May 1st is the feast of Bealtaine, or May Day, an ancient seasonal festival signally the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, a time of fires and fertility rites. It is the day of the May Queen, the mythical figure who presages the arrival of summer and an important element in my novel The Treachery of Beautiful Things.
Folklore suggests that after the most beautiful girl in the village had been picked to be Queen of the May, she was dressed in white, a garland of white flowers placed her head, she was paraded through the village, taken to the forest and sacrificed to the trees.
Jenny, in the Treachery of Beautiful Things is forced to take on the mantel of May Queen, but makes herself stronger than a tradition, so matter how old it might be.
I’m now the type of person who can’t look at pictures of a May Pole without a little shudder, even if it is made by Sylvanian Families (true story – I was toy shopping and had to leave before I made a little scene with hysterical giggles.)
Research into the folklore which underpins our traditions is a great way of adding richness to stories, to developing a depth of meaning. That meaning might not be apparent to many, it might upset some, but the sense of the old lurking behind new words, in between the leaves and blossoms of the May Tree, makes stories resonate for the reader.
~~~May Day Competition Time~~~
For a chance to win a copy of The Treachery of Beautiful Things in hardback, please leave a comment below telling me about your favorite bit of folklore or fairytale. The competition will run for a week, until the 8th of May when I’ll pick the winner.
The paperback edition of The Treachery of Beautiful Things is now available for pre-order and will be out on the 1st August (Lughnasadh, another Celtic fire festival, this time for Harvest. Let’s hope that’s a sign.) Check your local bookshop or Indiebound, Powells, Book Depository, Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.com
17 thoughts on “Happy May Day – Giveaway”
One of my favorite bits of folklore (probably because of my mother!) is the legend of selkies (seals that turn into women on land). She took me to see The Secret of Roan Inish was I was 8 and I find the whole tale of selkies fascinating and tragic. There’s almost always a sad romance and in a way it reminds me of the original Hans Christian Anderson version of the Little Mermaid. I also love Robin Hood and King Arthur because of how they have been influenced by real figures from history; I love folklore stories and fairy tales with real roots!
Thanks Morgan. I love Selkies myself and my short story The Wrecker’s Daughter was about them. I’m also slightly obsessed with Robin Hood… and King Arthur… and… I’d better stop. 😀 Thanks for entering the competition.
I’m of Finnish descent living on an island in the North Baltic. Because of my grandmother, I am very interested in the traditions of Finnish White Witches. These were wise women who ‘knew’ things and could affect amazing medical cures. In H.C. Anderson’s story, The Snow Queen, Inge visits a Finnish witch. Despite it’s overly Christian ethos, this was one of my favourite childhood stories. Like you, I am interested in women who challenge the accepted mores of their societies.
Oh, I love the Snow Queen! It’s a fabulous story. Your Finnish White Witches sound like the Vala who I’ve been researching for another story. They are the wise women of Norse, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon mythology. I wonder if they have the same roots? Thanks for commenting.
I think my favorite fairy tale is probably The Little Mermaid but Hans Christian Andersen’s version, not the Disney one. Such a sad yet beautiful tale. 🙂
It is a wonderful story, so very sad. Thanks for your comment Lena.
I’ve been writing about Glastonbury which is jam packed with folk lore. I think my favourite bit is that Joseph of Arimathea brought the holy grail with him to Glastonbury and buried it at the site of the chalice well. Supposedly that’s why the water is red.
Glastonbury is still on my list of places to visit. I can’t believe I haven’t made it yet. Someday. Soon I hope! Thanks for commenting.
I think my favourite would have to be Beauty and the Beast. I know it seems like an obvious choice, but I think we’re living in an era where being judged for being who you are in terms of your appearance and your sexual orientation (and any other form of judging really) is so rife – so for me, Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale that has always given me hope. A story about a young girl who looks past the appearance of a beast and ends up loving him despite his hideous appearance – there’s a lot to learn in this tale. Also, how could one not love the brave and fearless Belle? 🙂
That’s a really interesting modern-day application of the fairytale, Tammy. I love it. It’s a really powerful story for me too. May we all be so brave and fearless.
Oh Gosh, to pick just one? How about a fable instead of a myth?
How about the Akan tale of Kweku Ananse and the two parties?
One day the chief of Kweku’s village decided to throw a huge party to drink the finest palmwine and eat the best goat stew. The next day the chief of the neighboring village also sent Kweku an invitation to his wedding party. Unfortunately, they were at the same time. Instead of choosing one, or honoring his first commitment, Kweku decided to buy a huge rope and tie the middle of it around his waist, and have one son present at each party with one end of the rope. When the best foods got brought out, the son would tug on the rope and bring his father to the better party, so that Kweku would get to have the best of both parties.
Unfortunately for Kweku, both parties began the refreshments at the same time so both sons started to pull the rope at the same time. People in both villages who saw the scene couldn’t help laughing and cheering. Due to the noise, the two sons could not hear Kweku Ananse’s wailing and pleas for them to stop so they pulled all day and Kweku ended up not getting to eat the refreshments of either party.
A reminder to make decisions and honor them, even if it is difficult to do, lest you end up with nothing.
That’s a wonderful fable Avery! There are so many African stories that I haven’t managed to read yet. That said, there are so many *stories* that I haven’t managed to read yet.
Thanks for commenting.
I grew up listening to stories of duendes, Spanish versions of goblins. Each tale was the same, a little man dressed in white who appeared at night or early morning. They are mischievous and if you see one don’t engage or they won’t leave you alone. One story had a family leaving honey out in their backyard to keep it happy.
Duendes sound like brownies, don’t they? Isn’t it amazing how the same fairy creatures seem to appear time and again. 😀
Thanks for commenting Raquel.
My personal favorite is the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, which tells the story of two star-crossed lovers who were torn apart. They were only allowed to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month, on a bridge of magpies. The two are also commonly known as the stars Altair and Vega. This tale has inspired festivals in Japan, Korea and China, where they celebrate the Tanabata, Chilseok and Qi Xi festivals respectively, the annual meeting between the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl.
The story has never failed to yank at my heartstrings, the poignant feeling one gets as they imagine the lovers standing on opposite ends of the Milky Way almost painful to behold.
Hope you enjoyed it! 🙂
A gorgeous story. I think this is why there is a different attitude to magpies in the East than there is here, because they helped the lovers.
Thanks for commenting.
And the winner is… Nicole Lily. Congrats, Nicole. There will be an email on the way very shortly.
Thanks so much to everyone who entered. What a great selection of stories. A lot of future inspiration for me there, I think.
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