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  • Writer's pictureChristine Dorman

Culture Shock: A Teenage Faerie Experiences the Human World

Updated: Sep 8, 2023


Faerie Siobhan Bla h'Eithne reflects on the culture shock she experienced on a trip to the human world.
Faerie Siobhan Bla h'Eithne reflects on the culture shock she experienced on a trip to the human world.

[This post is based on characters and events in Music of Dragons, a YA fantasy novel by Christine Dorman]


How do you feel when you switch on a ceiling light? A quick flick of your finger and the whole room lights up. The first time I saw my aunt do it, I was stunned and impressed. You might think that was an odd reaction, but that’s because you’re human. I’m a Faerie. I was envious of this light magic and asked her to teach to me. She explained it was a human invention called electricity, but she couldn’t explain what electricity. She said it was a kind of magic human magic.

My name is Siobhan Bla h’Eithne (Siv-on Bla hen-ya). I’m a Faerie from Cu Tailte, a country in the place humans call the Otherworld. The summer before my seventeenth birthday, I spent nearly five months in the human world visiting my aunt. Prior to the visit, I thought I was an expert on humans. I’d taken classes on their culture and language in school. Little did I know that the professors teaching those classes knew so little about humans. They didn’t even know that there are many human languages and cultures. Everything they taught was based on the humans of Baile Eile, a small town just on the other side of the veil between the human world and ours.

My aunt has lived in Baile Eile for longer than I’ve been alive. She ministers to people as an herbal healer. Her patients don’t know she’s a Faerie. No one in Baile Eile does, except for my aunt’s closest friend, Aileen McAshinagh, a human who helped her when my aunt first moved there.

Stand with Ukraine
Stand with Ukraine

I should explain that we—all my family—are Arda Si (High Faeries). We resemble humans and don’t have wings. That’s something most humans get wrong about Faeries. Most of us don’t have wings. Only a few select types, like Pixies and Sprites, do.

Anyway, when I first arrived in Baile Eile, my aunt told me humans had a magic all their own. I doubted her but soon found she was right. In addition to electricity, you have wondrous things like phones, the internet, and television. Have you ever tried to explain how television works? My aunt told me she once asked Mrs. McAshinagh but Aileen said she didn’t know and had never thought about it. She just accepts its existence.


Then there are smartphones. With a little metal triangle, you can talk to people thousands of miles away. My aunt and my mother (they’re sisters) can talk to each other across distances but they do it through magic and, in Cu Tailte, it’s a rare gift. Yet any human can access this ability through a mobile phone. In addition, the phone can be used to make portraits—I mean, photos—of other people or even of yourself! And it can play music, let you watch movies and television, and play games. A pretty powerful tool!

All right. Enough gushing. The truth is living in Baile Eile wasn’t easy or fun for me initially. I experienced what humans call culture shock. In the beginning, just getting something to eat or drink was a challenge.

Before I continue, I have to tell you a few things about me and my family. First, my mother is a Banshee. And no, she isn’t an ugly old hag who kills humans by screeching at them. How that belief got started, I don’t know. Banshees perform a compassionate ministry that humans completely misinterpret. And Banshees don’t screech; they wail. They do it to warn a human family that one of their members is in danger of dying. Most Banshees also wail because they are grieving. Banshees adopt and watch over human families. They get to know these people, even though the humans rarely ever see them. So, they are genuinely saddened when one of the family dies.


Siobhan's mother, Maeda, is a Banshee. Siobhan says humans entirely misunderstand Banshees.
Siobhan's mother, Maeda, is a Banshee. Siobhan says humans entirely misunderstand Banshees.

My aunt was supposed to become a Banshee, but she refused. She said she wasn’t going to just stand by and cry while a human was dying. Instead, she wanted to prevent human suffering and death. So, instead she moved to the human world so she could use her heal gifts to help people.

But my mother doesn’t have my aunt’s gift for healing, so she chooses to help humans as a Banshee. She really loves the family she watches over. And she is touched by watching humans cooking food for each other. She feels it’s an act of love. So, even though she is excellent at creating food through magic, she likes to cook the human way from time to time as a way of being loving and nurturing. To help with the cooking and food preparation, she magically created a stove and a sink. But we don’t have electricity. I don’t think Maeda (Mom) even knows what that is. So, the sink, stove, and the oven work by use of a magic word.

