Shane Hegarty is the author of the wonderful Darkmouth series, the third book of which, Chaos Descends, was published last week. Today Shane has very kindly topped by at MGSB to tell us about his Top 5 favourite Darkmouth Legends:
When I saw a picture of a two-headed dog with a snake for a tail, I just knew I had to find a place for it in the Darkmouth universe. After a while I decided to lose one dog head so that it became a double act on a single body, and I tried to imagine what it would be like for that snake to spend its entire life between the back legs of a dog. Especially if that snake had bigger ambitions in life. The result is Cornelius and Hiss, two conjoined animals with individual personalities. The snake talks a lot. The dog only says one word: “sausages”. That’s based on an old TV show that once featured a dog who said sausages and became a huge poochy celebrity as a result.
|Illustration by James de la Rue|
Every hero needs a foe they struggle to defeat. And in the first Darkmouth, Finn gets the Basilisk. It’s a small, shuffling Legend that thinks its powers of hypnosis are so strong it will paralyse its victims. But in this case, it is self-deluded and no more dangerous than a baby’s giggle. But Finn is so incompetent he struggles even to capture this fellow. When I show his picture at reader events, they always want to take the Basilisk home in some stuffed, cuddly form. If the books fail, I’ll do a line of these toys for sure.
The great thing about working in the worlds of Legends is that every culture has them. While many seem to work off familiar templates (giants, shapeshifters, scary older women who really got a raw deal by storytellers), within that there are creatures particular to a place such as the sprite-like, twisted, knobbly-knuckled Hogboon from Scottish myth. In Darkmouth, the main Hogboon we meet is Broonie, a poor little fellow who plays an important role in the story, but does so while awful things happen to him. And keep happening. And never stop happening. I feel cruel doing it to him. But I can’t stop.
When you look first at the Hydra, you see a huge, seven-headed creature, with snapping jaws and a bad attitude. But if you look at it and think, well what if those seven heads didn’t get along with each other? Or what if one had bad gas? Or two wanted to go in in different directions? Suddenly you’ve not got one character, but seven on one body. And better, chop a head off and suddenly you’ve got eight characters. I kind of kept it in the shadows for two books, but in Darkmouth: Chaos Descends the Hydra finally gets its day. And I had so much fun writing it.
They are not particularly well known Legends - certainly not when compared to those of Greek and Roman myth - but these Irish giants have proven fantastic bad guys. Huge, brutish, ugly (unless you’re Fomorian yourself, of course) they enjoy dishing out disaster. Maybe it’s because of their Irishness, but I use Gaelic words as names, because they sound unusual to English speakers but have a hidden meaning. So, the ruling Fomorian in Darkmouth, Gantrua, gets his name from the Irish for “Without mercy.”