Monday, May 12, 2014

Mythical Monday (49)

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:
Urban Fantasy author 
Jim Stratton
Talking Japanese Samurai, Tengu, and Tanuki.

Hi all,

I’ve been doubly blessed of late. Danielle Ackley-McPhail recently accepted my Japanese samurai fantasy for the next Bad-Ass Faeries anthology, It’s Elemental, due out this May. (For those of you living under a rock, this is the fourth installment of the award-winning anthologies featuring faeries, pixies, and their ilk.) And now Melissa Hayden has invited me to enlighten you good folks on some of the marvelous creatures that populate this next installment of Bad-Ass Faeries in her Mythical Monday blog feature.

It’s Elemental follows along the path of its predecessors, highlighting the magical creatures that share this mundane world of ours, bringing with them magic and wonder. It’s Elemental goes a step further than the others by bringing you fifteen tales of the elemental creatures in five groups; earth, air fire, water, and spirit. More important, the mystically creatures featured in this installment are drawn from the rich tapestry of myths and folklore of many cultures.

My own humble tale is about a young samurai lady, daughter of the ruler of a realm, and how she defeats and befriends a tengu, and his pet, a tanuki. The story occurs during the age of the warlords in ancient Japan, when bloody war was a constant presence, and the plotting and strategizing of the daimyo lords make Machiavelli look like a Pollyanna. Into this steps a tengu courtier from the court of the king of the tengu with a challenge for the lord of the land’s warriors.

Both of these creatures have been part of the rich Japanese folklore for well over a thousand years. Tengu first appeared in popular tales in the 8th century and are described as either bird-like or dog-like. Over the centuries they evolved in the tales from pure elemental demons, ethereal and ghostlike, into tall, powerful beasts with blue or red skins and long noses. They are formidable warriors, skilled and near unkillable, who delight in teasing and challenging we mortals. They especially love to plague Buddhists monks whose faith isn’t as firm as it should be. In one tale, a tengu tricks a gullible fool to hike deep into the wilderness with false dreams of hidden riches, then carries the monk to the top of the highest tree in the forest and leaves him there as night is falling.

Tanuki are a lighter-hearted creature in the folktales, resembling furry badgers with a mischievous, jolly demeanors and a taste for harmless pranks. They are master shape-shifters, famous for hiding from us mundanes as ordinary household objects. One tale tells how a silly tanuki sneaks into a farmer’s home to steal the sweet rice cakes the farmer’s wife has prepared for farmer’s mid-day snack before she leaves for the day. When the farmer comes in from the fields, the tanuki hides by transforming himself into an iron tea pot. Unfortunately, the farmer wants tea with his rice cakes and puts the tanuki teapot on the fire. What followed is a proper farce reminiscent of the keystone cops. However, all ends well with the tanuki and the farmer becoming fast friends.

In my own tale, “Ties That Bind”, Ajiro No Akume, a retainer of the King of the Tengu, appears at the keep of the Daimyo Murikami Takeyoshi to challenge his samurai to a duel to the death. The Daimyo’s young daughter Kiku unexpectedly accepts the challenge and defeats the mighty beast with trickery when it’s clear the clan’s samurai would be slaughtered. As part of the wager, she wins a tenuki, the King of the Tengu’s personal pet that Ajiro is charged with keeping for his Lord. So Ajiro is bound to the little girl by honor, and by his fear of what his Lord will do to him if he learns his courtier was beaten by a tiny mortal child. And so their adventures begin.

Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental will be released at Balticon at the end of May. If you are there, drop by the Dark Quest Books launch party (Sunday, May 25, from 7pm to 9pm in the Con Suite), buy a copy and say hello to the authors and editors. If you can’t, visit and order your copy today. Enjoy!

Author Bio:
Professionally, James R. Stratton is a government lawyer with twenty plus years experience litigating child abuse cases. Vocationally, he has been writing science fiction and fantasy tales for ten years with over twenty-five publications and counting. His recent appearance has been in three of the Big Pulp anthologies, Dead Souls published by Morigan Books and Rum& Runestones published by Dragon Moon Press. Most recently he is broke new ground personally as both a co-author and co-editor with the inestimable Robert E. Waters of the anthology Fantastic Futures 13 published by Padwolf Press in May 2013. Plan on meeting Danielle, the editor, and the other authors at the official launch at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention this May.


Silvia said...

Japanese folklore is always very welcome and a Japanese samurai fantasy sounds awesome! Thanks for the great post, I'm curious about It's Elemental now!

Blodeuedd said...

Cool! I did now know about these :)

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I love folklore we don't often see. This sounds fab and thanks so much for bringing it to my attention!

Kimberly @ Turning the Pages said...

I love Japanese Folklore and wish we saw more of it in fiction. Excellent post!
-Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

Melliane said...

It's really interesting because it's also something we don't see a lot in books and I love to learn more. Thanks for the post.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Silvia, I was facinated with this post. The Japanese folklore used sounds amazing. :) Thank you!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Blodeuedd, this is one of the posts that really has brought new myths/mythical creatures to the highlight. I like that. :)

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Melissa (B&T) Yes, I'm with you on that. :) And so glad to hear about this one.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Thank you Kimberly, glad to hear you enjoyed this post. It would be amazing to hear more about Japanese Folklore. :)

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Melliane, thank you. Glad you liked the post. I found it so neat to learn something new. :)

Jaclyn Canada said...

These are new to me! I love learning about new creatures so much and there is a lot of information in this little post. I enjoyed reading it so much. Thank you for sharing! Jaclyn @ JC's Book Haven.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Jaclyn Canada, I really enjoyed reading this creation as well. So new to me. I don't read much with Japanese mythology in it, so it's great to get it. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Silva,

Thanks for the kind words. I have been fascinated with Japanese mythology since I was young. What most people do not understand is much of the folk tales are dark cautionary tales about not following the rules. The Japanese have a saying, "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down." My heroine is somewhat unusual as a girl samurai. However, they did exist, and some were very accomplished and deadly.
If you want to read the story, the anthology is now available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you go to Balticon, Dark Quest Books is holding a launch party on Sunday.
Jim Stratton

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

Still getting the hang of blogging. If you want to read the real Japanese folk tales, you will want to look for one of several collections from the late 19th and early 20th century. You will get the not politically correct versions, with death and bloody vengeance. Much of the modern collections have been cleaned up for modern sensibilites.

Jim Stratton

Anonymous said...

Dear Kimberley,

I have written several over the years. One other that is currently available is "God Emperess of the Sea" published last year in Rum and Runestones by Dark Moon Books.

Jim Stratton

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Thank you Jim.

Awesome to hear the stories and they have really made me curious. :)

It was great to have you by!