Hello hello, friends!
I hope that you are all having a gentle (or as gentle as possible) time change transition this week! Mine…hasn’t been. But that’s partly because of a wonky sleep schedule and one morning where I got up at 2:30am, so what can I expect? With enough coffee, I’m still awake enough to acomplish a few things. If this post is rambling, please blame the sleep deprivation, not the fact that I’m a nerd who finds worldbuilding absolutely fascinating.
Memories of Salt and Stone has been out for a couple of weeks, and now it’s time to dive in to some of the behind the scenes stuff that I’ve been excited to share with you. This week I’m focusing on the world, particularly the fae. While there are some fae creatures you’ll probably recognize in the book (such as sirens), there are probably a lot that you’re unfamiliar with. And most of them aren’t my original creations. *Beware of spoilers? Nothing major, but I do mention specific characters from here on out.*
For the world of Enwylda, I wanted to have some of the classic fae creatures, but I also wanted to dive into some lesser known folklore for inspiration, to give Legends of Emyr a flavor all its own. So I turned to Slavic folklore and searched for what their legends have to say about mythical creatures filling the world.
Slavic folklore is absolutely fascinating, and it has a dark and morbid flavor to a lot of it that I probably find a little too pleasing. Just the amount of subcategories they have for vampires provided me with hours of research (though you’ll see more evidence of that research in the next book than you do in Salt and Stone).
Rusalki are one of the creatures I spent the most time researching, understandably given how much space I give to Nikita and Vasska. I wanted the villains behind the conflict in Tyrzen to be devestatingly powerful, but I also wanted them to be a specific creature, not just generic “high fae.” Enter the rusalki. While most of the stories I found about rusalki were women, I did find one source that allowed for a male rusalka (it also said they would have red hair, which I encorporated for the fun of it).
One of the fascinating parts about rusalki is the amount of variation I found about them: some are said to be beautiful women with long pale hair, some as tall as aspens with skin like bark, some with goose shins that they hide by sitting on lily pads… which is why I chose to make them masters of glamours, able to shape their appearance to their own desires. Another interesting note about rusalki is that many of the stories seem to claim that a rusalka kills her (typically male) victims by tickling them to death. Honestly,that’s a pretty cold blooded way to kill someone, no matter how silly it sounds.
Most of the other creatures I mention–such as bauk, kikimora, vila, upyr, mare, and the two headed giant– were also inspired by my research on Slavic folklore, but I won’t bore you with all of my notes on the Emyr. (It’s a rather long document). And if you’re curious, I did include the celtic version of what we think of as the classical “high fae.” I’m curious if you can pinpoint who they are…message me or comment if you know!
However, I did want to talk about one more creature: gwyll (pronounced something like gwi-shl, soft on the “l”). I struggled a lot to figure out what sort of Emyr Helia is. I knew she was something from the beginning, and I knew a bit of what she could do (mainly go unseen and find her way around with uncanny accuracy). But it took me a long time to find a folklore creature that fit with that. I ended up searching through some old Welsh legends (well, English accounts of Welsh legends), and I found the gwyll!
The gwyll (plural gwyllon) is known as a creature that leads travelers astray. There are accounts of travelers following old women to ask them for directions, but they can never seem to catch up. Or travelers who hear the old woman laugh in front of them one moment, and hear their laughter on an entirely different mountain right after. They’re supposed to be able to make travelers lose their way even on roads that they know well, and in the stories I found they usually appear as an old woman. For the purposes of Legends of Emyr, I add that they can go unseen (at least, unseen by most) and that they’re as good at guiding as they are at misdirection, if they choose to be. They’re one of the few kinds of fae in Enwylda that can be created, rather than born.
My search took me pretty deep into the wells of Google books, but if you’re curious to know more you can search for The Old Woman of the Mountain. Of course, I used all of the folklore sources I read purely for inspiration, and I tweaked some of the creatures quite a bit to turn them into what I wanted for this world, so please don’t use the information you find in Memories of Salt and Stone like it’s an academic work. It is purely fantasy.
Alright, I’ll make myself stop there before I get too carried away. If you want to know more about any of other creatures in Memories of Salt and Stone, or have any favorite fae creatures you’re hoping to see, let me know! I’ve already talked my family’s ears off with all this, so I would love new victims. *Ahem.* I mean a new audience. Now I have Heir Eternal edits to work on! Happy reading, friends!