Book Wordy podcast, Wicked Wolves of Windsor (part 1) transcript

Transcript for the Book Wordy podcast, The Wicked Wolves of Windsor (part 1).

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.

Welcome to Book Wordy. This is Byrd with my partner, Miles. And we’re going to be discussing one of the short stories from my book. The short story that we will be discussing is the Wicked Wolves of Windsor from my book, which is a short story collection of fairtales called the Wicked Wolves of Windsor and other fairytales. In this podcast, we will be splitting it into two, I’ve got a lot to cover about this short story. There’s a lot of symbolism and information that I think you as a reader would enjoy knowing, that’s behind the scenes. Maybe you might have figured some of it out already, or that you just want to listen and go “Wow, I did not know that.” So first I’d like to start out this podcast with a reading from the short story.

The legend goes that when the full moon rises and touches the belt of Orion Herne the Hunter sounds his horn. Tt is time for wise individuals to stay indoors. For valuable livestock be put away. It is not a night for courting couples to wander, for any off the path Herne can claim as his own.

The Wicked Wolves of Windsor is one of the short stories based upon a fairy tale motif in my book, but it takes place in post World War One England, in and around Windsor. It is a more modern feel to the story. There’s an bicycle in the story, and there’s discussions of politics (just a little bit) leading up to the aftermath of World War One. But the main thing is it’s not going to be a fairy tale of castles and princesses, etc. It is a retelling of the Red Riding Hood story. And it was the second story I wrote for this collection, the first being Milking Time, which I’ve already discussed.

But I thought today we would talk about the Wild Hunt and Herne, and you may not be familiar with those ideas or those stories. And I brought my Wild Hunt expert with me, Mr. Miles.

So we’re going to, just first of all just talk a little bit about why I use that in the story itself. I think back oh, way back when I was in, I guess it would be Middle School. There was a book, it was a romance book that I read called, I believe, the Wild Hunt. And in that book, it was wondering if the Wild Hunt that was being rumored in the town was a myth, was it supernatural, or was it people. And it was a gothic romance. And at the time it turns out, if I remember rightly, it turned out to be basically a disguise for nefarious activities that were human and had nothing to do with fairies or the supernatural. It always stuck with me. And when I started writing this story and thinking about woods that were haunted, or wolves in the woods, it just came to me this is where I want to go with the story. And when I was talking to you, Miles, there was more information you told me that really got me inspired. So let’s talk first about what is a Wild Hunt.

Miles
The legends of the Wild Hunt occur all over Europe. Central, Western, Northern Europe, through the British Isles, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England, in millions of forms. This seems to be a legend that everybody tells and everybody changes to their own local stories.

Byrd Nash
Well, what time period are we talking about? How old is it story about the Wild Hunt? Because I’m thinking it’s medieval or older.

Miles
It’s older, probably. Many of the many of the versions put Odin or Wotan, the Germanic / Norse god as the leader of the Wild Hunt. So it goes back a long way.

Byrd Nash
Well, I think we were discussing when I was developing the Wicked Wolves story, that a lot of these stories of the Wild Hunt start taking place in the winter season. Obviously, if you’re living in Northern Europe, and it’s winter time, one, it’s very dark for a long period of the day; it’s really cold; and probably very windy and snowy. And a lot, that causes a lot of noise around that… and it closes you in. So…

Miles
Right. When you’re in your house in the middle of winter with the wind blowing, and it’s cold and dark and you’re hearing the howling of the wind. Maybe you’re hearing some geese in the distance that sound like barking dogs…

Byrd Nash
Or wolves, lets face it, Europe has wolves.

Miles
Or thundering noises. It sounds mysterious, it sounds dangerous outside.

Byrd Nash
Well, let me give you an example of that, a modern, more modern example. When I was growing up in, near I should say, Dayton, Ohio, we had a two story house that we were renting. The bedroom that I had, that I was in with my sister at the time, was adjacent to a chimneystack that we had of a fireplace in that house, and it was also in the northwest corner of the house. Now, for those who don’t live in Ohio, in the United States, there is snow there, sometimes months of snow. And when we would get storms coming through it would sound like someone was shuffling a deck of cards. I am not kidding. It was the weirdest sound. I’ve never heard… I mean, we’ve had houses with chimneys since then. And I’ve never heard that. You could hear it very distinctly in that room. And i must have had something to do with the wind coming around the corner of the house or the chimney. It didn’t spook me at the time. But I didn’t understand where the noise was coming from. It definitely was not a noise you would hear at any other place in the house. And I don’t know, just strange, it was an odd odd noise. So if you take people living at a hovel, you know, surrounded by wild forest probably. Only their own little area, the place that they live, is domesticated, I’m imagining they heard lots of mysterious noises.

