Written by Luke Greensmith
Originally published on March 16th, 2022
This is a bit of a last minute topic pivot, but I hope everyone finds it a fun one… Some of the episodes I’m working on are held up by needing more research, as I engage in my favourite of all past times: Biting off more than I can chew.
So I’ve taken my inspiration from the erratic weather and bonus extra winter a lot of places are having to whip up a Bad Weather Beasts episode. Let’s get our monster stories on, batten down the hatches, stoke the fire and warm up some snacks; to listen to some stories of what’s lurking out there in the bad weather as a bonus reason not to go outside in it.
SECTION BREAK – Wales’s flood myth
Mythology can be a murky subject, which may win understatement of the year (although I shall strive for further excellence yet), and as such there are multiple flood myths around the world. The Biblical Noah is pretty well mainstreamed, but there’s more such tales about and Britain’s own is pretty weird.
Not that the bible story is what you could call “normal” when you actually go back to the bible to read it instead of just kind of picking up the story via cultural osmosis, but in the story of Noah there was some broad moral tale to follow. For the tale of Dwyfan and Dwyfach, the two sole survivors of an apocalyptic flood in Britain, it’s less about divine intervention and more about a giant lake monster throwing a massive tantrum.
This is the Afanc of Wales.
It’s something of an Ur Monster for Welsh mythology. They get about the place with multiple possible lakes it could be from, the occasional name variation, and a wildly differing amount of stories. There’s even very different descriptions! Ranging from a somewhat unspectacular angry dwarf, to being called out as a demon by Christians. It can be described as a bizarre chimeric creature that’s kind of a giant platypus, which I find vaguely adorable and weird that the native Welsh called the platypus long before it was discovered, and subsequently denied as real because no one could believe something that bizzare actually existed. The most common descriptions vary between magic crocodile and Monster Beaver of Doom. Given that it’s old, Welsh, and Christians cry about it being a demon I suspect every description may be valid and the Afanc is as much a shape shifting fairy creature as it is a lake monster.
The one thing it isn’t is simple!
The majority of stories agree upon two things, however: It’s happy to eat people, and has a vile temper.
So we come to the Anfanc getting a starring role in the tale of Dwyfan and Dwyfach. The core elements of a flood myth are there. All the land is submerged, two people survive, two of each animal is rescued, inbreeding ensues to repopulate after the waters subside. A large mastless boat named Nefyd Naf Neifion carries the chosen few to safety, the flood that does this just seems to have the simplest of explanation:
The Afanc did it.
I can’t seem to find a reason. Only that the “wild thrashing” of the Afanc caused the floods, it just has a random freak out that trashes the British Isles, and the lucky few are spared. Given the emphasis on its temper in other tales, it could simply have raged its way into causing an apocalypse.
Later stories tie the Afanc’s power to the water, removing it from its element being how you are supposed to either capture or kill it.
In one story, a maiden lures the Afanc to rest its head on her lap and sleep. Upon this happening, the rest of her village come to tie the Afanc up, catching it outside of the water. This results in the one solid characteristic agreed upon across Afanc stories: Rage! The maiden who sets the trap is crushed by the monstrous thrashing as the creature attempts to break free, although the capture works and the Afanc is dragged off to a cave where it can’t cause any more chaos. At least for a while…
There are two possible defeats of the Afanc in Arthurian myth. One involves Arthur being tagged in to once again personally defend Wales, although the victory was entirely dependent upon his horse Llamrai who dragged the Afanc out of its lake. This tale has a monument to it near Lyn Barfog with the Stone of Arthur’s Horse, or Carn March Arthur. This rock with a hoofprint in it that’s supposed to have been made during this battle with the ornery aquatic monster.
A somewhat more detailed quest of Percival, or Peredur in Welsh, has the alternative Arthurian defeat of the Anfanc. In this story, which includes a trio of nobles who die and are reborn battling the Anfanc each day in some legendary proto-Dark Souls Boss action, the monster couldn’t even be seen. It’s strange nature rendered it invisible, until a convenient maiden gives Percival an Adder Stone to be able to see the Anfanc so it can finally be stopped.
There’s also a Welsh hero who defeats the Afanc, Hu Gadarn uses his two oxen to drag the Afanc out of its lake so it can be beaten. Given how frequently the Afanc has had to be defeated, though, I doubt it’s something possible to truly kill. Maybe violently inconvenience, and surviving decapitation likely does nothing for its notorious temper. Let’s hope it left to the Aos Si otherworld with the rest of the fae, and isn’t just napping its way through a century or two dreaming vengeful dreams of flooding Britain once more, to try and finally deal with the annoying humans that keep cutting off its head…
SECTION BREAK – Rainy day opposites
We’ve just had dreary Britain, over on the other side of the world to another rainy island in Japan. I’m delighted to have found a selection of rainy day Yokai over there and have selected one of the most worrying with a second cute nuisance for a palette cleanser afterwards!
First up we have one of the notorious monster women that populate the Yokai stories of Japan, with Ame Onna. Regular listeners will have encountered these Yokai Onna before on a few episodes, and this is another malicious one. It may in fact be the worst of the Yokai I’ve discussed so far, due to an extra horrific twist. Ame Onna, or the Rain Woman, can appear basically anywhere there is rain. Either tied to wander in natural heavy rainfall, or perhaps causing it, they are most likely to appear from the shadows of dark alleyways during a downpour. They look like a dishevelled woman in a completely soaked kimono, hair slicked flat to them from being absolutely saturated with rainwater. As they wander the streets they revel in heavy rain, licking the water up as it flows down their arms.
So far, so unnerving.
Then, it gets worse.
