Book Wordy podcast, Herne the Hunter and creepy fathers (Wicked Wolves, part 2) transcript

Transcript for the Book Wordy podcast, Herne the Hunter and creepy fathers (Wicked Wolves, part 2).

Byrd Nash
Welcome to Book Wordy, a podcast about fantasy and science fiction books, authors and the art of writing. I’m your host, Byrd Nash, former journalist and author of the Wicked Wolves of Windsor and other fairytales.

Okay, we’re here for our second half of the broadcast about the Wicked Wolves of Windsor, which is a short story found in my collection, the Wicked Wolves of Windsor and other fairytales. In the first podcast, we discussed what the Wild Hunt was and who is Herne the Hunter. This next second half of the podcast will have spoilers. So please be aware that if you have not read the story, you may not want to listen right now to this. I’m going to try to make the spoilers be mild. But since we’re just kind of chit chatting, I don’t have a outline list of what’s happening and then what we’re going to discuss, we might have some spoilers. I’m here with Miles my partner who, while he doesn’t write my stories, he does serve as a sounding board. He and I discuss a lot of the plot points so he knows my stories inside and out. Hopefully you do.

Miles
Yes.

Byrd Nash
We were talking about the Wicked Wolves of Windsor and that there is a Wild Hunt that is known as a legend in the Windsor area. The leader of the hunt is thought to be Herne who may or may not have been a yeoman, which is a free man, during the medieval period, loosely medieval. That he had supposedly poached the royal grounds and was hung from a tree, The Great Oak, and that then he becomes transformed into Herne and who leads the Hunt. But tell me a little bit more about the legend there that specifically around the Windsor forest and…

Miles
One of the earliest clear references to Herne is in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, where the legend of Herne the Hunter as a spirit of a man with antlers is known to pace around a great oak in midwinter.

Byrd Nash
And that would be in the Windsor area.

Miles
That’s in the Windsor, yes, the Great Oak on the grounds of Windsor.

Byrd Nash
So we talked a lot about that in the last podcast. I’d like to move on a little bit more. And you were telling me when we ended the last one that for… Depending on which hunt and where you live, and what legend, you know which legend we’re talking about, there were ways to avoid or to escape being… I don’t know what did they do? Did the Wild Hunt kill you, or they just take you, you vanish? Or…

Miles
And there’s, that’s another thing where there’s many possibilities. If you want to not get caught,

Byrd Nash
Which is a good thing to do,

Miles
Which is a good thing generally. Stay on the path, stay on the road. In some areas, you’re supposed to carry a piece of iron, and a piece of bread in your pocket if you go out at night.

Byrd Nash
So the iron is for…

Miles
If you encounter the Wild Hunt, you throw the iron in front of you to keep the master of the hunt from approaching you. Because it drives off the fairies.

Byrd Nash
Right because iron and fairies doesn’t, they don’t mix.

Miles
Right. And in that case, it would be Odin actually himself who would turn away. But you carry the bread to throw to the hounds. Because a big feature of the hunt is not just the hunter, but gigantic supernatural hounds.

Byrd Nash
And I think you know, that goes back. I mean, supernatural hounds is in so many legends, we could stay here all day and talk about that. But you obviously have the black dog legends which we’ll talk on another podcast about, as a part of that. Maybe going into Halloween, that would be a good time. Yeah. The reality is how hounds and some sort of supernatural entity of hounds is part of a hunt. Something that you want to avoid, because I do think there’s a Primal Fear of dogs. Let’s face it.

Miles
I think so.

Byrd Nash
You know, dogs can be our friends, but when they’re not our friends…

Miles
They’re very, very dangerous. Yes. And there’s the hounds of the Wild Hunt usually have special names. They’re the Yell Hounds, or the Hel Hounds, or the Yelp Hounds. Because the, this kind of strange yelping, barking, baying sound is part of the strange noises that you hear when you’re inside in the middle of a storm.

