These Green Man books are rooted in British folklore – but what does that actually mean?

I grew up with folklore as a core element of my reading. I don’t just mean the fairy stories that everyone knows, taken from Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm, commodified and sanitised by Disney. My local library and the primary school bookshelves had numerous collections of folk tales alongside other reading – and as I was reminded just last week by Simon Spanton posting this Book of Goblins cover on Twitter, they were often collected by authors who had written other books on those shelves. Then there were the older books; the collections of fairy tales by Andrew Lang, and George Macdonald’s stories. Victorian editors had softened the sharp edges of these tales, but they couldn’t do away with the strangeness, and that was so often reflected by illustrators like Arthur Rackham in books such as Puck of Pook’s Hill.

Some of these collections were themed – goblins, giants, witches – while others were regional – tales from the Orkneys, from Cornwall or Wales, to name but a few that I recall. Either way, these stories belonged in the world where I was living rather than some fantasyland, even if I couldn’t see what was going on in the shadows. As a voracious reader, I saw no division between these traditional stories and the fantasies written by Tolkien, Lewis and Garner. There were the same otherworldly beings in the Hobbit, Narnia and underneath Alderley Edge after all: wizards, goblins, elves. The folklore books also had darker, scarier things, and stories with uneasy endings that didn’t offer the consolation of some of those fictional narratives…

As an adult, I turned to reading scholarly and still very readable analyses of folklore, by writers such as Diane Purkiss. As a fan of local museums, and of National Trust and English Heritage visits, I would pick up books of local tales collected by antiquarians and enthusiasts. I began to see the depth and breadth of the folklore that still endures in rural England. I continue to see the extent of such mythology’s influence, as I recognise these stories from passing mentions in literature from Shakespeare to Kipling and right up to the present day.

At the same time, I come across half-tales and references that make it clear how many stories have faded away for lack of telling, leaving only tantalising traces. I discovered that mystic beings we think of as ancient archetypes have been recreated comparatively recently. The Green Man, the Horned Hunter, the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. Oh, the images are ancient, but the tales that went with them have all but vanished. Looking at the ways these things have been reimagined, when and by whom, is an ongoing fascination.

All told, these varied aspects of our folklore legacy offer me tremendous scope as a writer. I am able to draw on a familiarity with traditional fairy-tale creatures and themes that readers may not even be aware they have acquired. At the same time, I have a free hand to weave in those stray fragments and the strangeness that I come across to enrich my new story with surprises. As I write these particular books, I become more and more aware that I’m working in an age-old tradition as I do so.

Cover art and design by Ben Baldwin

The Green Man’s Silence – where did these particular ideas come from?

This story started with some casual information that I didn’t think much about when I added it to The Green Man’s Foe. The folk tale that inspired Finele as a character is from Cambridgeshire, so it made sense to say that’s where her family lives. Afterwards, I found myself wondering what Dan would make of the Fens if he ever visited her there. Like most people who don’t know the region, he would just think it’s a flat place with very few trees. While I was thinking about that, the archaeologist Francis Pryor had a book published looking at this area and its long, complex history – titled unsurprisingly The Fens. That’s a fascinating read which started me on the path to writing the story you have just read.

East Anglia isn’t a part of England that I know well myself, so my husband and I spent a week’s holiday near Ely last November, to see what inspiration I might find. As you will see, that trip was very worthwhile. I definitely recommend visiting the Fens, and the local museums, historic houses and churches. Places like Ely, King’s Lynn and Wisbech are well worth simply walking around, to see their history reflected in their architecture. I found the Seahenge exhibition in King’s Lynn particularly interesting as I looked at it through Dan Mackmain’s eyes. We also found a carved Green Man who doesn’t look to be taking life at all seriously as he pulls a face and sticks his tongue out in St Margaret’s Church.

