Monday, 21 April 2014

LIX. The Fair Folk

A preview of a new faction: the Fairies.

I. Fairies in Gardens of Hecate

The Fair Folk are an ancient people unrelated to humans. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes: from a couple of inches to the height of a house. They inhabit and rule wild areas inaccessible to man: deep forests, high mountains and some of the upper underworlds. The human population generally fears them and avoids contact with them (there are, of course, a few exceptions). No wonder, since they have been known to trick, injure, kill, kidnap and transform humans, not to mention eat them. What causes probably the biggest outrage is the fact they take away infants and children, often leaving behind a nasty changeling.  

The Piper

The leader of this particular Fairy gang. He and his crew make a living from trade in stolen human children. A child has a multitude of uses for the Fae, including being an exotic pet, a slave or a special delicacy. The Piper has a magic flute, whose melodies can prove fatal for the mortals who hear it. From human perspective he's a vicious monster, but for his own kind he's just another guy.

The miniature is Hamelin, Avatar of Contagion for Malifaux. I had wanted to get this mini for a while, but was put off by the price: 35$ for a human-sized 32mm metal miniature. The price is so steep because it comes with a big scenic sewer base (which I had no intention of using). In the end I gave in because it's just too awesome. 
When I opened the box, the pipe was bent terribly out of shape, and when I attempted to fix that it broke off. Some drilling, cutting, gluing, greenstuffing (and a fair bit of cursing and swearing) later, Hamelin got a new pipe. It's not quite like the original one, but he's not complaining.  

I call him done, but there's a chance I'll do some more freehand on his coat some time.


A pair of Piper's pucks who help him lure and snatch children. They are big ugly goblins, but they try to make themselves more graceful by dressing up - and the result is quite grotesque. 

About the minis: these are Fairies 1 and 2 by Victoria Miniatures, created for the game Labyrintus. The game itself is still work in progress (has been for years now, who knows whether it will ever get released), but what I can see for now on the Labyrintus website is beautiful. 
When I bought the pair I didn't have any specific purpose for them in mind. They came in handy when I started imagining the Fairy faction.

The Stolen

The children that were taken and are kept under the Piper's influence.
I have three copies of Sidiamie, a miniature from Rackham's Confrontation range. You can see them up in the first picture of the post, standing in the front. I intend to convert two of them to get three similar but not identical sculpts. One will probably get a hat, the other a different toy, and such.

Fairy Swarms

Aside from the Bratcatchers, the Piper controls swarms of tiny blue winged Fairies. With their sharp teeth and a voracious appetite, a big enough swarm of these creatures can devour a man in a matter of seconds. Luckily, though, they seldom unite into groups of that size. 
For these I wanted to use 15mm Fairies and Leaflets by Warfairy. I ordered them from the online store exactly four weeks ago, and the order still has not been shipped to this day. I've sent them three e-mails inquiring about this, but I got no reply whatsoever. I don't know what's going on over there, but I have a feeling I'll have to find something else to use for the Fairy Swarms, or maybe even come up with a completely different concept. Also, I'll have to report Warfairy to PayPal; I'd hate to do that, but this is no way to treat a customer and I would like my money back. It's a real shame, because these minis would have been just perfect.  :(


I'm sure I'll come up with many more Fairy creatures; for this crew and otherwise. There is one already among the mercenaries: the Fairy Sniper from some time go. Also, the Ogre is one of their kind (he will also be a mercenary). 

II. The Inspiration

"It's easy, all too easy, for people nowadays to get hold of the wrong end of the stick if you tell them there are 'elves' about. And if you say 'fairies', that just makes matters worse. People think of tall, shining figures dancing in rings in the moonlight to the loveliest music one could hope to hear; or tiny dainty creatures with butterfly wings, fluttering round flowers.
And in a way, some of this is true. For elves do generally choose to appear tall, beautiful and glamurous to humans. (...) They do sing and dance, and sometimes they laugh a lot, though you would probably not like it if you knew what they were laughing about. And there are indeed little flying ones, though they have more in common with hornets than with butterflies. In truth, elves and fairies are a predatory, cruel, parasitic race, who will use other living beings, and hurt them, because this is fun.
[Earlier generations on Earth] knew for sure that there were elves and fairies lurking in pools and streams, in deep woods and inside mounds and rocks, and sweeping across the sky in the wild winter winds. And they knew that these beings were cold-hearted, revengeful, often cruel, however beautiful their faces and however enchanting their music."

- on the matter of elves from The Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett and dr. Jacqueline Simpson

Artwork by Arthur Rackham.

I really like how Sir Pratchett imagined elves in his Discworld universe. They appear in several novels, debuting in Lords and Ladies (1992). The fairies in Gardens of Hecate don't really have that much in common with the elves of Discworld; the main idea with those, I think, is that if something is enchanting and beautiful that doesn't mean it is good.  However, another theme present in Lords and Ladies is the fickleness of collective memory, which I find more interesting. This brings us to the above quotation, as well as this bit from the aforementioned novel:

"People didn't seem to remember what it was like with the elves around. Life was certainly more interesting then, but usually because it was shorter. And it was more colourful, if you liked the colour of blood. It got so people didn't even dare talk openly about the bastards.
You said: The Shining Ones. You said: The Fair Folk. And you spat, and touched iron. But generations later, you forgot about the spitting and the iron, and forgot why you used those names for them, and you remembered only that they were beautiful." 

- from Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

The same thing happened in our world. As time passed and our way of life changed, so their purpose changed- and we forgot their original sinister nature and stopped taking them seriously. So nowadays when one says "elf", we think Tolkien, and when someone says "fairy" we think cute, harmless, tiny thing with wings. Not scary or murderous at all; mischievous at most.  Something nice for children. Just like fairytales.

