Podcast

260 – Swamps, Bogs, and Fens Oh My

The Mythcreant Podcast
This week we leave the idyllic forests and pristine meadows behind to enter the deep dark dampness of the swamp! Or the bog, marsh, fen, mangrove forest, whatever floats your swamp boat. These wetlands are often portrayed as dangerous and unfriendly to humans, which isn’t untrue, but there’s another side to them as well. Join us as we talk about the role swamps can play in your story, plus a brief discussion on the logic of letting middle schoolers decide the fate of major development projects.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Never Ending Story

Bog Bodies

Bog Girl

The Dead Marshes

Will O Wisp

Magic School Bus Swamp Episode 

Dagobah

Shrek’s Swamp

The Dark Crystal

The Patriot

Mangrove Forests

Hound of the Baskervilles

Legend

Striga

Avatar Swamp

Perfuma

True Detective

The King in Yellow

The Crow Fishers

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Transcript

Generously transcribed by Carmeazle. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

You’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast with your hosts Oren Ashkenazi, Wes Matlock, and Chris Winkle.

[Intro Music]

Wes: Hello and welcome to the  podcast. I’m your host Wes. And with me today is-

Oren: Oren.

Wes: And-

Chris: Chris.

Wes: And today we are following will-o’-wisps into the mists, into the swamps, into the fens, the bogs and all these others swampy things, full of mystery, intrigue, and wonder.  [Oren: Whooo] Hopefully we do not get lost along the way for there are many perils in the swamps.

Oren: I hope we don’t get bogged down in details.

Chris: Owww!

Wes: -and there’s going to be a lot of that, no doubt. [laughs]

Oren: A lot of swamp puns! [laughs]

Chris: See, Wes has this beautiful, poetic opening, and then you just punned all over it.

Oren: This is the mythcreants podcast, okay. I don’t know what you’ve expected.

Wes: Yeah, so today we’re talking about swamps. It seems like something that is fun to talk about, it’s in all kinds of fiction and yeah, we’ll mention a little bit of the Neverending Story, but probably not too much because I get way too sad thinking about that.

Oren: You have to fight the sadness, though.

Wes: We do, we do have to fight the sadness – for Artax! Right. So types of swampy things. Oren, you had a pretty good breakdown on this?

Oren: Well, I mean I’ve seen the tumbler meme, right? That, and then I googled it to make sure that was accurate. But yeah, so swamps are forested wetlands, marshes are wetlands with mostly, like, grasses and other non-woody or non-tree plants, bogs have a lot of peat and are acidic. And fens are alkaline or basic, and I’m going to be honest, I don’t entirely know what that means.

Chris: Here’s the thing to know about bogs, and I don’t know much about the others, but that’s where the bog bodies come from.

Wes: Yeees, the bog folk.

Chris: Also known as bog people, which I think is even creepier than bog bodies because you’re implying that there’s a lot of these bodies and that they might come to life or something – the bog people [laughs].

Wes: There was a – I know I can get the title right, I might mislabel the author – but there’s a short story that was published in the New Yorker, I think last year sometime, called Bog Girl. And I want to say Karen Russell, but I might be mistaken. But yeah, it’s the story of this 17-18 year old boy who like lives near a bog and basically finds like a preserved body of like, a young woman. And it’s surreal and weird and speculative fiction-y and I suggest you read it [laughs]. It’s like the, yeah. Anyway, I can’t talk about without fully spoiling it, but it’s definitely… boggy and peaty and awesome.

Chris: I suspect bogs are where Tolkien got the inspiration for the dead marshes. So which is what you see in ah, which movie is it? The Return of the King or The Two Towers that Frodo walks through the dead marshes?

Oren: I think it’s Return of the King is when that happens?

Wes: It would be like early return of the King, right? ‘Cause they’re trying to get into Mordor at that point. So that was good, I liked that. Visually in the movies that was pretty well-shot.

