I get it. Dragons and wizards are great. But sometimes you want something different. So do agents and publishers.
That’s what makes these international folklores so great.
Folklore and myths explain the unknowable. They answer the never-ending “why” from knowledge-hungry children. They reassure us when we’re afraid, entertain us when we’re restless, and help us find meaning.
Some myths—like the kelpie, kappa, and La Llorona here—serve a practical purpose. Parents in central and south America, Japan, and Scotland use these legends to keep children safe. “Stay away from the water or the kelpie will eat you.” “Stay home in bed or La Llorona will grab you.” It keeps children away from the water where they might get hurt.
But myths are good for writers too.
These three legends inspired my flash fiction story, “Children, And Other Creations.” The main character shirks her gifts—an ability to see spirits and the dead—in favor of a normal life. But shirking her destiny doesn’t work out for Chirra. She is unable to bring her pregnancies to term. In this story, I wanted to explore what it might be like for someone whose only chance at life is through death. What if the water demons that usually eat children are the only ones who can save them?
These legends worked for my story. Just think of all the new ways you could use them.
For your inspiration…
3 Legendary Creatures for Your Next Story
These scaly-skinned humanoids hail from Japanese folklore. The name roughly means “water-child,” and myth has them inhabiting Japan’s ponds and rivers. The hairless plate on the kappa’s head carries water, the source of their power. Sometimes they’re tricksters. Sometimes they’re killers. Either way, kappa make excellent stories.
Ready to cast the kappa in your tale? Find out more about them.
You’ll find kelpie myths near water too, but only in Scotland. Their names are associated with horses, and this is their native form. But they’re just as likely to take on the guise of a human. The easier to lure unsuspecting men and maidens into the water. You’ll know them by their hooves, though, which often remain even when they take human form.
Found this one inspirational? Find out more about the kelpie.
La llorona, or “The Weeping Woman” is less creature and more spirit.
In this hispanic legend, the dangerous killer was once a lonely human named Maria. You’ll find her in towns across Mexico and the States where she snatches wayward children foolish enough to be out at night.
Why does she wander?
She drowned her children so she could be with the man she loved. When he rejected her, she drowned herself too. La Llorona’s punishment is to roam until she finds her lost children. And woe to those she mistakes for her’s along the way.
I can see La Llorona in a magical realism tale full of the fantastical and political. But what do you think?
Find out more about La Llorona for your next story.
Learn to spell Scotland properly
Mandy Wallace says
Given how rudely you phrased that, Al, I was irritated to find out that your spelling was the correct one. The article is now updated. Thanks for the tip. Here’s one for you: don’t be such a dick.
Learn som manners, Al. I thoroughly enjoyed your response, Mandy. 🙂
some ^ (This is why editing is important. 😀 )
When you choose to correct others spelling Al, be sure your grammar and punctuation is on point.