“Me fellow travellers, good evening. Welcome to a magical land, a world of myths and legends, of adventure and fantasy.”
We’re about to meet fantastic creatures and learn some whimsical stories straight out of a different realm. Are you ready to go with me?
The Giant Lanterns of China is a regular display in Edibnurgh Zoo, taking place every winter (from the middle of November till the middle of February). There are over 400 lanterns, lighting a magical trail through the Zoo. I was lucky to take part in the event this week and it was more amazing than I expected!
All the lanterns were beautifully crafted and the legends described on boards along the trail complemented the whole atmosphere in the most magical way. I decided not to write anything about the myths and legends myself, as I’m not an expert and I don’t really feel I’m capable of create as magical and mysterious mood as the original descriptions. That’s why I’d like to share them with you, especially since the event is over now anyway.
All texts below (as well as the quote at the beginning of this post) are transcribed from the display boards on the Giant Lanterns of China in Edinburgh Zoo. Texts are referrences to pictures below them.
Hope you enjoy seeing all those magical creatures and reading short stories about them as much as I did! Okay then, time for some magic…
Chinese myths & legends
Travelling between the worlds of humans and gods, I am the messenger, Quing Niao. Come with me as we explore together, for tonight these worlds have joined.
Let the story unfold.
Four seasons, four god beasts. These mighty forces of nature shape all life on planet Earth. The Fire Bird brings warmth in the summer, whilist autumn is the time of the Winged Tiger. The frozen winter is ruled by the Turtle Warior, until the Green Dragon ushers in new life in spring.
Prowling through the darkness, ivory fur glowing in the moonlight, a meeting with a nine-tailed fox can be a blessing or a curse. Some will grant you great wealth, while others seek to bewitch humans and their souls. Wisdom and power fill their tails, with a new one growing every 100 years.
In a long time past, a terrible plague fell upon humankind. It spread and spread until it seemed the sickness will never end. The Lady of Flowers took pity on the humans. Taking to the skies, she scattered her magic petals around the globe. People rejoiced, for as the flowers fell they drove away the sickness, and brought life back to the world.
Lost in the desert, in the midst of a fearsome storm, a group of adventureres despaired. Their hopes of survival were slipping away when they saw nine beautiful colours shining through the sands. Out of the storm emerged a radiant deer, colours gleaming from her coat and antlers. She led the travellers to safety, and her light remains a beacon of hope for all those who feel lost.
Scottish myths & legends
Midnight. A secluded Scottish glen. Everything is silent, but the air feels charged with anticipation. Suddenly, a shining white shape gallops into view. Emerald mane aglow, the unicorn rears up, its single horn dazzling in the starlight. The glen is soon filled with unicorns, prancing in the light of the full moon. Noble and mighty, this gathering of Scotland’s national animal is a rare sight, a true moment of magic.
The people of Edinburgh once feared a beautiful but ferocious dragon who circled the skies above, lighting the city with jets of flame. One day, after eating too much, the beast fell into a deep sleep and slowly, the earth took over, creating what is known today as Arthur’s Seat.
At the same moment as a raindrop falls from a tree, a young girl is finding out how to help an injured hedgehog. The raindrop starts to transform, ripples become arms and then legs. It lands softly and dances away into the forest. A bogle is born. Elemental sprites, bogles are born from a flicker of fire, a droplet of water, a pinch of earth or a breath of air, combined with an act of human kindness.
Unstoppable power is unleashed as two goddesses collide in battle. Summoning a storm of ice and snow, Winter freezes the land, but just as quickly Spring drives her back with a wave of warmth and rebirth. Locked in eternal combat, neither goddess will ever trully triumph. Spring may be victorious for a time, but Winter always returns. Their unique powers bring balance to the planet, creating new life.
In a quiet corner of the woods, the Ghillie Dhu wanders in the shadows. He’s alone, but he likes it that way. The silence is comforting, and the plants and animals are all the company he needs. Delve a little deeper and the trees come alive with a thousand lights. Music fills the air and the forest becomes a whirlwind of colour as the faeries come out to play.
Howling winds and crashing waves fill the night as the storm grows even wilder. At its centre swims the Blue Man, his magic summoning this unstoppable force of nature. Far below, skates and rays shelter on the sea floor, whilist cyclones of sand whirl around beds of flame shells. A trio of selkies dart past a colossal basking shark, shedding their seal skins as they race towards the safety of land.
Kelpies are another sea creatures from Scottish legends (I must have missed the board with their descripion, sorry about that!)
Which lanterns and legends did you like the most? My favourites are ‘Nine-Tailed Fox’ and ‘Clash of Seasons’, but as for a story, I loved the bogles’ one the most 🙂
Tell me about yours in comments below!