Wyrzog is a feisty Book Wyrm that lurks in my bookshelves and slithers about my many piles of much-loved books. She has an annoying habit of eating bookmarks, but will hiss and snap if I even consider dog-earring a page.
Wyrzog is surprisingly open to contentious grammar and the odd typo: she have seen humans change their language over thousands of years, and admires it all. Wyrms love stories, big or small. They love books with illustrations, illuminations and those with beautiful maps folded within.
‘Wyrm’ – a species of dragon with no legs or wings. The most famous kind of wyrm are sea-serpents, like Orkney’s very own Mester Stoorworm, but not all are ocean-dwelling creatures.
Wyrzog tends to hoard books with strong, female characters and prefers non-traditional fairytales where the princess and dragons live happily ever after. She has an insatiable appetite for literature but, despite how excited she gets about a book, she will never, ever give away a plot ending. Those who do will find their toes nibbled.
Zog the (very handsome) orange dragon is her personal hero.
What magic! A wonderful afternoon spent with all the kiddies (and parents!) at Orkney Library’s Fun Palace 2019. As with last year, I was endlessly impressed with the little imaginations and the tiny hands creating magic, silliness and beautiful colouring…
Before I settled into creating enchanted doodles with the kids, I had a quick wander round – there was a lot to see! Indoor football, kickboxing, massages, spooky crafts, origami, photography, a Lego table, Dungeons and Dragons, the list goes on and on… The Salvation Army band was just starting up and my lovely friends at St Colms were busy providing hot drinks and delish cakes to everyone. My beloved library was buzzing and the mood was infectious.
Heather, who organises Orkney Library’s Fun Palaces, made things super easy for me, regardless of all my health conditions. I also had the help of my trusty ‘Minions’ (aka ‘Mum and Dad’) who tirelessly let me boss them about and did anything and everything I needed. A huge thank you to these three superhero’s – you see what I can do, not my limitations!
We quickly set up and then it was all go, go, go…
In a blink of an eye, kids were colouring Mester Stoorworm dragons, all tangled up in a Celtic knot. Orkney’s Mester Stoorworm could slither it’s body all the way round the world so it was naturally a very hungry creature. What would you feed it…? Pizza, stars, squiggly monsters, fresh meat, a giant frog, and a Cyclops is the answer, apparently.
Meanwhile, Scottish unicorns were getting glammed up, coloured in and decorated with all sorts of fabulous hair accessories. Neon and pastel seemed to be the fashion statements of the day.
Things quickly got witchy, where we were visited by young witch and wizard familiars! Familiars help their witch with magical tasks, spells and all sorts of fun and trouble. Some were cute, some were wise, others tried to lick my pencils! What does your magical friend look like?
Who doesn’t love to scribble? It’s very chilly here in Orkney, especially under the waves, so the kids helped to warm up a few freezing Finfolk with some scribbly, bushy beards! Some beards were metallic, others were brightly coloured, but all fantastic and cosy!
There were so many wonderful drawings – I wasn’t always quick enough to photograph them all and sadly can’t include all of them here. The day’s doodlings ranged from spider-webs, bogies and zombie heads in magical potion jars, to merpups, seabunnies, and a two-headed snake mermaid! *shudders*
And not forgetting, our ever popular ‘fairy pencils’ that change colour when you draw with them! The kids loved these, and created some very cool effects. But how do they do it??? Tis magic.
A truly wonderfuss day! Thank you for everyone, organisers, helpers, friends and kiddies who turned up to make the day simply magical! Hag hugs, elf kisses and dragon fist-bumps to you all! x
Today I’ll be at Orkney Library’s Fun Palace event with my Orkney faerie and folklore activities! You can draw, doodle, scribble all sorts of wonderfuss creatures and magical things!
I’ve also gathered some little faerie oddities, you can chat all things folklore with me, and tie a wishing rag to my magical staff! Ooh, make a wish quick!
All ages, abilities, and drawing skills welcome – I’ll be there from 1pm- 4pm.
