Pixie-Led: The Lure of LoreI’m learning that one of my favorite themes to explore in a narrative is narrative, story in its own right, which for me includes the literature of childhood: fairy tales, fantasy, myths, and folklore.
Many of my books, especially my first historical novel, Angel and Apostle, are conversations with other writers.
But even in a novel like Captivity, which doesn’t owe its existence to favorite books or authors (though it nods to William Blake and Walt Whitman), I’m often lured down paths that point to story in all its forms, from nursery rhymes to ghost lore.
Clara Gill, one of the two protagonists of Captivity, is science-minded, a skeptic, but she’s an artist, too. The influence of tales and their tellers on her worldview shows through her rational exterior. “The best stories belong to childhood,” admits Clara, who grew up on her housemaid’s tales of changelings and other faerie mischief, even as her surrogate uncle, Sir Artemus Lever, taught her the myths of classical Greece and Rome.
At one point Artemus equates Clara with his namesake. To the ancient Greeks, he confides, Artemus was goddess of the hunt and the animals, “a wild thing who begged her father never to make her marry… who would traipse through the forest with her lop-eared hounds and never answer to a soul.”
When Clara first meets Will Cross, the unsuitable (and doomed) object of her young affections, she claims to “know this moment in her own story. She’s being pixie-led into a wood where he’ll feed her treats with lovely long fingers and she’ll forget her name and how to get home again, for perfectly virtuous and otherwise clever girls are led astray in just this way and ruined daily…”
In middle age, Clara finds herself narrating the myth of the prophetic old sea god, Proteus, in her sketchbook. Proteus shifted shape to elude those who would have him tell their futures, and to reveal him, Clara, a zoological artist, furiously draws creature after creature. The god takes many forms, but she outlasts him, and Proteus must finally show himself. “And so appears, like a wolf loping out of a fog, a man’s face. Not the gnarled old sea god — eyes sunk in their webs of flesh, the stained ivory of a foot-long beard — but a beloved face unfurling against her will, frightening for its likeness.” The face belongs to young Will Cross, who belongs in Clara’s past, not her future.
Even the traditional ballad Will cites (we know it today as “Scarborough Fair”) is a play on British faerie lore, about an elfin prince who invites a maiden to more or less achieve the impossible, teasing, “and then you will be a true a lover of mine.”
These are only a handful of the stories within the story, but for me, tales, myths, and folklore — together with history — act as narrative fuel. I stray down those paths gladly.
~ Deborah Noyes
About the Author:
Angel and Apostle is Deborah Noyes’ first novel. Her short fiction and reviews have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Boston Sunday Globe, Seventeen, The Washington Post Book World, The Chicago Sun-Times, Stories, The Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, The Bloomsbury Review, Boston Review, and other publications. She has also written and edited numerous books for children and young adults, including the award-winning teen anthology Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales.
My sincere gratitude to author Deborah Noyes for taking the time to write a post for my blog. I also would like to thank Unbridled Books for making this post a possibility.