I missed this issue when it came out a couple years ago, but on a recent excursion to the comic store, I saw it on the shelf and picked it up. I always enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials because I love the more mysterious folklore associated with the holidays, as well as winter ghost stories. These are the usual inspirations for the annual release.
This issue contains three short tales:
The Miser’s Gift
The Longest Night
The Beast of Ingleheim
I enjoyed all the tales, but if I had to pick a favorite, I would choose “The Miser’s Gift.” It is a ghost story about a young man who encounters the spirit of a miser, struggling to drag along his sack of money. The young man assists the restless spirit, who in response gives the person a gold coin. The young man then seeks to return the coin to the spirit, claiming:
“You don’t have to pay me. I was doing you a favor. I want to give this back.”
The act of kindness and charity has a healing effect on the spirit, and while the fate of the spirit is left open for the reader to interpret, the implication is that the selfless act of the young man resulted in the tormented soul finally finding peace.
This is such an important message. The spiritual value of unconditional kindness cannot be measured. One seemingly small act can have a rippling effect, which is something I try to keep in mind with all my dealings with others.
I hope this fable has inspired you as much as it did me. May you and your loved ones be blessed. Thanks for stopping by.
There’s first a gloveless hand warm from my pocket, A perch and resting place ‘twixt wood and wood, Bright-black-eyed silvery creature, brushed with brown, The wings not folded in repose, but spread. (Who would you be, I wonder, by those marks If I had moths to friend as I have flowers?) And now pray tell what lured you with false hope To make the venture of eternity And seek the love of kind in winter time? But stay and hear me out. I surely think You make a labor of flight for one so airy, Spending yourself too much in self-support. Nor will you find love either nor love you. And what I pity in you is something human, The old incurable untimeliness, Only begetter of all ills that are. But go. You are right. My pity cannot help. Go till you wet your pinions and are quenched. You must be made more simply wise than I To know the hand I stretch impulsively Across the gulf of well nigh everything May reach to you, but cannot touch your fate. I cannot touch your life, much less can save, Who am tasked to save my own a little while.
This is a sad yet beautiful poem about searching for love in the waning years of one’s life.
The primary metaphor that Frost uses is the Winter Moth. This type of moth becomes active in November and December, when the males and females of the species mate. Because winter as a season symbolizes the end of a cycle and death in a human lifespan, the Winter Moth symbolizes a person who knows that death is near, but cannot help longing for the love and companionship of another.
While the general symbolism of this poem lends itself to individuals in the later years of life, I feel that the poem speaks to everyone. None of us knows how long we have on earth, and the pandemic has demonstrated just how fragile and ephemeral our existence truly is. So essentially, we are all Winter Moths, seeking that brief connection with another soul before we die, that warmth of love in the coldness of our harsh reality.
I come away from this poem knowing that I must never take love and life for granted. My relationships with the people I love are what matters most in my life. I hope you take the time to strengthen your connections with those who matter most in your life.
Thanks for stopping by, and may you find warmth and happiness in your life.
One winter, we’ll take a train, a little rose-colored car Upholstered blue. We’ll be so comfortable. A nest Of wild kisses awaits in every cushioned corner.
You’ll close your eyes to shadows Grimacing through windows This belligerent nocturnal realm, inhabited By black demons and black wolves.
Then you’ll feel a tickle on your cheek… A little kiss like a crazed spider Fleeing down your neck…
Bending your head backwards, you’ll say: “Get it!” ―And we’ll take our time finding the beast ―While it roams…
(Translation by Wyatt Mason)
The footnote to this poem states: Written on a train, 7 October 1870. With that in mind, I interpret this poem as an expression of a sexual fantasy experienced while riding alone on a train. I picture a young Rimbaud, gazing out the window as landscape streams by, imagining himself lost in a loving embrace.
What strikes me as most interesting about this poem is that it seems to blur the distinction between fantasy and physical sensation. The fantasy does not seem to be limited to the mind but is experienced throughout the body. It is like Rimbaud has taken sexual fantasy to a next level where the thought turns to feeling.