Orkney Library’s event is the most northernly Fun Palace and is running from 10am-4pm today (5th October 2019). It’s all free, all are welcome and you can try a variety of different things from kickboxing to yoga, 3D Printing to sewing, massage to musical instruments. (Full list of fun activities below – they really are very cool.)
If you’re in Orkney, I’d love to see you there… even just to say hello!
Note: You better watch out for book imps, goblins, and the occasional witching ‘lose-your-keys’ spell which may follow you home!
If you’re not in Orkney, Fun Palaces are happening all over the place on the 5th and 6th October – take a look at their links below.
I’ve finally illustrated quite a common sight in Orkney skies – flying trows. They scoot about on bulwandsand menace everything from local birdlife to seastacks, chimney pots to washing lines. Crashes, entanglements, ker-splats and so on happen often. On purpose, of course. I wouldn’t suggest anything otherwise.
‘Bulwand’: An enchanted dock leaf, or dock leaves, that trows use to fly.
This particular trow was the wilder side of tipsy. In a bizarre manoeuvre, he swerved towards a telephone cable and got horribly entangled. The mini power cut was blamed on a chirpy bunch of starlings.
I glared at him and the whiskey bottle both. Amazingly, he turned a bashful beetroot red; it’s the only time I’ve got away with any sort of critism of these trickety trows.
The zig-zagging chap happens to be the lesser hairier variety of trow. (Some trows are gloriously shaggy). As you can see, they resembles small wiry-haired, bushy-eyebrowed old men with long crookity toes and noses like a vegetable.
So if you see a trow carreening about over your head, avert your eyes, cross your fingers, and say goodbye to your satellite dish.
All artworks and text copyrighted to Ellen Forkin and an irritable goblin called Trupp-Trink.
A lovely peedie mermaid emerged from my fingers this Mermay…
I don’t know much about Little Ebba of the Waves. She’s seven summers old. She loves sunlight playing on the surface of the sea and how it dapples the ocean below. Ebba is a loyal friend to all starfish and basking sharks. Sometimes she sings to lonely sailors who are missing loved ones ashore. Or sometimes she sings to those on land who miss something else altogether. She sings of bubbles, dancing whales, and sand in your bellybutton.
I drew Ebba at the beginning of May, and she has flowed in and out of my mind ever since. This year has not been too kind, so it’s a comfort to hear the echoes of her songs every time I smell the salt of the sea in the breeze…
After my last blogpost where I hunted for sea-runes, I returned to my special beach to stare at them once more. I thought over all their possible meanings. Wondering if they really are ‘mermaid runes’. Wishing I could just speak to a little mermaid when…
Whoops! I nearly squashed one!
The squidgy mermaid was perched on a rock next to a limpet. I said I was terribly sorry for nearly squishing her. Watery eyes glared at me. Fascinated, I got down on my hands and knees for a closer look.
The mermaid thought I was bowing down to her! Delighted, she blew a bubble right out of her snout.
“I’ve decided to grant you a wish,” she squeaked. The creature explained it was the talk of Deerness rockpools that a stupid human wanted to read mermaid-runes. She would teach me how on three conditions….
It turns out this squelchy mermaid is a Plebble. A royal Plebble, apparently. I noticed she was holding a tiny twig. She told me proudly told me this was her royal ‘trident’.
The squidgy, squishy Plebble is a lesser known type of mermaid. Plebbles are the size of, well, a pebble, or a very squelchy potato. They come in many shades of blubber and excrete a fragrant mucus that gives them their pearly shimmer.
The Plebble wanted three things. I must fetch her two googly eyes. And a dollop of peanut butter. (Peanut butter is quite hard to find in the underwater Pebble Palace. They mostly get jellied-kelp for dinner.) Lastly, I must bow down to her a further seven times in front of all her friends. That way they would finally know she was the Plebble Queen.
I rushed home and pocketed two googly eyes from my craftbox. I then scooped some peanut butter on a teaspoon and rushed back to the beach. The Plebble greedily sucked up the peanut-butter, gurgling and snorting, and wriggling her mermaid tail happily.
We then carefully attached the two googly eyes to Thor, her pet limpet. Thor doesn’t say or do a lot. But he could now watch me bow down to the Plebble Queen. I dipped my head seven times, on hands and knees, in front of a crowd of heckling mermaid blobs.
