Excerpts from Faery Tale by Signe Pike
By Devon Magoon
In her new book Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World, Signe Pike makes rediscovering the magical beliefs of childhood exciting again as she documents her unique and charming expedition across the map.
As she endeavors to rekindle the child-like beauty of belief, Pike delves into a passionate search for people and places that hold the promise of magic. Or, more specifically, faeries. And we’re not talking about the Tooth Fairy.
From Los Aluxes in Mexico to Tuatha Dé Danann in Ireland, the author is as serious as one can be when on the hunt for a creature as elusive as the Easter Bunny. But this doesn’t stop her from having a blast at giving it a shot. Pike’s efforts are as admirable as they are endearing to read about.
Not to mention the ground she covers during this venture is enough to keep those solely interested in travel satisfied. Pike embarks on a magical journey of self-discovery and expansive travel in her memoir Faery Tale.
Finding an unsettling detachment and growing skepticism with humanity and struggling with the acceptance of living in a world devoid of wonder, Pike leaves her job in Manhattan in an attempt to rekindle her belief in a more enchanting purpose in life. Or, at least, to travel the world in search of some proof of the existence of the mysterious and miraculous beings known as faeries.
As far-fetched as it sounds, Pike leads her reader through a journey of personal growth and acceptance filled with heartwarming stories of her travel experience. Pike shares her passion for the mythical while simultaneously witnessing the joys of traveling with a purpose.
Along the way she explores Mexico, England, Ireland, and Scotland, meeting handfuls of colorful characters and discovering a little bit more about herself in the process.
The Isle of Masks and the Mystery of the Blue Jacket
Folklore aside, there were other things about the place that made me wonder if it might be a particularly lucky location for faery research. The entire island, for example, was simply one big ‘tween place.’ Any island, of course, is an oasis between land and sea. But the Isle of Man wasn’t just any island.
It was an island almost exactly equidistant from four different countries: Wales, Scotland, England, and Ireland. And yet amazingly enough, despite its proximity to four different countries, the isle is a sovereign country of its own, with its own currency, language, postal system, and laws.
Though the island had enjoyed relative tranquillity for the past thousand years, there was still one ruthless invasion that took place every year, carried out by rough, bearded, powerful men. Their conquering was fast, furious, and it roared across the island for two weeks every summer. Since 1907, the Tourist Trophy Motorcycle Races, or TT as it is better known, has been held on Man, bringing tourists, tattoos, and the deafening thunder of roaring engines and squealing rubber to this otherwise quiet island.
I thought I was avoiding race week, as every tour book strongly suggests. But phoning a local hostel, I learned otherwise.
“Oh, hi there, need a room, hey? You coming for the TT?”
“What? Oh, no. No.” I paused, utterly confused. “I’m actually coming to do some hiking.” My statement was met with uproarious laughter by the man on the other end of the line.
“Yes.” I cleared my throat, my fingers tracing the phrase in my guidebook. “I’ve heard the area around Ramsey is perfect for hiking, with its many glens and streams… you know, I’m just looking for some peace and quiet…”
“Yes, of course. We have lovely walks here. It’s just that you’ve picked quite a time to get some peace and quiet.”
“I don’t catch your meaning.”
“It’s going to be TT week. Or didn’t you know?”
“The motorbike races?” the man on the phone continued.
“No, no. That was last week. Bank holiday week,” I informed him. Silly man.
“You would be right,” he said, failing in his effort to control a snicker of amusement. “But they’ve moved it this year. You’ll be coming smack in the midst of it now.”
“Oh, yes. But you’re lucky. I don’t have anything available for the first two days you’ll be here. But I can get you in for June four through June thirteen.”
“Okay,” I sighed. “Please do.”
I called dozens of places before I was able to book my first two nights in the only hostel left that had space. It was a music school that housed visitors in the summer, King William’s College in Castletown, all the way on the other side of the island.
I came to terms with TT, or so I thought. Maybe I was supposed to be there during the loudest week of the year. After staying the night in Liverpool, I woke up early and caught a cab to the shipping port. The novelty of leaving England via steamboat was exhilarating.
County Clare, Republic of Ireland
As we pulled up to the port I spotted the Snaefell, the huge white-and-red ship that would be ferrying me to Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man. Ticket in hand and a smile on my face, I walked the gangplank that led to the outer deck of the massive steamer. Turning the corner toward the bow of the boat, I must have gasped out loud, because the whole gang turned in a single movement. To stare at me.
Oh. My. God.
The ship was packed, and I mean packed, with testosterone-fueled, beefy, leather-clad bikers, who were eyeing me quite openly. I scanned the boat in disbelief. I was practically the only woman on board.
Once Upon a Time
When I was a little girl I believed in faeries as a matter of course. To say that I was obsessed with faeries wouldn’t be the truth—I simply believed in them is all. When my father took me and my sister walking, I imagined there were faeries everywhere: flitting through the bushes, underneath the toadstools, balancing on the petals of the wildflowers that forced their way through the snowy winter crust in spring.
