Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Why the Ferish speak Anglo-Saxon

I absolutely love the Ferish – the tough warrior Fairyfolk of Walker. Exmoor has a lot of legends about fairies but I knew from the start that my fairies weren’t sweet little Tinkerbell types, no sirree.
Something that really fascinates me is the idea some scholars have that the fairyfolk, or fey, were really a race of creatures who had once lived openly on the land but were driven into hiding by invading races of people. In most accounts these people are small, even tiny (like the common image of fairies) but I wanted something far more arrogant and fearsome for my story.

I imagined that, if Ferish were to exist they would be pretty angry with what was being done to their world. Having been driven further and further into the wildest places, they would react with horror, anger and aggression if anyone threatened their last fastnesses.
They sprang pretty well fully-formed in my imagination. Apart from the tails. A writer friend of mine, Cheryl, said they needed tails and I realised immediately that she was right.

Why Anglo-Saxon?
The Ferish can speak modern-day English but their speech is littered with words and phrases derived from Old English, or Anglo-Saxon. I like to think that this was the common language in use when they last had any major dealings with humans.
It is a strong language, quite guttural sometimes, and very warlike. So it suits them perfectly. I think the words I’ve used in Walker are generally pretty clear from their setting – and often I have given a translation. However, here are some of the more Ferish words used in Walker, along with their meanings.

aesc (or aex) - axe
aesc-holt - spear
aetwindan – to escape
aglaeca - monster
aheawan – to cut down
bana: slayer
bancofa - body
bearm: tree
behat - promise
behatan – to promise
berypan – to strip
besmitan - to infect, defile
bestrypan – to plunder
bord-weall – shield-wall
byringnyss: burial
cystig – excellent
cyth - homeland
daegred – daybreak
deofol – devil
diormod - brave
dolh-wund - wound
dolich - stupid
eorthe - earth
faestenn - fortress
faestenn-grith – place of safe haven
fether-homa – feather form
freondschipe - friendship
gar-gewinn raed – council of war
getheodniss - alliance
gisl – hostage
heft-ned - captivity
meowle-bana – girl slayer
raed – council
sithfaet – journey
slaep – sleep
stan - stone
steorfa – pestilence
wuduholt - forest
wulf - wolf
wyrd - fate
btw, this picture is not of the's actually an image from the second book in the series....

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating post, Jane. I love digging into languages, though I didn't do much in that regard in my own book. Two people, however, have asked about the highly convenient fact that English is spoken in my alternate dimension. I have a theory all worked out for it ... now I have to figure out if/where to work it into the story.