Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Celtic folklore 101 by Kersten Hamilton + Giveaway

I am very pleased to announce that today's guest is the very gracious and friendly author of the sensation YA novel of 2010: Tyger Tyger, please give a warm welcome to Kersten Hamilton!


“Great bards beside
In sage and solemn times have sung
Of turneys and of trophies hung;
of forests and enchantments drear,
Where more is meant than meets the ear.” -- Milton

Milton meant that the best stories are about something deeply true, even if they use tales of whim and whimsy to describe it. While I do not claim to be a great bard, Tyger Tyger is definitely about ‘more than meets the ear.’ It is about love, and how the real world works.

I am of Welsh/Irish decent, and have always been immersed in the stories and music of the Celts. The worldview seeps into most of my writing in one way or another. In Tyger Tyger, I let it peek out unabashed.

The ancient Celts built no walls between the natural world and the supernatural, the secular and the sacred. They had a very high regard for all the creatures of creation—seen and unseen. When Christianity reached Ireland, it was not the institutional religion we think of today. It didn’t trace its roots to the authority of St. Peter, but to the love of St. John, the young disciple who leaned his head against Jesus’ chest at the last supper.

For the Celts, this was an image of the believer listening for the heartbeat of God. And hadn’t they been listening for the heartbeat of the Creator of creation since before the dawn of time? The Almighty was present with them as a friend to be talked to in every moment of life, and it was no surprise to the Celts that aingeal walked among them, brushing shoulders with the Green Man and others of the Invisible World.

But the biggest cultural shift in Tyger Tyger is not the acknowledgment of an invisible world all around us. It’s the Celtic understanding of friendship and community.

In our culture, we make the hero a loner and a rebel. But in the Celtic tradition, no one makes a hero’s journey alone. The Celts believed that we are meant to journey in companionship and in community. Everyone needs at least one anam cara—soul friend—to stand beside them. An anam cara can be older or younger, male or female. There is only one requirement—that you can trust them with the deepest secrets of your heart. If all the world fell down, your anam cara would still be standing with you.

Teagan has a very Celtic community, and more than one anam cara in Tyger Tyger.

I am very happy with the way the story and characters came together, but it didn’t happen overnight.

The seed that became Tyger Tyger was planted when I was a child. A goblin crept out of the dark and slipped her paw into my hand. The creature’s name was Lina, and she came to life in a book by George MacDonald. Lina was a dog–like beastie with green eyes lit by amber fire, and a huge mouth with icicle–like teeth. Curdie, the hero of the story, could feel the real hand of any creature inside its flesh glove, and when Lina put her paw in his hand: “a shudder, as of terrified delight, ran through him…instead of the paw of a dog, such as it seemed to his eyes, he clasped in his great mining fist the soft, neat little hand of a child! The green eyes stared at him with their yellow light, and the mouth was turned up toward him with its constant half grin; but here was the child’s hand!”

When I read those lines I felt it. I felt the child’s hand inside a rough paw glove, and I knew I wanted to pull a child out of a goblin one day.

But it was a long, long time before I started to write this story. And when I did, Tyger Tyger didn’t start out as novel. It started out as a picture book called Loveleaves and Woodwender. Once I started expanding it, I realized that although its taproot was in George MacDonald’s work, there were roots branching out into more stories and poems I loved as a child.

One was Tam Lin, the story of girl who must muster all her courage to save her love who has been taken by the Sidhe.

Another was The Lords of the Grey and White Castles, a fairytale by Francis Brown, Ireland’s blind storyteller. The Lords of the White and Grey Castles is the story of two children- a girl and a boy- who must travel to the goblin realm to save a loved one who has been stolen by the goblin king.

Ginny Greenteeth, a goblin in Tyger Tyger, has more than a smidgen of Monro’s goblin from Overheard on a Saltmarsh in her.

Thank you for letting me guest blog, Stella! And I hope your readers enjoy Tyger Tyger!

Kersten Hamilton is the author of several picture books and many middle grade novels. When she's not writing, she hunts dinosaurs in the deserts and badlands outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lives. Tyger Tyger is her first novel for young adults.

For more about Kersten, please visit her website:

Tyger Tyger: A Goblin Wars Book
Teagan Wylltson's best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures--goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty--are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn't worried. Her life isn't in danger. In fact, it's perfect. She's on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She's focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems. 

Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn's a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he's crazy or he's been haunting Abby's dreams, because he's talking about goblins, too . . . and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby's right. The goblins are coming.


Kersten generously offered one paperback copy of Tyger Tygerto a lucky commentator.

All you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. share with us one of your favourite myth/legend/folklore or cultural tradition, or leave a comment/question for Kersten.

Giveaway is international (wherever the Book Depository ships) and ends on Friday 4 March 2011.

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