This book owes a particular debt to the Wisbech and Fenland Museum. The Museum Society was founded in Wisbech in 1835 and there was a Literary Society in the town from 1781 to 1877. If you visit the current handsome building, you will see all sorts of fascinating things, as well as one particular exhibit that would certainly give Dan a nasty surprise – but no spoilers! The National Trust nature reserve at Wicken Fen supplied me with further essential information about the communities that lived and thrived all across the region, cutting reed and sedge, digging peat and catching fish, eels and waterfowl, both before and after the waters were drained. As you might imagine, staff at both places were intrigued when I explained my reasons for buying an armful of books of local history and the distinctive local folklore.

So what’s this story going to be about? Well, here’s what the cover will tell you…

“Daniel Mackmain has always been a loner. As a dryad’s son, he can see the supernatural alongside everyday reality, and that’s not something he can easily share. Perhaps visiting East Anglia to stay with Finele Wicken and her family will be different. They have their own ties to the uncanny.

But something is amiss in the depths of the Fens. Creatures Dan has never encountered outside folk tales are growing uneasy, even hostile. He soon learns they have good reason. Can he help them before they retaliate and disaster strikes the unsuspecting locals? Can the Green Man help Dan in a landscape dominated by water for centuries, where the oaks were cut down aeons ago?”

The Green Man’s Silence will be published on 2nd September 2020 by Wizard’s Tower Press.

For ebook preorders:
UK Amazon
US Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

Other formats will be available.

The Green Man’s Silence will be published on 2nd September 2020 and the ebook can be pre-ordered!

The Green Man’s Silence will be published on 2nd September 2020 by Wizard’s Tower Press.

UK readers can preorder the ebook from Amazon here.
US readers can preorder the ebook from Amazon here.
Here’s the link for preorders from Barnes & Noble
Here’s the link for preorders from Kobo

Other formats will be available, and in other territories. We’ll update everyone with news and links in due course.

So what’s this new story about? Here’s what the cover will tell you…

“Daniel Mackmain has always been a loner. As a dryad’s son, he can see the supernatural alongside everyday reality, and that’s not something he can easily share. Perhaps visiting East Anglia to stay with Finele Wicken and her family will be different. They have their own ties to the uncanny.

But something is amiss in the depths of the Fens. Creatures Dan has never encountered outside folk tales are growing uneasy, even hostile. He soon learns they have good reason. Can he help them before they retaliate and disaster strikes the unsuspecting locals? Can the Green Man help Dan in a landscape dominated by water for centuries, where the oaks were cut down aeons ago?”

In related news, The Green Man’s Foe is now available for 99p in ebook, as part of Kindle’s August promotion. But what if you haven’t read The Green Mans’s Heir just yet? Well, that’s why we have reduced the first ebook in this series to £1.77 for the duration of this promotion.

If you haven’t read these books yet, this is the ideal time. If you have, what better opportunity will you have to recommend them to friends?

Cover art and design by Ben Baldwin

The Green Man’s Silence – coming soon, with this fabulous cover

Artwork and cover design by Ben Baldwin

And to give you just a hint…

“Helen put a couple of tea bags into a pot and then spooned coffee into a cafetière. ‘You like to fix things. You like to help.’
Those weren’t questions, but I answered her anyway. ‘If I can.’
She waited for the kettle to boil, looking thoughtful, not looking at me. She made the coffee and the tea and brought them both over to the table. I took a seat as she fetched milk from the fridge and mugs from the dishwasher. She sat in the chair across the table and filled a mug for us both.
‘Do you have hobs where you live?’
I didn’t think she was talking about kitchen appliances, but I wasn’t sure of much beyond that. ‘By which you mean…?’
‘Brownies, pixies, they have a lot of different names. Earth spirits inclined to take a fancy to human hearths and homes.’ She took a sip of coffee. ‘Around here they call themselves hobs.’
‘I know what you mean,’ I said cautiously, ‘but I’ve never met one.’

The book is now in production and we plan to publish in early September. As soon as the date is fixed, we’ll spread the word. Pre-orders will be possible soon, and there’ll be more details coming to whet your appetites…