Monday, July 28, 2014

Diversity in Faerie

Humanity is a very diverse species. Our skin tones range from immaculate ivory to exquisite ebony and our eye and hair colors are equally varied. When I began to write the first book in The Alazne Series, I wanted the men and women of the land of Faerie to be similarly diverse… but with a twist.

Each of the fey ethnicities featured in The Alazne Series has an attraction to the element commanded by their respective creators (Hesta, Haizea, Irati, and Euria), but I wanted to make that variation both magical/spiritual and physical.

Alazne, the princess of the fire fey, has flaming red hair, bronzed skin, and molten gold eyes—coloring that most people would associate with fire, and common Hestians have a more subdued version of her coloring (deep red tresses and amber eyes), but all of the fire fey have varying shades of tanned skin that contribute to their unique brand of beauty. The principal Eurian characters, Luken and Nikola, both share the same oceanic coloring as Water King and heir with cerulean locks, light skin, and sapphire eyes while the common Eurians have midnight blue hair and matching eyes.

The only wind fey (Haizean) and earth fey (Iratian) characters introduced in The Kings’ Council are the kings, Kemen and Unai respectively. The Wind King’s complexion is more pallid than that of his Eurian counterparts, and with stark white hair and silver eyes, no one would mistake him for one of the water fey. One important feature that sets Kemen and his gray-haired, stormy-eyed subjects apart from the other fey is that they all have the “almond-shaped” eyes that most of us associate with people of East Asian descent. Unai, on the other hand, has features that mimic people of African descent—deep brown skin and eyes with coarse, dark hair. However, as with humans, there are variations in skin tone within the Iratian fey as well as the other fey ethnicities thanks to various factors such as lifestyle-related sun exposure.

Since the fey have such distinct appearances, it’s not difficult to spot a halfling (someone who is the result of an interracial union), and Garaile is a great example of that. The thief/inn-keeper was born with the carmine locks that non-royal Hestians possess, but his deep blue eyes tell the story of his mixed parentage before he even introduces himself to new acquaintances. The two captains who appear in The Prophets’ Guild also are the products of interracial relationships between Haizean and Eurian parents. With elemental affinities for wind and water, it’s no wonder that they chose careers in sailing! Despite the existence of those three characters, halflings are still quite rare in the land of Faerie, and Luken mentions the scarcity of mixed fey in Hesta specifically when he first notices Garaile’s blue eyes. In terms of how well halflings are received by the fey, that’s a topic I’ll discuss in a later blog.

Now it’s your turn to write a little bit! If you were a fey man or woman in the land of Faerie, what fey ethnicity would you be, and do you already have a fondness for your chosen element?

As an African American, I would fall into the Iratian category based on skin tone alone, and I wouldn't look terribly different as a fey woman, but what about you? Can you picture yourself with flaming red hair, cool cerulean locks, or stark white tresses?

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