Chris: Yeah, it was really cool, really creepy to see all of the like undead under the water. And so the point is that bogs, because of the acidity and the really low oxygen is also a key, and the places where there’s bog bodies, it’s also in temperate regions where it’s fairly cool, that also makes a difference, it preserves actual flesh of bodies for thousands of years, but the skin turns dark because of the acid. So even though all the flesh is basically preserved, they like, everybody looks dark brown.

Oren: They look real weird.

Wes: Yeah, every time you see like a picture of a preserved bog person, it’s just, it’s like, it’s uncanny, just the detail on them and stuff. And then of course the ones that they pull out that also have nooses around their necks and you’re just like ewww-

Chris: Yeah, they’re all murdered!

Wes: Which I guess if you’ve got, if you have a peat bog, you’re like, ‘well, we gotta get rid of this body, right?’

Chris: Well, there’s different theories. One is that they’re actual ritual sacrifices, but I don’t think people are sure.

Oren: Look, if you’ve got someone you’re going to bury them in a bog, it’s probably not someone I think you like to whole lot, would be my guess. My uneducated, unarcheological guess. I’m just like, yeah, if I liked this guy, I wouldn’t have buried him in a bog.

Wes: Do we know? Are there any bog gods that they could have been sacrifices to?

Chris: Well, that’s the thing. The question is, were they druids? Right? Cause druids had this whole- did sacrifices and had this whole like underground after life. I don’t know that much about druids, but there’s even a question if some of them were actually well-respected people that were like, this is their version of the pyramids or something.

Yeah. So there’s just, there’s a lot of different theories. I don’t think anybody knows for sure. And who knows? Maybe they come from a variety of different… ‘cause the bodies that are found in there, some of them are just skeletons. You know, there’s the oldest one I think is from 8,000 BC.

Wes: Wow. Wow.

Chris: Yeah, long time ago. So, you know, that’s a really big time period, so they could be in there for a variety of reasons. But the violent deaths though, are a strange linkage.

Oren: Well, it’s not really a secret that in most stories, swamps tend to be negative. They tend to have negative associations. Sometimes these are directly negative, like they are magically bad or they have evil will-o’-wisps in them. Sometimes it’s just that like they’re an obstacle or a problem that the hero has to overcome. Or we just use them to really emphasize how miserable the hero is. I think there’s a pretty clear reason for that is that wetlands in general are pretty inhospitable for humans. Like as a rule, they’re not a kind of terrain we like to live in, uh, cause it’s hard to build things in them, and there’s moisture everywhere, which is bad for anything you do build, and also has a tendency to main more diseases and you can easily, there’s a lot of hazards. It’s hard to navigate them. So just in general, they aren’t like a great place for humans to be. So it makes sense why they’re so negatively portrayed in fiction, which is a little unfortunate cause they do serve really important roles in the ecosystem. I’ve seen Magic School Bus, I know.

Wes: [laughs] It’s a good point too, maybe there’s so much going on in swamps, right? It’s like, it’s not hospitable to our life, but like generally there’s just so much happening on all levels that I, you know, I kind of wonder if maybe like storytellers are appropriately a little shy about approaching that terrain.

You know, it’s why it usually has like a small role in a movie. You know, in the Princess Bride, they’re going through the fire swamp and they have to hone in on three specific dangers, right? Just as three specific challenges they have to overcome. And then I’m thinking about the Elder Scrolls games, setting an adventure in Skyrim is like, ‘Oh, okay, we have temperate and alpine forests, that’s really easy to render.’ That’s great. That’s fun to adventure, but they’re probably never going to do a full solo-based game around like Black Marsh, right? The Argonian Homeland, that’s nothing but swamps. There’s just maybe just too much like, I don’t know how you conceive of that and keep it like not from being overwhelming. I mean, you could do it, but if you can, why haven’t we seen more of that.

