Today’s my stop on the magical ‘Glassheart’ blog tour and I have a special piece from Katharine about the folklore of Dartmoor inspired her story.
Orphaned during an explosion in the war, Nona is taken in by Uncle Antoni – a stained glass craftsman. They travel everywhere together, replacing stained-glass windows in war-torn buildings.
When her Uncle starts acting strangely, Nona is worried so she follows him one night when she thinks he might be sleep walking. What she overhears is a strange conversation and she’s sure she can see the reflection of a woman in one of his sheets of glass.
A mysterious commission takes them to the lonely moors of Dartmoor, Nona discovers a wild and powerful magic which threatens everything. Can Nona protect those she loves – even if it means fighting darkness itself?
I was immediately sucked into the bomb-ravaged world of a post-war Britain. As ever, Katharine’s writing is utterly mesmerising. Her descriptions of the magical world within the real are as chilling in parts as they are beautiful. The relentless rattlesticks are bone-chilling and the enchanted umbrafell just shimmers. And watch out for the impish Castor!
I was struck by a deep sense of longing and loss in all the characters within the story. These are themes which echoed through the story and are integral to the characters’ motivations. But despite the huge loss she has suffered, Nona’s strength and determination shine through.
The magical elements of ‘Glassheart’ were in part inspired by real folk tales from Dartmoor. To tell us more, we have a special piece from Katharine about her inspiration:
‘How the folklore of Dartmoor inspired Glassheart’
by Katharine Orton.
Folklore has a funny habit of collecting more in some places than in others. Since it’s spread by people, and usually by word of mouth, you’d expect it to exist where people do…But it doesn’t always work that way. The telling of folklore and the places where it’s actually set appear to be very different things.
Dartmoor is one such place where folklore likes to gather. That’s partly the reason I decided to make it the setting for Glassheart, which I wanted to be magical and eerie and rooted in such folktales. So, after a mini-holiday spent walking the moors, exploring the stunningly fairytale-esque Wistman’s Wood and absorbing the atmosphere, I set about discovering some of the stories of the place.
And I was in for a shock. What I found is that there is an absolute ton of folklore set in Dartmoor. Even more than I had expected. It’s as though these stories have become fluid as they’ve slipped from people’s mouths, trickled to the moorsand pooled there in the dips.
Which brings me neatly to the tale of Crazywell Pool. This Dartmoor lake is supposedly bottomless, and anyone who looks into the waters on Midsummers Eve is rumoured to see the next person to die. This idea really struck me – and heavily inspired a certain bottomless lake in Glassheart. I tweaked it a little though, to be a lake that told prophecies – but tried to keep a sense of darkness and deathly danger.
Another legend that made an appearance of sorts in Glassheart is that of Vixana. She was supposedly an evil witch who hated people, and would call up a mist with the wave of her stick to drown unfortunate travellers in a bog near Vixen Tor. However, I flipped this idea around for Glassheart. Instead I made it the spirit, Serafin –who calls the mists with her staff in order to protect herself from the Soldier’s fearsome minions – the rattlesticks.
And, for any folktale enthusiast paying attention: Uncle Antoni’s brief mention of the ‘hairy hands’ legend – in which a pair of hairy hands appear on the steering wheel of cars crossing a certain bridge to send them off the road – isn’t made up! It’s an actual, real, genuine folktale.
So the next time you’re in Dartmoor – think twice before you go gazing into the waters of a certain lake on Midsummers Eve. Beware any sudden rise of mists. And of course, watch out for those hairy hands…
Well I shall certainly be on the look-out for any stray hairy hands! Thank you for that, Katharine.
If you like the sound of this gorgeous tale, you may also want to have a read of another of Catharine’s books, ‘Nevertell.’ I loved the grim details of the prison and the lives of the inmates, the descriptions of the beautiful (but deadly) snow-covered landscapes and the sprinkling of folkloric magic which glistened on the pages.
*Many thanks to Walker Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*