Miles
I bet they did. I know I grew up in far northern Michigan, which has very long, cold winters. And I remember being inside our house in the middle of a storm, snow storm, and it sounded like somebody was stomping on the roof. Just the house would rattle. And there would be strange noises.

Byrd Nash
Why do you think sound like the stomping on the roof? Do you think that was like the branches hitting the roof?

Miles
It may have been branches hitting the roof, or maybe a loose shingle flapping and banging. And it was just… I can quite see you would get… especially in stormy windy weather, you’re going to be surrounded by strange noises that sound ominous.

Byrd Nash
Of course you and I live now in Oklahoma. And what you get here is the wind. And you have to live, you live 100% of your life here (if you live in this state) with wind. Now you’re down Oklahoma City area there is much more wind then up here in Tulsa but the wind is moving all the time. And, of course, what we have here in Oklahoma is tornadoes. So what is more dangerous to me is when the wind stops moving. Because, for those that don’t know, that’s usually like you’re in the eye of the storm. Literally, but it’s called a tornado. But let’s move on a little bit more about the Wild Hunt. So the Wild Hunt’s coming from this very old time where people were not living in towns. They weren’t living surrounded by other people. They probably had very long winters with not much to do, where it was cold, dark, lonely. There was still a lot of wildlife that lived around. And that was potentially dangerous, bears and wolves and…

Miles
Yeah, being outside or traveling in the dark, at night, when there is a storm brewing or a storm in place, is dangerous.

Byrd Nash
Dangerous. Yeah, dangerous.

Miles
Just physically dangerous. And the Wild Hunt kind of grew up around this possibly is related to this. Just one of the things that may have inspired it is a cautionary tale don’t go outside, when it’s cold and dark and the wind is making strange noises.

Byrd Nash
Well or winter weather. It does seem to me seems to me and my recollection of when I was reading more Wild Hunt stories. These are the stories where there is some sort of group of (sometimes thought to be fairies, we’re going to go into more of that), but some sort of group of people that have a supernatural reason why they’re hunting, they could be… they’re riding horses, they’re on the hunt, looking for something. And the, the implication to me has always been in those kind of stories, is you don’t want to be what they’re hunting. So do not go outside. And like Miles said, cautionary tale. Don’t go outside. Don’t be the one they’re hunting.

Miles
Right. Or just don’t get in their way.

Byrd Nash
Right.

Miles
You know, the the Wild Hunt legends like I said are very widespread and almost kaleidoscopic in their variations.

Byrd Nash
Well give us some ideas on that.

Miles
The leader of the… well, it’s it’s always some kind of hunt. It’s usually someone mounted on a horse, a big scary person who may be a god like Odin or Cernunnos. It could be Herod or Cain from the Bible. It could be the Devil himself. It could be the fairies. It could be, often it’s a mythical or historical figure from your local area that other stories are told about. And this is the night they ride. They may be alone on a horse with hounds. There may be, there may be a whole group of riders, they may be riding horses, they may be riding stags.

Byrd Nash
Now what I remember is one of the stories I recall about the Wild Hunt is the leader of it was usually was male, and had a rack of antlers.

Miles
In many versions the the leader is… the leader seems to always be male. The leader often has a rack of antlers, but that varies. if it’s Cernunnos, Cernunnos has antlers. Odin doesn’t have antlers.

Byrd Nash
Why don’t you explain a little bit about who Cernunnos is. Because that may not be familiar to some listeners here.

Miles
I don’t know a lot about Cernunnos, but he is a forest god, a god of the wild, wild beasts and the wilderness.

Byrd Nash
I dont really think a lot’s known about him. But what it is, it’s an image that was showing up in I know in England, maybe Northern Europe, but it seems to attach to the Gauls or the…

Miles
It’s a Gaulish legend, right.