The sea-runes are commonly called ‘mermaid-runes’ but lots of different types of Ocean FaeryFolk write them. Sea-runes or selkie-runes are also good names. I scooped the slippery Plebble up, not forgetting Thor the limpet, and she pointed me to our first stone.
The Plebble said the stone was carved by a beautiful selkie lass. The selkie was writing about one of her selkie friends. It reads:
“Ugly Urdi trout-face.”
I quickly moved The Plebble along to a rock with Viking-like runes. Ah! The Plebble nodded. A Finfolk man wrote these! Is it about an ocean-deep wrestling match? I wondered. Or how to make a driftwood chariot?
“Left to hidden treasure.”
Exciting! I scrambled to the left, scraping back seaweed and pebbles, until I found… silver spoons stashed in a fisherman’s wellyboot.
Oh well. Silver is treasure to Finfolk. Maybe next time it will be a gold crown? Or chocolate! I quietly added my teaspoon to the collection and moved on.
The Plebble led me to a big, impressive rock. This rock had bold runes carved deep onto it’s face. A giant wrote these runes, surely! A giant with barnacle toes and crabby knees.
No, no, it was written by a mermaid. A mermaid with long, golden hair, all woven with pearls. A mermaid with a silvery tail covered in sparkling sea-shells. The Plebble read out the runes in a dreamy, squeaky voice:
“My bum likes this rock.”
Well, that’s just rude. They’re getting worse! Who knew mermaids were so… urgh!
“Us mermaids have to sit on bumpy rocks for hours and hours!” the Plebble squealed. “It’s cold on our bahookie’s, waiting for silly land-lubbers to fall in love with us. When you find a comfy rock, it’s good to remember it.”
I nodded, but I had hoped for something a bit more magical. A bit more enchanting.
“Enchanting, eh?” The Plebble stroked Thor the limpet, who glared at me from one googly eye. We wandered over to one final rock.
“So what does this last one say?” I slumped down next to it, perching the Plebble on a stone nearby. She waved her ‘trident twig’ mysteriously.
“It’s a sea-spell,” she said. I waited, a tingly excitement building. But the Plebble didn’t speak. Instead she showed me the set of runic alphabet that made up the message. Slowly, I spoke the words:
“Whoever reads this stone will have damp, clammy feet for three full moons.”
Great. Just wonderful.
I heard strange hooting sounds, and saw a whole pod of Plebbles gathered round my wellyboots. They were laughing hysterically, snorting through their snouts. Even Thor the limpet looked amused.
I thanked The Plebble Queen for her wisdom. I waved goodbye and the peedie mermaids waggled their tales back at me. As I trudged home, I felt a dampness in my toes. An icy cold biting my heels. A wet, chill right up to my ankles. The sea-spell was working. Sigh.
So careful what you wish for, if you like warm, snuggly feet…
And if you see a Plebble, give a little bow, and say hi from me.
Have you spotted some sea-runes at the beach?
Want to know what your mermaid-runes say?
Send me your photos and I’ll ask the Plebble to traslate them!
Orkney is a land of runes. These islands were a hot-spot for the Vikings in medieval times who left behind some wonderful runic graffiti. What is not well known, is that FaeryFolk of the sea also wrote in runes – and still do.
These runes are quite mysterious. Not in the least, because most people don’t know they exist. Or if they have spotted them, they’re put down to nature.
I’ve tried to speak to Gnöll, Bannafeet, and Megrani about the runes. It seems trolls, trows and even witches are reluctant to talk too much about them. I did once hear Megrani the crow witch mumble something about ‘mermaid runes’ when she caught me scribbling some silly runic messages. She flapped off before I could ask her more.
So I once more haunted one of my local beaches, searching for these magical treasures carved into the rocks. The more I see, the more questions there are…
Over the years, I listened to the seashells, the whispering tide, the selkies and their distant songs…
They got me nowhere but it was pleasant.
Who writes them? What do they say? Do they hold magical powers?
