Phew. I think I may need some strong coffee.
Now back to today's featured writer, Mark Knight. He's going to tell us about some of the creatures appearing in his upcoming book, Solomon Grimm & The Well of Souls. Over to you, Mark.
When we think of Ireland and folklore, our brains automatically tune in to a familiar image of a little man with green breeches. Yes, leprechauns are pretty much pretty much inextricably linked with the Green Isle, thanks to movies like Darby O’Gill and the Little People and the Irish Tourist Board. I am Irish on my father’s side, and lived there for the latter part of my teen years – and I can tell you that nobody ever mentions the green-clad little people. Not because it is bad luck to do so, or anything like that … but because leprechauns aren’t nearly as fascinating as the hundreds of other supernatural creatures that haunt the Green Isle.
And so, back in 2009, I set aside a few months to research these entities and Irish folklore in general, consulting family, Irish locals, and folklorist Dr Bob Curran, who has written several books on the subject if Irish fairies.
Far Darrig. The Far Darrig or Red Man is very similar to a leprechaun – short and stocky, but dressed in red rather than green… that is, when he can be seen at all. Mortal terror amuses the far darrig. Occasionally, he invites a mortal to enter a lonely bog hut, then he orders him to make dinner out of a hag skewered on a spit. The man usually faints. When he recovers, he finds himself alone with the sound of laughter filling the air, but coming from no distinguishable source. Far Darrig is a terrible practical joker, using his vocal talents to make it sound as though hollow laughs are coming from graves. He loves pranks, but is actually good natured and will bring luck to those whom he approves of.
Sheehogues. There are some creatures in folklore which don’t really fit into the recognized descriptions of ghosts or fairies but seem to fall somewhere between the two. But they can be incredibly dangerous. For example, on Rathlin Island there is a story concerning a creature called the Canaan-dhu which is half man-half horse (rather like a centaur) but which can come and go like a ghost. It has a massive spear right in the centre of its chest with which it can spear its victims. Few people have ever seen it but they know it's there and can hear it going about during hours of darkness. This might be classed as ‘a sheehoguey thing.’
The Marbh Bheo. Yes, there are zombies in Irish folklore, believe it or not. The Marbh Bheo (pronounced merv-ee-oh) is taken to mean ‘the nightwalking dead’. The term ‘zombie’ might be a bit too specific for them however, as they are simply the dead who have risen and either go to places with which they were associated when living or simply aimlessly wander the roads. Some of the Marbh Bheo may be seen in various stages of decomposition. A number of these are people who have died before their time – that is, from disease or in an accident. Suicide victims were especially prone to becoming these creatures.
These creatures, and many more, will be incorporated into my upcoming teen adventure novel, Solomon Grimm and the Well of Souls.
Thank you, Mark. What a fascinating post. I learnt a lot today. I'm looking forward to reading your new book. I'm also eagerly awaiting a sequel to Blood Family.
That's it for this week. I will be back on Monday, when an awesome person we all know will be Taking the World by Storm. Any guesses?