Researching for fantasy fiction is so much fun! I read about far away lands, ancient cultures and mythical creatures. I collect coffee-table books on any topic. When I need inspiration, I flip through them and look at the beautiful artwork. That's how I came up with the idea for my story "Barbegazi." Perusing my favorite, "Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were," I came across a tiny paragraph about these yeti-like creatures. Of course, yetis are all the rage now with the new "Mummy" movie bringing them to everyone's attention. The Barbegazi are the yetis' cousins from the Alps. Here's a fun background article I wrote for my own fantasy short "Barbegazi." And oh, this image is a needle-felted 'painting' I made from wool.
Who are the Barbegazi?
The Barbegazi are a race of gnome-like people who live in the high reaches of the Alps. The name, Barbegazi, is a corruption of the French “Barbe Glacee”, which means beard of ice. Like most fairy-folk, stories surrounding the Barbegazi vary widely, but a few generalities link all the myths. First, is their miraculous feet. Big enough to be snowshoes, these feet can also used as skis and shovels. A Barbegazi can dig through ice and snow like a mole through soft ground.
Because of this digging skill, Barbegazi sightings are rare. A Barbegazi can dig himself in and out of deep snow within seconds, and only the most experienced tracker will ever know he was there.
Barbegazi don’t fear avalanches but instead, ride snow falls like surfers. Other than hunting, a Barbegazi spends most of his life playing in the snow. In fact, “snow tipping” is an art form to the Barbegazi. It requires much skill, dexterity and imagination to prod the snow croppings into the spectacular avalanches that the Barbegazi ride for sport.
Most legends describe the Barbegazi as short stocky people with long white hair and beards, that are covered in icicles. For many years, it was believed that they wore long coats of white fur, perhaps ermine, but recent evidence supports the theory that the white fur is actually the Barbegazi’s own pelt, and is perhaps the impetus behind the myths of the yeti, and other abominable snow monsters.
Another misconception is that the Barbegazi hibernate during the warmer months. Indeed, the summer sun is a hazard to the cold-loving people. The Barbegazi have a thin layer of frost on their skin above a thick layer of blubber to insulate them. The few Barbegazi who have been captured and brought down to more temperate climates have died within hours. The layer of frost melts first and then the Barbegazi appears to boil in his own skin, a horrible and painful death. Despite their loathing of warmer weather, the Barbegazi do not hibernate. Instead, they migrate to the highest reaches of the mountains, where the snow never melts. They live in shallow caves, but never venture too deep into warm heart of the mountain.
Though the Barbegazi have been known to help lost hikers, warn of impending avalanches or herd lost sheep after a blizzard, they are a shy race and do not welcome outsiders. They are excellent hunters and the most daring will venture down into the green forest to gather late fall berries. They can carve almost anything out of ice, and whittle icicles the way we might whittle a stick. Barbegazi ice horns sound much like an owl and can be heard for miles along the mountain summit. The Barbegazi use these horns to coordinate hunting and to communicate among clans.
Read more about the Barbegazi at www.kimmcdougall.com
Learn more about needlefelting at www.kimchatel.com/KCArt.html