Monday, 12 August 2013

3 Twisted Russian Folktales To Fuel Your Nightmares

The Russians have given us a lot, such as vodka, bears and snow, but they also have some super creepy folktales. While us westerners tell fairytales to young children that are full of whimsy and far-away lands, the eastern take on these stories is a little more, shall we say, horrifying. These tales, or Skazkas, would be told to fellow adults more than kids because of their pant-wetting nature.

Here are three Skakzas that may be unsuitable for children.

3. The Death of Koschei the Deathless

We're off to a good start with a contradictory title, but that's how they rope you in, isn't it? The Death of Koschei the Deathless is about the titular Koschei, a villain who cannot be killed by conventional means. His soul is kept inside a needle, which is an egg inside a duck, which is in a hare, which is in a locked iron chest, which is buried under an oak tree on the island of Buryan in the middle of the ocean. So, it's pretty secure, then.

The hero of the tale is Ivan Tsarevitch, who leaves home after his parents die and his sisters get married. He comes across a warrior woman called Marya Morevna whom he marries and they go off to live in a castle. Marya announces that she is to go off to war but while she's away Ivan isn't to open the door of their dungeon. Big mistake, because Ivan obviously opens it as soon as she's out of the door. In the dungeon he finds an emaciated Koschei, all chained up and nasty. Koschei asks the gullible Ivan for a drink of water, which he agrees to and fetches him 12 buckets which he drinks. The water brings back the villain's powers, so he vanishes into thin air, presumably leaving Ivan utterly pissing himself in terror.

Ivan discovers that Koschei has kidnapped Marya, even though she's an awesome warrior woman, and chases him down. Because Ivan is clearly a little weakling, unlike his wife, Koschei kills him, stuffs his carcass in a barrel and chucks him into the sea. Again, this one's not really for kids. Fortunately Ivan is resurrected by his sisters' husbands who happen to be bad-ass wizards who can also transform into birds of prey. They tell him that he needs to get a magical horse from Baba Yaga, a witchy woman who tests him. He passes the tests, finds Koschei, kills him and burns his body. Again, not really one for the kiddies. It begs the question of how he managed to kill the immortal with physical weapons, but who am I to judge dead Russian storytellers?

2. The Enchanted Tsarevich

We've all seen Beauty and the Beast, the timeless tale of a beautiful book nerd who gets into bestiality and does a duet with a French candle. Ok, so it's been a while, but I promise you that the Russian version is even more disturbing.

First off, the Russians decided against featuring a furry snaggle-toothed beast and instead thought that a three-headed winged snake would be more appropriate. The story goes that a merchant was caught by the hideous creature when he was picking flowers. The snake tells the merchant that for his crime of trespassing that he must give it the first person who greets him when he returns home. When he gets back his daughter rushes out and greets him, unaware of the scaly fate that slithers before her. She then must go to live in an empty castle with the snake beast.

Each night the snake moves his snakey bed closer to the girl until one night they are resting in the same bed. This, my friends, is so goddamn creepy I'm screaming while I type this. In the morning the girl is allowed to go home and see her dad, but it tells her that she must be back that night or he'll kill himself. Need to work on your threats there, snakeybobs. However, the girl stays out too long and, for some reason, rushes back home to find the snake laying on the ground dying. She kisses one of its heads and it miraculously turns into a handsome prince. He manages to heal and they live happily every after. Aww.

1. The Armless Maiden

Ok, this is a gruesome one. In fact, I'm sure The Armless Maiden will soon be a Eli Roth flick. Ready for this?

This story is about an orphaned brother and sister who moved into their own place. The brother opened up shop and got married to a woman who makes Norman Bates look like Mr Bean. One day, the brother told the sister that she could keep the house, but his wife went batshit insane and started breaking their furniture, but blamed the sister. The brother was cool about it and probably said something like "chill, babe, we can always buy more." His wife framed his sister again by massacring his favourite horse, but the brother said that the dogs could chow down on the festering nag head. Finally, things went completely off the rails when the wife gave birth, took the baby and lopped off its head, blaming the sister. Now the brother was all kinds of pissed, so drove his sister in a cart into a bramble and told her to disentangle herself. When she tried he cut off both of her arms and ran off. Keeping down your breakfast?

The sister managed to escape to a merchant town where she fell in love with a merchant's son. After two years he went on a journey, but told his parents to shoot him a letter when his child was born. His wife eventually gave birth to a boy with gold up to his elbows, stars on his sides, a moon on his forehead and the sun near his heart. The grandparents wrote to their son as promised, but the insane sister-in-law invited the messenger around and replaced the letter with one that said that his wife had given birth to a half wolf, half bear. Actually, that sounds pretty bad-ass, but the merchant's son didn't much care for it. He send a letter back saying that the kid shouldn't be harmed until he gets back, but the sister-in-law intercepted the letter again and changed it to read that the wife should be driven away.

