Cornish folklore

All posts tagged Cornish folklore

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Published July 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This all about?:

This story follows a wandering story teller as he takes a couple of tourists on a tour around his local area, telling old stories along the way.

What did I think?:

As the final story in this collection, I have to admit I was expecting something quite majestic. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite end on the note I was anticipating – rather than Notes From The House Spirits which I thoroughly enjoyed, I found myself rather underwhelmed by the story chosen to be the finale of the entire collection. Of course, there is no denying the magical, whimsical nature of Lucy Wood’s writing and as always, I appreciated the nod to Cornish folklore and her ability to spout words like poetry but compared to other stories I’ve read by her, this was rather a damp squib in comparison.

Lucy Wood, author of the short story collection Diving Belles.

Due to the quirky nature of Lucy’s writing, I’m struggling to describe what exactly this story is about in more than a few sentences but I’ll try my best. It follows a droll (Cornish word for a travelling story teller), who comes across two tourists willing to pay him for a tour and to tell stories along the way – old legends, ghostly happenings and the like. As he’s often homeless and uncertain of where his next meal is coming from, he gladly agrees but during the tour he begins to realise something is seriously wrong. Although he is suggested to have one hundred years experience of the town, its people and its tall tales, he can’t seem to remember any of the stories he once knew so well in any great detail. Images keep coming to his mind of things that might have happened, some of them horrific (or are they just stories?) and he appears to be getting quite befuddled about how much of his knowledge is fact and how much is fiction.

Beautiful Cornwall, the inspiration and setting for the stories in this collection.

So, I finished the story about ten minutes ago and knew I’d have to write my review immediately as I would lose track of what it was actually about. Not much more goes on than what I told you and to be perfectly honest, the ending was so abrupt, I’m finding it difficult to recall what actually happened. Lucy Wood has a bit of a pattern with ending her stories quite suddenly, often without resolution or answers and most of the time, I find this works really well but there’s other times where you just wonder what the whole point was in the first place.

This story isn’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve certainly read a lot worse and I must stress that the writing is truly beautiful. I loved the way that the droll is compared to a tree, even his skin beginning to resemble the furrows of wood and later on, he finds moss in his fingernails which also harks back to the symbolism of a tree. Is he really as old as he is? Who knows? There’s a lot of magical realism thematically throughout this collection and it’s quite conceivable that he could be a different entity that has known a man who fought in the Napoleonic Wars as he suggests. I think the problem with this story for me was that I just didn’t feel anything for it. It didn’t move me, I didn’t connect with the characters and sadly, I just didn’t really “get” what the author was trying to say.

Overall, if you enjoy magical realism and stories steeped in folklore this is a great collection as a whole, it’s just a shame I gravitated towards other tales other than this one.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Wisht by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published November 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Wisht all about?:

Wisht follows our young female protagonist as she accompanies her father on a walk through the moor one night, fearful of the legend of the Wisht Hounds.

What did I think?:

Now that I’ve read the penultimate story in this collection, I’m starting to think back on all the stories and gather my thoughts on the collection as a whole. There’s no denying that it’s a gorgeous piece of fiction, especially for a debut work and obviously, I loved that Lucy Wood used the setting of Cornwall and Cornish folklore to bring an extra mythical or otherworldly edge to her tales. As with many short story collections that I’ve read, unfortunately there are some stories that just don’t grab my attention as much as others and I’m sorry to say Wisht was one of those. There are many positive things to be taken from it which I’ll talk about later but generally, I found this story to be slightly forgettable and I think generally speaking there’s better stories that showcase the author’s talent much more effectively.

Wisht is about a young girl who seems to live alone with her father (her mother is never mentioned in the narrative which I found slightly odd). Her father tends to go out at night on long walks over the moor and although he checks she is asleep before he leaves, she is pretending and watches out of the window until she sees the light of the torch as he returns. She is incredibly protective of him and worries about the amount of weight he has lost – perhaps this is down to bereavement and the loss of his wife? Who knows? We are never told. One evening however, he wakes his daughter up and asks her to accompany him on his nightly walk where they have a tender moment right at the very end of the narrative.

