Read The Boy Who Lost Fairyland Online

Authors: Catherynne M. Valente

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

 

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Table of Contents

About the Author

Copyright Page

 

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For all my brothers, those with whom I was a child and those who are children still.

 

Dramatis Personae

H
AWTHORN
, a Troll

T
HE
R
ED
W
IND
, a Harsh Air

I
AGO
, a Panther

B
ENJAMIN
F
RANKLIN
, a Postmistress

S
EPTEMBER
, a Girl

T
HOMAS
R
OOD
, a Boy

G
WENDOLYN
R
OOD
, his Mother

N
ICHOLAS
R
OOD
, his Father

A
B
ASEBALL

M
AX
, a Schoolboy

HUMPHREY
!
, a Desk

M
RS.
W
ILKINSON
, a Schoolteacher

M
R.
W
OLCOTT
, a Substitute Schoolteacher

M
R.
G
RANBERRY
, a Gym Teacher

T
AMBURLAINE
, Perhaps a Girl, but Perhaps Not

B
LUNDERBUSS
, a Wombat

S
CRATCH
, a Gramophone

C
HARLES
C
RUNCHCRAB
, King of Fairyland

T
HE
S
PINSTER
, a Strega

B
ESPOKE
E
SPADRILLE
, a Walrus, but Additionally, a Shoemaker

P
ENNY
F
ARTHING
, a Changeling

B
AYLEAF
, also a Changeling

H
ERBERT
, a Changeling as Well

S
ADIE
S
PLEENWORT
, a Sour Girl

T
HE
O
FFICE

M
ADAME
T
ANAQUILL
, a Prime Minister

F
OUR
V
ICIOUS
A
LBINO
M
OOSE

S
ATURDAY
, a Marid

A
-
T
HROUGH-
L, a Wyverary

A
UBERGINE
, a Night-Dodo

S
IR
S
ANGUINE
, a Redcap

T
HE
M
ARQUESS
, Former Ruler of Fairyland

G
RATCHLING
G
OURDBONE
G
OLDMOUTH
, a Clurichaun and Former King of Fairyland

S
USAN
J
ANE
, a Mechanic

O
WEN
, her Husband

M
ARGARET
, an Aunt

 

CHAPTER I

E
NTRANCE
,
ON
A
P
ANTHER

In Which a Boy Named Hawthorn Is Spirited Off by Means of a Panther, Learns the Rules of the World, and Performs an Unlikely Feat of Gardening

Once upon a time, a troll named Hawthorn lived very happily indeed in his mother's house, where he juggled the same green and violet gemstones and matching queens' crowns every day, slept on the same weather-beaten stone, and played with the same huge and cantankerous toad. Because he had been born in September, and because he had a scar on his right cheek, and because his hands were very small and delicate, for a troll, the Red Wind conspired to cause mischief, and flew to the creaky old well that served as the chimney of his underground house one evening just after his first birthday. She was dressed in a red breastplate, and red hunting boots, and a red gown, and a red bandit's mask. It is very dangerous below the banana trees, in the Rhyming Jungle where the Red Wind hides her secrets.

“You seem a sweet and pliable enough child,” said the Red Wind. “How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Panther of Rough Storms and be delivered to a great desert that lies in the midst of a strange and distant land? I am afraid I cannot linger there, as Parched Climates do not agree with me, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Wild and Walloping Wastes.”

“No, no,” cried Hawthorn, who deeply loved his green and violet gemstones, and also his huge and cantankerous toad. He began to wail in his whale-skull cradle.

“Well, then, come and be a good boy, and do not thrash about too much, nor pull too harshly on my Panther's fur, as she bites.”

The Red Wind held out her arms, shimmering in red gloves, and Hawthorn, for a moment, was dazzled. He could not help it: He loved anything red. Leaves, some moons, rubies, ragelilies, blood, wine, apples (both poison and not), toadstools, riding hoods. Red was dark and fascinating. You couldn't deny red things. He once saw a Redcap dancing on a wild moor all tangled with beautiful poison berries and had never wanted anything so much in his life. He would have named it Walter and fed it fresh white rats. His mother said rats would never be enough for a Redcap and besides the little fellow would certainly murder them all in their sleep the first chance she got. Hawthorn had sighed with longing. He kept a few mice in a willow cage by her bed from then on, just in case.

