Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Supernatural Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls
Part of Supernatural’s allure is the monster-of-the-week mythology. The paranormal bounty brothers never lack for things to hunt. In The Supernatural Books of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls, Alex Irvine delves deeper into the creatures Dean and Sam have given us a basic introduction to.
The book is divided into five parts and includes two appendixes—Herbs, Oils and Hoodoo Hands and Names and Attributes of European Demons.
I’ll tell you my biggest pet peeve right off the bat...the book is supposedly narrated by both Sam and Dean, but it comes off like this weird omniscient point-of-view that sounds nothing like them. Their “voices” on the show are distinctive and unique and none of that is carried on to the page. It would’ve been better for the author to write as an interested observer, perhaps a professor or a paranormal investigator fascinated with the Winchesters. Typically speaking, the kind of narration Irvine chose would create reader intimacy, as if the boys were sharing secrets, but because we know their personalities so well, and he does not emulate them at all, it has an immediate and opposite reaction, repelling the reader to think, “Who’re these dudes?”
Come to think of it, the perfect narrator for this book would’ve been Bobby Singer!
That complaint aside, and admittedly it’s a big one, how does the lore fare?
SPIRITS covers the importance of salt and burn, the woman in white, banshees, water spirits, urban legends and vengeful spirits like the Hook Man and Bloody Mary, land spirits: native and immigrant, such as the Indian curse, Amityville, Route 55, Wisconsin Lakes Curse and the Curse of Kaskaskia, plus Venir (scarecrow), Lawrence lore and Death Apparitions.
MONSTERS is all about the Wendigo, Shapeshifters, Yenaldooshi, Bearwalker, Leszy, Nahuales, Puca, The Animal Wives (Selkies, Swan Maidens and Kitsune), Lycanthropy, Tulpas, Humunculus, Golem and Rakshasa.
GHOULS, REVENANTS, ET CETERA is a paranormal potpourri of Ghouls, Shtrigas, Draugrs, Vamps, Zombies and others.
WITCHES, FAMILIARS AND BLACK DOGS is just that.
And DEMONS gets down and dirty with Succubus/Incubus, Jinn, Tengu, Abiku, Pishacha, Acheri, YED, Lesser Demons, Reaper and Goofer Dust.
The book does a great job of reintroducing the MOTW and expanding on their details, oftentimes giving culture differences. Did you know a Leszy is a Slavic forest spirit that likes to makes its appearance as a talking mushroom? Or that the word zombie comes the from the Bantu word nzambi and Haitian zombies were created from magic and the poison of a pufferfish? And, considering the recent Death Takes A Holiday, I enjoyed learning that Reapers are called psychopomps. Doesn’t that sound scarily solicitous? I’ve also adopted the hoodoo tradition of Goofer Dust and now, much to my husband's horror, walk around whispering “Kiss my ass” everywhere in case a witch is present.
In blending show elements and deepening the mythological stories, The Supernatural Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls is an entertaining and fascinating read, even if it does miss the mark on giving the Winchesters a voice.