ymya diaries: come away o’ human child

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been entranced by fairy stories. When I would play fairy, it wasn’t the light hearted play-acting pop culture associates with the creatures, despite the gossamer wings and purple tulle involved, but the brutal world exploration common to girlhood games, where Barbie beheadings are a societal norm. In my fantasy, I was not my mother’s child, but a fairy changeling traded in it’s place, incongruent with the human world that ached and pained me. I did not belong. I was always on the verge of bursting free from my own skin and emerging as something harsh and terrifying.

My room was decked out in jewellery store fairy statuettes, with a rainbow of birthstones pressed into their chests – exposing cold, glittering hearts. The older I got, the less clean and pretty the statues got – I collected ones clutching spears and swords, riding atop unicorns like a stern Boudicca, and my stories and fantasies grew darker, too. The light hearted, sweet stories curled in Siobhan De Valera’s christianity-coated books no longer satisfied my hunger, and I dug deeper into the Celtic myth and lore of my heritage.

I read about the warring seelie and un-seelie courts, divided by politics more than moral. I sank my budding teeth into stories of banshees, witches, the Morrigan and her tender, death-touched hands. My body, with its poor immunity and yet-to-be-diagnosed genetic disorder, was always frail, and the dark tone of my fantasies took on an extra dimension. Perhaps I could be the Morrigan, the banshee, the bean-nighe, someone there on that edge of life and death, ushering people away from the world that had never fully welcomed me and into what lay beyond. I squeezed whole bottles of shampoo into the bath, frothed healing potions and deadly ones between my hands moments before gagging on my latest round of antibiotics.

My tastes eventually turned away from fairies into other mythologies, then gothic fiction, both of the teen romance kind and the more decadent gloom of The Picture of Dorian Gray and Wuthering Heights. Frankenstein remains my favourite of any book I’ve studied academically, funnily enough, the tragic monster desperately reaching toward a humanity that cannot comprehend him, go figure. But even as I moved on and away from faery, that persistent feeling of something preternatural hiding just beneath the skin stayed with me, and I think you’ll see when you read through this book, that thing has finally prised itself free.

Most of the fairy statues got donated to charity (though one, proudly spear-clutching still sits on a shelf above my bed, alongside the much stranger paraphernalia I’ve collected over the years), and my lavender tulle is long gone, but the spirit of that magical escapism will always linger in me. Being human being can feel insurmountable, and there’s something comforting, even now, about imagining the possibility of something other than this, beyond the constraints of a firm skeleton and flexing muscle. To stretch beyond my own limits, and touch incomprehensiblity.

LISTEN: I rec’d cocorosie in my last post, but they do capture that strange otherworldliness so very well. Marvellous Things by Eisley, Moonrise Kingdom  and The Woods by Angel Haze are perfect songs, too.

READ: the one thing that has managed to really connect with that little desire to be told I am bigger than this body, but with all the pain and drawbacks of power is my favourite comic series of all time, the wicked and the divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. This is one of those pieces of media that I think makes me make more sense once you read it. It haunts me, which is the best thing a story can do. Also, of course, pick up some Holly Black.

WATCH: it’s taking all my restraint not to just recommend doctor who season 5 and perpetuate the Amy Pond fairytale reading which only make sense to me, because I haven’t even watched the show back since I was a teenager, but there you are. Maybe watch The Secret Garden 1994 and experience some whimsy?

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