Tag Archives: Folklore
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Finding the Yin and Yang in Scary Stories Documentary

18 Apr

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Everything fans wanted to know about Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell‘s collaborative work gets beautifully and excellently explored in Cody Meirick’s documentary Scary Stories. Both talents share equal credit in this exploration of the three-book series, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Not only were Schwart’z family interviewed, but also a variety of talents (from uber fans to fellow authors) profess their love for this team. There’s plenty of talkie moments to narrate the life of these creators, and in what I particularly enjoyed is in how enduring these works are still today. Every generation has a series of books they adored. Whether that’s with Conan the Barbarian, EC’s Tales from the Crypt, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Vampire Lestat, Goosebumps and etc., the culture that’s grown is explored in Meirick’s work.

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On Elves in Pop Culture & Uvic’s Beck Lecture Series Celebrating 30 Years

26 Nov

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

The Beck Lecture series at the University of Victoria (located in British Columbia, Canada) celebrated 30 years and concluded this year’s offerings with a look into the Icelandic occult world by Dr. Guðrún Björk Guðsteinsdóttir. She gave the curious a look at elves, ghosts, and trolls from a cultural and literary perspective. Of the former, I sometimes feel like I’m one of the Huldufólk. One slide presented describes how people can tell if one visited the elf world. “You can tell by their love of ‘beauty, art and writing’ and by their wistful look as if having gazed into a disappearing world.” I had days where I’m in that zone. When asleep, my Astral form visits that realm.

Elves hail from a Germanic culture and their appreciation for the arts is especially well known in many a fantasy product. I could resume academic studies to examine the lore. Some material is available online, but more is gained by hearing an educator talk about them than from the Internet. Academic libraries help, but unless you are a student or alumni, I can not borrow them to read off campus.

This program offers more than the flights of fantasy. It reminds Icelanders living abroad about life back home and how it has influenced popular culture. Because of this recent series of lectures, I realize why I love Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters and Cressida Cowell / DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon so much. The seeds which inspired both series hail from this region. When considering the final film to HTTYD is “The Hidden World,” respect to the traditions is made.

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Great Canadian Ghost Stories, and Where to Find Them

21 Oct

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Book launch on Oct 23, 7pm at Bolen Books
1644 Hillside Ave #111, Victoria, BC

Fans of supernatural lore can easily find a wide selection of Barbara Smith’s books collecting ghost stories in many a public library. Each of them focuses on a specific region and as she wrote in her latest work, Great Canadian Ghost Stories from Coast to Coast, “Please know that all my books of ghost stories, including this one, have been written to entertain and inform, not to change anyone’s belief systems.”

From Labrador to Vancouver Island, this work does a great job at offering the best-known tales to read before bed. I found The Isle of Demons from way out East particularly sad — a newlywed family was left to fend for themselves there, but its reputation got the better of sailors when they needed help — and for Victoria, British Columbia, my home, to decide on which story is best to spotlight must have been tough. Two are offered: the shade at Beacon Hill Park (too common of an entry in many works for my taste). I had an experience at Hatley Castle, and that’s my number one choice. Understandably, the administration wants to play that down, but the stories and what I heard says it all.

Another I’m trying to encounter is the Time Slip on Shelbourne street. I drove through this path many an October night for the past several years. The thought of this path becoming country is theoretically an illusion because when tired, the autumn foliage can trick the mind. I have a slip of paper in a plastic mylar bag to drop to test the theory of, “If you find this note, please find me in the years of 1978 and onwards.” My interest in the paranormal started in that decade.

This superlative collection covers favourites like The Dungarvon Whooper, The Ghosts of Fort George and The Banff Springs Hotel. I’m still looking for mention of the Sooke Staircase and feel this piece of folklore is overlooked! Another entry to note about my home province is that no, the doll Mandy did not inspire the Nicolas Cage movie of the same name. The movie took place in the Shadow Mountains of California, and it has its own demons for visitors to deal with.

I particularly enjoyed how this work represents the Great White North as a whole. The folklore from Nunavut is most likely still being pieced together. When considering how widespread and isolated citizens are, I firmly believe we have a lot of cabins in the woods scenarios. To find one that’s not akin to Evil Dead will be difficult.

The content offered in this collection is reading time well spent. Smith’s prose is easy to follow. Although I know more than half the stories already, they are worth revisiting when the mood strikes. She’s been writing these books since 1993, and her experience shows. She tells these tales as though she’s passing knowledge from one generation to another so that certain aspects of Canada’s past are not forgotten. The loss of lives at sea will always be hard-hitting. Mariner tales, especially “Mysterious Rescue,” early in this book sets the tone. Sometimes, those “Ghostly Footsteps” are just that; the dead has no interaction with the living, but are fleeting memories so we can at least acknowledge their presence. The entry on “Historical Hamilton House” hits all the right notes not only about the rise of Spiritualism in Canada and why many took to it, but also explains the Ackroyd connection. This family’s interest spanned generations and the comedian took ideas to pen the comedy classic Ghostbusters.

Barbara Smith’s books are often found in bookstores when the Halloween season arises. This latest work updates a few details. There’s no denying we all love a good ghost story by the campfire, but when we want to go find answers, that’s a different kettle of fish. My advice: just do not try (not many books stand out) and simply enjoy discovering Canada’s past from a supernatural angle. I feel that’s this book’s purpose, as I would love to ride those haunted railways once again.

Peaking into the Layers of Folklore in Pixar’s Coco

24 Nov

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By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Despite reports of Disney•Pixar having a troubled start in the development of Coco, the movie I saw in all its charming glory and the reveal of how many anthropological experts were acknowledged in the movie credits certainly put any concerns to rest. The fact Hispanic illustrator Lalo Alcaraz was one such person hired on to ensure accuracy made this animated take in what Día de Muertos is about all the more enjoyable. As a group, these people insured this animated film is culturally relevant. Together, with director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2 & 3) and writers Adrian Molina, Jason Katz and Matthew Aldrich, they made a film that’s true to the spirit of many past Pixar films, where keeping family ties is important.

Not everyone is fully aware about what the Day of the Dead represents. As a film about young Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) wanting to be a musician instead of a cobbler — against his family’s wishes — just what he has to face in his journey is an adventure. From the land of the living to the city of the dead to find his great-great-grandfather, all he wants is someone’s blessing for what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Upon stealing a guitar in a mausoleum, he inadvertently enters the afterlife and pretty soon, he meets his deceased relatives. They are, pardoning the pun, aghast and side with his great grandmother’s desire to keep the family away from ever enjoying music. None are allowed to listen to it or perform.

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