Lionfish Finished

About a year ago I drew up a sweet little mer-fish, and she was happy. For a while, at least, but she grew sad over time since she didn’t have anywhere to swim or play. So, here she is with her happy little sea home, with plenty of room to play tag and box with seahorses.

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These drawings are meant for coloring, so please, feel free to print here off and add some color. If you really love what you did, send me a copy, and I’ll share it with the fiends around the lab!

Hide Your Skyr! Here Comes Skyrgámur!

Starting on the 19th of December, Skyrgámur descends from his mother’s volcanic cave and wreaks havoc on the poor, humble folk that leave their Skyr unattended. Skyr. Mighty cultured dairy product of the gods. It’s like thick yogurt, but less intensely flavored.

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Skyrgámur, like all of the Yule Lads, loves to menace the common folk. His prefered brand of menace seems a little passive compared to, say, Stekkjarstaur, who loves to harass sheep. Skyrgámur just likes to break into people’s houses and eat all of their skyr. His name literally means Skyr-gobbler. I’m starting to think old Gryla was running out of ideas for terrible deeds for her sons to commit by the time Skyrgámur came around. Then again, he does have a brother who licks spoons, so maybe Gryla just has a skewed sense of menace.

Still, I imagine if Skyrgámur came calling with his assembled brothers and that infernal Yule Cat, things might get a little freaky.

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Image from Brian Pilkington’s the Yule Lads

The Wax Statue

During the earlier part of November I was able to fulfill a long-standing, bucket-list level personal wish and spend a few hours wandering through Guillermo Del Toro’s collection of monster and comic book ephemera. It was, to put it mildly, a life changing experience.

We arrived at the LACMA early on a Saturday morning, and were greeted by a statue of this fellow:

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That was just the beginning. A whole wing of the museum had been set aside to showcase the collection of my absolute favorite director. I saw props from movies going back to the beginning of the art form. Wax statues wearing actual costumes from movies like the Bride of Frankenstein, Crimson Peak, and Hellboy.

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I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. It was like something was following me around the building, but I couldn’t put my finger on it…

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There where original pages from comic books going back to the 1960’s, and statues of genre giants like Ray Harryhausen, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allan Poe. The Poe statue was pretty cool, and the room he was in was full of Victoriana. And a really weird wax of someone I couldn’t place. He was propped up against the wall, like some sort of diminutive, vaguely Asian Tor Johnson wannabe. He was also one of the few standing waxes, and the only one propped against a wall.

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I got a little closer to the Poe, trying to figure out who the dude against the wall was. I needed to be a little sneaky, since there were super cool film nerds all over the place, and the last thing I wanted to do was let on that I didn’t know who this guy was. Just look at him, though: He had to be someone

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I got closer to the guy, and right when I was about 5 inches away, he reached up, scratched his nose, and went back to sleep. I choked back a scream, and tried to act like my sudden ability to levitate was perfectly natural.

My wife pointed out his ID badge, and really, it should have been a pretty strong clue to his being a real, live human being. Then again, he looks like a freaking wax statue, and if there is anything I have learned from Westworld, I really shouldn’t take any chances, right?

Regardless, it was the visit of a lifetime. I wish we had more time, and that the building had been empty. It was really hard to stand and gawk at everything for the appropriate amount of time. I could have spent an hour looking at these guys alone:

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the Lionfish

I was working on a mermaid concept for the mythology book last night, and realized that I didn’t want your standard fish lady to represent the Undersea Realms. So, I looked up a bunch of different fish and got really into the lionfish. They are pretty amazing to look at, and have some really neat spines, patterns, and colors. I decided that the lionfish would be the basis of my mermaid design, and here she is:

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I still need to work out a background image for her, it’ll probably be a shipwreck of some sort or another. My grandfather loved old sailing ships, and I inherited a little of that. I love the haunted mystique of a wrecked ship on the sea floor.

the Vodyanoy

A friend of mine recently remarked that some plumbing problems we were having were due to Vodniks; my confused, vacant-eyed response led to a really fun story about some Czech friends of hers that blamed Vodnik on any plumbing problems that came up.

It’s been a few months now, and as the resident Cryptozoologist of Salt Lake City, I decided to do a little digging on my drippy little house guests.

The Vodnik is the Slavic cousin to the Russian Vodyanoy, a far more sinister fellow (they are all males) that haunts lakes and rivers. The Vodyanoy are frog like creatures, with aged bodies, froggy faces, fish tales, and long, stringy beards and hair. They paddle about on half sunken logs with their webbed hands, looking for unwary locals to drown. They seem to like wandering about without any clothes, too. Sound familiar?

