Mythical Monday: Of Fey Folk and Faerie Dogs by Mae Clair

Whenever spring and summer roll around, I think of mushroom rings, twilight evenings perfumed by honeysuckle, and faeries. Tucked away in a drawer, I have of those Frankenstory WIPs that has been hanging around for decades. Every year I think “this is the year I’m going to pull it out and finish it.” And every year it never happens. 😦

The story has been through multiple title changes (it’s presently without one), length modifications, character changes, plot thread rewrites, and just about everything in between. I should abandon the wretched thing, but I can’t seem to walk away from the Fey Folk.  Yes, faeries factor prominently into the plot. It’s part urban fantasy, part horror, and part magical realism. The last one is what draws me in, refusing to let me abandon it. Who knows….maybe the Fey have placed a glamour on it and that’s why it’s still wiggling around in the back of my mind.

One of these days…one of these days I will finish it. Given how odd the story is, I’m sure I’ll have to indie pub it, but that’s okay. It’s one of those books you want to see “out there” just because it resonates with you. Kind of like faeries do.

At least for me.

But did you know there are also tales of a Faerie Dog? This ghostly animal appears mostly as a herald to announce the imminent presence of the Fey. Perhaps the ancient faerie races were too lofty to soil themselves by interacting with humans, but they weren’t above using human tools for their purpose.

A spinning wheel in an old cottageAs an example, there is a brief account I found in The Vanishing People, Fairy Lore and Legends, a book by Katherine Briggs. It speaks of a family who were visited by a Faerie Dog. According to the tale, the family would gather on winter nights in the main room, the mother and daughters working at their spinning wheels. From nowhere, a white dog would appear in the room, a sign the family was about to be visited by the Fey Folk.

Bustling about, the humans ensured a fire burned brightly in the hearth, put out fresh water for their guests, then hurried to bed. Below, in their living quarters, they could hear the faeries moving about, but never saw them. Only the white dog was visible.

The same book tells of another family who neglected to leave water out for the faeries when they arrived to do baking. Since they had no water for their dough, the Fey Folk drew blood from the toe of a servant girl and used it to bake their cakes. The next day the servant girl fell ill and only recovered when she was given a bit of cake left under the thatch.

The faeries in my Frankenstory would probably follow either path. They’re focused on their own pleasures, even at the expense of mortals, but aren’t above helping humans if it suits their fancy.

When I was a kid, I thought of faeries as small, tiny creatures, frivolous and harmless. As I grew older and became familiar with the ancient legends, that opinion changed to reflect a race of majestic beings, sometimes heroic, sometimes selfish, living forever on the cusp of right and wrong.

In Cornwall, the faeries are called the Pagan Dead…not bad enough for Hell, but not good enough for Heaven. What’s your take on these magical beings?

16 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: Of Fey Folk and Faerie Dogs by Mae Clair

  1. Great bit of lore, Mae! My contemporary fantasy (currently under revision–again) features a pair of Tuatha de Danann hunted by a Fomhoire which can take the shape of a black dog. Haven’t read anything about the white one. I like to think of the fae as less narcissistic and more practical, which is how I’ve imagined them in my book. Oh, and not immortal–they just age much more slowly in our world than in their own. Still, love the myths!

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    • Such interesting takes on the Fey, Julie. Your book sounds most intriguing. I always loved legends of the Tuatha de Dannann, but the spin you’ve put on your plot has me looking forward to your release. It sound exactly like something I would love to read!

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  2. Lovely post and captures the duality of the fae. I adore fairies and think mostly their interactions with mortals have an ulterior motive. I love the flying sort of fairies, wee and twee, pretty and perilous if crossed. I do hope you do work on your fairy book soon.

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    • One of these days, I must get back to my Frankenstory and whittle it into some semblance of order. I have a few of the wee flying faeries in that book, as well as the tall, slender ones…some frivolous and some not so frivolous. They are definitely fascinating creatures to write about!

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  3. I love this story about the Faerie dogs, Mae. I learn a great deal about the magical world beyond by reading your posts. Thanks for sharing you knowledge with us. BTW, I love mushrooms in spring to, but the edible kind, like morels.

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    • I LOVE mushrooms, Stanalei, although I don’t believe I’ve ever had a morel. Now you have me curious. I always wanted to hunt wild mushrooms but am too wary of the poisonous varieties (I must use that theme in a book some day). I’m glad you enjoy my Mythical Monday posts. They are always so much fun to write!

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  4. I know you love lore from all over the world so, after thanking you for the interesting things you’ve brought to our attention today, here’s something from my part of the world on this topic. Faeries, in Romanian lore, are predominantly seen as good creatures, young, beautiful, and friendly towards honest diligent people, willing to help them overcome life obstacles. They birthplace – flowers. They are endowed with supernatural powers and are immortal. Nevertheless, their patience is short fused. For lazy, mean people and people who trespass their territory or infringe their laws, faeries simply turn into harpies. They turn the wrongdoers into disgusting reptiles or other animals or may even take their minds and push them to suicide.
    In Romanian lore there is a spectral dog. Quite spooky. He has a permanent infernal character living close by cemeteries and deserted roads. He is a harbinger of bad luck to the person who sees him. He is a small, white dog, with a loud bark and with a strong bite.

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    • Wonderful tales, Carmen! I’m always curious to learn about the legends of your country. I especially found the spectral dog intriguing. I love tales of Church Grimms and Black Dogs that haunt moors. Very curious that yours is small and white, but I would not want to cross him. Also, that your faeries will change into harpies to go after those who wrong them. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. This is a unique presentation that captures the duality of the fae. This is such deep, informative and outstanding to learn and explore about faerie dogs…

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    • Thanks, Mino. I do think the duality of the fae is key to their personality and how they are viewed. I’d hadn’t know of the white faerie dog before, so it was interesting to discover that thread in my reading. As always, thanks for visiting! 🙂

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  6. You’ve got my attention. It sounds like a fun story. I know you’re reading Dresden and I loved his take on them. Also from upstream, morels are awesome and just about ready in Idaho.

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    • Okay, I’m going to have to look around for morels given my love of mushrooms. Someone around here must have them!

      Dresden’s take on Faeries is so unique. I’ve really been enjoying how he portrays them.

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  7. The appearance of the faerie dog evokes the mystery of the fae so well. It’s like they must announce their impending visit so that humans can make ready to perceive them. I didn’t know the fact about the Cornish term for faerie– the pagan dead– I love that! Faeries are some of my favorite beings, and I enjoy seeing the different portrayals by authors. Thanks so much, Mae, for an information and inspirational post.

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  8. Flossie, the faerie dog was completely new to me, but I did get the feeling it was a herald, so humans could prepare for the arrival of the Fey. I love all of the different portrayals of these fascinating beings, too–as diverse and complex as they are! 🙂

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