Etymology – What’s in a word? – Part II Creatures and Races

Here we are again, delving into the wondrous world of etymology and the derivation of words – a topic I adore, being the nerd that I am!

White Mountain full book jacket

Today, I’m focusing on the races and creatures of White Mountain and The Darkling Chronicles, and the roots behind their invention. Being a total geek for all things of an etymological nature, together with a love of ancient history, archaic cultures, geography, geology and world myths, I’ve used many of these elements in the creation of my races and creatures. Lol, I should also thank the marvellous Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable for being such an inspiration over the years!

(*My Dworllian language – actually a mixture of Maori, African Bantu & Ibo (Igbo) dialects, Old Norse, Old English, Celtic and Old Hindi).

Races:

Apart from humans, which feature more largely in Books 2 & 3, the main (‘elder’) race featured in White Mountain are Dworlls. Ǽllfrs are also an elder race but although remnants of their culture remain, there are no actual ǽllfrs in White Mountain, having left many millennia before in ‘The Great Exodus’**.

  • Dworlls – Ancient and proud race pre-dating humans. Protectors of nature and custodians of the great forests, jungles and grasslands. Highly skilled craft workers and inventors. Dworlls have broad stocky frames and are stouter than ǽllfrs, especially ‘ground dwelling’ dworlls, though still tall by human standards (average height 6ft). Pale to tanned skin, pale eyes, earth-toned hair, some elders of royal bloodline may have small forehead ridges at the hairline (males only). Dworlls are divided into two principal castes. The taller and more agile mountain dworlls prefer open and airier spaces to their stouter subterranean-loving cousins. These ground or earth dworlls are shorter and broader than their lofty relatives but older in history, heredity and lifespan and were always by far the more numerous of the two types. Dworlls built not merely with grand designs and architectural wonder but with expansion and population in mind. And so sprang the great dworll kingdoms and metropolises of which Kallorm was the first and greatest. Most of these resided underground as is the custom of dworlls but took the breath away in their sheer size and ingenuity.

(Dworlls* – related in myth to ‘dwarves’ or ‘dwarfs’. In derivation terms, to Old English ‘dweorg’ and Old Norse ‘dvergr’ relating to manlike creatures possessing magical powers.)

 

  • Ǽllfr (ǽllfr) – An ancient race of people pre-dating humans, prodigious intellect, great astronomers but fickle in nature and disinterested in the matters of others. These antediluvian beings were tall and sinuous (average height 7 – 8ft), yet broad in frame and with great strength and agility. Angular features with notably high cheekbones, dark skin and dark hair. The height of Ǽllfren society was some 500-340,000 (BC) years ago, whereby it steadily declined. With the advent of a growing human population, and intolerant of this lesser species, the first exoduses occurred. **The final great exodus coincided with the end of the last Ice Age and the boom in human populace, some 10,000 years ago. Very few ǽllfrs remained. Ǽllfrs built their small but grand cities, not merely amongst the heights of mountains, but on the plains and savannahs and even the deserts of the world. But among the great sand palaces and glistening crystal spires, the most spectacular of these cities were those oceanic pearls that perched on islands or cliff faces just above the sea, or those rare marvels that sparkled beneath it.

(Ǽllfr/ǽllfr* – referred in myth to ‘elf’s’ or ‘elves’. In derivation terms, ǽllfr – from Old English ‘ælf’ and Old Norse ‘elfr’. Also related to ‘alfarr’ ‘alfa’ – the Greek for alpha ‘first’ (first race) may have derived from this.)

 

  • Dwelf (dwelfr) – A mixed race person, the result of a rare union between an ǽllfr and dworll. Dwelfrs are taller than dworlls and have the high refined features and darker skin of their ǽllfr kin but with broader stockier frames from their Dworllian parentage.

(Dwelfr* – literally ‘dworll’ + ‘ǽllfr’.)

  • Mage (magus, magi) – Wizard (male witch), with supernatural powers and the ability to manipulate and control magic. Magus a Zoroastrian priest (of ancient Medes and Persia), a sorcerer or magician of ancient times.

