Ukiyo-e 浮世絵 – Pictures of the Floating World

This gallery contains 6 photos.

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The Girl Who Learned How to Fly but Forgot How to Land

Flying

“their heart grew cold they let their wings down” 

Icarus was the son of master craftsman Daedalus, he who had created the winding paths of the Labyrinth for King Minos of Knossos near his palace in Crete in order to imprison the beast that was the half-bull, half-man creature; the Minotaur. Theseus was tasked with the challenge of defeating the Minotaur and rescuing the Athenian boys and girls who had been sacrificed to the beast. He told his father, Aegeus he would sail away with a black mast but would return with a white mast to signal his success in defeating the Minotaur. Daedalus decided to help him by giving Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, who was in love with Theseus, a ball of string to aid him in finding his way out of the maze. Thus Theseus found his way to the heart of the Labyrinth where he came upon the sleeping creature and with his sword stabbed the beast in the throat and decapitated him. To find his way out again, Theseus followed the string that he had carefully placed down on his way into the Labyrinth. He reached the entrance and was able to escape the island with the captive Athenians as well as Ariadne and her younger sister Phaedra. Looking for water on their way back, the group came to the island of Naxos where they fell asleep on the beach after their arduous journey. Athena woke Theseus and told him to leave the island early in the morning but to leave Ariadne for Dionysus, who was God of the island. Stricken with grief at the prospect of losing Ariadne, Theseus left Naxos but forgot to change the sails on his boat from black to white. Thus his father believed that Theseus had failed in his task and so committed suicide before the crew arrived back from the expedition.

Tragedy befell Theseus and, because of his reckless actions in trying to aid the hero, Daedalus was sentenced to live in the Labyrinth with his son Icarus by King Minos. They too were the victims of tragedy for when clever Dadaelus came up with a solution to help the pair escape, Icarus acted with hubris and failed his father. Daedalus constructed a pair of wings, robust and strong, sealed with wax, and gave them to Icarus to try to fly out of the Labyrinth, warning him not to fly to close or too far from the sun. If he flew too near to the sea, the water might clog up the mechanism in the wings, and if he flew too near to the sun the wax holding the wings together would melt. In fact, Icarus, full of the caprice of being able to fly, did not heed to his father’s advice and flew too close to the sun, melting the wax and burning the feathers that made up the pair of wings. He fell into the sea, which now bears his name and was drowned.

With this history in her mind, the heroine of our story, Fteró, came to construct from carefully carved wood, glue and feathers, a pair of wings certain to enable their user to fly vast distances across wide open seas. The wings were large but not cumbersome, light and strong, held together tightly with string and sealed with strong glue, which would not melt under the sun’s heavy rays. It took months of drawing up plans and undergoing trials and failures before Fteró found she had a machine that worked correctly. But eventually she succeeded in building a device that could lift one high into the sky and allow one to fly. On the day of reckoning, Fteró strapped herself into the machine she had created, wearing upon her back the complex and thorough wings that she had designed and built. She transformed from mortal to something else: a beast, a monster, a creature of flight. Climbing to the red cliff tops in order to put her creation in to practice, Fteró passed by rocky mountain outcrops and grassy banks scattered with the sun-bleached bones of animals sacrificed or hunted. She reached the promontory and began to run towards the sea below and the clouds above. Building up speed and momentum, she thrust her arms, transformed into wings, out either side of her body and waited for the air to lift her into the sky. As she reached the edge of the cliff, she felt a sudden gust of wind under her body and she found that she was flying. The wings were a success. The glue held, the mechanism functioned correctly, and Fteró was flying high above the open ocean, arms outstretched, moving strong and graceful in the air.

As she flew, she felt the freedom of a bird, gliding softly across the skies. But tragedy once again struck our protagonist, for just as she saw the night time begin to encroach, the sun falling in the sky, the air turning orange and then red, Fteró realised that she had succeeded only in so far as she was able to fly. She had not foreseen the challenge, new as it was to her, of landing back upon the earth in her mechanised wings. She was thus condemned to spend her life eternal soaring high in the skies and watching over the lives of those on the earth below. She had learned how to fly but had forgotten to learn how to land and was to spend the rest of days in the company of the birds. Though her arms ached, she continued to fly trapped by her very desire for freedom. Once mortal, now machine, bird, monster, she kept her arms raised, her wings spread, for fear of falling to her death if she did not.