Instead, I’ve daydreamed about what they could be… Love notes from a shimmering mermaid? Records of important oceanic wars of the Finfolk? Or secret directions to a selkie’s hidden sealskin?
Maybe we’ll never know. But I’ll keep looking and listening and hoping to stumble upon a mermaid one of these days…
Note: Mermaid runes are not to be confused with toothy sea-sluggits trails, ancient witch maps of ocean currents and magical ley lines, or scaly skin shed by juvenile stoorworms.
A little while ago it was Burns Night, which usually brings out the snoofling haggis all over Scotland. It is perhaps not common knowledge that Orkney has it’s very own sub-species of haggis. I was very surprised to hear this only last October… and further surprised when one came snuff-snarling on my farm in late January.
“I believe you,” I murmured to Bannafeet, who had lured the Fierce Orkney Haggis to my home to prove it’s existence. She doubled up in hysterics as the growling beastie latched on to my welly-boot with it’s sharp teeth. “Hid wants clapshot,” she wheezed between giggles. Oh dear. Being a disorganised family, we had not organised an appropriate Burns Supper. What did we have? Hummus. We had hummus.
“Aye, that’ll be grand,” Bannafeet beamed at me. She really could be very charming. Her eyes glinted as she wheesht! off the haggis long enough for me to pop inside and fetch a little bowl of our would-be dinner.
*Bannafeet is a well-known local trow. After Gnöll the Troll so kindly helped with navigating the trows new flight-path around my family’s home, things have improved with peedie-folk. I believe Bannafeet could be a friend, but this doesn’t deter her from her usual pranks, mischief and mayhem that is bannock-and-butter to trow life.
The bowl is now strictly past-tense. Haggis do NOT like hummus. Or celery. Or chia seeds. I know this now. So does my half-mauled welly. They do, however, enjoy smashing offending bowls to tiny, tiny pieces.
“This isn’t what I thought a haggis would be like,” I squeaked, guarding my feet and ankles with a bristly-broom. I imagined little waddling wigs curled up dozily in Highland heather. (I was thinking of Braw Haggis with silky coats that meander lop-sidedly around the Scottish highlands.)
“I told ye,” Bannafeet straightened up. “Hid’s a Feersh Orkney Haggis. They like eggs, I doot.”
I hastily scrambled to the (handily) nearby henhouse and dived a hand in. Lady Penelope squawked in shock at the sudden intrusion, and I made a mental note to feed her some extra treats later that day. “Don’t come out,” I whispered to her. She clucked dismissively.
The egg was greedily gobbled down. A slow smile started to creep onto my face. The Fierce Orkney Haggis really was an awesome wee creature, and one, I hoped I would see again. (With the right footwear, of course.)
With a last lick of it’s sticky snout, it left. I watched it scuttle off at a fast, lop-sided trot to terrorise someone else. (Yes, one set of legs are longer than the other.) I hurried inside to sketch the beastie, not bothering to wave goodbye to Bannafeet, who I knew was already riding the wind.
As the ink and pencil scratched the page, I heard a wondrous honk-hootling from afar. It sounded like an angry goose trying to outdo a malfunctioning bagpipe. Fascinating.
And I’ve been researching the Fierce Orkney Haggis ever since.
I was feeling rather low and melancholy, as artists tend to be, particularly artists not creating. It was September, and my last blog post on here was Christmas themed. Sigh.
I mulled this over in my sunny yellow art room, specially built overlooking the alpaca field and baby goat paddock. I heaved a slow, shuddering breath, and glanced out the window. The alpacas looked startled. (Which isn’t that unusual, they’re highly strung by nature.) And then I saw a hill. Quite a pert, round hill. With what looked like a grassy, builders-bum. I blinked (I really need new glasses) but there it was. A new hill.
The alpacas were staring at it like it was about to explode. (Again, not an unusual reaction for an alpaca.) Moomin glanced at me, imploring me to make it all go away, and I waved to let him know that I’d seen it. The hill waved back.
