Tales from Nagspeake Raconteurs

Welcome to the home of Nagspeake Folklore on the Web! As you might expect, in a city in which primary sources have such a relatively brief shelf-life, the oral tradition is alive and well in Nagspeake, and the Creve Coeur Folklore Society works tirelessly to record the great storytellers of our time for the benefit of those that follow. Good plan, considering at the moment, audio recordings aren’t legally obligated to be remanded to the archives upon the death of the owner.

The following is a tale collected from Edward Marie Bear, one of the fifteen stories in the CCFS’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled collection.

Why There Are No Fairies in Nagspeake

As Told by Edward Marie Bear to Kate Milford

Well, like all youngsters I heard some fairy tales when I was a boy, and there were fairies in ’em, and I raised my hand and asked my teacher one day after storytime how came it there weren’t any fairies in Nagspeake. First she said, don’t be a fool, Ed, there aren’t fairies anyplace, they’re made up. But about the only thing I trusted that teacher on was that two and two made four and even that I was pretty sure there might be exceptions to, so I went home and asked the smartest person I knew, and that was my uncle Moody. I knew he was the smartest because he had one blue eye and one brown eye and he was the only person in the world I’d ever met like that, and he fully supported my worm collection, which was important. Also he drank a lot of whiskey and sometimes gave me a nip of it, which goes a long way when you’re six years old.

Unk Moody I said, teacher says there’s no fairies ’cause they’re not real. If they’re not real, how come so many people tell stories about them? Why does everyone lie? Ed says Unk Moody, you ain’t a idiot like your father, so I’ll tell you the truth. Ain’t everybody lying, just that teacher you got’s an idiot don’t know no better. I’ll tell you why there ain’t Fairy Number One in Nagspeake. There used to be, only they’s all dead and run off. And that’s the truth. Unk Moody, I said, what happened to them? Ed says Unk Moody, back once a long time ago used to be lots of things ’round this bay that don’t live here anymore. Problem is, people’s bad for a lot of things that get along fine without ’em–people that is–and fairies is no exception. So think for a minute, Ed, and tell me what we got in Nagspeake ain’t anywhere else to be found? Unk Moody I said, I don’t know what you’re referring to. Ed says Unk Moody, look outside. So I do, and what’s out there but a whole lot of nothing; Uncle Moody’s window looked out on a ton of sky when I was six and not tall enough to see the street below his sixth-floor hospital room. Iron, shithead, says Unk Moody, and he hit me upside the back of the head hard enough to make the old fire escape out there swim even though it was the middle of the day and the iron sure wasn’t doing a thing but hanging there. Ed says Unk Moody, sorry about the whapping but every once in a while you really are your father’s kid. Fairies hate iron. Can’t stand it. Burns ’em like acid. Here’s how it was:

Years and years, hundreds of years ago and maybe more, there were ’bout a million fairies in Nagspeake. They were like rats. Kinda ratlike, too, if you ever seen one. All tooth and claw, but if you really focus on their wings, which’re pretty enough, maybe you won’t notice the teeth and claws and tails.  Tend to spread diseases, too. And they bite. Basically, the early settlers found ’em kinda verminous. Plaguelike. And they spread weird diseases, too, but even that wasn’t the worst of it. They’d whisper. Float close to your head and say things to you that’d drive you mad if you didn’t shoo ’em away right quick. Then maybe you’d have a minute or so before they’d come back, and God help you if you quit shooing and started listening. Turn a fellow crazy, make him do wretched stuff. Least half the first batch up there in St. Whit’s they said were there ’cause they listened to fairies. Still hear old timers say that sometimes about anybody a little batty. Hell, you’ve heard me say it about your dad, that he’s done started listening to the fairies.

So anyhow they were a right old scourge, Unk Moody said, but you couldn’t do much about ’em, cause of those wings, and ’cause of the teeth and claws; eat their way out of any nets or traps you could set. And trap technology back then was basically limited to crab pots and mousetraps, and fairies figured those out pretty quick. So the little town was here back then kinda languished until somebody found the iron. Unk Moody I said, they found it? Ed says Unk Moody, I heard it told both ways. Still isn’t anybody in Nagspeake really knows if they brought the iron or if they excavated it, but my dad he said they dug it up, and once they brought it out of the dirt into the light it started doing what Old Iron does–needs the sun to move like that, though, so long as it was buried, it was dormant. Then out in the sun and up it sprouts like vines, and then the fairies, their days were numbered.

Unk Moody I said, I always thought the iron was harmless. Ed says Unk Moody, you better hope it’s harmless to people, and I’ll leave it at that, ’cause I don’t know what to do when kids have nightmares other than to put in earplugs so I don’t have to listen. Happens, though, it ain’t harmless to fairies. And unlike normal iron, which only causes fairies problems if somebody sticks ’em in an iron cage or fences ’em in with it or something, Old Iron goes after ’em.  And that’s what it did. Started to be that at night, when the iron went on the move, you could hear them as they died, and fairies don’t die easy; the Nagspeake fairies fought tooth and claw and ratty tail, but in the end there just wasn’t much they could do to hurt the iron. People started wearing jewelry made from bits and pieces of the stuff, especially cuffs on their ears, so that when an unsuspecting little flitter came too close to whisper, they’d be in for a nasty surprise. Things would practically leap off your ear like a jumping spider.

Well, after a while the fairies that survived gravitated toward the places where there wasn’t so much iron, mainly up in the woods on the Hilltop. Near the monastery up there there still ain’t any iron, so they were pretty safe there, except for the ground’s full of arsenic, which made ’em pretty sickly-like. I heard plenty say after they migrated up there, they pretty much got too sick, most of ’em, to even fly anymore. But there was no iron, and sickly’s better most of the time than dead, so there they stayed. Unk Moody I said, what happened to those fairies? Ed says Unk Moody, nobody knows. Ain’t a lot of people up there on the Hilltop except for the monks in the monastery and the nutters in the asylum who could possibly see ’em, and the fairies themselves don’t advertise their presence. Possible there’s a few of ’em left up there, but maybe you wouldn’t recognize ’em for fairies these days, being as how they mostly crawl and creep.

Well, of course I’m six so right away I start thinking about how you get up into the forest and find some creepy crawly fairies, which sound a ton more interesting than worms which at the time is what I was collecting. Think we could find a fairy, Unk Moody? I ask. Tell you what, Unk Moody says after a few minutes, why don’t we ask your dad next time we visit.  Well, I think about that one for a minute or two and I guess it starts showing on my face that I’m not really that interested in finding a fairy. Unk Moody sort of nods, ’cause truth be told he wasn’t much on going up to the asylum, either, and I guess you figured out he pretty much hated my dad, if not for whom none of us would ever have to go up there. Ed says Unk Moody, now I think about it, your dad’s  been listening to fairies a little too long to take at his word anymore anyway. Unk Moody I said, I’d just as soon see about some new worms instead.

Flotilla, May 2008

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