Creation

Creation

The Girl Who Cut Out Her Heart and Buried it in the Snow

Heart

“but a kind of yearning has hold of me – to die and to look upon the dewy lotus banks of Acheron”

Is there an animal with no heart? Does the absence of the beating rhythm stop all life or can one go on without a heart? Like the lion in the Wizard of Oz who yearns for a heart.

Aíma was a girl who had dreamed of having no heart. She was quite young, not yet fully grown, but curious. She worked in a butchers in the city and her long days were spent cutting, dicing, fileting, packing, selling. She was used to the feel of raw flesh in her hands and the red brown of blood under her fingernails. But she had always wondered about it – could a person live without a heart? Her dreams told her they could.

On this night she was lying in her bed in her apartment trying to cool off. She had a temperature, she was burning up and the night air was not cooling the fire that prickled under her skin. She wrestled with the sheets, fanning herself with the billowing material but try as she might, she couldn’t cool down. In and out of consciousness, her mind drifted to the dreams that were always in the back of her thoughts. She started to dream of having no heart.

After a while, the heat was too much and the open window was not helping. The chill of the winter air did nothing to quell her fever. Aíma had had enough and sat up in bed, her mind wandering as it did to animals living, breathing without a heart. She got up and without questioning her actions; she walked to the kitchen and found a pair of scissors. She gripped them in her hands and throwing her coat on, she left the apartment carrying the scissors under her clothes. She could feel the cold metal on her skin and it felt amazing. In the city at night there were not many people about. It was perhaps one or two in the morning. Few shops were open and Aíma was not distracted by other walkers. She left the apartment block and began to walk, faster with each step. She knew where she was going but at the same time she did not. She just followed where her feet took her. It started to snow.

On the outskirts of the city, she eventually reached a disused warehouse with a large car park. It was empty save a few bicycles chained to the railings and an old beaten up Corvette that had seen better days. Still holding the scissors under her jacket, Aíma walked purposefully to the corner of the car park where yesterday’s snowfall was backed up against the wall. The fresh snow was light and melting as it touched the white compacted powder on the concrete. But slowly, it began to settle. Aíma could feel it on her skin, cooling her hot, stinging flesh. She took the scissors and began to gauge a hole in the snow and ice. Deep she struggled with the scissors – they were just regular kitchen scissors – until she had a hole about 30cm into the snow. She took off her jacket and grasped the scissors before stabbing the open blades into her chest. The pain of the cut was alleviated by the cold touch of the scissors. Aíma dug deeper and passing through layers of flesh and ribs, she reached her heart. She felt it beating fast under the bones and cartilage and reasoned that she must cut it out. There was a lot of blood on her hands, on the scissors and spattered on the white grey snow. Drops of red and black mixing with the ice. She was sweating and shivering at once and felt as though she was about to faint.

But she persevered and cutting with the scissors at lumps and bumps of flesh and skin, she could feel her heart in her hands, She was used to holding bloody flesh from working at the butchers, but this was hotter, burning. She took the heart and threw it down into the hole she had dug before covering it over with layers of old snow. She wiped the scissors clean on her coat and crawled under the material, curled up on the snow next to where she had buried her heart. It was just as it was in her dreams. She rested her head on the ice and went to sleep. Her ritual was complete.

 

The Bear with Pale Fur

Bear 1

 “you came and I was crazy for you and you cooled my mind that burned with longing”

In the forest on the west side of the island there was a deep woodland grove filled with life and excitement. There were animals and creatures, who had made the woods their home and they lived in peace among the trees and plants. In the fresh, moist soils the chokecherry trees grew, dark and slender under the oppressive skies. There were currant bushes with red, black and white berries, which became rich purple as they ripened under the warm sun, and cottonwood trees plentiful with white fluffy catkins, standing a hundred years old near the banks of the rivers. The woodland was made deep blue with fine spruces littering the forest floor and tall with golden aspens creating a vibrant canopy, home to birds and mammals of all kinds. Woodpeckers induced a cacophony of music in the trees, tapping on the bark to release the sap and feasting on beetles and larvae. At night, red foxes roamed the woods, listening for prey, hunting for frogs, insects and fallen apples, and by day garter snakes crawled through the earth, searching for worms and leeches, and hiding from predators. The forest housed thousands of honeybees, who produced the sweet golden ingredient that fed so many inhabitants of the land. They clustered around their hives, drones and workers all fast and busy, working for their queen.

