Resurrecting the Nain Rouge — A Modern Spin on an Old Folk Tale

I can’t believe it — 10 years.

It’s been a decade since a small group of ambitious Detroiters helped resurrect the lost, 300-year old folk tale about a little red dwarf and gave it back to the city as a sign of hope, optimism and urban renewal.

Thanks to Arthur, Peter, Dave, Francis and host of other great people — the Nain Rouge has risen again in the annual Marche du Nain Rouge, a Mardi Gra-styled parade that ushers in spring with a lot of positive energy.

It’s been wonderful to play a small part in this rebirth through my books and graphic novel, In fact, it was the story of the Nain Rouge that opened up a brand-new Folktellers Universe, resurrecting folktales and legends from around the world.

We dubbed it Cryptofolk.

So, in honor of this 10th Anniversary of the Nain Rouge’s rising, it’s time for a little retrospective on why Cryptofolk is so important to us all…

Cryptofolk is a new style of storytelling within the existing Folklore/Mythology literary genre.

Regional folk tales are often lost and obscured through time or remain localized within their specific community. These stories contain themes and archetypes that resonate across cultures and borders, providing an opportunity for others to learn and grow through the discovery of these powerful legends.

Cryptofolk (Crypto, from the Greek kryptós, meaning hidden and Folk, archaic for people or tribe) resurrects old and obscure folklore and legends from around the world. It uses descriptive narrative and various transmedia applications to present stories that are thought provoking, visually rich, and accessible to a global audience.

In almost every town or city, no matter how big or small, there is some local legend, myth or hidden story that captivates the local population. Sometimes, the interest in these stories grows outside the region and the myth carries across the land and water and spreads throughout the world.

Most have heard of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Bigfoot or even the Loch Ness Monster. These stories all came from a specific region initially and grew into worldwide fame and notoriety. In Detroit, there is the Legend of the Nain Rouge; a little red dwarf that appears as a harbinger of doom just before bad events. People argue whether this creature is a positive protector of the region or an opposing, negative force.

This is where the fascinating origin of these myths come into play. As human beings, we are always in search of explanations to the happenings in the world around us. What can’t be explained scientifically, often falls into the realm of the supernatural, metaphysical and paranormal. And these are the areas where folk tales germinate and grow.

In his book, “Spirits of the Land: Ancestral Lore and Practices,” Claude Lecouteux points out that:

“Without knowing, we all dwell in a haunted space…If we take the time to leaf through the delightful works of nineteenth-century regional scholars, we will discover that every forest has its spirits, every spring its lady, every river has malevolent beings in its depths, that dwarves dance on the moors, that the marshes teem with will o’ the wisps — which we are told are lost souls — and that the mountains are home to demons and wild folk who enjoy causing landslides, avalanches and floods.”

As our cultures transformed from nomadic tribes into settlers of land, we became much more in tune with the natural surroundings that became the sights and settings for our lives. What couldn’t be explained with our five senses fell into the realm of myth and legend. Over time, these legends became tied the very land itself, tied directly to the unique landscape of a particular region.

These spirits became known as the Genus Loci or “Spirits of Place.” They were the protectors, guardians or troublemakers that humans might encounter if caught lingering in a specific region for too long.

These Genus Loci are the very forces that give these myths and legend such staying power. The folk tales are tied directly to the landscape and culture of a particular region and over time, become woven into the very fabric of the local people themselves.

The stories persist because the people want them to. It’s with a real sense of pride that they retell the tales of the lost souls down in the hollow or the beast that haunts the woods outside of town.

That’s the wonderful thing about Folktelling. The stories may be tied to a region, but the messages are universal.

So, here we are, ten years later… Cryptofolk continues to grow, while the Nain Rouge enjoys his new-found notoriety and fame. Good for him, good for us all.

If you can, please join us on March 24th, 2019 for a celebration of 10 years of fun, fraternity and folktales at the place where it all began:



A new way of storytelling — Saving the obscure from oblivion using multimedia

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Josef Bastian

Josef Bastian is an author, human performance practitioner and often an odd duck.