Monday, March 17, 2014

Mythical Monday (41)

It seems there are many books based on or influenced by Myths and Mythological Beings.

There are so many different Mythology and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in.  The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.

I’ve invited authors to share briefly the Mythological being or Myth that influenced their character(s) or story, or what their character(s) are based on influencing their books.  Hosting here, one author and being or myth per week.

This week we have:
Paranormal Fantasy author 
Terri Bruce
Talking of Pooka.

“As this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.

It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form of Bessie's Gytrash--a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge head: it passed me, however, quietly enough; not staying to look up, with strange pretercanine eyes, in my face, as I half expected it would. The horse followed,--a tall steed, and on its back a rider. The man, the human being, broke the spell at once. Nothing ever rode the Gytrash.” (Jane Eyre)

I was first introduced to the Püka (or Pooka) via Jane Eyre. When I tell people that they tend to give me a strange look—since when does Jane Eyre have folk creatures in it? Most people overlook the subtle and veiled reference to folk creatures Jane makes when she first meets Mr. Rochester as he rides past her on the road. As he approaches, and as his dog Pilot passes, Jane thinks of a “Gytrash” a mythical creature found in British folklore. The Gytrash usually takes the form of a dog, horse, or mule and often lures travelers onto its back in order to take them on a wild ride. It’s easy to miss the reference, because it’s just sort of slipped in there and then, suddenly, much more interesting things are happening as Rochester’s horse slips and Jane rushes to his aid. I, however, was the kind of kid who, upon encountering an unfamiliar word, always looked it up. So when I stumbled over this strange word “Gytrash,” I dutifully toddled off to the dictionary (and then the encyclopedia when Webster proved to be of no help). Sometime later in life I made the connection between a gytrash and it’s relative the püca/püka/pooka of Irish mythology, which usually takes the form of a dog, horse, rabbit, or goat, and are considered a type of nature spirit. In mythology, pookas tend to tease humans, often playing pranks on them, but tend not to be harmful. However, farmers used to leave the gleanings (the grain that fell on the ground) or a portion of their crop in the field to appease the pookas, just in case. The most famous Pooka is, of course, the six-foot tall invisible rabbit in the movie Harvey. Pookas, unlike hobs, duende, brownies, and other folk creatures, are never tame and never serve humans. They are rarely seen and always live outside (never in the house). The best chance of seeing one is as a solitary traveler, crossing a field or lone road, late at night.

Pookas have long been one of my favorite mythological creatures, probably going back to my love of Jane Eyre, and I knew while writing my Afterlife Series that I wanted to include them in it. While my Afterlife Series is built mainly on afterlife myths, I have found a way to slip in a few folklore creatures, including a pooka. Throughout the Afterlife Series, a little black-and-white cat that acts very uncatlike shows up—sometimes to help the main character, Irene, sometimes to steal trinkets from her, sometimes to confuse her. Irene, who is a ghost and traveling through the afterlife, thinks the “cat” really is a cat (albeit a ghost cat) but another character finally clues her in to the fact that it’s a pooka. Like a traditional pooka, however, the “cat” requires payment/bribery to help the characters. And as in the traditional stories, when payment is withheld or denied, a pooka can turn against the humans it previously helped, and can even turn mean/vindictive. Whether the pooka in Thereafter ultimately helps or hinders Irene…well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out.

The story behind the story of the pooka in my book is that, in real life, I have a little black and white cat that is the most un-catlike creature I have ever met; she has never meowed/cried (on occasion she grunts to get my attention). She never makes eye contact and, in fact, when I talk to her she looks at the ceiling in confusion as if the “noise” might be coming from up there. She often sits and stares at me in a very unsettling manner. She LOVES sticky items and I have to be careful to lock up rolls of Scotch tape and immediately throw away any cellophane packaging because she will eat that stuff. She TASTES/LICKS everything rather than smelling it—my hand if I try to pet her, bugs she finds, foreign objects on the floor, food offered to her, furniture, everything (I suspect she has a poor sense of smell and this is her alternative method of identifying things). She is generally the most non-plussed cat I’ve ever had, but she absolutely hates to be picked up and she hides whenever I have company (most of my friends and family don’t believe I actually have three cats because they’ve never seen this one). I don’t get the sense she’s afraid of strangers; it seems more that she’s annoyed by them. I ended up naming her Pooka because I’m not entirely convinced that she is a cat/she’s not a pooka. So when it came time to come up with a model for the pooka in my story, my cat very naturally became the model. While pookas aren’t usually seen as cats, it is one of the forms they can take, and besides having a ready-made model, it was the form that made the most sense for the story. The description, behavior, and actions of the cat/pooka in my story are all taken directly from my cat. I’m sure she’d be pleased to know she’d been immortalized in this way…if she appeared to care at all about this sort of stuff.