That’s it, basically. Nothing much happens, even on the walk. Oh, her father falls over once and tells his daughter to be careful lest she fall over herself. Also she keeps hearing howling which she is certain is the legendary Wisht Hounds that roam the moors at night, looking for human subjects to devour. However, we don’t really get much more about the Wisht Hounds apart from that which was a bit of a shame as I found them to be quite an interesting part of the story. I did love the relationship between father and daughter, even finding myself a bit envious of the unconditional love they obviously have for each other and I adored how protective she was of her father, worrying for him as he went into the Hounds territory but savvy enough to not let him see how concerned she was about him. Personally, this was just a “meh” story for me. The writing is undeniably beautiful, like all of Lucy Wood’s writing in this collection and, as I mentioned, I thought the Wisht Hounds mystery was quite exciting but sadly never developed as fully as I would have hoped. Nevertheless, I am still looking forward to the final story in this collection as I do enjoy the way the author uses stunning prose and magical folklore to tell a contemporary story.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Blue Moon by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Published August 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Blue Moon all about?:

Blue Moon follows our narrator who works in a very unique nursing home where its residents have magical abilities.

What did I think?:

Generally speaking, I’ve been hugely impressed with the quality of writing and the fairy-tale nature of Lucy Wood’s beautiful collection, Diving Belles. There have been a couple of stories that I’ve felt have ended too abruptly but the vast majority of them have been wonderful and means I would definitely recommend this collection for any fans of magical realism or anything other-worldly. Lucy Wood expertly weaves Cornish folklore into this collection in a way that makes each story feel like a fantasy but at the same time very real, a tough task to accomplish I’m sure but she does it with ease. Blue Moon is another fantastic example of the surreal, lyrical nature that has characterised this whole collection and the beauty of the language just washed over me and made reading this story an absolute pleasure.

When we first start reading, our narrator, who works at Blue Moon nursing home is attempting to calm down a very anxious hare in a bedroom. Within a few lines and by the narrator addressing the hare as Mrs Tivoli, we soon realise that Mrs Tivoli is a witch and a shape-shifter, normally taking human form but she has recently had a visitor and something has happened that has frightened or upset her so badly that she has transformed herself into a hare and seems to have lost control of her senses. Our narrator soon takes us back in time, explaining what has precipitated these events and it’s a magical tale of a very odd nursing home that takes in residents with magical powers. Dealing with these residents is not easy as our narrator is well aware but Mrs Tivoli has taken a particular shine to her and opens up to her about her life, her losses and her regrets which she keeps in a series of bottles. The smaller regrets are in larger bottles, her biggest regrets are in smaller sized bottles – the biggest regret of all is in a nail varnish bottle and it is this bottle that Mrs Tivoli opens one day just before her visitor arrives to show our narrator that precipitates her frantic transformation.

It’s only as I’m writing this review up now that I’m starting to appreciate how brilliant this story actually is. Imagine keeping all your regrets in your life in bottles within a drawer by your bedside. Any time you want you can open one of these bottles, view a memory and re-live those feelings you felt when a particular thing happened to you that you feel remorse for. It doesn’t bear thinking about! I adored the magical elements of this story, in particular Mrs Tivoli and her opinionated pet catfish Maria but as I mentioned, the most beautiful thing about this story is the writing which flows like water and is so descriptive. It’s like the author thought long and hard about each word she chose before writing it and her consideration over what she chose is obvious as each word is perfect. Lucy Wood does have a habit of ending each story quite abruptly, leaving the reader feeling like there is unfinished business but I have to be honest. In this story, it really worked. I would have loved to know what happened next to Mrs Tivoli and her mysterious visitor but, in the end, it just makes it more poignant that we don’t know and have to guess for ourselves.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Master by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women.

Short Stories Challenge – Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published November 17, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Beachcombing all about?:

Beachcombing explores the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson, the former having lived in a cave by the sea for a while now and has no plans on leaving any time soon.

What did I think?:

I think I was expecting great things from this short story purely based on the others I have read in the collection. Lucy Wood’s beautiful way with language and characters combines stories of ordinary, mundane daily life with a little bit of magic to create prose that you can’t help but admire. The stories are often steeped in Cornish folklore/legends and I’m thoroughly enjoying learning about mythological creatures or superstitions that I was previously unaware of. In Beachcombing, the other-worldly creature(s) are the buccas, a spirit that roams coastal towns and becomes something akin to a hobgoblin during storms, wreaking havoc and causing mayhem.

The two main characters in this story are Oscar and his grandmother whose home is in a cave on a beach where she moved for reasons unknown at the beginning of this tale. Oscar and his grandmother have a very special relationship which was very touching and made me smile. At times, they drive each other crazy but they clearly have a great affection for each other and are always looking out for the others welfare. One of their favourite things to do is to roam the beach looking for treasures that the sea has brought up with the waves. It is apparent that Grandma seems to be always looking for something else, something she may have lost and Oscar is always keen to show her his daily findings. She is the one who first teaches him about the buccas and we learn that on a stormy night, it is crucial to appease them by leaving a fish on the shore, something that she forgot to do one particular night. There were consequences because of her lapse that led to her immediately packing up essential items and moving into a cave on the beach, despite the protests of Oscar’s mother and father who have a place for her to stay in their own “normal,” home.

