Fairy tales were my favorite stories to hear as a kid, and I built my career on fairy tale retellings before adding in LitRPG and Urban Fantasy. My love of fairy tales touches pretty much everything I write–Hall of Blood and Mercy, in example, is loosely based off the majorly creepy fairy tale Donkeyskin. While I didn’t have a specific fairy tale that inspired the story/plot of Court of Midnight and Deception, I was inspired by a slew of them when forging fae culture and lore, which I figured would be a fun topic for today.
A lot of the fae lore I applied to CoM&D came from the story of Tam Lin…which is kind of confusing to say because there are about a dozen variations of Tam Lin. (That’s pretty common for fairy tales since they were told verbally and not written down/recorded until historians–like the Brothers Grimm–made a point of collecting the stories.) I decided to pull all references to Tam Lin out of this post and put them in a separate post so we can look at it in more detail…particularly because there’s a few spoilers in there that I want to wait to discuss until The Queen’s Crown–the final book in the Court of Midnight and Deception trilogy–is out. Moving on!
Time/the Effects of the Fae Realm
I knew I wanted time to work differently in the fae realms–there had to be a clear divide between how the human world followed a natural order, and how the fae realms could be thrown in to chaos based on the state of their Court. Additionally–though I never approach this subject straight on–I wanted to hint that the fae realms are the reasons why the fae are so long lived.
In the first book its implied that their magic is restored, so they are restored as well instead of actual fluctuations of time–though I do make days and nights kind of screwy. I actually got this idea from the story of Rip Van Winkle, but it’s also present in other legends–like King Arthur. Plus, the idea of time flowing differently in the fairy realm is steeped in a lot of old Irish/Scottish/British ballads and stories–I took some inspiration from Tir na nOg when fashioning the laws of the fae realm.
Leila’s aversion to eating fae food, and the fae’s ability to charm food wasn’t a whim, either! It was a tiny bit inspired by the Greek story of Persephone and Hades, but again “don’t eat magic food or food from magic people” is a pretty common theme in fairy tales–most obviously in Hansel and Gretel, or even Rapunzel whose parents were forced to give her up because of a bargain struck over a Rapunzel plant.
Speaking of bargains, fairy tales and folklore are brimming with stories that advise against making deals with fae folk or magic folk. Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel are forerunners in that area, with each story putting a baby in danger due to the parents’ attempts to bargain with magic. Some versions of Twelve Dancing Princesses has the title characters stuck dancing in the fae world every night because of a bargain they unwittingly struck with fae, and in some variations of East of the Sun West of the Moon, the wretched mother-in-law is a fae who made the eye-roll-worthy rules of the title characters’ marriage.
Of course there are fairy tales where the bargaining turns out in the advantage of the main character–it’s usually lesser known stories like “The Farmer and the Boggart” where a farmer makes a bargain with a boggart about crops and proceeds to outwit him. I added an extra layer to the art of bargains by throwing fae honesty and wordsmithing into the mix.
Fae and Honesty
Again, having tricky fae isn’t anything unique–though when I started to research I was pretty surprised to find out this is more of a modern tradition.
The first record of being physically unable to lie appears in the story of Thomas the Rhymer, which is considered a 14th century romance. In the story, the main character, Thomas, is granted a boon that makes him unable to lie by a fairy queen–so it’s not even the fae themselves who can’t lie, but a victim of their bargaining.
Fae being unable to lie isn’t something you’ll see in historic fairy tales, but it has popped up in a lot of modern books–mostly famously the Mercy Thompson series, the Dresden Files–and since I knew what I wanted the main plotline in CoMaD was going to involve a bit of a mystery, I knew I wanted fae to be unable to lie–because it would take the trickery factor up by ten! (Though I did regret that decision a little while writing. Editing made my head hurt because I had to make sure EVERY PIECE of dialogue was 100% truthful!)
I will say the fae’s obsession with tea is 100% my own invention–but it’s for a reason that is baked into my version of fae culture, so it makes sense. And you’ll hear all about that reason in The Queen’s Crown, which launches next week!
Thanks for reading, Champions, and have a lovely day!