I always want to know the stories behind the novels, music and movies I love.
If you are as sad as I, then revel in this.
Check pictures and text for hidden links
Thomas the Rhymer
book started with an idea for a title: “The King of the Fairy Hill”. A
vague idea about a boy kidnapped by the fairies. As I thought
about it on the way to work, a story began to develop, but sitting on the
London Underground looking at all the people reading novels, I could
not imagine the blokes reading a book with the word “fairy” in
the title. It had to go.
For a long time the book went under the name “The Forgotten Prince” or “The Lost Prince” a title nabbed by the BBC for something entirely different. I don’t know why it took so long to come up with Thomas the Rhymer. It seems so obvious now.
THOMAS THE RHYMER
is a traditional Scottish Ballad about a young man stolen away by the
Queen of Elphame. He thinks he is with her for a year and a day but on
his return from Fairyland, he finds many years have passed.
Listen to the legendary British folk-rock band Steeleye Span sing the
Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer
I first came across it in a book called the White Goddess by Robert Graves. It is a book about the meanings of myths. While it has been slated as totally inaccurate by historians I find it a fantastic source of stories and Ideas.
Every culture in the world has legends of Fairies and many of them are very similar. Fairies can appear as old or young at will. They are young and beautiful but can become old and ugly. They can live in fantastic other worldly abodes and can grant wishes but none of their magic seems real for it fades away at the break of day.
I was intrigued by the similarities in all the various legends and got to wondering if they were supernatural creatures why were their powers so limited. It seemed to me that all fairies could do was change the appearance of reality and the easiest way to do this is to put thoughts into other people's heads, perhaps using telepathy.
Their long life is easily explained. 30 years ago scientists were arguing that barring accident or disease it might be possible for a person to live as long as 250 years. Now as they begin to understand the genetics of aging, some scientists talk of gene therapy producing a lifespan of a 1000 years or more.
The Magi were an ancient cult of priest magicians from ancient Babylon. Bablyonian magic was at the root of many modern science principles. (For example the 360 degrees in a circle come from the Babylonians who counted in units of 60 like we count in units of 10). As we discover more science and magic seem to move closer together. While writing the book I read that a certain frequency of noise played under an aircraft wing reduces the amount of fuel it needs to take off. How is this possible?
Double entry book keeping, the fundamental principle of modern accounting. was also invented in Ancient Babylon there about 4000 years ago. Accountancy is the driving force of modern society keeping track of goods and money moving all over the world. Its other function is to conceal wealth. Financiers are some of the most powerful peple in the world. Bankers get bonuses of millions of dollars every year. Why do we think accountacy is boring?
LEY LINES are not explored in the extracts but they feature prominently in the
novel. Years ago I read Alfred Watkins “The Old Straight Track” in
which he argued ancient sites were linked by paths of mystical energy
called Ley lines.
was my great conceit to link them to the fairies paths of folklore...
or so I thought until I started researching this snippet and found ley
lines were already associated with the fairy roads. Gawd damn it!
At one point In the book when Ken, Catherine and Jack
find the ley line to Elphame Jack asks which way they go and Catherine
replies, “Second star on the right and straight on to morning.” This is a
quote from Peter Pan. Or rather it is a quote from “Symphony in Blue” by Kate
Bush quoting Peter Pan. How can I have a website and not mention Kate
ooGRIFFINS are very ancient symbols. There is a wingless griffin in the throne room of Knossos
in Crete dating back to 3,500 years ago. The ancient Greeks thought they made nests for their eggs on the ground which they lined with gold.
Adrienne Mayor in her book The First
Fossil Hunters believes they originated as stories of protoceratops
fossils weathering out of the rocks of the Gobi desert where the ancient Sythian tribes prospected for gold washed down in streams. It does not take much
imagination to see a griffin's head in a protoceratops' skull.
Probably because griffins were such ancient symbols they have passed from culture to culture. The shape has not changed but they have become more mystical creatures, progressing from guardians of gold to guardians of occult secrets. In the middle ages emeralds were thought to be from griffin's nests.
