Picus the Thief – one of the best books of 2011 for young adults or teenagers
Since Gormenghast and Middle Earth, English writers melding English folklore with European folklore have produced some of the best books for teenagers. Young adults will love the mythical, lyrical and folkloric storylines about Vykolakas Diminutiv otherwise known as Small Vampires (see Small Vampires, Faies, Weres, Sanguine). Young adults have loved reading Picus the Thief and it has certainly been one of the really good books for young adults out this year but adults, too, have relished this great fiction book, especially those book lovers who have received the hardback collector’s gift book.
Hidden Kingdom: English Folklore
Turn your gaze to a half-remembered world of childhood that exists below the tall grass and flowering hedgerows. Look very carefully and you may be able to trace faint pathways through the undergrowth, leading to small mounds of dry foliage in curious, deliberate shapes – Leaf Castles! These are perhaps the last visible remains of the Hidden Kingdom
Hidden Kingdom is the loose term given to the early medieval english folkloric world inhabited by Vykolakas Diminutive (often translated as Small Vampires), Faies, Weres and Sanguines (aka Blutschpend). It is usually characterised in legend as being secretive, older than human civilisation and steeped in magic. Many of the stories are central European in geographical origin but have a folkloric flavour similar to English fairie tales. The folklore has had a revival recently. In 1992, 3 volumes that tell the story of the Hidden Kingdom and Small Vampires were handed to Robin Bennett of Quarto Translations in the UK to translate by an antiquarian book dealer, based in Durham England. The volumes looked to be roughly made and their origin was unknown. Initially they were taken to have been written in an unknown language but careful study revealed them to being decipherable as a linguistic mix of Greek, Latin and Aromanian – dubbed Vlachse – that were subsequently translated over a period of years.
The translated volumes will appeal highly to anyone looking for one of the best books for teenagers out this year.
Knowe us by Poppies in golden fields of wheat, splash’d red – lyke blood.
Also known as Small Vampires.
Folkloric creature of Central European and sometimes English mythology associated with the Hidden Kingdom (see Faies, Weres, Sanguine, Thin Man). Background Stories about Small Vampires have strong associations with early grail quests – the connection being blood and bloodlines. A Small Vampire is said to be about the size of a dragonfly. If actually bitten, humans in stories associated with them usually assume it was a mosquito, or a horsefly, and then forget about the bite because it didn’t itch or go red. But those that scrutinise the small wound would see not one tiny pinprick bite mark, but two. The TWO holes represent one for each of the sharp little teeth of the Small Vampire.
A Small Vampire is most commonly described as having dragonfly-like wings that fold neatly away behind his back and (if he is not wearing armour) soft, mole-like down or fur covers his body. This velvet fur is mostly black, but with a flash of white around the neck and where his stomach starts. The effect is as if they are wearing a perfectly tailored evening suit. Their faces are basically human. Apart from their size, it is important to know that Small Vampires are most certainly not the wicked creatures of the night with foreign accents that Hollywood has had us believe.
However, they are steeped in magic and, like any other creature from the Hidden Kingdom, they are unquestionably cleverer than any of us.
Between the ages of 0 and 50 they hold the rank of Milk Imp; 51-100, Strigoi, and thereafter they become Vampire. If one is lucky enough to attain the age of millennia (1000 years old), the rank of Nosferatu is bestowed.
Fields of poppies are said to be a sure sign that Small Vampires live close by. Faies Folkloric creature of Central European and sometimes English mythology associated with the Hidden Kingdom (see alsoVykolakas Diminutive Small Vampires, Weres, Sanguine).
Faies are the closest thing that a Small Vampire has to a cousin, genetically speaking. The main difference is that they have lost the power of flight and, over the last few hundred years, they have adopted many Human ways such as travelling by boat (Small Vampires refuse). Many have also taken on English names – the British Isles being the place they feel most comfortable. Faies, like Vampires, love all finery and precious gems and gold and both species are as vain as the other.
Faies are almost as old as Vampires and are said to possess as much magic and ancient wisdom, although of a different sort. They are also said to be untrustworthy, ranging from playful to downright malicious. Commonly found in Leaf castles – apparently the last known visible remnants of the Hidden Kingdom.
Sanguine (aka Blutschpend)
Folkloric creature of Central European and sometimes English mythology associated with the Hidden Kingdom (see Small Vampires, Faies, Weres, Sanguine).
Early medieval tales from Central Europe talk of these originally wild, flightless creatures, rather like chubby Vampires without wings. Supposedly over hundreds of generations Vampires had bred them as a living food source. Sanguines have carried blood for Vampires when the Earth was mainly inhabited by fish. As the mammals took over and blood became plentiful, however, the Sanguines’ use changed from provider – much like Humans use cows for milk – to servant and now faithful companion, each attached to a particular Vampire family, sometimes for hundreds of years. A sort of Butler-cum-buffet. Sanguines have their own language and even their own god: a horned deer they called Vlad the Impala.
Folkloric creature of Central European and sometimes English mythology associated with the Hidden Kingdom (see also Vykolakas Diminutive Small Vampires, Sanguine, [translation of chalice]).
Described in obscure Hidden Kingdom (Romano/Hungarian) folklore as having nothing to do with wolves or Humans but representing an entirely distinct species in scale with all other magical creatures from the Hidden Kingdom.
They have a thick greasy pelt (usually black), which stops just below the neck and rough, pinkish skin that covers the face. Their features are pointed and cunning in aspect, with a pronounced jaw and horrifically sharp teeth. They are roughly the same size as a Small Vampire and share the same craving for blood. All the stuff about them hunting on a full Moon is perfectly true, but only because it is easier to hunt with more light. They can walk upright, hence the rumours about them being related to Man, but prefer all fours, as it is faster.
They have a limited power of speech. This doesn’t mean they’re stupid; they just have too many large teeth for the job. Their deep dislike of Small Vampires (and most other magical creatures in the Hidden Kingdom) is partly understandable in that it stems from Vampires’ and Faies’ early treatment of them as mere animals and therefore as good sport for hunting.
Faies and Vampires have had some success in ‘taming’ Weres to the extent that they can be used in battle or as guards. Depending on the Moon cycle, Weres can morph between most species (not just Humans as people have suggested in the past).
Folkloric feature of Central European and sometimes English Folkore mythology associated with the Hidden Kingdom (see also Vykolakas Diminutive Small Vampires, Weres, Sanguine). Seen by some historians of folkore as an early Grail myth associated with Vampires (Central European, blood, quest) Most Chalice stories’ central plank is that long before the Wandering Kings had journeyed the wilds of the Hidden Kingdom and settled the Wild Woods, long before the Craggy Peaks had become the tottering foundations for their strongholds, and really not that long after the Great Father Of All pricked his finger and made the whole round world with a drop of his own blood, the Chalice was made.
Some say it was forged in the fires of volcanoes from precious metals mined from another star; some say it was carved from the glaciers of the gods who inhabited the Snow Mountains, and made of an ice so ancient that nothing – not even the core of the Sun – could melt it. It is the most powerful and important of the Seven Treasures.
The Small Vampires, noble and proud descendants of the Wandering Kings, believe it belongs to them and that, in discovering how to wield it, they will defeat their sworn enemy, The Thin Man and that the wisdom contained in The Chalice will finally show them the way home.
“…a great sense of glee… THIS IS SUCH A GREAT BOOK.”
– Conville and Walsh
“Goodness – how fascinating… he’s a talented writer.”
“I think there’s so much that’s good, fun and funny here. It’s so imaginative and filled with great details…”
– Greenhouse Literary
“…this book has huge charm.”
– Short Books
“… accomplished writing.”