Tag Archives: sirens

Will 'o the Wisp

Will ‘o the Wisp: Swamp Siren (Part 2)

A Will 'o the Wisp's Seductive Light

A Will ‘o the Wisp’s Seductive Light

Last time, we put on hip boots and splashed around in the fen near Lita’s castle. We met the swamp’s malevolent siblings, Will and his sister Wisp.

The Will ‘o the Wisps invited us to dinner. Shall we join them and exchange some small talk? Lita must tell Gentle Reader a story about a wizard’s swamp date with these sirens.

Swamp Siren

Wizard Kadmeion, his assistant Sir Bright, and some thick-witted goons had to travel through Murphy Swamp. It’s a bog on floating Hurt Island where everything goes wrong unless the traveler is a pessimist.

Have a Care, Sir Wizard, If a Will 'o the Wisp Asks You to Stay for Dinner

Have a Care, Sir Wizard, If a Will ‘o the Wisp Asks You to Stay for Dinner

During the night, Wisp and her gal pals sang a siren song to lure the doomed wizard and goons into the swamp’s chill water. Guess what was on the girls’ dinner menu? Tasty wizard’s flesh, served tartare and still warm on the bone.

Another Fine Mess

The dangerous spell woke Bright. His half-elf nature provided scant protection from the evil magic, but he still plunged into the knee-deep muddy swamp water and went after the enthralled wizard. Bright’s poor aim with a flung stone missed the siren’s light and instead knocked Kadmeion out cold.

The ravenous Will ‘o the Wisps swarmed, settled onto the wizard and his assistant, and prepared to feast. Bright was a mage still coming into his magical powers, and had just one desperate way to get them out of this mess.

We’re Late

So sorry Lita is a tease, but we must run now and catch the last airship home. We can stop along the way if Gentle Reader would like to read more about how their adventure began in the Clockpunk Wizard world of Ephraim’s Curious Device.

Will 'o the Wisp

Will ‘o the Wisp: Swamp Siren (Part 1)

Beyond the forest and rim-ward of Lita's castle is a fen.

Beyond the forest and rim-ward of Lita’s castle is a fen.

Beyond the forest and rim-ward of Lita’s castle is a fen. Let’s put on hip boots, splash right in, and meet its resident sirens. Just like mermaids, these girls love wizards to death.

The Will ‘o the Wisp only comes out at night. This fiery little witch has many names: ignis fatuus (“foolish fire”), chir batti, jack o’ lantern, hinkypunk, spook-light, hobby lantern, pixy-light, marsh ghost-light, Luz Mala, friars’ lantern, corpse light, Min Min light, and orb. Let us call her Wisp.

Wisp and her ilk are mischievous and malign. Here are stories travelers have told Lita.

Wisp Left the Traveler at the Edge of a Precipice

Wisp Left the Traveler at the Edge of a Precipice

Follow Me Not

Wisp carried a lantern and guided a late-returning fellow all over the countryside. She took him to the edge of a chasm, leapt across, doused the lamp, and laughed.

Wisp left the man far from home, standing in pitch darkness, at the edge of a precipice.

Blacksmith Will (Wisp’s brother, methinks), made a deal with the Devil and won a piece of glowing pit coal. Will uses it to warm his hands and light the way on desolate walks through the marshes. Wisp’s helpful bro leads wanderers into the swamp and abandons them when they come close to Will’s hell light.

The Curious Follow the Will 'o the Wisp's Path

The Curious Follow the Will ‘o the Wisp’s Path

Graveyard Path

Will and Wisp’s lights are also death omens. Curious nighttime travelers see the siblings’ small flickering flames in graveyards and call them “corpse lights.”

The blue-green flames mark the path of a pending funeral. If Gentle Reader follows the path away from the graveyard, it takes you to the soon-to-be deceased’s home. Usually yours. See? Curiosity killed more than the cat.

Next time, we join this nighttime siren and her brother for dinner. Guess what’s on the menu?

A sailor does speed dating with a mermaid

3 Naughty Ladies of Fantasy Fiction

A manatee's smile lured love-starved sailors

A manatee’s smile lured love-starved sailors

A warning today for the gentlemen. In some Fantasy Worlds, you will find lascivious females. Guard your virtue!

While Lita was researching her next book, Old Bony Blue Eyes, she found several kinds of mer females in fantasy and folklore stories. An alarming pattern emerged. The mermaid tales combined two dangerous mysteries for menfolk–women and the ocean.

Could this all be mistaken identity? Lonely sailors long at sea might mistake sightings of manatees and dugongs for our aqua princesses. Perhaps the manatee’s seductive smile is an irresistible lure, and sailors will shipwreck in their haste to meet this lovely gal. But wait. These gentle, large water mammals look nothing like a shapely human woman. Must be water mirages.  Let’s stick with fantasy artistry for our sea girls and not spoil the mood.

