Appropriately for May Day and at a time when the Moon was not only at the full but closest it ever gets to the earth in its ovoid orbit, thus appearing a huge in the sky, Skylight Press has just published my latest book - FAERY LOVES AND FAERY LAIS.
The Breton lai is a relatively short narrative, usually accompanied by music, that appeared in France some time about the middle of the 12th century, spread by travelling musicians and story tellers called ‘jongleurs’ and containing a great deal of faery and supernatural lore.
There was also at this time a demand in courtly circles for long romances to be written and recited by court poets such as Chrétien de Troyes, who was the first to exploit the popularity of Arthurian legend. A major source for such romances were the lais told by the travelling jongleurs, who in turn derived their tales from the Celts of Ireland,
, Wales and Cornwall . Brittany
Their versions were not for courtly consumption however, but were a cruder and less sophisticated rendering of the stories, with more direct reportage of the marvels of the supernatural. They catered to a different audience – wherever a crowd could be gathered, in inn or market place or servants’ hall.
Their main theme is the appearance of faery, a supernatural being, usually feminine, who is young, ravishingly beautiful and richly dressed, who possesses magic powers to help a human being she likes and loves. Although woe betide him if he gets the wrong side of her or fails to obey the rules of a human/faery relationship.
There are also feisty male equivalents of the female faery. They may take the form of a young and handsome knight clad in red armour and riding a white charger (possibly with red ears) that is capable of galloping underwater or, on dry land, faster than a bird can fly. They may appear off their own bat in order to father a child on a lady, or to instruct or test a young knight, or in response to the invocation of a lonely damsel or mis-treated wife. Also transposing into the form of a hawk or a stag.
You can learn more about these exciting goings on by visiting the Skylight Press web site, www.skylightpress.co.uk and their accompanying blog “Through the Skylight”. And even if you do not want to buy the book, it is worth going there if only to see the most evocative cover that Rebsie Fairholm has dreamed up, inviting even the most prosaic of readers through a mysterious arch into the faery forest.