The island of Hopeless, Maine has more than its fair share of unusual life-forms. While you might find a certain amount of pleasure in spotting a gentle flock of Gnii, weaving through the night sky, there is little joy to be derived from an encounter with most of the island’s other fauna, or indeed, flora. Not all of the more exotic entities mentioned in the Tales from the Squid and Teapot, however, are indigenous to Hopeless. Indeed, over the years the tales have revealed a surprising amount of creatures, generally believed to exist only in mythology and folklore, to have found their way to the island. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to revisit a few.
Tucked away, high on a shelf behind the bar of The Squid and Teapot, Bartholomew Middlestreet keeps an old, leather-bound journal detailing the visits of these demons and monsters. These accounts have obviously been recorded by several different hands, the years having faded some of the ink to sepia. Fortunately there are plenty of blank pages left for any new arrival to be noted, for the island seems to be a draw for the various weird, but not-particularly wonderful, denizens of earth, sea and sky. Bartholomew has mentioned on several occasions that is a great pity that the journal, unlike the tales, does not benefit from the splendid illustrations supplied by Mr Tom Brown and Mr Clifford Cumber.
Sir Fromebridge Whitminster was eaten by a juvenile aboo-dom-k’n, as was mentioned in his Obituary, and more recently, in the tale The Man in Grey.
Aboo-dom-k’n, also known as Apotamkin, features in the legends of the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy people. It is generally described as being a giant fanged sea-serpent with long red hair, given to lurking in the Passamaquoddy Bay, with the intention of dragging the unwary into the water and eating them.
In the tale ‘The Stowaway’ a strange, hideous half-blood demon is brought to the island from Buenos Aires, on a ship called the Annie C Maguire. Manchachicoj hails from the Northwest region of Argentina and was described as being small and deformed, but also seductive, elegant and romantic, which probably explains how he was able to mate with various mermaids and produce some extremely ugly progeny. Manchachicoj’s escape from the Annie C Maguire caused her to capsize when she struck the ledge at Portland Head Light, on Christmas Eve 1886. If you don’t believe me, look it up!
According to the Penobscot people, Pamola is a bird-spirit who inhabits Katahdin, the tallest Mountain in Maine, and is apparently responsible for making cold weather.
He is usually described as having the head of a moose, the body of a man and the wings and feet of an eagle.
In the tale that bears his name, Pamola takes the simpler form of a huge bird of prey, having previously been created from bits of vegetables cooked up in an ancient Welsh cauldron, as told in the tale The Unquiet Gravy.
Buer is a most fearsome-looking demon. He has no body, as such, but has a lion’s head, from which radiate five hairy goat legs, which give him the ability to move in all directions. He features in the tale Bog Oak and Brass, where you will find a wonderful, not to say terrifying, depiction of him. He also makes a brief guest appearance towards the end of Baking Bad.
In the 16th century grimoire, Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (which means the False Monarchy of Demons), Buer is described as a Great President of Hell, with fifty legions of demons under his command. He usually appears when the sun is in Sagittarius. Editions of this book are still available to purchase, both in paperback and hardback, should you be interested!
While neither demons nor monsters, at least as far as I am aware, seal, or selkie, folk are certainly as strange as any that you might wish to find. Originating in the folklore of the Northern Isles of Scotland, the Faroes and Iceland, the diaspora of the inhabitants of those islands took their legends across the Atlantic with them, rendering the coast of Maine rich with stories of the seal people. The most common theme is that of a man taking, and eventually losing, a seal wife for whom the lure of the sea is too great to ignore.
In the early Tales of the Squid and Teapot, we meet with the eponymous Betty Butterow, who learns, at the age of fifteen, of her selkie heritage. Betty features in many later tales, and a prequel, called People from the Sea, hints at her origins.
A malevolent, flesh-eating spirit found in the folklore of the First Nations, the Wendigo found its way to Hopeless, Maine following the Passamaquoddy trader, Joseph Dreaming-By-The-River-Where-The-Shining-Salmon-Springs. In the tale, simply entitled The W-ndigo, young Randall Middlestreet, the most famous Night-Soil Man (due to the fact that, to date, he is the only one to retire and raise a family) finds himself promoted from his role as an apprentice in a most bloodthirsty and traumatic manner. The W-ndigo has been described as resembling a gaunt skeleton, recently disinterred from the grave, and giving off the odour of death and corruption. The illustration accompanying the tale is the stuff of nightmares. (Also, it is best not to name them so as not to draw their attention)
A huge creature of cephalopod-like appearance, the Kraken first appears in Scandinavian legends as a sea-monster lurking in the waters off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. Stories of the Kraken travelled across the North Atlantic with the Vikings, and later sailors from the Nordic countries. We first catch sight of this awesome creature in the less-than-likely setting of a cricket match. Unsurprisingly, the tale is called Cricket!