Faerie

Once Upon a Time...
Whether you call it Faerie or Fairyland (or Faery), the place is the realm of fairy tales and all manner of other spritely or grimm (pun intended) adventures that we all grow up knowing and loving. I will not bother to describe it as the noble authors below Michael Ende (the Master of Faerie), Neil Gaiman and Patricia A. McKillip and do as far better job than I ever could. I do have more to say though, so do not stop with the quotes (great though they are).

“The idea of fairyland fascinates me because it's one of those things, like mermaids and dragons, that doesn't really exist, but everyone knows about it anyway. Fairyland lies only in the eye of the beholder who is usually a fabricator of fantasy. So what good is it, this enchanted, fickle land which in some tales bodes little good to humans and, in others, is the land of peace and perpetual summer where everyone longs to be? Perhaps it's just a glimpse of our deepest wishes and greatest fears, the farthest boundaries of our imaginations. We go there because we can; we come back because we must. What we see there becomes our tales.” - Patricia A. McKillip

“Once someone dreams a dream, it can't just drop out of existence. But if the dreamer can't remember it, what becomes of it? It lives on in Fantastica, deep under earth. There are forgotten dreams stored in many layers. The deeper one digs, the closer they are. All Fantastica rests on a foundation of forgotten dreams.” 
Michael Ende

“A question like ‘How big is Faerie?’ does not admit of a simple answer. Faerie, after all, is not one land, one principality or domain. Maps of Faerie are unreliable, and may not be depended upon. We talk of Kings and Queens of Faerie as we would speak of the Kings and Queens of England. But Faerie is bigger than England, it is bigger than the world (for, since the dawn of time, each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there has taken refuge in Faerie; so it is now, by the time that we come to write of it, a most huge place indeed, containing every manner of landscape and terrain.) Here, truly, there be Dragons.”  
- Neil Gaiman

"Doorway to the Stars" by Josephine Wall
For my own part (obviously or else I would not bother continuing)  have always held Faerie to be, as Tolkien would phrase it, vast beyond the thoughts of Elves and Men. Let in put it like this: Begin by thinking of the Multiverse concept i.e. a realm of countless separate universes, and then figure that most every Fantasy book takes place within one or possibly more of said universes. This makes the Multiverse quite vast, all but incalculably large and home to most of our favorite books.

So what of Faerie? What of that land that exists down the rabbit hole, through the secret garden door, and under the toy chest? Well, I have always held Faerie to be bigger than the Multiverse a single realm so limitless that it cannot possibly be contained. A realm where it feels this vast, this magical (and no necessarily in a childish fashion).

By my definition, very few Fantasy authors truly sojourn into Faerie, as capturing that fairy-tale/fable quality and atmosphere is difficult at best. The key, I think, is beginning with the understanding that your story – however grand is just one small segment of an incomprehensibly vast land.
 
Indeed, I can only name four Fantasy books that do so (not including the works of the Brothers Grimm and the like):
1. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
2. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
3. Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
4. The Golden Key by George Macdonald
Which one of these books is best? Well, Michael Ende has Master of Faerie title...so I highly recommend you read The Neverending Story last, as my father and I did (indeed, we read all four of then together), so as not to make the others ones seem...well, that is another story and shall be told another time. See you in the apex of Faerie; see you in Fantastica.


"The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords."
-
J.R.R. Tolkien


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