Today we have a guest post from Carmen Tudor.
My tale “Faerie Stories and the Bean Nighe” from A Chimerical World: Tales of the Unseelie Court came about in part from my love of regional folklore, and in part from a year-long class I’d recently completed in Myths and Symbols. Although we never studied Scottish mythology in depth, the class introduced me to the Middle English poem “The Pearl,” which had an enormous influence on my story.
The poem was studied concurrently with Steinbeck’s novella of the same name, and opened up a new world of weaving the literal with the metaphorical, and also of creating an underworld of connotation through interpretation. While my character Lila is represented as a bean nighe (a creature very similar to the well known bean sidhe, or banshee), her true position in the story is that of deceased woman, or the entity that haunts both Alastair and his daughter Maggie.
The recurring, keening figure of Lila, and her connection to the wild Perthshire landscape, is, however, secondary to her haunting of Alastair: the bean nighe is present only to signal death’s approach.
As Maggie’s implied illness deteriorates, Lila’s visitations (whether real or imagined by Alastair) are used as an allegory to stir up the reader’s sense of foreboding and dread. The rushing waters of the river underscore the passage of the life cycle and the imminent death of one of the characters. The weather, the landscape and even the evocative colours of red, black and green are all used to paint a picture that hints at what is to come. The white, of course, of Maggie’s pearl references indicates impending chaos.
The trick is always to put these elements together without the story becoming trite, or forming one big “symbolic” cliché. I don’t know if I got it right. I know that when I read “The Pearl” (poem) and came across a father’s search for his fairy child, or pearl maiden (deceased child), my sense of empathy and sadness for a parent’s loss was heightened and stirred great imagery within me that led to a desire to recreate a similar theme in a modern setting. The language of the poem was beautifully inaccessible, but by using such strong symbolism as the pearl, the journey and the very detailed setting of an Edenesque garden, the anonymous 14th-century author was able to transcend language limitations and barriers and still deliver a tale of astonishing clarity. In my own story I am more interested in creating a piece that might interest a few readers. The attempted use of symbolism and allegory is merely there for my own amusement. Whether it reaches the reader or goes unnoticed isn’t really important; the story as it stands is fairly straightforward and is definitely only meant to provide an entertaining read for lovers of fantasy and horror.
On a final note, those interested in legends and myths of the UK, and folklore in general, should be encouraged to broaden their reading of this fascinating area. Scotland in particular has a wonderful and extensive history of superb and enduring stories. Whether you’re interested in study or simply enjoying some chilling tales, I’d recommend starting with what interests you most. For me, it’s ghosts and things that wander through the night. Let your imagination take you where it will. Enjoy the ride and remember that next time you read a scary tale or even a bland piece of prose perhaps its lines are littered with more than first meets the eye.
Read all about the Chimerical World Tour on the Official Tour Page: http://www.tomorrowcomesmedia.com/a-chimerical-world-anthologies-virtual-tour/
Amazon Links for Tales of the Seelie Court
Amazon Links for Tales of the Unseelie Court