The last two lines of the poem I find particularly interesting. The metaphor of the roaming beast can be interpreted in two ways. First, it could represent the mind lost in fantasy. What is intriguing about this possibility is that Rimbaud imagines that fantasy would be taking place during the physical encounter. This is a boldly honest observation, because Rimbaud is essentially admitting that he can get lost in fantasy, even during his most intimate moments. The other interpretation is that the roaming beast symbolizes our primal sexual drive, an animalistic urge which cannot be controlled, and which will roam freely, regardless of however hard we try to rein in our desires. Personally, I feel that both interpretations are valid, which adds richness to the closing stanza of this poem.
I hope you enjoyed this poem and found my interpretation helpful. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section. Cheers!
I enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials, particularly because I like winter ghost tales, and the Specials usually contain several stand-alone vignettes that make for a fun read. This issue has three stories. The first two I liked; the third, not so much. But I wanted to share a passage from the second vignette entitled “Lost Ones” which I liked.
“We are gathered here, in the core of the woods, in the dead silence of the coldest night of winter… to guarantee the fertilizing of Nature and the birth of new life… and to protect our land from the evil spirits that might come to possess and poison our crops. The winter has been long and harsh, but with our help it will give place to the abundance of spring.”
I liked this passage because it draws on the imagery of the Solstice. On the longest night of the year, I like to shift my spiritual focus to the coming of spring, to the shift from darkness to light, and from death to regeneration. It marks a somber time of the year, but one that holds the seeds of promise.
May you have a blessed holiday in whatever tradition you embrace.
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Tis the season: lights, decorations, Yule logs, nativity scenes, mistletoe, holiday cheer, and of course, Krampus.
One of the things that I love about the Hellboy series is the way that the creative team incorporates myths, legends, and the occult. Myths are such powerful forms of storytelling and they convey profound wisdom and insight into the human condition that they are able to be re-imagined with each new generation. And that is exactly what this issue does—it presents the story of Krampus in a way that resonates with the average American reader.
You’re going to have to bear with me. I’m an American. Over there we’ve got Santa Claus and the elves with toys. Over here… you’ve got Saint Nicholas and his monster sidekick, the Krampus. While Nick’s handing out toys, Krampus–that’s you–hits the bad kids with sticks and rides them around in a basket.
Toward the end of the tale, Hellboy and the professor discuss the possible origins of the Krampus legend.
Professor: Well, I wonder what old Harry Middleton will make of this. I’ll have to call him in the morning… For years he’s maintained that the Krampus was actually the demon goat of the witches’ sabbath, done up in fancy dress for the holidays. And I’ve argued that it was just a slightly nastier variation on the Scandinavian Yule Goat.
Hellboy: “Yule Goat.”
Professor: Yule Goat. Joulupukki. The pre-Christian goat-man version of Father Christmas.
I had never heard of Joulupukki before, but a quick search online provided me with some background on the myth.
Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name “Joulupukki” literally means “Christmas goat” or “Yule Goat” in Finnish; the word pukki comes from the Teutonic root bock, which is a cognate of the English “buck”, and means “billy-goat”. An old Scandinavian custom, the figure eventually became more or less conflated with Santa Claus.
Pagans used to have festivities to honour the return of the sun and some believe Joulupukki is the earliest form of present-day Santa. The Yule Goat was thought by some to be an ugly creature and frightened children while others believe it was an invisible creature that helped prepare for Yule.
Most theorists believe when Christianity began incorporating Pagan ways into their festivals in order to justify the action, they merged the Pagan figure with an already existing Catholic legend known as Saint Nicholas to create Santa Claus.
While the holiday season is a time of celebration throughout cultures and traditions, there is also a touch of the mystical associated with it, and this is often conveyed through ghost stories related to the season.
There must always be ghost stories at Christmas, Elizabeth.
Thanks for stopping by, and may you have a blessed holiday season and a joyous New Year.
I enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials because they contain several short vignettes that are usually very good, and this year’s is no exception. It is comprised of three short tales: “The Great Blizzard,” “God Rest Ye Merry,” and “The Last Witch of Fairfield.” While the last two were good and worth reading, it was the first one, “The Great Blizzard,” that interested me the most.