Hawthorn's eyes got so full of the Red Wind that he could see nothing else. And so, even though he knew he oughtn't, Hawthorn reached out and took both the beautiful scarlet hand of the Red Wind and a very deep breath.

The Panther of Rough Storms picked up Hawthorn in his soft mouth just as any cat might do to a naughty kitten. The great black cat lifted the troll out of his whale-skull cradle, out of his lovely familiar nursery with its wallpaper of garnets and big, blue, long-lashed eyes, out of his underground house, leaving a parlorful of untidy green and violet queens' crowns with enchantments still clinging to their prongs by the skin of their teeth.

One enchantment had been cast by Hawthorn's father, who, at that moment, lay sleeping in a long mulled-wine-colored magician's cloak, snoring smoke-rings in his bed of green butterflies with a wand clutched in his arms like a teddy bear and gleaming things on his sleeping cap. It was meant to keep his son safe from marauding pirates, of whom he had an irrational fear.

One had been cast by Hawthorn's mother, who, at that moment, was bending over an overturned church bell full of leprechaun teeth in a distant midnight meadow, her arm muscles bulging. It was meant to keep her son safe from marauding disappointments, of which she had too much experience for any one troll.

One had been cast by a cabbage-gnome a hundred years ago. It was meant to wilt the leaves of anyone who forgot the gnome's birthday. Of these enchantments, one missed its mark, one bided its time, and one had no effect whatsoever, as trolls have very few leaves.

*   *   *

“Now,” said the Red Wind, when she had Hawthorn firmly in hand upon her glittering ruby saddle, “there are important rules in your new home, rules from which I am entirely exempt, as Hot Air is the friend of all bureaucracies. I am afraid that if you trample upon the rules, I cannot help you. You may be ticketed, or executed, or elected to high office and given a splendid parade, depending upon the fashions of the day.”

Trolls are quick learners and quicker growers. They speak as quickly as a newborn giraffe can walk and sprout up like pumpkin plants who have heard Halloween means to come early. Hawthorn was only a baby still, but tall as a table already. He had made friends with all manner of words and some cracking good ones at that. But at the moment, the poor creature was far too terrified to use the better ones on the red-cheeked lady who had burgled him up as though a troll-child were no more than a very fine hat in a shop window. Or her wildcat. All he could make out of the howling air all around them, the last shreds of his sleep, and a troll's blue tongue was:

“Is it so terrible there?”

The Red Wind frowned into her dark crimson hair. “All countries are terrible,” she admitted finally. “But this one, at least, has some lovely scenery.”

“Tell me the rules at least?” Hawthorn said uncertainly. His father had taught him when he was quite small that if one finds oneself captured by pirates, politeness pays better than sass, and Hawthorn had begun to feel that his current situation might share a drink or two with piracy.

“Firstly, no magic of any kind is allowed. Customs is quite strict on this point. Any charms, enchanted beans, grimoires, or talismans you might have on your person will be confiscated and sold as Christmas ornaments. Second, the practice of
physicks
is forbidden to all except young ladies and gentlemen with Advanced Degrees.”

“But I like
physicks
!”

“It is certainly possible you may grab hold of a Degree,” winked the Red Wind, “but I am afraid I do not know where to find their nests. Third, aviary locomotion is permitted only by means of Balloon or licensed Aeroplane. If you find yourself not in possession of one of these, kindly confine yourself to the ground. Fourth, all traffic travels on the right, except where it doesn't, and no signs will be posted. Fifth, shape-shifting and glamours are restricted to October the thirty-first of each year. Sixth, all children are required to attend School, which is like a party to which everyone forgot to bring punch, or hats, or fiddles, and none of the games have good prizes. Seventh and most important, you will find that several things are extremely dangerous to your person, namely: iron, eggshells, fire, and marriage. You may in no fashion allow any human to call you by the name your mother gave you or pass beyond the borders of Cook County, or else you will either perish in a most painful fashion or be forced to sit through very tedious sessions with doctors in thick glasses. These laws are sacrosanct, except for visiting demigods and bankers. Do you understand?”

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