(Mage – archaic word for magician/wizard from C14 ‘magus’. Magus – from Old Persian ‘magus’ and Greek ‘magos’. Also referenced in the story of Simon Magus, a sorcerer who tried to buy powers from the apostles in the time of Roman Emperor Nero. Wizard – (male witch) from C15 ‘wissard’ (‘wise’ + ‘ard’) and ‘wise man’/’wise men’ (magi).)

 

  • Wærloga – Old English word for warlock. Literally a man who practices black magic, witchcraft, a dark sorcerer.

(Wærloga – Wærloga or Wǣrloga meaning oath breaker from wær oath + loga liar, also ‘traitor, scoundrel, monster’, also ‘the Devil’, from wǣr ‘covenant’ and an element related to lēogan ‘belie, deny’. From its application to the Devil, the word was transferred in Middle English to a person in league with the Devil, and hence a warlock.)

 

  • Wicca(Wycca) – Witch (wych),one who practices magic (‘the old arts’), from Old English ‘wicca’.

 

Beasts/Creatures:

  • Fÿrren* – Dragon. A Dworllian and Ǽllfren colloquialism for any dragon, wyvern, wyrm or firedrake. Fÿrrens (dragons) also refer to themselves by this name. 2f366ac0ee796ef54fc6cbf42693205b[1]

(Fÿrren* – fÿr meaning ‘fire’ from Old English ‘fȳr’ and Old Norse ‘fūrr’ + en (suffix) from Old English ‘en’ related to Gothic ‘-eins’.)

 

  • Fÿrullfr* – Firewolf. An ancient demon of the old world, firewolves are gigantic beasts, bear-like in size with the tusks of a boar, sharpened fangs and red fiery eyes. A portent of evil they were greatly feared by both Dworllian and Ǽllfren societies for the relentless pursuit of their victims, their voracious appetite for flesh, destructiveness and their ability to breathe fire. Firewolves are bitter enemies of all dragons and are thought to have been the real culprits behind many ‘dragon attacks’ of old.2da19d0044f73e0c41500ddc0ca68907[1]

(Fÿrullfr* – fÿr meaning ‘fire’ + ullfr meaning ‘wolf’ similar to Old Norse ‘ulfr’. N’dirron – Another word for firewolf (fÿrullfr), or any ancient wolf demon known to breathe fire – related to ‘Andiron’ (firedog) from Old French ‘andier’.)

 

  • Naru’l’tarr* – A forest leopard (Amur leopard of Siberia, not to be confused with the Snow Leopards of the Himalayas and Hindi Kush).

(Naru’l’tarr* – Dworllian word naru meaning ‘forest’ or ‘wood’ + l’tarr Dworllian word meaning leopard (sometimes referred to as ‘silent walker’) related to Old French ‘lepart’ for leopard.)

 

  • Mokèlé-mbèmbé (Mokèllé-mbèmbé) – A giant feared lake monster of the jungles of central Africa, specifically the Congo basin around Lake Tele, near to Kallorm and the area that Wendya Undokki grew up. Thought to resemble a living a sauropod dinosaur it was first recounted in oral history tradition by the indigenous Ba’Aka forest people.

(Mokèlé-mbèmbé – ‘one who stops the flow of rivers’ in Lingala or Ngala language, an African Bantu language of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Republic of Congo.)

 

  • Tarpans (tarrpans*) – Often referred to as ‘tarrpa’s’ (Dworllian colloquialism). Ancient and beautiful breed of European wild horse common in prehistoric times (Equus caballus gomelini) but now extinct outside of Fendellin, that used to be widespread throughout Anatolia and the Russian steppes. Hardy animals, similar to the Przewalski’s horse or Dzungarian wild horses of Mongolia, with stiff bristly manes, no forelock’s and thick coats in winter which they moult in spring. However, tarpans have much longer legs making them excellent runners, often have a dorsal or shoulder stripe and have sturdy yet graceful frames akin to Arabian horse breeds. Horse studies 001 - Copy

(Tarpan – from Kirghiz Tatar language. Dworllian* equivalent ‘tarrpan’ or ‘tarrpas’ – double ‘rr’ (and ‘ll’) a feature of Dworllian language and delineated in pronunciation by rolling the ‘rr’ and elongating the ‘ll’.)