The premise of the story is that there is an unusually heavy and prolonged snow in England during the late 19th century, and Sir Edward Grey and Sarah Jewell are investigating whether the cause is supernatural. While walking through the bleak whiteness, Edward tells Sarah about similar occurrences that were supernatural in origin.
“In the north there are legends of Cailleach Bheur, the Queen of Winter who rules from Samhain to Bealtaine and summons the storms and snows at will. And there was Saint Bega in the middle ages, to whom a great lord offered as much land as was covered by snow the following morning for her priory. It being midsummer the promise would have been an empty one, had Bega not miraculously caused a snowstorm to fall that night.”
One of the things I love about Hellboy is that the writers draw on actual myths and legends as inspiration for the stories. I was unfamiliar with the references, but did a little research and easily discovered the details of the myths.
Legend of Cailleach Bheur
The Cailleach displays several traits befitting the personification of winter: she herds deer, she fights spring, and her staff freezes the ground.
In partnership with the goddess Brìghde, the Cailleach is seen as a seasonal deity or spirit, ruling the winter months between Samhainn (1 November or first day of winter) and Bealltainn (1 May or first day of summer), while Brìghde rules the summer months between Bealltainn and Samhainn. Some interpretations have the Cailleach and Brìghde as two faces of the same goddess, while others describe the Cailleach as turning to stone on Bealltainn and reverting to humanoid form on Samhainn in time to rule over the winter months.
Bega is associated in legend with a number of miracles, the most famous being the “Snow miracle”, which is described in the Life of St Bega thus:
“Ranulf le Meschin (sic) had endowed the monastery with its lands, but a lawsuit later developed about their extent. The monks feared a miscarriage of justice. The day appointed for a perambulation of the boundaries arrived – and, lo and behold, there was a thick snowfall on all the surrounding lands but not a flake upon the lands of the priory.”
A winter garden in an alder swamp,
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.
It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead,
And last year’s berries shining scarlet red.
It lifts a gaunt luxuriating beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feat
On some wild apple tree’s young tender bark,
What well may prove the year’s high girdle mark.
So near to paradise all pairing ends:
Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,
Content with bud-inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.
A feather-hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o’clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life’s while to wake and sport.
This poem is about the place of winter in the cycle of the seasons, and how winter symbolizes the point in the cycle of life that marks the transition to rebirth.
We generally imagine Eden as a lush green paradise; but here, Frost presents us with a version of Eden that is stark white, lacking in rich verdure. But as one looks closer, the seeds of life become apparent. Images of buds and berries abound, all symbols of rebirth.
I had to look up what conies are, and learned that they are rabbits. This immediately reinforced the rebirth imagery for me, since rabbits are often used as symbols for birth and fertility, and associated with spring.
I suppose it is no coincidence that I read this poem after listening to a guided meditation about rebirth today. As we are now officially in winter and moving toward the end of a challenging year, I look forward to a symbolic rebirth in the spring. In the meantime, I will nurture the seeds of light and enjoy the beauty of winter.
Thanks for stopping by, and may you have a blessed holiday season.
The feet of people walking home
With gayer sandals go—
The Crocus— til she rises
The Vassal of the snow—
The lips at Hallelujah
Long years of practise bore
Til bye and bye these Bargemen
Walked singing on the shore.
Pearls are the Diver’s farthings
Extorted from the Sea—
Pinions— the Seraph’s wagon
Pedestrian once— as we—
Night is the morning’s Canvas
Death, but our rapt attention
My figures fail to tell me
How far the Village lies—
Whose peasants are the Angels—
Whose Cantons dot the skies—
My Classics veil their faces—
My faith that Dark adores—
Which from its solemn abbeys
Such resurrection pours.
One of the benefits of being a book nerd with a child in college is that I get to acquire used books from completed courses. This is the case with a collection of Emily Dickinson poems. I was happy when my daughter gave me this book, since reading more Dickinson was something I wanted to do. The book does not include everything that she wrote, but it is a good collection of selected poems, so I figured I’d start with the first one in the book.
