Friday, 31 August 2012


Scribble City Central's twenty-seventh Fantabulous Friday comes from Ann Halam (or as some of you may know her better, Gwyneth Jones).  I first came across Ann's writing when I was an editor at Orchard Books.  Her novel King Death's Garden was on our very first list there, and I still have a treasured copy of it on my bookshelf. The Daybreaker and its sequels were the first fantasy books I ever worked on, and I learned a great deal from Ann's meticulous attention to world-building detail which would stand me in very good stead when I jumped the fence and became a writer myself.

It was therefore, with much pleasure that I discovered Snakehead, her retelling of the Perseus myth, some years later. Being a  refashioner of Greek myths myself, I'm a pretty harsh critic, and it has to be good to impress me.  Snakehead does the business admirably, pulling off the tricky job of making the reader see an old story in a new light, and from a different angle. If you are a fan of, say Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles, or Adele Geras' Troy, this is one you'll enjoy.  I can't think of anyone better than Ann to hold a mirror up to the Gorgon sisters, and shall now pass you over to her to reveal all about:

M for Medusa
Scary Snakehead Sister

AH: In Greek and Roman Mythology, Medusa is one of three sisters called The Gorgons: daughters of two very ancient Greek sea deities called Phorcys and Ceto, who had a whole brood of monster children. Together, this family represents all the terrors of the ocean. But the Gorgons, Euryale, Sthenno and Medusa, lived on land, guarding the Golden Apples in the Garden of the Hesperides. Their form was human, but they had snakes for hair, invulnerable scaled skin, wicked fangs, hands “made of brass”; and their blood was deadly poisonous. And their big, flashing eyes had a glance that turned anyone who looked on them to stone.
Euryale and Sthenno were immortal, but Medusa was not...

The hero Perseus, son of Zeus, who had grown up incognito on the island of Serifos, was tricked by the tyrant ruler of the island into agreeing to go on a quest, and bring back the Gorgon’s Head. The tyrant, Polydectes had designs on Perseus’s young mother (who was Danae of the Shower of Gold, the imprisoned princess in another story). Obviously he’d spotted that a grown-up Perseus would be a problem, and wanted to get rid of him. But the Goddess Athini (Athene) intervened. She gave Perseus a weapon, the sacred harpe, a mirror-bright shield, a Medusa-proof pouch in which he could safely carry the loot; and detailed instructions on how to kill the monster and get away with it... So instead of becoming a statue in the Gorgons’ Garden, Perseus returned to the island with the terrifying Snakehead, plus a highly eligible princess of Ethiopia called Andromeda. He turned  Medusa’s stone-striking gaze  on bad-guy Polydectes and his cronies —taking aim safely by looking in the mirror-shield. Serifos was freed from a tyrant, while Perseus and Andromeda went on to found the great city of Mycenae; Homer’s well-built Mycenae rich in gold... And a dynasty of rule in direct ancestral line to classical Athens itself.

Meanwhile Athini took the Severed Head of the Medusa, and placed it in honour on her shield, as a symbol of her ferocious protective power.  Perseus and Andromeda are also famous for being the only pair of lovers in the entire Mythological Cosmos of ancient Greece to live happily ever after.
I expect I first met the story of Perseus and Andromeda in a collection of Greek Myths and Legends, when I was a child. I didn’t think much of “Greek Myths” at the time: I far preferred fairytales, because Fairytales were proper stories, with adventures and exciting plots, and people you could care about, whereas anyone could tell the Myths were just educational pictures in words: useful information about the world, dressed up as  memorable monsters and mighty divinities.

