Well, I spent Saturday and Sunday rowing in the St. Paul Water Dragon festival. It was a lot of fun, and although we didn’t win, I can take comfort in the fact we were first in our division in the time trials. I’m mean, that’s something, right?
So this week I thought I’d stay in that water sport mentality and cover some famous water demons from various cultures. It’s thematic (at least for me) and it’s something we really haven’t covered in Nyogtha as of yet. So let’s just get into it, shall we?
For those of you that have played the new version of The Bard’s Tale InXile put out last year for the Xbox and PS2 (And just recently for the PC), you will have most likely encountered the Nuckleavee, as it is a major bad guy in the game. However, there are some big differences between the video game version, which is a giant centaur that sprang from a sacred mound after you kill a horse and that just decided to wander around the earth killing this, and the actual Nucklelavee.
In Scottish myth, the Nucklelavee (Nuck-La-Vee) is a giant AQUATIC centaur (makes sense considering this week’s theme). Its head alone is the size of a small human and its mouth is several feet in diameter while it has a single blood-red eye in the middle of this horrific face. Like most centaurs, the upper body is human shaped, while the torso and lower body is that of a horse. The Nucklelavee would resemble a much larger version of the Grecian Centaur save for one teeny tiny detail: The Nucklelavee has no skin at all. Ouch.
Part of the legend of the Nucklelavee is that if such a creature so much as breathes on a vegetable, it will decay immediately. It’s breath can also cause a human being or other animal to die on the spot as well. Ancient Celts used the blame the Nucklelavee for crops ruined by sea and ocean winds, and also for cattle that would fall off of cliffs when they were not paying attention to where they were grazing. The Nucklelavee was also blamed for plagues and droughts and was pretty much characterized as a sadistic monster that just wanted to harm humanity however it could. In short, not a very nice fellow, you know?
There are three ways to defeat a Nucklelavee. The first is a bottle of spring water. The Nucklelavee is a salt water creature, and so sweet water is anthemia to it. The other two weaknesses are steel and sunlight. So a night at the beach is not what Scots a millennia ago would consider a romping good time.
Japan’s Kappa is somewhat like an aquatic vampire. It usually dwells in swamps, but there are stories placing it in just about every body of water out there. Unlike the Nucklelavee, the Kappa is quite small, appearing no larger than a juvenile boy or girl. But make no mistake about it, the Kappa looks nothing like a grade schooler.
The Kappa has both webbed feet and hands and the shell of a tortoise on its back. It also has the face of a monkey and a long beaked nose. A Kappa is slimy to the touch, and you can generally smell one before you see one, due to the awful odor that emits from the Kappa’s body.
If all this isn’t weird enough for you, the Kappa has one more rather odd physical characteristic: that of a large indentation on its head, the size of a large bowl. If one was to peer into the indentation, you would find a clear, gelatinous fluid. This liquid is the source of the Kappa’s power, and to hide this, the Kappa will wear its hair combed over the indentation in a sort of really bad camouflage meets mid life crisis look.
A Kappa waits in the water for a human victim to come by, either wading, swimming, washing clothes, or even in a boat. It will then leap up and pull the victim into and under the water and begin to suck the life out of them. Now I mentioned the Kappa is like a vampire, but instead of draining the blood from the neck as the Western Hollywood vampire is wont to do, the Kappa instead drains internal organs…by sucking them out through the anus.
Yes. You did read that correctly. The Kappa sucks out human internal organs through the anus.
The Kappa is not greedy, although it does tend to prefer the human liver to all other organs. Sometimes the Kappa will be voracious, but often times it will just take a bite out a person and move on. A quick little snack, if you will.
So how does one defeat the Kappa? Well not by strength. Even the weakest Kappa is stronger than the toughest human. As well, if a Kappa challenges you to “pull-finger,” always say no, as no human can defeat a Kappa at this game. In Japanese folklore there is one tried and true measure to beating the Kappa, and it’s going to sound silly, but hey, I’m sure the Japanese find our Paul Bunyan silly too.
