Why do I blend a little western into my faerie stories?

Why Westerns?

Why do western themes and styles keep popping up in my stories?

One of the things I learned from Tolkien, and my own upbringing, was to respect my own mythos. England is an old, old land with lots of myths and legends. They have Arthur, Vikings, Robin Hood, and even Tolkien’s work functions as a myth for England.

I’m not British. I have roots there, just like I do in Ireland and Scotland. (Both have wonderful mythologies and legends.) But, what about here in the young, young land of the United States? We have the Revolution. We have exploration, the constant push west. We have the Civil War. We have winning two World Wars. We even have a bit of Vietnam. All of these shape us, our laws, and our culture. They’ve influenced us for generations. But, my favorite (other than WWII) is our cowboy mythology. Yes, most westerns aren’t historically accurate, or they have many inaccuracies. But, they’re part of who and what we are. We are the drifter who is more than what he seems. We are the gunslinger, the card-shark, the cowboy, the cowgirl, the rancher fighting those who would take all he has. We are long wagon trains. We are laying tracks for technology all the way across the country.  We are all of this and more. My favorite element is the man who rides into town, gets drawn into a conflict on the side of the underdog, saves the day, and gets the girl.

When I was a kid, probably around twelve, I read all my Dad’s Louis L’Amour books. Devoured is maybe a better word. I loved every minute of them. I loved the men. I loved the women. I loved the action. The adventure. I loved his fist fights. I loved the Sacketts. Oh, the Sacketts. My first dream as a writer was to be as prolific as Louis L’Amour. I just wanted to write the same story over and over and over, and only change the settings and names. Why? Cause that was what I loved reading.  (I still love reading things like this, just like I enjoy action flicks that are basically the same guy in different settings.)

I also loved True Grit. That book was one of my favorites as a kid. Here was a girl not being anything but a girl, but getting this old guy to help her avenge her father, it was perfect. I loved it. The writing is top notch, and the adventure is one of the best. If you haven’t read it, you need to.

Now, my favorite western is Firefly. Yes, it’s a SciFi show, but really it’s a space western. They’re cowboys in space. It has all the right elements. It has the rough around the edges hero with has his ragtag crew. They’re pushing out from the government to make a life for themselves. They have a code and each other.

Why do I blend a little western into my faerie stories?
Image by B. Iyata, edits by me.

After Firefly, comes The Sackett movie, the Magnificent Seven, Quigley Down Under, and Tombstone. Doc Holiday is a great example of why I love westerns. He’s loyal to a fault. He’s willing to do everything for Wyatt Earp. He may not be safe, but there is something you love about him. The Magnificent Seven is a redemption story. You have seven guys who’ve lived by their guns their whole life, and now they’re called to sacrifice everything for a small town who can’t pay them. They see this as a way to redeem their souls from all the wrong they’ve done. (I know that theologically they can’t earn salvation, but redemption stories, be they ever so humbly human, are still an expression of us knowing we need redemption. It is a great way to start a conversation about the fact that we know what we’ve done will damn us.)  

The Sacketts is a great family movie…meaning it’s about a family who will do everything for each other. When the word goes out that they need help, the Sacketts all come running. They are the kind of guys you would want your sons emulating.

Another beloved one from childhood is Down the Long Hills. What could be better than a story about two kids and their horse? I watched this movie so many times growing up. It combined two of my favorite things: kids shouldering the hardest elements of life and coming out ahead, and horses.

We also watched a lot of John Wayne growing up. I still love to hear his voice and see him walk. As I’ve developed my style over the years, I’ve found westerns popping up all over. My characters keep leaning towards long coats and tied down guns. They keep riding in on bikes to take out the bad guys and get the girl. They use rifles, shotguns, and revolvers. All the years of soaking in L’Amour pours out between my stories of magic, doors, and worlds.

I realized I was writing modern, faerie story westerns.

Instead of turning away from the subtle themes, I decided to embrace it. Westerns may not be super popular right now, but they are special to me, and these are my stories. I embrace the mysterious man who saves the day. I embrace the woman who knows how to shoot. I embrace the kids with guts. I embrace strong friendship themes, land themes, and family themes. I embrace the man who is mistaken for a backwater yokel who is rich with wisdom and insight. I embrace friendship between natives and newcomers in the middle of war. I embrace hunters, wild places, dangerous animals, and range wars. I embrace the lawless and the lawman.

