It’s Fae-tastic Friday again! This week I’m stoked to bring you an interview with another Fae contributor, Kari Castor. I used Kari’s story, The Price, to end the Fae anthology 🙂
What was the inspiration for your Fae story?
I was reading some Grimm’s fairy tales, and I ran across this very short tale the Grimm brothers had collected and called “The Rose.” It was such an interesting snippet, and I’d never heard it before, and I really wanted to take the idea and expand it into a fuller story.
Was this your first foray into writing fairy stories?
No, I actually have another short story that deals with fairies that I started working on before “The Price” ever sprang into my mind, but that earlier story is still in the revision stages right now.
If no, why do you write fairy stories? What is it about them that appeals to you?
When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by magical creatures, including fairies, so as I got older I went seeking out a lot of the legends and folklore behind the pretty stories. I think the discovery that the original stories often weren’t so pretty — that there was actually a lot of darkness in those tales — made me love them even more. There’s something very compelling to me about the way the old stories intermingle beauty and danger.
Can you tell us a bit about the specific type of fairy creature in your story?
“The Price” definitely hearkens back to the old legends, particularly those that come out of the British Isles (like Sir Orfeo and “Thomas the Rhymer”), where the fairies are prone to kidnapping young men and women and whisking them away to the realm of Faerie. These, of course, are not the small fluttering creatures we so often conjure up today in response to the word “fairy” – like John William Waterhouse’s La Belle Dame sans Merci, they are more or less human in size and appearance. They’re not necessarily good or evil, but they tend to have their own agendas and desires and don’t care much for what suffering they might cause others in the pursuit of them.
Is that your favourite type of fae? If yes, why?
Probably. I’m drawn to this type of fairy because they’re so alien, so other, while at the same time seeming so human. I think they speak to the very selfish, narcissistic side of human nature — the part of us that wants and that can’t help but feel that our own wants are more important than anyone else’s.
I think it’s also interesting that it’s so often unclear why exactly the fairies in these legends are so interested in carrying off humans. Perhaps its flattering to the human ego that these strange, beautiful, unknowable creatures would want us, mundane as we are. Perhaps the uncertainty of the abducted humans’ fate lodges itself in our imagination; we do seem to have a collective fascination with unsolved mysteries.
Outside of your own writing, who is your favourite fairy character? (ie: Tinkerbell, Puck, etc.) What is it about them that makes them special?
I’ve always had a particular soft spot for Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I actually auditioned for a role in The Tempest using Ariel’s “All hail, great master! grave sir, hail!” entrance (reworked to be a monologue) during my freshman year of college. (I did get cast, but as a general ensemble member, not as Ariel.)
I suppose I like Ariel because he is both so human and so inhuman. He’s clearly a powerful creature, yet he’s bound to the service of human Prospero, and he chafes against the confinement. He’s capricious, tempestuous (ha!), at one moment recounting with glee how he burned the king’s ship and terrified the sailors and at the next bemoaning the further work he is being commanded to do.
Largely unlike the fairies of legend, Ariel’s motivations are eminently clear — he wants to earn his freedom from Prospero. And I’ve always felt that it is through the scenes with Ariel (along with Caliban) that we see the darker side of Prospero most clearly: his manipulativeness, his thoughtless cruelty, how the power he wields has perhaps corrupted him.
And yet Ariel is one of the primary driving forces behind the action in the play. We’re told that Prospero is a powerful magician, but it seems that often the magic we see or hear about is really Ariel’s, not Prospero’s.
Do you believe in fairies?
No, I don’t believe in literal fairies. I do believe, though, that it’s important to keep an open mind and a sense of wonder about the world, and I think one way we do that in the modern world is by telling ourselves stories about magic and magical creatures.
From “The Price” by Kari Castor:
Addie breathed warmth into her mitten and pulled it back over her fingers. She turned away from the bush and dropped the bucket in surprise.
He was tall and slender, and though he stood just a few feet from her, no footprints marked his passage through the snow.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I did not mean to startle you.” His voice was quiet and low.
Addie picked up her bucket again, checking that none of the precious berries had been lost. “What do you want?”
“Only to help.” He did not smile. His hair was the color of the ice that formed over the river, dark blue-black, shot through with silver traceries.
Addie shrugged. “Don’t need your help.” She turned away and began walking.
“No, I suppose you don’t,” he said. “Still, I could help you fill your bucket faster.”
“Don’t want your help,” she said, and continued deeper into the forest. She found another bush and added another handful of berries to her bucket.
Again, the man was behind her when she turned. “I mean you no harm tonight,” he said softly.
“Go ‘way,” she said, and trudged on.
By the time her bucket was nearly full, the light was beginning to fade. She turned back toward home.
Once more, the man appeared. “Addie,” he said.
She stood still. “I’m not afraid of you,” she said. “But I know enough not to have truck with strange men in the woods who don’t leave footprints.”
His smile seemed startled but genuine, though Addie couldn’t help but notice that his mouth seemed to have more teeth in it than most mouths do.
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