Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Guest Post: Pat Walsh Talks Mythology in The Hob and the Deerman!

In a place where the everyday world and the Otherworld meet, anything can happen... Crowfield Abbey lies in ruins and a ghostly crawling man haunts the long abandoned rooms and cloisters. When Brother Walter the hob returns to the abbey, he finds it a desolate, troubled place. The ghost of a young girl waits in vain for her father to come for her. A boggart lurks in the abbey drain, and the statues and wall paintings are disappearing, one by one... And who is mysterious Deerman of the forest? With the help of a young village boy and a stone hob brought to life, the hob desperately attempts to unravel old secrets and right an ancient wrong. Time is running out for the hob and it is not always easy to tell your friends from your enemies.

Pat Walsh, author of The Crowfield Curse and The Crowfield Demon, has a new book out now in the UK, titled The Hob and the Deerman. It's the first in a series of standalone books featuring Brother Walter, the hob from the Crowfield novels.

Pat has written a fascinating post about European mythology in The Hob and the Deerman, and I hope it's made you want to read the book. Thanks, Pat!


The Hob and the Deerman
by Pat Walsh

The Hob and the Deerman, my new book, is a side-step from the Crowfield Mysteries. It features one of the main characters from those books, Brother Walter the hob, a small fay with a red fur, a long tail and gold-green eyes. He has lived in the forest near Crowfield Abbey for centuries, in his burrow beneath an oak tree. This brave and loyal little creature settles for a while in the workshop of Brother Snail, the abbey’s sacristan and herbalist, but when The Hob and the Deerman begins, the abbey is abandoned and the hob has long since returned to his home in the forest.
You might be wondering what a Hob actually is, so I’ll tell you. Hobs appear in European folklore and legends. They are small, solitary fay creatures, though sometimes they may align themselves with the Seelie Court. In England, they go by many names – hob, hobthrust, brownie, Robin Goodfellow or Puck, amongst others. They are the bwbach in Wales, the domovoi in Russia, the tontuu in Finland and the Icelandic Yule Boys. In Scandinavia, their close cousins are the nisse and tomte, and in Germany they are kin to the kobold. Hobs and their counterparts around Europe are often household spirits who clean and tidy the house or barn, and keep an eye on livestock and family pets. For the most part they are generally good humoured, if a little fond of the occasional trick or practical joke. If you suspect one has come to live in your home, then a fair reward for its help is a bowl of porridge or a piece of bread, but give it clothing and it will leave and never return.

 [The Sorceror cave painting.]

More mysterious and from a far older mythology is the Deerman. It is a spirit who has its roots in the ancient past, a time before the ice sheets covered what is now northern Europe. In the cave called The Sanctuary at Trois Frères, nearArèige in France, there is a wall painting of a naked figure with antlers dating back 13,000 years. He is known as The Sorcerer but there is no way to be sure what this rare depiction of a Palaeolithic human figure meant to the people who made it, but it was clearly very important. It was possibly a shaman or the representation of a guardian of the wild. Fast forward about 4,500 years to Star Carr in Yorkshire. Now just fields, it was once the site of an ancient lake. Excavations of the Mesolithic, or middle stone age hunter-gatherer camps on the edge of the lake uncovered antler frontlets – the foreparts of deer skulls with their antlers trimmed and holes drilled through the bone, possibly to take leather straps. This hint of a ritual involving an antlered shaman, possibly representing a nature spirit, echoes The Sorcerer at Trois Frères and other horned figures, such as the cross-legged, antlered man on the Iron Age Gundestrup cauldron.

 [Bone artefacts from Star Carr.]

 [Sitting man from the Gundestrup cauldron.]

The Deerman in my book is an antlered nature spirit, a guardian of the natural world. It is a creature of the Deepwoods, the ancient heart of the old forest which covered Northern Europe after the retreat of the ice sheets 12,000 years ago. The Deerman represents the natural world, the wilderness which has all but disappeared from our modern world. For me personally, the Deerman is an echo of the beliefs of our ancestors and like Brother Walter the hob, I feel a deep connection to it and all it represents. I have wanted to write a story about this shadowy figure for a very long time, and now I have.

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