Oren: Well, the only video game I can think of off the top of my head that takes place largely in swamps, if I recall correctly, is Bloodborne, which is a very dark and you know, scary horror type game. And I honestly, I think that’s really just- the swamp doesn’t match the mood that Skyrim wants. Like swamps, again, they have a such a negative connotation, which I don’t think they have to. I think you could tell a more upbeat story in a swamp. That’s actually one of the reasons why I really liked Dagobah from Return of the Jedi cause it’s, you know, before we’d gotten too much into what created the forest and before midichlorians (thank God) you know, all we knew about the force was that life created it, right? It was created by all living things and so it made sense to me that a Jedi master would live in a swamp that’s just full of all kinds of weird life everywhere. I thought that was neat. And  I liked, I liked the Dagobah swamp, and I liked that, you know, it ate Luke’s X-Wing. I thought that was cool.

Wes: Dagobah is a positive portrayal and then Shrek trying to save his home – which is a swamp – from Lord Farquaad. And then other than that, it’s just – everything is just kind of spooky and bad. Chris, do you have a positive portrayal?

Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. My favorite is the marsh in the Dark Crystal movie.

Wes: Oh yeah, that’s right.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. So in the original, before the Netflix show, the original movie, and the main character is, you know, traveling, and it’s all about these like weird puppet creatures that look amazing. And I was so happy that they carried that over to the show. And the show I don’t think has shown any swamps though. But in the original movie, he goes through the swamp. That’s where he finds Fizzgig, actually. And there’s these like cool big frogs under the water and these little buddy things that make chirpy noises and just, oh, there’s a tree. There’s a tree that crawls out of the water in the Dark Crystal movie, and it’s just full of life. And then the two main characters, they meet in the swamp because Jen is like, so incompetent he almost drowns on a puddle.

[laughter]

Kira saves him from a puddle and yeah, she’s on an escort quest throughout the whole movie. So then they, they go out on this boat through the marshes and then they do their, like she sings and he plays his little instrument that I wish could be real. And then as they’re doing music, all of the noises of the creatures and the frogs are in the background, kind of like syncing with the music. It’s really cool. And that really does bring together kind of like the weirdness. And Jen is a fish out of water. Right? So him being- it is strange to him, it is somewhat inhospitable to him, but Kira is right at home. Right. And so she brings the, like the appreciation of all the things that are living there. You know, and all those animals and things. So really cool sequence. That’s my favorite Marsh.

Wes: I want to go watch it right now. You sold me, it’s great.

Chris: Yeah, you should, especially if you liked the show.

Oren: Another way you can use swamps more positively is that a swamp is a really strong ally if you live there and are trying to defend yourself, because if you know the swamp and the other person doesn’t, that’s a really serious advantage for you. And I mean like, knowing the terrain is always an advantage in a fight. But in swamps in particular, because they can be really treacherous and there are so many obstacles. Uh, it is, if you are, you know, the less powerful force, you could use the swamp to hide and to battle a much more powerful enemy. And this is, of course, been done a lot in real life. There are countless examples of smaller, usually guerrilla forces that use the swamp as a hideout and all that. There’s even a very historically inaccurate movie about it during the revolution called The Patriot, which is not like a great movie or an at all accurate in any way, but it does show a swamp in a positive light, so I’m bringing it up.

Wes: [laughs] Nice job, good job!

Oren: And it’s also notable that most of these examples we’re talking about are swamps, like specifically swamps because swamps have lots of trees. And that just makes for better fantasy environments in most cases, cause it limits visibility whereas other kinds of wetlands very often don’t have a lot of tall vegetation, so even though they’re treacherous to navigate, you can kind of see everywhere around you, which I’ve noticed is a thing that fantasy authors don’t like. They like to be able to limit your vision.

Chris: Yeah, get lost in the magical forest. I really love the way mangrove forests look. Just look up a Google image search on mangrove forests, and you know, all these trees in the water. Very pretty.

Wes: So neat, yeah.

Oren: Yeah, Mangrove swamps are FENtastic.

