A Tomte is a creature from Scandinavian folktales. Often inhabiting the burial mounds near farms, Norse folklore states that these little dwarves or leprechauns are the spirits of the first person who owned the farm in question.
Tomtes (also called Nisses) are kind and benevolent beings, caring for household tasks so the residents don’t have to. If disrespected or treated poorly, however, Tomtes can run out of patience and leave forever. Though accounts vary, the one trait that a Tomte always has it is diminutive stature, often being described as less than 80 cm tall. Some stories tell of a Tomte doing such a great job that a farmer’s harvest is significantly better than that of neighbouring farms. In some cases, this ended badly for the poor farmer, whose harvest attracted the jealousy of others. There are several different kinds of Tomtes, such as the Skibsnisse who lived on ships, the mischievous sætternisse who hide among books and snuck typos and grammatical mistakes in literary works, or the Skovnisse, who live in forests.
(image source 1: John Bauer, illustration from 1909)
(image source 2: Olaus Magnus, 1555)
You know those folktales where some king who thinks he’s clever orders a much cleverer woman to come to him neither clothed nor naked, neither riding nor walking, and she arrives wrapped in nothing but a fishing net and astride a goat while her feet still touch the ground?
I kind of want that, but with some evil usurper who exiles the young rightful heir to the throne, saying that only once the heir returns with an escort made up of neither men nor women, neither silent nor speaking, he will relinquish the throne
And then one day the rightful heir comes marching back up to the castle gate, all grown up and flanked by an entire squad of nonbinary guards, who are all singing an extremely catchy marching song about the dethroning that’s about to happen
And Thank you for shaping, supporting and sharing our journey so far!
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, “The old devil woman retrieving her arm” (Japan 1889). A woodcut from a series of illustrations created for a 19th-century Japanese collection of ghost stories and folktales. (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne)
Fairies make up for their inability to lie with a panoply of deceptions and cruelty. Twisted words, pranks, omissions, riddles, scandals, not to mention their revenges upon one another for their ancient, half-remembered slights. Storms are less fickle than they are, seas less capricious.
What is it? Well first some history and linguistics, "baba" in babacore means comes from Slavic languages, and ultimately from Proto-Slavic *bàba (a noun grammatically feminine), which means:
Plus in some old and modern Slavic languages it developed the meaning of:
Anglophones/westerners may know this word from a being called "Baba Yaga".
Baba Jaga/Baba Jędza/Baba Yaga is from the Slavic folktales and folklore. Obviously the concept of an "old witch that lives alone" is not exclusive to the Slavic folklore, but the Baba Jaga itself, is.
The name Baba Jaga/Baba Jędza/Baba Yaga, naturally it too comes from Slavic languages, and ultimately from Proto-Slavic *baba ęga/*baba ędza, where the *baba part means as I said earlier, and the *ęga/*ędza part means "disease, terror", so *baba ęga/*baba ędza means something like "old witch, hag of terror/disease".
So, babacore is an aesthetic related to the character of Baba Jaga/Baba Jędza/Baba Yaga, an old wise witch, that lives alone, outside of the norm, somewhere in the woods or the swamps, in her hut that stands on a chicken leg. Baba Jędza is known to be very chaotic entity, sometimes she's a being of destruction, sometimes she helps the main hero in their quests.
Babacore could also be said it's like if you combine Slavic aesthetic (which generally is very colourful) with deep dark and dank woods/swamp.
If you're a queer Slav/Eastern European that feels like an outsider in your own country, or someone who's(queer,) respecful and very intrested in the Slavic folklore/tales, go for it and use it as your aesthetic, babacore is not tied to the colour of someone's skin/religion/etc.
So, main things that I think that could be babacore
an alone hut standing in the middle of a swamp/deep forest
being this "weird" out of the norm but wise person
visible worn out clothes with Slavic embroidery patterns on it
and so on!
And for the all the terfs and other queer-hating people and racists and other white supremacists, I hope that Baba Jędza will curse you, the snakes will bite you and the Holy Earth will devour you.