Later in life I travelled to Greece, and the islands of the Aegean, and fell in love with the story of Perseus and Andromeda, because I realised that this, “the greatest of all the Greek myths” is a proper story, maybe the ancestor of all fairytales. It  has so many connections, so many trails you can follow. On one level it’s a hero-tale, on another it’s a “myth of origin” the Athenians invented, or adopted, for their city, but it seems to hold within it mystery and buried treasure far older than that. The Medusa is a terrifying monster, yet she’s also described (in the most ancient sources, not just in later versions), as a beautiful woman. She’s a fearsome Weapon of Mass Destruction, but when you look at her in a mirror; when you reflect on her, she’ll do you no harm, and her beauty is restored. She’s a Gorgon, which means Horror, but her name (Medusa) means Protection.

A lot has been written about how the Medusa symbolises Woman, and how Woman has two faces, the terrifying monster mother who steals Man’s potency (Freud), and the beautiful protective mother. It’s also said that the myth of the Medusa’s “defeat”  represents the fall of ancient matriarchal culture around the Mediterranean, and the triumph of patriarchy. Me, I don’t think so. I find this is an unnecessary fabrication. The myth of the Medusa is a very ancient myth, predating that particular battle of the sexes. It’s  about being human, about the frightening and double-faced powers of a thinking being. The fact that the monster and the protector are both female, in this story, is a puzzle only if you can’t imagine a world in which the people making up the stories were women themselves...

My version of the Perseus and Andromeda story (Snakehead) reflects my love of travelling around the Greek end of the Mediterranean, and my respect for the heroism of fairytale princesses; Andromeda plays an important part. But it equally reflects my respect for the Medusa, and for the wise storytellers who knew already, long ago, that all the worst monsters we invent come from the depths of our selves, and from the conflict of our divided nature: the powerful animal that thinks.

SCC: I hadn't thought of the Medusa/Perseus/Andromeda story as the 'ancestor of all fairytales' before, but it makes perfect sense.  Thank you for visiting and for providing so much interesting food for thought with this post, Ann.

You can buy Ann Halam's Snakehead by clicking HERE 

Next week: Liz Kessler frolics with M for Mermaids.  Bring a swimsuit! 

Friday, 24 August 2012


Scribble City Central's twenty-sixth Fantabulous Friday comes from James Dawson, author of Hollow Pike.  I love finding talented new YA authors to read, and James's debut novel doesn't disappoint in any way - he's definitely a writer to watch, as I think he'll just go on getting better and better.  Apart from having a spookily scary setting and an edge-of-the-seat plot involving murder and witchcraft, James has also tackled the themes of LGBT teens and school bullying head on in this book, and done it brilliantly.  Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog will know that both of those things are close to my heart, and I'm always more than delighted to find another author who cares about them too.  

Hollow Pike may be set in deepest Yorkshire, but Fulton High School has a definite whiff of California to it - with a rugby hunk in place of American Football jocks, and its very own crop of Queen Bees and Wannabes.  This may explain in part why the book and James made it to the finals of the Queen of Teen Awards (I just wish it had won!), and I reckon it's a prime candidate for being snapped up by a film producer.  I'd certainly go and watch the movie, so I hope someone out there in Hollywood is listening!  

The whole witchcraft element is woven in very cleverly indeed, and James has clearly done his research.  There is no direct mention of Lucifer in the book, although the Horned God makes a brief appearance.  It's always been fascinating to me to see how the threads of the ancient Celtic belief in Cernunnos have been tangled and twisted with those of the Christian faith to make a monster - so I'm now delighted to hand over to James to take you into the fiery realm of:

L for Lucifer
Horned God or Morningstar?

JD: You might well think of him as Satan, The Devil, Beelzebub, The Horned God, and certainly something evil…but YA fiction owes a massive debt to Lucifer. Meet the ultimate fallen angel and the original bad boy…

I was assigned Lucifer, I imagine, due to the witches present in my debut novel, Hollow Pike. According to texts like The Malleus Maleficarum, witches turned their back on Christianity to serve Satan. I knew Lucifer was another moniker for the devil, so started researching the beast for this article. However, I soon discovered that I’d got Lucifer all wrong. I’d imagined, as I suspect many would, a terrible horned beast with cloven hooves. All the engravings I’d seen when researching Hollow Pike show Lucifer to be monstrous. Far from it. If you trace Lucifer back, he started life, according to 3rd Century Bible texts, as the brightest star in the heavens. In the beginning, Lucifer, an angel was God’s special favourite. He had devastating good looks – the most beautiful of all the angels. Mere mortals would do the most YA of all things… ‘gasp’.

