Of Shadows and Sagas: A Time to Remember and to Read

As I write this in the comfort of my lounge, outside tonight the wind is howling, furiously, as though angry at its inability to gain entry into my sheltered refuge.

The odd, hunched figure can from my window be seen hurrying past, assailed by the calvacade of leaves and torrential rain.

The barely noticeable shortening of days, accompanied by the imperceptible shift in temperature from late summer into mild autumn, has definitely given way to the unmissable crossover point of autumn and winter.

Above the wind I can barely hear the fireworks exploding.

Samhain/Halloween…All Saints’ Day…All Souls’ Day…Bonfire Night…Remembrance Sunday.

It feels like this is the time for remembering. As the nights grow deep and long, just as we light candles and bonfires to hold off the dark, so we turn within to shine a light upon our own shadows, far within the recesses of memory.  Examining and reacquainting ourselves with the inner cast of our lives. Acknowledging those who have slipped from sight. We bring them out to breathe.

This time of year is also a great time for reading-armed with the fortitude of caffeine and electric or candle light, removed from the outside assault of climate and enveloping darkness.

I have always turned to stories around this time, without really analysing why, that can be found in books such as The Táin and The Mabinogion. Legends and tales told over centuries, losing myself in the storytelling of people long gone. Connecting with the idea of a people gathered around the hearth, imaginations fired.

When people ask me where my favourite place is, my reply is ‘North’. Scotland-the Highlands and the Orkney Islands, Scandinavia. You are never likely to see me sporting a suntan.

There is something in the landscape, the myths, the culture, born from the tummult of land and sea, that speaks to me.

And this is my time of year. The cycle has come around again.

I was about to start the Icelandic Sagas, but instead I have turned to East of the Sun, West of the Moon-Old Tales From the North.

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This is a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales that have had many interpretations over the years, but this copy is a reproduction of the 1914 version which has some fantastic illustrations in it by Kay Nielsen.

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The attraction of this book, as opposed to the Sagas, is that I can share it with my children. There are fifteen tales in it, so that is one per storm struck night, for just over a fortnight.

Wind, rain, darkness, a father, children.

Reading.

Remembering.

Imaginations fired.

My favourite time.

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17 thoughts on “Of Shadows and Sagas: A Time to Remember and to Read

  1. You write so beautifully. It certainly feels like a time to remember, to reflect, and to retrospect. Introspect even. I have never been to the far far North, the Highlands are stunning, but not further north, but someday I will. Like you, I seem to be drawn to the North, to the howling winds and the unforgivable seas… someday. Your love for the north and for fairy dust prompts me to cast you towards Amy Sackville’s Orkney. Have you read it?

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  2. I am hoping to go to Iceland next year. Always been a dream of mine. I have been to Oslo in Norway which was beatiful.Seeing ‘The Scream’ in one of the art galleries was a high point .

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  3. Great post, Andy! I’m going to have to find East of the Sun, West of the Moon-Old Tales From the North. I read and loved East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon, a picture book beautifully illustrated by P. J. Lynch and also a retelling of the tale–East by Edith Pattou. Love this story! Um, are you a fan of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen?

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  4. This is such an aptly atmospheric post – I feel similarly at this time of year. That book looks great, I’ve been feeling drawn to reading something similar. A trip to the library may be in order. 🙂

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