Sea nymph and water birds

Sea nymph and water birds


A Greek water Nymph is a minor female deity, and she inhabits a specific water site. Nymphs are lovely maidens who enjoy amorous freedom, which separates them from the other chaste women of the Greeks. The nymph’s sexual forwardness is especially dangerous for male travelers far away from home.

There are many types of nymphs, classified by their preference of watery haunts.  Where exactly is the risk? Here are the places to find, er, avoid, these dangerous ladies:

  • Oceanids (any salty water)
  • Haliae (sea and seashores)
  • Nereids (more than 50 nymphs in the Mediterranean Sea)
  • Naiads/Limnades/Limnatides (fresh water ladies)
  • Eleionomae (wetlands)
  • Kathybates (hot tubs and whirlpools)
  • Pegaeae (springs)
  • Potameides (rivers and rills)
  • Crinaeae (fountains and wells)
Golden Mermaid

Golden Mermaid


Unlike the human form of the nymph, a Mermaid is a water creature with the upper body of a beautiful human woman and the lower body of a fish. She is a powerful swimmer, and loves to sun herself on rocky shores.

We usually see her long hair undulating in the ocean currents.  Fish scales begin at her shapely mid-torso and extend downward not into legs, but a glorious and glimmering tail. She can breathe underwater, but the gills are not visible.

Mermaids are associated with dangerous events like storms, shipwrecks and drownings. But in other legends, they are kindly and fall in love with humans. Problem is, a mermaid will pull her eager lover into the ocean depths for a romantic tryst, forget that he cannot breathe underwater, and drown him. So guys, take an extra scuba tank and stop fussing about how the air regulator in your mouth hampers your technique.

A sailor and a siren plan date night activities

A sailor and a siren plan date night activities


Greek myth brings us another water gal, the Siren. Fantasy stories are unclear as to her appearance.  Sometimes she is a human-bird hybrid (like a beautiful harpy), other times a mermaid with flowing tail and hair, or just a fetching human form. Whatever her appearance, the siren is a dangerous date.

Our siren is a femme fatale (another warning–we also find this loose lady in the Film Noir Fantasy World) who sings to sailors and lures them with her sweet propositions to run their ships aground on rocky shores. Once ashore, her dates are so beguiled by her appearance, they forget to eat.  The siren’s trophies are the heaps of decaying bodies of the men who starve to death while enjoying her womanly delights. Perhaps, guys, you might tie a string around a certain body part to remind you to eat something during your siren date (of course Lita means your finger–don’t blame the siren for your naughty thoughts).

Gentlemen, the risks are clear. When journeying in Fantasy Worlds, avoid travelling to the sea, inland lakes, and taking showers at the Bates Motel. Do not even go near the water, or these naughty ladies will sully your reputation.

A beautiful harpy in the Clockpunk Wizard world

Harpies Are Misunderstood

A harpy looks like this, but has darker hair and a long, sweeping tail.

Madam Harpy, our Winged Sister of the Sky. Who did a disservice to this magical creature, turning her from a beautiful woman with feathery wings, into a fearsome hag?

Hesiod, a Greek oral poet from the same time period as Homer, described harpies as women with fetching hair. Pottery showed them as lovely damsels with wings. Just what Lita was looking for, pretty bird gals having chronic Good Hair Days.

What Happened?

Appears to be a case of multiple mistaken identity. The ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, often called the father of tragedy, wrote The Eumenides, where Aeschylus confused the harpies with the unattractive and rancorous furies. Greek mythology further mistook harpies for sirens, the femme fatales who lured hapless sailors onto Greece’s rocky shorelines and to their deaths.

Is Zeus Always Grumpy?

Zeus became angry with the prophecies of King Phineus, so the deity blinded Phineas and abandoned him on an island with a buffet feast.  Zeus then had harpies snatch away the food from Phineas’ hands before he could eat, and soil the remaining buffet. This happened at every mealtime.  Consider this the “Watch What You Say” diet.

Middle Ages Madness

Dante continued the harpy smear campaign in Inferno. On the seventh ring of hell is a special harpy-infested forest for suicides. The Trojans had driven the harpies from their island home of Strophades, so the bird women moved to this cursed wood. They perched in the eerie trees and lamented. I would complain too if unpleasant, sword-lashing men drove me from my lovely waterfront home.

In recent centuries, the English poet William Blake was so moved by Dante’s misinformation, that he continued the negative harpy hype with his watercolor work “The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies and the Suicides” now at the Tate Gallery in London. These harpies are overweight, have human faces with bird beaks, their breasts are too big, and their wings are too small. Some of these characteristics are unattractive–I’ll leave it for Gentle Reader to decide which ones.

Lita’s Harpies & Wizards

In the upcoming Clockpunk Wizard story Ephraim’s Curious Device, Wizard Kadmeion and his assistant Sir Bright take their airship to the floating island of Strophades. The harpies have a magical item that Kadmeion needs for Ephraim’s thingummy. The magicians end up in the harpy oubliette due to a small misunderstanding from the wizard’s unwanted Goon bodyguards killing two bird women.

That’s enough to turn the most even-tempered Harpy Queen grumpy.