‘There are those who would tell you that you must keep
one eye on your children, and one eye out for the gentle-folk.’
It thrills me to imagine you, seated by a window, or at a desk, holding Little Darlings in your hands: turning it over, opening it, beginning to read. Perhaps at some point you’ll wonder about me, about the beginnings of this book, and how I was first inspired to write it.
I’ve always loved folk and fairy tales.
A childish distraction that continued into adulthood, perhaps, but if you read enough of them you realise they’re really not for children. To make Sleeping Beauty suitable to modern audiences, the rape scene was removed some while back. The less said about the original ending of The Little Mermaid, the better. Even the word ‘fairy’ has lost its sinister edge. It wasn’t too long ago that one had to refer to them out loud as ‘The Good People,’ lest they hear you and become offended.
Changeling tales – such as Brewery of Eggshells which was part of the inspiration for Little Darlings – occur in different forms across cultures. Changelings exist within the ancient folklore of Europe, Africa, Russia, China. Stories that endure in this way hold a very human kind of truth. They teach us what to fear: there is a universal horror at the idea of a fairy changeling, of a magic people who live nearby but hidden from view, who wish to take our children to give their own a better life.
When changeling tales began, in a time before modern understanding of psychiatry, they would have provided an explanation of a rare kind of mental illness. They answered the question: why would a mother think her children were changed even though, to everyone else, they looked the same as they did before? This theory would also explain why, after a while (or after a visit from the wise woman), everything was back to normal: puerperal psychosis is now known to be a temporary condition.
Then again, this is just speculation. No one can know for sure. There are those who believe that fairies exist, just out of your sight, waiting for an opportunity to strike. There are those who would tell you that you must keep one eye on your children, and one eye out for the gentle-folk, because sometimes they steal babies, leaving their own in their place. They might not tell you this, to spare your nightmares, but the worst bit is, they hardly ever give them back.
This book is offspring of mine, in a way. I must now let it out of my sight, and hope that the world treats it well. Thank you for reading. I really hope you find something in this book of yourself, of our humanity, and the fears that we all share.
Out 2nd May 2019