“But, of course, mermaids were always terrifying. With the exception of the Little Mermaid of the Hans Christian Andersen tradition, they would take your soul. And fairies were never things that people embraced — they were unknowable, dangerous, capricious. They could cause real trouble for you.” ~ Neil Gaiman, on the Royal Mail Mythical Creatures stamps
Sunday late afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, 55 degrees.
Today sharing Neil Gaiman‘s write-ups for the Royal Mail’s Mythical Creatures stamps, with artwork by Dave McKean. The stamps came out a few years ago, but I thought it was a nice bit of fairy tale magic for the afternoon:
If it were not for the giants, Britain would look very different. In the dawn days they feefifofummed across the land, picking up rocks and throwing them at other giants in friendly rivalry, or alone they would break mountains, crush rocks into causeways, leave henges and stone seats to mark their passing.
The giants were big, but not bright. They were outsmarted by clever boys named Jack and fell from beanstalks or were tricked to death. They died, but not all of them are dead.
The remaining giants sleep, lost in deep slow dreams, covered in earth and trees and wild grass. Some have clouds on their shoulders or long men carved on their sides. We see them from the windows of cars and tell each other that from some angles they look almost like people.
Even giants can only sleep for so long. Do not make too much noise the next time you walk in the hills.
Nobody remembers who sent the first King of Scotland a unicorn. They are long-lived creatures, after all. The Kings of Scotland were proud of owning a unicorn, and left it to run, tangle-maned and alone, across the stark highlands, an ivory flash against the heather.
And then James VI got the news from the south and he sent a maiden into the hills. She sat and waited until it came and placed its head in her lap, then she bridled it with a silver bridle and walked it, skittish and straining, to the King.
The royal procession was made all the more exciting by the presence of the fabulous beast at the head. And then they were in London, and the Tower rose before them.
The unicorn was led into its stall. It scented the animal, caged across the way, and heard it roar before it saw the golden mane, the tawny eyes. The only lion in England was caged in the Tower, beside the only unicorn. The artists placed them on each side of the crown.
Two hundred years later, the unicorn’s horn in the Tower was valued at 20,000 guineas; but now even that is lost to us.
She keeps the souls of the drowned in lobster pots that she finds on the seabed. They sing, the captive souls, and they light her way home beneath the grey Atlantic.
She had sisters once, but long ago they shed their tails and scales and stepped gingerly ashore to live with fishermen in their dry-land cottages. Now she’s lonely, and not even the souls of the dead are company.
Walk the sea’s edge in winter and you may see her, too far away, waving to you. Wave back and she will take you down to her world, deep below the waves, and show you cold wonders, and teach you the songs of the merfolk, and the lonely ways beneath the sea.