Ho, ho, ho… OF DEATH! I mean that’s one interpretation of today’s title, indeed. This is our Top 10 list of Alternative Christmas Films, which means we’re looking for a Christmas film that isn’t about the spirit of Christmas, at least not directly. Christmas may be present and may be a major part of it, but the film should not have it be the sole focus. Now, since it’s Christmas Eve today, here’s our gift to you! (more…)
The legendary festive demon is making something of a resurgence, especially as more and more of us become increasingly jaded towards the consumerism of the season and start to wish for a giant goat-man to come and stuff the mean people into a big sack and drag them away.
Sadly I’m not even sure the 2015 family horror film Krampus ever made it to my local cinema, which is a shame, because the trailer had me immediately curious. I’m a fan of the mythology, and I was more than a little curious as to what could be made from it. Having seen it, I think I still have a lot more to be curious about. (more…)
I love this time of year, and yes I’d go so far as to say that I get more than just a little geeky around about now. Hard to blame me, it’s a time of year where families come together to share food and presents, and while for many of us that’s a time that generates stress, conflict, and bankruptcy, I shamelessly adore Christmas.
If you think it’s a commercial thing, you’re spending too much in too short a space of time. If you think it’s lost all meaning, you’re a couple of thousand years too late. If you hate Christmas, you’re either doing it wrong or have a very grave and indisputable reason, you have my condolences, you deserve a Merry Christmas more than most.
Saturnalia, pulled from the Roman adoption of pagan solstice, is the source of most of our traditions at this time of year, especially in Britain, Europe and America. The feast, the evergreens, the lights, all stem from assorted Viking, Gaelic, and Celtic rituals along with dozens of others, comprised of the rituals in celebration of many religious figures, Yule, Odin, Horus, and of course Jesus.
Santa himself has deep roots in the same mythologies, hence the frosty abode and eternally full beard. However, he’s not the only mythic beasty roaming abroad, and not all of them are giving out presents. We all know Krampus snatches up children in a sack with many a rattling of chains, but there are some parents out there who may prefer a visit from the Christmas Ogress Grýla, a horror from Icelandic lore who eats bad children, except for her own brood of seasonal tricksters, the Yule Lads, a band of trolls who steal food and things over Yuletide.
There is the ever-famous Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), who in certain cultures is the politically incorrect Robin to Santa’s jolly-old Batman. As the name might imply, Peter is most often depicted as being black-skinned, originally because he was a messenger to Saint Nick who sent reports of mortal behaviour via the chimney, but later with a retelling of the medieval book Golden Legend, Saint Nicolas gained a miracle to his name, the saving of a slave boy. All perfectly innocent, but so were the black and white minstrels at one time. Things have a tendency to change with the passing of time.
Same with Christmas…
December 25th Around The World
The amalgam of holidays and rituals that come together at this time of year are not merely limited to the gathering of families, and sharing of home, hearth, food and gifts. And in places where winter is not a near-fatal experience that drives those to resort to sacred rites invoking the return of the sun, gathering together for survival is less essential than beating each other half to death to settle old scores.
In fact most cultures do something sometime around midwinter, most commonly on the 25th, and though the course of the calendar has shifted a little over the centuries so that the year’s shortest day (in the northern hemisphere) no longer falls on the exact date, it’s still incredible to think that almost everyone on the planet is coming together to celebrate at once. Some are political (India’s Good Governance Day, Taiwan’s Constitution Day), others are historic (Quaid-e-Azam Day, Malkh Festival), some atheists celebrate Newtonmas, the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton.
Famously, Axis soldiers invited Allied soldiers to a few games of football in no man’s land on Christmas day 1914, (Weihnachtsfrieden, Trêve de Noël) along with gift exchanges and photographs. Sadly the impromptu celebrations were not universal, and many soldiers suffered worse than foul-play during the truce, and the unsolicited camaraderie resulted in harsher orders coming down from the powers that be for fear that the common soldiery would start to doubt the war. Does that make the legendary day any less special? The incredible power of a single, universal day of joy shattered rivalries and broke the absolute rule of the officers and joined to nations at war at their most basic level.
I start my shopping in August, often before Christmas starts showing up in the warehouses of shops (although not much before, tinsel starts showing up before August is even over) so I not only spread the cost across months, I’m also immersed in presents for about a third of the year. I’m spreading cost, saving myself some effort in December, and thinking about other people more than I should as a retail worker. Yesterday I suffered with people coming to me with last flailing grabs for Christmas presents (a laptop is not an afterthought you over-paid halfwits) and resenting me for not having it in stock! Imagine the smugness I felt.
