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Literary Monsters, with Tammy Armstrong

Literary Monsters, with Tammy Armstrong

However you want to say and/or spell it—Halloween, Hallowe'en, All Hallows Eve, Candytime—October 31 is indisputably the chocolate industry's spookiest time of year. With that in mind, we thought we'd ask a few Goose Lane authors past and present, for some Halloween-type lists.These are personal, highly suggestive lists of recommendations, avoidances, and/or reminiscences. We make no guarantees, save one: if you don't read the whole of each list, something bad will happen to someone, somewhere, at sometime.

Today's guest lister is Tammy Armstrong, author of the poetry collection The Scare in the Crow. She is the recent winner of the 2017 Yeats International Poetry Prize for her poem "The Varying Hare." Tammy lives in southern Nova Scotia.

Tammy Armstrong's Favourite Monsters in Literature

The JabberwockyThe Jabberwocky
  • from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass
  • Carroll’s nonsensical monster. A chimera-like, “slithy creature,” it has the body of a dragon and the head of a catfish—though we never really know what it’s angry about, we do know it means business because it “wiffles” and “burbles.”
  • Full poem here.
 Sredni Vashtar
  • from Saki’s short story “Sredni Vashtar”
  • A sharp-fanged polecat that inspires mystic reverence in the ten-year-old convalescent, Conradin. Sredni Vashtar becomes a merciless, tool-shed god, silent in his stack of straw, and worshipped for his potential to destroy those that Conradin dislikes most.
  • Full story here.
  • from Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
  • Not only is he a giant, demonic cat who is equally fond of firearms and vodka, he also enjoys playing chess with live pieces, and making boozy jokes and philosophical observations incomprehensible to all but himself.
The Goblins
  • from Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market”
  • They’re industrious, early risers who believe in the free market. Cat-faced, rat-faced, and whisk-tail’d, they still have to pay the rent, regardless of what the young ladies in the neighbourhood think.
  • Full poem here.
The Doubtful GuestThe Doubtful Guest
  • from Edward Gorey’s The Doubtful Guest
  • A strange crow/penguin/aardvark creature in high-tops appears uninvited, unexpected and stays and stays at the Bishop family’s house for seventeen years with “no intention of going away.” Like all bad room-mates, it causes trouble—it tears chapters out of books, snaps off pieces of stereo equipment, and throws their favourite possessions into the pond. On low energy days, it falls into bouts of melancholy, forcing everyone to walk over it. It is, I think, one of the most annoying monsters on this list.
  • Full story here.
The Groke
  • from Tove Jansson’s Moomim books
  • The Groke’s a mound of a monster with strange little eyes and rows of very sharp teeth. Like The Doubtful Guest, she’s a loner who tends to show up uninvited, looking for a hand-out. While pitied, The Moomins keep their distance because wherever she walks, the ground freezes, bonfires freeze, and plants die.
The HellhoundThe Hound of the Baskervilles
  • from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hounds of the Baskervilles
  • Big, black, with red-glowing eyes—the monstrous hellhound has haunted the Baskerville family ever since an ancestor made a deal with the devil. Its character is very much like the mythical Black Shuck, a ghostly black dog that roams the English coast, terrorizing those who travel alone at night.
  • Full book here.
The Nothing
  • from Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story 
  • An existential monster, a dark cloud set on erasing all magic, inventiveness, and imaginative thinking from the world. It’s described as representing “human apathy, cynicism, and the denial of childish dreams.” It reminds me of the black lightning storms that roam across the mountains in Colorado—just the sort Tesla came to study.
Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
  • from Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • “A mind-boggingly stupid” monster. If you can’t see it, it assumes it can’t see you—wrapping a towel around your head is the best defense. It is very big and likes to eat things, especially tourists and looky-loos.
The Black Rabbit of Inlé
  • from Richard Adams’ Watership Down
  • “A silhouette of darkness upon darkness and he had no scent,” the Black Rabbit of Inlé is a rabbit’s grim reaper. Immortal and feared, he lives in a dark warren filled the bodies of dead rabbits, memories of violent deaths from snares and foxes, and sadness. The rabbits sense him behind them, but when they move it moves with them. “What lies on the dark side of the moon? Ask the Black Rabbit. He knows.”
Halloween Literary Monsters Tammy Armstrong

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