Tag Archives: Naiad

staff

“What of that?” the Spirit answered.

Go fulfill your task, and then

See what bitter fate awaits you.

Worse has come to better men.”

The Staff in the Tree is an epic poem set in a future landscape inhabited by mythological beasts and spirits. Through a series of encounters with these creatures and their master, a young man seeking revenge for the death of his father must learn nobler motives as he seeks to deliver this land from dark and oppressive forces.

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Mythological Beasts and Spirits: The Staff in the Tree

While the topic of mythological beasts and spirits is of genuine interest to me, I think it is obvious by now that I have been using it to shill (shamelessly, I might add) my own poem, The Staff in the Tree. The poem is now available on Amazon. This week’s post is a summary of those creatures from this series which appear in my story. It is primarily pictorial (ouch – alliteration) and is accompanied by some written excerpts.

Padded paws and feathered wingspan, lion's mane, and all of white, Softly silent, pale and ghostly, stalked the Shedu in the night. From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
Padded paws and feathered wingspan, lion’s mane, and all of white,
Softly silent, pale and ghostly, stalked the Shedu in the night.
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

In the sky, they flew and galloped while cavorting overhead, Carried on each horse's body eagle's wings and eagle's head. From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
In the sky, they flew and galloped while cavorting overhead,
Carried on each horse’s body eagle’s wings and eagle’s head.
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

Said the wily, flitting Enfield, auburn fox with wings of gray, "Have you seen the Spirit Father? What, exactly, did he say?" From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
Said the wily, flitting Enfield, auburn fox with wings of gray,
“Have you seen the Spirit Father? What, exactly, did he say?”
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

Leonid, with eagle's talons, wingless, though, with knotted tail, Through the mist, an Alphyn sentry stared them down and gave them hail. From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
Leonid, with eagle’s talons, wingless, though, with knotted tail,
Through the mist, an Alphyn sentry stared them down and gave them hail.
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

"Best to stop," the Shedu cautioned. "Hidden by the hoot of owl, I perceive the furtive footsteps of the Freybug on the prowl." From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
“Best to stop,” the Shedu cautioned. “Hidden by the hoot of owl,
I perceive the furtive footsteps of the Freybug on the prowl.”
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

"Why should you deny my challenge? Is it that I have no wings? Missing these, I still can best you. Come. See how my venom stings." From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
“Why should you deny my challenge? Is it that I have no wings?
Missing these, I still can best you. Come. See how my venom stings.”
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

From its place of hibernation, from its lair beneath the lake, Rupturing the liquid membrane, to the surface burst the Drake. From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
From its place of hibernation, from its lair beneath the lake,
Rupturing the liquid membrane, to the surface burst the Drake.
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

With her arms, the Sprite embraced him, pressed her mouth on willing lips, Then drew back and laughed with pleasure, placed her hands upon her hips. From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
With her arms, the Sprite embraced him, pressed her mouth on willing lips,
Then drew back and laughed with pleasure, placed her hands upon her hips.
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

"You are in a place of danger. Walk in hope and righteous fear. Stay your course. Be not distracted. There are winsome spirits here." From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
“You are in a place of danger. Walk in hope and righteous fear.
Stay your course. Be not distracted. There are winsome spirits here.”
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

Dignified, the ancient giants, from their homes of bark and wood, Hearkened to the forest maiden, in the fog before her stood. From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
Dignified, the ancient giants, from their homes of bark and wood,
Hearkened to the forest maiden, in the fog before her stood.
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

 

I apologize for the repetitious reference in each caption. To save time, I simply took from my media file some of the images I had included in previous posts. More details about the book can be obtained by clicking here.

Next week: another creature.

Mythological Beasts and Spirits: Naiad

"You are in a place of peril. Walk in hope and righteous fear. Stay your course. Be not distracted. There are winsome spirits here." From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
“You are in a place of peril. Walk in hope and righteous fear.
Stay your course. Be not distracted. There are winsome spirits here.”
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

This is another spiritual being from mythology and folklore which makes my imagination run. So much has been and can be done with Naiads. In Greek mythology, they were water nymphs who were particularly associated with bodies of freshwater such as rivers and streams. Certain of them were among the various classes of nymphs and sprites who were courted or raped by some of the male gods.

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse
A Naiad by John William Waterhouse

Their behavior toward humans is described as variable in various legends. These feminine spirits could be helpful, frivolous, or jealous. They could also be dangerous. They have sometimes been shown as abducting…

Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse
Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse

… or even drowning men. The pictures below take two different and compelling approaches. In The Kelpie by Herbert James Draper, we see a type of “before” picture. For me, the strength of this painting is in the combination of its title and the relaxed posture and facial expression of its subject. A subtle intensity smolders in her eyes, and the relative peace of the composition suggests her lethal capability.

The Kelpie by Herbert James Draper
The Kelpie by Herbert James Draper

This next painting is of the “during” variety. The posture of the Naiad is submissive save for the grip of her hands on a fisherman’s arms. This contrast is poignant, and the poor man is doomed while still alive.

A siren (or sprite or Naiad) is shown pulling a fisherman under in this painting by Knut Ekwall.
A siren (or sprite or Naiad) is shown pulling a fisherman under in this painting by Knut Ekwall.

A question I have asked myself is whether or not the representations of women as being helpless or dangerous might have arisen as a result of attitudes which limit their roles in society. In such cases, are those who cannot be controlled regarded as threatening? I’ve gotten on my high horse before. Now I’ll beat my dead one by saying again that I think there is tremendous room for creativity in the way that female characters of many kinds can be portrayed in the mythologies we create for our entertainment and instruction. In my own poem, I have tried to use the Naiads’ combination of perceived vulnerability and lethal capability in portraying them as something which I hope is different.

As I said near the top of this post, Naiads are usually described as being freshwater nymphs or spirits. I will end with the creative approach in the painting below by Gustave Dore in which these mysterious creatures are shown in a different setting. They almost seem to be part of the rocks in this seascape.

Naiads of the Sea by Gustave Dore
Naiads of the Sea by Gustave Dore

Mythology on Canvas (Part 2)

The first paintings I would like to feature in this series are by John William Waterhouse.

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse
A Naiad by John William Waterhouse

The first is simply titled A Naiad and was completed in 1893. It is only if one is familiar with what a Naiad is that the composition of this painting takes on its full power. Naiads were typically female water spirits that were alternately portrayed as beneficent or threatening, often jealous of their male human husbands/lovers. What I like about this particular painting (aside from its realism) is that it leaves so much to the imagination of the viewer. What is the back story? What is going to happen next? This kind of stimulation can be very healthy, and this is largely dependent on the quality of thinking in the individual (i. e. you or me) doing the interpretation. Also, the rippled surface of the water in the background provides a subtle effect to this painting.

Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse
Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse

The second is Hylas and the Nymphs from 1896. The tension in this offering is derived from the background story, the body postures of the various subjects, and the expressions on the faces of the Naiads themselves. Depending on the account being considered, Hylas was the son or companion or lover of the demigod, Hercules. One account describes him as being abducted by water nymphs (Naiads). In light of this information, the picture is intriguingly painted and leaves one with the impression that whatever is about to happen does not end well. I find it ironic and sadly amusing that this is so often the case with human infatuation in general.