from the archives. . .
“One of the best things about folklore and fairy tales is that the best fantasy is what you find right around the corner, in this world. That’s where the old stuff came from.” — Terri Windling
For American audiences, the most famous fairy tales, including those brought to the screen by Disney and others, all came from somewhere else. Such is the power of books and film.
Of course, once upon a time, the more famous stories we know were once local yarns from real places. In fact, many places got their names from something that once happened there with people who were well known at the time. To those who knew the origin of the name, a river or forest or mountain pass was more than water, trees and rocks. It was all that, plus what happened–and, what might happen again.
Almost all places have stories associated with them. You can find some of the more notorious and/or most interesting by running Google searches with such phrases as “Florida ghost stories,” “Glacier Park legends,” and “Illinois haunted places.” The people who live in a town or county often grow up hearing multiple versions of these stories along with others that never get into books, newspapers or websites.
We tell stories to each other almost every day. Sometimes, this is pure gossip. At other times, it’s neighborhood news with a bit of opinion thrown into it.
Storytelling is a very natural pastime even without a front porch or a campfire. We share the good, the bad and the ugly with each other. When that which we’re sharing is larger than life, or stranger than normal, it begins turning into a legend associated with the place where we live.
As a writer of contemporary fantasy, I always love weaving local ghost stories and legends into my work. For one thing, those stories are just as much a part of a place as are the rivers, mountains and towns. Also, they have a lot of flavor in them whether it’s pure local color or an amusing or frightening tale that could have happened anywhere.
Our stories are stronger, I think, when we consider the legends and tall tales connected to a place as part of our research. Almost every town has a haunted house, cemetery, or lover’s lane. If you live there, you know about it already. If you don’t, it’s not too hard to track down through ghost hunter and haunted websites.
Plus, for those of us who love blurring the line between fiction and reality, ghost stories about the places where we’ve set our short stories and novels add a nice touch of mystery.