 

  • Wargols – Troll like creatures with facial tusks, broad shoulders, muscular arms, dark blueish skin (which gave rise to the term ‘night beasts’), heavy Neanderthal brows and crimson coloured inset eyes (with particularly good night vision). Wargols are evil servants of Morreck (M’Sorreck the Corruptor), enemies of all ancient races and humans, known for their limited intellect but viciousness and strength.

(Wargols* – Ancient Dworllian and Ǽllfren word derived from the creatures’ own thirst for war (often referred to as ‘gols’ for short). Possibly the derivation source for the word ‘gargoyle’ meaning a person or creature with a grotesque appearance, taken from C15 Old French ‘gargouille’.)

 

  • Gorrgos – A powerful, massive and very ancient subterranean beast of archaic times. Snake/Wyrm like in shape and with the capacity to change the colour of its skin. Often referred to as the ‘terror of the tunnels’, it dwells in the deep chambers and caverns of Kallorm’s catacombs and ‘undercity’.

(Gorrgos* – Dworllian word meaning ‘terrible beast’. Possibly the derivation source for the Greek word ‘gorgos’ meaning terrible, also used in relation to the Gorgons – Greek myth of three winged sisters with live snakes for hair.)

 

  • Oracle of the West – A malevolent and powerful creature capable of foreseeing the future (Oracle – Parrtea) – Any ancient and wise creature with prophetic powers to read the future. Usually powerful and often malevolent even dangerous beings. Some have magical and telepathic abilities allowing them to read the minds of their ‘visitors’ (especially the weak-minded) and alter the outcome of any advice or wisdom given. Originally there were nine great, powerful and feared Oracles scattered throughout the ancient world, most of which have since disappeared. Associated legend tells of stories of the Oracles eating their ‘seekers of knowledge’ (visitors) after helping them. As a result, such creatures were feared and given frequent human and animal sacrifices to protect those who sought them out or lived under the shadow of their lair.

(Oracle – from Old French and Latin ‘ōrāculum’ and ‘ōrāre’ meaning ‘to speak’.)

***

Lol, right I think I’ve bored you all silly, so I won’t go on and on any longer, but you get the idea!

Part III, the final part in this etymological series, will look at objects and the things that make up the world of White Mountain! 😀 xxx

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-i-places/

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Publication Day!!!!!

Lol, okay, I’m already late I know, but it’s taken me nearly a week to process what’s happened!

My epic fantasy, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, was brilliantly published by Kristell Ink Publishing and Grimbold Books last week on 1st December 2014!!!!

To say I’m ecstatic would be a gross understatement, kind of like saying that George Lucas is only vaguely fond of science fiction!

My wonderful new publishers are a world, in fact, a galaxy far far away from what I had encountered previously and the level of dedication, hard work, expertise and passion with which they have approached the publishing of White Mountain, is more than I could ever have hoped for. From the attention to detail, the editing, the formatting, the layout, the beautiful calligraphy, not to mention the AWESOME original artwork commissioned for the AWESOME new cover!!! Wow! I’ve gone from hell to heaven in one leap!

White Mountain full book jacket

I won’t dwell on the past two years, mostly because this is an incredibly happy time and I don’t want to miss a blissful second of it! I’m humble and thankful beyond words, but mostly, for the first time in ages, I am really truly excited, thrilled and proud to have my novel, a book that took ten years in the writing and researching, finally published as it always should have been!

So, before I continue gushing all over your lovely carpet, what is the book actually about?

Well, beyond the plot itself, a struggle for survival against all odds, the courage it takes to stay the course and an epic showdown between good versus evil, the book is also about identity.

Wendya Undokki

Yes, it’s an epic fantasy in the old-fashioned ‘high fantasy’ tradition, but the themes run deeper than just the action. Throughout the book, the primary issues are around identity, how do we define it, define ourselves? Are we fated to repeat history, to be slaves to our genes? What defines family? Is it the people we are related to through blood that constitute a family or the people we choose to have in our lives, people we love and trust? I have my own personal reasons for being interested in that subject matter. I have said on more than one occasion that I identify with Wendya the most, for many of the same conflicted, complicated reasons.