Byrd Nash
You and I both have lived up in the north during winters, Miles has lived in the north part of Michigan on the border of Canada and I’ve lived in Ohio for about eight years of my life. The winter makes so many weird noises. And talking to a friend that’s writing about historical fiction for in Germany, the amount of snow on these roofs and it falling off roofs to the point that it would kill people. I know that at least portions of the timeframe when these legends we’re going on, wasn’t there a small Ice Age then, during one of those, during the medieval time. I know there is I’d have to go look at my notes. But I know there is

Miles
a Little Ice Age of the Mini Ice Age.

Byrd Nash
Yeah, I mean, didn’t that happen?

Miles
That was, I think that was maybe a little later. But…

Byrd Nash
I don’t know the reality is we living in our technological world now can scoff at these legends. But when you’re living in a small building and on a farm, and something just savaged your sheep, and you didn’t see what it was.

Miles
Right.

Byrd Nash
And it’s winter and there’s no call for help. And there’s no telephone.

Miles
Yeah. When you’re in a in a farmstead in northern Denmark in the winter

Byrd Nash
Right

Miles
When there’s maybe six hours of sun and there is no light except the fire in your in your hearth.

Byrd Nash
Right. And you forgot to cut firewood.

Miles
If you don’t have enough firewood you’re dead. And you better have cut it the previous fall, or its too late.

Byrd Nash
Yeah, its too green. I mean, trying to figure out, I don’t remember what it was. I’ve read so much stuff. And I’ve watched some of the stuff I can’t recall. But I know there was something about the sheer amount amount of firewood that you actually have to… It was probably during one of those reality TV shows where they’ve talked about homesteading, but the sheer amount of firewood that you have to cut and cure almost a year ahead of time is, is crazy. So again, we living with electricity, and phones and cars, we may not understand these things. But what I would suggest is if you want to understand them, go camping. Go camping, and you will figure this out. Especially if you don’t have a gun with you. And you’re by yourself.

We were talking about more things I want to talk about the Wild Hunt, which is the rules. What’s interesting about supernatural things, and you see this a lot in folklore and fairy tales. And also Greek myths even, is there are rules. There’s rules that govern what’s going to happen, especially in Greek myths. They’re so twisted that you think you know the rules. And then of course, the victim doesn’t understand the rules until the very end. And it’s like Oopsie, I, I i’ve been caught in my own trap. So let’s talk about some rules for the Wild Hunt or the Fairy Ride.

Miles
Definitely, as I said, a pretty common rule is if you’re in the middle of the road, just on the main road, then you’re safe. Going off the road is always dangerous.

Byrd Nash
It’s always bad.

Miles
Right? You may get invited to join the hunt.

Byrd Nash
And do you take that or not? See, I think it’s one of those things. I’ve seen this go both ways. Yeah. You say No, thank you. And then suddenly you’re killed.

Miles
Right. Basically trying to defy or stand against the hunt is certain death.

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
You can try to protect yourself, but you may get taken up by the hunt. And if you’re helpful to the hunt, you will be put down at the next morning, possibly with a reward of gold or jewels or a haunch of meat, which is usually cursed.

Byrd Nash
Oh, so its not really a reward.

Miles
And you can’t get rid of it now. You have to get like a priest to come in and take the curse off. So yeah. On the other hand, witches and wizards may voluntarily join the hunt and ride with it for the night.

Byrd Nash
To gain power I’m assuming.

Miles
To gain power or…

Byrd Nash
Yeah, okay, so I’m trying to remember I think it’s the Riddle Master of Hed by Patricia McKillip. But I know I read at least three or four stories of this. there’s always a story in the game, we’ll have to do a podcast about this, where you go under the hill, or you go to a certain hill. Where everyone tells you don’t go there unless, whatever, you want to be changed. When you come back, you go to the hill and you have to spend a night there. And then when you come down, you’ll be gifted with something sometimes sometimes it’s like you’ll always see the truth or you’ll have the silver time, I would have sworn and I hopefully my British listeners, maybe you guys can help me I thought there was a place in Wales that you went to bed It was a mountain that if you went to and you slept there overnight that you become changed.

