12-year-old Evangeline is apprentice to her witch grandmother, who spends her days and night studying the ways of magic and superstition, honing her skills hunting down banshees and other creatures of the night.
When she and Gran are called to a creepy old mansion for work, she encounters a monster who’s been after her family for generations and a secret that will shake her to the tips of her silver-toed boots…
A story of loyalty and determination, the powerful bonds of friendship and family, and having the courage to face your fears.
POPULATING WITCH GIRL’S WORLD WITH MYTHICAL MONSTERS
by Jan Eldredge
Writing books for children is a dream job, but it’s also hard work. With so many other sources of entertainment vying for kids’ attention, hooking them from the first sentence and never letting them go is essential. Making sure the action and excitement in WITCH GIRL continued from page one till “the end” was a challenge, but I had a lot of fun doing it. The most enjoyable part of the process was populating Evangeline’s world with an assortment of mythical monsters.
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by creepy creatures. My fascination with them probably began when I was quite young, and I’d sneak into my older brother’s room to read his monster magazines and scary comics. My interest in all things spooky continues to this day, and I’ve built up a collection of field guides and encyclopedias featuring supernatural beings from around the world. I turned to these books often while researching which mythical monsters I wanted to include in WITCH GIRL. The ones I decided upon fell into two categories: those I borrowed directly from traditional folklore, and those I created by combining traits from other legendary creatures and adapting them to fit into the swampy Louisiana environment.
For example, the Acadian fang worm, a large, irritable worm that spits blinding venom, was inspired by the Mongolian death worm believed to inhabit the Gobi Desert. The shrieking, window-breaking bayou banshee was a customized version of the traditional Irish and Scottish banshee. The Hara-hand, a creepy, crawling severed human hand was modeled after the Spanish la mano peluda. The Johnny revenants, reanimated corpses of Civil War soldiers, were influenced by the Viking draugr.
Other supernatural entities, like the fifolet, the cauchemar, and the chasse-galerie, were taken directly from Louisiana folklore. But while I was researching these creatures, I was surprised to discover how many cultures around the world were populated with the same legendary beings. The names were different, and some of their physical traits varied a little, but they were essentially the same monsters. For example, and to name only a very few: The fifolet, a floating, burning, malevolent ball of light that haunts lonely places, is known as an alicanto in Chile, the soucouyant in Dominica, a will-o’-the-wisp in England, an escudait by the Penobscot Native Americans, and an asema in Surinam.
The cauchemar, a malicious nightmare spirit, is the alp in Germany, the Ephialtes in Greece, and the mara in Scandinavia. The chasse-galerie, a ghostly hunting party, is recognized as the devil’s dandy dogs in England, Frau Gauden’s hunt in Germany, and the noisy riders in Norway.
It’s not surprising that over the years, cautionary tales of mythical monsters have been told with the intention of keeping people safe from harm. But it is a bit scary that so many cultures from around the world created the same supernatural creatures.
It almost makes you wonder just how mythical these monsters might really be.
WITCH GIRL by Jan Eldredge out now in paperback (£6.99, Scholastic)
Jan Eldredge lives in Florida with her husband, their children, and a house full of cats. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading, going to theme parks, and exploring old cemeteries. She is particularly fascinated with monsters and magic.