The character is brought to life in Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. As well as his beauty, he is arrogant and charismatic, every inch the charmer. In the poem, he begins a rebellion against God, a power struggle for the control of Heaven. He fails in his bid and is spectacularly cast out of Paradise and introduced to Hell, where he memorably states ‘better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.’
Now embittered, Lucifer dedicates his eternity to tempting people away from the righteous path of traditional Christianity. This, ladies and gents, is where it gets sexy. As authors and readers we know that the bad boy is always more interesting than the pure-hearted hero. Look at Eric Northman in True Blood; Cam Briel in Fallen; Sebastian in The Mortal Instruments; all fall into the category of ‘temptation’ for the female main character. It’s not hard to understand why any young witch would do a little dance around a fire for the most beautiful angel in existence with a side-line in sin.

In traditional Christian terms (and indeed for Milton), Lucifer represents sex. It is he who encourages Adam and Eve to get jiggy with it in the garden of Eden while disguised as a not-at-all symbolic snake. I suppose the message is ‘it doesn’t matter how sexy he is, you MUST RESIST’. Thankfully, attitudes have moved on now and perhaps we’re more forgiving of both Lucifer and anyone who might wish to submit to his charms. With time definitions of sin have shifted and a bit of sex isn’t quite the anathema it once was. Therefore, Lucifer and all the characters he’s inspired aren’t automatically villainous anymore. The Lucifer figure has become an anti-hero, and a very desirable one at that. After all isn’t both fiction, and real life, all the more fun for a little temptation?

There are no Lucifer figures in the Hollow Pike world (as yet, who knows further down the line), if you’ve read the novel, you’ll know that the witches are a force for good. However, my research for this piece inspired me hugely. Don’t be surprised if a future James Dawson release features a Lucifer-like bad boy…or even the man himself….

SCC: Absolutely can't wait for that future JD release!  Do please be tempted by the Devil man in your next book. Maybe an Eric Northman lookalike *dreams a little*... Thanks so much for visiting, James, I hope it will be the first of many times.  

You can buy Hollow Pike by clicking HERE.

Next week: Ann Halam holds up her mirror to M for Medusa.  Cover your eyes!

Friday, 17 August 2012


Scribble City Central's twenty-fifth Fantabulous Friday comes from MG Harris, teen author extraordinaire.  MG’s adventure series, The Joshua Files features Mayan mythology, the doomsday prophecy of 2012 and time travel. The fourth book in the series, Dark Parallel, features the teenage hero, Josh, being flung back in time to the age of the classic Maya, with human sacrifice, serpents and a manuscript hidden somewhere in the ancient city of Calakmul.
Dark Parallel

I've been following Josh's adventures with increasing excitement as each book appears, and Apocalypse Moon, the latest and last in the series got my ultimate accolade of Wow! (Factor 10).  Like the other books, it's fast moving, ultra-exciting and has more twists and turns than a feathered serpent's tail. The last novel in a series can sometimes leave the reader asking plaintively 'but what about...?' in an unsatisfied kind of way.  Not in this book. MG ties up all loose ends and answers all questions brilliantly, as well as providing a satisfyingly thrilling conclusion which left my heart beating faster and my nails in danger of being terminated with extreme prejudice.  What I particularly like about these books is that they've rekindled my interest in Mayan mythology - something I dipped into during my shamanic studies many years ago, but never very deeply.  I knew about Quetzalcoatl, but not much else, so I'm off to delve into my library and find out more. While I'm doing that,  MG will take you into the realms of:

K for Kukulcan
Feathered Serpent Man

MGH: Every year on the spring equinox, thousands of people gather at the ruins of the ancient Maya-Toltec city of Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the ancient world. They wait for the midday sun to strike the main staircase of the central temple – El Castillo – also known as the Temple of Kukulkan (pron. coo-cool-kan).