The book deals with another of my passions, the transformative nature of the world we live in today. Our disappearing natural planet mirrors the growing confines that many of the main characters find themselves in. Humanity is everywhere, how does an ancient pre-existing culture hope to continue surviving, in secret, under such overwhelming pressures? How can the world continue as it is, with the current level of wanton destruction? In many ways the disintegration of the natural world perfectly reflects the disintegration of the characters own archaic civilisation, long past its prime and teetering on the edge of extinction.

I don’t hate every aspect of modern life, like Tolkien generally did, how could I? Where would I be without my blog, my TV, my modern comforts?

But like so many of us armchair activists, I worry for the planet’s future, for nature and the few wild places left. Even in the small rural idyll where I grew up, the bluebell wood at the bottom of the road that I used to play bare foot in, with the little twisting stream running through it, was torn up and replaced by ten ugly Barratt houses. Instead of building much needed houses on brown field sites crying out for rejuvenation or renovating the UK’s many abandoned buildings, our precious woodlands and green spaces are being carved up.

Once lost, those precious green spaces are lost forever.

The Grey Forest

Again, loss is a running theme too. Something we all experience to varying degrees and something that each of the characters have certainly experienced. Loss is as much a part of life as life itself, it is something that can define us, if we let it, or spur us on to achieve our goals while we still have time.

Lol, I’m sounding terribly serious here when I don’t mean to be. The novel has humour and lightness, particularly in the running banter between the characters, but in many ways it is an exploration of the state of humanity through a fantasy lens. That’s probably my favourite genre, not just fantasy, but ‘magic realism’, the blending of the real world with the fantastical one.

Anyway, enough pontificating. Here is a small excerpt from White Mountain, hope you enjoy it! 😀 xxx

*****

The midday sun passed into a hazy afternoon. The last soldiers descended, and the host were on their way again, marching at a great pace to recover lost time. The landscape changed around them. Flat plains and rambling hills of tussock gave way to gnarled weather-beaten rock and thicket beds, their needle like thorns starkly black against the grey granite.

The ground sloped steadily downward before levelling, where the barren expanses of rock fell away into mud, reed and bog. They had reached the Shudras, the silent marshes.

Slimy quagmires stretched out before them as an endless sea. Troughs of stagnant water riddled their way into hazardous deep pools. Foul smelling vapours rose from the ground in choking clouds. The thought of crossing such a place lowered all their spirits.

“This was once a wondrous land,” Hallm said. “These were the water-meadows of the great Kara Kara River. The pure waters fed Fendellin’s rarest orchids here. Grass-pipers, willow larks and meadow-cranes, flitted amongst its grasses. Now, its foul mud clogs every channel and tributary with stagnant filth. Its water sprites and larks have long departed.”

“Our beasts cannot cross this!” King Baillum declared raising his hand. “The pathways should be clear at this time of year. This is the only passage through the swamps…the waters have risen! Another evil M’Sorreck has perpetrated on this land. If we try passing, we shall lose many good horses. Certainly, the wagons cannot cross.”

“How far do these marshes stretch?” Korrun asked Hallm.

“Eight and ten leagues at the shortest crossing, which is here,” he replied.

The King’s stoicism gave way to anger. “How could this happen? We sent scouts ahead to gauge the terrain. Why did they not report this? Bring them here!” he demanded.

Frell whispered into his father’s ear. The dwelf watched the King’s face change, an unmistakable flash of shock. The news was not good. Korrun glanced at Wendya and the wizard. As if reading his mind, Gralen stepped forward.

“If wheels are no use, wings will have to do,” he said boldly. “My kin can take the wagons and the oxen if the rest of you can find a way through?”

Korrun smiled. “He is right, Sire. If the fÿrrens can carry the heavier loads, we should be able to cross. I am a tracker and used to finding lost pathways. I’m sure we can find a way.”

“And if the horses are lost?”

“Then my kindred will have more burdens to bear,” replied Gralen simply. “A dworll is lighter than an ox!”

King Baillum managed a brief smile. “No obstacles too great? We shall see,” he said beckoning to Sedgewick above.

Sedgewick and the other dragons swooped down to carry the various wagons and carts, siege-rams and battle gear, too heavy for the marshes. The most careful dragons carried the nervous beasts, zebu, water buffalo and battle oxen, the eighteen leagues north, to dry land.

Following Korrun and Hallm, the army began their arduous crossing of the Shudras.

