December heralds the release of my second novella, On The Shoulders of Otava. I’m extremely grateful to PS Publishing and Marie O’Regan, managing editor of the Absinthe Books imprint, for giving On The Shoulders of Otava such a good home.
Finnish folklore and mythology is a particular interest of mine, and it’s really exciting to be able to dive into the subject in a little more depth. In this novella I draw on the real-life setting of the Finnish Civil War in 1918 – specifically the Women’s Guard, the all-female units who served for the Red army. Researching this setting was fascinating – I had previously been aware of the Red Women, but learning about them in-depth was one of the most interesting pieces of research I’ve ever done for a story.
I then sought to weave in elements of Finnish folklore and myth, from the mysterious Liekkiö to the bear myths and rituals of the ancient Finns, which persist in altered form into the modern day. The title is a reference to the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic which was composed from oral tradition across the country by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century. The Kalevala tells of how the bear, with his many names, came to be created:
“Otso was not born a beggar,
Was not born among the rushes,
Was not cradled in a manger;
Honey-paw was born in ether,
In the regions of the Moon-land,
On the shoulders of Otava,
With the daughters of creation.”
I owe my friend, artist Maarit Hiidenportti, a great debt here, firstly for fuelling my interest in Finnish mythology to begin with, and secondly for helping me research both the historical and folkloric elements of the novella.
Both Kit Power and Benjamin Langley over at Ginger Nuts of Horror have reviewed On The Shoulders of Otava:
On The Shoulders Of Otava feels like yet another step change from Mauro, in terms of both ambition and realisation. She has crafted a brilliantly grounded tale, full of raw humanity and the grime of precarious existence, and woven it through with a beautiful and haunting mythlore in such a way that both seemingly disparate, clashing elements actually serve and enhance each other: in doing so she has created a tale that is as achingly beautiful as it is bruised, and as hopeful as it is angry… and one of the best things I’ve read this year.
I hope you enjoy the novella as much as I enjoyed writing it