The Gytrash is a spectral creature of North England myth, appearing to lost or way-laid travelers on lonely roads as either a large lion-like dog, donkey, or horse.
The creature occasionally manifests itself to lead a lost traveler to the right path, but most encounters are of a more sinister nature, leading the travelers astray, never to be found again. When the creature appeared as entirely dark, with eyes burning like coals, it’s believed to be at its most malevolent. It is one of many forms of spectral dogs, in particular, and fairly rare.
The most common reference for a Gytrash is the scene in Jane Eyre, where Jane wonders momentarily if Pilot, Mr. Rochester’s dog who has found her on her way to Thornfield, might possibly be this mythic beast. She’s reassured when she sees Rochester riding his horse, as “Nothing ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone.”
For such a small moment in the book, and such a rarely-heard-of creature, this scene has always stuck with me, as has the image of the Gytrash, appearing on dusky roads and luring wandering travelers astray. There’s something particularly sinister in the idea of what most people would expect to be a subservient creature leading tired and lonely travelers astray, in the guise of companionship. This is one myth that I wouldn’t be surprised to feel the tugs of if I were ever to find myself on an abandoned country road in Europe somewhere. Maybe even here in America, if the conditions were just right. If I go for a long walk and don’t end up coming home… well, it may well have been a Gytrash that I’ve let lead me astray. I think I’d keep away from that one with the burning-coal eyes, though… at least I’d hope I’d have enough sense as that.
Welcome to my first edition of ‘I’m reading’ where I divulge my insanity and the surreal number of books I tend to read at once. Sometimes, one will jump ahead of the pack and will become the new IT book which forces me to devour it at unheard of speeds. But mostly, especially lately, I’ve been flooded with life- my son’s newfound walking skills which leave my pots, pans and tupperware all over my kitchen floor, my writing deadlines, my house which is often a disaster area for toys and baby socks . It’s hard to really sit and enjoy a book when I’m always peeking to make sure the little one isnt bodyslamming the cat.
I’ve been sick for about the past week. A couple of those days I was sick to the point that all I could stand to do was listen to music, or read. Thankfully, those are two of my favorite things to do. Instead of being locked inside my boring, everyday bedroom, looking at wallpaper decor that is far, far older than myself, I spent hours locked inside the living prison of Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, and watching Percy Jackson eviscerate math teachers and minotaurs in Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief.
While I’m reading, I forget about my current inability to breathe without coughing, my complete lack of control over my voice (what little is left of it) and the fact that I can’t sleep for congestion. I’m going to keep today’s post nice and short, because to be honest I’m still not feeling anywhere near 100%, but at least I can read, and that’s more than I need to keep me entertained.
Since I am trapped deep in the writing cave this week, I thought I’d give you, the readers, a chance to respond. There are many, many great movies out there, and I certainly haven’t even seen half of them. So give us a glimpse at some of your favorite movies and tell us what made them all so special! I’ll start a TBW list (to be watched) and I’ll Netflix the ones that really sound awesome so that maybe I can feature them here on the blog! Sound good?
Oberon is best known from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the king of the faeries who interferes with the love lives of mortals, and plays tug-of-war with Titania over trinkets and toys (read: people) they both want. Oberon was most likely taken from a legend of a Merovingian sorcerer named Alberich, or “elf-ruler,” who was believed to be the other-worldly brother of Merowich, whom the people got their name from.
The name Oberon first showed up in a French heroic song, about a fairy who was cursed to a dwarfish height by an offended fairy at his birth (hello, Sleeping Beauty?) but was given great beauty in consolation. In the poem, Oberon aids the hero in winning a pardon for killing the emperor’s son in self-defense, after performing various feats. This poem was based on bits and pieces of fact of a true hero who lived in the ninth century, but was understandably embellished. In it, Oberon had a magical cup, which has been compared to the Holy Grail, which was always full for the virtuous.
In Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon wants to a human child that Titania’s taken into her care—it’s the child of a mortal friend of hers who’d died, and she wants to raise it for her friend, but Oberon wants to have the child for his own purposes, to raise as a henchman, basically. To distract her, he uses a magical ointment that he has put into her eyes, so that she falls in love with a man who’s been given a donkey’s head—meanwhile he has his servant Puck meddle with two pairs of lovers that are wandering in the woods, with a mistake or two made along the way. Eventually he feels badly for what he’s done to his Titania, though, and the two are reunited.
Given the title of King of the Faeries, Oberon is understandably mentioned here and there in other works of fiction, of a more contemporary nature. As a few examples, he’s mentioned briefly both in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and also in Frewin Jones’ Faerie Path novels.
Although this story is not technically labeled YA, it definitely has appeal for all fantasy readers, young and old. It fully immerses you into its world right from the start. The language is lush and beautiful and poetic.
Time was, in the kingdom of Berengeny, that no one picked their spouses. No one courted—not officially, at any rate—and no one married in a moment’s foolish passion.
