germanic mythology

I is for Imp

Welcome back for today’s creature, sponsored by the letter… I.

First though, I have some newsy bits to share. Jungle Fire is now available at Amazon.com. Hop on over there and take a look (after today’s post, of course. ;-))

Name: Imp

Type: lesser demons

Origin: Germanic mythology

Description: Small, unattractive boarding on ugly creatures. Imps, while usually associated with black arts, are not always evil, but merely mischievous and pranksters, as they do not strive to harm their victims. They usually act very wild and uncontrollable. Most often, they’re viewed as immortals. Typically, they are familiars who serve witches or warlocks as informants.

Sometimes imps seek friendship with humans since they’re often portrayed as lonely. Usually their pranks drove away the people or when they found a friend, they were described as impish for their love of practical jokes.

Interesting Facts: Some Germanic tales consider imps to be more closely tied to fairies due to the fact that they’re more playful and show a variety of interests, unlike their more infernal cousins.

They’re very commonly used in computer games/video games due to the fact that they are known as servants to magical beings. Examples are World of Warcraft, The Legend of Zelda, and Dante’s Inferno.

Click here for more information and pictures of them.

Have you heard of imps before?

S is for Selkie

Source and more Selkie stamps

Selkies are from Irish, Icelandic, Faroese, and Scottish folklore. They are shapeshifters that change between seal and human by shedding, or putting on, their seal skin.

Originating from the Orkney and Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland, where the word selkie is Scots for “seal,” the myths were spread by fishermen and traders across the rest of England. Similar stories of these creatures are found in Norway, Sweden and with the Chinook people of North America with some variations.

Most of the stories involving selkies are mournful love stories and ballads. The summation of the most common is a fisherman sees a selkie, and he takes for her as his wife, while secretly hiding her seal pelt. She thinks she’s lost it forever and is sad because she longs for the sea and life as a seal, but they live happily and have several children. One of the children find the seal skin and ask what it is, and then the selkie puts it on and rushes back to the ocean. She’s sorrowful again, but this time because she misses her husband and children. A very interesting Faroese variation is located here.

Other variations include male selkies who have great power to seduce women. For women to come into contact with them, they have to cry seven tears into the sea. Typically, the children of these couplings have webbed fingers and toes as an indication of their origin. Also, according to Wikipedia.org, “The MacCodrum clan of North Uist claim descent from selkies and have been known as Sliochd nan Ron, the ‘Offspring of the Seals’ for many generations.”

Examples of selkies in literature, games, songs, and television & movies are located here. These include the movie Ondine, which I haven’t seen yet but now I really want to!

So, what are your thoughts on Selkies? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

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?