Author Bio:
Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember and won her first writing award when she was twelve. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and adventure stories from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats. Her second novel, Thereafter (Afterlife #2), will be released May 1, 2014.

Find Terri:
Twitter:  @_TerriBruce

Hereafter (Afterlife #1)
Why let a little thing like dying get in the way of a good time?

Thirty-six-year-old Irene Dunphy didn't plan on dying any time soon, but that’s exactly what happens when she makes the mistake of getting behind the wheel after a night bar-hopping with friends. She finds herself stranded on earth as a ghost, where the food has no taste, the alcohol doesn’t get you drunk, and the sex...well, let’s just say “don’t bother.” To make matters worse, the only person who can see her—courtesy of a book he found in his school library—is a fourteen-year-old boy genius obsessed with the afterlife.

Unfortunately, what waits in the Great Beyond isn’t much better. Stuck between the boring life of a ghost in this world and the terrifying prospect of three-headed hell hounds, final judgment, and eternal torment in the next, Irene sets out to find a third option—preferably one that involves not being dead anymore. Can she wipe the slate clean and get a second chance before it’s too late?

“Come.” Samyel gestured, indicating that they should follow him. “We must go.”

“Go? Go where?”

“Away. Inside. Or they will see.”

“Who will see what?”

The dark glasses revealed nothing as he stood impassively for a moment. “Everyone.”

Samyel was attracting a lot of attention. The crowd moving around them was giving him a wide berth, and he was the focus of a lot of strange looks, which just confirmed that he wasn’t dead—people could see him. Irene knew that it looked like a seven-foot tall man in a trench coat and dark glasses was talking to himself in the middle of the sidewalk. It wouldn’t be long before the cops came to investigate.

Irene gestured for Samyel to lead the way. “Fine. Let’s go.”

Irene heard another choke of protest and glanced at Jonah. There was a silent exchange of mouthed words, pantomimed gestures, and angry, exaggerated looks.

“Don’t be crazy,” Jonah hissed. “You can’t go with him!”

“You’re the one that always wants to stop and talk to every weirdo we meet,” she countered. “And what do you mean ‘you’? We’re both going.”

“Uh uh,” Jonah said. “This is your idea. If you get murdered, I’m not saving you.”

With an exasperated look, she motioned for Jonah to follow and set out after Samyel, who was nearly out of sight. Jonah reluctantly followed. Irene gave him a wry look as they trailed, side by side, a few feet behind Samyel. “You know, at some point, we’re going to have to talk about your propensity for picking fights with people bigger than yourself.”

“What’s propensity?”

“A really bad habit that you should stop.”

Jonah’s expression turned unreadable for a long moment, as if he was debating with himself, and then he looked away, stuffing his hands in his pockets and bowing his head to stare at the sidewalk as they went.

“I’ve changed the password, by the way, so you can’t do that again,” he said darkly.

She grabbed his arm, pulling him to a halt. “Jonah, listen to me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate you trying to protect me. I do. Even when it’s annoying and misplaced, like with Ernest. You’re the bravest, sweetest guy I’ve ever met, but I’m dead. You’re not. I’m already probably going to Hell for dragging you along on this adventure. Don’t add being the cause of your death to my list of crimes, okay?”

The tips of his ears had turned pink and his head was down, shoulders hunched. Then, to her surprise, he suddenly looked at her, his eyes inquiring as he searched her face. She didn’t know what he was looking for, but he was gazing at her so earnestly that she blushed.

Thereafter (Afterlife #2)
Nothing life is free. Turns out, nothing in the afterlife is, either.

When recently-deceased Irene Dunphy decided to “follow the light,” she thought she’d end up in Heaven or Hell and her journey would be over.

Boy, was she wrong.

She soon finds that “the other side” isn’t a final destination but a kind of purgatory where billions of spirits are stuck, with no way to move forward or back. Even worse, deranged phantoms known as “Hungry Ghosts” stalk the dead, intent on destroying them. The only way out is for Irene to forget her life on earth—including the boy who risked everything to help her cross over—which she’s not about to do.