Chris: [laughs]

Wes: Oh nooo! [laughs] Let’s see. We didn’t mention moors, and I think they’re kind of like marshes.

Oren: Are moors a kind of wetland? I thought I looked this up and that they weren’t.

Wes: I’m, I’m trying to recall  Hound of the Baskervilles because that’s certainly not a swamp, but it’s certainly not dry either. And I thought that they referred to them as moors, but it might’ve just been that there’s marshes around that estate.

Oren: Okay. Well, I’m looking it up on Wikipedia and it says that moors can be wetlands, but are not always wetlands.

Wes: So they are just defined by like low- again, like there’s no trees really it’s just open and hilly-ish.

Oren: All right. ‘A moor or moorland is a type of habitat found in Upland areas in temperate grasslands, savannas and shrublands’, blah, blah, blah. It goes on for a while. ‘Also include low-lying wetlands such as the Sedge Moor’, also Southwest England. Apparently all of Southwest England is a low-lying wetland according to this.

[laughter]

Wes: Well, yeah, okay.

Oren: Good job, Wikipedia! But I mean, yeah, the Hound of Baskerville uses the moors the same way you would use a creepy swamp or a bog or whatever, right? Cause it’s like, isn’t it dangerous? The idea is that you could get like swallowed up if you ran out there.

Wes: I think so.

Oren: I feel like that’s what happened. Also, just like, you hear weird sounds on the moors, that’s like a thing.

Wes: That’s definitely what I was going to pick up is like, if there’s no trees to mess with your vision, then they’re going to set the scene in like nighttime and they’re going to play with your play with your hearing and make sure that you’re all this- all the weird sounds are disorienting you and stuff.

Oren: ‘Cause if there’s no trees, then sound can carry for a really long time, right? And so you can hear stuff, you hear all kinds of weird stuff and you can’t tell how far away it is, right. So that’s another kind of creep you can use.

Wes: Oren made the point about, you know, being inhospitable to human life. And so is that why witches live in swamps because they are more than human and they can do it?

Oren: I mean, if I was a woman in the medieval times and I knew about birth control, I would also hide in the swamp.

[Wes and Chris: laugh]

Oren: The church can’t get me in here.

Wes: Yeah, they are like, ‘she’s lost anyway, we’ll just let her go. The swamp can take her’. [laughs]

Chris: I mean, it does fit the creepiness factor, right? That witches are supposed to have, and it reminds me of the movie Legend, which is this old Tom Cruise, young Tom Cruise movie.

Wes: Oh, that was Tom Cruise, that’s right! And isn’t it- is Tim Curry the devil in that, maybe?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Tim Curry is a devil. It’s great fun. It’s like a bad movie, but bad in like a really entertaining way. But they have a swamp witch that comes up from the water and doesn’t like, look human at all. It looks like a- it reminds me of the Striga in the Witcher, kind of a monster, but she kind of comes up and she wants to eat the main character who was basically Link. [laughs] But that’s what that reminds you of. But that’s more like monstrous. And that’s a cool thing of having water around too, right? Is that things can come up out of the water easily.

Oren: And of course, you know the, the water can be deceptively deep, right. That’s another thing that’s nice about swamps is that the water tends to be fairly cloudy and it can be shallow and then suddenly you can step in a hole and the water’s, you know, deep enough to swallow you up. Right? That’s another reason why swamps are hard to cross. And even when there’s not water the ground is really soft, which is a problem if you are, say, writing a story about an army trying to get across a swamp, and suddenly all of their heavy supplies or artillery, if they have it or anything that starts to get, you know, sunk into the mud and they just can’t move it. And this is one of the reasons why some places are built on the edge of swamps in on purpose because it actually makes it so that, an opposing army has a really hard time attacking you from that angle. That’s why for a long time, the Goths in Italy had Ravenna as their capital because it was a coastal city, but the landward side of it was mostly surrounded by swamps. So it was very hard to attack from the land. And this was a real problem for the Byzantines when they invaded during the reign of Justinian and you know, whatever. I could go on on that for awhile, but anyway, you get the idea.

