Lost & Found

By Elizabeth Garner

A treasure trove of folk tales by Elizabeth Garner

Monday, 19 July 2021

Monday Milestones: Final edits & 600 supporters!

 

Such a great start to the week in the land of Lost & Found! I’m thrilled to have reached the 600 supporters’ mark.  Thank you, all of you, for your interest and generosity.  It’s so very much appreciated, especially at this stage of submitting the final edits of the manuscript.  We’re one step nearer to your bookshelves…

The collection was always intended to work as a narrative in its own right: a world of interconnected tales that you can immerse yourself in and explore as you see fit.  Part of the joy of the editing process has been weaving those ‘long roads’ of the tales together just that little bit more tightly.  And then there’s all the work that lurks beneath the surface of the text on the page…

The experience of retelling and rewriting is very personal. Motifs and narrative tropes that repeat across variations of the tales can be traced across time and cultures – and also according to the point of view of each individual speaker or writer. I wanted to include explanations of my way of looking at the material: sharing my sources and my working-out.  As such, at end of the collection I have included Notes On The Tales, revealing my research and development process.

So here’s a further peek into my notebooks and my Folk Tale library too! I’m also sharing the background notes to the Changeling Story, Johnnie-He-Not.  You can find the full text of my rewrite on the update of 29th May 2020.  And if you would like some further insights into the contents of those ‘spiritual middens’ you can find Dr. Tim Campbell-Green and myself in conversation in the update of 2nd December 2020.  Enjoy!

 

JOHNNIE-HE-NOT

I have always been fascinated by the motif of the Changeling Child.  It repeats across cultures and across time.  I do wonder whether it might be a Folk Lore retelling of the common human experience of post-natal depression – or simply the changes of character and behaviour that some babies go through during the early months.  I explored this theory within the Folk Tale backbone of my second novel The Ingenious Edgar Jones – but that is, quite literally, another story. 

The first written version of the Changeling story I read was Brewery of Eggshells in Joseph Jacobs’ Celtic Fairy Tales – which varies significantly from this retelling.  The changeling children are twins and the mother is the agent of revelation and eventual return: she uses the trick of the eggshell to discover the true identities. She then throws the ‘goblin children’ into a lake and her human twins are returned to her.  The eggshell is the most common method of discovery I have found in my research.  However, alongside the whisky and the bagpipes there are creative uses of pokers and griddle pans and many more besides. There is also a common theme: the Changeling is most regularly disposed of up the Chimney.

Dr. Tim Campbell-Green and I have discussed the crossover between these variations and the contents of what are thought to be protective ‘caches’ or ‘spiritual middens.’  These are everyday objects, which seem to have been deliberately hidden at domestic thresholds: doorways, chimneys, windows.  Often these are made of iron: pins, nails, sometimes keys.  Alongside them, individual shoes – always worn, always repaired. It’s a fascinating echo of story and archeological object.

Finally, the character who defeats the Changeling is sometimes the Mother, sometimes a Soldier, occasionally a Priest (who makes a sign of the cross from two pokers) but overwhelmingly, it’s the Tailor.  Perhaps because of the delicate skills required in the brewing of the eggshells.   Perhaps because the ability to transform two-dimensional cloth into three-dimensional garments is innately magical.

Tibbie, Johnnie and Wullie are names taken directly from Katharine M. Briggs’ Folk Tales of Britain, from the variation The Changeling II. Old Wullie’s fate is also from Briggs: The Tailor and the Fairy – but this is not an overt Changeling narrative. The Tailor tries to catch a fairy in a bottle but is lead away by a beautiful girl in a field who is carrying a blue light. He follows her and is never seen again.  It made sense to me that this could be the other side of the Changeling story – the Other Folk can be vengeful, especially against human transgression.  So, following the Folk Lore logic I stitched the two tales together into Johnnie-He-Not.

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