It was well into the night before the last exhausted traveller reached the delights of hard ground once more. They set up camp, the slimy mud and stench of the marshes clinging to each bedraggled member as an unwelcome reminder of the day. A deep unease fell on them.

Korrun sat quietly by one of the campfires, listening to Lord Tollam and Hallm speculate, in hushed tones on the battle to come.

“It could be a Hal’Torren’s choice all over again,” Hallm commented.

The other dworlls nodded grimly.

“Hal’Torren’s choice? What’s that?” Korrun asked.

Hallm shrugged. “It’s any situation where the outcome is pre- determined or unavoidable, and usually terrible.”

Lord Tollam poked the fire, his violet eyes reflecting the glimmer of the flames. “It is an old legend, but a true story. Hal’Torren was a nobleman, strong, incorruptible, a hero and leader to his people. He lived in Oralam, a beautiful city once. One day he returned home to find his family held hostage by his sworn enemy, M’Sorreck. Hal’Torren loved his family deeply, his wife, his three young children. He offered his life in exchange for theirs. But Morreck wanted something far more precious. He wanted to break Hal’Torren utterly.” Tollam sighed. “No matter what he did, how he bartered and begged, Hal’Torren was given a dreadful choice. Watch ten thousand of his own people perish, innocent children and families like his own, to save just one member of his family, or save his people and watch all his family die. Now Hal’Torren was a great leader, and he loved his people, but like any father, how could he sacrifice his own family?”

Korrun looked at the wise old dworll. “What did he choose?”

“To condemn ten thousand souls to a grisly death, to save one of his family.” He shook his head. “Then he had to make the worst choice of all…which member of his family to save. That is Hal’Torren’s choice. It is no choice at all. You are damned whichever path you take!”

“How did it end?” the dwelf asked quietly.

Lord Tollam sighed and glanced at his son as if thanking the gods that he never had to face such a choice. “Tragically of course…he chose to save his daughter, the youngest of his three children. They were then forced to watch his wife and two sons being murdered before them. Naturally, it traumatised the young girl. Only a few years later her father found her hanging from a willow tree. He promptly hung himself beside her. You see why Hal’Torren’s choice is impossible. Save one, sacrifice others, condemn yourself.”

“Morreck is a fengal beast, a monster!” Korrun said through gritted teeth.

“Yes, of the worst kind…” replied Tollam.

Hallm looked at his father for a moment then turned to the dwelf. “Have you ever faced a Hal’Torren’s choice?” he asked.

Korrun shifted uneasily, his face half hidden in shadow. “Once,” he whispered.

“What happened?” Hallm asked, trying to hide his surprise.

The dwelf stood up, his eyes lost in the fire. “I made the wrong choice,” he said simply, then turned and left.

*****

Fendellin and the Encircling Mountains

White Mountain cover

White Mountain full book jacket

My first author signing and book launch event!!!

Okay, on a scale of 1 to 10 about how excited, terrified, thrilled, bewildered, and nervous I am…I’m floating somewhere around the thousand mark!

On Saturday 6th October 2012, I will be having my very first book launch and author signing event. *gulp*  Yes, I’m the author in question (still have to pinch myself over that one).

Well, the lovely talented Octavia Karavla, bookworm, advocate of the written word and owner of the most magical little bookshop I’ve ever been to, Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester, is hosting my event this Saturday.

Octavia’s Bookshop (24 Black Jack Street, Cirencester) may be small but it’s perfectly formed. A really buzzing prestigious and child friendly bookshop with oak lined shelves, bohemian soft furnishings and a lovely relaxed vibe.  http://www.octaviasbookshop.co.uk

It was runner-up in the Telegraph’s Best Small Shops in Britain Awards, was then shortlisted for Best Children’s Independent Bookshop in The Bookseller Industry Awards and Octavia herself was shortlisted for Young Bookseller of the Year and has just been named one of The Bookseller’s ‘Rising Stars’! Wow!

So, this is the wonderful place where little old me, nervous jelly in waiting, will be from 11am until 4pm, talking to customers and signing books!

whoa.

Seriously thrilled to be having the book launch for White Mountain, book 1 of the Darkling Chronicles, in such an awe inspiring venue. Thank you, Octavia!

