On the darkest of dark and stormy nights, the teenage Mary Shelley awoke from a nightmare. In her vision she saw a young man, a ‘pale student of unhallowed arts’, kneeling over his creation. The image inspired one of the most enduring horror works of our time: Frankenstein. But Mary Shelley was not just a mistress of the gothic. Born to one of the most influential proto-feminists of our age, Mary Wollstoncraft, and political radical and anarchist William Godwin, Mary moved in intellectual and artistic circles that would often overshadow her own greatness. But great she was. A woman who suffered and overcame tremendous loss, she was a survivor who spoke to some of the greatest anxieties of her – and our – time. But she was also a travel writer, an editor, a biographer and feminist. Join us as we steal away in the night to traverse the stormy crossing from England to France and curl up by a fire to hear the tale of the original teen goth, Mary Shelley.
In the deep, dark forests of Russia, where danger lurks in the liminal spaces, you might just find the unusual abode of one of folklore’s most fascinating characters: the incomparable Baba Yaga. With her hooked nose, her bedraggled hair and her wrinkled skin, this hag of hags appears in her strange mode of transport, ready to aid or to hinder, depending on how much you keep your wits about you. With roots in the early Slavic pantheon of gods and goddesses, Baba Yaga has changed through the centuries, playing different roles for different listeners, and slowly crystallising into the ultimate fairy tale witch.
Arm yourself with your magic charms and keep your tongue sharp as we cross the threshold into the domain of talking creatures and mystical powers to stoke the fires and spin a tale or two of Baba Yaga.
Along the rivers and waterways of Mexico, a woman’s cries can be heard in the night. Punished for the crime of infanticide, La Llorona wanders in the dark for eternity, ready to snatch away unsuspecting children. But while her story makes for perfect horror film fare, there is more to her than meets the eye. With echoes of the Aztec goddess Cihuacóatl, her significance as a symbol of women’s agency and power has been reclaimed in modern feminist reimaginings of La Llorona lore. So turn the lights down low as we prepare for a ghost story that reveals much more about prescribed gender roles than Hollywood would like us to think…
Celebrated as the iconic model and muse for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall has become one of the most recognisable faces in the history of Western art. However, famed for her beauty and romanticised for her tragic personal life, Lizzie Siddall’s own art and poetry was largely brushed aside, diminished by the grandeur of the “great men” who surrounded her. Come with us as we button our bonnets and prepare for some grave-digging in order to examine the mythic story of her life and death, and the long undervalued significance of her own work.
In our second interview of season two we are lucky enough to be joined by multi-award winning author, Hannah Kent. Based on the true story of the last person to be executed in Iceland, Hannah’s international bestseller, Burial Rites, follows the last days of the accused murderess, Agnes Magnusdottir, while her second novel, The Good People, examines the lives of three very different women caught up in the world of Irish folklore and superstition.
In our first interview of season two, (and the launch of a new special series!) we sat down with author Margot McGovern to chat all things YA: from the emergence of ‘unlikable’ female protagonists (and why they’re so irresistible) to the power of transforming myths of masculine adventure for girls, we delved deep into the gender dynamics of the world’s fastest growing literary genre.
In Neverland, Margot’s own feisty and – let’s be honest – bratty heroine Kit must navigate her return to her island home-turned-boarding school and its troubled teenage inhabitants, the depths of lust and attraction, not to mention the treacherous waters of her family’s tragic past and her own history of self-harm. We like our heroines complicated, and Kit Learmouth doesn’t disappoint, so grab yourself a map and join us for our first dive into the waters of YA.
A disguised princess forced into domestic drudgery who meets a prince at an extravagant ball might sound familiar, but there’s more to Juleidah’s version of the tale. After escaping the illicit desires of her father, this Egyptian princess dons a suit of leather and travels to a nearby kingdom, hiding out as the scullery maid and Queen’s jester. Come with us to a mythical land as we explore Cinderella’s lesser known cousin, ‘The Princess in the Suit of Leather’.
In 1984 author Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale: the chilling dystopic story of Offred, a woman trying to survive in a world where women have been reduced to their procreative functions. Since its publication, the novel has been turned into a film, an opera, a ballet, and most recently into a Hulu television series. Join us as we pair up with Justin from Mayday: The Handmaid’s Tale Podcast to unpack just what it is about Atwood’s vision that seems so compelling, and so relevant, over thirty years later.