If you ever attended my ‘Using Folklore in your Fiction’ workshop, you’ll know I’m a big believer in weaving folklore throughout our stories. After all, it helps to preserve the echoes of these tales and it can also help us connect to what we’re reading. To show how this can work in terms of ghostly Gothic fiction, Sara Crocoll Smith is going to walk us through how use uses folklore to inspire her own work!
Hopeful Horror Series: Gothic Ghosts, Daylight Horror, and a Light at the End of the Tunnel
Hi there, my spooky friends, I’m Sara Crocoll Smith, gothic horror author and editor-in-chief of Love Letters to Poe.
I write the Hopeful Horror series, standalone ghostly gothic novels that exist within the same universe and feature strong connections with nature, daylight, and rich, atmospheric prose.
No matter how dark it gets, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in these tales.
Many of these stories are also deeply infused with flora and fauna folklore. Instead of the somewhat more traditional notion of ghosts, those from the afterlife frequently work through plants and animals to achieve their ends—whether for good or evil.
Telling the Bees: How Honeybee Folklore Inspired The Haunting of Orchard Hill
Ancient apple trees… eerie singing… tainted honey… her baby missing…
Nothing is as it seems at sunny Orchard Hill. As Nina uncovers its terrifying secrets, she’ll be pushed to her limits and come face to face with how far a mother will go to protect her son.
For my debut novel The Haunting of Orchard Hill, I pulled from the fascinating and rich lore surrounding honeybees.
I knew I wanted to write about a haunted orchard. Creating a contrast between a bright sunny day among apples and a creeping, uncanny sensation appealed to me. To build upon those elements, I researched the mythology and folk tales of honeybees and was not disappointed.
Honeybees are said to have a connection with the afterlife. In fact, “telling the bees” of a loved one’s death may have origins as far back as Celtic mythology.
I gathered all the information I could as raw data, noting especially thematic elements to my story that had to do with life, death, grief, and the veil between worlds. Then, as I plotted the outline of the book, I organically worked them into the story.
Many of the details regarding singing to the bees in this book are based in real folklore, including draping the hives in black and the dire consequences of not telling the bees of a death in the family.
Whispering Willows: How Weeping Willow Folklore Inspired The Haunting of Willow Creek
Whispering willows… ghoulish paintings… slithering roots…
The foundation of Willow Creek is not at rest. As Birdie rushes to discover what’s buried beneath, she’ll be forced to trust what she cannot see and fight for more than her life.
The Haunting of Willow Creek is the second novel in the Hopeful Horror series. When I was researching willow trees, I came across one blog post that was enormously helpful and insightful – Icy Sedgwick’s ‘What Willow Folklore Surrounds This Beautiful Tree?’
Enchanting tidbits like whispering winds, the secret keeping capacity of willows, and the prophetic powers of burning and consuming 99 leaves from 99 willow trees all make an appearance in the book in some form or another.
I also delved into the elements of the trees themselves, using facts such as their widespread, invasive roots and lifespan to create unique interactions with the folklore elements. I even researched actual recipes that include willow bark so what my chef character cooks up in the story was based in some truth!
From Fiction to Film: The Strangle of Ivy
“The Strangle of Ivy” is a short story in the Hopeful Horror universe. It is about a grown woman who returns to her childhood home to help her ailing mother and the deep, dark secrets revealed that will change them forever. And it’s being turned into a short film!
The folklore of ivy very much informed this tale. Ivy is known for its clinging nature and is an evergreen plant that symbolizes immortality, death, and rebirth. The ghost lives on through the ivy, a claustrophobic, unrelenting presence that will not let go until it gets what it wants.
Tara Garwood, an award-winning filmmaker and head of Tarakata Films, is helming this project. She’s on a mission to bring more female-driven horror to the screen.
If you want to be a part of this movement, watch the teaser trailer below and check out “The Strangle of Ivy” Kickstarter campaign to learn more.
This is your opportunity to get a digital link to the film once completed, exclusive horror stories from me, and even have me name a character in a story after you, so don’t miss out!
There’s a lot of fun to be had and creative sparks to be lit by delving into folklore to inspire stories, especially ghostly gothic fiction.
If you want in-depth folklore content on a multitude of topics that gives you the right amount of inspiration without sending you down a time-consuming internet spiral, I highly recommend becoming a Fabulous Folklore patron. Icy has oodles and oodles of thoroughly researched posts that will surely get your creative juices flowing!
Which are your favourite examples of folklore in ghostly Gothic fiction? Drop your recommendations below!
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