Thursday, December 03, 2015

Fairy Tales vs. Tales About Fairies

In case you weren't online much during the holiday week and missed it, my latest book in the Fairy Tale series came out last week, and it now seems to be available in all formats in all the usual spots.

The name of the series is a deliberate double entendre because in this series I'm using both the folklore about the fae and some of the elements of fairy tales. These are generally two entirely different things. There are very few fairies in most of the well-known fairy tales. There's a complicated etymology reason why "fairy tales" are called fairy tales, but I like J.R.R. Tolkien's reasoning in his essay "On Fairy Tales." He considers "Faerie" a place -- a magical realm -- and the fairy tales are stories that take place in this realm.

That was a big jumping-off point for the idea behind this series. I like playing with fairy tales. I like updating them, twisting them, fleshing them out. I like the structure and the patterns. But if you do much reading on fairies themselves, or the fae, they have very little in common with what we think of today. The Victorians had a lot to do with turning them into something cute for kids, but the folklore is about beautiful and dangerous creatures. There's no absolute consensus on who they are, where they came from, or where they live. Some stories consider them fallen angels who fell past earth but didn't quite make it to hell -- which may have something to do with reasons why religious elements are often considered good ways to fight them. Some folklore considers them to be like ghosts. They're the dead living in their own realm and occasionally crossing into ours. I went with the idea that they're a different kind of being that lives in a kind of parallel universe that intersects ours. To go there physically, without going through a magical portal, you have to go underground -- most of the folklore on the subject mentions going under hills -- but once you're past the Borderlands, you're basically in another dimension.

One common theme of stories about the fae is that they're something that used to be a lot more common but that is currently fading. Even stories told in the Middle Ages refer to a past time when they were more common. They're seen as something incompatible with modern society, whatever "modern" happens to be at that point in time. One of my reference books, by a scholar who's researched fairy folklore, is called The Vanishing People , because they were always said to be on their way out. This was a theme I went with in the latest book -- was there a reason they seemed to fade from view, could they make a comeback, and what would happen if they did? There may still be a few places in the world where they'd know exactly what to do if fairies made a reappearance -- Iceland, some rural areas in the British Isles -- but the rest of the world would be defenseless, if they were even able to make themselves believe. On the other hand, our world might be poisonous to them. For both sides to survive, it takes a balance. Have the things our heroes have done recently to stabilize the fairy Realm made things more dangerous or less? And what can they do on this side of the border to keep the world safe?

I find the old stories of the scary kind of fae far more interesting than the cutesy Disney creations -- though the original Tinkerbell actually has a lot in common with traditional fae, and she's not nearly as sweet and cute as the Disney version. There's a lot of material there for me to work with.

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