Our interview is with the youngest faery to have ever have won the King’s Oak Leaf, awarded for extraordinary valor in service to the Faery King and Queen.
Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh is a mere 209 years old — and yet this remarkable child has thrice saved our forest from Goblins and Danger. That his deeds have not been widely chronicled by historians and balladeers is due, I believe, to a persistent snobbery among the elfin classes, where Certain Persons find it difficult to accord heroic status to a tree root faery of humble birth. I would point out to such Persons, however, that the Boggs are the oldest clan of hawthorn faeries in all the southern woods, and are by no means unrespectable. I, myself, am distantly related to the Boggs, and feel no shame in owning this connection.
Strangely, although his exploits are known by only a few in Old Oak Wood, Sneezlewort Boggs has achieved a measure of fame far beyond our faery forest – for his life has been the subject of three books published by the Big People: A Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale, The Winter Child and The Faeries of Spring Cottage. I was curious to learn how a tree root faery had become so friendly with the human race, and what these books might tell us about the current state of human/faery relations.
For the purpose of this interview, I traveled to Sneezle’s home in Greenmoss Glen — where over honey cakes and tea he graciously answered this old scholar’s questions.
Professor Rootmuster: It’s unusual, in this day and age, for forest faeries to consort with human beings. How did you first meet Big People?
Sneezle: Well, the first human I met was Rowan, who lives in a cottage by the edge of Old Oak Wood. I got trapped by her cat one day —
Professor Rootmuster: Pardon me for interrupting, but isn’t that the story that is told in The Faeries of Spring Cottage?
Sneezle: Yep. Spring Cottage is Rowan’s house. Before I met her, I was scared of Big People, and I’m still kind of shy of most of them now. But Rowan is my friend. She introduced me to Wendy and Terri, who made the books about me.
Professor Rootmuster: How did that come about?
Sneezle: Well, you know, the thing about Big People is that most of them can’t see us faeries. I know that sounds preposterous, but they seem to have lost the knack somehow. They don’t believe in us anymore, and that makes us invisible to them.
Professor Rootmuster: How strange! Do they believe in rabbits? Swallows? Ladybugs? Trees?
Sneezle: Oh sure. At least, I think they do. It’s only us magical folk who aren’t “real.” Faeries and brownies and goblins —
Professor Rootmuster: Alas, we can but wish that the goblins weren’t real….
On the other hand, some faeries don’t think the Big People are real either.
Professor Rootmuster: This Rowan, however, is a mortal child who can see the citizens of our realm?
Sneezle: She couldn’t at first, but she can now. Her grandmother can see us too. Rowan says that’s because she’s an artist —
Professor Rootmuster: Which is….?
Sneezle: It’s kind of like a sorcerer, I think. Wendy and Terri are sorcerers too. I mean artists. I mean that they make magic.
Professor Rootmuster: How did you meet these sorcerers?
Sneezle: Well now, gosh, let me think a minute. It was the year that rains came early and Greenmoss Glen won the “Chase the Rabbit” Championship. One day Rowan said she wanted to bring a couple of her Big friends to see me. She’d told them all about my adventures, you see, and now they wanted to meet me.
At first I said no. I wasn’t sure I wanted more Big People tramping through our woods — but then I learned that Rowan’s friends had been here many times before. Terri, who is a scribe, had studied traditional elfin ballads at King Oberon’s Royal Library — she’d actually been there, working on her thesis, on the day that the Council of Sorcerers challenged Malagan to that famous duel….
Professor Rootmuster: The duel described in The Winter Child?
Sneezle: That’s right — when my friend Twig saved the day by biting Malagan on the foot. So anyway, Terri had been there during the duel. I might have even seen her there — but she’s small and pale and I probably mistook her for a faery in her scholar’s robes.
Wendy had also been visiting the sacred groves for many years. Wendy makes faery dolls, you see, and her husband is a famous portrait painter. He’s painted half of the elfin court! King Oberon had named both husband and wife honorary members of the Faery Realm.
So when Rowan explained all this, I said, okay then, bring them ’round for tea. And Twig decided to come along too, because she’d never met a human being.
Professor Rootmuster: So then what happened?
Sneezle: Well, it’s a little embarrassing. I’d planned to serve them tea and cake, but Wendy brought elderflower wine…and I, um, got just a little bit tipsy. They plied me with wine and questions about the quest to save Titania’s crown, and the Winter Child in the golden egg, and the rat prince underneath Spring Cottage…and, oh, all kinds of magical things. Twig says I was boasting shamelessly. All I remember is talking and talking, and then falling asleep on top of the tea cakes.
A few weeks later, Wendy and Terri came back to visit me again, and they asked if they could publish my adventures in books for human children.
Professor Rootmuster: A faery-human partnership — such a bold and novel proposition! Did you ever have second thoughts about it?
Sneezle: Oh no. I liked them very much.
Professor Rootmuster: The books?
Sneezle: No, no, Wendy and Terri! We had such a jolly, silly time together! That Wendy, oh, she’s as beautiful as a queen! (I think Twig was jealous.)
Professor Rootmuster: But what about the books? Do you think your Quests have been depicted with historical accuracy?
Sneezle: Well, sure, I guess. I like the pictures best. The pictures look just like Old Oak Wood! First they tried to make the pictures with this weird machine they call a camera, but that doesn’t work on faery folk. So Wendy made dolls that look like all of us, and they photographed the dolls instead. The doll of me is very handsome! I particularly like his elegant ears! Except perhaps I could have been just a little taller, and maybe have had a longer tail…. That’s what I told Wendy, anyway, but Twig said don’t be silly.
Professor Rootmuster: So how does it feel to be a celebrity among the Big People?
Sneezle: Am I really a celebrity? Gosh!
Professor Rootmuster: Why yes, I’d say you’ve achieved a certain fame among mortal children now.
Sneezle: Good! I want them to know about me. I want them to know that faeries exist. I want them all to grow up believing in us, and to learn to see us.
Professor Rootmuster: But does it matter if humans believe in us?
Sneezle: I didn’t used to think so, but now I do. Terri told me that all over the world the Big People are cutting down faery forests as old and sacred as Old Oak Wood. I want to tell them why the woodlands are important. I want them to know that the forest is our home. I want them to see the magic here. And that’s why I’ve told my story.
— Transcribed by Terri Windling, Devon, May 2008.
Copyright Terri Windling and any re-use of any of this material
in whole or in part must be in writing from her.