Today continues our part-serialization of our book of the month Dreams and Shadows. We are delighted to be able to share with you an introduction from Simon, the book’s editor.
How to introduce to the most exciting new American writer I have read in ten years?
Perhaps by telling you how he introduced himself to me. C. Robert Cargill announced himself with a painfully sweet love story. Sweet boy meets sweet girl. They’re perfect, their love affair is perfect, they’re meant for each other, they’re meant for the reader, for you and me – they even lock eyes for the first time in a library for heaven’s sake. What could be more perfect? They move in together, it’s still perfect. (You’re sensing something is amiss here, perhaps?) Their love is rich and deep and fulfilling. They have a baby, he is perfect. They couldn’t be more happy . . .
Until something unspeakably vile scuttles up the wall of their apartment block and swaps their baby for a changeling. And everything goes to hell in a handcart.
The baby looks just like their child. But he isn’t. A Mother knows her child – she can see what no-one else can see: this isn’t her baby. It’s a monster. No-one believes her, no-one believes there is a monster in the house. There’s only one way out…
And that’s just the first few pages.
This is a story about a world of dreams and shadows. Both a love story and a tale of dark adventure in a mythic land that lives alongside our own.
And suffice it to say there is one part of this book in particular (one part amongst many) that entranced me and scared me and punched me breathless – it’s as good as anything else I’ve EVER read. Before that section I loved this book. After it I simply HAD to acquire it. It starts with an ill-advised camping trip in the woods…
Is it just possible I’ve introduced you to your new favourite author? Let me know. Send me a message on Twitter @gollancz with the hashtag #dreamshadows
In addition to our part-serialization we’ve got an exciting Dreams and Shadows competition this week! For a chance to win a copy of Dreams and Shadows and a copy of the film Sinister written by C. Robert Cargill. We have three book and DVD and book and Blue-Ray combinations to give away. To enter send the answer to this question to: email@example.com with the subject line: Dreams and Shadows by 11.59pm on the 25th February. Please include with your answer if you would like a DVD or Blue-Ray of Sinster. Click here for terms and conditions. Question: What is the primary source of the changelings hate and taste for suffering?
On The Bendith Y MaMau and the Changelings They Leave Behind
An excerpt by Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D., from his book A Chronicle of the Dreamfolk
The Bendith Y Mamau can smell love, as if it were a tangible thing. They also detest it, for they do not understand it. While they are known to feel familial attachment, the Bendith Y Mamau cannot reproduce, thus they do not mate and never have the need for anything resembling love. It doesn’t help that they are among God’s ugliest creatures. However, that is not to say that they do not possess beauty of some sort. The Bendith Y Mamau are the world’s greatest musicians. They cannot sing a note, their baritone voices more akin to a walrus’ bellow than anything else, but with an instrument in their hands they can weave some of the most sensuous, melodic music ever heard. It is music so complex, with such extraordinarily complicated structures, that it transcends normal composition and plays at notes as yet unknown to mortal men outside of the Aboriginal songlines of Australia. Each note contains the very essence of magic and weaves powerful spells that hold sway over emotion and memory. It is this music that fairy communities often use to hold captives, without need of chain or tether, which of course leads to the Bendith Y Mamau’s primary function in any fairy community.
Pronounced “bendith uh mo-may,” a Welsh phrase meaning “mother’s blessing,” they are the chief child thieves of any fairy court, and the first to whom a community will turn when they desire fresh infants. Each community has its own differing needs, but a thriving, healthy court will often call upon their Bendith Y Mamau to tend to the acquisition of living mortals. Their strength, speed, and agility make them incredible hunters, while their oafish nature gives them a single-minded purpose and focus not found among the more thoughtful races of the fae.
Many myths persist that the Bendith Y Mamau leave behind their own misshapen children, but this simply isn’t the case. Each Bendith Y Mamau is born sterile, the result of the unholy mating of fairy and goblin. What brings fairies and goblins together in such a manner is still a secret known only to the fairies and goblins who have participated in such a distasteful procreation, but it is thus far the only known way to produce one.
The children they leave behind during abductions are changelings, the stillborn infant children of unsuccessful fairy unions. When the conditions are not adequate for proper reproduction, whether it be that the child is born out of season or the mother finds herself in a corrupt place ill-suited for childbirth, it is possible for the pregnancy to self-terminate. In such a case, the stillborn child has a chance of becoming a changeling. If the mother feels a sufficient amount of grief or sheds too many tears upon the corpse, the baby may simply come alive, its energies beginning to feed upon the pain and agony of its mother.
Changelings are quite dangerous to anyone responsible for birthing one and must be disposed of as quickly as possible.
However, no fairy mothers, no matter how unseelie, will abandon the product of their wombs to the wilderness. Instead these mothers turn to the Bendith Y Mamau, tasking them with disposing of the changeling and returning with a child that they may raise as their own. Fairies, of course, prefer infant children, but Bendith have been known from time to time to dim-wittedly return with a child old enough to speak.
A changeling need only glimpse its predecessor for but a fleeting second as they are being switched to take on its likeness. At that point, imprinting ties the changeling developmentally to the original child. To all but its new mother, the changeling will appear in vision, sound, and action as if it were the child it replaced. Something may seem off or weird about it, but rarely will anyone suspect that this is a doppelganger of any kind. A mother, on the other hand, always knows the difference. By the light of day she has only a feeling, but once the sun has fallen and night overtakes the earth, the changeling’s true nature is revealed. It is that sudden revelation, and the fear it brings, that allows the creature to feed so easily.
A changeling exists solely by feeding off the physical, mental, and emotional pain of its mother. As long as there is agony, torment, or anguish it will be able to nourish itself. But if a mother remains calm, the child begins to starve and then to wail. It will scream, fuss, and throw fits in hopes of driving its mother half to madness. A mother worried about her true birth child or one already suffer- ing from some bout of depression is best suited to feed such a creature, but any suffering mother will do. Unable to digest real food, a changeling may bite at its mother’s breasts or vomit up anything force-fed to it, adding further confusion and worry. Most changelings left in the charge of human parents find themselves smothered, drowned, or exorcised, on the rare occasions when they aren’t just abandoned to die alone.
Adult changelings are incredibly rare, as they are very tricky beings to raise; their need for nourishment is only indefinitely sated by the sacrifice of its new mother to a sudden, violent death. The amount of energy released by such a death, especially one at the behest of the changeling, seems to be the only thing capable of keeping such a child alive until it is old enough to consciously torment other victims.
Changelings possess the ability to change their appearance at will, shrouding themselves in glamour to masquerade as someone they’ve met at least once before, or revealing their true selves to someone other than their mothers. Their natural state appears to be one of twisted mockery of the person they originally replaced. A fully grown changeling will look like an uglier, physically inferior version of their initial counterpart at the same age. Their personalities remain their own, however, and changelings grow up as maladjusted, unusually cruel, hateful creatures who long for nothing more than to make others suffer.
Finally, changelings appear to have some form of eidetic or photographic memory. From the moment they awaken in the body of a stillborn infant, every memory is theirs to keep. It is not uncommon for adult changelings to speak at length about their childhood mothers and lament the fairy mother who first cast them away. Most scholars believe this to be the primary source of the changelings hate and taste for suffering, the psyche’s embodiment of a child who so loved its mother that it returned from death, only to be turned away and replaced by another, better child.