I really love the metaphors in this poem, which for me deals with rebirth and resurrection. “The feet of people walking home” conjures an image of souls slowly making the pilgrimage back to the divine source. Dickinson immediately follows that image with a reference to the Crocus. I have crocuses around my house, so I get this symbol. They are the first flowers to bloom after the cold death of winter. I have taken pictures of these vibrant yellow and purple flowers as they burst through the hardened earth. For me, they are the harbingers of spring, the promise of rebirth. Every year, when I see the crocuses bloom in my yard, I know that spring is near.
In the second stanza, there is a reference to a diver collecting pearls from the sea. For me, this is probably the most complex of the metaphors in this poem, because it can mean multiple things. The pearls could symbolize spiritual insights collected during one’s lifetime, which become useful in the transitional period after death. They can also be deeds of kindness. Since the sea is a common metaphor for the subconscious mind, then the pearls could be those gems of ineffable wisdom acquired during states of heightened awareness. Finally, the pearls could be poems, collected from the sea of life’s experiences and suffering.
As I look out my window and see dawn coloring the sky outside, the line “Night is the morning’s Canvas” deeply resonates. As soon as I read this line, I could visualize streaks of pastel color forming on the dark background of the sky. Dawn is such a powerful symbol of rebirth, and one that occurs every day. It is our daily reminder that life begins anew each time we arise. As we get caught up in our lives, it’s easy to forget that each day is essentially a small resurrection, an opportunity to start a new life.
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope you have a blessed day!
O! that you were yourself; but, love, you are
No longer yours, than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give:
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination; then you were
Yourself again, after yourself’s decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold,
Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day
And barren rage of death’s eternal cold?
O! none but unthrifts. Dear my love, you know,
You had a father: let your son say so.
This is another of the first 17 sonnets that deal with the theme of procreation and address the fair youth. What strikes me as different in this one are the declarations of love in the first and thirteenth lines. I do not get the sense that this is anything sexual, but more of a paternal love. I suspect that the speaker sees himself as a father figure to the youth he is advising. In fact, in the final line where he tells the youth “You had a father: let your son say so,” I get the impression he is referring to himself as the father. Also, the fact that the speaker refers to the youth’s father in past tense implies that the actual father is deceased, supporting the idea that the speaker envisions himself as a surrogate father.
Shakespeare employs some of the metaphors we have seen in the previous sonnets on procreation: the transfer of beauty to your children, winter as a symbol for old age and death, and the continuation of one’s lineage as represented by the house symbol.
Although this is a somewhat lengthy poem, I feel it is worth including here.
The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”
“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”
“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”
He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”
Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
As I read this, I couldn’t help feeling so very grateful that I live in a place where I can purchase a single tree from a local farmer who grew it himself. I had to order and pay for the tree in advance, then pick a date when I would meet the farmer. When the day came to pick up the tree, the farmer told me it had been cut that morning. The smell of the fresh pine filled the inside of my station wagon and brought back memories of Christmases as a child.
This poem made me feel a little sad for the people who live in congested places and are out of touch with nature and her cycles. I thought about the exploitation of rural folk and the consumerism that has come to define our society, a consumerism that culminates at this time of the year. And again, I felt grateful and fortunate that I live in a place where I can buy locally grown food directly from a farmer, where I can purchase handmade items from artisans who are my neighbors. I don’t mind spending a little extra for these things. For me, it’s worth it.
The last image that haunted me from this poem was the farmer’s vision of his hills stripped bare for the sake of a pittance. For me, this time of the year symbolizes the promise of rebirth, of light overcoming the dominant darkness. The evergreen tree is a living symbol of this rebirth, surviving through the dark, cold winter, promising the green growth of spring. I suspect that Frost also considered this when he included the subtitle, “A Christmas Circular Letter.” The Christmas Tree symbolizes the circle of life that is renewed after the winter months. The lights represent the warmth and sunlight that will coax the plants from the soil. The round ornaments symbolize the circle of the year and the seasons, as well as the fruits which will reappear in the warmer months.
May you and yours have a blessed holiday and New Year!
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