changeling maid

whereismyenglishelisabeth  asked:

care to elaborate on your younger self's elaborate "complex explanation for Labyrinth society and the wished-away children"? sounds amazing!

luckily for you, younger self was just as detail-oriented and obsessive as my current self, so she wrote a whole goddamn fictional history of the place. I won’t post the whole monstrosity here, but it is a trip, let me tell you. I clearly had been reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, because there are footnotes.

It is an enduring mystery as to why no one ever tried to stuff me into a locker.

Anyway, in this alternative history I dreamed up, the Labyrinth wasn’t just some random place, but a kind of liminal space or passageway between the “real” world and the alternate world the Fae had created. “Thereland” was the Fae’s last refuge in a world increasingly overrun with human and the only thing that kills the Fae: cold iron.

(To quote my own fake history: “Sources are unclear as to whether the rise of cold iron and metallurgy was a result of the [Seelie and Unseelie] Courts’ growing power, or a mere coincidence. Certainly humanity had cause enough, though no Fae historian will own to it—long had the Sidhe been in the habit of taking changelings, stealing away maids, enchanting young men, and abducting bards for their revels.”

My faeries were not very nice.)

Thereland was divided into two—the first, ruled by the Seelie Court and Queen Titania, the second, ruled by the Unseelie King Oberon. Technically, Jareth was one of the three royals too, as King of the Underground. Though he was unique, because he was unallied with either Court and charged with protecting the Labyrinth. Because the Labyrinth was the Fae’s only way back into the real world, it was actually a position of some note, and he was a major controller of the magic of Thereland.

“Fae” was the general descriptor used to refer to all types of nonhuman folkloric creatures—goblins, dwarves, pixies, etc. There was a definitely a hierarchy, with the Sidhe (think Tolkien’s elves) at the top, and occupying all positions of power and unilaterally in charge of Thereland. Jareth, Titania, and Oberon were all Sidhe, and so were most of their knights, dukes, etc.

There were a lot of rules surrounding the Sidhe—they were technically immortal, though they tended to fade away after a few millennia, and had enormous difficulty propagating the species; their magic was tied to the earth and significantly weakened if you could get them around cold iron or other human-made things.If you knew their true names you could command them (”Jareth” was not his real name, any more than “Oberon” and “Titania” were theirs.) They had powerful glamors which made them extremely attractive to humans, but if they were weakened you could see how alien and inhuman they looked underneath. 

And they couldn’t be creative. Anything humans could do, they could do better and more beautifully, but humans had to come up with it first.

At the very bottom of the hierarchy were the human changelings, the wished-away children. They were essentially a servile class, doing the menial labor of the Fae. (Another reason Jareth was so powerful was because he controlled the flow of changeling labor, as the major recipient of the wished-away children.) 

True, some of the human changelings were adopted by Sidhe families—humans reproduced much more easily and more quickly than the Sidhe did, and most of the great Sidhe houses had at least some human blood in them, or they would have never been able to continue the line. But those families tended to disavow any human blood later, there was a lot of bias against it.

The main conflict of the novel was between one of the changelings, sort of…crusading for human rights in Thereland, and Jareth, post-Labyrinth, when the Underground is withering because Sarah rejected him. The Changeling basically promises him that she’ll help him win Sarah back if he gives her the power to make real changes in Thereland. 

Jareth pretty much agrees because he loves chaos and has nothing to lose, and so they harry the Seelie and Unseelie Courts and have discussions about politics.