In case you don’t know, the Booktube SFF Awards are book awards set up by the booktube community to celebrate the best SFF from the previous year. Each year the judges host readalongs for the shortlisted books and do a liveshow in the summer announcing the winners, and each year they also put together a list of these Booktube SFF Babbles topics for everyone to get involved in – whether you’re a booktuber, a blogger, a bookstagrammer or a book lover who prefers not to hang out on social media. Booktube might be in the title, but these awards are open to everyone and you can find out more here!
This fortnight’s topic is ‘Favourite Creatures from SFF’, but rather than talk about specific creatures in specific books, TV shows or movies, instead I thought I’d talk about my Top Five Mythological/Folkloric Creatures more generally.
We all know about vampires and werewolves and dragons, but there are some creatures from myth that I’d love to see in more fiction.
So unicorns are hardly unknown, they’ve had a bit of a renaissance recently, along with mermaids, which on the one hand I love but on the other hand I kind of hate because they’ve been reborn as these My Little Pony-esque creatures. Traditional unicorns are regal and untouchable, and I’d like to see more of these unicorns in fiction. They’re not unheard of; they appear very briefly in Harry Potter, and can also be found in The Last Unicorn and, though a little less whimsical, in Rampant. Given the myth that they can only be caught by virgins, I think they should be celebrated as asexual icons.
I do like mermaids a lot and they’re really fun, but I’ve always had more of a soft spot for selkies. Seals are such lovely looking creatures, and the idea that they might shed their skin to become beautiful women, only to have their skins stolen by men who can therefore force them to stay on land, is a tragic story that hasn’t been used enough in SFF. It’s not that I desire stories about men being horrible to women (or other women being horrible to them, abuse and coercive control happen in LGBT+ relationships too) but I think there’s a lot of potential there to use this folklore to discuss those issues that hasn’t quite been tapped into yet.
Cŵn Annwn (Coon An-un)
Welsh mythology is BONKERS, but it’s brilliant. The Cŵn Annwn – which pretty much translates to ‘Hell hounds’ – are the hounds of Arawn, King of Annwn. Annwn is the Welsh Otherworld in Welsh mythology, but I believe Annwn translates as closer to ‘Hell’ now. (Don’t quote me on that, though – I don’t speak Welsh!) It’s believed that Cadair Idris is the Cŵn Annwn’s hunting ground, and I’ve always loved them because it’s their job to lead the dead to Annwn and once they’re in pursuit of you, you have to listen closely: the louder they are, the further away they are, so the moment you stop hearing them… they’ve found you. The best place to find them is in The Mabinogion!
I know very little about First Nations mythology – and to be honest I hesitate to sum it all up as First Nations mythology, because different tribes have different mythologies – but I’ve always been fascinated by the Wendigo. The limited knowledge of it I do have is that the Wendigo appears/is created by either greed or by cannibalism. I’m fairly certain they’re more associated with cannibalism, but I remember reading somewhere that they can also be associated with greed more generally. These creatures are terrifying, and I’m hoping they might make an appearance in another book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s Sixth World series.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a soft spot for centaurs. I was very lucky in that I was introduced to Greek mythology when I was fairly young and was taken to Crete several times by my parents, so I wonder if I developed a love for them then. Or it could just be because I watched Fantasia constantly. In fact it’s a wonder I wasn’t more into horses as a kid considering I loved them and unicorns, and I was a big fan of The Silver Brumby. I think there’s a real lack of centaurs in SFF, particularly as the main focus of the story; they’ve made appearances in Harry Potter and The Song of Achilles (I’m very fond of Madeline Miller’s version of Chiron) but I’d love to see more stories with entire centaur societies.