A mythical beast; part man, part quetzal bird, part serpent, Kukulkan comes alive when the sun’s rays light up triangles on the pyramid’s staircase, all the way to the giant serpent’s head at the base of the temple.

The pantheistic religion of the Maya revered many deities. The feathered serpent, Kukulkan, wasn’t necessarily the most powerful – he wasn’t the creator figure, nor the god of rain. Yet Kukulkan is the most distinctive of the Mesoamerican deities - and may well have been the harbinger of doom for the last civilisation to worship him – the Aztecs.

It’s not clear that the Mayans can truly claim K’uk’ulkan as their own. At the height of the Classic Maya around the sixth century AD, another Mesoamerican civilisation, the powerful and enigmatic citizens of Teotihuacan in the central plains of Mexico, also worshipped a feathered serpent god, known in that part of the world as Quetzalcoatl.

Because we know so little of the mythology of this deity, it’s not clear in which direction the lore travelled. It’s likely that the two serpent gods were once distinct, and that once merchant travel from Teotihuacan brought myths of Quetzalcoatl to the Yucatan coast, the two myths merged.
What seems very likely is that however the Mayan Kukulkan became the Mexican Quetzalcoatl, it spelled trouble for the culture that would, centuries later, add the feathered serpent to their pantheon.
Once you start delving into the iconography and symbolism of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl, you enter a mythology that feels extremely foreign to a Eurocentric sensibility. Aside from the native cuisine, modern urban Mexico’s culture is far more strongly influenced by the Spanish colonization than by any indigenous culture. So what you see in Mexico’s incredible museums of anthropology represent just as disconnected from present-day reality for most Mexicans as they would for North American or European visitors.

The feathered serpent deity seems primarily to be connected to fertility, and to warfare. The Mesoamerican peoples developed around agriculture, architecture and war. The cult of human sacrifice was widespread and was practised to some degree by every civilisation there. War was one way to ensure a steady supply of sacrificial victims. The sacrifices kept the rains coming, which kept the corn growing, which fed the troops and the builders. From blood to maize; one big circle of death.
One by one, each civilisation rose and declined, usually to be replaced with a watered-down version of the last. The last great Mesoamerican civilisation, the Mexica or Aztecs, may have had a capital city of temples and aqueducts, which dazzled the Spanish conquistadors who arrived with Hernan Cortes in the sixteenth century. But the Aztecs couldn’t write – that particular knowledge had already been lost with the collapse of the Maya around 1200AD.

If the Aztecs had wanted to see off the Spanish, they easily had the numbers. The Spanish had an ally, which they must have interpreted as the answer to their Christian prayers. But that ally was no other than Kukulkan himself.

The hybrid bird-serpent had, via the Maya, acquired human characteristics. The ruler of the Aztecs, Moctezuma, would have known that Kukulkan had a white, bearded face. He would arrive from the east. He would bring knowledge that would advance the fortunes of his people. Or maybe destroy his people. The actual destiny wasn’t clear. But it was unavoidable. Resistance was futile.
So when Cortes rode into the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, with his white skin and beard, with the black plume in his conquistador helmet, Moctezuma caught a touch of future shock. Destiny obliterated his own rule.

