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Girl in White

by S. E. Schlosser

&

La Llorona
by Joe Hayes


February 2018 - Week Seven:

We are off to Mexico today for two spooky ghost stories and two women in white dresses. What I found so interesting whilst doing my research was that every culture it seems has a story about a woman in white or a ghostly figure in a white dress. In Germany there are stories of these women as healers and gentle spirits whereas in Japan they are often told as vengeful and violent. In some Irish and Nordic legends wailing women in white are said to foretell death but it is the Mexican legends that stuck with me the most. The white dressed women in these stories often lure men to a horrible death or are enacting eternal revenge on the living.

White fully reflects all the visible wavelengths of light making it achromatic or having no hue. In nature, snow and clouds appear white because they are made of water droplets or ice crystals. When sunlight enters the snow, very little of the spectrum is absorbed and it appears the colour of sunlight, white. Most white animals have their colour as a form of camouflage in colder regions or during the winter months. In Europe and the United States, white is associated with honesty, goodness, cleanliness, neutrality and purity and in many Asian cultures, it is the colour of mourning.

I have chosen to include two stories this week as they are quite short and feature a different white dressed woman based on Mexican folklore. The first is quite a romantic tale about a dancing girl and a boy with thoughts of unfaithfulness. Valentines day is in a couple of days if you celebrate that kind of thing! The second story is a little darker and a lot more tragic. This is the kind of ghost story that always resonates with me as it mixes real world tragedy with fantasy. It also features a weeping woman so there are plenty of opportunities to spook yourself if you hear a faint weeping sound in the night. I read a theory that suggests the weeping women stories of latin cultures are most popular in regions that contain mountain lions. The mating call of a mountain lion is said to be eerily human like and I imagine late at night, that could cause some distress! Fortunately there are no lions in London. 

Next week we are heading to Ireland and a tale of a princess and a bear. As always, if you like the illustration or story, please share on social media as it makes a huge difference in getting my work out there. See you next week!


Girl in White

He was sulking a little, standing at the sidelines while all the other men danced with their pretty partners. His girl had not come to the dance that night. Her mother was ill, and so his girl had remained at her side. A fine pious act, he thought sourly, but it left him at loose ends.

His friend, Ernesto, came up to him between sets with a cold drink and some words of encouragement. "After all, Anita is not the only girl in the world," Ernesto said. "There are many pretty girls here tonight. Dance with one of them."

Bolstered by his friend's words, he started looking around the dance hall. His eye fell upon a beautiful young girl standing wistfully at the edge of the floor beside the door to the terrace. She was dressed in an old-fashioned white gown and her skin was pale as the moon. Her dark eyes watched the dance hungrily from her position behind a tall fern, and he felt his heart beat faster. Such a lovely woman should be dancing!

He made his way through the bustling crowd and bowed to the girl in white. She looked startled by his addresses, as if she had not expected anyone to notice her that night. But she readily assented to dance with him, and he proudly led her out onto the floor for the next set, all thoughts of Anita gone from his mind.

Ernesto and some of his other friends gave him odd looks as he danced with the girl in white. A few times, the man opposite them bumped right into them as if he had not seen his partner at all. He was furious and wanted to stop the dance and make the man apologize to the girl in white, but she just laughed and hushed him.

When the dance was over, he hurried to get his fair partner a drink. Ernesto approached him at the refreshment table. "When I told you to dance, I meant with a partner," his friend teased him.

"I was dancing with a partner," he replied, irritated by his friends remark. "The loveliest girl in all of Mexico!"

"You've had too much to drink, my friend," Ernesto replied. "You were dancing by yourself out there!"

He glared at his friend and turned away without answering him. Making his way back to the girl in white, he handed her a glass and asked her to stroll with him along the terrace. The night was beautiful, the sky full of stars, and he stared at the girl in white with his heart in his eyes as they stood looking out over the beautiful scene.

The girl in white turned to him with a sigh and said: "Thank you for the dance, Senor. It has been a very long time since I had such pleasure."

"Let us dance again, then," he said infatuatedly. But she shook her head.

"I must leave now," she said, catching up her skirts with one hand and drifting toward the stairs at the side of the terrace.

"Please don't go," he pleaded, following her.

"I must," she said, turning to look at him. Her eyes softened when she saw the look on his face. "Come with me?" she invited, holding out a pale hand.

