Posted by: kshayes513 | October 31, 2009

End the Vampire Pandemic

Sign outside Forks, Washington. Photo: the Forks, WA blog

Sign outside Forks, WA. Photo: Forks Chamber of Commerce blog

Vampires are the new hot character, in case you haven’t noticed.  Vamps have been popular since Stoker wrote Dracula, but only recently have they had the chance to convert from nasty seductive blood-sucking monsters to broody seductive blood-sucking good guys.

These days, vampire main characters are everywhere:  brooding in the woods in romance novels; at vampire finish schools in YA novels; being superheroes in comics and on TV; and taking over the teen and adult prime time soap genre on television. Many of these vampire-centric stories are entertaining, some are even extraordinary. But still:

Enough, already!! Can’t writers think of ANY OTHER mythical beings to live among humans?

Yeah, I know: werewolves and zombies. Done and overdone. They’re also off the originality list. Same goes for witches, wizards and ghosts, who are not only well past their freshness date but also – duh! – human beings.

For those of you whose imaginations need a little assistance in thinking of other types of  supernatural creatures to populate your world, I offer this short list of supernatural species that I’d like to see in a contemporary setting:

Undine-Waterhouse-L

Undine, by John William Waterhouse, 1872

Undine. A female water spirit of lakes and rivers, the undine traditionally tries to marry a human so she can gain a soul (see Anderson’s The Little Mermaid for a literary version of this story).  By the way, once Christianity took hold in Europe, its teachings added a new element to myth and folktale by insisting that fairies of any kind don’t have souls. How relevant that might be in a contemporary setting would be up to you.

Djinn (genie). A being of great power in Middle Eastern tales, the djinn is usually destructive and inimical to humankind, unless it is bound by some kind of magic, when it has to restrain itself from destruction and help its human masters. Living in a lamp is not obligatory. Besides, a djinn would have much more fun messing with your BlackBerry. (I already have a contemporary genie story making the magazine rounds right now, though it doesn’t quite meet the criterion of this list, because the genie isn’t the protagonist. Hmmm, maybe a sequel is in order…)

Selkie. The gray seal of the North Atlantic can swim ashore as a seal, take off his/her skin and walk around as a human for a while before returning to the sea. In the most famous selkie story, an Irish fisherman falls in love with a selkie woman, and hides her skin, forcing her to stay on land. She marries him and bears his children, then one day, she finds the hidden sealskin, puts it on and dives back into the sea. Take that to a divorce court!

Banshee. The harbinger of death in Irish folk tales, the banshee is a fairy woman whose horrible cry is only heard by those who will soon die. What would life be like for the fairy who had this job?

menehune.JPG.300px.png

Menehune, the skilled craftmakers of Hawaiian mythology, have some similarity to Brownies. Photo from the blog Talk Story About Hawaiiana

Brownie. The small household spirit of English and German legend comes around after dark and helps the deserving with household chores, or causes mischief and destruction if it isn’t treated well, or sees signs of sloppy and lazy housekeeping. Best known from the Grimm story, “The Elves and the Shoemaker;” and now from J K Rowling’s House Elves, who seem pretty closely related. Would a modern Brownie need an Immigrations Green Card to do its stuff?

Animist spirits. In some mythologies  almost any place or natural object can have a resident spirit or animus; the Greek dryads and naiads (tree and spring spirits) are just one example.  Imagine you’re the animus of a nice woodland meadow, and someone comes and builds a subdivision on your metaphorical belly!

Almost any non-Western mythical being. India, for example, has more minor gods than there are grains in a teaspoon of curry powder. Africa, Japanese and Polynesian folklore seem equally rich with creatures. Pick one from your own ethnic heritage or someone else’s, and have some fun.

And the number one being I’d like to see playing main characters in contemporary settings:

Fairy. Also known as elves, the Fair Folk, fays, the People of the Sidhe, and many other names, depending on the country and the culture. I’m not talking about Tinkerbell and her cute little friends, the Disney/JM Barrie/Arthur Rackham pixies with butterfly wings. Real fairies are usually all that’s left in cultural memory of the Old Gods of any culture that has adopted more monotheistic religions.  Each culture’s fairies have their own powers and their own agendas, and all seem to have an irresistible fascination with mortal ways.

Yes, a lot of people do use Western fairies already in their fiction, including Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Mike Mignola and Susanna Clarke, to name just the few I’ve read recently. Each has treated fairies in very different ways, but I haven’t yet found a contemporary novel, comic or screen presentation with a fairy as a point of view character. And given the wide variety of fairies in the world, the possibilities are endless.

In case my few species haven’t inspired you, here’s a much more comprehensive list compiled in honor of the day by the brilliant and possibly demented (in the best way) David Malki of Wondermark.com. Look up any names you can’t identify, and I’m sure you’ll find inspiration.

Go. Create. Entertain us! And Happy Halloween!

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Responses

  1. A very interesting post. I do recall a very funny and amusing TV series called, I dream of Jeannie. The djinnie was a charming one and entertained us well. Stoker’s creation by now has tired us all what with its zillion versions.


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