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The Vodnik, by contrast, seems more human like in features, although they are a greenish tint and tend to be covered in moss. They wear tattered, cast off clothing, and also loiter about lakes and rivers. Unlike the Vodyanoy, which are mostly malevolent, Vodniks can be beneficial or dangerous, depending on their mood.

One area that Vodyanoy and Vodnik overlap is that they keep little ceramic containers with them, in which they store the souls of people who have drowned in their domain. The crockery is considered currency to these folk, and a large collection of souls is a sure sign of wealth and influence. If the crockery is opened, however, the soul escapes in the form of a bubble, leaving the vessel it was in worthless.

Fishermen and people who make their living on the water will leave offerings of tobacco to the vodnik, in hopes that they will leave them alone or help them in their industry. A vodnik who feels slighted may attack local water features, such as dams, well, (possibly plumbing) and locks. This behavior has also been reported with Vodyanoy.

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artwork ©2016 L.G. Kade

Beware the Bower

In Leicestershire, England, there is a little cave carved into a sandstone cliff. There is an oak tree growing there, and tatters of thin, translucent cloth can be seen fluttering in the breeze upon its branches. This is the bower of Black Agnes, and should be avoided at all costs.

Where the story of Black Agnes (or Annis) originated is lost to history; some say she is the spirit of an ancient Anchorite who died in the cave, others say she is the remnant of the old goddess Danu, pissed as hell and haunting the cave. Some speculate that she is a remnant of the Hindu goddess Kali, with whom she shares some characteristics. Others say she was manufactured by exhausted parents who needed a good bogeyman to keep their kids out of the woods.

Black Annis is a stooped and aged creature, with sharp iron talons. Her skin is blue, which helps her blend into the night and hunt her favorite prey, which consists entirely of human children. Agnes would lurk outside of a home and wait for a child to wander away into the woods, were she would grab them and haul them off to her bower to eat.

The ancient oak tree outside of Annis’s cave was used to cure the skins of her victims, which she would later drape across her body as skirts and shawls. It is said that Agness carved out the cave herself with her iron-clad claws, and that she still lives there to this day.

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Black Annis, from Grimmleigh’s Mythic Horrors, coming soon. Artwork © 2016 Leigh George Kade

 

Monster Monday: the Redcap

Research for most monsters can be a lot of fun, and pretty educational, too. Take this week’s Monster Monday inductee, the Redcap. I had no idea that the people of the border region between Scotland and England had their own unique legends. Makes sense, though, given that this area has been contested and fought over for centuries. Conflict tends to be the mortar with which great legends are built.

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Redcaps are malicious, foul little fiends that live in the abandoned castles and ruins throughout the border regions. They may be related to goblins, or faeries, or perhaps some sort of inbred cave dwarf, but no one can really tell for sure; most folk that glimpse them are too busy running away to tell. Sadly, this rarely works, as Redcaps are some of the fastest creatures of the Other and can easily catch up with the fleetest of human feet.

Redcaps have long, tapered fingers, weathered faces, and red tinged eyes. They also sport bright red caps, sewn expertly from human skin. Redcaps are vicious and accomplished slaughterers of humans that wander too close to their haunts, and it’s not just for sport, either; the Redcap needs to keep its hat soaked in fresh blood to stay alive. If the cap dries out, the Redcap will die. Needless to say, this rarely happens.

Redcaps are also known to carry long pikes, which they are very accomplished with. They wear heavy, iron-shod boots, which may be worn to lull their prey into a false sense of security, or perhaps to keep them from running too fast to stay in this realm.

Redcap Posed

While Redcaps are very common in the Border areas between England and Scotland, there have been several stories of their antics in Ireland, too. The only reliably documented way to defeat a Redcap is to try and hide from them, which is next to impossible, since they tend to know the lay of their lands very well. If you find yourself in the hunting grounds of one of these horrid little beasts, it’s best to make your peace with life; there is probably not much of it left to live.

 

Obligatory “Comic Con Wiped Me Out Trip Down Memory Lane”, Part One

Salt Lake Comic Con just wrapped day one, and I am shot. Happy and deliriously shot, though. I moderated 3 panels today, one about our cultural fascination with magic, and two on table-top gaming. I really appreciated seeing how many women are getting involved in gaming, it’s refreshing to see a paradigm shift in a traditionally musty, man-centric hobby!

