folklore

I is for Incubus

An Incubus is a male demon that comes upon a woman when they’re asleep and has intercourse with them, usually with the purpose of trying to impregnate her with his child. According to religious beliefs, continued visits by an incubus lead to the deterioration of one’s health and eventually death. It also corrupts both the moral and mental aspects of the female.

These nighttime visitors were the embodiments of sexual seduction during the medieval times. They were often used to explain pregnancies out of wedlock as well as rape inflicted on the sleeping woman by someone close to the victim. The latter used it as a way to escape punishment for their actions.

The most well-known offspring of an incubus and woman, known as a cambion, is Merlin the powerful wizard from Arthurian legend. Cambion typically grown up to be powerful magic users or evildoers.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • The word incubus comes from the Latin “incubus,” which means “nightmare.”
  • Some consider succubi and incubi to be a single demon capable of lying with both genders, while others declare that they are two separate entities.
  • The earliest mention of incubi and succubi are from 2400 BC in ancient Mesopotamian manuscript Sumerian King List. The hero Gilgamesh’s father is a “Lilu,” which shares the same attributes as an incubus in that they both seduce women while they sleep.
What are your thoughts on the Incubi (or Succubi)? Have you experienced any books, movies, or games with them in it?

G is for Gnome

Gnomes are a more recent addition to European folklore. The earliest mentions of them date to the 16th century. Male gnomes wear red pointy caps, have big beards, and usually have a tool belt, which relates to the fact that they’re technologically inclined. Female gnomes tend to wear more muted colors, has her hair in braids, and begins to grow a light beard when she reaches 350 years of age. They are very small in size, usually ranging from 5 inches to 2 feet tall depending on the source. Both genders have a very long lifespan.

German Garden Gnome

Gnomes are considered more human than their more unluckier cousins and fierce rivals, goblins. Both are viewed as a type of a earth spirit, but gnomes are known as inventors and alchemists, while goblins use crude but effective tools. Gnomes also tend to be capable of earth-related magic.

There are several different types of gnomes. Woodland gnomes, Dune gnomes, House gnomes, Farm gnomes, Garden gnomes, and Siberian gnomes. Woodland and Dune gnomes avoid contact with humans. House and Farm are good-natured and more likely to interact with humans. Garden gnomes enjoy living in older gardens and telling depressing stories. The Siberian gnome is meaner and takes revenge for even the smallest of offenses.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • The origin of the word gnome comes from Latin word gēnomos, which means “earth-dweller.” In the 16th Century, a Swiss alchemist named Paracelsus first wrote about gnomus omitting the “ē,” which the OED noted was a blunder. The word as we know it today came about in the early 18th century, but it became popular in the 19th century due to their popularity in children’s fairy tales.
  • In Scandinavian mythology, they’re thought to have always existed but were mostly considered related to other beings, such as fairy or fey.
  • During the 20th century, due to the popularity of 19th century fairy tales, gnomes became synonymous with other domestic spirits, which protected the residence and did household chores, losing their distinctness of being tied to earthy, subterranean lives.

Here’s a fun video from the video game Fable 3, which features a gnome hurling insults at the main character. It’s pretty darn funny.

Who are your favorite Gnomes? What books, movies, or games have you enjoyed with them in it? Has anyone seen the newish movie Gnomeo and Juliet?

E is for Elf

Yes, it’s true! Today’s topic for the A to Z challenge isn’t as obscure as the past two have been. Surprisingly, I racked my brain trying to think of a topic today before smacking myself upside the head. Scary really, since a life-sized Legolas shares my office with me.

Legolas from Lord of the Rings.

So, Elves are beings originally from Germanic mythology (basically Old Norse, Old English, and German). They’re also featured in modern folklore (Scandinavian, German, English & Scottish, and don’t forget Santa’s helpers). In Norse mythology, they’re divided between light elves (Ljósálfar) and dark elves (Dökkálfar). They have magical powers which they can use to help mankind or hurt it. Also, they’re very connected with nature and tend to live in forests and away from people.

Appearance-wise, elves are famous for their pointed ears and delicate beauty. Light elves tend to look like my friend Legolas up there with light hair, pale skin, and blue eyes. Dark elves, on the other hand, have black hair, dark eyes, and black skin. In terms of behavior, while dark elves tend to stay away from people and can be slightly hostile, light elves are willing to talk to people provided you’re able to meet one.

Having a dislike in iron (since it limits their powers), elves prefer the finer metals of silver or gold. Their normal working tools tend to be bronze. This is one of the reasons why elves utilize bows and arrows, as well as the obvious advantage of having their enemies at a distance.

Elves have become a staple to the fantasy genre both in literature and gaming, helped by the success of the hugely popular roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Some variations of elves depict them as very small-statured. This was especially prominent in Victorian literature.
  • The way elves appear in the high fantasy genre and J.R.R. Tolkien’s work (Lord of the Rings, etc.) comes from influence of 19th century Romanticism and its depiction of them being very beautiful beings.
  • Santa’s helpers “Christmas elves” became popular in the 1870s.
It’s your turn! Who are your favorite Elves? What books, movies, or games have you enjoyed with them in it?

D is for Dhampir

Dhampirs are from Balkan (gypsy) folklore. They are born of a vampire father and a human mother. Dhampirs are dual-natured sort of like the Centaurs yesterday. They’re forced to walk between their undead side and their mortal side; although, they are more human than vampire. They possess vampiric powers without the weaknesses, but their physical and supernatural strength is less than that of a vampire due to being a half-breed. They tend to be unusually good at tracking and hunting vampires.

Additionally, vampires tend to target dhampirs since they’re viewed as a serious threat. After all, during the day a dhampir with knowledge of a vampire’s nest is likely able to wipe them all out with little effort. However, once night falls, the dhampirs would need to watch their backs to prevent being hunted in return.

But it’s not just vampires dhampirs have to worry about. Typically, they’re disliked and misunderstood by humans since they have vampiric lineage. Although, they were taken in by Gypsy communities and hired themselves out as vampire hunters.

One popular depiction is Rayne from the video games, movies, and comics BloodRayne. (FYI: I’ve seen the first two movies. I love the first one, but whew, the second one made my wonder why I threw away those 99 minutes of my life. But regardless of that, I’ll give the third movie a chance.)

You could say that Blade is a dhampir. While his mother was human, he gained his vampirism due to her being attacked while she was pregnant, not because his biological father engaged in intercourse with his mother. (Although, I think there are variations of this between the comics and movies. I only saw the movies.)

Interesting Tidbits:

  • The word dhampir comes from the Albanian language, “pij or pirё means ‘to drink,’ and dhёmbё or dham which means ‘teeth,’ thus dhampir, ‘to drink with teeth.'” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhampir)
  • According to Vukanovic’s “The Vampire,” some believed that dhampirs’ bodies were “slippery like jelly, and cannot live.” That belief coincides with one that vampires don’t have bones.
  • Dhampirs are fairly popular in fiction, movies, comics, and games. Here’s a list of some of those.
So, what are your thoughts on Dhampirs? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?