Miles
I don’t remember the name of it, but I remember there is a mound or a hill where if you sleep overnight on the top of the hill…

Byrd Nash
That is in The Dark is Rising, that’s in the as the Dark is Rising isn’t it? by Susan Cooper.

Miles
Its in one of the other stories in the Dark is Rising series.

Byrd Nash
because I thought that’s what…

Miles
But it is an actual place of which there is that legend, that if you go sleep on the hill that you will travel to the underworld.

Byrd Nash
So the same logic can apply to a Wild Hunt. You want to gain powers that are going to be mystical and you know these fairies’ habit. So you’re going to go meet them and try to strike a deal with them. This goes back though to the later Christian legend then you meet the devil at the crossroads and you make a bargain. And then of course you can’t fulfill the bargain or the bargain is tricksy and you know there’s always some…

Miles
The price is worse or higher than you thought it was.

Byrd Nash
Right, or that you get the prize and then the prize is actually the trap.

Miles
Right. Right. Now if you meet the hunt you may not be, have the option to join it. You may just be killed outright. You may become the prey, and be, have to flee the hounds for all eternity, or be forced into service and ride a beast on the crazy hunt for all eternity.

Byrd Nash
Right

Miles
Which is a very common thing,

Byrd Nash
Right. Because the thing is, the common themes of the Wild Hunt or the Fairy Ride is it happens at a certain place. It happens at a certain time, so it’s predictable. So its the night of the full moon, or it happens, like,

Miles
midwinter night

Byrd Nash
midwinter night, if it happens October 31. If it happens, winter solstice, whatever. it’s usually you know exactly where it’s going to be and you know usually the exact time that is going to happen. You don’t really know what beings are there, or at what bargain they’re going to strike with you. So you don’t know the outcome, but you know where to find them. And you know that, you know what time they’re going to be there.

Miles
Right. Or you know the signs of when you start to hear the particular noise in the sky or something.

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
Either you either get ready to make your bargain, or you get into cover.

Byrd Nash
You throw stuff on the ground and you’re holding a horseshoe on one hand and toast in the other.

Miles
Yeah.

Byrd Nash
But this goes to a theme that’s in the Wicked Wolves of Windsor short story, that actually was a huge theme for me when I was writing it. Which is what are the rules. Because the wolves in that story have rules of how they behave. It’s going to becoming spoilers, so kiddos, if you don’t want to hear the spoilers don’t continue.

The wolves have certain rules, one of the rules is, the full moon they will be out and they will be available. They ride a certain stretch of the road that’s in Windsor. And the heroine when knows exactly what that stretch of road is. It’s not a secret. And it’s known. It’s also known what you have to do to say stay safe, you must stay on the road. If you leave the path, which is designated by dirt and gravel, or whatever, you’re fair game. You must stay on the path. They hunt at a certain time. Don’t be there. Unless you want to encounter them. They start to do the ride, it’s also called the Wild Ride, the Fairy Ride, or the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt happens on the third note of Hearn’s horn. That is in my book, that is in that short story. So that is the rules. They cannot take anyone unless they’re off the path. They cannot take anyone unless it’s the night of the full moon. And Herne himself, or itself, calls the wolves to him on the sounding of his third horn blast. The other thing in this story is, it’s changed from dogs, hunting dogs, to wolves. Because one, I was doing a Red Riding Hood retelling. And also I just feel like wolves are far more threatening beasts than dogs are. They’re more supernatural and they’re more wild.

Miles
So it’s actually much more terrifying to have a supernatural hunter leading a pack of wolves, than a pack of hounds.

Byrd Nash
I don’t know, you know, of course in hound, I personally would probably guess that when those legends were coming out, we’re talking about hounds the nobles were using to hunt deer or stags. I mean, so those dogs are probably much larger, much more savage. But for the purpose of the story, I use wolves, and that’s the way the story went. I’m not going to say how Red gets out of it, that would be too big of a spoiler. And I don’t want to say that. But Red obviously goes out during the night of the full moon, not because she wants to, but out of necessity. And she gets off the path, again not by desire on her own part but by necessity,

Miles
Which is actually a fairy tale theme of knowing the rules, and being forced to break the rules for some reason or other, and then having to figure out…

Byrd Nash
How to save yourself.

