Saturday, October 8, 2016

Two recent authors inspired by
Ruth Manning-Sanders

(I know there's not much that can trump the crazy, swirling news of this weekend in America, but let's enter the land of make-believe and try...)

I was delighted this week to discover that the authors of two recent fantasy novels have stated in interviews that they were inspired by the works of Ruth Manning-Sanders and Robin Jacques. It's beyond awesome that this is still happening in 2016. We've already seen the a new printing of one of her classic books this year, A Book of Mermaids. But we really need a publisher to step up and reissue the entire "A Book Of..." series, complete with Jacques' indispensable illustrations. There's money to be made and new generations of readers to be inspired.

The first of the "inspired by" books is The Hike, by Drew Magary. Here's a partial description of the novel:
"When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike. Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily. With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects."

In an interview with Salon that was published in August, Magary — who is also a columnist for the website Deadspin1 — describes his book as "a folk tale, but with swearing." Here is the excerpt from Salon in which Magary mentions Manning-Sanders:
Question: While on his hike, Ben encounters a series of fantastical creatures and beings — some foes, some allies, most of them impossible to explain out of context (you just have to read the book)! Were there any particular sources of inspiration, things you’ve read/watched/played that were part of the mix?

Magary: It was a mix of completely random shit. I remember I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror once in the middle of the night and my eyes were glowing, and THAT went in. So just bits and pieces like that. But the big inspiration for me was a woman named Ruth Manning-Sanders. Back when I was a kid, I used to hit the library and take out these folk tale compilations of hers called “A Book of Demons”2 and “A Book of Dragons” and more. She had a compendium for every creature and magical animal — stories from every country — and I read pretty much all of them. And the tales usually had to do with enchanted objects and brave strong lads who find them. I was way into those books, and the book (hopefully) pays tribute to them.

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The second "inspired by" book is The Beginning Woods, by Malcolm McNeill. The blurb for this September novel from Pushkin Press states, in part: "The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air — just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace. ... Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings."

In an extensive interview with Zoe Toft on Playing by the Book, McNeill talks about his influences, which ranged from Roald Dahl to Dungeons & Dragons, and brings up Manning-Sanders and Jacques:
It was, however, when Malcolm was a little bit older that he discovered (in his local library) a series of books that would have a particularly profound influence on him: old hardback editions of the fairy tales told by Ruth Manning-Sanders.

“I was very interested in these books! I remember being fascinated by the strange proportions of those amazing Robin Jacques illustrations, the stout ogres with the giant heads and ridiculous legs. They all wore waistcoats and shoes with buckles – I found that very surprising, that ogres had these fine clothes. All the stories were like that, in fact. Little men carried about “currant buns” and there were “flasks of wine” all over the place. All this was very mysterious to a little boy.

The stories themselves were just brilliantly told, with this direct energy, that kept alive that all-important fairy tale “now listen to this” vibe… reading these was like being told by a wise old woman about a mysterious time in the past that she had touched and I would never be able to. Except through a story.”

And thus we meet the first book on Malcolm’s biographical bookshelf: ‘A Book of Enchantments and Curses’ by Ruth Manning-Sanders. “I owe a big debt to Manning-Sanders stylistically. Whenever I “hear” fairy tales, I hear them in her voice, with its simple prose, curious repetitions, and sudden declarations like “Not a bit of it!” or “Just you try it!” that give the whole thing a feeling of being spoken. I used her voice a lot in The Beginning Woods.”
There's much more to dive into in Toft's interview with McNeill. You should check out the whole thing (and bookmark Toft's website).

So there you have it. And now I have two more books to add my endless "To Read" list!

1. Here is my infamous 2012 appearance on Deadspin, an article titled: "After Blown Call And Ensuing Freakout, One Journo Wonders If Penn State Football Should Have Received The Death Penalty."
2. The full title is A Book of Devils and Demons.

Friday, October 7, 2016

From the readers: Koester's Bakery, magic gates and strange orders

Here's the latest collection of great things sent in by Papergreat's readers...

