Faere Folk of the Wyrde Woods (part one)
I wanted proper local Faere Folk for the Wyrde Woods, none of the Victorian and Disney cutification. ‘Local’ did not necessarily restrict me to Sussex. Though I wanted strong Sussex traditions the Wyrde Woods are a world apart leaving me with ample room for my personal configuration of a Fae Realm. ‘Local’ does mean I restricted myself to the British Isles and delved into that history for sources.
Local Faere Folk come in all shapes and sizes and reflect a range of Fae attitudes. Some are downright hostile, other ‘neutral’ with an interest in playing tricks which may or may not hurt any humans involved. A few heretic Faere Folk still believe in the redemption of humanity and mingle with good intentions, though they share the tricksters in not fully comprehending the consequential impact their actions can have on humans. Some of them live amongst us in our kingdom – though the longer they do so the greater their powers wane – irretrievably so – till they fade of old age at two or three hundred years old. Their descendant’s powers and age decline in might and range. Three generations on and it’s a century’s lifespan at most, with but two or three gifts as tokens of their distant relation to Pook Hall. A handful are eagerly helpful; members of the Lesser Faere Folk who are deemed to be insane attach themselves to a household and carry out chores at night in exchange for a meagre meal set out on a doorstep or in a stable.
A significant number of Faere Folk don’t believe humans exist at all. Many humans do not use the words ‘believe’ when talking of the Faere Folk. The Fae are there, it is as simple as that. However, many countryside customs associated with the Faere Folk are intended to keep them at bay. You don’t mess with the Fae – or Farisee as they are called in Sussex; for it is rarely beneficial. These are the Farisee of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream; whose marital strife is accompanied by severe up and downs in climatic conditions and who trick their partner into a bout of merry bestiality to avenge a conceived spurn regarding the ownership of a stolen human child. These are Farisee like La Belle Dame Sans Merci John Keats describes; seducing the unwary to an eternal existence as one of the Living Dead. These are the Farisee in Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market; unpleasant critters who can be charming but have a short fuse when they can’t have it their own way.
Extract from "The Goblin Market" (published 1862)
One had a cat's face,
One whisk'd a tail,
One tramp'd at a rat's pace,
One crawl'd like a snail,
One like a wombat prowl'd obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
Their tones wax’d loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbow’d and jostled her,
Claw’d with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking,
Twitch’d her hair out by the roots,
Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.
Then suck'd their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flow'd that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She suck'd and suck'd and suck'd the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck'd until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gather'd up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turn'd home alone.
Forget the modern notions of the Flower Faeries. Oh sure, some of them are songbird sized with wee little wings. Howsumdever, those are some of the worst. One of the reasons it is wise to plant hazel or rowan trees in your garden and keep a pot of rosemary by your front and back door. It keeps them away you see, it keeps the Farisee at bay. Only a fool would do otherwise.