When you’re little, it’s perfectly acceptable to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. Do you remember the incredible beauty of those days? Lying awake listening for the faint jingle of a sleigh bell, or peeking through your eyelashes, determined to spot a magical creature with every creak on the stairs? But inevitably, reality comes crashing in.
We forget how devastating it was to learn that the magical creatures from stories aren’t real. We come to understand that growing up means getting older. And getting older means facing up to a certain amount of loss. When I suffered my loss, I woke up one morning with the undeniable feeling that it was high time we sat down to discuss: We live in a world where 9/11 happened. We’re involved in wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. There’s genocide in Darfur. There are murders, and suicide bombings, and newspaper descriptions of human scalps hanging off restaurant light fixtures.
There’s the melting of the polar ice caps, hunger, starvation, and the killing of precious endangered species. I wanted to say to everyone, I don’t know about you, but this was not the happily ever after I was hoping for.
Worse, somewhere along the line I had lost my faith in humanity.
I began to wonder where all our innocence goes and why we let it slip away, when the thing to do at a time like now is to fight it. How might it change the world if we could reclaim some of our magic? How would we look at one another, treat one another, if each of us recognized that inside every man or woman is a little boy or girl who loves popcorn, is still afraid of monsters under the bed, or believes that fairy tales really do come true? Maybe we would treat each other with more kindness, more carefully, more respectfully.
I wanted to find something of the beauty of myth that we’ve left behind, carry its shreds before us all, so we could acknowledge it, somehow bring it back to life. I wanted to delve back into that world that cradled us when we were young enough to still touch it, when trolls lived under creek bridges, faeries fluttered under mushroom caps, and the Tooth Fairy only came once you were truly sleeping.
I wanted to see if enchantment was somehow still there, simply waiting to be reached. When I felt my loss, I realized that if I could do anything in this life, I wanted to travel the world, searching for those who were still awake in that old dreamtime, and listen to their stories—because I had to know that were were grown-ups out there who still believed that life could be magical.
And in that moment I decided, I am going to find the goddamn faeries.
Do you think that sounds silly?
A better question might be, do you think I’m kidding? I am deadly serious. If it makes you feel more comfortable, when someone asks you what you’re reading, you can say, “Oh, this? It’s… an examination of the loss of myth in modern culture.”
And it wouldn’t be a lie.
I really don’t believe in faeries. But I really want to. Not just for me, but for all of us. Because we are battered by adulthood—by taxes, by loss, by laundry, by nine to five, by deceit and distrust, by the crushing desire to be thin, wealthy, successful, popular, happy, in love. All the while, we are walking on a planet that is disintegrating around us.
Hunting Trolls in Paradise
Hours later, the sound of shattering glass shocked me awake. I bolted upright in bed, fumbling for the penlight on my key chain. Looking around in confusion, I saw that the glass candle, which I had blown out before falling asleep, had shattered into a hundred glittering pieces on the floor. Outside the cabana, the ocean wind was roaring.
It must have somehow blown the candle clear across the nightstand. But it was so heavy, and it was right next to me—not near the edge. I suddenly felt the blood coursing harder through my veins. It was the wind, it was the wind, it was the wind, I told myself. But, Signe, what if it wasn’t the wind?
Don’t be ridiculous! Listen to how windy it is outside…
What if it was the little—
La-la-la… I can’t hear you…
—with his dark, beady eyes, and his bizarre leathery skin and wild, matted hair—
Fabulous. Now my heart was racing. I was completely and hopelessly awake.
I searched the darkness for any movement, any shadow. But everything had gone eerily still. Suddenly, in a flash I saw the tanned, weathered face from the night before, now red with anger, lurch toward me in my head. But tonight, it pissed me off more than it frightened me.
I’m sorry, I told him, But I won’t be talking to you. The image flashed at me with a renewed and more frightening veracity.
You must not have understood me. I am going to bed. And you are going to leave me alone!
(And I have completely lost my mind!)
I saw him one more time, and then he was gone.
I lay awake trying to make sense of my experience. I knew I had a vivid imagination, and that gave me pause. I read somewhere that when it comes to the human brain, we only truly understand how approximately six percent of it operates. To me, that means it’s highly probably that the other ninety-four percent can be pretty darn tricky when it wants to be. But still, there was something so undeniably clear about that image I had seen. It was so incredibly vivid, and I had felt this big wave of anger, as though someone was standing there, flaming mad.
Regardless of whether there was any truth behind the stories I’d heard, or whether my ninety-four percent was playing some very frightening tricks on me, after the night I’d just had, I could no longer play the part of the dispassionate observer. This trip to Mexico, my first real exploration into the world of faeries, had cemented something for me. I now felt that there could be something else out there, something unseen. And I wasn’t satisfied.
I wanted to experience more.
Visit the author’s site at signepike.com.
Buy this book on Amazon:
Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World
Devon Magoon is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.