed creatures we could discuss, Brownies for example, and I’m not talking Girl Guides, but few are represented within media. If you’re going to promise a theme, you’ve got to deliver. Am I right? So I settled on Banshee, despite the slim pickings, and decided we’d create our own fictional character to add to the Fantasy Squad.

First, let’s deal with Banshees in film and television. Cry of the Banshee, a 1970s horror staring Vincent Price, might seem to be a film about, well, banshees, but no banshee actually appears in the movie (though there was a fair amount of screeching, I suspect). I found no other references to these fantastical creatures in film until 2008, and the release of ‘Banshee!!!’  why the overkill on exclamation marks I’m not sure (perhaps its symbolic!). This particular beast had the ability to generate hallucinations through sound waves, a handy trick to lure and kill victims. Scream of the Banshee (2011) involved a creature who was able to kill with its bone-splitting scream. Hmm…

Created by belle333black

The only banshee I can actually talk about though, is Lydia Martin from Teen Wolf. I really like the character because she’s complex and interesting. She hides her genius behind sharp claws (metaphorically speaking), and can sense when someone is about to die through a frequency only she can hear – not just your average teenager then.

I know there are novels featuring banshees, but I’m not familiar with them, so unless you’ve got recommendations (which you can leave in the comments), we’ll move on to the creature creation!

So, according to Irish mythology, a banshee is a fairy whose scream was an omen of death. I like the fairy idea, so we could keep that. But we need to give her a special gift. Some legends involve song, and as a power the voice can be pretty hypnotic. She might be a harbinger of death, but what if she could prevent it? What does she look like – fiery hair and pale skin, or sun kissed complexion and dark locks? Should she have wings? Should this banshee be female? Why not a male? I’ll ponder on your suggestions and create a kick-ass banshee for the team!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 1: Fantasy Squad – Angels

A

It might be an obvious choice, but in terms of a Fantasy Squad, angels are up there with the best of them. Certainly in terms of fictional beings, we have a variety to choose from. We’ve had the good, the bad, and, the devilishly handsome (yes, that’s a reference to Denzel Washington). The characters who stand out, do so because they challenge our preconceptions and, wings or no wings, their appeal shines through like a carefully crafted halo.

Let’s start with television and perhaps one of the most infamous angels, played by Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven. I got to see reruns of the show growing up and fell hook, line and sinker for Michael’s probationary angel. The show was emotionally charged, and dealt with some pretty major issues, but it was the character – the essence of Jonathan that really stayed with me.

Similarly, Touched by an Angel was a show about angels who were assigned to Earth to inspire people – assignments which usually involved a crossroads of sorts. The show had a definite feel good factor, with a strong message and an interesting viewpoint on how angels interact in human form – highlighting their own fears and insecurities.

Sticking with television, Teen Angel was a light hearted comedy following the adventures of Marty, who died after eating a six month old burger, and was assigned as his best friend’s guardian angel. The jokes might have been corny, but it was a lot of fun!

Misha Collins, who plays Castiel in Supernatural, is a popular choice. Not only did he pull Dean Winchester out of Hell, he ultimately chose humanity. He is someone the brothers can rely on, and who fans of the show have grown to love – warts and all!

Turning to film, who can forget John Travolta’s interpretation of an archangel on his last jaunt on Earth. Love him or hate him, Michael – the wise-cracking, cigarette smoking, angel was at least memorable. Then we have Denzel Washington, an angel on a mission in The Preacher’s Wife – did I mention the devilishly handsome part? Angels have been used in a variety of ways. To affect calm in emotional situations (as seen by Nicolas Cage in City of Angels), to intervene, serve or protect. But not all angels are on their best behaviour.

Take, for example, exiled angels, like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (aka Bartleby and Loki), who turned the stereotype on its head in the satire, Dogma. Tilda Swinton made a formidable Gabriel in Constantine, on a mission to ensure we earn the Lord’s love. This was a darker, slightly unhinged interpretation, but a lot of fun.

Edgar Allan Poe used humour in his short piece of fiction The Angel of the Odd. I’ve found the story works best when read aloud, and slightly inebriated doesn’t hurt!

In terms of literature, there is so much to choose from I’d need the entire month to get through it all! Fantasy writers like Nalini Singh and Larissa Ione have produced some truly memorable angels. Nalini uses wings to great effect – she gives each of her angels a unique skill, and has established a world where archangels rule. Perhaps one of the most interesting concepts in the Guild Hunter series is the fact angels are responsible for the creation of vampires. In the Demonica series, Larissa creates a force to be reckoned with in Reaver -Warrior of Heaven.

Indie authors like Patricia Lynne (Patricia Josephine) and Sierra (S.R. Carrillo) have pushed the boundaries and entertained us with angels who carry the burden of great responsibility. They are definitely worth checking out.

But how about you? If we were to create a fantasy squad, what would your angel be like; a guardian, a warrior, lovable rogue, or champion of the Heavens? Which representations stand out for you?

Blogging A to Z 2015 Theme Reveal


copyright © Jojikiba

atoz-theme-reveal-2015

A to Z Challenge [Letter Schedule] [2015]Okay, this is it, my theme reveal for the Blogging A to Z Challenge 2015. I think I spent more time trying to decide on a title, than I did writing an outline for the posts. I could churn out a two thousand word essay on the subject, but a title. Nothing, nada, diddly-squat. So, because I don’t want to be accused of stalling, I’m calling the theme my A to Z Fantasy Squad – A Creature Feature. Try fitting that into a discernible hashtag…on second thoughts, don’t, because you’d probably do a much better job! *Note to self; next time ask Diana.* I swear, titles are my kryptonite.

I will be exploring mythical and fantasy creatures in media, which includes; literature, film and television. For each member of my fantasy squad, I will compare different interpretations and share these findings with you!

Most of my research is done, so all I need to do now is prepare the posts and the fun can begin 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you on the road from A to Z.

Mel