Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ballad Spotting: Thomas the Rhymer

From: Feature Interview: Seanan McGuire

I studied folklore in college, and I’m still studying it now, as an adult. I expect to be studying folklore for the rest of my life. With that in mind, I truly believe that the current blurring of the borders between fantasy, horror, and romance are not representative of a mutation; they’re representative of a bunch of walls we didn’t really need finally coming down. The oldest stories we have were, at the time, what we would classify as “urban fantasy” today. Thomas the Rhymer?  His mother was dead when he was conceived, and he was carried to term in her coffin (horror). He fell in love with the Queen of Faerie, calling her “Queen of Heaven” and charming her heart (romance). So she took him to the fairy lands to dwell by her side (fantasy), even though they had to wade through red blood to the knee to get there (horror). Eventually, he chose to leave her to return to his own kind, and she cursed him with honesty (fantasy). In the end, he returned to her, and to Faerie, forevermore (romance). When this story was new, the settings it used were as familiar to the people who heard it as Chicago or Melbourne or San Francisco will be to modern readers of urban fantasy.
In some of the oldest forms of the Snow White/Rose Red story, there’s a third sister, Lily Fair. I like to say that urban fantasy writers are the Children of Lily Fair, the ones seeking the balance between Snow White’s fantasy and Rose Red’s horror. We’re the place where the lines drop away, and that’s a beautiful place to be.

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