t on the behind the scenes stuff for Between the Sea and Sky (research loving dork that I am), I was understandably geeked when she agreed. And then she hit me with this awesomeness. Hope you love it as much as I do; if you do, make sure to leave her some comment love! And when you're done with this one, make sure to check out our interview and swagness! :)
Fairy Tales, Myths and World-building: Between the Sea and Sky
One of the most common elements of mermaid (and selkie) tales is the idea of an object that can be stolen to entrap the mermaid. Selkies usually shed their pelt, but mermaids carry caps, belts, capes, combs... A human man can steal them and the mermaid will have to come home with him and marry him. Usually they have children, but one day the man leaves the object somewhere where the mermaid can get at it and she steals it back and leaves him and her children forever.
Fairy tales, when turned into actual novels with messy human emotions and details and explanations, tend to beg some questions. My first question was, how on earth did these mermaids end up with this enchanted object a man could use to enslave them? Were they BORN with a magical object? Not likely, right? They must have created it at some point, but why would you create something that, in essence, held your freedom? And why were these mermaids always hanging out where men could steal their stuff, then?
This led me to the idea that the mermaid's belt (in my story, it's a belt) is an object of great magic, and the reason why is that a mermaid sings magical songs to fill it with power that lingers even after she has died. I figured that not ALL mermaids would have these belts. It didn't seem logical for a sustainable society! Only certain mermaids--the sirens, whose songs lure human men. And the reason their songs lure human men is because the sirens are, themselves, lured to the land and its people. After all, mermaids are half-human, so it makes sense they would be not entirely creatures of the sea. Interesting tidbit: the original mythological sirens actually had wings, and somewhere along the line mermaids took up the job, mythologically speaking. I bet there could be a story in that, too...
But back to mermaid fairy tales. The most famous one is still The Little Mermaid, and the original Hans Christian Andersen tale, like nearly ALL Hans Christian Andersen tales, is quite sad. The Little Mermaid is able to take on a human form, but only by giving up her voice and having every step feel like knives. I liked the idea of my mermaids having to sacrifice something to take on a human form, so I paid a little homage to this story too. The mermaids in my story can only walk with great pain, unless they give up their belt. Otherwise, their world is not nearly so depressing, I'll say that!
I was beginning to see my underwater society take shape from thinking about mythology, but the winged folk were really open for interpretation. Besides angels, which these people are not, there isn't much precedent for mythological winged folk. I wanted Alan's wings to work as logically as possible, so I didn't want him to look angelic--instead, his structure is more bat-like, with wings instead of, rather than in addition to, arms. He still couldn't really fly without a little magical help, but at least he could glide. But it also means the winged folk kind of have to sacrifice hands for wings. They do have a thumb and index finger and longer toes capable of grasping things, but I imagined these delicate flying people would have to make more use of tools and machines to be able to do various types of manual labor as effectively as humans.
In astrology, coincidentally, the air element represents the mind and intellect. I had written about a winged race some years before and they were very primitive and lived in mountain caves, but I wondered if maybe I should take these winged folk in the opposite direction--they pride themselves on scholarly attributes. And it makes sense, because they would be able to move and share ideas faster between cities and countries than any other people. Their world is about the equivalent of our 1800 and the more I thought about it the more wondrous it seemed to have wings back then, when even the train wasn't invented and roads were often terrible.
Now, I hope my readers will enjoy reading about these cultures as much as I enjoyed figuring them out!
Jaclyn Dolamore is the author of Magic Under Glass, and the upcoming companion, Between the Sea and Sky. You can find her online here: