Good Faeries/Bad Faeries

Good Faeries/Bad Faeries

by Brian Froud

"Once upon a time, I thought faeries lived only in books, old folktales, and the past. That was before they burst upon my life as vibrant, luminous beings, permeating my art and my everyday existence, causing glorious havoc...."

In the long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller Faeries, artist Brian Froud rescues pixies, gnomes, and other

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"Once upon a time, I thought faeries lived only in books, old folktales, and the past. That was before they burst upon my life as vibrant, luminous beings, permeating my art and my everyday existence, causing glorious havoc...."

In the long-awaited sequel to the international bestseller Faeries, artist Brian Froud rescues pixies, gnomes, and other faeries from the isolation of the nursery and the distance of history, bringing them into the present day with vitality and imagination. In this richly imagined new book, Brian reveals the secrets he has learned from the faeries — what their noses and shoes look like, what mischief and what gentle assistance they can give, what their souls and their dreams are like.

As it turns out, faeries aren't all sweetness and light. In addition to such good faeries as Dream Weavers and Faery Godmothers, Brian introduces us to a host of less well behaved creatures — traditional bad faeries like Morgana le Fay, but also the Soul Shrinker and the Gloominous Doom. The faery kingdom, we find, is as subject to good and evil as the human realm. Brilliantly documenting both the dark and the light, Good Faeries/Bad Faeries presents a world of enchantment and magic that deeply compels the imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

Vanity Fair
As the century ends, fairies are back!
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
YA-Froud's collection of fanciful sketches encompasses both the benevolent and the malevolent species of the tribe Faeries. The structure of the book is reversible with the jacket proclaiming "Good Faeries," matched on the flip side with the title "Bad Faeries." An introduction to each section covers Faery Blights, Faery Defects, Glamour, and Music, and offers advice to humans on protection against the meddling of the Bad Faeries. There are paragraphs on naming, classification, and a further delineation of earth, water, fire, and air Faeries. This is followed by an exposition on Faery physiognomy-their wings, eyes, ears, heads, and size. Faery communication and healing are also discussed. The illustrations are the heart of the book, whether done in black and white, sepia, or full color. They are vivid, full of vitality, and wonderfully varied. With unnumbered pages, this is primarily a sketchbook for readers to leaf through and marvel at the creative bent that depicts the countenances of: "The Buttered Toast Faery," "The Wrong Decision Faery," and the "Pot Pixie." While not as glamorously elegant as their counterparts, the Bad Faeries are indeed beautiful in their own right. Handsomely jacketed, this is a whimsical, charming, artfully crafted book.-Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

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Gardners Books
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Preface from Good Faeries

Once upon a time, I thought faeries lived only in books, old folktales, and the past. That was before they burst upon my life as vibrant, luminous beings, permeating my art and my everyday existence, causing glorious havoc.

Until 1976, I lived in London and worked as an illustrator, creating images to go along with other people's words. Then I moved to a small country village in Devon, along with my friend Alan Lee and his family. As I walked through forests of oak and ivy, across the wild expanse of Dartmoor, among stone circles, Bronze Age ruins, and tumbled stones of old castle walls, I began to hear words and stories whispered by the land itself. I listened to those stories, soaking in the spirit of the land with its wealth of folklore and myth. Together, Alan and I created Faeries, a book of pictures and faery lore, which went on to become an international bestseller. This book was considered by many to be a definitive guide to the faery realm...but I soon discovered that my journey through the land of Faery had only just begun. I learned that the denizens of that land weren't confined to stories from an age long gone — they were all around me, tangible pulses of energy, spirit, emotion, and light. They took on form as they stepped into my art, cloaked in shapes of nature and myth. I'd attracted their attention while creating Faeries, and they weren't finished with me yet.

In the years after the publication of Faeries I worked on many other projects, each of them steeped in magic. For Jim Henson, I designed two movies based upon my art: The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. I published other books such as The World of the Dark Crystal, Brian Froud's Faerielands, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells, and The Goblin Companion (the last three with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame). Yet of all these publications, Faeries seemed to have captured the imaginations of the greatest number of readers. When I ventured out of my Devon studio to work on projects halfway across the world, people sought me out clutching wellworn copies of the volume. They were of all ages and from all walks of life, but they had one thing in common: an intense relationship with the book and an immense affection for the imagery within. The faeries had entered their lives, and shaped their dreams, and touched their hearts.

It has been twenty years since Faeries was published, and in that time I have never stopped my own personal intensive exploration of the faery realm. During these years I met my wife, Wendy, a sculptor and doll maker, on the set of The Dark Crystal; our son, Toby, was born; and we moved to a seventeenth-century Devon longhouse built on Saxon foundations. Faery paintings and drawings began to crowd me out of my studio, spilling into the rest of the house alongside my wife's mythic sculptures, woodland masks, and faery dolls. My paintings are not illustrations drawn from specific stories or folklore texts; rather, they are images painted intuitively, springing directly from visions guided by faery muses, a paradoxical mix of chance and intent. As this body of faery imagery grew, I also followed the faeries' footsteps in the study of world mythology, archetypal psychology, and magical esoterica. Through painting, I discovered much about faery nature in a daily, very personal way — and then found these discoveries echoed in myth, folklore, art, and visionary writings from cultures all around the world.

Faeries was a book that concentrated on the Faeries of the past, found in old British tales. Good Faeries/Bad Faeries is about the magic in our lives today; it links faeries of the past with faeries of the present and the future. I'd always wanted this book to be more than just a presentation of my faery art. I'd also hoped to address the process of creativity and imagination that enables direct communication with the luminous, living faery realm.

In folklore, they say that those who can see the Faeries are blessed with second sight. Where some people perceive only empty fields, a man or woman with second sight can see a host of faeries dancing in a ring or the shining entrance to a faery hill. Where some notice only an ordinary street of shops or a marketplace, others see faeries in human disguise, paying for market goods with magical coins that will turn into mere stones and leaves when the faeries have gone.

Through painting pictures and listening to the spirit of the beautiful land where I make my home, I have discovered that the second sight is not limited to people in old folktales. We can all learn to have the sight to see the faery world around us. It shimmers in every autumn leaf and lingers in every cool blue shadow; it gives every stone and stream and grove of trees vibrant, animate life. Second sight can also be called in-sight: into the faery realms, into the very heart of nature and into the mystical world that lies deep within the human soul.

In ancient Greece, the word eidloa meant image, and eidolon meant soul. Image, then, was a way of understanding and envisioning the soul. This is a book of what I call "imaginosis," or knowing through image — a book of images designed to spark self-revelation. Such images grow from my own inner journeys and daily contact with the faeries. By experience I have found them to be irrational, poetic, absurd, paradoxical, and very, very wise. They bestow the gifts of inspiration, self-healing, and self-transformation...but they also create the mischief in our lives, wild disruptions, times of havoc, mad abandon, and dramatic change.

Humans have long maintained close daily connections with the faeries. In centuries past, we've acknowledged them by many traditional names: boggarts, bogles, bocans, bugganes, brownies, blue-caps, banshees, miffies, nippers, nickers, knockers, noggles, lobs, hobs, scrags, ouphs, spunks, spurns, hodge-pochers, moon dancers, puckles, thrumpins, mawkins, gally-trots, Melsh Dicks, and myriad others. Just as they have many different names, they appear to us in many different guises. They are shape shifters, highly mutable, for no faery or nature spirit has a fixed body. In their essence, faeries are abstract structures of flowing energy, formed of an astral matter that is so sensitive as to be influenced by emotion and thought. In their most primal form, we perceive them simply as pulsing forces of radiant light, with a glowing center located in the region of the head or heart. (In the more highly evolved faeries, the head and the eyes are more strongly defined.) Responding both to mythic patterns and to human thoughts, these abstract forces delight in coalescing into wings and flowing drapery, taking on shapes that reflect the human, animal, plant, and mineral worlds.

In this book, we explore the nature of faeries in all their various shape-shifting guises. As guardians, guides, godmothers, and muses, the good faeries of the twilight realm are agents of self-growth and transformation, embodiments of the healing energies that flow through nature and through ourselves. Both luminous and illuminating, they reveal hidden aspects of our souls.

Yet as centuries' worth of folklore points out, faeries can also be tricksy creatures, delighting in all things irrational, nonsensical, and wickedly absurd. Did you ever wonder why your socks never match or buttered toast always falls facedown? Did you ever wonder what a Pang of Regret looks like? Or a Mild Panic? Here you'll see the faces and forms of the creatures behind these and darker problems — the bad faeries who pinch us, nip us, trip us up, and lead us astray. Yet even bad faeries have their gifts to bestow when we understand their contrary natures. By recognizing and naming them, you'll find they can teach you how to spin the straw of your life into gold.

