The saying goes: Faeryfolk live in old oaks. And I love faeryfolk. Maybe it’s because I adore oak trees and made tea party place-settings from acorn tops when I was little. Maybe it’s because I wove huge daisy chains and danced every chance I got in mushroom rings. But ever since I was old enough to hold a book, I’ve been fascinated with fairy and folktales and the creatures who populate those stories. And though I adore the butterfly-winged fairies that sail the breezes and ride mouseback to great celebrations in the deepest parts of the forest, I like lesser-known and darker members of Faerie, too.
Trolls are one of my favorites. The under-the-bridge troll of The Three Billy Goats Gruff is fearsome indeed, but the trolls of the northern woods of Scandinavia are often viewed as nature-helpers. These trolls are responsible for tending plants and animals. I decided to make the trolls in the fourth tale in my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, non-threatening. In fact, they’re comical in appearance and quite fond of snow, unicorns, and playing chess.
Another one of my faeryfolk favorites are stray-sod pixies. Stray-sods have grass growing from their backs. They settle in a meadow or other grassy spot and wait for the unwary pedestrian to step upon them. As soon as a person steps on its back, a stray-sod twists, turns, and confuses the careless hiker. Stray-sods are one of the faeryfolk I’ve included in a novel-in-progress I’m working on.
I’ve included a kelpie in a poem. A kelpie is a waterhorse who waits in moving water for a foolish or curious person. Climb onto a kelpie’s back and you’re likely to be at least dunked if not drowned and eaten. But there’s also something touching about a horse with a shaggy forelock partially hiding its wide set eyes poised at the edge of a stream begging to be petted. Perhaps the kelpie is truly lonely and not just hungry.
And what of the swan-maidens of Celtic tales? Healers and were-creatures of great beauty and shyness, I’ve often wondered under what circumstances would they be bold and vengeful. That bit of speculation resulted in my short story, Blood of the Swan, due to appear in a soon-to-be-printed anthology.
Even goblins make appearances in my writing. I have several varieties of the much-hated goblin race in my looking-for-a-publisher YA novel, The Enchanted Skean. Though there seems to be little to love about them, the main character, Beck, wonders if the goblins also have names and families. And spriggans, rude and obnoxious cousins of goblinkind, appear in one of my short stories currently “out” awaiting a publisher’s decision to accept or reject.
Mermaids are sometimes portrayed as sirens luring men to their death. I played against that type in my eShort, Sideshow by the Sea. Still, I didn’t discard the death-by-merfolk idea all together. Though the protagonist, Dusana, is a sweet girl – the mermen in the story carry knives with sharp, curving blades.
So as spring arrives, sit under an oak, read a fairytale, and look for the lesser-known faeryfolk. Perhaps they’re peering at you from behind a shrub, dangling from a branch above your head, or skulking in your cellar way. Just beware, all fairies are tricksy!
Learn more about Vonnie’s writing at www.vonniewinslowcrist.com