Tag Archives: Elves

Things Fey

8 May

Fairy Lily

“The Fairies are a silent race,
And pale as lily flowers to see;
I care not for a blanched face,
For wandering in a dreaming place,
So I but banish memory:–
I wish I were with Anna Grace!
Mournfully, sing mournfully!

-from THE FAIRY WELL OF LAGNANAY, FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY (Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats [1888])

Yeats did some wonderful poetry, but he also collected some great fairy tales. There is a gold mine of myths out there for those that want to add a classical mythology to their RPG. It can lend a high fantasy flavor and is also great inspiration for games that are geared towards children, as well.

I sometimes find that RPGs have created their own versions of elves, dwarves, fairies, etc. which is great, and the choice is a fun and good thing, but it is not often that you find their folklore originals in a game. I will be discussing some of these aspects and the potential for integration of the principles gleaned from folklore into a standard D&D game in upcoming posts, soon. Indeed, some of those elements, in various forms, are the basis of much of Fantasy Roleplaying Games already. I have tentatively decided to call it my “Fey Project“.

-Jeff
“Retro”

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Queen of the Fairies

20 Apr

Queen of the Fairies

Like many ancient myths, there is no clearcut or authoritative version of just who the Queen of the Fairies is and what her nature is like. The name of the Queen of the Fairies changes according to different adaptations. She has no name in the oldest times, but has been associated with Morgan Le Fey in Arthurian legends and Shakespeare called her Titania. Oberon (also spelled Auberon) is often considered her consort and the king of the fairies in medieval and Renaissance literature.


William Blake’s Oberon, Titania and Puck With Fairies Dancing

Titania. Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;
Then, for the third of a minute, hence;
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,
Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats, and some keep back
The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, and wonders 
At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep;
Then to your offices, and let me rest.

(A Midsummer-Night’s Dream, Act II. Scene II. Another Part of the Wood)

The Queen of the Fairies is a beautiful, cunning and commanding Fey creature of great magical power, able to assume any shape she pleases. She is sometimes said to ensnare mortal for her purposes, as in the Queen of Elfen legend of the Scottish Lowlands. Humans ensorcelled by her sometimes become a “tithe to hell”, which reflects the conflict between Christianity and Paganism in those days.

In a sylvan setting in an RPG campaign, she could be a figure that lies behind happenings or has agents among the woodland creatures and her various subjects. She appears to mortals only when she desires to be seen. It would be very difficult to trap or threaten the Queen of the Fairies, as her own realm is one of particularly fey magic and possibly a dimension all to itself, where she is in absolute authority. She seems to be favorable to whom she will and as equally capricious.

Certainly the Queen of the Fairies is a fascinating and mysterious figure for any campaign, the mythology of whom has only been scratched here.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

13 Apr

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

A Kobold in German folklore is a mischievous household spirit (geist) who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons.

Images of Kobolds were sometimes placed in gardens to attract them to come and work for a household. It was sometimes said that if you gave Kobolds human clothing for their labor, it made them think that they were now human, therefore too good to be a house “slave”. Perhaps this is why Kobolds originally appeared w/o clothing in the Monster Manual, etc.

The Wiki says of them:

The kobold (or kobolt) is a sprite stemming from Germanic mythology and surviving into modern times in German folklore. Although usually invisible, a kobold can materialise in the form of an animal, fire, a human being, and a mundane object. The most common depictions of kobolds show them as humanlike figures the size of small children. Kobolds who live in human homes wear the clothing of peasants; those who live in mines are hunched and ugly; and kobolds who live on ships smoke pipes and wear sailor clothing.


THE KOBOLDS [a]
(from the Sacred Texts website)

Von Kobolt sang die Amme mir
Von Kobolt sing’ ich winder.
VON HALEM.

Of Kobold sang my nurse to me;
Of Kobold I too sing.

THE Kobold is exactly the same being as the Danish Nis, and Scottish Brownie, and English Hobgoblin. [b] He performs the very same services for the family to whom he attaches himself.

