Having established what kind of animal forms my protagonist Willow the Vampire is going to take, I can turn my attention to the antagonist of my story. What type of creature might serve such a villain?
Their world of mythological creatures includes Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir, Fenrir the Wolf, trolls, dragons and all manner of bizarre monsters that live in Niflheim, the underworld. There’s Nidhogg for example, a wicked serpent type dragon that’s cheerfully nibbling away at the great world tree Yggdrasil, or Hel, a giantess ruler of the underworld, where the sinners and wrongdoers end up and where monsters dwell. There are also dwarves (Dvergar) and elves (Álfar), as well as a plethora of gods and goddesses.
What about Jörmungandr, a sea-serpent that’s not unlike the German depiction of a “Lindwurm”, a type of elongated, snake-like dragon? Or Huginn and Muninn, two ravens which belong to the god Odin, whom they keep informed of all that goes on in the nine worlds over which he rules? Odin also keeps two wolves, Freki and Geri; surprisingly, wolves seem to have a leg in each corner – Fenrir acts on the side of evil whereas Freki and Geri act on the side of good.
As Willow’s journey into vampire heritage progresses, she will get to meet some pretty strange creatures of the night as well as doing battle with quite a few monsters.
While the antagonist and his henchmen are strictly creatures of the night, Willow is a Child of Light. Some of her friends are human and can therefore move about during daylight. This calls for two types of go-between creatures, which can spy for either side and report back to the respective “generals” of the battle I’m preparing for Willow to enter into.
Starting with one of the smallest creatures, Ratatoskr is the squirrel that climbs about in the branches of Yggdrasil. A squirrel seems quite a harmless creature, but this one is not as straightforward as it seems.
Ratatoskr is a messenger between the eagle roosting on the very top of Yggdrasil and the tree’s roots, where Nidhogg dwells. Ratatoskr’s task is to repeat word for word to the serpent monster what the wise eagle up above has said; however, the clever squirrel doesn’t do as he’s told and winds up both mighty parties with slanderous gossip and lies in order to provoke both creatures. While two are arguing, the third does as he pleases!
Many scholars believe the squirrel is a symbol for constant change in our existence – it upsets the status quo with its slander and lies; it gnaws away at Yggdrasil’s branches just like the Nidhogg. Nature is in perpetual change – so are we.
Willow’s world is about to change beyond recognition; the familiar sight of a squirrel will be comforting at first…until the little scoundrel is unmasked and the truth revealed.
Squirrels have the habit of squeaking high-pitched alarm calls when someone or something invades their territory. Modern scholars have argued that Vikings imagined squirrels to say malicious things behind their backs, so the role of messenger who keeps feuds between two opponents alive was assigned to the squirrel in the Viking’s mythological world.
The red squirrel, which is likely to have been the inspiration for the scoundrel Ratatoskr, is an endangered species in the UK, which is mostly due to the introduction of the grey squirrel and also due to loss of habitat. Red squirrels are unobtrusive, inquisitive and full of natural mischief; it seems appropriate to insert a few of them into the rural landscape of Stinkforth-upon-Avon.
Since my antagonist will try to reason with Willow the Vampire first, before deciding on more drastic measures to get what he wants, he will need a spy to learn of her plans. As a daytime creature, the squirrel is ideal. It can spy on Willow and her friends, while the underworldlings sleep in their coffins and burrows.
There you have it: Spy number one sorted (the name’s Squirrel…James Squirrel…her Majesty’s secret agent)!
Hopefully in a couple of days, I’ll have found contender number two, a creature of the night suitable to spy on behalf of Willow and her friends.