*gulp*

7 days!!!!

Just one more week!

7 little days until my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, is published and released to the world!!

A new epic fantasy for the 21st century.

Wizards, wargols, dworlls, dragons, fire wolves, an oracle, a witch and a changeling…

Amongst our modern world lies another, an archaic and hidden world of tradition, sorcery and magic. As dark demons awaken from our past, the last remaining wizards are being hunted and murdered by a changeling of terrifying strength. Attacked and drained of most of his powers, a dying sorcerer must race against time to save himself and the fate of all, from an enemy intent on cleansing the planet and destroying humanity…

“An epic fantasy onion – multi-layered and prone to cause tears!”

Wow! All the years of writing, researching, editing and dreaming have all boiled down to this moment.

7 days…just 7 days…

😀

New Zealand Odyssey Part IX – Pancakes, White Mountain and The Wonders of the South…

Feeling myself dissolving into the sands of Maraharu, the endless blue horizon before me and the exotic delights of the Abel Tasman rainforest, I felt once more the pull of the road.

Dragging myself away, my heart full of a strange tranquility I had never known, I rejoined my odyssey…afterall, who knew what wonders might lie around the next corner?

I took the winding hill roads and said goodbye to the sun-kissed vineyards of the Nelson and Marlborough regions. Passing through the thick coastal rainforests I joined the main highway and turned south towards the wildness of the South Island’s craggy coastlines and mountain ranges. That is New Zealand’s beauty and its magic…the drama of its ever-changing landscapes. Nowhere on earth, do you have a country only the size of Britain and yet with such varied geology. White sandy beaches and deserted islands, tropical jungles, active volcanoes, mountains, grasslands, fiordlands, moorland, temperate rainforests, huge freshwater lakes, giant sandhills…New Zealand has it all!

Leaving my rental car in Murchison, a small isolated town surrounded by towering hills in the heart of the Nelson Lakes National Park, I took a cheap bus and followed the highway west towards the coast, feeling the temperature visibly cool. With so few roads, dictated by the mountainous landscape, so many places I passed through felt like frontier towns, places completely out of time.

I hit the coast just south of Westport. Here the State Highway hugged the shoreline like a ribboning snake, giving the most amazing views out to sea. Again, with nothing but the wild ocean for thousands of miles, you were instantly reminded of just how remote New Zealand is and just how beautiful.

With the impenetrable forests of the Paparoa National Park on my left and long stretches of wind-blown beaches on my right, the landscape grew evermore wild and evermore spectacular. Not being much of a coach passenger, I stopped off at the suitably named Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes of Punakaiki. A weird and wonderful natural geological formation of…well…pancake stacked rocks, perched right on the water’s edge!

After whiling away most of the day, scrabbling over the rocks and trying not to fall into one of the many gaping holes that opened up before you, I caught another bus and continued south, my eyes inextricably drawn to the far off snowy peaks of the Southern Alps.

Trundling into Greymouth, the largest town I’d seen since leaving Nelson, I managed to find a lovely holiday cabin right on the beach, my base for the next few nights. Named after the mighty Grey River-Mawheranui, whose mouth Greymouth literally straddles, it was a strange sort of town. A mismatch somehow, of grey urban sprawl and border town with a dour kind of feel.

Nonetheless, my little beach hut was just the thing, going to sleep and waking with nothing but the sound of the waves! Utter bliss! Half the time I felt as if I had stumbled into Bronte’s Wuthering Heights or an Ingmar Bergman film, so hauntingly barren was the place!

Doing the touristy thing, I headed for the Kumara Junction and boarded a train on one of the world’s most spectacular train rides, the famous Arthur’s Pass. Linking Greymouth and the west coast of New Zealand to Christchurch in the east, it bestrides the country and takes in the most breathtaking scenery imaginable. What a trip! Following the valley floors, with mountainous peaks rising either side, the train climbed and took us up to the alpine heights of Arthur’s Pass, snaking its way through the lofty terrain, before plunging down to the flat Canterbury Plains surrounding Christchurch.

I spent a few hours wandering the very civilised and surprisingly English feeling city of Christchurch, before boarding the train for the spectacular return journey. One incredible journey I’ll never forget…but the best was to come.