Wes: That’s cool. Yeah, that’s really cool. Strategic.

Oren: Yeah. So if you’re thinking big epic fantasy, and you’re considering like ‘who would build a city near a swamp?’ It’s like, well, that’s why. Right there. There are reasons you might do that. Probably not in the swamp, though. ‘Cause in the swamp is a bad place. Even if you have huge tracks of land, it’s just not going to work.

Chris: Avatar: The last Airbender has the swamp water benders, which was really neat.

Wes: Yeah, especially the guy that controls the swamp thing.

Chris: The swamp vegetation, swamp seaweed. I don’t actually know what plant that was, but yeah, the idea that the plants have so much water that now you can water bend plants around and yeah, gave himself a whole suit of vines. That was really cool.

Wes: He deserved far more credit as one of the most powerful benders in that world, right? Especially in that episode where he comes like, the swamp veterans come to help them when they’re attacking the fire nation with – isn’t that when the, not when the comet’s coming – the eclipse, when they did that attack and it’s just like, he’s taking out tanks with this thing. He’s taking hits, but this guy has made a massive Gollum of vines by himself. And everybody else is like ‘We’re trying hard!’ and he’s like ‘I am the swamp.’ That’s just amazing.

Chris: I have to say characters that can manipulate plants are often super powerful in cartoons. I think it’s partly that, like it feels easy to come up with ways they can use the plants that don’t kill people. In most cartoons, you don’t know, they show graphing deaths, right? Like Perfuma in She-Ra manipulates plants and she is so OP, and so it’s like everybody who does plants – No, it’s not just a little bit of plant movement. It’s like ‘I have a plant empire’.

Wes: [laughs]

Oren: Yeah, in Avatar, it definitely also made sense because it was like, he had a way of creating a defense for himself. Like, whereas for at least… the only other benders who can really do that seem to be the earth benders, because they can create a rock suit. Whereas for water benders, it just doesn’t seem to be a thing they can really do, but he found a loophole with the plant. What, with the plant bending. And also that swamp just used the idea of one tree being like the whole swamp, which is also modelled off of a real thing that is super cool. And I thought that was neat. It was like, the whole swamp is actually just one enormous tree.

Wes: That’s so cool.

Oren: And it was just really neat. I liked it a lot. And you know, it was creepy, but at the same time it turned out it wasn’t evil. It came to give them some very important foreshadowing. Like without that swamp, we might not have ever had Toph, and what would the show have been without Toph? Nothing. I tell you. The worst.

Wes: Nothing, yeah. And otherwise normal – well, normal-ish swamp, but they definitely needed to kind of get that mystical element in there, right? Like you see, there’s like visions in the swamps and stuff. Maybe because of all the gases, they’re just high all the time [laughs].

Oren: Yeah. I mean swamp gases is a joke, but it’s also a real thing that can happen. And that’s like what if the hypothesis is for where will-o’-wisps come from, is that in some points, swamp gas actually just ignites and creates a little burst of fire. And so if you don’t know what that is, yeah, sure, that could be a magic fairy. I don’t know.

Wes: And the natural reaction is like ‘What was that? Let’s go deep into the swamp to find out!’ [laughs]

Oren: And so it sort of lured you in, cause you wanted to know what it was and then you died ‘cause swamps are dangerous.

[Wes laughs]

Chris: I should mention that will-o’-wisps aren’t like universally evil in folktales, though there are some good will-o’-wisps, so you can still have will-o’-wisps and have a wetland that’s like good wetland that is helpful.

Wes: I think they’re more interesting portrayed in that traditional fae sense of just neutral and like mischievous, right? They just kind of want to mess with you. You know, they’re not out to actively harm you, but you know, they don’t mind inconveniencing you at all.

