I can’t seem to stay away from stories of magic for long. I write real-world stories sometimes too—what the book industry calls “contemporary” fiction—but before long I tend to come back to writing a story with a supernatural element. I’ve written about ghosts, Greek gods, and, most recently in The Goblins of Bellwater, goblins and other fae.
These types of folklore have always fascinated me, even though I’ve slept many nights in supposedly haunted buildings and have never seen a ghost, and have wandered along in the most enchanting of woods and never seen a faery, and (regretfully) have never met a Greek god either. (Rather than this being any comment on their actual existence, I think I’m just unobservant and too much in my own head most of the time!) Still, something about these entities feels real to me. That isn’t surprising: after all, these are the kinds of stories humans have been telling for millennia. Every culture around the world has its ghosts, fae folk, nature spirits, and divinities, many of whom may mingle and overlap with each other depending on the local belief system.
What makes these beings interesting to me, and also what makes them excellent material for stories, is that they aren’t always good or evil. They come in a variety of behaviors (like humans), and their culture and rules may not always make sense to us (again, let’s be honest: like humans!).
In The Goblins of Bellwater, I started with the inspiration of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market,” which tells the tale of a young woman cursed by goblins, and her sister who sets out to undo the spell. The poem makes it clear that goblins are, indeed, almost totally malevolent in the Victorian world these sisters live in, or at least mischievous. Folklore tends to agree on this assessment. Goblins are usually described as rude, thieving, and fond of causing trouble, so that’s how I wrote them. But in keeping with the notion that there are many kinds of fae in the world, I also included more benign or even helpful varieties of fae living in the forests of Washington state (where I set my version of the story), to whom the two sisters might be able to turn for help.
In doing so, they need to show proper respect for the forest and the waters—in fact, for all four of the elements: fire, water, earth, and air. I enjoyed looking around at our beautiful natural landscape here in western Washington and deciding which parts of nature would be best represented by which elements, and then giving each some faery spirits to bring them further to life. Seal-like fae swim in Puget Sound in my story, air fae in the shape of hummingbirds and moths fly through the night skies, earth gnomes and glowing creepy-crawlies dig into the soil, and fireweed fae and little wildfire-dwelling dragons emerge from the flames. It’s easy to feel fear when encountering any of them, but if my characters have demonstrated their trust and love for the land, they should know they will remain safe. That is, if they can stay out of the clutching hands of those tricksy goblins!
As my characters are reminded, we modern humans with our mostly indoor lives can easily forget how much we depend on nature. But it’s not only important to remember, it’s healthy for us. Scientific studies have found that being out in the natural world has a restorative, soothing, uplifting effect on mental health. All you have to do is go be with the trees and the fresh air, appreciate them, and of course protect them so that we can all go on benefiting from them. Sounds a little like magic, don’t you think?
The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle will be available for purchase on October 1, 2017. Don’t forget to pick up your copy!