I love faeries, and stories about them. What images are conjured up when you think of faeries? In modern culture, we often shortcut straight to Disney movies and the tiny winged females that decorate little girls’ bedroom walls. I’m no cynic, and I happily watch Disney films with a willing suspension of disbelief and no need to bring along a little girl to justify my enjoyment. But I think the category “faeries” encompasses a wide array of nonphysical beings, most of whom probably don’t look anything like the anthropomorphic forms of Tinkerbell and friends, or even the creatures of the folklore that’s been handed down to us over the centuries.
In part, the category includes nature spirits of all sorts. Each of Earth’s beings, from a stream to a tree to a big boulder, have some form of consciousness. Sometimes we humans can communicate with them, and the way we interpret their essence could be seen as a fae form. There are tales from most of the Earth’s human cultures that indicate communications with these other life forms that share our planet.
On another level, the universe is a much more complex place than we have thought. This is borne out by the most cutting-edge science, as well as the ancient wisdom of the mystics. Perhaps there is some bleed-through between planes of existence, and we’re occasionally able to glimpse the realities of other beings, whom we might conveniently label as faeries. The fae in that case can encompass anything that we currently have no rational way to explain.
Or maybe it’s all in our imaginations, as we create stories of beings just-a-bit-different-from-us and then thrust them into situations that challenge their ethics, courage, and potential. These magical tales help us to identify our own strengths and call upon the power buried deep within. They enable us to tap into the depths of our creative psyches, and use what we learn there.
It doesn’t truly matter where these tales come from, what proof we have, or which theories hold some objective truth. Faerie tales help us to make sense of this life, which can often seem confusing and chaotic.
I was recently asked to read a review copy of a book called Fiona and the Black Faerie Prince, written by Ken Coffman and Kristen Poeraatmadja. It was billed as an “instructive fantasy,” and I didn’t know what to expect. But from the opening paragraphs, the tale captivated me and drew me into a world that, on the surface, is much like my own.
The main character, Fiona, is someone many of us can identify with: a dreamer, a free-spirited hippie artist type, living on the fringes of mainstream life. She is an empath, and she “partially lives in the hidden world of the supernatural. She sees things differently than others, but chalks it up to functional eccentricity, quirk or foible and sometimes to gentle madness when something clearly impossible happens before her eyes.”
Fiona is joined, gradually, by a lover from between the worlds, a magical orphan girl, a talking cat, pixies, fae royalty, and a band of nomadic Renn-fair players. As her story unfolds into the fantastic, the reader is somehow still drawn in, the tale believable because of the very real human emotions that continue to unfold. The cast of characters both human and fae is engaging and complex. The challenges being faced aren’t just cliched “good vs. evil,” but more nuanced ethical dilemmas. Often the characters are faced with the conundrum of how to treat others fairly while still achieving their heart’s desires. This is a modern faerie tale, sprinkled with song lyrics and magical teas, that had me eagerly turning pages until the very end.
The novel I co-wrote with BlackLion this fall is called The Door Is the Key: A Modern Faerie Tale. While it’s different from Fiona in many ways, I think this genre is one that we’ll see more of in the coming months and years. As we struggle to reconcile our relationship with the Earth and the frightening changes brought about by climate change and other human-created disasters, we need our connection to the fae. We need to see how we can live ethically and joyfully in a world that often feels topsy-turvy. We long to follow the yearnings of our innermost being, yet how can we do so while fulfilling the obligations of modern life? We need these new faerie tales to help us unravel the complexities of an expanding universe and find our place in it.