I read Maggie Stiefvater’s novels Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception, and Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie recently (slipping them in between Proust, Queneau, and Mahfouz…). Both novels feature teenage musicians of incredible skill – obvious targets for the fey, who value such talents highly. There’s harping and piping and magical carrying on, with four leaf clover raining from the sky. The mix of a contemporary American setting and the world of faerie was accomplished pretty well, and 10 years ago I would have probably loved these books. At present, I found them entertaining, and while the romances in both novels caused me to squirm a little instead of swoon, I was quite impressed with how Stiefvater dealt with her faeries.
She calls them ‘homicidal’ on her website. They are certainly beings of power, beautiful and strange, with ways of thinking and feeling that are very unlike humans. They’re clever and cruel, alien creatures, utterly different from us. Definitely not the delicate winged flower fairies that I built little houses for as a child! The way Stiefvater wrote about them rang true against my memories of Celtic Faerie lore, and reminded me strongly of a picture book about faeries that I had pursued as a kid.
I was able to find the very same book at my local library, and flipped through Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s vision of faerie with nearly the same wide-eyed delight as I did years ago. Now these are faeries!
I think it’s fascinating that the origin of faeries can be traced to Norse myths – I particularly like the idea that they began as maggots emerging from the corpse of the giant Ymir!
I didn’t realize how much Froud’s version of faerie had influenced the look of such things as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, movies he and his wife worked on – but it’s obvious now that I know the connection. And of course Alan Lee was influential on the look of the LOTR movies.
I like this bit from the intro of Faeries:
‘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.‘
That’s what Stiefvater captured in her novels, and even if I didn’t connect with her human characters to the same extent, I definitely liked her contribution to the world of faerie. Now excuse me while I disappear back into that world, via Froud and Lee. Don’t worry, I won’t eat anything!