My heart leapt. I glimpsed my idle sketchbook in my peripheral vision but would not turn my head. My hand felt heavy and clumsy. The hill was quite clumsy itself. It was attempted to shuffle round, and I saw a bald nose and two tiny, black eyes peer at me through blades of grass. I smiled. The hill smiled back. The alpacas were not smiling. Trust their human to take sides with the imposter hill! Gus snorted, a spray of indignation.
“Come here,” I mouthed, beckoning the hill forward. The hill suddenly was a hill no longer. The grass shuddered and then, in a haze of magic, simply fizzled away. The troll, for I was sure that was what he was, was crouching awkwardly on elbows and knees. Surprisingly, he was quite bald, except for the odd green tuft here and there. He heaved his torso up, slowly, carefully. He was big, even just on his knees. The alpacas looked bewildered. Slowly, the troll plucked a few grasses and other plants, quite nimble for one with huge fingers. He sniffed his makeshift bouquet, rustled in his pocket, and sprinkled a fine dust over it. The grass bouquet blossomed into something I couldn’t quite see. He offered a nibble to each alpaca in turn. And to my amazement, they each took a tentative mouthful. I watched, open mouthed, as a troll charmed my wary and extremely judgmental alpacas. The troll smiled a tiny smile. He stood up and sprinkled the rest of the dust on a patch of their paddock. The alpacas ran eagerly over and started to chomp greedily. Only Insch continued to eye the imposter suspiciously.
The troll ambled over, careful not to trample any fences or baby goats. (The goats remained unfazed, chewing lazily underneath the giant’s gait.) I opened the window, still sat curled up on the sofa. I glanced at the front door but there was no way he would fit. All I could see were his knees and the bottom of his belly.
“Halló,” he replied. And just like that, we both knew we were friends.
I learnt his name is Gnöll Gottmaga Fornhaugálfur but his friends simply call him Gnöll.
Gnöll is a Hilly-Up Troll, literally a hill that gets up and walks about. He uses magic to create an illusion of being a grassy knoll. Apparently, he’s quite small for his size and unusually awake 88% of the time. Most Hilly-Up Trolls are sleepy creatures who can nap for millennia. Gnöll is also uncommonly kind for his species. Scrap that. He’s just uncommonly kind.
Because of his species, Gnöll is somewhat of a specialist in all things plant and grass based. He bashfully explained his magic concoction of herbs that he remembered from visiting the Andes. He knew which one alpacas just could not resist, and had sprinkled a special recipe especially for my four boys. I glanced out at the field, and saw the alpacas still gleefully munching away. Mungo had even passed out in what appeared to be herbal bliss.
Gnöll was a little shy, but I could tell inside he had a lot to say. He was ancient, but still curious about every tiny aspect of human life. For an ancient troll, his wisdom is simplistic. He doesn’t really care if a tree falling in a forest makes a sound, he’s more concerned about the safety of any possible squirrels that might be nestled in the tree.
“Squirrels annoying,” he said in a very soft, quiet accent. “But we can’t hate things that annoying us. Because to lítill squirrels – we annoying.”
“Humans are super annoying,” I agreed. Gnöll looked worried.
“Já,” he nodded gravely, wobbling his three chins. “Manna are most annoying thing ever be born out of armpit.*” He reshuffled on his hands and knees, his good-natured face peering short-sightedly into my window. “But manna create big wunders. Bad wunders too. Plastic is biggest mucker-up since manna learnt to stab each other (und everything that moves) with special shape metal. But wunderful wunders too. Mr Mozart made wunders. Ms Kahlo made wunders. Tiny manna-man with big moustache used to make cream cakes in Switzerland. Delicious, ‘bragdgódur’ wunders. He made me giant ones, for specials.”
*I think he’s referring to Norse mythology’s Frost Giants, but I can’t be sure.
“That’s nice,” I said.
“Já. Manna are wunders. Just very annoying wunders.”
“Trolls are wonders too,” I said. “Sometimes I draw them.”
Gnöll’s tiny, black eyes grew half a centimetre in delight.
“You draws me?”
And that’s how Gnöll helped me to start creating my ‘tiny wunders’ more regularly. I explained about my illness, how my hand is sometimes weak, sometimes in pain, sometimes cursed by a local witch, or sometimes blighted by local trows.