Artwork by Arthur Rackham.
Of course, there are examples of the opposite.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a 2011 horror film produced and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, features nasty vermin-like tooth fairies as antagonists.
Speaking of del Toro, I am a big fan of how fairy creatures are imagined in Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) and in El laberinto del fauno (2006). These pictures have had a big influence over my own interpretation of the Fair Folk, and are real visual treats. The scenes at the troll market in Hellboy II and the Pale Man's lair from Pan's Labyrinth, for instance, I keep coming back to. 

The aforementioned Mexican filmmaker, as he stated himself, is an admirer of the literary work of Arthur Machen, a Welsh author of horror fiction from the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century. And so am I. Machen's most  famous and most influential work is the novella The Great God Pan, but my personal favourite is his short story The White People. I couldn't recommend it more. For me, its awesomeness is in its subtlety and generally creepy atmosphere throughout the narrative. Machen's writings strongly remind me of Lovecraft's in the way they produce horror. I mention it because it also belongs among the inspirations for my Fairy faction. 

III. The Rules

The rules for the faction will be based on Malifaux2E Hamelin's Crew:

  • The Piper - Hamelin, 
  • Stolen- Stolen,
  • Bratcatchers- Ratcatchers, 
  • Fairy Swarms- Malifaux Rats, 
  • Swarms of Swarms- Rat Kings. 

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  1. Absolutely beautiful, both the minis and the collections of source material. But especially the minis.

    I share your love for anything that reimagines tired (and often tiresome) fantasy tropes. Have you encountered the middenmurk blog? I find it beautiful and inspiring for just that reason. This post, in particular, I think you would enjoy:


    1. Thank you very much, Mattias! No, I haven't encountered Middenmurk before, thanks for the link!

  2. Aargh! Brittle things breaking off of models is one of the most annoying thing to happen when assembling your models, I hate that. I am now even actively avoiding models that look like they would break too easily, especially when made out of resin.

    Your models are astounding as ever, and compared to the base they really must be small and fragile. A refreshingly different take on elves/fairies.

    Oh, and you also reminded me to finally watch Pan's Labyrinth, which I somehow have never quite come across to do.

    1. Good to have you back, JimmyGrill! You just sort of vanished eight months ago; I thought you had given up blogging. I miss the exquisite conversions you used to present over at Voyage au centre de l'enfer. I hope this means the conversions are coming back, too.

      You totally should watch Pan's Labyrinth. It is a beautiful film, though it is not in any way easy. Most of the time it keeps me in a feeling of anxiety, and at times it's brutal (it has one of the most blood-curdling murder scenes I've ever seen). One should not watch it with their kids. But all the way it is an enchanting, inspiring piece of cinematography.

      Concerning brittle models- I know what you mean. I painted this Copycat Killer for Malifaux (it's plastic), but I never use it in my games because I'm to scared it will break. He's attached to the base only with the tip of his scissors, and this makes him impossible to pin:
      At least Hamelin is metal, and he stands firmly on the ground. : D

    2. Hi Ana,

      yes I had to take a serious break from my hobby last fall, mostly because of the hours I had to work, but also because I felt I needed a timeout. Now I'm itching to get back, and I am already developping some seriously crazy ideas for a crazy project to come.

      In any way, I do have quite a few conversions I haven't shown yet, so yes, you may definitely expect some more of that.

  3. What an amazing post, Ana! I'm really impressed with this update and it's full of great material. I've actually been eyeing the Hamelin boxed set in my LHS for my own devisings. Now that I see what you're doing with it I might just have to go and pick it up when next pay day comes round.

    It's funn you mention the movie "Don't be Afraid of the Dark" because when I saw your Hobgoblins they definitely brought to mind that movie regardless of the fact LOTR miniatures were used!

    I'm happy to see you're continuing with your project and have made quite a large update regarding it. :) I think I'll go read some of Machen's writings now! o7

    1. Thanks, Jordan! : )

      I think Hamelin the Plagued would fit in the Old World without a problem. If you decide to get it, I hope you have better luck with the flute and it stays intact..

      And yeah, there definitely is a similarity. When I was making the troglodytes I probably had those tooth fairies in mind without realizing it ( I don't think I mentioned them as an influence).

  4. Hi Ana, great addition to the Garden! They will be interesting to see grow.

    Have you checked out Relic? I think their "faeries" might be to your taste. Here's a link to their store ->

    1. Thank you, Alexander!

      Yup, I'm aware of them. I actually quite like their puppet Britanans; I was once tempted to pick some up just to paint them for fun. Nice as some of those fairies are, they seem a bit too big for me. But thanks for the link, anyway!

    2. I don't know their size, you are probably correct that they might be too big. The puppets do look rather nice :)

  5. Wonderful post, Ana! Vicious fairy folk are the best. Love your paint jobs, as always, and I love reading what you have to say about your projects just as much.

    Regarding Alexander's post, I'd love to see you paint some Relics stuff... Britanan (puppets) especially ;)

    1. Thank you, Christian!
      I see you did some artwork for the Relics rulebook. It's great!

  6. I love your Fae! Otherworldly, creepy and beautiful in equal measure.
    They really do capture the feel of Rackham's work.
    Whenever I think about Fae creatures I usually conjure up the works of Arthur Rackham, Alan Lee and Brian Froud in my mind.
    You've really captured all that, I'm really looking forward to this warband expanding, I can't wait to see more :)

  7. If you like disturbing fairies, check out "The Books of Magic" mini series and regular series by DC's Vertigo, originally written in 1991 by Neil Gaiman (of Sandman fame), his version of the Fay is very much in keeping with the darker nature of old lore.