There is a folktale found among the Celts. Here is my retelling…
A young farmer fell in love with a fairy maid who lived beneath the lake on his land. Though she loved him too, his entreaties fell on deaf ears and she refused his hand. For she heard it said men could break a heart in two, and no prudent maid should trust a careless man with anything so precious.
But he was persistent as he was handsome. Each dawn and dusk found him standing beside the lake with his fiddle: sounding bright as a lark ascending or sweet as the evening nightingale. Other times he would sing in a warm tenor voice, which rang over meadow and fell like the laughter in a brook, and spoke of secrets shared. When he sang, his words were always the same. He listed womanly charms, beauty chief among them; then crowned them with her name.
His tunes, though starting merry, invariably slipped into lament as the weary day yielded to night. Wrapped in purple shadow, with breaking voice caught between sigh and sob, no stronger than a breath snatched by the cruel east wind, he would weep and plead with the evening stars to take pity upon a fool such as he.
In the end, I suppose he wore down her resolve; although his ready smile and the twinkle in his eye may have had something to do with it. One day, dressed in green and gold, she came to him; pretty as sunrise on Mayday morn. From the cool still waters she summoned a dowry of milch-cows led by a proud strong bull. Fairy beasts they were, white with red eyes and ears, as fairy beasts are said to be. The herd made him rich. For the butter and cheese from the creamy milk was so golden they lit the darkest winter kitchen like a buttercup held to the throat. With his new-found wealth he built a fine house and she wanted for nothing.
They were such a loving couple, the happiest in the county it was said. Over the years she bore him strong handsome sons and pretty, pretty girls. But as time slipped past, as time does, a canker crept between them. Laughter left the house. He was angry: all the time finding fault with her. One day he snapped at some trifle and made to raise his hand. But the look in her eye caught him, and brought him to his senses.
Maybe this was the beginning of the end. Who knows? For who really ever knows how something dies? But die her love did. Murdered some might say. Or perhaps it was simply the pain of watching the husband and children she loved beyond life itself grow old and infirm. Knowing death grew ever closer; yet powerless to stay the reaper’s hand.
One evening unable to bear it any longer, her heart broke and she left without a backward glance. He was slumbering by the fire when she left, his old body worn out from the day’s labour. He did not know she was gone until he heard mournful lowing in the meadow. Rushing from the house he saw her vanish into the lake, driving her magic beasts before her through the cold dark waters. Snatching up his fiddle, he played the whole night through. But he could not sing, and could not speak, for he no longer trusted his voice was true. As sunrise brought a cheerless morn his heart congealed, and he never again smiled for the rest of his days.
Rosie tells Jack a version of this old story in Thomas the Rhymer. She adds it has been in her family for generations; then breaks the news she and her son, Jack’s best friend Ken, have fairy blood in their veins. It is a terrible shock for Jack to realise he must have fairy blood too; for otherwise why would a fairy queen steal away his brother?
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What’s been said about Thomas the Rhymer
‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’
‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book.’
‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young and old alike!’
‘This is a terrific story, beautifully written with great imagination & gentle humour. The plot is well crafted & cleverly interweaves fantasy with reality. The momentum is maintained throughout the book, with action on every page. The human characters are solid & believable & the fairies are cleverly portrayed as being powerful while at the same time vulnerable.’
‘A real page-turner – full of excitement and wonder.’
‘The climax is absolutely brilliant, not only magic, imagery, spells & incantations, but gives a feeling of real danger too. And with a terrific sting in the tail.’
About Paul Andruss:
Sue asked for a brief biography. I genuinely don’t know what to say.
If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.
I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!
As with many writers, I began with no formal skills; was working long hours and could not spare family cash to pay for professional help like courses or editors. Unlike sensible people, I did not write short stories to build up my writing skills but went straight for an epic (Finn is 180,000 words). Big mistake!
Finn took 4 years to write and another 2 to realise how badly it was written. So I started learning proof-reading and editing, and started taking more notice of how other authors construct their work.
‘Thomas the Rhymer’ came about after watching a Harry Potter film. I thought I can do that! Just goes to show how wrong you can be. Damn these big ideas!
After ‘Thomas the Rhymer’, the sequels ‘Daughters of Albion’ & ‘Thirteenth Treasure’ were a lot of fun to write. I knew the characters and where I want to take them.
‘Thomas the Rhymer’ took 18 months from concept to first draft; another year to get it to agents, and 18 months with agents. It was well received by some but not taken any further.
I later learned rejection can have more to do with an agent’s belief that publishers won’t take the risk, rather than a comment on quality. Publishing is in crisis. A bit of research shows it always has been. After discovering this, I decided to go down the indie route. These days, authors have ever-expanding learning curves. Writing is just the tip of the iceberg.
Before leaving rejection letters, about which everyone can contribute! I used to take comfort from this story while crying myself to sleep.
As the author of ‘Vernon God Little’ walked away from the stage with the 2003 Booker Prize every major Literary Agency asked. ‘Why didn’t you send it to us?’
To each and every one, he replied… ‘I did!’
They had all ignored it. Yet ‘Vernon God Little’ also won the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and the 1st Novel Award in the Whitbread Awards.
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