Culture

Sleepless Nights: Local Horrors


As I sit down and read a book about Yokai, I am intrigued by how anime often uses their classical monsters and myths for horror stories, or even non horror. I can’t help but wonder, are there not such things in Scottish mythology? Do we not also have a wide array of monsters from Scotland that would make great use in tales?

Now I’m not talking about human monsters, we have long accepted those. Nor am I talking about what could be in Loch Ness (Nessie gets plenty of family movies). No, I’m talking about horrors that would claw at the doors or windows or find those wandering the woods and make them never return.

These days stories of monsters in the West are usually dominated either by those heavily featured in the Universal Horror films like vampires and werewolves or cryptids being searched for as potential undiscovered species like the afore mentioned Nessie or Bigfoot.

Yet in Japan we see all sorts of creatures from folklore used in fiction to this very day, and used so well I can say Kappa and there’s a good chance you know what I mean. So, I began my search for what were our folklore horrors.

My research though was rather… more difficult than I expected. Books with titles that looked like a compendium on such things were really just books on local folk stories that some may have at one point some fanciful creature. Now these would contain some of what I was looking for but it was a long way away from what I was seeking.

Another difficulty came from a more geographical and cultural element. For what IS Scottish when it comes to the monsters and myths? We share a few horrors with not just England but also some with Ireland, but also some we don’t. For example, the Banshee is a creature from both Scottish and Irish myth but the Dullahan is only Ireland. Redcaps a particularly murderous kind of goblin are associated with the borders so would be both Scottish and English. I’m not discounting ones that appear in other countries as Scottish it just makes the search more difficult, though also more fascinating to find when cultures mix.

I have had quite a few successes. For example, did you know Scotland had vampires before vampires were vampires!? To explain, the current depiction of vampires, is usually some unnatural attractive being that through means will lure you in and suck your blood. That is a very modern depiction primarily come about thanks to adaptions of Bram stokers Dracula novel in the modern era. Older tales had vampires a lot less attractive and were often more of a wraith like being. But in Scotland we have the Baobhan Sith a type of blood sucking fairy that appeared as a beautiful woman. One of those actually appeared in an anime once.

Now if you ,when I said fairy, are thinking Tinkerbelle… you have the complete wrong idea of what fairies are.  Banshee and Dullahan which I mentioned before, they were fairies. Heck goblins are too, basically being ugly fairies. Fairy folk come in all sorts of sizes and shapes and are best left alone. These are things that even when not outright malevolent will kill you with a joyful playful way and think it’s all fun and games. Plenty of tales of non-distinctive ones suddenly aging people to dust or turning them to stone. Il Mheg in ff14 being praised by people as being a better depiction of fairy lore than most of Western media now. Looking at fairies I concluded that they and Yokai of Japan were in fact very much the same thing, a catch all term for all sorts of weird creatures used to explain local phenomena they had not yet the means to scientifically prove and over time spun out into all sorts of tales.

However, a few creatures have started to shine through in media of late, you usually do know of the banshee and more recently Kelpies of course, they even appeared in a Duck Tales episode.

Still the knowledge that there is information on such things but no true compendium kept me looking. I too wished to enrich any tale I wrote with creatures drawn from my surroundings, find new ways to bring them into the modern way.  I have asked on twitter and got some links to lists with some nice finds.

But I would say my best discovery is one from Orkney and Orkneyjar has proved one of my best sources for local creatures. But back to that discovery. One so horrible, so bizarre and terrible, and it’s from right here. The Nuckelavee

To think something so horrific and monstrous was from these isles. I first became aware of it when people watching the 4th season of RWBY (series went downhill after 2 but this creature was memorable) talked about the big monster at the end of the season. Looking up I was surprised to find it was from Orcadian folklore! It’s like someone saw a centaur and thought – THAT’S A SOFTIE LOOK WHAT WE CAN MAKE! in an Orcadian accent. You have the body of a horse, the rider from the torso up melded into the middle of it with long gangly arms a head just slightly too big that rolls on its shoulders with a large maw… and then you give it no skin!… this is better than all these current horror movies!? it’s even a blight on the land! why isn’t this showing up in video games!? (Please raise Nuckelavee awareness by telling your friends in other countries about it).

Of course, since planning to write this, a book came out Mythical Monsters by Aaron Mullins which may be exactly what I’m seeking. I plan to get it at some point as my search for local monsters had led to so many interesting finds and I am sure to find many more. I had Considered at one point making such a compendium of my own.

I hope my tale of my searches for creatures in the lands I live has inspired you to do the same. I see all these dull unimaginative cheap made for tv monster flicks showing up on TV schedules and look back at what I’ve found and just how much we could be drawing from these. Maybe I will one day write a tale of some hero encountering the Nuckelavee… oh like I’m not already planning one of my OCs doing that already.

Njuggles by Martin Laird

1 reply »

  1. Thank you very much for finding and sharing the information.
    This is the heritage. If we would be in the 18th century, in would be possible to make an academic degree, making more research (there should be actually).

    It is a historical thing. Some countries do not change much and are capable of keeping their old stories from generation to generation (mostly Northern, if I am right). Some of those stories become worldwide known due globalization and commercial aims (and one should take in mind that these forms become less true to fit modern culture). Some characters become worldwide known due to ads (like Santa).
    The Grimm brothers did at least 17 revisions of their stories because of the censorship of their times and now we know the ‘happy ane stories’ from the World strongest corporations.
    I like your note, that somehow Japan picks the mythology and so folklore from European countries, I have encountered that in the anime’s.

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