And yes, I like getting presents! My gaming group always get me the most awesome stuff, doesn’t matter how much they spend, be it a couple of pounds or a couple of dozen, they know me, and know exactly how to make me smile. I like to think I do right by them, this year I put together a kind of Loot-Crate style box of mini-presents, some generic, some specialised, sounds like I’ll be doing the same again next year, although with different stuff inside.
Oh, and thanks Tim for my present, you mean a lot to me too. It hasn’t stayed in the kitchen, it just photographed better against the kettle than the mantelpiece.
What monsters emerge from the ancient nightmares of cultures long past? Well quite a few actually, but amidst the menagerie of assorted demons, half-humans, spectres, godspawn and all varieties of supernatural creatures are certain peerless legends, unequalled, unparalleled, un-third-thing that I didn’t think of.
Welcome back you lovely people, to our Top 10 Unique Mythological Monsters!
10) The Kraken
The mighty ship-sinker, the weapon of gods, the devourer of those who wander too long at sea! Of course we generally accept these days that the truth of the legend probably has more to do with colossal squid and the exaggerations of sailors, or it becomes a name attributed to any oceanic leviathan. Depictions vary, having any number of aquatic facets, like crab-claws, serpentine tails or a whale’s bulk.
The legends and writings surrounding the Norse monster generally depict it as unique, described by 18th century zoologist Carolus Linnaeus as a singulare monstrum. Now how often is it we get to go Latin in a top 10?
9) Typhon and Echidna
One is the most fearsome monster in the whole of Greek mythology, the other was his half-woman half-snake mate, Typhon and Echidna are two of the most well known monsters of their time. Starting with the man of this duo, Typhon was literally made as a destructive force to be reckoned with. Heck, this guy even ends up going toe to toe with Zeus and even manages to secure a victory over the god! Typhon is even mentioned in Dante Alighieri‘s Inferno, so clearly this destructive force is deserving of a nod, at the very least.
On the otherhand, Echidna was half of a beautiful maiden, though it was never explained which parts made her beautiful. People assume it’d be the upper half that made her beautiful and the lower half would be a terrifying, writhing snake. Well, I guess it takes all sorts to make the world go around. Echidna however played an important part in mythology: She was the mother of many of Greek mythologies famous monsters. Born in a cave, forever immortalised. But perhaps this duos biggest claim to fame comes now, as this oh so dreamy pair are on our Top 10 list. Yay..?!
Ah, everybody’s favourite alien-squid-cultist-priest-madness-driving-colossal-monstrosity.
Yes, C’Thulhu had to make our list of unique mythological creatures. He has quite the unique presence about him, able to drive even the sanest of mortals to a blubbering pile of flesh and bones. Insanity is what this creature delivers the best and he’s also been featured heavily outside of the C’Thulhu mythos of which he was derived. Indeed, he has even been seen on a few episodes of South Park.
But that’s not why he makes our list. He’s got a special place in all of our hearts as geeks and fans of horror. Plus, have you ever seen the T-Shirt of Cute’Thulhu? It’s so cute and cuddly that you can kind of forgive the massively monstrous abomination that hides behind that cute exterior. Aww… Tentacles!
How far could this list go without the mighty winged serpent of the ancient Aztec religion? Though he could adopt the form of a human, the great angelic snake that bridges earth and sky is the most legendary depiction.
Quetzalcoatl is often attributed with the creation of mankind by mixing his blood with the bones of a race that came before with the death of the fourth sun. In some stories, he kills himself by setting himself on fire, and that his burning heart becomes the fifth sun in the dawning of the current age.
Odin rides into battle on his grandson. Well that about sums that up.
In a scheme to try and avoid paying a builder, Loki the trickster god turns himself into a mare, sleeps with the man’s horse, and later gives birth to an eight-legged foal, the greatest and fastest horse in existence. This particular story is unlikely to be featured in the upcoming film Thor: Ragnarok. I hope…
Odin once raced the Jotunn Hrungnir on his grandson. He’s also been to Hel and back. You know what? The Greek gods may be overtly messed up with a family tree that’s uprooting itself just to get away from them, but can we all agree that Odin riding his grandson around is a bit disquieting?
What a word, eh? Creepypasta. I mean is this like the Flying Spaghetti Monster if he were to turn into a Halloween icon? No, a Creepypasta is a story that was shared virally, usually via website such as Creepypasta. This was one of the earliest examples and do you want to know the funniest thing about it all? Since the Creepypasta was released, suddenly lots of people have reported having seen the real life Slenderman.
Say whatever you will of the cultural phenom of the modern era of horror, which may have been more recently overtaken by scarier Creepypastas, but this was the guy that truly started the scene off. Between him and Jeff the Killer, people were locking their doors tight out of paranoia. Ah thank you media, you take something, blow it out of context and help deliver mass hysteria. Also check out Marble Hornets!
