Written by Meredith Stoddard
I have always been fascinated by folklore. Whether it was Grimm’s fairy tales, labor lore of the early twentieth century, or the small, unwritten cultural traditions that permeate our society, I find it all fascinating. I’m in good company. Shakespeare, Chaucer and Boccaccio all found inspiration in folklore.
Today, folk horror is a popular film genre borrowing oral traditions that may have fallen by the wayside and translating them into our very modern world’s worst nightmares. Although, I’m not a horror writer, I do like to take tales and traditions and put my spin on them. My stories span multiple genres, but they all start with a seed of folklore.
Inspired To Write
I grew up in a place steeped in American history. Several battles of our Civil War occurred within a stone’s throw of my house. George Washington’s boyhood home is just across the river. As a young girl I soaked all that history and the accompanying legends up. Even today, I visit historical sites wherever I travel.
Almost inevitably, I will hear a bit of local legend or a custom that is passed down orally. While touring some historical site, a tour guide will say something that triggers my ‘what if’ engine. This is the thing that starts my writer’s brain working. “Legend has it that Blackbeard stopped here once with a woman he claimed was his wife. When he returned to his ship, he left the woman hanging from a tree in the back yard.”
And we have ignition. What if that really happened? How does it fit with other legends about Blackbeard? Who was she, and what was she like? With a little more research, it isn’t long before I’ve written my own fictionalization of that story, “The White House”.
“The daughter of a local doctor fell in love with the family’s tutor, but her family didn’t approve. They separated, but never stopped loving each other.” This was the story I was told at the grave of Nancy Manney in Beaufort, North Carolina. What must she have been like to inspire such steadfast love? What must he have been like? A bit of research proved that they were both extraordinary. Their story inspired me to write a historical novella, “A Fond Kiss”.
Discovering Gaelic Folklore
Legends, and oral traditions always touch that part of my brain that asks questions. While reading about Scottish, Irish, and Appalachian folklore I came across a fact. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the highest concentration of Gaelic speakers outside of Scotland was in North Carolina. I felt that tickle in my brain again. Who were these people? What traditions did they bring with them? What has lasted to the modern era? I couldn’t stop until I had thoroughly explored those questions. I made some discoveries about my own family and started learning a new language. I’m still exploring.
In this case, what I learned about Scottish folklore in North Carolina, blended with some other lines of research to inspire my Once & Future Series. I have combined that with Arthurian legends and grail romances. Out of that stew of myths and legends came the question, “What if the future part of the ‘once and future king’ happened now?” Naturally, that sparked many other questions about the Celtic Other World.
Writing More What Ifs
I bought books and books about Gaelic lore. I studied Gaels in the New World. I asked hundreds of questions. And in seeking those answers I have woven together a tapestry of legends and traditions impacting the modern life of a woman who is searching for the origin of a song that her grandmother taught.
So far that adventure has spanned four novels, several short stories, two continents and three generations. There is more to come, as I’m working on the fifth book. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep listening, reading, and searching for the next bit of folklore that will tickle that certain part of my brain that starts the ‘what ifs’ flying.
We strive to keep The Table Read free for both our readers and our contributors. If you have enjoyed our work, please consider donating to help keep The Table Read going!