The Ame Onna is hunting under the cover of rainfall. It wants one simple thing: Newborn children. They will wander the streets enjoying the terrible weather, seeking open windows and unbarred doors that could let them creep in to find an untended baby. Should they get what they search for, they return into the rain vanishing back to the otherworld they live in between storms. The baby will never be seen again, but the Ame Onna might as they return to hunt again should the rainfall be heavy enough.
That this Yokai kidnaps babies isn’t the twist. Many a folklore monster hunts the helpless young. There’s what comes after an Ame Onna has whisked away a child to their otherworld beyond the clouds and mist…
You see, it’s “an” Ame Onna. Not “the” Ame Onna.
There’s a second sting to follow from a successful hunt. As the grieving mother cries tears like the pouring rain, she soon begins to change. She will become more and more like the Ame Onna that broke her heart, until one day the heavy rains shall come and call her forth. A new Ame Onna will take to the streets, vanishing to the otherworld of these strange creatures when the storm passes, a new Ame Onna searching for untended newborns to try and steal away in the rain…
The presence of the Ame Onna has persisted in modern Japanese slang. If a special event or plan is ruined by the rain a woman may get referred to as an Ame Onna, or a man referred to as the equivalent Ame Otoko.
This one is a bit heavy, both in how it hunts and how it zombie maths its way into an army of childsnatching monsters. So I’ve saved you a cute Yokai to lift the mood.
Picture this: You’re in the rain, you forgot your jacket, and the terrible weather has ruined your umbrella. You just want to get home and towel off before curling up somewhere warm until the chill leaves your bones. Something, some low silhouette shape, comes charging through the horrible weather. Visibility is so poor in the downpour you have no time to react! It crashes into your shin, and then kind of… Starts rubbing against you like a happy housepet. You look down to see… A cat? A dog? Neither, maybe kind of both?
This is a harmless and weirdly cheerful Sunekosuri. The weird maybe feline/maybe canine Yokai is just out playing in the rain and likes to smooch humans it finds caught out in there with it, especially those not dressed for the weather! You might trip up over them if you aren’t careful, but they’re just weirdly pleased to see you. Their hijinks can keep you out in the weather longer, but they just want to play. You should keep moving as best you can though, or else your overenthusiastic new friend may result in you getting ill from exposure. They will stay as long as the rain will, and while they’re a Yokai that lives just fine in this bad weather humans aren’t quite so capable of frolicking with them as a Sunekosuri may want.
SECTION BREAK – A shapeshifter in the snow
Okay, back to your regularly scheduled terror, and off to something creepy in the frozen north of Canada.
The Ijiraq is a shapeshifter of Inuit folklore, and it’s attracted to innocence. Not simply children, but also anyone older with a naïve heart. To be carefree in a snow storm near a Ijiraq lair, is the equivalent of to be bleeding in shark infested water.
These unusual human hunters can appear as anything. Pictures of them show off fantastical animals, but their primary ambush trick is the ability to appear in the form of any person. Pretending to be family, or a friend, emerging from the snow in the wrong direction from home but appearing as someone safe and familiar so that it can come close to you… Close enough to grab its prey, most commonly a helpless child, and drag them away.
It unfortunately gets worse. An Ijiraq is no simple imitator, it’s a preternatural predator with strange powers. They don’t strictly speaking exist in this world, instead having a strange dimension somewhere between the worlds of life and death that’s unique to them. Anyone who comes close to an entrance to this otherworld gets their thoughts scrambled, losing all sense of direction or purpose causing them to wander off confused. An effective defence which foils any attempts to rescue a taken child. Children here are food or playthings, most commonly they will just get eaten but an extra sadistic Ijiraq may let a victim go so they roam confused, unable to navigate the supernatural realm they have been spirited away to, being struck with the magical confusion guarding the way out even if they should find it, being left to slowly die from the cold.
As if this needed to get any worse, an Ijiraq is completely invisible to a human until it picks a shape to take. It could be stalking alongside you in a snowstorm waiting for a perfect place to appear as the perfect lure and you wouldn’t know until your loved one snatches your wrist in an unbreakable grip, their smile revealed to really be a hungry snarl, your panic intensifying as unnatural vertigo crashes through your thoughts from being dragged through the magically defended portal to the otherworld of a creature that has decided you are dinner.
There is, fortunately, a tell. While the Ijiraq can be anyone, as it appears to a person a weird humanlike whistling sound will come from everywhere and nowhere. Whether a fortuitous side effect of the transformation process, or something kinder out in the wilds intervening, you will have this one warning that a hungry mimic has come for you in the snow.
RUN HOME AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
SECTION BREAK – Some cross story notes
Just a quick little bonus section here. Today, I’ve picked monsters related to bad weather from three pretty distinct cultures. Aboriginal Canadians, native Wales, and then Japan in East Asia about as far as you can get before hitting the Americas.
The Ijiraq and Ame Onna are both predators operating from an otherworld that only intersects with ours. Then the Ijiraq and Afanc are both shapeshifters you cannot see in their natural form, at least going with the Percival myth requiring a quest item to reveal the creature. It’s a fascinating footnote of folklore that these common story threads can tie together across vast times and what used to be vast distances before technology made the world a smaller place. Something interesting to ponder, in my opinion. Plus, there’s the overriding storytelling surrounding the dangers of the bad weather and the untamed wild! Absolutely the corners of the world that creatures of folklore live in all cultures.
That’s all for these bad weather beasts. I did at least find one nice one! Stay safe in the bad weather if you’re in one of the places getting hit right now, preferably indoors in the warm.
The topics I’m working on are still coming, I just need to learn more about certain things before I can relay facts both accurately and in an entertaining way. I’m not sure what I will have ready for the end of March, but Ostara is coming as a part of the Wheel of the Year series for 2022. I may not cover too much history there given that I already gave a rundown of the basics on a previous Easter special, but I have some thematically on theme critters lined up. Excited for that one!
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