Monday, April 4, 2011

SRP One Story One World: Folklore's Magical Creatures

It's spring now, but just around the corner will be summer. The time when children start the chants, "No more pencils, no more books.." and they rush outdoors to begin their few weeks of freedom. For most public libraries across the country, this is the busy season. Especially in the children's area, where parents with children in tow search for activities to keep everyone busy and happy. Summer Reading Programs change the end of school chants to, "Know more characters, Know more books". This year will be no different. The theme "One Story, One World" gives an opportunity for children to explore the world through tales from long ago, the present or into the future.

Every culture has favorite tales that are unique to them. It is true that from country to country, continent to continent, the tales can be unique but they also share some similarity. The themes usually deal with good versus evil or teaching a moral lesson. Each tale may have one or more magical creature who either brings chaos or clarity to a story. These magical characters come in all shapes, sizes and sometimes are familiar to young readers. This year's SRP theme is perfect for inviting these magical creatures into the library for little ones to find. Of course these creatures don't exist except in the imagination and between the covers of books. This should not deter any librarian from collecting statues or pictures of them to grace the library during a summer program that could stir the pot of imagination. As a matter of fact, it can stir up some fun if it turns into a scavenger hunt.

What magical characters should top the list at this year's summer program? For starters, Leprechauns, Gnomes, Trolls and Elves. These are the magical little people that either cause mischief or good will towards humankind. Although they are small they are mighty. (Gnomes were fabled to be seven times stronger then humans.) Everyone knows that Leprechauns are part of the Irish heritage, but where did the other little people originate. A bit of trivia here, Gnomes are said to originate from Scandinavia. Trolls are from Norway, while Elves are from the German tradition. What could possibly be smaller than all of these characters combined? The Abatwa which comes from South Africa folklore. Abatwas are the size of ants, and life among them in ant hills. In folklore, are very shy but will show themselves to young children, pregnant women or wizards.

No list of magical characters would be complete if unicorns, centaurs and pegasus. Each of these creature have features similar to horses. While mentions of the unicorns can be found in the bible, most avid readers would place the origins of these three with Greek mythology. In he Chinese tradition, the unicorn is called Qilin. Close your eyes and picture an animal that has a body of a deer, the head of a lion, green scales and a long forwardly-curved horn. Nope not a unicorn in our book, but then again, variety is the spice of life!

Going off to the sea, magical creatures from Ireland , Scotland and Iceland, such as mermaids and selkies show up in folklore as beautiful female creatures who capture mens' hearts. In the case of mermaids, some of there tales involve luring fishermen to their watery grave or trading in their scales to become human in order to live with their human soul mate. Selkies are from the Scottish and Icelandic traditions. These beautiful creatures who are half human and half seal, and when they come to shore, if they strip from their seal skin, will become human. Their fate is doomed if a fisherman steal the selkie's seal skin and makes her his wife.

Not to be forgotten are fairies and pixies. Both of these creatures are often depicted as little helpers or notorious pranksters. Either way, they have fluttered their way into the hearts of many readers around the globe. Perhaps the best known, and loved fairy around the world is Tinkerbell, from J.M Barrie's Peter Pan.

Each one of these magical creatures add a vibrant chapter to the world's storybook. It is well worth the effort to find stories, songs and images of them to demonstrate how cultures have similar stories and characters but each adding a unique perspective. The gnome sitting in front of this computer is anxiously waiting to be used as a scavenger hunt prop. He will have to wait along with the leprechaun, troll, unicorn and fairy for summer to roll around. Until then, a reader's bibliography featuring these lovely creatures will be compiled.

If interested in the bibliography, just drop a note at
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