The Kappa is a creature that is quite serious (anal retentive) about courtesy and politeness. This is probably why it brings its victims underwater, so that no one can see the anal sucking of organ. I mean, it’s very rude. So when a person bows to a Kappa, they will automatically bow too. And remember what I said earlier about the Kappa’s power source and their bowl-like monkey head? Well after the Kappa bows, you just bow again, but lower and the Kappa will do the same. Each time you bow just a little bit lower until, voila, all their liquid comes tumbling out of their head! At this point, you run like hell, because eventually the liquid does re-spawn, but while the head is empty, the Kappa is powerless.
I told you it was silly.
Lesser ways to stop a Kappa from sucking you dry involve food. Kappa’s also love melons, cucumbers, and eggplants. It’s not at delicious as humans, but Kappas will willingly settle for these if made available. In olden days, the Japanese would carve their loved ones names into a cucumber and throw it into the water. The belief was that the Kappa would take the Cucumber and agree not to hurt those carved into the cucumber in return. An ancient form of extortion perhaps.
The Bunyip is an Australian water monster. More importantly, it is an Aboriginal belief, showing it to be much older than the colonized Caucasians beliefs and stories, such as Drop Bears.
Bunyips are believed to prefer lagoons as their watery haven of choice. They are about the size of a bull and are usually covered in thick grey hair, although in some exceptionally rare circumstances, they are instead coated in feathers. A bunyip has cloven hooves like a horse and a flat wide tail, much like a beavers. A Bunyip’s mouth is full of razor-sharp teeth but it also has two large walrus style tusks.
Other physical characteristics a bunyip CAN have, but doesn’t have to include a horselike mane, an emu’s head, and large flippers. One thing that is agreed upon in regards to a bunyip is the fact it has a very distinctive roar that it utters both loudly and frequently.
Unlike the Kappa and the Nucklelavee, the Bunyip does not often leave the water. It prefers to stay in the lagoon it calls home and will attack anyone who comes to close to the habitat. On occasion it will take chase after someone, but rarely for long.
As well, the Bunyip does not devour human or snack on the living at all. Instead, the bunyip will capture a human and make him or her its prisoner and force them to do manual labour for it until they die. Then once they are dead, the Bunyip will eat the human remains.
Even if a human escapes their Bunyip captor, they will never truly escape. For you see, a Bunyip has a powerful supernatural curse that it places on all its victims. If a human escapes a Bunyip, bad luck, disease and death will follow them.
Combining all this with the fact a Bunyip can cause either droughts or floods, one would think it is night impossible to defeat one. And in fact, this is so. The Aboriginals never bothered to give their creation/belief a weakness and in all the stories, a Bunyip is impossible to stop once angered or provoked. Instead of being a creature a hero can defeat and gain renown from, the Bunyip served as a moral or travel warning about the dangers of a lagoon and to obey various laws and rules set down by their people. The Bunyip, for the Aboriginals, represented nature at its angriest. A living natural disaster that man could not contend with. It’s something a lot of Western Folklore is lacking. Most of our myths and legends can be defeated by will and a pure heart. Not so with the Bunyip.
Since we have covered Australia, Scotland, and Japan now, it’s time to go to Russia for our fourth and final water monster of the day.
A Rusalka is a lake/river species of monster than lives on both land and in the bodies of water previously mentioned. They are most often spotted on clear nights with a full moon, when the moonlight reflects on a Rusalka’s long green hair. A Rusalka looks like a beautiful human female, but it also has the ability to change into a toad, frog or fish at a moment’s notice.