Byrd Nash
And it’s a symbol of a man. He’s holding I believe a snake, and then a torque in one hand. So isn’t there a snake in one hand and a torque in the other?

Miles
He is most traditionally pictured sitting cross legged on the ground with a snake in one hand, and a torque, right, in the other. And with antlers on his head, and usually with beasts on either side of him.

Byrd Nash
Right. So the torque again, for those who may not know, that is a necklet that you would wear around your neck, usually I thought denoting some sort of status. I’m not sure if it’s only for kings. But you know, now we always know crowns, crowns, crowns that denotes a king. But the torque was kind of status symbol that you’re higher up in the hierarchy of a community. But let’s go back, go ahead.

Miles
But the leader of the hunt, may be one of these well known gods or something, but it’s very common for the hunt to be associated with a particular local legend.

Byrd Nash
Right. I think that’s kind of like what we were talking another time about Black Dogs, which we will probably be doing a podcast about black dogs. but black dog legends are very specific to the area that you find those legends. So it’s like, if you live in town XYZ they have their specific black dog that does it specific things. So the Wild Hunt, you’re saying, is depending on where, what local legend it is, it has its own little character.

Miles
Has its own little character. There’s many common themes, but it’s usually very specific to each little region. And a particular region may even have some several different stories.

Byrd Nash
From, again, things that I’ve read that are more probably from popular culture that’s taken these rudiments and then changed it to suit the story. These stories also have been affiliated with the fairies. And I know the last broadcast I was talking about a story that I couldn’t remember the name of; then I went back, because sometimes the brain does that, sorry, doesn’t fire on all cylinders anymore. But it’s the story of Tam Lin and Tam Lin gets captured by what really is the Wild Hunt, but i think is called more the Fairy Ride. So these two both had the same principles.

The Fairy Ride is a group of fairies that are out riding, sometimes hunting. And again, you do not want to be found by them. Because the Fairy Queen invariably find some dopey guy that’s standing around the crossroads at the time you should not be standing there. And you know, on the night of the full moon, or the night of Halloween or whatever. And gets picked up by the Fairy Queen who decides to take him usually as a lover, or as just a prize. And then the girl has to,,, the human girl lover, has to win him back. And again, she has to face down the Wild Hunt or the Fairy Ride they usually meet again on the road. And again, she has to pick out the lover and then she has to hold on to the lover long enough, and through many physical transformations, for a certain amount of time, usually till dawn, so she can get her lover and save him from the fairies.

Miles
The host of riders that ride, that are the hunters that ride with the leader of the hunt, are often fairies, but they’re also often the dead. The spirits of the dead.

Byrd Nash
Yeah, we were talking about that when we were, when I was developing the story. Miles doesn’t write my stories, but I use him as a sounding board. We discuss them usually when we’re, well, ot was this spring when I was walking, and we would walk together and we would discuss plots. And I’d say, “well, why didn’t this happen?” Then he’d make a suggestion, and I’d go “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, I understand why that happened now. Okay, fine. Shut up.” You’re such a good sport. The people that belong, or the entities that belong to a Wild Hunt or a Fairy Ride. In my opinion, what is most crucial about them being part of that, is often the faces can’t be seen. Or if you see the faces they start to shift and change. You can’t, these are shown in these kinds of stories as definitely beings that are not human. So it’s not like you just came across some humans riding out trying to steal some deer. That’s not what these beings are. They usually morph into different faces, different shapes. They may be animals riding animals, and then they’re humans riding animals, they… Like you said, they may be the dead. So when you and I were discussing this, I saw definitely a shift to more of a Christian motif. As Christianity came through and took these older legends and then started to shape them to fit into Christianity.

Miles
Right. Where the leader of the hunt instead of being Odin is now the Devil. And instead of being in a host of fairies he’s in a host of damn souls.

Byrd Nash
Right. So I want to read another passage from the Wicked Wolves short story that is part of what we just discussed. This scene is when Doireann is at the post office and she’s talking to Mrs. O’Donnell trying to find out information about the Wild Hunt.

“I was talking with someone yesterday about that local legend the Wolves of Windsor. Do you remember it, Mrs. O’Donnell?”

Mrs. O’Donnell clucked over her newspaper. Finally, she looked up over her reading glasses at her young helper who was sweeping the floor.