The story is divided into a number of small sections that covers both Oscar’s relationship with his grandmother, their little rituals when he comes to stay and describes the findings on the beach that have particular importance to them. All apart from one that is, which Oscar tries desperately to hide. I was under the impression at first that he was hiding his treasure simply because he wanted to keep it to himself, in the way that some young children may do. It turns out that it was a form of protection because when Grandma’s curiosity gets the better of her and she raids his hiding place, she becomes very upset and this in turn upsets Oscar. I was also unsure what to make of the ending of this tale, as with previous stories in this collection it is ambiguous but funnily enough, on a second reading of Beachcombing, I found it quite bitter-sweet and, thinking about it in retrospect, it was the perfect ending for a story like this.

It was only on a second reading of this story that I began to appreciate what a little gem it really is. Strangely enough, it was only on the second time round that I understood the incident that caused Grandma to uproot and live in the cave and once I had realised that, all the other pieces seemed to slot into place. I loved both Grandma and Oscar as characters, their relationship felt so authentic and even though they would clash sometimes, they loved each other deeply which made it a beautiful partnership to read about. This is such a clever story that once understood makes you think deeply about love and loss. For me, the icing on the cake was the introduction of the buccas, intriguing and occasionally malevolent little beings which immediately made me want to go and read up everything I could find on them! Lucy Wood has a wonderful talent for combining a bit of legend with contemporary life and her stories are all the stronger for it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

bucca

A bucca, also known as a knacker, knocker, bwca or tommyknocker in Welsh, Cornish and Devon folklore, the equivalent of Irish leprechauns and English/Scottish brownies.

Image from http://www.ovguide.com/knocker-9202a8c04000641f80000000005c1b67

 

 

Short Stories Challenge – The Giant’s Boneyard by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published July 8, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Giant’s Boneyard all about?:

The Giant’s Boneyard explores the end of childhood and the onset of puberty between two friends, Gog and Sunshine as they play in a giant’s boneyard at the end of the summer holidays.

What did I think?:

Diving Belles is a collection of short stories that are inspired by Cornish folklore and each one so far has been magical in its own way. In The Giant’s Boneyard our narrator and main character Gog is possibly a reference to the Cornish giant Gogmagog “one detestable monster…of such prodigious strength that at one shake he pulled up an oak as if it had been a hazel wand.” Our Gog of this story is a teenage boy in the first flushes of love with a girl called Sunshine who he has been friends with for years, despite the fact that at times she can be quite rotten to him! At the He is also suffering with “growing pains,” and often feels his phantom body is quite a lot larger than what he actually is. He has been told by his mother that his father was in fact a giant so he’s still got quite a bit of growing to do if he wants to reach his heights!

Gog is enjoying exploring the giant’s boneyard with Sunshine and marvels at the pyramid of human skulls, the smallest one being still as big as a television and especially the gigantic ribcage which is Sunshine’s particular favourite. He desperately wants to tell her how he feels about her and open up to her about where his father may be instead it is his phantom arm that he imagines snaking around her shoulders then fumbles his words awkwardly when she asks a loaded question about whether his father is dead or not. Sunshine continues to make quite barbed remarks which makes you wonder whether she realises his feelings for her and is trying to see how far she can push him. Following this up with requests for a piggy-back throws Gog into utter confusion and he seems to instantly forgive all her little transgressions.

As with the other stories in this collection, the ending is rather ambiguous and I’m not going to ruin it for people who haven’t read it but it threw me so much that I had to immediately go back and read the story again. On a second run-through things seemed to make more sense but I still wondered if I had got the wrong end of the stick. It could reference a number of things regarding the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood or it could be something more sinister:

“Adults would visit, huddle dwarfed and shivering under the bones and not come back.”

Aside from this I did really enjoy this short story – loving Gog and loving to hate Sunshine character wise and feeling both comforted and amazed by the beauty of the author’s beautiful descriptive prose. The magical side is always a bonus for me and something I think Lucy Wood carries off with perfection, almost making you believe that giants really do exist. By the way, if anyone has read this let me know what you think about the ending!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker from the collection The Story: Love, Loss and The Lives of Women, 100 Great Stories