When the Kobold is about coming into any place, he first makes trial of the disposition of the family in this way. He brings chips and saw-dust into the house, and throws dirt into the milk vessels. If the master of the house takes care that the chips are not scattered about, and that the dirt is left in the vessels, and the milk drunk out of them, the Kobold comes and stays in the house as long as there is one of the family alive.

The change of servants does not affect the Kobold, who still remains. The maid who is going away must recommend her successor to take care of him, and treat him well. If she does not so, things go ill with her till she is also obliged to leave the place.

The history of the celebrated Hinzelmann (http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm087.htm) will give most full and satisfactory information respecting the nature and properties of Kobolds; for such he was, though he used constantly to deny it. His history was written at considerable length by a pious minister, named Feldmann. MM. Grimm gives us the following abridgement of it. [c]


[a] This word is usually derived from the Greek κόβαλος, a knave, which is found in Aristophanes. According to Grimm (p. 468) the German Kobold is not mentioned by any writer anterior to the thirteenth century; we find the French Gobelin in the eleventh; see France.

[b] In Hanover the Will-o’the-wisp is called the Tückebold, s. e. Tücke-Kobold, and is, as his name denotes, a malicious being. Voss. Lyr. Ged., ii. p. 315.

[c] Deutsche Sagen, i. p. 103. Feldmann’s work is a l2mo vol. of 379 pages.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm086.htm


Some Gamemasters prefer a more accurate mythological take on the varieties of fey creatures in their campaigns, but there is nothing wrong with choosing the typical Monster Manual-style Kobold, either. It is a matter of preference. Personally, I think both varieties are great fun in any campaign, but I pick between the two kinds based on the type of campaign I am running at the time.

Kobold from "The Little White Feather", a fairy tale

The Fey

7 Apr

25th March is Tolkien Reading Day

25 Mar

~25th March is Tolkien Reading Day!

Tolkien Reading Day was set up to encourage people to get together and explore some of Tolkien’s stories at school, university, in reading groups, or as a family; the theme for 2011 is
“Tolkien’s Trees”.

…This year’s theme, “Tolkien’s Trees”, is allied with the “International Year of Forests” and encourages families and library reading groups to enjoy exploring the dark confines of Tolkien’s many forests as well as focussing on individual trees.

Readers might venture into Mirkwood in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; into the Old Forest on the borders of the Shire, and the Golden Wood of Lothlorien, or meet the Ents of Fangorn. Or why not read about and discuss the importance of trees and their meanings in “Leaf By Niggle”, or the ‘Two Trees’ beloved of the Elves in The Silmarillion, where there are more great forests and woods to discover….


I have been reading Tolkien’s works over again recently. Like many, besides perhaps Grimm’s fairytales, Tolkien’s writings were the first fantasy stories I ever read. Last year, over several sessions, I read the entire text of The Hobbit to a friend of mine that had never enjoyed Tolkien before. I think I derived as much pleasure reading it aloud as my friend did in hearing the tale! 🙂

I am currently reading the SIlmarillion, so  here is my choice for Tolkien Reading Day.


 

The Two Trees

The one had leaves of dark green that beneath were as shining silver, and from each of his countless flowers a dew of silver light was ever falling, and the earth beneath was dappled with the shadows of his fluttering leaves. The other bore leaves of a young green like the new-opened beech; their edges were of glittering gold. Flowers swung upon her branches in clusters of yellow flame, formed each to a glowing horn that spilled a golden rain upon the ground; and from the blossom of that tree there came forth warmth and a great light.” The elder tree, the silver tree, was named Telperion, while the younger, golden tree was named Laurelin. In seven hours, each tree waxed to its full glory and waned again. Each came to life again an hour before the other, so twice a day in Valinor, a soft light emanated from the trees when both the faint silver and golden lights mingled. The first time Telperion bloomed to full stature, the Valar counted as the first hour of time, naming it the Opening hour. After the first waxing and waning of Telperion and Laurelin, the Days of the Bliss of Valinor began, and also the Count of Time.

(From The Silmarillion)

Tolkien Reading Day

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Have a wonderful Tolkien Reading Day 🙂
-Jeff
“Retro”

poster #5

21 Mar