“The Wolves of Windsor? That’s just an old story. I’m surprised someone as young as you would know. Just a folk tale for when the wind howls outside the door and the rain lashes the window casements, so hard that you think they’ll break.”

“But what is the tale exactly?”

“Depends on who tells the story. Some say it’s Herne the Hunter running with the fairies to steal stray livestock. However, that is nasty pagan thinking. Personally, I believe it’s Satan collecting his sinners. They won’t know any peace until Gabriel sounds his horn. Makes far more sense to my way of thinking.”

When I was developing the story, I had one of my beta readers send some questions back to me. And one of them was well, who’s Herne? And what’s the Wild Hunt? And what… Who are they exactly? This story will not answer that question. I had hoped through the part where Mrs. O’Donnell’s talking to Doireann that it helps the reader understand no one really knows what is happening. You can fill in with what you think is happening. And I have some, as the author, some ideas of what’s happening. But these are supernatural beings on a supernatural mission. And that’s not always going to be understandable to humans, or be able to be explained to humans.

Miles
Exactly. Humans know what they need to know, which is basically: avoid them. Don’t get, don’t go out.

Byrd Nash
Don’t go there.

Miles
Don’t go there. Don’t do that. If you do, bad things will happen. That’s all you need to know.

Byrd Nash
The thing is, this idea of roads that you should not be on at certain time periods. That is a primal fear in my opinion. For example, there was that series that we’re reading recently, that was the western take, what was the name of it? because you really liked it. Gilman is the author, I’ll put it in the show notes. But it’s a Western take of kind of a mythological story. And when you approach a crossroads, you have to throw silver at first, like a silver coin or silver bracelet or something silver, in order to make sure there’s not a trap at the crossroads. And we all know the story about the devil at the crossroads that, you know that you can meet the devil at the crossroads. And then that’s where the bargains will be struck.

Miles
Suicides and murderers will be buried at the crossroads,

Byrd Nash
rRght? I don’t know, was that where you buried witches? I mean, I know the damned you’re supposed to cut their head off. And then you…

Miles
Bury then at the crossroads. Anybody that has a dangerous spirit, you buried at the crossroads because then when their spirit comes back, it doesn’t know which way to go. And it can’t find you again.

Byrd Nash
Well, I would just move out of town. But talking about that there is something I want to touch on. I know we’re getting down to the last 10-15 minutes of the broadcast. But you and I were talking about ghost stories. About them using markers, the symbol of the roadside mark and how that was supposed to pin down spirits.

Miles
Yes, that’s a Danish tradition that you lay a spirit by forcing, with prayers or whatever, spells, you force the ghost into a hole and you put a post in to hold it down. An no one better move that pole. If you move the pole, the ghost comes back out again.

Byrd Nash
Yeah, so that’s another “do not move landmarks around”. Now in the Wicked Wolves story there is of course a marker, the boundary marker, that I have no idea if Windsor has boundary markers, so don’t bother writing me about that. But in my imagination, I was like: this would be the boundary marker of the property. And that’s where the Hunt would end. That would be their, you know, their natural way, place where they would reside would be in these, this part of these woods. When Doireann passes the boundary marker and then she’s free of their influence.

Miles
That is a good example of the kind of rules that always surround the Wild Hunt. There’s always a set of rules around the Wild Hunt.

Byrd Nash
So tell me about the rules, because we’re going to talk about that in the next broadcast.

Miles
It may be that you have to stay on the road. If you’re in the center of the road Wild Hunt can’t touch you. Or in one of the Danish traditions, the Wild Hunt flies above the ground about the height of a sheep. So if you see it coming you have to throw yourself flat on the ground and let them pass over you.

Byrd Nash
So they must have had tornadoes. Because, yes, what you do if you’re in a tornado.

Miles
The thought was that you’re safer from lightning if you, that if you’re if you’re lying flat on the ground, you’re not getting hit by lightning.

Byrd Nash
I think lightning does hit the highest thing doesn’t it in the area? So hopefully it hits the tree. I do know that from doing some research about Windsor when I was writing the story, there during Queen Victoria’s time there was a huge Great Oak there that kind of figures into some legends there in Windsor, that ties into my book. That actually have been struck by lightning during her time there at Windsor. So the tree, I’m not sure, I have no idea if the tree’s still there. But at the time it had been struck by lightning, it was considered to be that Great Oak.

