Tales as old as time: Samantha-Ellen Bound on folklore and fantasy

by |October 26, 2021
Seven Wherewithal Way - Samantha-Ellen Bound - Header Banner

Samantha-Ellen Bound is a writer, editor and children’s author. From humble beginnings as an eight-year old writing Goosebumps rip-offs, she now has many years experience working with books – as a bookseller at Top Titles, reviewer, editor, production and marketing coordinator, in education, you name it! A huge supporter of #LoveOzMG, Samantha-Ellen has been shortlisted for numerous short story awards, including most recently the Peter Carey and Write Around the Murray short story awards. She was also shortlisted for the Vogel Prize in 2018 and been a recipient of a May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship. Samantha-Ellen was born in Tasmania but now lives in Mordialloc, Melbourne.

Today, Samantha Ellen-Bound is on the blog to share a little bit about the influence of folklore on her new book, Seven Wherewhithal Way. Read on …

Samantha-Ellen BoundTales as old as time

by Samantha-Ellen Bound

In a world ruled by Covid where nothing feels certain, there’s one thing we can rely on: the power of the human imagination to make sense of even the toughest times

Folklore permeates the modern world. Modern fantasy classics like The Witcher, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Shadow and Bone, the Japanese Yōkai-influenced Pokémon, all have their roots in folk tradition. If you’ve ever ‘touched wood’ for good luck, you’re re-enacting the ancient Celtic folk practice of consulting the tree dryads for helpful advice. When you panic, that too is influenced by legendary folk figure Pan. If threatened, he would let out a scream so fearful it induced terror in all those who heard it.

In today’s reality of constant lockdowns, uncertainty and frustration, we turn to the same things – art, stories, simple pleasures, the natural world, wonder, imagination – communities have always turned to when in need of hope and distraction. When so much of the wider world is inaccessible and unknowable to us, we do what we can to escape. For centuries now, humans have been combining magic, science and superstition to make sense of their daily lives.

I’ve been fascinated with folklore since I was young, but it’s during the pandemic I’ve found a greater appreciation for these stories. My middle-grade series Seven Wherewithal Way is inspired by world folklore, and immersing myself in various superstitions, traditions, and creatures that go bump-in-the-night, has been my distraction and my escape. There is ancient, practical wisdom in these tales that trickles down through the centuries to infuse the modern world with a little bit of wonder.

Folklore takes you on a journey, but its lessons are lean and sharp. Perhaps you’re walking down a lonely road at night and hear the soft pad of footsteps behind you. When you turn, there’s nothing there. Unfortunately, you’ve probably attracted the attention of a Black Dog – or the Barghest, Padfoot, Cù Sìth or Moddey Dhoo, depending what part of England you come from. Whatever you might call it, one thing is for certain – to hear one is a portent of death and disaster.

Should you escape this misfortune, but were living in Norway in the mid-1300s, the source of your woes might be the Pesta. If you see this shadowy old woman passing by with a rake, you can hold on to the hope that you’ll be one of the lucky ones who ‘slips through the tines’ – but if she carries a broom, the whole village will be swept away.

If you like things a bit hotter, you may be out fishing in the Colombian region of South America. If you’re a bit heavy-handed with your catch, though, beware of the Munuane – an ogre whose eyes are in his kneecaps. With just one arrow, he’ll put a permanent end to your greed.

‘Folklore reveals something about the resilience, humour and ingenuity of people when faced not only with life’s blessings, but its numerous difficulties.’

And heaven forbid if you aren’t in the habit of keeping your bathroom clean, for you might walk in on the Japanese Akaname – a bright red lizard-like creature with a very long tongue – licking the grime off your tiles.

All these creatures, and thousands like them, are examples of the types of tales people have been telling for thousands of years, in their quest to explain the unexplainable: the strange disappearance of a traveller in the wood, a harvest going bad, a child mysteriously struck down by disease.
Or, an ‘unprecedented’ pandemic that has completely changed the way we live.

For all their supernatural qualities, folk creatures and superstitions come from a very human place. Tales of Black Dogs were meant to prevent intoxicated people stumbling home late at night – no one can deny that passing out, getting lost, or being robbed and murdered, are anything but ‘portents of death and disaster’. The Pesta was the personification of the Black Plague that decimated Norway; the Munuane is a warning to respect the land and its animals and leave enough for everyone; Akaname is a cautionary tale of what icky bacteria might breed if you don’t give the shower a regular scrub.

Folklore reveals something about the resilience, humour and ingenuity of people when faced not only with life’s blessings, but its numerous difficulties. Folk beliefs give shared meaning to different cultures, but so too do they unite communities all over the world – one creature might be called a Domovoi in Russia, a Brownie in England, and Zashiki-warashi in Japan, but all of them communicate the desire for happiness and prosperity in the home.

The natural world, too, is integral to folklore, revealing a deep respect for the landscape and seasons, the world’s natural resources, and the power of plants to work magic (to stave off evil spirits, carry a rowan berry – the five-pointed star (a pentagram) at the end of its stalk will protect you).

Throughout continuous lockdowns, people have turned to their gardens, growing their own food, long walks, and a ‘back to nature’ mentality for physical and spiritual healing.

This, perhaps, is the true magic of folklore – that it allows us to escape the hardships and drudgery of life and just for a moment, ask ‘what if’.

Seven Wherewithal Way by Samantha-Ellen Bound is out now with Affirm Press.

Booktoberfest 2021 - Shop Now

Seven Wherewithal Wayby Samantha-Ellen Bound

Seven Wherewithal Way

Book 1

by Samantha-Ellen Bound

Ferdinand fell out of the sky on the hottest day of the year, while Celeste and Esmerelda Barden were on the front porch eating ice-cream.

Celeste is having the worst summer ever. Her parents are off on an adventure and she’s stuck at Gran’s house with her annoying little sister, Esme, and strict instructions to be responsible. Or, as Esme says, boring. So when their eccentric cousin Ferd crash-lands a flying bus in the yard, what choice does Celeste have but to follow Ferd...

Order NowRead More

No comments Share:

About the Contributor


No comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *