Norwegian Otters Are Shapeshifters Too

904f3ef70320dc267d6487cdd4666d05Day 21, another milestone moment! I didn’t manage to stay on-prompt yesterday, today I have cunningly combined yesterday’s instruction to write using kennings with today’s prompt to re-tell a myth or fairytale. So here is a Norse myth, incorporating some Norse-style kennings.

The Stone That Slew The Magician Otr

Were I a stone of the road, I would have known to edge away

from the tread of  the trouble-reapers, like all the stones of Midgard.

But I was idling at the river-hem, lazed back on sand,

like an otter I was half and half, my belly sun-warming.

I didn’t call Loki to reach for me and turn me into a flying axe,

I didn’t want to be death for the happy midstream water-tumbler.

Had I voice or breath I would have cried out there and then –

That is no more an otter than am I! That frog-chomper you think

to stew, he is shape-shifter, hidden wizard, heir to power! He is Otr,

and his slayer will pay a heavy price! Loki, be satisfied with the silver rope

of trout now fringing your shouldered pole, or you’ll lose twice that in gold!

I could not speak. I had no choice but to be the end-blow

of a god’s unlucky throw. Bleared and drowned in remorse, I saw

through the glass hall of the river, the mighty Otr skinned,

and the gods depart unwittingly to lay son-flesh on his father’s table.

Even this water won’t deafen me to the righteous roar to come,

the screams for bloodgold enough to bury a beloved pelt.

So consequences run ahead, for where can Loki find ransom

but by forcing the underwater cave of the dwarf-king?

I can see the entrance glint through the pike-patrolled weeds,

the future shining with it in fragmentary lights like warning beacons.

Here comes greed, and curses, and the death of lovers.




Boris And The Otters

“As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers.”

Boris Johnson, commenting on the 2012 Olympic Women’s Volleyball

tumblr_ljwl2fWEqw1qarjnpo1_1280In this quote, Boris demonstrates two things. Firstly, a certain deftness with sentence construction, a breadth of vocabulary and an almost proprietorial familiarity with fine art history that is entirely fitting in one who has received so staggeringly privileged and expensive an education. Secondly, a terrifying ignorance of the tendency of otters, according to Japanese folklore, to shapeshift into beautiful women with the express purpose of seducing, killing and eating unwary men.

As the official NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to write a fan letter, I have chosen to write from some imaginary Japanese shape-shifting man-eating volleyball-playing otter-women to the Mayor of London. (My cavalier use of ungrammatical pronouns is intended to give an eerie, ‘demonically-possessed baby doll’ feeling to the piece, not an uncomfortably racist ‘JaJa Binks’ vibe, just FYI)).

Boris And The Otters

Sexy otter girls, we

Sleek! you watch, Borisu-san,

But do not see we.


Silly! we see you

Feast eyes on we lissom limbs,

Silken like tofu.


Suave you phrases plash!

Rain from you lyrical tongue!

Favourite muscle!


Storehouse of treasure,

You brain sleep in marrow sea,

Soft, sashimi-grade.


Speak we of art now?

Great man, stories of great men!

You hair kawaiiiiiiiiiii, ne?


Shall we little claws

Scratch you noble back, broad

Like Kobe beef-cow?


Secret, we sharp teeth

Wait for you, ichiban man,

Steamy bean dumpling!


Shhhhhhhhhh!! you no mind knives

We whet them in you honour,

Delicious Borisu-san….