Coupons from the E.H. Koester Bakery Co.: This post from more than 2,000 days ago is one of the most-commented-upon entries in Papergreat history. In August, reader Christy Tuoni went through and answered some of the questions that other readers have had over the years. Here's her introduction:
"My grandfather, A. Carroll Jones, did the advertising for Koester's bakery in the early 1920s. In 1928 he lost his advertising job in NYC and stopped by Koestler's to let Mr. Koester know. Mr. Koester hired him on the spot and made him head of advertising and GM. I have many trolley car proofs as do my relatives. My mother was used in a Christmas ad and I have the first proof. ... My grandfather ran the business for over 40 years. ... The coupons were my grandfather's idea. So were the baseball cards. ... The Koester sons bankrupted the business in the 60s. ... I know my grandfather lost his pension due to bankruptcy. ... My understanding is Sunbeam bakery bought the business after the sons bankrupted the business."
And here are Christy's answers to some of the past reader questions:

Comment from Darcee: "My grandfather, Bernard W. Rial of Baltimore was a painter, and the Koester twins was one of the things he painted. NOT the original I'm sure, but he painted sides of milk trucks and bread trucks, that kind of thing."
Response from Christy: "My grandfather designed these. He did all Koester bakery art from the early 1920s until he retired in the late 60s or 70s. He left us many ads and even used my Mom in a Christmas ad in their home on Gittings Avenue."

Question from Janice: "Could Koester Fresh bread be related to Koestler's Bakery in Vicksburg, Mississippi?"
Response from Christy: "No."

Comment from Anonymous: "I remember Koester's bread from the 1950s. The reason that I even found this site is that my husband and I were discussing bread wrappers from our childhood. Unlike today's bread wrappers, they were made from a waxed paper. ... Anyway, Koester's popped into my mind, and I immediately remembered the sticker on the end of the package that had the painting of the beautiful little twins on it."
Response from Christy: "Yes, their wrapping was waxed. My grandfather even tried to design ring-around bread. He thought it would be a big hit but it really never caught on as a new alternative."

1970s summer comics nostalgia with Thing and Vision, Episode VII: With regard to the magic set won by one of the Grit newspaper delivery boys, Tom from the Garage Sale Finds blog writes: "I wonder if that's the Marshall Brodien TV Magic set he won."

1939 textbook: Stick figures Arthur and Bill attempt to get a job: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "I thought it was going conclude with Arthur getting the job because he tricked Bill into waiting for him allowing Arthur to run past Bill and get the job."

Mystery face on TV screen in real photo postcard: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "Looks like too much hair for Mitch [Miller]. Maybe Perry Como?"

The joy and mystery and history of American place names: Joan writes: "Yay for meandering and tiny towns!!"

1,001 stories through the archway: Anonymous writes: "My first thought when I saw the picture was of the book The Secret Garden."

And Joan writes: "I'm so excited for this. May I volunteer my services as Create-A-Tale Technical Consultant?"

Absolutely! I need all the technical help I can get.

Mystery photo that might have come from an early photo booth: The awesomely named "Volcano-Cat on Youtube" writes: "She looks beautiful... if only we could step into the photograph. ... Love this blog!"

Thanks, Volcano-Cat!

Receipt for Knights of Pythias and Tweets of Old: Volcano-Cat on Youtube writes: "Fraternal Greetings from the Battle Of Waterloo Lodge No 1 (Lodge Nr, 2168) Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, Grand Council. Yes, really! As a 'Primo' or Second Degree Brother I was intrigued by this Order greatly. I'm supposed to be writing, but boredom is a terrible thing and I was noodling round the net to find your blog. Top notch!"

Inspirational Soviet postcard from the 1960s (Yes, I wrote that): Anonymous writes: "Cool postcard! :D And you can practice your Russian cursive here —"

Hey, we're nothing if not education-focused here at Papergreat!

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Finally, we have a happy ending for one of the books featured on Papergreat. The August post "She was proud of her father, the bookseller" featured a 1924 edition of A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony that included inscriptions by Heath McCawley.

