Vampires and werewolves are thoroughly entrenched in horror movies and literature. The fae, though? Not so much.
Which is a shame, because they can be super creepy and dangerous.
The Wild Hunt
Lock your doors. Hide your kids. The Wild Hunt is coming.
What is the Wild Hunt? That’s actually up for debate. Sometimes a group of Norse gods make up the chase, and other times it’s a horde of ghosts. But often the hunters are fae.
A few things are always consistent: the Wild Hunt is a group of supernatural riders; they travel at night; and when you hear their howls on the wind, you’d better find cover. Cross their path, and you’ll become their prey.
I like this trope because, like werewolves, it taps into that primal fear of getting stalked by something higher up in the food chain.
Will-o’-the-wisp? Those pretty floating balls of light? How are they remotely scary?
Will-o’-the-wisp have been sighted all over the world and have inspired a lot of different folklore. One idea is that they’re faeries tricking unwary travelers into following them. Picture this: you’ve gotten lost in the woods. You’re starting to panic, but then you see lights in the distance. Civilization! You’re saved!
But no matter how far you walk, you never seem to get any closer. By the time you realize following the lights wasn’t such a great idea after all, you’re completely turned around. You eventually collapse of exhaustion and thirst, and no one ever finds your body.
Kind of scary, right? But don’t worry. The rational explanation for will-o’-the-wisp is that they’re caused by swamp gas or bioluminescent algae, so you’re probably safe.
But you might want to be careful next time you’re hiking in the woods anyway. You know, just in case.
Whether it’s stealing infants and leaving a changeling in their place or spiriting away people to dance to the point of exhaustion, the fae are known for kidnapping humans. Sometimes those humans can get rescued if they have a particularly brave love interest, and occasionally they can earn their own freedom. It’s not necessarily a happy ending though, because the poor kidnapped human might leave faerieland to discover that hundreds of years have passed in the mortal world.
The plot of Poison and Honey is based on this bit of folklore, with the heroine, Leigh, trying to free all the people who have been stolen away.
Obviously insulting the fae is a fast way to get cursed. The problem is knowing how to avoid offending them.
Did you wander too close to a hill, house, or tree where the fae reside? I hope you remembered to leave an offering, or you’re already doomed. Did you see a fae? Don’t look too closely; they consider it a violation of privacy. Is that trail you’re walking on a faerie path? Get off it! Or don’t. It’s probably too late for you anyway.
Offend a fae, accidentally or not, and you’re definitely getting cursed with illness, transformation into a beast, or just outright death. Of course, being polite won’t necessarily save you. Sometimes the fae will curse you for no reason at all.
I love a good curse (in fiction), as anyone who’s read Sting of Thorns can probably guess.
An even darker twist on the idea of fae kidnapping is the idea that fae take humans to sacrifice as part of a tithe they pay to hell.
And pleasant is the fairy land,
But, an eerie tale to tell,
Ay at the end of seven years,
We pay a tiend to hell.
– Tam Lin
Because the fae aren’t scary enough in their own right. They’ve got to throw demons into the mix.
What do you think is the worst fae-inflicted fate? What books have you read that do a great job showcasing just how scary the fae can be? Let me know in the comments!