Tag Archives: fay

Maev and Mab are the light and dark faces of the queen of Faerie

Creatures of Faerie: Queen Maev and Mab

Just as all the fay have two faces, so too does the Queen of Faerie. Unlike many fay, though, the physical differences between the two fay are subtle. The unwary might mistake one for the other, and that might prove a mortal’s undoing.

During the months of summer, Queen Maev rules over Faerie. Quick to anger but just as quick to forget, she takes her joy in simple things, seeking only comfort and pleasure. She is ready to laugh and ignores weightier matters in favour of frivolity.

Queen Mab, on the other hand, has more sinister thoughts. She makes no secret of the fact she enjoys her position over others. She sneers at simple pleasures, taking her joy in humiliation and control. Her smile is a rare thing and never pleasant to see, for it often preludes discomfort for the viewer.

Yet both Maev and Mab have one thing in common: they are manipulators. They are expert in working the will of others to their desires. Nowhere have their charms worked better than on Thomas Rymour, who is in love with both. It is for them, more than anything else, that he wants to go back to Faerie.

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You may recognise Queen Mab from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, though the similarity is in name only. The name always seemed sinister to me, making it an easy choice for the queen’s dark face. Maev is an Irish name meaning “she who intoxicates”; perfect for the creature that seduced Tom away from mortal life.

The fay can be tiny shining sprites or enormous, lumbering woodkin.

Creatures of Faerie: the Fay

The people of Tir celebrate many festivals but the greatest are the festivals of Calmae and Calgraef. These are the spring and harvest festivals, celebrating the brightening and darkening of the days. And they have special significance to the fay.

Mortal understanding of the fay has always been limited due to the fact that no-one can see or hear the fay without the Second Sight. So few know that each fay has two faces; one for summer, one for winter.

The summer fay are more given to frivolity, their pranks innocent and their play merry. But after the festival of Calgraef, their appearance, their personality, even their name changes. Their pranks become vicious and they take joy in humiliation and suffering.

Some would take that to mean that the winter fay are dangerous whilst the summer fay are boon companions. But the truth is that a fay is dangerous whatever face they might wear. The fay are immortal and seek to fill their eternal days with entertainment, with no regard to morality and often at the expense of mortals.

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The fay got their dual aspect as I was researching fairy folklore. Folklore is, by its nature, a messy affair. Traditions are appropriated and localised, creating multiple versions of the same creature. Sometimes the fairy simply has a different name, sometimes its entire personality is changed. In trying to create my own mythology of the fay, I found myself struggling to choose between different ideas for the same character, as well as a plethora of potential names.

There are references to the folklore to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, troupes of fairies that are benevolent and malevolent respectively. It wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine it was the same troupe, interpreted differently. It was a simple step from there to a magical transformation. I tied that transformation into Halloween, as that was traditionally when darker spirits began to roam the Earth.

Every writer wants to put a spin on a trope or tradition when they use it in their writing. The hope is that spin will be original rather than gimmicky. I hope the two faces of the fay will be seen as the former rather than the latter.