This time it was definitely the trows. I explained how a certain troupe were angry with me because the new extension is interfering with their special flight-path. Apparently, our farm has always had a good crop of dock-leaves. Trows use dock stems to fashion ‘bulwands’ which they then whizz about on. Our house, or at least the land, has been their stopping point for 248 years; to refuel, grab a new bulwand if their’s is looking a bit ropey, and head off to terrorise the South Isles after they’ve traumatised the East Mainland of Orkney. We didn’t ask their permission to build a ‘new bit’. Apparently, the extension changed the wind direction just slightly, so instead of landing in a field full of dockans, the trows land in the muddy pond.* Not happy trows. And not a happy Ellen, who’s hand they blighted last Christmas to spite her for having a special new art room. Trows don’t really care for disabled access, or a new wheelchair friendly kitchen and shower room. They’re a bit short-sighted in that sense. Gnöll is short-sighted in the visual sense, but his mind stretches quite far.
*This used to be a normal pond, but once our giant saddleback pig got through the fence, started to paddle, and then root it all up, so now it’s less of a ‘pond’ and more a ‘big hole in the ground full of water and mud’. True story.
“I talk to them,” he smiled his tiny smile. “Álfur to álfur.” And then he heaved himself up, and slowly waddled off. I waited, and glanced out at my alpacas who were rolling around the Andean herbs like it was alpaca catnip. I didn’t have to wait long.
“Come,” he called. I stared at his gnarled knees through the window.
I quickly grabbed my coat, hat, and scarf and pulled on my bright, yellow wellies. I scribbled a garbled note to my parents and went to zoom out in my wheelchair. However, he carefully plucked me from it and pushed it safely back inside.
I should mention, I’m afraid of heights. I may have squealed. Enough to start Ty the baby goat to cry panicky bleats back. “It’s ok,” I yelled down at him, despite feeling anything but ok. He watched me, a wide-eyed, ruminating speck in the field, as the troll plodded away with me in his hand. I would like to say that I had romantic notions of me being Sophie in the BFG but instead I was concentrating on not peeing or throwing up. He took me to our big, back field. With his free hand, he put his finger to his lips: a ‘shushing’ motion. We watched. A dot appeared on the horizon. We could see quite far, as this was still in Orkney’s unusually bright and sunny weather that we’ve had all summer. Then another dot. And another. I thought of starlings, swirling together in a murmuration. But they were too big and less coordinated. Gulls then. A big flock of them. They grew bigger as they hurtled around the horizon, darting and whizzing jerkily like flies around a lightbulb. I noticed twisted shapes, sharp, bulging, knobbly, pointed. Not gulls. Trows.
They flew past us, whizzing above her heads, on their fluttering bulwands. It was quite a display. Nail-biting manoeuvres, lots of swear-words, and near crashes. They swarmed around the big, green barn, and Gnöll shouted a few directions and tips. In what can only be described as a hairy, foul-mouthed waterfall, the trows suddendly cascaded down towards the house. I winced. Would they end up in the muddy pond? But no, this time they did a fantastic collective loop-the-loop and landed in the dockan field. Success!
The trows have forgiven me. For now. Loop-the-loop landings are quite fun, apparently. My sketchbook is filling up, and Gnöll is featuring quite a bit. He’s encouraged me here and there, and is helping me draw little but more often. In return I drew his portrait and helped him write my last blog post. He visits me every few days, even when I was snotty and grumpy with the flu. Last week he passed a tiny scrap of paper through the window. It was a poster.
“You do this?” he asked.
I shrugged. Then sneezed. Then shrugged again. How could I? I’m not well. I’m never well.
“Never is long time to wait,” he whispered.
“Ok,” I grinned nervously. “I’ll do it.”
If you want to meet me and my Faery friends, I’ll be at Orkney Library on Saturday 6th October from 1pm-4pm for their super Fun Palaces Day. I’ve had the gouache painting of Gnöll and me framed specially, so if you’d like to see him up close, do pop by and say hi!
For more info and updates on the event, see my Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and keep an eye for a blogposts here.