Miles
Right, or Herne’s Oak.

Byrd Nash
Herne’s Oak, it’s mentioned briefly I think in Wicked Wolves.

Miles
Yeah, yeah, after that tree was struck, they appointed another tree as Herne’s Oak. I know there’s always, there’s always one of the trees, which is called Herne’s Oak. But that’s kind of cheating.

Byrd Nash
I think that’s cheating. But if you’re in, if you’re in the area of Windsor, and you know where Herne’s Oak is I would love to have a photo, so. But while this story, it probably takes a lot of license with what really happens in Windsor. I have no idea they have gamekeepers during World War One, and I have no idea if there’s much of a forest left around Windsor. That is a lot of speculation on my part. What was interesting to me, though, was that when Windsor was originally there, of course. it did have a huge forest attached to it at some time. And that spawns another part of this legend that you and I were talking about, the gamekeeper. I dont know if he was a gatekeeper or if he was a, just a resident of the area, or was that at Windsor? Or just a story? I don’t remember.

Miles
It’s the story of Herne?

Byrd Nash
Yeah

Miles
He was a yeoman, basically a freeman, who was caught poaching on the grounds of Windsor and was hung from the oak, supposedly. And that is one of the stories that’s said to be the origin of Herne the Hunter as the leader of the Great Hunt in the Windsor area. That’s the local legend that got attached to the Great Hunt. So in Windsor, the Great Hunt is Herne the Hunter, right who may be William Horne from Henry the Eighth’s time who was hung.

Byrd Nash
And you know, this is where we’re going to go into more of this in the second half of the broadcast, the podcast about the Wicked Wolves. There is a huge rich history to the background of that story. It’s not in the story, because it’s a short story, I simply didn’t have time to put it all in. Also another thing is for pacing, I wanted keeps some of the things mysterious and also open ended as to who was who was who. I have, as an author, an idea of how the characters came together, I’ll go into that. But I’m also willing to let readers have their own freedom to think about that, and how they would interpret the story.

Miles
I like that a lot, because that goes with the legends that I see of the Wild Hunt. Which is every people in every place interprets it differently, and puts their own spin on the story, while keeping the core.

Byrd Nash
Well, when I was talking to another author about fairy tales are about evolving. The stories change, they twist, and they go to new village, they change again, and someone adds something different in, and then you know. You can see that, and again, we can spend probably 20 podcasta talking about the Arthurian legends. You see that in the Arthurian legends that they transform and they merge and they change as they cross hundreds of years. And then other countries take them on and say no, this is our legend. With the Wicked Wolves of Windsor there is not any firm ground rules as to who is Herne. Is Herne the yeoman? Or is Herne someone else? Or is Herne a supernatural being or god? We don’t know in the story. So it’s just something that I wanted to leave open. I don’t like stories that explain everything. Except then I do like stories that explain everything. I don’t like stories that leave me hanging on a plot device. So if you leave me up with a plot hole that doesn’t, the Chekhov’s gun, where you know, you talked about Chekhov’s gun in chapter one. And then by the end of the book, I still don’t know what you did with Chekhov’s gun. I don’t want that kind of plot hole. But I do think too much of our literature nowadays, is trying to spoon feed our readers with all the answers.

Miles
I agree. One of the things that I like about fairy tales is the magic is never explained. There is no magical system that the reader is told. Things just happen. And they make sense emotionally, and they make sense personally, but it’s left to the reader or the listener to judge.

Byrd Nash
Well, I don’t think with fairy tales that the magic is the important thrust of the fairy tale. The fairy tale, the important thrust of the fairy tale is the adventure. Or you know, where jack climbs up the beanstalk and he vanquishes the giant, or doesn’t vanquish the giant then but steals the golden, the goose that lays the golden eggs, and then later on the giant is destroyed. That’s the adventure or the reward. The third, the youngest son has won the hand of the princess and now gained the kingdom. Or the lesson of the story.

Miles
Yes

Byrd Nash
So you got the adventure, the prize, the lesson.

Miles
Right

Byrd Nash
And we’ll go on more about the Wicked Wolves of Windsor and what is the lesson that you can find in that story?

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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