Returning triumphant from our Top 10 Alternative Santas to actually place on the list this time. The festive child-snatcher of Germanic folklore is a sad loss to common-place mythology, somehow a lump of coal just isn’t snapping kids into shape through December, but I bet if we started bringing back the chain rattling demon we could get them on their best behaviour from Hallowe’en all the way to February!
If you notice, I mentioned I was researching Krampus. One day I’ll tell you all about the ongoing saga that is my Christmas themed D&D universe and the role the Krampus plays therein, but it may have to wait until this years epic continuation.
3) The Loch Ness Monster
It’s Nessie! The UK’s most famous monster of all, but if you want to disagree with me, go for it. I’d bet that more people, no matter what their walk of life is, know of the legend that is Nessie, or The Loch Ness Monster. But what exactly was this beast? Was it a friendly creature hanging around the Loch Ness? Or was it a terrifying monstrosity, waiting to consume all of humanity with its unbearably large jaws, worse than a snapping crocodile?
Well actually, it’s turned out so far to be a fruitless search for ol’ Nessie here. In fact, all sightings to date have been exposed as a fake. There have been reported incidents where someone said they found it and it turned out to be a log. Oh dear. Still, for those out there who believe Nessie is real, I hope that the legend lives on and stays in everyone’s hearts. I hope Nessie is never found. There’s something magical about the unknown… And that’s how Nessie should remain. Otherwise, we’ll have to update this article in the future and remove Nessie.
This God of Egyptian lore is one of the most famous, yet he didn’t feature too heavily in Egyptian Mythology. It doesn’t stop him being an impressive God of his people, overseeing a job that many would consider quite disgusting and also being the guardian as it were. Plus, he’s the only Egyptian god I know of that has a song dedicated to him (Metal).
But that’s not what has made Anubis such a prominent figure within Egyptian Mythology. He was the God of Mummification and the Afterlife. That’s no small feat, as the Egyptians were firm believers in the Afterlife. With the head of a Jackal, Anubis was more or less as the band Septic Flesh puts it: He was the guardian of the damned, appointed by the gods to be their final chance. With such an extravagant outfit and holding the Flail and the Fetish, this god was all about justice. He would weigh up the souls of the departed to see if they were fit for the afterlife. If you were bad, you’d better be ready to repent for your sins… Not like that’d help you by that point.
Youngest, and most famous sister of Stheno and Euryale, children of ocean gods Phorcys and Ceto, Medusa is alone amongst her siblings for being mortal. Does that make her any less awesome and terrifying? Not even a little. Even after Perseus decapitates her, he still uses her petrifying gaze as a weapon. Indeed the only thing seemingly able to kill Medusa, was herself! What weapon is effective against a woman who can kill with a glance?
Despite what many games would have you believe (Dungeons & Dragons being the most profoundly sinful) there are not multiple Medusae. No matter that the name lends itself to pluralization rather elegantly, she is one of many serpent haired Gorgons. She’s also a legend amongst legends, leaving behind her gods, titans, and elder things, statuesque as she claims our number one slot!
Of course we’re not through. “Encore” we fantasize you shouting as we toil away at our keyboards to lavish our opinions upon you.
Legends, stories, myths and monsters are as old as humanity itself. Since we could make marks on a wall we’ve passed our knowledge and our thoughts from person to person, generation to generation. We could never narrow down our list to merely Ten, but only the deserving make the list. Here are few that we debated and decided against, but that we um’d and ah’d too long to simply pass them by without continuing their story.
Oh, Death. You and your many disguises. Who or what are you now? Here’s a small gallery of Death, the Ultimate Cosplayer.
The World Turtle
Great A’Tuin is based on some very real mythology. India, China and North America all have some variation on the visual spectacle that is the great turtle that swims the world on its’ endless journey through the cosmos. The phrase “turtles all the way down” is a sentiment used to disregard the mythology, as the idea that the turtle is supported by another turtle, which itself sits on the back of another turtle, which has another turtle between it and the one under… where was I going with this?
What other unique monsters have we missed? Who else is deserving of our esteemed list? As always, vote for next weeks Top 10 and let us know what you think we’ve done right and what you think we’ve done wrong. Is our order right? Let us know – tell us off! We’d love the discussion! Give us the business in the comments section, or on Facebook and Twitter.
We’re all familiar with the man in the big red suit who comes down our chimneys baring gifts. Just recently, we spoke about all of the ways we can keep our beady little eyes on the fellow as he makes his way around the earth.
So in this weeks Top 10, our last one before Christmas, we thought we’d look at the Top 10 alternative Santa’s in the whole of geekdom. We’ve analysed many different aspects of each of these Santa’s and there’s even a controversial decision to put one only in an honourable mention – so do let us know your opinions on him being there. Here we go then with our Top 10 Alternative Santa’s in Geekdom.