Tag Archives: Folktale

EL CIERVO AZUL (The Blue Deer)

EL CIERVO AZUL (The Blue Deer)

“The ancients told us that long, long ago, in the Huichol mountains the Grandfathers came together in order to discuss a situation. The people were ill, they had neither water nor food nor rain, and the earth was dry. They decided then to send out four youths of the hunt, with the task of finding food and bringing it to the community to share it, no matter how much or how little they hunted. Each one of the youths represented the elements: fire, water, air and earth.

The following morning the youths began their hunt, each one carrying their bow and arrows. They walked for days until, one afternoon, there jumped from behind a bush, a grand and fat deer. The youths were exhausted and hungry but when they saw the deer, they forgot everything and began to run after it, and did not lose sight of it. The deer looked at the youths and felt compassion for them. He let them rest a night and the next day he enticed them to continue their chase.

Ciervo Azul

Many weeks passed before they arrived to Wirikuta (a desert in San Luis, sacred path of the Huicholes.) And the youths found themselves on the road to a hill, near mount Narices, and they saw the deer jump in the direction of the place where the Spirit of the Earth dwelt. They swore they had seen the deer run in this direction and they tried to find it without success. Suddenly one of the youths shot their arrow and it found its mark inside the silhouette of the deer. But when they approached they found the figure of the deer was formed from peyote cactus that were found in those lands and that shone brightly in the sun like emeralds looking in only one direction.

The youths were confused by what had happened, but decided to cut the plants forming the figure of Marratutuyari (deer) in order to take them to the people. After walking for many days they arrived at Huichol Mountain, where everyone was waiting for them. They went straight to the Ancients and told them their experience. The Ancients began to distribute the peyote among the people and after a time, no one felt hungry or thirsty.

Ever since, the Huichol revere peyote that is at once Deer and Corn, their Spirit Guide. Therefore, each year since then, they make a pilgrimage, maintaining the route alive from the Huichol mountains to Wirikuta, in order to ask God for rain, food, and health for the people. ”

Translated from:

Image collage by Folkloreate using:

Artwork (Ciervo Azul):

Background (Ciervo Azul):

Overlay (Ciervo Azul):



Yay! Movie day! Time to whip out the popcorn and my blankies and curl up on the couch. It’s a rainy day and I decided it was as good as any to review my selection of films. Because, after much consideration, I decided that my first in-depth blog post would be about Selkies. And even more so, Selkies in cinema.

This post was inspired by Lara Dunning, an aspiring writer and academic, who is in fact in the process of writing a fictional YA piece about the mythical Selkie. You can learn more about her and what she has written at her blog.


A Selkie, as some of you may already be aware, is a sea creature that is part seal and part human. Tales of Selkies are primarily found in Scottish and Irish folklore. Let’s take a look at a traditional Scottish folk story animated by Walter McCorie:

Now, that we’ve established the traditional view of the Selkie, let’s find out what modern cinema has done with this age old concept. Oh, I should also warn you now, some of the following may contain SPOILERS.

#5 The Selkie’s Lover (2013)

Don’t be upset. The reason The Selkie’s Lover (2013) is coming in at number five is because it is a short film instead of a full feature. It is also a bit more difficult to get your hands on than the others. But, apart from that, it is a perfectly nice Indie short, that tells a tale of love between a Selkie and a man. Set in a modern day setting but telling an age old narrative it strives to link the two and tell a timeless narrative. If you can get ahold of it, have a look see and let me know what you think.

#4 Selkie (2000)

Not an all together terrible film, but not one of my favorites on this list. Primarily because the whiny teenage protagonist, Jaimie, kept getting on my nerves. But I’m fairly certain he is supposed to.

The film itself is set in Australia. Something isn’t sitting quite right with Jamie as he develops into a young man. His fingers are webbed for starters and the sea just seems to keep calling out to him. Lo and behold, Jamie finds that he has some pretty interesting Scottish heritage that’s going to make fitting in as a teen even more difficult than it already is. If you can get through the first half of it, it actually becomes a pretty decent film.

#3 The Search for Roan Inish (1994)

This film seems to be a bit of a cult classic among Selkie enthusiasts. It follows much the same theme as The Selkie (2000) in that it address the concept of Selkie heritage. But that’s where their similarities end. This story actually takes place in Ireland (moved from its original setting in Scotland) and is complete with a mystery of a missing baby brother. It is steeped in folklore and superstition, and is told in a much more serious tone than The Selkie (2000). The storytelling is beautiful and the film is well worth a watch.

#2 Ondine (2009)

This is probably my favorite film on the list, and it is the film that first brought me to the subject matter (Check out Ana Dunning’s review). It stars Colin Farrell, who is a fisherman who brings up a beautiful woman in his fishing nets. She’s incredibly mysterious and it doesn’t take the fisherman’s daughter long to decide that she must be a Selkie and that her father better make a move quick before her Selkie husband comes to reclaim her.

