The Whitby Witches | Chapter 4


‘We fade away,’ she muttered darkly. ‘Aufwader was the name which once you gave to us. Who now recalls it? Very few, I think.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Though I have yet to settle permanently near the shore, there is brine in my veins. My grandfather was a sailor, and both the bright fishing villages of France and the grey Scottish coastline are known to me. I was raised on tales of kelpies and selkies. Once, combing the beach for treasures, I found a piece of wood so ancient it had been transformed into a perfectly smooth sphere of glittering coal – a gift from the deeps. To borrow the words of David Almond, I am half a creature from the sea.

Meeting Nelda again was like being reunited with a long-lost sister. I first encountered that brave and defiant shoremaid via audiobook, and the sound of her voice; bleak as the North Yorkshire wind, soft as the waves becalmed, has never left me. I am attached to the Deptford Mice, but the aufwaders are my kin, and I feel honoured to bear their ancient title as my name.

I’m not actually sure how it was that I came to be known as Aufwader, but I daresay it’s not as fantastical a story as perhaps some of you were expecting. When Beyond the Silvering Sea first began, my Robiny cronies needed something to call me that was less of a mouthful than ‘lastoftheaufwaders’ (which, now that you ask, bears no relation to this fantastic short film). Over the years I grew into Aufwader-as-a-name, and now it fits me like a gansey. When I met Mr Jarvis in 2016, he insisted that he only wanted to know me by that name, so Aufwader I am, and fade away I most certainly will not.


Matt’s Thoughts: Well, the first thing I’m going to have to dive in on is a pronunciation issue. Watching the Last Aufwader video that was shared by my blogging colleague above, the word was pronounced ‘Orfwader’. Meanwhile – maybe because we just had too much Bach in my house when I was growing up – most of my life I’d thrown a Germanic spin on the first syllable and been pronouncing it ‘Owfwader’. How has everyone else been saying it?

(That said, I think I also leaned completely the other way and was happily pronouncing the dragon from The Hobbit as ‘Smorg’ until the movie came out and it had to revert back to ‘Smowg’. So consistency on pronunciation of imaginary words has never been my strong point!)

Anyway, those all-important secondary matters aside, I really like this short but important chapter. Even more so, because I’ve also been reading another book at the same time, also about a race of small invisible creatures that humans can’t see. It makes me realise how difficult it is for a writer to create another race. If you get too caught up in the mythology of the characters and where they come from, your characters can just come off as strange and hard to connect with. (Which is what is happening with my other book, sadly.)

But the realm of the aufwaders is far enough removed from ours as to be fascinating and different, but has immediate emotional connections that we get. We know Nelda is worried about her missing father, we know that she has a shifty uncle, we know she is friendly to Ben, we know that she is forbidden to talk to him. These are all human things we can relate to, so we instantly warm to her as a character, which helps connect us to her as we find out more about mythology of her race.

And all of this in one short chapter! Nicely done.

Also well written is Jennet’s interaction with Aunt Alice. Jennet could easily become a spare wheel of the story in the wrong hands – after all, she has no secret sight, she doesn’t do magic. But her (sometimes ferocious) care for her brother actually, in many ways, makes her the heart of the story. She helps us feel this story, rather than just follow its plot. Great stuff. Unfortunately, things are about to get darker …


9 thoughts on “The Whitby Witches | Chapter 4

  1. I think the aufwaders (by the by, yes I always read it as ‘ordwader’ but I think it was always orf-waa-der rather than orf-wader) are an interesting reversal of the usual god-awful fantasy cliche of creating fantasy human-like species, especially more ‘faerie folk’ types – namely the females being somehow presented as more prettier or svelte than the males. I know fantasy gender dimorphism is a picky subject, and its more the ‘nerd’ communities that are more guilty (a legacy of sexually pent-up fantasy artists) but here its avoided with a vengeance – the females and males certainly are dimorphic, but not in the way we usually are used to!

    And Aron, that comment about Jennet is interesting given how Jennet essentially becomes the focus of the story throughout the later books – in a way that will be VERY relevant later on when we get to a certain Whitby Abbey resident alright

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    • This reminds me of The Submariners, Prince Namor’s people who live in the kingdom of Atlantis. The menfolk are small and scaly with fishy eyes while the women look much closer to humans albeit with pale green skin. The only exception to this rule is Namor himself whose mother fell in love with a human sailor, causing him to be born with the fair skin of the land-dwellers. And ears with pointed tips. And tiny wings on his ankles. Don’t ask me why…


      • Yeah, that sounds way too close to the sort of really bad fantasy species gimmick that crops up a lot in the more derivative fantasy/science-fiction works – frankly the worst bugbear will always be mono-culture species but thats not for here yet (at any rate I think the aufwaders conception rather avoids that – I mean the only ones we see live in Whitby!)

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  2. Aufwader: Bet you were looking forward to this particular chapter! The Aufwaders really are something! An entire race of fishermen and fisherwomen who live down on the beach, unseen by the regular folk of Whitby!

    Mylo is a lovely little film. Although these books may not have a huge presence online, they leave an everlasting impression on the people who come across them. And precious pearls like this banish any doubt about that from my mind.

    Matt: Jennet has nerves of steel. She just found out that she’s been living in a witch’s cottage. She thinks that the witch and her accomplices have hatched a diabolical plot to use her brother as a conduit for the forces of darkness.

    And how does she react? Does she run screaming from the house? Fall to her knees and plead not to be zapped into a frog?

    No way! Confronted with what she fully believes to be a coven of evil witches, Jennet goes into protective older sibling mode and decides “I’m getting my brother out of this madhouse. Right now.” That immediate reaction on her part is a glimpse into how strong she needed to be while the kids were trapped within the system. Most badass orphan girl ever!

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  3. I’ve never really had a voice to fit Nelda, which is odd because I mostly always do, since I read aloud more often than not. But this reread I was delighted to hear Dragon Age’s Merrill’s voice reading her lines! I can’t imagine her voice any other way now.

    (also, I pronounce aufwader “orf-way-der” (and Aufy “Orf-ee”). I too used to pronounce Smaug “Smorg”. It just sounds more sinister than “Smowg”!)

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  4. It’s really interesting for me to read how you all pronounce ‘aufwader’. I’ve always said it the way it’s said on the cassettes, which is ‘aawf-way-der’. I actually have a section of this chapter on audiobook which I’ll post to Silvering Sea at some point soon – Julia McKenzie did a great job bringing both the human characters and the fisherfolk to life.

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    • That’s pretty much what I always went with although I was never 100% sure it was correct. The English language is quite the trickster and has tripped me up on more than one occasion. Take the word colonel for example…why is it spelled like that? Why in the world?

      I relish the prospect of hearing an extract from the audio book. I never did get the chance to check out any of the ones which were recorded for the Whitby books.

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