In the forest life abounded and there were creatures of all sizes living side by side. There was a girl who lived alongside the flora and fauna. Her name was Agnótita and she was wild and beautiful, the most beautiful of the daughters of the forest. She was strong and smart and had dark eyes and long chestnut hair. Her skin was white and pure and from it drew deep red blood when she cut herself on thorns and branches.

With her home the forest, Agnótita made use of her skills in finding food and shelter. She lived inside a tree, which sheltered her from the storms that from time to time hit the island, but she was missing one thing that she longed for. She yearned for a companion. One day in the early morning Agnótita saw through a crack in the trees a tall upright shape, a figure. She was intrigued and came closer to see more clearly the person she had glanced. Immediately, on seeing clearly the figure standing before her, Agnótita fell in love. She longed to hold the bear with pale fur.

He was tall, present, and covered with a golden fur, which glinted under the early morning sunshine. He moved slowly and his pale fur was almost luminous as he did so. Agnótita found the bear and he too fell in love with her. But circumstances dictated that they could not be together. He was an animal, fierce and wild, and she was a mere mortal woman. Nevertheless, the pair decided they could not be apart. They hid in secret inside the tree that was home to Agnótita, the bear cradled his love, squashed and cramped against the branches and leaves.

For Agnótita knew that the bear was indeed a man trapped inside the body of bear. She knew that tragedy had befallen him and he was doomed to live out the rest of his days as the bear with pale fur. She did not care what he had done to incur the wrath of the gods which turned him into a bear, she cared only for he man she loved and decided to stay with him, hiding out of sight. The pair lived together for years until Agnótita grew old and frail, and eventually died. She was turned into a sycamore tree on the edge of the forest. This broke the bear’s heart once again and he roamed the forest day and night trying to glimpse the woman he had loved, but finding only a tree where she used to be.

The Hamadryads

Hamadryads 1

“Among these graceless and brutal divinities the nymphs were conspicuous for the charm of their youth and beauty.”

Near the forest of Mount Oita in Malis, the daughters of Oxylus and Hamadryas were eight beautiful and gracious beings the name of which was the Hamadryads. They lived among the trees and in fact were the trees, arboreal nymphs whose body was entwined with the forest. Daily they served the woodland that surrounded them, growing more beautiful and stronger as the day turned to night. They fed and nurtured the forest creatures and as the seasons passed they changed and transformed, their foliage disappearing and reappearing in line with the phases of the year. Leaves sprouted from their newly born skin and from their pores grew twigs and branches about which clustered green life. The Hamadryad of the hazel tree was Karya, from whose hand sprang forth fruits that fed the fauna around her. She was strong and hardy; the seeds she produced were smooth and dark, nourishing to the birds and animals that lived beneath her branches. Of the oak tree, the Hamadryad keeper was Balanos, tall and silken with green curling leaves and acorns in cupules falling from her fingers. Kraneia was Hamadryad of the dogwood tree, her dark bark skin bearing curving leaves and ripe cherries, white blossoms in the Spring time. Syke was of the fig tree giving forth-large purple fruits and thick green leaves, Aigeiros of the black poplar tree, Ptelea of the elm tree, Morea of the mulberry tree, and Ampelos of the grapevine.

United with the trees, the Hamadryads’ youth and loveliness abounded, with mortal men falling under the spell of their beauty. They became attached to a young mortal woman named Dryope, the daughter of Dryops the King of Oita, and made her their companion. They danced and sang together under the forest sunlight, and the Hamadryads taught Dryope hymns to please the gods. One day Apollo came to look upon Dryope as she danced with the nymphs and tended the flocks of her father on Mount Oita. The beauty of the girl as she played with the nymphs prompted Apollo to chase the group until he was able to seduce Dryope. He transformed himself into a tortoise in order to win the girl, and this pleased the Hamadryads who played with the animal alongside Dryope. But when she held the small creature on her lap, Apollo quickly turned himself into a snake and coiled his lithe, twisting body tightly around Dryope’s legs. She tried to flee along with the nymphs, but the snake was too strong and he violently raped Dryope causing her to become pregnant with Amphissus. Later on, Apollo returned again as a snake but this time, when he wound his way around the girl’s body, she was turned into a poplar tree and joined her nymph sisters to inhabit the woodland of Oita. She was made into a tree to be saved from the advances of the Gods and together with the Hamadryads; Dryope took her place in the forest warding off people who came to harm the nymphs of the woodland. As a mortal she was pursued for her sex by Apollo, and in becoming a nymph she cemented her place as a sexual being, a creature who lived under the male gaze.