The Nøkken are creatures from Scandinavian folklore (and Germanic mythology too, under different names). They are associated with water and are usually described as shapeshifters. As the story has it, the Nøkken played magical songs on their violins to lure women and children towards a watery death. Other tales, however, claim they are not evil at all, and only want to entertain people with their music. In those versions, their violin music does attract people but nobody drowns. There are even stories of a Nøkk falling in love with a human, but they are inherently bound to the water. If the Nøkken can’t make contact with a pond of river on a regular basis, they will become depressed and despondent. And so they eventually leave their life in the human world and return to the water.
One myth claims that you can convince a Nøkk to teach you how to play such beautiful tunes on a violin, in exchange for an offering of three drops of blood, a black animal, vodka or snus (which is a Swedish kind of snuff made with tobacco, salt and sodium carbonate). In stories where Nøkken are evil and try to drown people, it is said that you can protect yourself against a Nøkk by throwing objects made of steel into the water.
(image source 1: Theodor Kittelsen, 1904)
(image source 2: Louise Meijer)
Birds play significant roles in many to the Danish folk tales collected by Danish literary historian and ethnographer Svend Grundtvig. To demonstrate, we present a few illustrations from an English translation in our Historical Curriculum Collection of several tales collected by Grundtvig, In the Bear's Paws and the Eagle's Claws and Other Fairy Tales (Grundtvig is cited here as Ivend Grundtvig), with illustrations by the Milwaukee-born artist E. B. Comstock, published in New York by McLoughlin Brothers in 1909. The birds include hawks, eagles, owls, and doves. These bold birds help the heroes and thwart the bad guys! Now, these are our kind of birds!
hi! I love your blog. I was wondering if you knew of any Jewish art/folktales from Belarus, or anywhere I could find them. thank you!
Hi! I didn't found jewish folktales specifically from Belarus, but I found tales from Eastern Europe. The book contains not only fairy tales, but also comments on them, describes the cultural and historical realities of thе time.
It is in Russian but you can use translate.yandex.com (it's better then google translator if we speak about russian-english translations).
Some visuals from the classic Hungarian Folk Tales series (Magyar Népmesék) by Magyar Televízió, a major television channel in Hungary. This show has always been a major visual inspiration for me, and I hope the same for you. All episodes are available on the Hungarian Folk Tales Youtube channel.
The true origin of The Corpse Bride Story (with Sources)
A TikTok video has falsely (probably by mistake) attributed the story The “Demon in the Tree” as the origin of the story used in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.
The Corpse Bride is based on a Jewish folktale but it is one called “The Finger.”
I am not Jewish but my late stepfather and my little brother are. Here’s the version of The Finger / The Corpse Bride Story that was told to me orally over fifteen years ago.
It used to be a cruel and common practice for antisemites to attack Jewish wedding parties and (especially) to brutally murder the bride as she was the one who would bear the next generation of Jews.
One day while walking in the woods a young man, who was about to be married, found what he thought was just an old root or branch that resembled a human hand. As a joke he decided to recite his vows three times (three always has power in folktales) while placing his ring on the branch. To his horror the young man discovered that the branch was actually the hand of a dead bride. She rose from her resting place and chased the young man back to his village.
The young man and his living bride went to the local Rabi for help. The Rabi was very sympathetic to the Corpse Bride and apologized to her but gently told her that the dead cannot marry the living. The Corpse bride began to cry and as she wept she started to fall apart. “Who will mourn me when I am gone?” she said “Who will remember my name? Who will remember me?” The living bride was so moved by the corpse bride’s pleas that she gathered up the fallen remains and consoled her that they would remember her. They would never forget her.
They gave the Corpse Bride a proper burial and that combined with the promise of remembering her seemed to put her to rest. That was the version I was told.
Sources: Both “The Demon in the Tree” and a slightly different version of “The Finger” can be found in the book Lilith’s Cave by Howard Schwartz. There is also a Youtube video about this by Jon Solo under his “Messed up origins” title.