These themes push their way into my stories, sometimes without me even noticing. Westerns flavor my work with grit and gunpowder. I’m a Texan reaching deep into my countries own myths and legends.

Do you have a favorite Western? Book or movie? Let me know in the comments!   

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Why Faerie Stories?

Why Faerie Stories Cover

A new blog should probably explain who and what I am, what I write, what I love. This is why you’re here, right? You’ve either followed me for a while, read my stuff, or just found me. So, who is Abby Jones? Why do I call my stories Faerie Stories?

When Faerie is spelled in the old world way instead of the more modern ‘Fairy’, older myths are invoked. A sense of great mystery is called upon. It’s the unseen world just beyond the corner of your eye. It ties into the idea of getting trapped in the Faerie Realm where you stay forever. Or, you dance away the night, but when you come home a 100 years have passed. It pulls the reader back into a Realm that is draped in shadows. Magical gifts are given to those in need, but at a cost. It is the idea of an older, deeper, more mysterious magic. It invokes elves. Tolkien’s elves. With ‘Faerie’ otherness is summoned. The Fair Isle is called up. The past rises to meet the future, and things we have forgot awaken in our minds.

Most importantly, it calls on the magic of the idea of Eucatastrophe.

Eucatastrophe is a word Tolkien invented to capture the turning point of grace in a story. It is the moment the light comes on. It is the sunrise after a dark night. It is Aragon on at Helm’s Deep. It is Christmas Day. (God became man!) Most strongly, most powerfully, the true moment of Eucatastrophe is the Resurrection. Something we had nothing to do with changes the course of our history forever. It is the undeserved rescue. This isn’t deus ex machina, though it might look like that to an outside observer. No. This is the moment when everything has gone horribly wrong for every one and suddenly, unexpectedly, undeservedly, salvation comes. All that was bad is turned right. All that was broken is fixed. God steps into the picture.

This is the deeper, older magic that the White Witch didn’t know about. The turning point when Aslan dies and then comes back to save the world. This is every believer in our salvation. We didn’t deserve to be saved, but God sent his Son to become us, live, and die for us. He paid our cost even though he didn’t owe it. And then! He adopted us all into his family! How mighty a salvation.

This is Belle loving the Beast. He didn’t deserve that.

This is the Huntsman deciding not to kill Snow White even though it cost him his life.

This is the elves helping the shoemaker.

All of these, these Faerie Stories, have moments of Eucatastrophe. They mirror, and exaggerate real life.

 

Moments of Eucatastrophe are the moments the light comes on in our darkness.

We have forgotten in our day and age of self-fulfillment, independence, and the self-made-man/woman how dependent we are on moments of grace. We are finite, failing creatures, and we need something ‘other’ to help us. We need to be reminded that when we face moments of darkness the light isn’t dependent on us.

In real life, we find this in theologically sound, orthodox Christianity. Christianity is filled with epic and ordinary Eucatastrophes. In literature, it is best reflected in true Faerie Stories. This is why I write dark, haunting, “and at the last moment raise the sun” Faerie Stories for children, young and old. I want them to see the wonder of the undeserved rescue. The turning point of grace. The true Eucatastrophe.

The other side of Faerie Stories for me is actual Fairy Tales. These are stories by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Some of them are super moralistic, and I never want my stories to be “if you’ll just be good, God will save you” stories. We can never be good enough to earn salvation, and to try is to damn our souls. But, there are plenty of good and helpful truths packed into Fairy Tales.

My background of Brothers Grimm might explain to some of you why my stories are so dark, and why I often have villains that not only don’t get rescued, they don’t want to be rescued. I like some undeserved rescues, and I like some damnation. I like mercy mixed with justice. The Brothers Grimm were adept at meeting out punishment to their Evil Queens, Step-Mothers, Witches, and more. I don’t have a problem ending a story with the ending of the villain.

I also don’t often have my readers sympathize with the villain. Sometimes, I will. But most often they will be someone who turns your stomach.

Why?

Because we are the villains. We should turn our stomachs. If you’re a Christian, you should know that Christ didn’t save the heroes. Christ befriended the villains. He rescued the monsters. This is a true Myth. A true Fairy Tale. A True Faerie Story. This is what I write.


What is your favorite Faerie Story/Fairy Tale or Retelling? Comment below and I’ll tell you mine.