Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good Faeries, Bad Faeries

by Allison Pang

"And here we must make one thing very clear. The real faerie experience is very diffrent from the general view of faerie built up by clouds of sentimental fiction with legions of inevitable happily-ever-after endings. The world of "Once Upon a Time-" delightful as it is and highly as we value it, is not the real world of Faerie. Faerie represents Power, magical power, incomprehensible to humans, and hence, inimical. ...Faerie is a world of dark enchantments, of captivating beauty, of enormous ugliness, of callous superficiality, of humour, mischief, joy and inspiration, of terror, laughter, love and tragedy. It is far richer than fiction would generally lead one to believe and, beyond that, it is a world to enter with extreme caution, for of all things that faeries resent the most it is curious humans blundering about their private domains like so many ill-mannered tourists. So go softly-where the rewards are enchanting, the dangers are real."

 -Betty Ballantine, Forward from Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee

For as long as I can remember, there has never been a time in which my life was not flavored by the Fae. From my original tome of Grimm's Fairy Tales to the My Book Hall Fairy books, to Yeats, to Walter Evans-Wentz to Briggs to Lady Gregory. I devoured as many books on the subject as I could.

I get a lot of questions on how much research I had to do for the faerie portions of the Abby Sinclair books, and the truth of it is that I didn't do any. Most of it was pulled from memory, the rest twisted as I felt I needed to, although I fully admit that I've only hinted at some of the darker sides thus far. Partially because we haven't needed to go there yet and partially because I'm not writing that type of story.

(Although I do start to explore the Seelie vs Unseelie Courts in A Sliver of Shadow, hopefully with a unique take. Seelie being those sorts of trooping Faeries that aren't outwardly *trying* to go out of their way to be malicious to mortals. Unseelie, of course, tend to be a bit more...expressive, let's say, in how they choose to be perceived. Although in my case, I don't tend to see things as quite that black and white. In either count, both courts can be quite dangerous )

A healthy respect is required, regardless. Even domestic faeries - the brownies, the knockers and the like - while they have a tendency to be helpful, insulting them is never wise - even if it's done by accident. And it doesn't take much to do it, either. You can express gratitude for the work they've done, for example - but outward thanks is a major no-no.

I routinely find things missing and reappearing in my house and my car, for example. Usually I just chalk it up to said item being borrowed for a while and sooner or later it turns back up again. I find lights on that I've turned off, and fans off that I've turned on. It's interesting, sometimes. And there are things I'm not actually going to talk about here that I've run into over the years, but needless to say, I don't question it too much.

Even so, I wanted to user this post to express my gratitude to the artist Brian Froud for rendering what is probably the epitome of Faerie. If you've seen the movies The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth, you've seen his work in action (as well as his wife Wendy Froud, who does a lot of the puppetry. Actually - the little boy who's stole from the Goblin King in Labyrinth was their son, Tobey - so there's some family work for you!)

I first stumbled onto Froud's work in this Faerie book when I was about 8 - my Aunt owned the book and every time we visited, I would spend hours and hours looking at it and reading the stories. I was completely fascinated because for the first time I began to realize that there was so much more to this world than what Disney had showed me. (Although Grimm's tales certainly had a distinct and dark edge that left their mark as well.) And not only because the pictures were pretty...they are, but they're also sinister in a lot of ways and it really struck a chord with me. Plus, on a wholly selfish basis, many of the faeries are naked - and they're all sorts of body types - some with the standard human forms and others with large thighs and breasts, some with deformities - it was extremely eyeopening on a number of levels, particularly on the interpretation of what constitutes true beauty.

Eventually, my aunt let me have the book, and it's been on my shelves ever since - along with several others, and two sets of oracle cards - both of which are tremendously beautiful and haunting. There are layers upon layers of meaning in these images - I see something different each time I look at them.

It's been a while since I last walked those pages, actually. Think I'll take a spin through them later on this weekend and see what else is new.


  1. The pictures are beautiful and sinister. It's fascinating the many layers of good and evil faeries can have. They're such fun creatures to work with and read. Thanks for sharing! <3