What’s in a name?
JACK HUGHES: Jack’s original name was Will, as I knew I wanted something short. After a page of “Will will” or even “will Will?” I came to the conclusion it is not a good idea to mix up your hero’s name with grammatical tense…. “Will Will’s will be strong enough?” See what I mean.
As a frustrated pop star (and who isn’t these days?) I had a smattering of years old lyrics in my head that were never going anywhere. One, shamelessly influenced by Jacques Brel, revolved around a word play on the French J’acuse. The rest, as they say, is history.
There is also another piece of word play in the book from the same scraps of lyric, however you will have to find it yourselves for while it is mentioned in Thomas the Rhymer it does not really come into play until the next two books.
DAN: Jack’s brother was originally called David, my brother’s name, however I got into a bit of a mess over whether to call him Dave or David as our parents always called Dave. So I plumbed for Dan (which is short for Daniel – there is no logic to this is there?) But it was short and had a nice ring to it. Plus I used to work with a great guy called Dan. You know who you are.
KEN: I read The Age of Arthur by John Morris and it hit me how a forgotten British King’s name has come down to us from Kunnetha to Kenneth. Kunnutha is from the same post-Roman period as Coel Hen or Old King Cole as in the nursery rhyme and I think it just stuck.
(According to historians The Age of Arthur is not all that historically
accurate - still it blew my socks off. There is more Arthurian stuff
in the coming books of the Jack Hughes Trilogy and hopefully it will blow off your socks too.)
CATHERINE: Catherine is my niece’s name and my mother’s. My niece is very clever and has a very strong sense of right and wrong. Who else could my Catherine be?
AGNES DAY: I don’t want to spoil this one for you Papists. Suffice to say Agnes has a sister called Poppy. In England, Rememberance Sunday (remembering the War dead) is called Poppy Day because they sell paper poppies to provide aid to veterans.
BILQUIS: Arabic sources give the Queen of Sheba’s name, or sometimes title, as
Bilquis. Some legends say she is the child of a human woman and a Jinn
or Genie. If what Mr Grin says about fairies originating from the
Star Gods of Babylon is true, then fairies could easily be related to
Jinn (beings created by God from fire as he created Adam from the clay of the earth). In the book Thomas the Rhymer, Bilquis is the title of the Fairy
Queen of Queens and that title is held by Bess of Holebourne.
POLLY PEACHUM: The name of Bess' housekeeper is taken from a character in the Beggers Opera.
SYLVIE: The name Sylvie means "of the forest" as in Transylvania (beyond the forest).
ALISON: Dan’s girlfriend had an entirely different name, which I am ashamed to say I have forgotten. Alison came about because I was listening to the Elvis Costello song of the same name and thought it was a great name.
STACEY: Ken's dad, who does not feature much in the first book, is called after an old Tyrannosaurus Rex song - Stacy Grove. This was the first band of Marc Bolan and later became T.REX as Marc himself became the King of Glitter. Stacey Grove is from "Prophets, Seers & Sages, the Angels of the Ages". I loved the song for the mis-heard line "Stacey Grove, catcher of eyes, forecaster of skies." I thought this was the type of wild romantic figure Rosie would fall in love with. I still listen to Tyrannosaurus Rex, when I want to escape.....or as Bolan said "find a little wood and have a little sleep there". It is elfin music at its best - Unicorn.
THE CITY: As a northern immigrant I love London. Surprisingly the City of London is tiny. From the Tower of London walk up Bevis Marks and London Wall, taking in the site of Bishop's Gate and Liverpool Street Station (the site of the Bethleham Hospital for the Insane known the world over as Bedlam). Then follow the old city wall past the Museum of London (spending about 10 hours in there). Past the criminal courts of the Old Bailey on the site of Newgate (an infamous prison), where you turn down towards Saint Paul's Catherdral and you will find yourself walking down the bed of the old River Fleet (giving Fleet Street its name). The river now runs underground as part of the city sewerage system and is one of the many caged rivers of London feeding the mighty Father Thames. Given that you can resist the temptations of the Museum of London, which I never could, the whole thing can be done in about 2 hours.