His heart pounded rapidly at the thought. More than anything in the world, he wanted to go with this lovely girl. And then his mind registered the fact that he could see the stone wall of the terrace through the girl's hand. His desire melted away before the shock of that realization. He looked into her face again, and realized that she was fading away before his eyes.

At the look of horror on his face, the girl gave a sad laugh and dropped her hand, which was nearly transparent now.

"Goodbye," she said, her body becoming thin and misty. "Goodbye."

Then she was gone.

He gave a shout of terror when he realized he had been dancing with a ghost. He bolted from the premises, leaving his horse behind, and ran all the way home.

When Ernesto came the next day to bring him his horse, he told his friend the whole story. Ernesto whistled in awe. "You saw the spirit of Consuela, my friend," he said. "She was the daughter of one of the local aristocracy who lived in this region more than a hundred years ago. She died of consumption the night before her first ball and they say her spirit sometimes attends the local dances, hoping to claim one of the dances that she missed."

He shuddered at the thought of his dance with the ghost. "I will not be visiting that dance hall again," he told Ernesto. "From now on, all my dances will be with Anita!"

And he kept his word.

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La Llorona (The Weeping Woman)

This is a story that the old ones have been telling to children for hundreds of years. It is a sad tale, but it lives strong in the memories of the people, and there are many who swear that it is true.

Long years ago in a humble little village there lived a fine looking girl named Maria Some say she was the most beautiful girl in the world! And because she was so beautiful, Maria thought she was better than everyone else.

As Maria grew older, her beauty increased And her pride in her beauty grew too When she was a young woman, she would not even look at the young men from her village. They weren't good enough for her! "When I marry," Maria would say, "I will marry the most handsome man in the world."

And then one day, into Maria's village rode a man who seemed to be just the one she had been talking about. He was a dashing young ranchero, the son of a wealthy rancher from the southern plains. He could ride like a Comanche! In fact, if he owned a horse, and it grew tame, he would give it away and go rope a wild horse from the plains. He thought it wasn't manly to ride a horse if it wasn't half wild.

He was handsome! And he could play the guitar and sing beautifully. Maria made up her mind-that was, the man for her! She knew just the tricks to win his attention.

If the ranchero spoke when they met on the pathway, she would turn her head away. When he came to her house in the evening to play his guitar and serenade her, she wouldn't even come to the window. She refused all his costly gifts. The young man fell for her tricks. "That haughty girl, Maria, Maria! " he said to himself. "I know I can win her heart. I swear I'll marry that girl."

And so everything turned out as Maria planned. Before long, she and the ranchero became engaged and soon they were married. At first, things were fine. They had two children and they seemed to be a happy family together. But after a few years, the ranchero went back to the wild life of the prairies. He would leave town and be gone for months at a time. And when he returned home, it was only to visit his children. He seemed to care nothing for the beautiful Maria. He even talked of setting Maria aside and marrying a woman of his own wealthy class.

As proud as Maria was, of course she became very angry with the ranchero. She also began to feel anger toward her children, because he paid attention to them, but just ignored her.

One evening, as Maria was strolling with her two children on the shady pathway near the river, the ranchero came by in a carriage. An elegant lady sat on the seat beside him. He stopped and spoke to his children, but he didn't even look at Maria. He whipped the horses on up the street.

When she saw that, a terrible rage filled Maria, and it all turned against her children. And although it is sad to tell, the story says that in her anger Maria seized her two children and threw them into the river! But as they disappeared down the stream, she realized what she had done! She ran down the bank of the river, reaching out her arms to them. But they were long gone.

The next morning, a traveler brought word to the villagers that a beautiful woman lay dead on the bank of the river. That is where they found Maria, and they laid her to rest where she had fallen.

But the first night Maria was in the grave, the villagers heard the sound of crying down by the river. It was not the wind, it was La Llorona crying. "Where are my children?" And they saw a woman walking up and down the bank of the river, dressed in a long white robe, the way they had dressed Maria for burial. On many a dark night they saw her walk the river bank and cry for her children. And so they no longer spoke of her as Maria. They called her La Llorona, the weeping woman. And by that name she is known to this day. Children are warned not to go out in the dark, for, La Llorona might snatch them and never return them.

 

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