Spending a few lazy days beach combing and exploring the area I set off again and headed for Hokitika, famous for its greenstone or jade, determined to buy some locally carved jewelery. But always, the looming mountains of the Southern Alps were calling to me in a way I just couldn’t explain.

And so, hauling my backpack and picking up another rental car, I succumbed to the pull of the mountains and headed towards the Franz Josef glacier. Taking the state highway once more, as it left the coast and wound its way inland over rushing rivers, valley basins and beside beautiful lakes, I felt myself falling in love once more with the sheer unspoilt majesty of the landscape.

Reaching West Coast, the nearest settlement to the glacier, I found a cheap place to stay and started my next adventure…

It was a bright February morning. The sky was the kind of electric blue you never really believe is real somehow. A perfect day. Cold but full of sunshine and possibilities.

I took my car, a run-down automatic transmission thing, down to this little air field…and then I saw it. The tiniest aeroplane I had ever seen! My banged up jalopy looked bigger!

Without much regard, I climbed into the small seat beside the pilot and off we went! Soaring  above the lower slopes of the Southern Alps. Trying desperately not to vomit all over the cock-pit, I stared out of the window, nodding at the pilot’s remarks while I kept my mouth firmly shut! (doesn’t happen often)

Rivers snaked beneath us. As we flew over the snow-capped mountains, Mount Cook loomed in the distance – New Zealand’s tallest mountain and the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. Utterly stunning in its grandeur. Nausea disappeared. I looked on in astonishment as we circled Mount Cook’s flanks. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. All I could think of was…”I’ve found it! I’ve found my White Mountain!”

We left Mount Cook, Aoraki in Maori, and landed on a pristine snow field just above the Franz Josef glacier. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

This was nature at its simplest and purest. Nothing but white and the startling blue above. The snow here had a covering of ice crystals which crunched beneath my feet as I left the plane and went walking. I followed the contours of the peaks around me and looked down to the glacier below with its gaping crevasses.

This was a once in a lifetime moment and the real stuff of magic.

With Mr. Agyk whispering in my head, the story of White Mountain began to unfold…

Post World Book Day – Hobbits and other wonders!

Okay, so World Book Day was the 1st March, so I’m a few days behind, the rigours of work I’m afraid. I celebrated the day, by getting the children I teach to show and talk about their favourite books. It was fantastic to see the huge range of books that really captivate the children’s imaginations, including a couple of wonderful non-fiction books on animals and the natural world, a far more prevalent subject nowadays than when I was a child.

It really highlighted the importance that stories and books in general have on us all, and just how vital they are for a child’s growing imagination. It also got me thinking about the books that I loved as a child and how our tastes change or remain.

For me, as a very young child it was the books of Richard Scarry, with his finely detailed and labelled illustrations and his wonderful anthropomorphic animals. I still fondly remember ‘The Busy Busy World’, and the hours I spent looking at each page. Then it was a staple diet of Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, Frances Hodgson Burnett and Lewis Carroll among others and the wonderful ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ stories of the early 80’s, interactive fiction books where you became the protagonist and actually choose from two or three options at the bottom of each page, deciding where the story goes. Amazing for developing storytelling!

Then…when I was 8, I read The Hobbit!

What a revelation it was! My first foray into the world of dragons and dwarves and great deeds to be done! I was hooked. Magic, adventure, epic storytelling and my first glimpse of a hobbit! That was it. Seeing Star Wars at the cinema (my very first film) when I was four years old, had had a HUGE impact on me and started my life-long love of science-fiction…but that was nothing compared to the ignition button that went off in my imagination at reading, The Hobbit! I devoured it, re-reading it again and again, then more Tolkien and any other fantasy I could get my hands on! My dreams were filled with wyverns and warriors, escapism of the most wondrous kind.

So…now I’m all grown up, do the same books hold the same power for me? Do we ever get over our first book love affair? Probably not, like most things we really love, they always have a profoundly special place in our hearts. So, though I won’t be picking up a beloved Richard Scarry or Beatrix Potter anytime soon, I’ll let them stay snuggled up in my literary past, my love of fantasy is a part of me now and as such I shall always love pioneers like Tolkien and C.S Lewis and all the other fantasy luminaries that followed.

Forget a single day…Happy World Book Year! 😀