The pictures that follow were inspired by the dynamic, spirited world around me: the faery creatures who have guided, disrupted, enchanted, and plagued my daily life — pushing, prodding, provoking, sometimes tripping me up so that (flat on my back) I can see from a new perspective. They populate my studio, snooze among the books and paints, flit through the windows, nest in the cupboards, play silly pranks, and offer bright gifts. You'll find them in forests, on mountains, in deserts, on sandy reefs at the edge of the sea; in the gold mist of a country dawn or the silver smoke of an urban twilight; in England and in America...and in landscapes throughout the world. Faeries are the inner nature of each land, and a reflection of the inner nature of our souls. They surround me now, as they surround you — you need only the sight to see them.

The pictures in this book all insisted on manifesting themselves on my drawing board. Nothing is made up — these images are direct faery communications. The words I've used to describe the pictures emerged from the same mysterious place, pulsing into and out of focus as though they came to me through distorting glass. This is the way faeries communicate, with high seriousness combined with humor, with symbols, lists, jokes, connections, repetitions, tangents, and deliberate confusions. The smallest figure in the background of a picture might be the most important aspect of all; or an absurd phrase might contain the hidden message the faeries intend. Some faeries demand a complex understanding and mythological erudition; others express themselves elliptically; still others are deceptively direct. Some words I resisted, feeling they were too obscure or simply ridiculous...but the faeries insisted, reminding me that not all meanings are meant to be clear at once. Some ideas take time. Some words are designed to lead us on to inner journeys, with truth hidden deep inside them. In Faeryland, that which seems most absurd is often the key to communication with higher spiritual forces. It is a land where wisdom is inseparable from whimsy and where leprechauns dance with the angels.

This is a very personal book in that you, the reader and viewer, are looking through my eyes and my heart into Faery — and yet it's my hope that these images will encourage your own second sight to develop. Joseph Campbell has said that artists are the "shamans and myth-makers" of our modern world. Like Campbell, I believe in the artist as shaman, journeying deep into uncharted inner worlds, then bringing back sensations and visions encountered in that mythic terrain. I see my pictures as maps of the journeys I've taken through the realms of the soul. And I hope that these maps will lead you to find faery pathways of your own.

Brian Froud

Copyright © 1998 by Brian Froud

Introduction from Bad Faeries

Although people nowadays tend to think of faeries as gentle little sprites, anyone who has encountered faeries knows they can be tricksy, capricious, even dangerous. Our ancestors certainly knew this. Folklore is filled with cautionary tales about the perils of faery encounters, and in centuries past there were many places where people did not dare to go a-hunting for fear of little men.

The idea that the world is full of spirit beings both bad and good is one we find in the oldest myths and tales from cultures the world over. In ancient Greece, the Neoplatonist Porphyry (c. 232-c. 305 A.D.) wrote that the air was inhabited by good and bad spirits with fluid bodies of no fixed shape, creatures who change their form at will. These were certainly faeries. Porphyry explained that the bad spirits were composed of turbulent malignity and created disruptions whenever humans failed to address them with respect. The Romans acknowledged the presence of faery spirits called the Lares, who, when venerated properly at the hearth (the heart) of the household, protected the home and family. The Lares were ruled over by their mother, Larunda, an earth goddess and faery queen. The Roman bogeymen were the Lemures, dark spirits of the night. They had all the traits of bad faeries and had to be placated by throwing black beans at them while turning one's head away.

In northern Europe, the maggots emerging from the dead body of the giant Ymir transmuted into light and dark elves — light elves inhabiting the air, dark elves dwelling in the earth. Persian faeries, known as the peri, were creatures formed of the element of fire existing on a diet of perfume and other exquisite odors. The bad faeries of Persia, called the dev, were forever at war with the peri, whom they captured and locked away in iron cages hanging high in trees. Other faery creatures, both benevolent and malign, appear in tales from many far-flung lands: the laminak of Basque folklore, the grama-devata of India, the jinn of Arabia, the hsien of China, the yumboes of West Africa, the underhill people of the Cherokee...and numerous other spirits who have both plagued and aided humankind since the world began.

