I live in a place that is often shrouded in mist, and I’ve always had a fascination for it. It seems no accident that the word ‘mist’ sounds so much like ‘mysterious’. It sneaks up on us so quietly, so softly, and conceals everything. It dampens sound and brings a hush to the world. Though it can be eerie, a little spooky, it’s not dark. The effect on sunlight shining through mist can be quite spectacular; from golden halos, to shining spotlight rays, and beautiful rainbows, magical and wondrous.
It’s understandable that mist inspires a sense of the ethereal. One minute, it thickly blankets the earth, and soon it softly rises, dissipating in sunlight, vanishing into the sky.
Mist makes a fabulous element in fantasy. What hides, unseen, in the mist? What ghostly apparitions loom, suddenly emerging when least expected? How does a character find her way safely through a sinister setting obscured by white?
Mist made a lasting impression on me in the movie The Hounds of the Baskervilles, a story by Arthur Conan Doyle. A tale in which Sherlock Holmes must solve a murder that takes place on the misty landscape of Dartmoor. The combination of black and white cinematography and thick mist among spindly trees created the perfect amount of mystery, fear and suspense.
A long-time personal favourite is the story of Brigadoon, where a mysterious Scottish village only appears once in a hundred years, and disappears with the mist at the end of the day. Of course, it also helps that this movie is a musical, and stars two of my favourite dancers, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.
A tale that has long held fascination for me, and inspired my own writing, is the Maori myth of Uenuku and the Mist Maiden. This story perfectly captures the other-worldliness of mist, with maidens that descend from the heavens to bathe in the waters on Earth and return to the heavens at dawn, with the mist. A version of these wonderful mist maidens found their way into my book, The Crystal Bluebird. Mary, the main character of my story, must travel to find the magical mist maidens and ask for their help to find her brother, Ron, who has been captured and carried away by helicopter to an unknown location.
I’m sure that mist has by no means made its last appearance in books and movies. I’m certainly keeping it on standby for my stories.