As Irene desperately searches for an alternative, help unexpectedly comes in the unlikeliest of forms: a twelfth-century Spanish knight and a nineteenth-century American cowboy. Even more surprising, one offers a chance for redemption; the other, love. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to have either if she can’t find a way to escape the hellish limbo where they’re all trapped.

Her hand touched a rock, one of the flat beach stones she’d seen on graves. She picked it up, laying it flat in her palm. She didn’t remember picking this up. In fact, she had been careful not to take any. It had seemed disrespectful and too much like stealing to remove them, and while she’d seen a few here—both loose and piled in cairns—she hadn’t picked any of them up. There had been no point. What would she do with a rock?

No wonder her bag was so heavy.

She tossed the rock over her shoulder and heard it hit the ground with a satisfying thud some distance away. It felt good to be rid of something, to make a decision and be sure it was the right one.

She surveyed the pile again and then grabbed a small handful of paper animals. She picked one up between a finger and thumb. It was a horse. Irene had been in Chinatown during Chinese Ghost Festival, a holiday in which the living left offerings for the dead. These offerings included paper replicas of things people thought the dead would need in the afterlife—money, clothes, television sets, and even animals. Irene had admired the precise and delicate folds of the Origami figures and had picked some up to admire them more closely. Without thinking, she had dropped them into her bag and apparently been carrying them ever since.

Well, even Jonah couldn’t argue with her on this—there was no way she was going to need a paper horse on her journey through the afterlife. Plus, these didn’t hold any sentimental value. She cast the horse onto a nearby fire and watched as the paper curled and blackened in the low-burning flames.

The fire leapt and seemed to glow blue for a moment. Irene tensed—what was happening?

Thick black smoke began to rise slowly from the flames, spiraling upward in a thickening column. The smoke grew denser and then elongated sideways. Irene leapt to her feet and backed away, her heart pounding. Something was forming in the fire.

The smoke was taking shape now; there was purpose and design in its movements. She could see a long, horizontal back, four legs, a neck, and finally a head and a tail. The smoke swirled with a final flourish and then shuddered into the solidity of a smoke-colored horse. The animal blinked passively. Then it violently shook its head, blew out a breath, and delicately picked its way forward out of the fire. It immediately put its head down and began to lip the ground, looking for food.

Irene stared stupidly at it. “Are you shitting me?”

Purchase the First Book:


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  1. Great post! And I love the sound of these books! And having your very own cat/pooka is fascinating! I've lived with three cats over the years and none of them meowed. Maybe they had pooka blood too? :)

    1. I've always had cats, since I was six, and there's always one in the batch that just doesn't seem to quite be a cat. The best one was Norman. I came home one day to find him sitting in front of the kitchen cabinets with six of the other cats sitting in a half circle around him. He was demonstrating to them how to open the kitchen cabinets like he was teaching a class. I came into the room and stopped short in surprise. Norman turned and looked at me, as if annoyed at being interrupted and just stared at me. I turned and slid quietly out of the room - it was all very weird/creepy. :-)

    2. Alexia, I love the thought of having a magical creature in my home too. :) Hmm, you might have a pooka! :D Thank you for visiting.

  2. I did not remember that from Jane Eyre

    1. It's such a subtle reference that most people don't notice/remember it. I think it only stuck with me b/c I stopped to look the word up and then was like "hey, wait a second...what is suck a whimsical reference doing in this story?" It almost seems like the reference to the Gytrash wanders in from some other story - it doesn't seem to go. :-)

    2. Blodeuedd, I can't help ya, I've never read Jane Eyre. Thank you!

  3. I knew exactly what you were talking about in Jane Eyre. I didn't remember Gytrash but I did remember him accusing her of being some sort of fae creature. :) Great post and love the kitty. Hm... I had a kitty that wasn't kitty like either. *ponders* :)

    1. I've had really dumb cats, really smart cats, weird cats, etc. but Pooka is definitely the first cat I've ever had that I've been 98% sure she's not actually a cat. I'm just not sure what she is :-)

    2. Oh Melissa (B&T) Glad you caught that in Jane Eyre too! :D And I'm starting to think there are many more kitties that aren't kitties. ;) They are watching us!

  4. Terri, thank you for the great post. I've been one to wonder about the creatures we keep in our home.

    The stories sound great. The best to you!

  5. Loved it. Bruce is awesome. I have worked with her before.

  6. think I have the first book. Thank you for sharing!


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