Why is this my favorite? you might ask. Because it has a harsh reality that most true folklore tends to mask in its magic. The film is filled with themes of divorce, alcoholism, illness and a lot of other unpleasantness. In all of this, the protagonists end up embracing the folkloric concepts as a possible reality. Providing a welcome break from the unpleasantness. And the mysterious Ondine, the Selkie woman who has run away from her Selkie husband, is filled with hope of a new life on a foreign land. Not exactly a happy tale but certainly a very compelling story. I definitely recommend this film if you have the patience to see it through to the end.

#1 Song of the Sea (2014)

Alright, first off, I am a sucker for animation. And this truly a stunningly beautiful piece of artwork. I had a hard time choosing between Search for Roan Inish (1994), Ondine (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014). Why did Song of the Sea (2014) win spot number one? Mostly because of its medium. I found animation to be a very fitting form in which to tell such a fantastical tale. It’s also a film that is suitable for all audiences unlike Ondine (2009) and I figured The Search of Roan Inish (1994) is a bit older and has gotten its fair share of limelight . So, simply put, Song of the Sea takes spot number one.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Seventh Stream (2001)

So, I wish I had known about The Seventh Stream (2001) when I wrote the original post. Thank you Morgan Grey for the suggestion! Morgan Grey is an Alaska-based author and a selkie enthusiast. You can check out her blog A World of Selkies for more great information about selkies!

Now back to the film. The Seventh Stream (2001) is a wonderful film and should actually bump it’s way onto the Top 5 list. The Seventh Stream (2001) is a true selkie tale. With all of the magic, mystery, tragedy and killer accents to boot! It is a beautiful story about the widower Owen Quinn and his noble actions that lead him to find love anew. This movie was everything I could hope for from a selkie themed film. It’s complete with greed, loss, love, murder and magic. It has many a great twist and turn and I really enjoyed it thoroughly. So, if you haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend it! It’s great for anyone just learning about selkies, the die-hard fans and/or anyone in between. It actually made me cry a little 😥 .

So, what do you think?

Of course these are just my opinions and I’m dying to hear your list of the top 5 Selkie based films! Make sure to comment below or send me an email at folkloreate.blog@gmail.com. I’ll be sure to add a list of honorable mentions for all those who contribute. (Also don’t forget to “like” Folkloreate on Facebook!)

So, I pass the discussion on to you. What are your favorite Selkie stories and/or films?

Folklore Defined

Folklore Defined

Like all bloggers, I have been struggling with what to write for my first post. But I’ve finally decided to tackle the large subject matter of exactly what “folklore” all entails. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and examine what exactly folklore means.


Let’s start with looking at folklore in a linguistic sense. It is a compound word of “folk” and “lore”. Unlike, folkloreate (the title of this blog), folklore is a word that you can find in any dictionary. And just about everyone has used it to refer to something-or-other at some point. But, let’s break up the word and then reassemble it.

Folk: of or relating to the traditional art or culture of a community or nation.

Lore: a body of traditions and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth.


Folklore: the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth.


Josh Clark, from Stuff You Should Know, while trying to define folklore in a podcast said:

“…it’s kind of like nailing jelly to the wall.”

And he couldn’t be more right. The problem seems to arise from the fact that most folklorists tend to be cultural relativists (i.e no-one is wrong, so long as you look at it from their point of view). In and of itself, this is a good thing. They quietly catalog to the best of their ability while leaving their bias at home. Great! But, what exactly are they recording? What is folklore?

Folklore boils down to being just about anything. But, this doesn’t mean everything is folklore. I kind of started thinking of it as if you’re looking through a lens or a set of magnifying glasses…

Folklore Culture

But you can also think of it perhaps as a bit of a pyramid too. On the top of the pyramid you have what people, the elitists of a country or culture, are selling you as their image. What the culture ought to be. This is of course in a perfect world and it’s what people aspire to but unfortunately its rarely the reality. In the middle we have some of the general trends of a culture or group. This is kind of what most people are up to. But even this overall view sometimes falls short of what we do in our day to day lives.

Folklore focuses in on what people are really doing in small groups, day in and day out. It focuses on details, rather than all encompassing trends. At least, that’s the way I’ve come to understand it. Folklore is about recording the minuet differences and not trying to glob everything together under one big header.

So, in this frame of mind, the definition I have settled on is a very short one, but one that is full of complex meaning. I stole it from this video, and I’m sure Dr. Andriy Nahachewsky is adapting it from another source all together.

So, very simply put, folklore can be defined as, (drum-roll please):

Vernacular culture.

Short and sweet. But lets examine it piece by piece. Since that is some very condensed, meaning packed vocabulary right there.


I absolutely adore this word. I first came across it while studying architecture at a small, private university in Mexico. Vernacular is beautiful, and if I had continued and finished my studies, I probably would have done a dissertation relating to it at some point. But, well, that’s ancient history now.

So, what does vernacular actually mean? In a literal sense, we can define vernacular as something used or implemented by the ordinary people in a particular country, region or social group. In architecture that meant that we actually looked at houses that people built. Local people. People who lived and breathed in the structures and who didn’t pay some fancy architect to build it for them.

Vernacular ArchitectureThese people weren’t building skyscrapers, they were building homes, with a hearth and a heart. It often makes me think of a book I picked up called “The Barefoot Architect”.

