The Roots of Influence and Inspiration - Part II: Twisting Folklore

Written by Sam Rawlings on Friday the 9th of July 2010

This journal is the second in a series of pieces I expect to write about those certain 'elements' of life that inspire and influence my writing. I think it's important to acknowledge these elements, as essentially they represent the root of our craft, they are the seeds that precede the fruit of our labour, the 'components' without which our thoughts, our images, our music, our words, simply would not exist.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings and
in return I would love to hear all about the things that inspire and influence you. After all, "without sharing, the imagination becomes little more than an echo of itself."

  Part Two Twisting Folklore

This second journal in the series will highlight the two most recent instances in which I've been inspired by folklore. The first concerns a poem I wrote entitled Nedaseungreda, which currently represents the profile text on my webpage. The second refers to a story called Hotchiwitchi, which I wrote for the latest Lazy Gramophone Press booklet, due for publication in July.


Nedaseungreda is the title of the poem on my profile page, the poem has three sections and Matt Black did an illustration for each section. I spotted the word engraved on a medieval sword blade in the Victoria & Albert museum, London. The caption at the museum said they had no direct translation for the word, however, they do believe that it had been inscribed upon the sword as part of a spell to protect the knight in battle. It is believed these 'spell words' were written in order to conjure certain human qualities, e.g. bravery, nobility etc...  and upon looking at the inscription prior to battle, so the knight would have inhabited these qualities.

Sometimes we need symbols, amulets, to remind us what it is we stand for, and that made me think of all those people who, despite the conflicting environments around them, despite all the challenges that they will have to face, the sacrifices they might one day have to make... still aspire to certain truths. My poem then, is about the battles we sometimes have to fight in order to stay honest to what it is we believe.

I have since been informed that the word Nedaseungreda may be the initial letters of a psalm, whether in Latin, English or German. Though, as it states in the museum, the exact origin and truth behind the word is not what's most important, rather, 'it is the qualities and aspirations towards which they point that matter'.


Here at Lazy Gramophone Press, we are currently producing a quasi-quarterly collection of illustrated short stories and verse. Back in 2007/08 we released four such booklets to great acclaim and we're now bringing the series back to life. The first edition will be entitled 'Skeletons in the Closet'.


'Six Writers were asked to create a short piece of writing based on the theme of 'Skeletons in the Closet'. These writers were then in turn teamed up with six artists and illustrators who were, in turn, asked to create an image based on or inspired by that piece of writing.

...and this is the result.

Each booklet will be printed as a limited edition of 50 copies with a letter-pressed cover and high quality full colour internal print, while each of the finished stories and poems will be no longer than 450 words in length.

Once I had submitted my story I was asked to explain how it relates to the skeleton in the closet theme. This was my explanation:

'The Romani, also known as Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms; exonym: Gypsies; Romani: Romane or Rromane, depending on the dialect, are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to medieval India.'  In my story, the hotchiwitchi, which is a Romani
word for hedgehog, are creatures whose skeletons are literally protruding out of their skins, while their behaviours, as you see later, could be described as being almost naively honest, or childlike.
The hotchiwitchi then, are almost the exact opposite of having a skeleton in the closet; something which hopefully juxtaposes human nature... for our skeletons are firmly inside our bodies, as are most of the time, our emotions, feelings, true motivations.

The humans in my story recognise this, and decide that if they eat these hogs the ceremonial act of doing so will help to bring out their own true, pious, virtuous natures. However, rather than piety, the humans' instead find that it is only their own skeletons in the closet that are exposed. For the only thing that the sacrifice of these creatures brings out the humans is their own ignorant, violent, selfish behavior.
In the search for that special 'something' in themselves, the humans essentially wipe out a whole race of harmless creatures. Hence the reason (as referred to early on in the story), why the hotchiwitchi haunt our dreams... 
It is the idea that they have exposed those carnal natures that exist not only in 'criminals', 'outlaws', 'hobos' and other such labelled folk, but in all of us.

On another level, the hotchiwitchi in my story also represent the Romanichals (also known as Gypsies) who have always lived on the fringes of our culture: 'to many middle/upper class dwellers of the past, the sight of 'travellers' camped outside their houses raised questions about themselves and their society that they most probably had not ever had to seriously consider before.' This connection can be made by doing a little research, for everything in my story is based on Gorjo (non-Gypsy) or Gypsy folklore, everything except the bones instead of spines idea, which I added for those reasons explained above.
The ironic thing however, is that it was the Gypsies themselves who were the ones sacrificing the hedgehogs. Therefore, the final point my story makes, is that, as much as the Gypsies have been persecuted, they remain not without the potential to themselves persecute. For this reason then, I believe that no matter our position, we should all take the time to learn from our planets collective history. Only then can we move forward.

And there you have it; those are the skeletons in my story's closet.

LGP Shorts, Issue 1 - 'Skeletons in the Closet', containing my story Hotchiwitchi (with accompanying image by the wonderful Rima Staines), is set for publication in July.

Thank you for reading, and I leave you with a short Russian animated film directed by Yuriy  Norshteyn (1975) entitled, Hedgehog in the Fog. This film has been a major influence on all of my most recent writings.

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Title: Hedgehog in the Fog [Yuriy Norshteyn, 1975] HQ
By: OneindigLaagland
Lazy Says: Hedgehog in the Fog, by Yuriy Norshteyn
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