I must apologize for not being as on top of posts as I had hoped to be, but I am going to accept my limitations and realize that I might not be able to hit the post count that I would like. Instead, I thought I would share the origins of Grimmleighs from a few years back!

In 2010, I asked my wife if she would crochet a Nessie for me. We stitched a panel of muslin to it’s head, and I painted a face on it. It was primitive, but it was also an amazingly fun project to make. That was the first Grimmleigh, and we went into a pretty steady production mode for several years. Ultimately, we must have made over a thousand of them!

Ultimately, we couldn’t justify the amount of work involved with the amount of money we made. We had a hard time charging what we should have for them, since we really just wanted to share our cool little monsters with everyone that saw them!

A lot of what you see here has carried over to the monsters I included in Grimmleigh’s Beastly Oddities. I really missed seeing these goofy little creatures, so I am pretty happy to have the “legacy” of Grimmleigh’s live on!

Monster Monday: the Dearg-Due

There is a prevailing custom in some older cultures, one in which you take extra care to cover the graves of the recently deceased with stones (or boulders). The reason for which might be as simple as not having any dirt around to backfill the grave, or, if you live in Ireland, it’s a lesson learned from ages passed.

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Her name is long forgotten, but her legend lives on. Not for the beauty she radiated in life, but for the terror she harvested in death. She is the Dearg-Due, the Red Blood Drinker. She was once a legendary beauty, born to a family of means and highly sought after. Her heart, though, belonged to a peasant, which ultimately brought about her doom.

The young lady’s family had come into hard times, and her father wished to marry her off to a wealthy family to bring much needed funds into his coffers. A bride-price was settled, and the unfortunate woman was shipped off to her new husband’s estate.

Sadly, the groom was a terrible man. He relished acts of cruelty, and loved to inflict harm on his new bride. He would cut her perfect skin, and delight in the contrast of ruddy crimson against her pale, flawless flesh. When he wasn’t abusing her, he locked her away in a tower so that none but him could see her.

The young woman held out for hope that her beloved would mount a rescue, or that her father would come to his senses and ask for the marriage to be annulled. She struggled in this manner for several months, oblivious to the fact that her father was drunk with his new-found return to wealth, and that her beloved had perished in a mysterious fire.

Eventually, her will to carry on was extinguished. She stopped eating. She stopped drinking. She no longer resisted the cruelty inflicted upon her by her spouse. She renounced her faith, renounced her heart, and slowly, painfully, ceased to live.

The people of her village were devastated. Some, perhaps, knew what had been happening to the young woman but kept their mouths shut, and were now reflecting on their own complicity in her death. She was buried, and she was mourned. A great depression settled over the area.

The very night she was buried, a young man disappeared from his bed. His brother, whom he shared a room with, said that he dreamt of a beautiful song coming from the nearby woods, and a soft, soothing voice urging him to come and dance. He dreamt that his brother slipped on his shoes and climbed out the window, then stumbled off into the misty woodlands.

Several days passed, and the young man remained missing. Search parties were sent out, and returned without news. Finally, the boy was found; pale, lifeless and limp, in a ditch that ran alongside the graveyard. His body had been drained of blood, countless lesions and cuts marked the skin all over his arms and chest.

Panic settled over the village; one of their own had been murdered, and the graveyard had been vandalized as well. The grave of the greatly wronged beauty had been defiled, and her corpse was nowhere to be seen. People began to whisper of dark forces being at work, and wished ever harder that they had intervened before the young woman had perished.

The tragedies that befell that tiny village went on for years. Young men would wander out into the mists, never to be seen again. Children would sit up from their sleep, muttering about the wonderful songs they heard in their dreams, and struggle to leave their homes. Newly born babes would disappear in the night. Search parties were sent out day after day, but they, too, began to go missing.

Those poor folk that survived knew in their hearts that the creature that preyed on their young was one of their own creation, a fiend born of neglect and silence in the face of cruelty.

The little village grew smaller, the fields grew fallow. The woods began to creep closer to people’s homes. The water in the streams tasted of copper. Eventually, the people of the village had the good sense to flee, and never return.

Some say the Dearg-Due is still there, wandering the woods and calling out, singing a haunting siren’s song of loss, tragedy and yearning.

One thing is certain, though; the legacy of the Dearg-Due can still be seen to this day, at cemeteries all over the country. Graves, once filled, are topped with stones, all to discourage the recently dead from returning to settle the grievances left from life.

Dearg-Due
©2016  Leigh George Kade