Chris: Or you could have a will-o’-wisp that does take you through a dangerous swamp, but if you manage to make it, there’s like something valuable at the end, right?

Wes: Or the will-o’-wisp is that it just really wants to show you something cool ‘You followed me this whole way? Check out this rock. It’s great!’ [laughs]

Chris: [laughs] ‘It just needs a friend.’

Wes: ‘Yeah. I’m so lonely!’

Oren: The real treasure was the swamp we explored along the way.

Wes: Owww [laughs] Let’s see. Swamps, I think by the mystical association can like give you, well give stories, hints of the supernatural when there – when there actively isn’t, right. And I’m thinking of True Detective season one where they’re investigating these murders and stuff, and there’s so much happening in this kind of like wetland marsh area. I think it’s at Alabama, Alabama maybe. But they, all they need to do is introduce a little bit of King in Yellow-talk and put it in the right location. And then I remember as those episodes were airing, everybody was like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s The King in Yellow! There’s like non-Euclidean horrors in the swamps and there’s a massive cult dedicated to it!’ And at the end it’s like, ‘no, it was just a bunch of really evil men doing these horrible, horrible things.’ But the environment added a mystical element in an otherwise just plain story, you know? Plain. I shouldn’t say that, but-

Oren: -but non-magical.

Wes: Non-magical, yeah. Non-magical. It added some kind of a component of magical realism while keeping it just non-magical.

Oren: I mean, it made it easier for them to make you think that maybe there was altered horror stuff going on when it was actually just asshole humans. And that’s the thing that swamp is good for, that swamps are very thematic. And you know, they look scary and they look kind of weird and magical anyway, if in the right light. So yeah, I get why they would do that. I also was a big fan of the swamp in Fury Road. And not just because I love everything about Fury Road.

Chris: Not just because.

Oren: But also because. But I mean, in that movie the swamp is kind of used both as like some contrast, so the whole area isn’t just desert constantly, but it’s also just a fun obstacle that they have to overcome because their truck gets stuck and they have to get it out, and I just thought that was neat.

Chris: Also… the Crow fishers, I know you love the Crow fishers.

Oren: The Crow fishers are one of the few things about this movie I don’t love because they fake an explanation and the movie does not have one. You have to go and check the secondary sources.

Chris: But they’re so cool.

Oren: They are really cool-looking okay, but they just, I felt like they should have been part of the plot, they were too cool-looking.

Chris: [laughs] They were very cool-looking for something that had such a small presence in the movie.

Oren: Another swamp related question I have is, I don’t know if you guys ever actually saw the Magic School Bus swamp episode. But the premise of that movie – or that episode, excuse me -is that they’re debating whether or not to build a mall where occurrence swamp is.

Chris: Hm, too real.

Oren: All the kids start off being like ‘Obviously we want to build the mall!’ and the episode is about teaching the kids why the swamp is so important, right. Fair enough. But who in their right mind would decide whether or not to build a major development based on 12-year-olds having a debate?

Wes: [laughs] I don’t know, what’s your problem?

Oren: What kind of urban planning do we have here? It’s like ‘this development could cost millions of dollars. We’re going to ask the local elementary school to tell us whether or not we should do it!’ I just feel like that’s a little above their pay grade, you know?

Wes: [laughs]

Chris: [laughs] I mean, if we want to sway public opinion, I do think that some development happens or not happens based on how much local resistance there is. So I guess if we want to do something like that and make it more realistic, we could have like, you know, after the kids at the elementary school come out against it, it gets their parents involved, it’s a really good story that goes out in the newspapers and then suddenly the public turns against the, you know, project that that would be real.

Oren: I need my dark, gritty reboot of Magic School Bus to redo this episode.

Wes: [laughs]

Chris: [laughs] It doesn’t have to be dark and gritty.

Oren: That’s the only kind of reboot there is, Chris: dark and gritty, and it’s a swamp. So that just makes sense.

