Thursday, October 13, 2005


How to Deal With Fairies

I was listening to an interview with Susannah Clarke on Hour of the Wolf this morning. You can catch the show here. I loved Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, and Jim Freund opened the show with great music, as he always does. There was Tam Lin, a nice little folk song with a fairie story I had never heard before.

Listening to the troubles that Tam Lin had, I realized that there just isn't any proper guide to dealing with fairies, even though there are tons of stories about people who deal with them and are the worst for it. Therefore, I will repair this oversight myself, today, on this very blog. Please don't consider this a field guide to Fairie: that kind of thing would take much more space. This is more of a public service flyer, with an eye to avoiding the worst hazards.

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Let's NOT Make A Deal

If the accounts of Lord Dunsany, Sir Walter Scott, and many of the balladeers of the Middle Ages are to be believed, a well-travelled person can expect to encounter a member of that race called fairies, or the Fair Folk. This is especially true for young men making their way through
Britain or Ireland on foot or horseback.

Let me stress, that any occasion when you deal with a fairie is a very dangerous time. Humiliation, poverty, enslavement, illness, hardship and death are the most likely result of a meeting between a mortal and a fairie. Each type of fairie, though different from other types in appearance and outlook, is a perilous combination of mercurial temperament and great power.

Treat a fairie as you would a man or woman holding a hand grenade with the pin pulled. Stay calm and alert. Speak clearly, listen carefully, and make no sudden movements. I encourage you to use honorifics like “sir” and “mistress.”

If a fairie makes any demands on you for something material, acquiesce immediately, unless it is one of the following items, in which case you should (very politely) decline:
A lock of hair
A clipping of nail
A drop of blood
A left glove or shoe
Your first-born child

As a rule of thumb, the larger a fairie is, the more likely it is to include human flesh in its diet.

Never accept any gift offered you by a fairie, especially food. Let the story of Persephone be a caveat.

Never go anywhere with a fairie, except on threat of death or great bodily injury.

Definitely never enter a fairie’s home, even if threatened. The guest-host relationship is codified and very complicated with fairies, with punishment for transgressions being so brutal, death is the preferable choice.

Never enter into any agreement with a fairie, however tacit. Most fairies will try to pressure you into some kind of contract, phrasing the terms in the most innocent and attractive ways.

Never play any game, especially games of chance, with a fairie. If you ante the devil, you deserve your fate. These are people who have to pay a tithe to Hell every seven years. ‘Nuff said.
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That covers the major points, I think. If anyone has any additions to suggest, please email me at salvagebarATgmailDOTcom.

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