Hello again friendos. If this is your first time landing here, this is the Animanga Spellbook and this is Aria (<- pseudonym). You might have seen me wandering around the OWLS blog doing promotion things as of late and that’s just what happens when you’re stuck in seemingly never-ending lockdown…Speaking of stuff done in lockdown, Taylor Swift was busy with her album:
This month’s OWLS topic was inspired by the name of Taylor Swift’s new album, Folklore. Yet rather than using her conceptual definition of what “folklore” means, we are going to use its original meaning: we are going to explore the traditions and cultures of a specific group and community within pop cultural texts.
I did a similar spin on this topic with the Space is the Place Tour and Tanabata, so let’s take a different approach. Originally, I pitched to my fellow OWLS that I was going to write about Norse mythology for this month, but for some reason, once I’d written it, that post felt like it was only scratching the surface of what “folklore” could mean. So I ended up scrapping it and ending up with this…
somehow that made this post’s ending not quite what the prompt asks for, but 1) I’ll leave you to be the judge of that, 2) at least I’m happier with it than my original post (and 3) because this is an OWLS post and not an English essay, I’m not going to get “marked down” for non-adherence to the prompt *wipes nervous sweat off brow*).
Sidebar: I think my Space is the Place post adheres to the prompt better than this one, so if you don’t think this post is any good, go there.
Ancient Magus’ Bride (Japanese: Mahoutsukai no Yome) is very much a read-in-between-the-lines work, due to how it lets things speak for themselves – when Titania and Oberon appear, nobody explains that they’re the King and Queen of Fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for instance, which is probably one of the easiest examples to pick from this. Although it’s originally in Japanese for (ostensibly) a Japanese audience and Chise’s surname suggests some part of her is Japanese, the setting of the work is London and so the supernatural creatures involved come from British lore with some exceptions for other European lore, such as Chise’s selkie friend (which is specifically Scottish).
Furthermore, it’s said by English and literature teachers the world over that everything in a fictional work is deliberate, even if the author didn’t intend for it to be, which is why said teachers force you to go digging for the history and related works for context. Folklore is fiction as well – just a really old version of it – and so it can be read into, like how the red hair and green eyes of Chise mark her out as “special”. Particularly, these colours bring to mind poppies, which suggest fallen warriors and by extension death and remembrance. (Poppies also hold the connotations of “sleep” due to their use in drugs, which would match the mystical nature of the work and folklore in general.)
Likewise, folklore is the sort of thing that allows one to read between the lines for certain things – because it’s just magic and supernatural happenings, y’know? Obviously, once upon a time, folklore was how people rationalised how weird things happened, but as the need for folklore disappears in both the current worries of modernity and technology (the interconnectedness of our world due to globalisation means COVID-19 has caused unforeseen domino effects all over the place), fiction is how we keep ancient beliefs and oral tales alive…and of course, the stories must have endured for a reason. That reason is that folklore gets the imagination running, in a way that is markedly separate to urban fantasy (but of course, since they’re both subgenres of fantasy, they do have a running thread between them).
My original post, if you were wondering, would have covered Matantei Loki Ragnarok and Heart Gear, two works which are much less known than Mahoutsukai no Yome, so it’s a bit of a weird move for me to pander to popularity, to be honest.
Nonetheless, as I wrap this post up, another possible approach, regarding most of the Touken Ranbu characters being tsukumogami, popped into my head…but I guess that’s a post for another time. So if you had to write on the topic of “folklore”, what work would you have chosen?
For more OWLS content, there’s Ashley, who was on the 3rd with a post on Witch Hunter Robin, and Megan on the 13th with a post on Percy Jackson.