In the early seventeenth century, a certain Dr. Jackson held the view that good and bad faeries are simply two sides of the same coin: "Thus are the fayries from difference of events ascribed to them, divided into Good and Bad, when it is by one and the same malignant fiend that meddled in both, seeking sometimes to be feared, otherwiles to be loved." An English text from the sixteenth century states that "there be three kinds of fairies, the black, the white and the green, of which the black be the woorst" — although in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602), another group of faeries was added: "faeries black, grey, green and white," with little indication as to their nature.

In old Scotland, there was no doubt that there were only two groups of faeries: the Gude Fairies and the Wicked Wichts. In the former category was the Seelie Court (the good or blessed court), a host of faeries who were benefactors to humans, giving bread, seeds, and comfort to the needy. These faeries might give secret help in threshing, weaving, and household chores, and were generally kind — but they were strict in their demands for appropriate reparation. The Unseelie Court, by contrast, were fearsome creatures, inflicting various harms and ills on man and beast alike. In The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries (1911), the American folklorist W.Y. Evans Wentz asserted that the faery race had the power to destroy half the human race yet refrained from doing so out of ethical considerations. Lady Gregory (the Irish folklorist, playwright, and patron of W B. Yeats) held the faeries in rather less awe; she claimed they were merely capricious and mischievous, like unruly children.

In modern life, we are not free from the plagues and torments of bad faeries. They make their presence known to us through all manner of disruptions, from minor irritations to serious problems affecting health and well-being.

Among the minor faery mischief makers are ones we're all familiar with: the snagger, whose sharp claws attack women's stockings before they leave the house; the various spotters and stainers, who leave the grubby evidence of their manifestation on a freshly laundered blouse or tie, usually right before that important business meeting; the sneaker sneaker, who always waits until Monday morning, when the kids are late for the bus, to silently sneak away with a shoe. We've all had personal tongue tanglers, and sudden stark panics, and gloominous dooms, and moments when afterward we say: Good heavens, whatever possessed me? The faeries have possessed you, tangling your words, your thoughts, your feet, or your fate. These capricious creatures have been known as frairies, feriers, ferishers, fear-sidhe (faery men), and fearies — a whole race of beings known to block potential and clarity of thought. They hide behind tiny irritations and lurk within our daily disasters. In more serious guise, they're the faery blights whose touch can cause depressions, addictions, compulsions, and moments of dark despair.

It is the nature of faeries to be unruly, chaotic, disruptive, subversive, confusing, ambivalent, paradoxical, and downright frustrating. Yet even these bad interferences serve an important function. They remind us of the value of connection, wholeness, and openness by holding a mirror up to us and showing us the opposite. Bad faeries, from the small sock stealers to the larger creatures of gloom and doom, are (like all faeries) expressions of nature and of our own deepest selves. They are manifestations of psychic blocks, distortions, and unresolved emotions; they give form and personality to negative forces and abstractions. They nip and prod us, asking for simple acknowledgment of their presence in our lives, insisting that we take notice of them — the first step to healing or change.

It cannot be denied that sickness, madness, and even death have been reported in many old tales concerning encounters with the shadow side of Faeryland — yet the same faeries have also been known to give gifts, guidance, and aid to the needy, and to heal mortals of illnesses both physical and psychological. I believe no faery is completely good or bad, but fluidly embodies both extremes. Any faery can be either one or the other in his or her equivocal relationship with us. They change with circumstance, with whim, and with motivations far beyond our human ken. Their actions and reactions generally work toward engaging us at deeper and deeper levels of consciousness — insisting we be conscious of them, of ourselves, and of the world around us. They can become quite angry and disruptive if we're not awake and paying attention — particularly if they feel they've not been properly acknowledged.

The bad faery in the story "Sleeping Beauty" is one example: she is angry because she has been neglected — overlooked at the christening feast. Yet her wickedness initiates the events that lead to the princess's final transformation. Could this have been her intent all along, beyond the guise of wickedness? When dealing with the faeries it is wise to remember that things aren't always as they first appear. What seems to be bad behavior might have a deeper, underlying reason.

Despite our tendency to split the world into good and bad, right and wrong, light and dark, we must remember that in truth (and in the faery realms) such divisions are not always cleanly cut. Each contains a piece of the other, holding the world in tension and balance. And the shape-shifting denizens of Faery can appear wearing either face.

Copyright © 1998 by Brian Froud

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