Monday, August 24, 2015

Author Chris Garrison Guest Post

How Faeries have influence the Fantasy genre today

Once upon a time, all fantasy was fairy tales. Long before the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and the 1001 Nights, fairy stories were passed down through oral tradition in many cultures. These tales were told and retold, with elements recurring: the big bad wolf, magic rings, magical tricksters, fairy spirits both helpful and harmful. Our modern fantasy genre borrows from that rich history of symbols and tropes, building upon a base that extends into the mists of the past. J.R.R. Tolkien himself was a staunch defender of the fairy tale as a genre, and his Middle-Earth is built from many different myths and fairy tale elements. And Tolkien's work is a major part of the foundation upon which modern fantasy has been built. Elves and Dwarfs, Dragons and sorcerers, magic swords and rings of power, all of these come from fairy tales.

Today, we mash things up, we take old tired tropes and breathe new life into them by putting them into new situations or by combining them with new ideas to bring about something new. Fantasy has reached for its roots, pulling up old stories and replanting them in our modern world. Addie King presents a young woman in law school who is plagued by her birthright, as a descendant of the Grimms. There are even steampunk retellings of fairy tales, such as Katina French's Blowhard, in which the Hamm brothers stake a land claim on the prairie, only to be besieged by a steam-powered wind machine. On television, Grimm and Once Upon a Time cross old familiar tales with the world we live in, making the stories play out differently than we'd expect.

Fairies represent another world to us, creatures that live outside of what we can see and hear and touch and taste in our everyday lives. They're what's just around the corner, what lurks in the woods, the things that go bump in the night. Fairies are so much more than Tinker Bell, though even she's an example of wonder, a tiny luminous being with magical powers. Fairies appear in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files as anything from tiny amusing sprites like Ms. Bell, all the way up to human-sized, semi-godlike beings like Mab, who's the very essence of Winter, powerful and cruel. Butcher provides another dimension for the fae, “the Never Never”, which touches our world in ways that only wizards and powerful fae can predict.

Still other takes on fairies in recent fantasy include part-fae humans. On television, there are many examples of this in the Canadian TV show “Lost Girl”. Fae look a lot like regular people in that show, they just have aspects of their otherworldly selves that most won't be able to detect.

In my own Blue Spirit, the fairy world is right alongside our own, but it's a different shape, so a small space could be large in the spirit realm, or you could travel fast along certain paths in our world because they're shorter in the fairy realm. Fairy creatures may pass between the worlds, but will generally fool mundane humans into seeing them as something that belongs in our world, or remain beyond our senses entirely. Skye is the main character of Blue Spirit, and she can perceive both worlds when she's indulged in alcohol. She has a bit of her soul that was separated from her that has become its own spirit-world entity named Minnie. Skye treads the border between worlds, seeing the true nature of fairy creatures superimposed upon them, where everyone else sees what they expect to see. Skye is befriended and guided by the gnome-like Transit King, who helps her protect her friends and herself against a power-hungry Fairy Queen, but in exchange, expects a favor, any favor he asks.

Fairies lurk just under the surface of modern fantasy, and many storytellers reach for the roots of the genre to weave primal symbols and stories into their own.

No comments:

Post a Comment