Vernacular is the result of building the way your grandfather before you built. You start with what he knew and then add your own ideas onto it. No blueprints, no plans, just simple knowledge handed down through generations. What worked for them will work for you. It’s personalized to your climate and your lifestyle. It fulfills your most basic needs.

This is the essence of vernacular. Now that we have our scope narrowed down to the vernacular, i.e. local level, we can start looking at the next part of our definition.


So, anyone who has taken a history or anthropology or sociology or even psychology class has come across this term. It’s breadth is wide, but we’ve already narrowed our breadth down to the vernacular, down to the barest local level. We’ve stripped away the macro and focused in on the micro. What small groups of people are doing and sharing in their everyday circumstances.

Culture is split into several different categories pertaining to people, and folklore follows a similar pattern. It is split into four main categories as illustrated in the diagram below.


Folklore TypesEach of these categories may be interacting with one another, and most often are. Most people are most familiar with folklore in the context of narratives. These are the stories, myths, legends, and fairy-tales. But they’re also the proverbs, jokes, riddles and tongue twisters.

So, what would be a folklore “artifact”? Seems like an odd concept but it’s not if we look at it closely. Most beliefs, customs and artifacts are created around a narration or a story or a belief of some kind. Or, well, it can be a chicken-or-the-egg kind of scenario.

Sometimes we don’t know which came first, the custom and then the story to explain it, or whether the story created the artifacts or custom. Either way, if there is a bridge between them, then you are most likely looking at a piece of folklore.

For example,

We’re going to take a minute and get up close and personal in my business. Well, not really, but we’re going to use Czech folklore (technically my heritage) as an example to illustrate the different categories of folklore. But first, just for tickles, let me share a little about my family history.

I come from a long line of storytellers, I would almost go as far as to say it is built into my very genes. My grandfather’s nickname was Gaby, not because his name had anything to do with Gabriel (it was actually John), but because he had no shortage of stories. His tall tales made their rounds far and wide through the taverns of rural Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, he passed away before I was born, but his stories lived on in a “telephone” party game sort of way. But his mother-in-law, my great-grandmother Tena, managed to live to be 102. And if there is a great storyteller in our family’s recent history, she was it. She practiced folk-medicine and told tales that taught and tales that entertained. Her legacy lives on right on down to her great-great-great (yes, three is right) grandchildren today.

But that’s enough about me, let’s get back to the real purpose of this jabber. I mentioned earlier that there was such a thing as folklore “artifacts.” If we look at this from a Czech, or bohemian perspective, one very clear example comes instantly to mind. The Corn Husk Dolls. I played with these as a little girl, although their primary use in our households were as decor from the “old country” (not that we actually called it that).

Corn Husk Doll FolkLittle did I know that there was a very rich history surrounding these dolls. (If I had known that, I might have not chewed on them so much.) They are by no means unique to Czech culture and are actually found throughout various parts of eastern Europe. And those of you who know your crop history would probably have realized that they are unable to date back before the Europeans made contact with the Americas. Seeing as they are made from corn husks themselves.

So, the folk tradition that is commonly associated with them (here in Wisconsin) Is actually an Oneida Native American folktale (I actually didn’t know it was Oneida until I started investigating this article). This tale strives to explain why the doll has no face. It’s about vanity and punishment, and these are the themes I remember from the story. Through this we can see a clear connection between the “artifact” (i.e. the doll) and the oral history (i.e. folktale).

Czech Folk Dance

Another wonderful example would be the traditional folk-dances of the Czech republic. These dances often employed ballads that are simply glorified oral histories. Therefore we can quickly see the link between the oral history (ballad) and the custom (Czech folk-dance) that accompanied them.

The list goes on and on, but hopefully through these brief examples it was made more clear what exactly folklore is and where it comes from. It’s just like taking a witch’s cauldron and throwing in ordinary people, their oral traditions, and all the by products of those oral traditions. And vuwala! You’ve made yourself a Folklore concoction.

So, what’s your take?

I did my best to share and explain folklore in < 2000 words. Now, I pass it on to you. What is your take on folklore? What is folklore to you?

Welcome to Folkloreate!

Welcome to Folkloreate!

WHAT IS “folkloreate”?

Folkloreate is a portmanteau, or blend word, of “folklore” and “laureate.”

In other words:

Folklore + Laureate = Folkloreate


My core goal of this blog is to explore the concept of great, compelling storytelling. I will be primarily retelling age old folklore from cultures throughout the world in my own unique flavor. Something similar to what is done at AmericanFolklore.net. But, be ready to expect a bit of everything and be sure to share any ideas, experiences, or stories of your own!


You are more than welcome to jump in on the discussion with your own input or links to your own relevant blog posts. Don’t have your own online space? No problem. If you have written a relevant article that you would like to see displayed here, just let me know by sending a short description of your ideas to folkloreate.blog@gmail.com. You will be sure to receive credit where credit is due on any content you’ve provided. Also, don’t forget to like and follow Folkloreate on facebook! It’s another great way to get in touch.

So, don’t be shy, go ahead and introduce yourself! What is your most beloved folktale, legend, myth or story?