Wes: I want to circle back to Neverending Story briefly, just because we’ve talked about all the dangers that a swamp presents and to my knowledge, that’s the story that says ‘hey, all the dangers in these swamps are directly like attached to basically your willpower’, right? It’s like, you need to not get sad. You have to believe and get through this, right? It’s like a faith tour through the swamp. And I thought that, I think that’s cool. I mean it’s, it tears me up thinking about the whole scene, but that, I think taking the natural danger of the swamp, but then adding that element of- the sadness component, right, it really adds the threat.

Chris: So, Wes, are you gonna be okay if I summarize the scene? So anybody who hasn’t seen Neverending Story… you’re going to be okay? [laughs]

Wes: Yeah, just let me mute you. [laughs] Go ahead. Yeah, go ahead Chris.

Chris: Okay. Okay. So in the Neverending Story, one of the characters, Atreyu, has this horse named Artax and they head into the swamp, to find a big turtle called Moria, which – one of my favorite characters, I still remember: ‘We don’t even care whether or not we care.’ ‘Cause this turtle speaks about itself in plural, but they have to ask the wise turtle for things. So, but it’s called the swamps of sadness where the turtle lives, and it causes them to get all discouraged and the horse Artax sinks into the swamp. And it’s a really sad scene – when you’re a child! when you’re an adult watching the scene, it’s hilarious. In my opinion. Because you get to see Atreyu just monologue at this horse about how the horse should not give up and not give into the head sadness, and the horse is just standing there being a horse, right? But it’s like this super dramatic scene: ‘No, Artax, don’t give in to the sadness. You know, you can’t give up, Artaaax!’

Oren: That scene is a little sad to me because I don’t like watching bad things happen to animals. But it’s a very bizarre sequence in context because we just met this kid, we don’t know anything about him or his bond with his horse, and then suddenly we have this extremely extra over the top scene where he is just like emoting at maximum level at this horse, as if the horse understands him. And I’m like, okay, this is a fantasy world. Maybe the horse can understand him? I don’t know. It’s a weird scene.

Chris: But when you’re a kid and you’re just buying into the scene and just getting like involved in the story, right? You’re thinking about this poor horse, right? And so it’s an upsetting scene that kids do not forget, generally. But like sometimes when you’re adult and you’re looking at this as a production and not as a real thing that’s happening, right, and you’re looking like ‘oh, yep. They put us a horse in this scene. The horse is just kind of standing there being a horse.’ Instead of buying into the idea that this is happening and then watching this child actor be super melodramatic at the horse, right? It’s a, it’s a different experience.

Wes: I do like how that scene sets up the later con- when Atreyu has the confrontation with the wolf and you know, he’s basically- later in the movie, he meets this wolf and the wolf basically talks about how he was sent to kill Atreyu, but he doesn’t know that he’s talking to Atreyu ‘cause he thinks that he lost Atreyu in the swamp. And there’s just that great line when Atreyu is like, ‘come for me, Gmork, I am Atreyu’ And it’s just like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I thought that was good. That was good delivery. It’s like, you stupid wolf, I’m here for you. And he also, he just like doesn’t care at that point. He’s like ‘Oh, my horse drowned in the swamp and everything’s terrible. Might as well provoke this giant wolf.’

Chris: But yeah, I mean, that is really good, as Wes was saying, it’s a really good example of using swamps as a representation of emotion, in this case. Just the fact that you’re trying to walk and the swamp is like slowing you down every step and you just start to get really sad and then at some point you give up and that’s what is your downfall.

Oren: We are running short on time, but there is one more thing I wanted to mention about swamps that can be very handy. Swamps are very uncomfortable for humans to be in, not just for all the other reasons we mentioned, but just because they’re humid and they tend to be hot. Not always, some swamps are in cooler environments, right? But they tend to be muggy and warm, and they also tend to smell pretty bad and have lots of insects. So you can really dial up the, if you want to make your character feel bad and be in an unpleasant situation, you can use swamps for that and it’s very visceral and you will probably get a reaction out of your readers. I’m not saying now if you want that reaction, exactly. But if that’s what you’re looking for, the swamp is your friend.