Miles
What’s, what’s the price, and what can I pay and what can I get away from by trickery.

Byrd Nash
Another thing about the story that I was asked, so I want to clarify this is, and this is a spoiler. The wolves are damned men, the wolf that talks to Doireann in the story. I actually added that whole section after beta readers. There’s a section where she’s riding home on her bike from the village. And the wolf was talking to her and he explains who they are, and what they’re made out of. I had wanted to leave that more unknown. But it seemed to confuse beta readers just too much. So I actually that was a scene that I wrote specifically because of beta readers. And that’s why others you should get beta readers. We live in our own head. We think we know what we’re doing as authors, we think we understand everything. But if we confuse our readers, what are we writing for? I mean, obviously, I want my readers to understand what I’m writing. I’m also going to leave some things kind of cloudy and hazy, so you’re just going to have to figure it out. But if I confuse you as the reader too much, you’re going to be so unhappy that you won’t finish my story. And that was one of the things that seem to confuse too many people I guess.

Miles
I don’t know, I think the explanation you added does a good job of explaining what you need to know without removing mystery and magic.

Byrd Nash
Again, what I would recommend for people that have read the book is read it again, savor each one of stories and read it slower, and you’re going to see a lot of things. I for me personally as an author, what I like is I like a lot of circular movement in my stories. So something that I brought in the beginning will circle back onto itself. And one of those things we have the legend is not described in the book, but if you go on the internet and do Google or look at Wikipedia, you’ll find out what we were discussing, that there is this thought belief system that there was a Herne who was a young man that was hanged for poaching. In the Windsor Forest. Off the Great Oak.

Miles
Right. It was identified with a yeoman named Richard Horne.

Byrd Nash
In the Wicked Wolves book, we have the wolf, and again spoiler here, who at the end of the story is able to come back as human. He’s the yoeman that so many centuries back was caught for poaching, and hung, and thus was damned. And made to run as a wolf with the Wicked Wolves. Through the action that happens in the story, he is able to come back as human again, but he shows evidence of what he did. There’s the scar around his neck, there’s a notch in his ear. Going back on this circular idea. Again, he brings rabbits who he’s poached to Red Riding Hood. So this guy has has he learned anything? Maybe gotten a little bit more clever, but I don’t know.

I think he’s learned about, more about when you can poach and when you shouldn’t poach.

Miles
Do not poach on the full moon night.

Byrd Nash
Do not poach on the full moon night. And don’t poach in Windsor. So maybe he stepped across the path and poached in the forest next door to Windsor.

Miles
I also like the fact that he comes back in and takes the place of William Horn.

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
Which the last name is the same. Is he an ancient ancestor?

Byrd Nash
Well, that actually was my thinking. I know some of my readers saw that, saw this as a little bit different. See, to me, Red’s father is actually English. That, and he is descended from the Richard Horne. And has lived in that area and he’s a gamekeeper for the Windsor Forest, and he’s a real asshole. Yes, and he was always an asshole even before World War One decided to mess around with his frontal lobe. There’s a kind of a continuity to the story that unless you dig into and you read it again, and you know some of the background, you don’t quite understand. And that’s one reason I wanted to do this podcast, is I want my readers to understand my stories or think about them in a different way after you’ve read them, that you can go back and read them again and enjoy more information from them.

There’s a lot of circular patterns here because Red’s father is a descendant of the very man that comes to take his place. There’s a serendipity to the story. And there’s a there’s a circular nature to the story. Again, I had a lot of backstory in my mind, I don’t know how much of it came across to readers. Red’s mother Kathleen is Irish, who got pregnant and had to make a marriage fast. I don’t really see her getting pregnant by Horn. I saw her getting pregnant by somebody else who was probably married. And then being Irish Catholic, she could not marry him. He wasn’t going to divorce and marry her. So the family married her off fast to this guy, Horn, who like I said before is an asshole. It wasn’t her choice to marry that man. But she had to do what shehad I do because we’re talking, you know, the the early 1900s. And she’s pregnant and Catholic, and she’s going to have to get a wedding ring on.