For thousands of years, the Mesoamerican civilisations had essentially failed to innovate. Theirs was a static culture. The job of a king was to maintain that. Only the gods could change things. 
Kukulkan/Quetzelcoatl represented the ineluctable will of the gods. Moctezuma was helpless in the face of his beliefs. The Spanish captured the Aztec ruler and his capital swiftly fell, almost without a fight.
The central defeat of the Aztecs was achieved the hands of a tiny handful of Europeans. It’s a story that everyone should tell their children to prove the power of an idea over force. Or maybe it’s an excuse, invented a decade later by bewildered Mexicans in New Spain struggling to comprehend how it was that they’d handed their nation over to European conquerors.
Fact or fiction, it’s a fitting end to a bizarre story; a hybrid creature that straddled the unlikely counterpoints of fertility and death.

SCC:  I had no idea about the connection between Cortes and Kukulkan - fascinating.  Thanks so much for enlightening me and my lovely blog readers, MG.
Don't forget to leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win the signed book!

You can buy MG Harris's latest books by clicking HERE.

Next week: James Dawson, author of the smashing YA debut novel, Hollow Pike, ventures into the fiery realm of L for Lucifer.  See you then!

Friday, 10 August 2012


Scribble City Central's twenty-fourth Fantabulous Friday comes from Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of the Modern Faerie Tales series, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside. I loved all three Modern Faerie Tales, which mix life in modern-day America with the darker world of the Seelie Court.

There's a bite and a twist to Holly's writing which I find particularly appealing.   I also very much like the way she digs deep under the surface of characters who on the face of it should be unattractive, and makes them sympathetic.  I particularly like Ravus the troll for just this reason.

Holly's latest series, White Cat, Red Glove and the just-published Black Heart follow the fortunes of Cassel Sharp, a teenage Curseworker, and take her in a different direction entirely.  The world of the Curseworkers is an underworld of murder and magic mixed with life at a preppy school in Manhattan.  It's a heady brew of love and moral dilemmas, and it's GOOD.  I've just finished Black Heart, and I whipped through it at such a rate that the pages turned in a blur of speed.  It was that exciting.  Sometimes when you come to the end of a series, the ending makes you, as a reader, go 'Meh'.  Not this one.  I'm not putting up any spoilers by telling you that I wanted to throw my hat in the air and go 'Wheee!" If you haven't read Holly, I'd highly recommend that you do, and here she is to tell you about:

K for Kelpie
Scottish Shapeshifter

HB: The kelpie is a Scottish water horse that haunts streams, rivers and lochs, luring lonely travelers to their deaths. The kelpie takes on the form of an ink-black horse or a dark-eyed human boy, but always keeps some aspect of its supernatural self, often waterweeds tangled in his hair. They’re said to delight in storms and to make a sound much like thunder. Should you see a kelpie, never be enticed to ride on its back, because the kelpie is compelled to rush into the water and drown its rider.

Sir Walter Scott put a kelpie into his “From the Abbot” poem:
“From haunted spring to grassy ring
Troop goblin, elf, and fairy ;
And the kelpie must flit from the black bog-pit,
And the brownie must not tarry ;
To Limbo Lake,
Their way to take,
With scarce the pith to flee.
Sing hay-trix, trim-go-trix,
Under the greenwood tree.”

Not all accounts of kelpies are terrible. There are also accounts of kelpies coming to the aid of the lost, of bearing sacks of meal and other burdens. There’s even a way to tame a kelpie – by stealing its bridle. Bridled kelpies make very strong and clever horses, but if they find their bridle again, they will (quite rightly) seek revenge.

The first time I read about the kelpie was in Faeries, described and illustrated by Alan Lee and Brian Froud. There is an absolutely gorgeous drawing of a water horse rising from a lake, simultaneously terrifying and compelling. It stayed in my mind and that picture, along with the rest of the book, fueled my desire to read other folklore. If you’d like to see some more images from the book, check out the World of Froud website.

The thing that fascinates me about kelpies is part of what fascinates me about faeries in general – the fact that they are other than human. They are capricious and dangerous, with a moral system unlike ours. The things they count as high crimes aren’t human things and their what they count as punishment is always some form of poetic justice. Their rewards are, sometimes, just as barbed.