So the grandparents gave her the kid and sent her packing. She left and tried to drink from a well, but the baby fell in, probably with a comedy whistle as it fell. Of course, she had no arms to fetch her baby, but a random old man told her to reach in anyway, probably because he was a prick trying to get his rocks off. Surprisingly, when she tried her arms were restored and she picked her baby out of the water. She then went on to the house where her brother, husband and insane in-law were staying. The sister-in-law answered the door and was like "shit" and told the guys that it was just a beggar lady. But the dudes wanted to invite her in to spin some beggar lady yarns because there was no Nintendo back then. When they discovered it was who it really was and that she was carrying the star-spangled baby, her brother tied his wife to a mare.

It returned with only her braid.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

5 Mythical Locations You've Probably Never Heard Of

Everyone has heard of Atlantis, the lost city said to have been swallowed by the ocean and according to the Nazis was populated by super buff Nordic Aryans, not unlike any given issue of Men's Health. Tales of mythical cities and countries have become a staple of legend, populated by super people and weird creatures. But there's a tonne of these mysterious locales that you've probably never heard of before. Here are 5 to delve into.

5. Agartha, the City at the Centre of the Earth

According to legends, Agartha is a great city the resides in the core of the Earth. It's linked in with the belief that the Earth is hollow and filled to the brim with weird people and creatures, a belief that still prevails to this day in some groups.

Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, or Lex to his buddies, recorded the first "account" of Agartha, which according to him is situated in the Himalayas. Alexandre stated that Agartha would be revealed to us normal humans when we start doing right by the Ten Commandments. It is unknown if we need to continue with following these rules by the time we've all descended into the hidden city or whether it's just going to be a massive free-for-all.

4. Kyöpelinvuori, Mountain of Virgin Ghosts

Kyöpelinvuori, or Ghost's Mountain in Finnish, is a place that is said to be haunted exclusively by dead women. Specifically, it's populated the ghosts of young virgins who gather on the mountain at the beginning of the afterlife.

At Easter, because the Finnish have decided that their kids obviously don't need to sleep, adults say that Kyöpelinvuori is inhabited by witches that leave the mountain on their broomsticks to scare the living shit out of Finland's children.

Ghost Mountain is related to the Swedish Blockula myth, a legendary meadow where the Devil met with witches on the Sabbath, had kids with them and then married those kids to produce toads and serpents. Textbook devilry, really.

3. Kingdom of Saguenay, Land of the Blond Men

The Kingdom of Saguenay is an Iroquoian legend that tells of a northern land riddled with blond men rich with gold and furs. Sounds fabulous!

Apparently Jacques Cartier, while travelling with the sons of Chief Donnacona, found the Saguenay river in 1536, which, according to the sons, was the gateway to Saguenay itself. French Canadian explorers have tried in vein to find the mythical kingdom but to no avail. According to Donnacona himself, Saguenay is the home to great silver and gold mines, enough to make anyone rich who travelled there.

Some people have speculated that it could have been a pre-Columbian Norse settlement, or perhaps just the Iroquoian Indians just dicking around with the French.

2.  City of the Caesars has ALL the Diamonds

Supposedly located somewhere in Patagonia, The City of the Caesars or Ciudad de los Césares is a mythical city along the lines of El Dorado. According to legend, the city is full of gold, diamonds and other precious stones and found nestled between a mountain of silver and a mountain of gold.

It is said that the city would appear at certain times, making it more difficult to find. To make matters worse, people who come across it are said to forget all about what they saw. This does beg the question of how anyone knows this, considering, y'know, they forget all about it.

1. Cockaigne, Land of Everything

Ever want to go to a place where you could have everything you wanted, societal restrictions were destroyed and nuns would spend their days prancing around showing their butts? Cockaigne is for you then, you big pervert.

According to Herman Pleij's Dreaming of Cockaigne: Medieval Fantasies of the Perfect Life, this is exactly what this utopia is like:

"Roasted pigs wander about with knives in their backs to make carving easy, where grilled geese fly directly into one's mouth, where cooked fish jump out of the water and land at one's feet. The weather is always mild, the wine flows freely, sex is readily available, and all people enjoy eternal youth."

Or how about this doozy by poet George Ellis: "The houses were made of barley sugar and cakes, the streets were paved with pastry, and the shops supplied goods for nothing."

Flying food, free shit, all the sex and wine your body can take. When medieval people dreamed, they dreamed big.