Friday, May 15, 2015

The Story of the Battle with the Faeries, Told Twice

Here's a very quick sketch; another take on last week's "Fairy House" story. I'm not sure how I feel about this one; it's a little bit too "on the nose", but I like the idea of looking at myth from different perspectives.

I wonder what stories the fey folk tell about the humans.


There's a story we tell around the campfire. You heard it from your father who heard it from his father. It's the men's story. It's your story.

The first hero was born ... many generations ago now. Nobody knows how long, but they know that it was a different time. The very woods were different then. Closer. There were fewer paths, denser brambles. More space for them to hide. They'd come right to your land, sometimes steal a sheep, sometimes dig up your crops.  They'd steal children, leaving behind strange changelings who would grow into strange manners. Sometimes you'd see a flash of irridescent wings fluttering off to the wood, but that was it. Nobody got a close look. Until the hero.

Sometimes the stories start with fire, sometimes with trickery. You've always liked those better; always loved imagining the hero dressed in uncured sheepskin, half-buried in a vegetable patch, posed on a stake like a scarecrow. Ever alert for the flutter of irridescent wings.

The ones with fire are good too. You can sit around a smoky campfire with too-damp wood and imagine the brambles burning, imagine the little winged creatures staggerfluttering out of them. THe smoke stings your eyes.

The stories always end with iron. The iron of the axe, the iron of blood.

Those were the oldest stories. Later ones the heroes were bolder, trecking deeper into the woods, in hidden places beyond the sight of men. They tell stories of the times we still would see irridescent wings, still worry about a stolen sheep or a child swapped for a changeling.

There's a story we tell around the campfire.  Your heard it from your mother who heard it from hers. It's a women's story. It's one we don't speak of to the men.

It started, you must understand, with a great shame. Men are fragile, men hate to see a child who doesn't act like them, doesn't swagger like them, can't swing an axe like them. They hate to see a weak child, hate to know they sired it. So, it was - at one time - easier to tell a story. That the weak boy wasn't of their seed or our bodies, but a changeling, a made-thing switched by the fey folk so they might steal a bit of our power.

A woman who births a weak boychild is beaten. A woman whose child is stolen is pitied. That's a lesson we learned early.

The boys' stories tell what happens next. It isn't meant for our ears, but we know. It always ends in flame and blood.

So... leave a saucer of cream by the back door. Say it's for the stray cats, and the boys will dismiss you as a weak and sentimental.

When you're cleaning, build a little nest in  the empty spot under the steps. Put fresh water, put something soft for them to sleep on.

And, late at night, when your child sleeps - keep the crib close by.

Just in case.

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