Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Siren call...

[Image courtesy Wikipedia, The Siren, by John William Waterhouse (circa 1900)]

Traditionally the Siren is from Greek mythology, though over time, they have adapted to become part of many European and Asiatic myths.
The thing most consistently described about Siren's is not their looks, but their voices. The Siren's call is alluring, and can lead a man (specifically a sailor) to his his death.

Descriptively their appearance varies dramatically. Most commonly, Sirens combine the bodies of women and birds in various ways. In early Greek culture, Sirens appeared as birds with large women's heads, bird feathers and scaly feet. Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, (which is the description I have chosen to use in "Magical Gains").
In Byzantine culture, they are described as having the head and torso of a sparrow but the abdomen, rude-bits and legs of a woman (the mind boggles!). Alternatively they could be small bird body with a woman's head.
In more recent history, however, the Sirens seem to have been depicted as anything from mermaids and fish-shapeshifters to gorgeous women, whose bodies as well as voices are desirable (see image).

In "Magical Gains", I have used one Siren, Leucosia. Leucosia's name is derived from Greek Mythology. According to Greek myth, there were originally three Sirens, Peisione, Aglaope, Thelxiepeia, or, Parthenope, Ligeia and Leucosia. I chose the name Leucosia simply because I liked it best.

In "Magical Gains", all creatures that exist in myth and legend are real. So there are many more than just three Siren's in the world of "Magical Gains". I chose to describe Leucosia as mostly humanoid in form. As her voice is incredibly beautiful, I decided to make her incredibly ugly. Her skin looks like weathered leather, eyes like pearl globes, and hands that end in claw like fingers. I have deliberately chosen not to reveal whether she has the legs of a bird and so, she wears long flowing black dresses to cover herself. There are reasons for this is, firstly, I did not want her confused with the Harpies (who also make a glittering appearance in the novel) and secondly, the fact she hides part of herself, reflects back on her ambitions and personality.

As I have said before, one of the many joys of using mythological creatures in literature is that they are open to interpretation. There are no hard and fast rules that you must stick by. Leucosia happens to be one of my favourite characters (but lets face it I have so many favourites it's hard to choose). The blend of beauty in voice, ugliness in face and ambiguity of character, makes Leucosia difficult for the other characters to understand or predict - and it's that unpredictability that epitomises the Siren.

If you're wanting to read more about Leucosia - you've only got 13 days until "Magical Gains" is released as an e-book!  You'll have to wait a few more weeks before you can get your hands on a paper-back though, as they become available some time after the initial release.

I can't wait!

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