PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – APRIL 30, 2013: Participants of the costumed parade at the Witches Night carry a straw witch over the Charles Bridges in Prague, Czech Republic.
Walpurgis Night is the English translation of Walpurgisnacht, one of the Dutch and German names for the night of 30 April, so called because it is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century English missionary to the Franks. In Germanic folklore, Walpurgisnacht, also called Hexennacht, literally “Witches’ Night”, is believed to be the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the rivers Weser and Elbe. May 1, also known as May Day and Beltane, was long celebrated in pre-Christian Europe as a highpoint of the magical year and many of the traditions and practices associated with it carried over into the celebration of Walpurga’s festival.
In much of Central Europe today, Walpurgis Night has become a holiday similar to Hallowe’en in the United States. People dress up as witches and go out to party — as in the photo above. There is often lots of drinking! In many places, a witch is burnt in effigy. In Prague, Walpurgis Night — Čarodějnice in Czech — is a very popular holiday. There are two Central European holidays that I would love to arrange to attend sometime… one is the Krampus parades in Salzburg in early December and the other is Walpurgis Night in Prague! (I guess another holiday I’d like to see sometime are the Midsummer bonfires in late June. Anybody want to join me? Maybe we can arrange a group to go together to one of these holidays!)
(A chapter of Come Hell or High Water, Part One: Wellspring happens on Čarodějnice.)
You can also read my 2014 post about Walpurgis Night if you want.
Alexandra Cheira, a scholar of fairy tales and mythology at the University of Lisbon, recently presented a paper about the Come Hell or High Water trilogy at a conference. Her paper examines the relationship between historical fact and legend in the books; she uses the question Robert Browning asks in The Ring and the Book as the title for her paper (and I use it for the title of this post). Alexandra says that the interplay of fact and fairy tale in trilogy presents “a whole picture of the city, in which well-done research is matched by believable story-telling, so much so that the realistic narrative is interspersed by supernatural occurrences which do not strike even the most skeptical reader as out of character.”
She also writes that “the narrative structure is also well-balanced between realism and fantasy, with the description of the conferences, the delegates and the general camaraderie that accompanies them acting as a down-to-earth catalyst for the supernatural parts. The narrative tone is informed – but never lecturing – and the reader does actually learn a lot on a variety of subjects without realizing it.”
Alexandra concludes, “All in all, Morris has managed to create an urban-historical fantasy which pairs fiction and fact and brings to question what is real and what is imagined. ‘Fiction’ is an aid to ‘fact,’ something that can better a story, so that Morris’s ‘fictional facts’ do indeed ring true in the wider context of the novels.”
I am very happy that Alexandra chose to discuss Come Hell or High Water in her paper at the conference. As with all good critiques, she taught ME something about the books that I had not realized as I was writing them!
New review of STORM WOLF:
“This is both a historical novel and a werewolf novel, and the combination is intriguingly like the experience of reading Dracula. The connection to Eastern Europe myths and legends gives this additional interest, and the portrayal of the setting, the prominence of the forest and field and superstitions, was well-done.
“My grandmother was Lithuanian, so I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the townspeople’s rituals and traditions. The contrast between the different countries was interesting and described with vigor and color. The action scenes were also done well and vividly….
“The characterization was really intriguing. Alexei was a deep character, doomed by his fatal flaw of wanting more and more experience and power, and suffering for it for years to come. I found myself sympathizing with him as he really was exploited, even if he at some level brought it on himself.
“Good work! The use of the old legends and suspicions really energized and individualized the story.”
(comments by a Judge, 4th Annual Self-Published e-Book Awards)
Read more about STORM WOLF!