A Rasalka is often an underwater princess, whose castle is at the very bottom of a body of water. A Rasalka has needs and urges not unlike human women, and so often she sets out in search of a human male for cheap and easy sex. Sometimes, a maternal instinct takes hold instead of lust and so the Rasalka goes looking for human children instead of a mate. The Rasalka will use its amphibious nature to go on land and seduce an adult or charm a child and convince them to come back with the Rasalka to her palace.
You can guess how that turns out. Yes, due to a human’s inability to breathe underwater, the lured human always drowns, leaving the Rasalka lonely and bitter. Yes a Rasalka never seems to learn. After a brief period of morning, she’s back at it, looking for another being to share her life with.
A Rasalka can have a happy ending however. Some carry a magic comb that allows the Rasalka to survive on land for long stretches of time. Sometimes even years!
Some people believe a Rasalka is spawned from the souls of babies who died before they were able to be baptized, while other believe they are the souls of drowned virgins. As there are no male Rasalkas, the latter is more likely, if only because there are un-baptized male babies, but no male Rasalkas.
Rasalkas are also known to be most active/seen in the spring, for this is the time when they leave the water and journey into the forest and come together for dancing. Rasalkas are at their most powerful in Mid-June during the Rusal-naia festival. This festival was a popular holiday amongst peasants of southern Russia and the Ukraine many long years ago. At this festival, people would make effigies of the Rasalka, which they would either burn or break apart like a pinata. They would also sing songs to the Rasalka or leave eggs and flower garlands for them as presents. Clearly, the Russians had a love/hate relationship going on with the Rasalka.
So how does one fend of a Rasalka? Well, like most Russian folklore characters, the Rasalka is especially week to the crucifix or other Christian religious symbolism. A magic circle of protection can also provided warding for one being chased by a Rasalka. One merely needs to drag the Rasalka inside and then finish off the circle and they are trapped there forever.
So that was merely 4 water monsters/spirits/demons. There are dozens upon dozens more in other cultures and countries. No matter where you are, there’s a bit of folklore about some mythological creature living in the closest body of water to you.
Since I spent 2 days straight with the Chinese American Association of Minnesota (CAAM) rowing for them (And no, I’m not Chinese at all.), I got the chance to sample a lot of really nice authentic Chinese cooking. So it only makes sense that this week, I share with you one of my own personal favorite Chinese recipes.
Lamb and Duck are my favorite meats, and although Duck is quite often associated with Chinese cooking, many tend to forget there are excellent lamb recipes as well. The dish we will be doing this week is a popular and aromatic dish often used for informal supper parties. It’s amazingly healthy as well and the combination of spices and vegetables really bring out the strong flavors in lamb.
2 Tablespoons oil, plus more if needed
3.5 pounds keg of lamb, boned and cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 and one-quarter cups tomato paste
1 cup of lamb or beef broth
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
Boiled rice, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole and brown the lamb in batches over high heat. Remove the lamb and set aside on paper towels to absorb the grease and fat.
2. Add the onion, ginger and garlic to the casserole, as well as a little more oil if needed, and cook for five minutes, or until the onion is softened.
3. Return the lamb to the casserole. Stir in the five spice powder, hoisin and soy sauces, tomato paste, broth, and seasoning. Bring to a boil, cover and cook in a preheated over at 325 degrees F for 90 minutes.
4. Remove the casserole from the oven. Stir in the bell peppers, then cover and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the lamb is cooked and very tender.
5. Sprinkle with the cilantro and sesame seeds. Serve hot with rice.
Last week I reviewed Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana and King of Fighters: Maximum Impact-Maniax. This week if I can bring myself to do it, I’ll be reviewing Rivera, which as some points, made WM XXI look enjoyable. Please, don’t pollute your GBA with that awful, awful game.
In Movies, Brendan Campbell reviews Howl’s Moving Castle and Travis Leamons the Casino tenth anniversary special, making me wonder if anyone has actually cared enough about that movie to inspire an new special edition DVD.
That’s it for this week. A little bit truncated, but then I’ve had a busy weekend. I’ll see you next week.