We first meet William, the hero, as a child, when we discover that the town’s Wise Woman, who’s charge it is to assign the proper marriage mates (not true love) , cannot find one for William. This continues on until he’s seven, which immediately lets us know William is going to be an exception to many rules. As soon as he discovers his intended is from the North, a place his entire family despises and fears due to the rumors of their magic and their hags, he starts a series of charming correspondence with Tasmin, his future wife.
These letters are spread throughout the story and are enlightening about both their character, and the mystery that would soon unravel. The Chocolatier’s Wife takes on an interesting turn when suddenly William is charged with the murder of the Bishop and Tasmin, startled and desperate, runs to his side and causes gossip to fly. After all, they aren’t married yet… he hadn’t even sent for her.
And so begins the mystery.
I loved everything about this story. It was lighthearted, fun, magical, beautiful, and romantic in all the right ways. Ms. Speer has a real talent for the written word and she makes you forget anything else exists when you read. I would highly recommend this story to teens and adults alike. Grade: A+
Grace Divine has always wondered what happened the night her brother Jude wandered home late, covered in his own blood—the night no one in her family will talk about—the night their friend Daniel Kalbi disappeared. Now secrets that have been buried underneath time and religious votives can’t help but come to light—because suddenly Daniel is back, and not only that—but people are going missing.
Everyone knows that Daniel is bad news. Her entire family is reluctant to so much as acknowledge his existence, much less invite them into their lives again. When she sees him, though, Grace can’t help but recognize the boy she once knew… the one she once was madly head-over-heels for. At first the remembering hurts—and she hates him for coming back into their lives and complicating things again. The more she learns about his situation, though, the more she feels like it’s her duty to help Daniel step out of darkness and back into the light. Isn’t that what her name means, after all? Grace?
She has no idea just what it is that Daniel needs saving from, though, nor how awful some monsters can really be. What she really doesn’t realize, though, is that it might end up being her own soul on the line.
I thought this was a fantastic debut book. There were a few things that seemed a little slow and out-of-context, but they all fell into place as the book went along, and while you could definitely see one or two of the twists coming, there were others that took me by complete surprise, and made the reading fun and suspenseful. The book is about religion and redemption, but not in any way preachy, and the themes really are fairly beautiful, more about finding and forgiving yourself than anything, and Despain was not at all afraid of pulling punches when it came to darker subjects.
Maybe the thing I enjoyed most about this book was the delicate balancing going on with the emotions involved. Grace is coming to care for Daniel again, but at the expense of having her beloved brother pulling away from her, and shutting down in ways that she never expected or prepared for, which is more than she’s signed up for. Jude is feeling betrayed on all sides, and turning to near-strangers and desperate measures, that may have more dire consequences than he realizes. Meanwhile, Daniel wants the chance to apologize to Jude, but doesn’t feel completely worthy of it. The brother/sister relationship is sweet, despite the things pulling them apart, and as someone overly-partial to her own brothers, that’s something that I really enjoyed reading—it isn’t very often in fiction that a brother/sister relationship is done so well.
And yeah… I fell for Daniel. I really did. The ending is left very open for a sequel—and set up in such a way that made me really excited at the possibility. I don’t know if Despain is planning one or not, but I would happily snap it up. This book gets a strong A- from me. I acquired it through the magical Davis County library system.
Imagine the Oz you knew as a child. The magical yellow brick road, the innocent Dorothy caught in the whirlwind and crushing the witch, the beloved characters singing and dancing hoping to reach the Wizard so they could all get something… a brain, a heart, courage, home.
Now forget all of that. Scifi’s Tin Man is not your mother’s Oz. It’s a modern, edgy, steampunk inspired retelling that is clever in all the right ways.
For starters, Dorothy is replaced by DG, played by the lovely and charming Zooey Deschanel. And don’t expect the pig tails and blue dress. That’s her waitress uniform. DG rocks slacks and a bomber jacket. The wicked witch is actually a beautiful Sorceress, Azcadilia, in search of the Emerald to amplify her power during the coming eclipse. Oz is known as the O.Z. (or outer zone). Tornadoes are travel storms from their world to ours. And Scarecrow? Well, his name’s Glitch and he’s got a zipper on his head from when they removed half of his brain because he knew too much.
That’s only the beginning of this inspired re-imagining. I was stunned by how clever and original it all felt, not to mention the amusing nods to the classic all throughout (“It’s Tutor.” “Toto!”) I highly recommend this! It suffered from a little bit of corny overacting during the final act but the project as a whole is so ambitious and fun, it can be forgiven! A-
Welcome to The Hollow Tree! This is the free read fiction journal of Lisa Asanuma and Isabelle Santiago. Every other Friday we’re producing a new piece of short fiction somewhere in the YA fantasy genre, for you to enjoy for free!
All books herein reviewed have been purchased or borrowed from a public library unless stated otherwise. There is no compensation for these reviews. They are simply meant to provide informative entertainment options.