All right. Well with that very pleasant image, we will go ahead and call this episode to a close, but first I want to thank a few of our patrons: First, we have Cathy Ferguson, professor of political theory in Star Trek. Next we have Ayman Jaber, who writes urban fantasy and knows all there is to know about Marvel. And finally we have Danita Rambo, and she lives at therambogeeks.com. We will talk to you next week.

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Comments

  1. Kenneth Mackay

    Interesting podcast! A few random thoughts about it…
    One theory about the bog bodies is that they were chieftans or kings – there’s an ancient belief that the health of the land is tied to the health of the king. This was fine as long as the crops were good, but at the period many of these bog bodies have been dated to, there was a shift in the climate to colder, wetter weather resulting in poor harvests; the kings were blamed and ritually sacrificed by the ‘threefold death’ (drowned, garroted and knocked on the head simultaneously).

    I think you’re confusing ‘moor’ and ‘mire’ – the sucking bog in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ is ‘the Great Grimpen Mire’, and is only one area of the moor. Moors are generally heathery, with rocky outcrops.

    Mists are common in wetlands, and a great way to limit vision. So is rain…

    A rare, but dangerous, phenomenon in peat bogs is the ‘bog burst’ – in persistently heavy rain, water can soak down through the outer layers of peat and grass, creating vast quantities of liquid mud. This mud is too thick to ooze back out through the fibrous outer layers, so builds up beneath them, forming a swollen dome containing mud at increasingly high pressure. Once the pressure overcomes the tensile strength of the peat, the dome bursts like a volcano (or a popped pimple), spraying hundreds of thousands of gallons of mud in all directions. Some bog bursts have been known to bury whole villages!

    • Cay Reet

      Yes, a lot of the information scientists have gotten from the bog bodies suggest that those men and women were rather healthy and lived a good and easy life, which suggests they were upper class, not just simple workers or even slaves. The overkill with which they were killed (hit over the head, garrotted, and drowned) also speaks for a ritualistic killing and not just for someone hitting their neighbour over the head and then getting rid of the body.

  2. LeeEsq

    You can have the characters go cray fishing and shrimping. Run a Cajun campaign but with magic monster equivalents of the usual denizens of the swamps. Maybe even have some ominous swamp dwellers. Plus you can play dueling banjoes as mood music.

  3. LeeEsq

    More seriously, one of the mini-kingdoms in Ravenloft attempted to use the Louisiana swamp setting. It was basically a slaves and plantation settings with zombies. TSR totally got the racial issues with such a setting confused because the rules book said that there are light and dark skinned masters and slaves. I guess that having a more accurate setting filled with a white upper class and every slave be black was too on the nose for them.

    It kind of trivialized what they were going for. “We think that having a fantasy New Orleans/Antebellum Louisiana setting would be great for our horror fantasy world? Wouldn’t that involve confronting the legacy of slavery? Your right, Dave. Let’s have white and black masters and slaves to get around any awkwardness.”

    Sometimes you really need to be on direct point even if the readership might mind it preachy.

    • Caide Fullerton

      While there definitely weren’t black slave masters, I’d like to comment that their were white slaves, despite common belief. The Irish were slaves for much of their history, unfortunately.

      • Lillian

        The book Poison, by Chris Wooding (excellent Faerie story!), is partially set in a fantasy marsh village.
        It is so well described and just… uck. You would not wanna live there.

      • LeeEsq

        The Irish were conquered and exploited but they weren’t slaves. English, Welsh, and Scottish people didn’t sell them within and without the British Empire. The Irish actively took part in the colonial administration of the British Empire, serving as soldiers and administrators in different colonies. They also, after Catholic Emancipation in 1829, had representation in Parliament.

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