When Corwin encounters the Faer in Murdoch’s Tale, exactly who is he meeting?
We have these notions of “faeries” as little gossamer-winged sprites or noble Tolkien elves, living like lords in the forest with no visible means of support, or perhaps the daioni sidhe, shining beings of light.
I’ve noticed a tendency we have, and by “we” I’m not sure if this is a human tendency, a “civilized” tendency, or a white race perception, since I can be described as belonging to all three. The tendency is this: when directly exposed to people different from us, we have historically tended to think of them as inferior. This, of course, provides the justification for doing whatever it takes to grab their land and/or labor, up to and including slavery and genocide.
At the same time, we come up with notions like The Noble Savage and The Magic Negro, in which their abilities and philosophies are glamorized and admired. (Not to mention the Madonna/whore dichotomy.)
So who are the Faer, and what sources did I use for my world-building?
In the course of a lecture many years ago, my friend and teacher Ivo Dominguez, Jr. mentioned his belief that the trooping fairies who travel across his land on a seasonal basis may well be the energetic remnant of a group of actual people who followed that path on a route determined by the cycle of food resources.
I took this notion and ran with it. Much of the faer is based upon First People. In my telling, they are the original, or aboriginal, people of Europe.
The exalted side of the equation comes from Celtic faerie lore, those shining ones, sprites, and whatnot from fairy tale and folklore. Tales of shapeshifting, altered time, power over the natural world. What would that look like from their perspective? What would that look like if they were just as corporeal as we are, needing such resources as food, water and shelter, but “primitive,” in our self-centered terminology, unwilling or unable to conform to our way of obtaining those things. There are so many threads to weave here: faeries are tricksters, but you cannot lie in the language of the faeries. A herd of deer runs into a river, but the footprints on the other side are human. What would that look like if the “faeries” were a tribe of forest people who survived into Medieval times? And why would or could they not adapt and join our civilzation?
The first two volumes of the series were written but gathering dust on a hard drive, when the last piece of the puzzle fell into place.
The Hidden Life of Trees was published in English in September 2016.
The Hidden Life of Trees was published in English in September 2016. In it, its author, Peter Wohlleben a German forester shares his observations of the forest, garnered through his 30 year career. He observes trees as sentient beings who communicate through a language of chemicals transmitted between root systems via parasitic mycorrhyzal fungi, which he terms “the Wood-Wide Web.” This is the basis for the vaira, the energetic connection between all beings that the faer can perceive and we cannot, or choose to ignore.
Perhaps this is the glamorizing part, having the faer able to directly perceive this, perhaps this is a sideways borrowing from George Lucas’ concept, “The Force,” but imagined as the fabric of reality, as something we live within, as opposed to something we can control through force of Will. Perhaps this is an elaboration of String Theory, which posits that the universe is a tapestry of strings of vibrating energy, which we are only now, through scientific instrumentation, on the verge of perceiving.
Seven hundred years, fourscore and three, until your work see light of day.
May that time be now.