I put a kelpie in my first novel, Tithe. Here’s a tiny excerpt from where the protagonist, Kaye, calls him from the water:

“Its color was not so much black, but an emerald so deep that it looked black. And the nacreous eyes were gleaming like pearls. Still, when it regarded Kaye, she was forced to think of the research Corny had done. That was chilling enough.

“The kelpie strode onto the shore and shook its great mane, spraying her and Corny with glittering droplets of swamp water. Kaye held up her hands, but it hardly helped.”

And then:

“The creature looked at Kaye and shifted, and where it had been stood a young man, nude and still dripping, hair tangled with rushes.”

In Tithe, the kelpie is charming and lethal, a murderer who’s fascinated with broken things. He’s a perfect character to warn us what the world would be like if faeries were free to charm humans without any leaders to check their worst impulses. He’s also a great character to remind us of all the things we like about faeries and maybe shouldn’t.

SCC: "All the things we like about faeries and maybe shouldn't".  Yes, that rings a bell, Holly!  I think that's very much part of the fascination for me, and I am sure others here will agree. Thank you so much for visiting, and I hope this post brings many more readers your way.

You can find all of Holly Black's books mentioned in this piece by clicking the link HERE.

Next week: M.G. Harris, author of The Joshua Files kicks off a Mexican wave with K for Kukulkan.  Hasta la vista, amigos!

Friday, 3 August 2012


For Scribble City Central's twenty-third Fantabulous Friday, I am delighted to welcome one of my favourite authors of all time, Kevin Crossley-Holland. I've known Kevin for many years, and was lucky enough to be part of the editorial team working on his master oeuvre, British Folk Tales, (or as it is now, The Magic Lands). He has won more awards than you can shake a stick at, including the Carnegie Medal, and has just taken on the important post of President of the School Library Association at this crucial time for the health and salvation of all libraries in the UK.

All that aside, Kevin is, for me, THE master of British and Norse myth and legend.  His writing combines a deep love and understanding of the way story and words combine to make an irresistible whole, with a passion for the kind of meticulous scholarship and research which makes a book sing with authenticity.  He has brought all of these talents to his latest work, The Viking Sagas.  The first of these, Bracelet of Bones, was published last year, and the second, Scramasax, comes out at the end of this month from Quercus.  I've been privileged to read an early copy of the latter, and I can tell you that once started it was unputdownable.  The Viking Sagas follow Solveig, daughter of Halfdan on her journey from her home in Trondheim through the Baltic States and finally (at the end of Bracelet of Bones), to Miklagard, which we now call Istanbul.  Scramasax takes Solveig and the reader further still - though I won't put up any plot spoilers. Both books are full of excitement, danger and tremendous storytelling skills.

It will not, I think, spoil anything to tell you that Kevin's own journey towards these books started with the discovery of Viking runes reading 'Halfdan' carved on a high balustrade in Hagia Sophia. By such things are a writer's inspiration and imagination fed.  The two sagas which evolved from this small but serendipitous discovery are written with the eye of a poet and the language of a bard.  Solveig is a compellingly attractive character, brave, determined - herself a creator - but what I liked most of all about her was her questioning mind.  She does not accept that things are the way they are, nor that she cannot change them, and in Scramasax particularly this questioning and thoughtful attitude comes through very strongly.  Her clear-eyed appraisal of Harald Hardrada's character is a perfectly judged piece of writing - and her reactions to seeing the bloodier side of war for the first time are both moving and viscerally poignant. I think she will speak to teenage readers in a way that they will recognise and relate to emotionally, even though she comes from a time so far away from our modern age.

Equally important for a writer of historical novels is the ability to envision 'how it would have been', to make those dry, dusty nuggets of research come to life.  As always with writing of this sort, the devil is in the detail, and Kevin does not fail here either.  His accurate description of the way it would feel to be in a dromon during a squall of the island of Chios made me feel as seasick and scared as if I'd been in the hold with Solveig and the horses myself - there are many such moments of 'drawing in', throughout these novels - small perfect touches which bring the books to vivid life.

