If you love beautiful books, and you love e-books, and you love folklore and fantasy, then you want to know about this. Papaveria Press has just launched a new online shop, what could accurately be called an ebookstore. It’s the first and I suspect only time I’ve been moved to email a website designer to tell them their online shop was beautiful. Check it out for your aesthetic pleasure, but don’t be too surprised if you find a new e-book you can’t live without.
When you go to bed, don’t leave bread or milk on the table:
it attracts the dead.
Masha gives us the words of Rilke today, together with a reminder that many people avoid myth, and magic, and fantasy because of the ‘the darkness, the spirits, and the sense of evil lurking that they feel in the background’. And she asks us, ‘We’ve touched a bit on darkness before, is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? When does myth and magic become occult? When do fairies become demons?’
The answer, as everyone knows what read a proper story, is that fairies become devilish when they’re angry, or threatened, or lonely, or afraid. Anyone can live comfortably with the Good Neighbours nearby, if you mind your own business and don’t go digging where you’re not invited. Or if invited, take nothing away with you unless bidden, bring nothing with you that isn’t asked, do not tell what you saw unless you are told to speak. In other words, be polite. Be a gentleman, or a lady. Manners that you think arcane and old-fashioned will serve you in good stead. These are the Good Neighbours, unless wronged.
Reading Through the Grimm
The Elves (Die Wichtelmänner)
hese are a true fairy tale—a story of the fairies. And they are like the stories told of that strange and sinister folk, less troubling than some, less easy than others. The shoemaker befriend the household sprites that haunt his workplace, and whey they vanish they leave their blessing. Other shoemakers were not so lucky, and were left with a curse.
Elsie, the good hardworking girl who’s invited to the fairy christening (strange that they’d have such a rite, but no matter) is only gone seven years. Others, like the piper invited to play at a fairy wedding, were gone a hundred years or a thousand, and when they returned to their long-forgotten homes, they crumbled away into dust.
And the mother of the changeling was fortunate indeed that the fairy child was foolish enough to laugh out and yell when she boiled the eggshells, that she didn’t need to beat it with red hot tongs or expose beside the sacred well in order for it to leave. And that the fairies so willingly brought her own child back.
There have been many excellent books discussing these and other troublesome things, and I won’t rehash their arguments here. This subject is intricate and fascinating, and not really one where I, the casual passerby, wish to venture much of an opinion. But I urge you to read these tales, tales too solemn or too specific, perhaps, to be entirely untrue.
Katherine Langrish has said it again. She writes one of those wonderful blogs that I wish I could write, saying things I’ve tried to say (and not said well) or just started to reach toward (but hadn’t arrived at yet).
Today is yet another example of this uncanny literary prowess. In ‘Faerie-led,’ Katherine raises the inevitable question of why anyone would choose to write fantasy.
What makes a writer choose one subject over another, one genre over another? What draws one writer to contemporary fiction, another to historical fiction, fantasy, or thrillers? While I know and admire a number of authors who can handle a variety of forms (Gillian Philip and Nicola Morgan, for example, who seem equally and brilliantly at home with both gritty thrillers and historical or fantasy novels) – there are others like myself who stick to a single last. From the age of about ten, writing fantasy has been my first and only love.
This doesn’t mean to say that I haven’t had qualms. I’ve asked myself, in the past, what relevance fantasy has or can have to the problems of life. Can it really be serious? Shouldn’t I – shouldn’t I? – be writing something more meaningful?
But I have come to the conclusion that what is done with a whole heart, with love, and with as much artistic truth as I can personally muster, must be good enough. More than that is out of my control. I don’t have a choice. There is in writing, as in all art, […] something that feels remarkably like outside inspiration: a fierce compulsion that grasps you by the hair and demands and absolutely requires: this is what you will write about: this and this alone. If you don’t obey it you feel restless, haunted. You cannot ignore it. You cannot decide to write about something else. (Or if you try, what you turn out will be stale, flat and unprofitable.)
Katherine’s post is worth reading in full here, not least because it ends with an eerie reimagining of ‘Thomas the Rhymer.’
Some emotions are just to strong and immediate for a comment box, and my enthusiasm for this post is one of them. Yet again, Katherine has said exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it. I can only hope it’s the same for you.
So, read and report. Have you asked those questions yourself? How have you found ways of answering them, or have you?
Kinder- und Hausmarchen: A Grimm Read-Through
‘unsettling wonder’ has returned, and what a tale to return to. This deserves a long introduction.
My friend and colleague Kate Wolford has put up a soul-searching post that captures much of my intention in writing ‘unsettling wonder.’ Now, Kate is a regular here at Paradoxes, and she just accepted an article of mine for publication (more on that later), so right now I’m inclined to think anything she does is wonderful. But all katew fandom aside, she’s really hit the mark with this one. Go read it. Then come back here to read this.