One summer morning at sunrise a long time ago I met a little girl with a book under her arm. I asked her why she was out so early and she answered that there were too many books and far too little time. And there she was absolutely right. ― Tove Jansson, author of the Moomin series
Who am I? you ask. Why I’m Astrid, one of the Several Annies, the Estate Apprentices here, and I have the deep honour of writing up the edition this week, because your usual hosts, Iain and Reynard, are both away from the Kinrowan Estate right now. Yes, I know Iain, the Librarian here, thinks we’re his Apprentices but most of what we learn is applicable to the entirety of this Scottish Estate. After all, birthing lambs and harvesting material for Winter Holiday wreaths are hardly in the repertoire of the usual librarian.
As you might’ve guessed from my name, I’m from Sweden, Helsingborg to be precise, which is a small city just across the water from Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. I’m somewhat of a polyglot, as I speak my mother tongue plus Danish, German and of course English. I’m interested in the various folklorish aspects of the Northern European cultures and I’m also keenly interested in beekeeping, weaving and the making of libations as well.
So expect mostly seasonally appropriate material here this edition, as we’re nearing the Winter Solstice and other related holidays, not to mention some things Swedish as well. Enjoy a cup of glögg while I finish this edition…Let us not forget about two stellar works about the turning of the year, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, a series Grey reviewed that would make a most excellent Winter reading endeavour, and a shorter work which Jo really likes, Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt , where two boys get tangled in the epic contest between, errr, a cat and the Lord of The Wild Hunt. So what else do I suggest for reading this season of the year?
Like most Swedish children I grew up with the Moomin series which are charming in both the original Swedish and in the English translations, and I still read the new ones as they come out. The Estate Library has a full set in both languages.
For me, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings are reading treats I indulge in every winter. The movies are definitely not to my liking, because I like creating the characters and settings in my mind. Curling up with hardcover copies of either in Falstaff’s Chair near the Fireplace in the Pub here is my idea of bliss on a cold winter’s night. If you’ve not encountered them before, which I find unlikely, Gary and Naomi respectively have stellar reviews for you to read.
My film recommendation is an adaptation of a beloved children’s series, The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce, as the animated film reviewed by Cat, called Rise of The Guardians, wherein Jack Frost, the Aussie version of the Easter Bunny, North (Father Christmas) and The Sandman come together to battle the evil plan of Mister Pitch to bring darkness in the hearts of everyone forever. This is an upbeat film perfect for the season with everything working out in the end.
Walt Kelley’s Pogo is warm, caring, and kind with characters worth knowing. We could use more of that. Cat looks at the first collected Fantographics hardcover volume here. Need I say it’d make a great gift?
Likewise I’m very fond of the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, which David loves. He reviews the first volume that Fantographics did here. I first read them in the German edition done some years back. It too would be a most superb gift.
I’ve been looking for a Sleeping Hedgehog essay on eggnog I recall Ingrid, our Steward, mentioning, about how it came to be a tradition here maybe forty years back, but I can’t find it. What I do have is Jennifer Stevenson’s recipe for eggnog for Stay Home Egg Nog Fluff, as she calls it, so you can try it out in your drink making. Ahhh, there it is, the egg nog story I wanted. Thanks Kathryn, my fellow Several Annie!
And it won’t surprise you that everyone we encounter here has food traditions. Our Editor asked a number of folks about here what Winter Holiday food and drink traditions they had. By the way, Ellen Kushner, a Winter Queen for us a few years back, answered concisely with ‘latkes and candle-lighting’.
Sleeping Hedgehog for this month included a reprinting of a letter from the Archives by Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, about preparations for the holidays here.
Windogur is my first choice for music. April noted of the artist ‘As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willmark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s.’ Lena’s a favourite of nearly everyone here.
I’m also very fond of a recording from Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer called Hambo in the Snow that Jack reviews, as it’s a fascinating recording of Scandinavian trad winter music as it now exists in the Upper Midwest States. It’s not quite what I know, but it’s definitely related.
Jul i Folkton (Christmas in a Folk Style) is perhaps the best collection of Swedish Christmas music I’ve seen available outside of my country. As my fellow Swede Lars says, it’s ‘just the songs and tunes beautifully performed, nothing else.’
Mike has an incisive look at MidWinter which is subtitled ‘A Celebration of the Folk Music and Traditions of Christmas and the Turning of the Year’. It gets frequent play here during the Winter months. Like the previously noted CD, it’s suitable for those who like Christmas, et al., and those who just like good music.
Patrick has a review here of Loreena McKennitt’s A Midwinter Night’s Dream which is a pleasant blend of Celtic and other musical influences. You’ll find Mackenzie often plays it and her other recordings as well in the Library,something that always pleases me.
Robert recommended several recordings that look intriguing — and certainly capture the spirit of the season. The first is Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Cantus Arcticus, which certainly sounds wintery enough. And Rautavaara, from Finland, is practically a neighbor.
Next, he reminded me of a disc by another neighbor, Norwegian pianist Wolfgang Plagge’s Julevariasjoner — yes, it does mean ‘Christmas variations.’
And how could I forget that Christmas staple, Handel’s Messiah? Maybe I’ll organize a sing-along in the Pub.
Our What Not is from one of our Winter Queens, the late Josepha Sherman, who asked in Her Speech upon the meaning of Winter: ‘What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying and rebirth. The trees know it: they don’t die each year.’The Winter Solstice arrives in a few short days, so let’s see you off properly with our annual story about that sacred event, Jennifer Stevenson’s ‘Solstice’ about a small-time rocker — well, you can listen here to her reading of it to find out what happens to that woman on that night, or if you prefer to read it, you can do so here. If you prefer to read in chapbook form, I’ll dig out a copy of the GMR printing which Grey did for us years ago.
After you read or hear that wonder story, I’ll leave you with some seasonally apt music. Or at least what I consider such, which in this case would a steller performance by Loreena McKennitt of her ’Dickens’ Dublin’. It’s from ‘A Loreena McKennitt Christmas’ on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic program from December 1994.