Another thread woven through both books is that of religious myth, (there's a very subtle nod towards the great Snorri Sturluson, who wrote the Edda and the Heimskringla over a century after these books were set). The delicate tensions and balances between Norse, Christian and Muslim beliefs in that period are deftly handled, but it's the Norse stories of the gods which catch and hold the reader's imagination.  There's no one better than Kevin at recreating those particular myths and it is with great pleasure therefore that I hand you over to him now to tell you about

Monstrous Serpent of Midgard

KCH: Who or what could be more ghastly than the three children of the Norse trickster Loki and his giant-mistress?

The first is the huge wolf Fenrir who can only be bound with magic ribbon made by the dwarfs from six things: the sound a cat makes when it walks, a woman’s beard, the roots of a mountain, a bear’s sinews, the breath of a fish and a bird’s spittle.

The youngest is Hel.  Above the waist she’s a beautiful pink woman, and below the waist a greenish-black corpse. Her bed is called Sick Bed and the curtains around it Glimmering Misfortune.  She rules the world of the dead.

The middle child is an absolutely terrifying serpent called Jormungand – an Old Norse word meaning ‘huge monster’.  Odin, father of the gods, takes one look at him and hurls him down from his kingdom, Asgard.  He drops him into the churning ocean surrounding Midgard (Middle Earth), and there the serpent grows thicker, and more gristly, and longer and longer, until he’s  able to encircle the whole earth and bite on his own tail.

Jormungand and Thor, god of the sky and of law and order, are deadly enemies, and two of the racy, ice-bright myths tell of their encounters. The third and last one is still in the future.

First, Thor goes fishing.  He uses for bait the head of Heaven Bellower, a black ox, and Jormungand takes it.  Thor hauls him over the gunwale of his boat and whacks him on the head with his hammer, but the serpent tears himself free, and sinks back to the bottom of the sea.

When Thor travels to the world of the giants and wrestles there with a grey cat, he has no idea that he is actually wrestling with  Jormungand in disguise.  ‘When you made him lift that paw,’ the Giant-King later tells Thor, ‘Jormungand all but grazed his back on the sky’.

In a terrible battle before the end of the world, gods and humans and giants and dwarfs and monsters will fight, and Loki will join in, sailing in a boat made of dead men’s fingernails and toenails. That’s when the Midgard Serpent and Thor will come to grips for a third time. Gaping Jormungand will slither up on to dry land, spewing venom…

Ah!  What glorious stories these are, the myths told by the Vikings and first written down by a 13th-century Icelander, Snorri Sturluson. Lying on my bunk bed,  I heard some of them as a boy from my father; later,I read retellings of them; and then, after camping for part of one summer in Iceland with my two young son, I spent four years making my own versions (The Penguin Book of Norse Myths).

I don’t really like snakes or sea-snakes.  They make my stomach loop the loop.  I don’t even like eels (except to eat). And I don’t like evil Jormungand – not one bit. But somehow I knew about him long before I heard stories about him or learned his name. I met him in my dreams. I met him at Whipsnade Zoo.  I met him in the stories of 'The Lambton Worm' and ‘The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh’ (in Old English, wyrm means dragon or serpent) and in the great poem, Beowulf.  I met him in the Garden of Eden.  He was always there, and he always will be, for as long as you and I live. 

SCC:   Thank you, Kevin, and I hope this will be the first of many future visits to Scribble City Central.  As always, you have fired imagination and my mind is filled with pictures - I'm sure all my lovely blog readers will feel the same way.

 If you'd like to read Kevin's books, you can buy them by clicking HERE. 

Next week:  Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of Modern Faerie Tales and The Curse Workers series, talks about K for Kelpie.  See you then.

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