Miles
My impression was that he was a lowlife, who was willing for a cash outlay to marry Kathleen and leave the country and take her to England.

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
So take the stain away from the family.

Byrd Nash
Right. And the story like a lot of the stories within Wicked Wolves deals with women having to deal with the circumstances of their times, and the, the environment that they’re kind of trapped in. So for example, Kathleen is trapped in this loveless marriage, married to a beast of a man who does not obey any rules, as you’ll find out as you read the story, and has made her life probably a living hell. But Kathleen, of course she’s dead before the story starts. What we do know about her from what I wrote in the story is, we know that she’s been accused of being a witch, which right there should make you perk up your ears. She’s also the one that sends Red the three gifts that protect her, and if she was a witch then she could do that.

One motif in fairy tales is the gifts from the mother. We talked about that in a previous podcast about the themes in fairy tales. And of course, the three gifts that Red gets is all from her dead mother, and they all change into something that helps protect her and eventually vanquish her problem that she has in her father. There is a lot in the story. I don’t know if we should have an another podcast about it or what.

Miles
So there’s a lot of rich depth in the story.

Byrd Nash
Right?

Miles
We could talk more about it.

Byrd Nash
It is one of the darkest stories in the collection. It deals with some pretty serious issues. Again, spoilers, it deals with domestic violence. I tried to put that up very clearly in the description of the books and no one that reads it would be surprised. It also deals with a father who’s making sexual moves on to his daughter. Again, I have a lot of backstory that I wiped out of here. I’ve always seen her father, or it’s not really her blood father, but the father that raised her, as being someone who was not nice when it came to sexual relationships. He probably was, he was a beast, he was an unpleasant person. Red has a memory of him being grabby and rough with her mother and maybe even with her. When your frontal lobe is damaged….

Miles
One of the things that can happen is you lose your brakes,

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
And the sense of your, your restrictions and what…

Byrd Nash
Your morality

Miles
You may just become much more impulsive and just impulses, without restraint.

Byrd Nash
I think you know, with the damage the frontal lobe, you end up with people doing things that normally would never do. And for example, they just urinate in public. There becomes a problem in the brain and understanding what is just and moral that you should be doing. So we have a person here that’s not a pleasant person to begin with, frontal lobe was damaged during World War One. He comes home. And like you just said all the brakes are gone.

Miles
He was an awful person before, probably barely restrained by a sense of law, but now has no restraint whatsoever.

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
Whatever crosses his evil little mind, he’ll just do it.

Byrd Nash
So I’m thinking that probably we’ll do a third podcast to this series on the Wicked Wolves because there is a lot more that we can discuss. Such as the three gifts that Red gets from her dead mother. If you have questions for me about Wicked Wolves, that specific short story, drop me a line on my website at ByrdNash.com, or on my Instagram byrd_nash, or at my Facebook BydNashBooks. And I’ll put it in the next podcast.

Some other things we could discuss is Red’s isolation, which is a big thing. I think there’s a lot of themes in the story about women being isolated and having to make decisions about the future of your life. Every story is about, any story is about facing challenges that will challenge you. But these stories are specifically about women facing evil and having to try to use their cunning and their wits to escape it.

Miles
I agree. And I think one of the things that makes the story Wicked Wolves itself so creepy, that’s the word, is the increased isolation and the way that everything is closing in around Red. She is forced to make a choice to break the rules.

Byrd Nash
Right. A choice to save yourself by sacrificing someone else I hop one thing that you get from reading Wicked wolves is that feeling of dread and isolation. And then as each night goes by, things become more and more desperate for Red because that, as an author, is what I want to work towards. So if you feel like it’s creepy, that’s exactly what I wanted. So we’ll see you next week and we’ll talk more about that.

You can find me at ByrdNash.com, Byrd spelled with a BYRD. On my website you can read the show notes to today’s podcast, as well as find a list of all the episodes. I also do book reviews and have resources for authors on the website. Frost Waltz is the music and it’s by Kevin MacLeod at incompitech.com.

Transcribed by Otter.ai
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