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  • Writer's pictureegradcliff

For the love of the Fae

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

In The Hidden King, the idea of the ‘fae’ plays a vital role in the story. The closest parallel to this people would be the faeries of Celtic folklore, so I’d like to take a look at that mythos, and explore where I took creative liberties!

To start, let’s establish what a ‘faerie’ is in the context of The Hidden King. In The Hidden King, the fae are identifiable by their flame-red eyes, and it’s clear that among the citizens of the Gut, they are far from well-liked. They’re seen as dangerous, manipulative creatures, and even humans who draw on their power to practice magic do so with extraordinary caution. With the cunning ability to discern a human’s intentions, the fae cannot be tricked, and their raw firepower--quite literally--makes them an undesirable enemy. They’re most frequently encountered at the seasonal festivals, when the veil between the fae realm and the human world thins, and at the festival of Fire, we see that the people of the White City offer food to their inhuman visitors.

The faeries of Celtic folklore are, in contrast, a varied bunch. While plenty of stories do emphasize their keen intellect and tricky, manipulative nature, they’re also featured in tales that exemplify their idea of decency. In one story, a human midwife is stolen away to the faerie realm to deliver the Faery Queen’s child; in exchange for her troubles, she’s blessed with a trove of fae treasures and lives the rest of her life in luxury. This being said, a good number of fair maids and handsome lads do vanish to the faery realm for years on end--or forever--and it can’t be said with any certainty that they live happily ever after. Besides, some faeries just eat people. Stay away from beautiful water horses, everyone.

The magical aspect of the Celtic faeries (and I say ‘Celtic’ to avoid diving into the differences between specific cultures--in this case, I’ll talk about all Celtic cultures under the same umbrella, so be aware that not all faeries belong equally to every people) is true to legend. From elaborate illusions to quickly-lost time, the faeries are infamous for their cunning command of this most mysterious art.

Another notable comparison: in The Hidden King, all the faeries are pretty much the same species. Without spoiling anything, we might see some minor variations later, but in comparison to the vast plethora of Celtic creatures, The Hidden King’s fae are practically homogeneous. In the myth, there are countless varieties of faeries: pookas and selkies, kelpies and merrows, wisps and leprechauns… the list truly goes on. What’s more, these myths often detail an established and complex faery society: the refined Seelie Court is vastly different from the barbaric Unseelie Court, for instance, and the Dullahan (the basis for the headless horseman legend) wouldn’t be caught in the company of a pixie.

In terms of tradition surrounding this otherworldly people, I drew heavily from reality. The Festival of Fire is a shameless mirror of the festival of Beltane, the Celtic spring seasonal holiday, and with a few tweaks, I adapted it to the world of the Gut. For instance, bonfires and dancing are absolutely part of the Beltane tradition, as is offering food to the Good Folk beneath a hawthorn tree. The legends of the fae live in the Gut much as they did--and in some places still do--in Celtic areas of the world, and with this adaptable foundation in the truth, it was really fun to create The Hidden King’s fae.

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