Diana Thebaud Nicholson, who wrote the obituary for Heath's sister, Mary Yorke McCawley, got in touch via email. She also knew the girls' father, and wrote:
"E.S. McCawley was my mother’s older brother and one of the world’s delightful people. He graduated from USNA Annapolis, where he was my father’s roommate, in the Class of 1913. He was a prolific and gifted writer of letters and poems to mark any — or no — occasion, and had a highly tuned sense of humor. I remember frequent visits to the bookstore in Villanova, which no doubt contributed to my own love of books."
And Diana also confirmed that Heath McCawley — they call her "Heathie" — is still alive and living in southeastern Pennsylvania. I have mailed A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony to Heathie's niece, so that it can be properly returned to her. That makes me happy.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Statue of Fūjin, the Japanese/Shinto god of the wind

Here's an addition to the series of old postcards from Japan that I've posted in the past couple of weeks.1 This striking card is labeled "God of Wind, Nikko."

Nikko is the location, and more on that in a minute. The name of this god is Fūjin, and he is indeed the Shinto god of the wind. Fūjin is portrayed as a green- or turquoise-skinned demon who carries a large bag of wind on his shoulders (as you can see here). In mythology, Fūjin is one of the children of deities Izanagi and Izanami. According to the website Japanese Mythology: "At the moment of [Fūjin's] birth, it was said that his breath was so powerful that all the clouds and mists in the world were immediately dispersed and world was full of brightness." Fūjin is often paired in stories and depictions with his brother Raijin, the god of lightning, thunder and storms.

Fūjin is not an original creation. His origin within Far East mythology can be traced back to Boreas, the Greek god of the cold north wind, who also carried a bag of wind across his shoulders (see image at right).2 Boreas was just one of multiple wind gods within the Greek pantheon. The entire group of them were named the Anemoi.

Getting back to his particular statue of Fūjin (sometimes Futen), its location is — and please correct me if I get any of these details wrong — the Nitenmon Gate at Taiyuinbyo, the mausoleum of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu. This is within the city of Nikkō, Japan. That statue is paired at the gateway with a red statue of Raijin. To read more about this site, see

I don't have a date for this postcard, but it's certainly pre-World War II. We also need to take into account that it's hand-colored, when comparing this image to contemporary pictures of the Fūjin statue on Muza-chan's Gate to Japan and Pinterest.

That statue has not aged or worn well; some fingers are starting to crumble off. The most interesting, and perhaps hard to explain, difference between the old image on the postcard and the modern pictures is the cape or cloak tied around Fūjin's neck. I'm not sure why there are extra pieces now that weren't there in the first half of the 20th century. Maybe that entire piece was replaced at some point.

1. Previously:
2. Attribution for image of Boreas: By Original uploader was Per Honor et Gloria at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Monday, October 3, 2016

Old postcard: Homes in Germany's Black Forest region

This nifty old postcard features a pastoral illustration of pair of homes and the busy (for then) dirt road in front of them. Someone has written BLACK FOREST on the card, and the architecture certainly seems to be the kind you would find in that historic mountainous region of southwestern Germany.

The artist for this postcard was named H. Hoffman, and the logo for the postcard's publisher is shown at right.

The distinctive Black Forest homes and farms have a history that date back centuries. Many served as combined living quarters for humans and their livestock and silage (wohnstallhaus in German, byre-dwelling in English). The long roofs that extend to the first floor, which can be seen on the homes in this postcard, are one of the primary characteristics of this type of architecture. All of this would often rest upon a strong stone basement/foundation.

As you can probably guess, part of the point of the design was to best withstand the region's harsh weather conditions, which could include high winds and snowy winters. The design also often took into account the direction of the sun's rays in summer and winter, as can be seen in this illustration on Wikipedia.

The popular Black Forest Open Air Museum, located in the Black Forest, features six fully furnished farmhouses, which were originally built in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in the region and have been reassembled at the museum site. The museum opened in 1964.

For related reading on the region, and to learn what life in these houses was like, you might want to check out Black Forest Village Stories by Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882).

Learn how you can get a "100% hand made" Black Forest Weather House for just $2.99!