Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Lovely as a winter night was she; her raven hair was like a trailing cloud of storm, and a circlet of gold sat lightly upon her pale brow.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: There’s so much folklore and history behind this chapter that I couldn’t even begin to cover it all. From age-old oral tradition, to The Ballad of Tam Lin, to W.B. Yeats’ ‘Trooping Fairies’, to Frodo and Sam watching the passing of the elves in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Seelie and Unseelie courts have been parading by awestruck onlookers since time immemorial.
For me reading this as a child, the ‘Trooping Rade’ was familiar territory. The fairy courts, with their haughty monarchs and changeling children, appeared often in the compilations of Scottish folklore I grew up reading, and a Victorian art gallery I’ve been visiting all my life still houses Sir Joseph Noel Paton’s exquisite 1867 oil painting, The Fairy Raid: Carrying Off a Changeling, Midsummer Eve.
Not pictured are the standing stones in the top lefthand corner – they really do resemble fingers, and I always expect to see Finnen and the Tumpin children crouching, saucer-eyed, in their shadow.
Of course, the main purpose of the Trooping Rade is to introduce us to the steely Rhiannon Rigantona, High Lady of the Hollow Hill. In the first chapter we were warned that her terrible eye would soon fall upon the werlings, and considering the rather sinister aura of her Court, we know that that probably heralds nothing good.
Matt’s Thoughts: And so the universe of Hagwood expands. What’s interesting about the way this plays out is that we’re not given a great insight ahead of time into the Unseelie Court and how it all works.
We follow the werling youngsters as they watch the parade, and so our impression is really Gamaliel’s impression. And it’s a mixed bag, isn’t it? Hideous gobliny guards, but a stone-cold fairy queen in Rhiannon. But what is their agenda? What are they about?
What I find interesting is the mixture of beauty and ugliness. Normally, Mr Jarvis’ characters – unless they’re being a bit ambiguous – physically manifest their underlying natures. In short, the bad guys often look pretty foul. But the beauty of Rhiannon against the hideousness of some of her guards makes it a more complex thing. How does this all work? (We’ll have to keep reading to find out!)
And Finnen’s secret is a whole other thread as well. What’s going on there?