Check out the Museum of London at www.museumoflondon.org.uk
London is a magical city and quite a lot of action takes place there in the three books. A big influence and source of arcane snippets about people and places such as St Giles Church and Bess' guardians, was Peter Ackroyd’s London. Peter Ackroyd is a master of magical prose and this book is haunting testament to his life long love affair with the city.
As Peter Ackroyd says London has a way of retaining the personality of neighbourhoods over the centuries no matter how the surrounding architecture changes and you can feel it in the air.
Seven dials is so called
because it has a pillar in the centre of a small plaza - a pillar with 7 sun dials each facing a street leading
outwards like a web. I was originally attracted to Seven Dials by a
couple of brilliant shops covering art and the occult. It was only later
that I discovered it was historically associated with fortune-tellers
It was also in Seven Dials that I discovered the prototype of Vic’s wonderful van. There is a small flower market there and I think the van belonged to one of the stallholders.
JUMBALS - The original fairy cakes
As a child in the UK at every party, be it birthday or Christmas, we had Fairy Cakes, individual plain sponge cakes in paper cases glazed with Icing and topped with slivers of red glace cherry, green candied angelica or jelly tots, (minature sugared jelly sweets especially for toddlers - probably to rot their milk teeth). Americans had cup cakes with with lashings of frosted icing, which as we became teenages seemed much more glamorous and sophisticated.
Because of the party nature of fairy cakes it seemed only right for Polly Peachem, Bess' housekeeper, to bake some for Jack and Ken. However as fairy cakes are relatively modern depending on baking powder as a raising agent (first produced in the mid-nineteenth century by Mr Bird of Bird's Custard fame in the UK and Dr.Okter in Germany) I chose jumbles for Polly's to bake instead. They are flat delicate sugar cakes - which I suppose we would call biscuits. The recipe coming from the 1660's isin Lisa Picard's Restoration London. Polly gives the recipe as,
Take loaf sugar and fine flour, kneaded to a
paste with fresh laid eggs, sweet butter, cream and sack wine,
baked but a little in the oven at 400 degrees or gas mark 6.
I love her writing, witty, informative and clear.
As a wannabe time traveller, she made me realise the past is my worst nightmare.
Rosie uses the Rider Waite pack of Tarot Cards.
Although the cards do not feature much in Thomas the Rhymer, Rosie gives a tarot reading to Catherine in The Daughters of Albion, where the reading is given in full and predicts a lot of what happens in the rest of the novel.
o Learn more about the Tarot and the Rider Waite pack
This is a modern rendering of the recipe Lisa Picard gives.
Cream 2 pounds of sieved flour and 1 pound of cook's sugar with 1+1/2 pounds of usalter butter
Beat 4 large eggs, 4 tablespoons of sack (according to Lisa a corruption of the French Sec so it is dry white wine) and 4 tablespoons of cream.
Add we ingredients to dry and knead into a dough.
Cut into any shape that pleases and bake
On a brighter note here is some more information and recipe sites for JumbalsElizabethan recipes - Fine jumbals
SEEING YOUR AURA
In Thomas the Rhymer, Agnes tricks Jack and he is left trapped in Elphame Wood where two griffins try to dig him out and eat him.
She describes a spell so that he can see his aura. The technique is cribbed from the Rosicrucians.
When I was young, so much younger than today, I got hold of the first part of a Rosicrucian Training manual and tried two basic techniques. As I remember it...
The first was to become aware of your internal clock.
I mastered this technique and to this day do not use a watch as I am usually aware of the time to within 10 minutes. Interestingly, my body clock goes wrong when Daylight Saving starts and ends and it also suffers with jet leg and can take up to a week to right itself.
The second technique was how to see your aura.
I never mastered it although I tried and tried. On reflection It is probably just as well.
I never finished the training course by the way, as I was only 12 and could not afford to buy the rest with my pocket money. But it did leave me with a life long interest in the occult and psychology.