By Cu Tailtan law, no one is allowed to learn or use magical skills until the age of seventeen. We can use only our innate gifts. I don’t have a gift for food magic. But with Maeda’s magical sink and stove, I can make tea. It’s easy. I just have to say the right word to get water from the sink to fill the kettle. Then I say another word to turn the stove on to boil the water for the tea. And I’m not violating the underaged magic law because the magic is Maeda’s, not mine.

But the first time I tried to make tea at my aunt’s house thoroughly frustrated me! My aunt had gone out and I was hungry. I went into the kitchen to see if there was anything to eat. When I saw a sink and stove, I thought Good. At least I can have some tea. But I was wrong. The kettle on the stove had only a small amount of water in it. I went to the sink to fill the kettle. I said the magic word, but no water flowed from the faucet. After trying various words from the High Faerie language but I put the kettle back on the stove (none too gently), I tried to turn on the burner to heat what little water was in the kettle. Again, nothing happened.


Siobhan was confused. The box had a picture of chicken noodle soup but inside the box were only envelopes.
Siobhan was confused. The box had a picture of chicken noodle soup but inside the box were only envelopes.

Giving up on the tea, I opened the pantry to look for food. All I found were cans and boxes. One box had a picture of chicken noodle soup. I opened it to find nothing but envelopes inside. Later in my visit, my aunt taught me how to make “instant” soup but, on that first day, I was utterly confused. I couldn’t understand why my aunt’s pantry had nothing that resembled food. Soon I learned that she was not into cooking, either with magic or the human way. Fortunately, she was into take out and when she came home that day, she introduced me to a great human creation: pizza.

My culture shock didn’t end that first day and it involved much more than food. I became romantically involved with a human guy, Ewan. He was wonderful but, at times, annoying and perplexing. He kept being surprised by and constantly teased me about all the things I didn’t know that he thought I should.

“You don’t text?” he asked with disbelief and was further astounded to learn I didn’t have a mobile phone.

“You don’t drive?” No. I didn’t have a driver’s license either.

When he asked for a photo of me, I told him I didn’t have one “with me.” I didn’t have one at home either, but I couldn’t tell him that (I hadn’t told him yet that I was a Faerie).

He was especially incredulous when he discovered I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle. After all, any child can do that, he told me. Well, any human child maybe.

There is no texting in the Faerie world.
There is no texting in the Faerie world.

My magical nature got me into trouble at times too. Although I wasn’t yet allowed to learn magical skills, I had innate magical gifts. My favorite was (and still is) the ability to create thunderstorms. The first time I met Ewan, I could have killed him. Literally. I was taking a walk down a country road (Baile Eile is a farming town), and I started a thunderstorm. Just for fun. They’re thrilling! Ewan came along on his bicycle and started talking to me. Thanks be to the moon goddess, he laid the bicycle down by the side of the road as we walked along, talking. Then a thunderclap exploded. Lightning hit and totally wrecked Ewan’s bike. He was upset at the loss but didn’t know that I was responsible. I felt awful. I hadn’t meant any harm.

When my aunt heard what had happened to his bike, she confronted me about the thunderstorm. I had to admit I had created it. That thunderclap was nothing compared to my aunt’s fury.

The incident should have taught me to be careful with my magic but, close to the end of my time in the human world, I did something even more dangerous. Ewan and I had a terrible argument. We both said some horrible things. Hurt from something he said, I snapped, “May the Si Daerg (the Red Faeries) rip you to pieces and dance on your bones!”

I didn’t mean it. Not literally. I was just so hurt by what he had said to me. As I calmed down, though, I began to worry about the effect my words might have. I wasn’t skilled yet, but I am magical by nature. When I took my concern to my aunt, she assured me my words were a powerful curse. With her guidance, I had to perform complex herbal magic to reverse the curse and protect Ewan from its maliciousness. I wasn’t entirely successful. He was attacked by Goblins. But at least he didn’t die. That taught me to be more careful about what I say, especially in anger.

Living in the human world taught me respect for your race. Most of you are wonderful beings (there are not-so-wonderful beings in every race). And I learned that, magic aside, you and we Faeries are more alike than we are different. Even so, I think I’d have to live among you for much longer than five months before I would feel anything other than Other.


May you have peace and joy,

Siobhan


Siobhan Bla h'Eithne reflects under a willow tree while enjoying her favorite human creation: pizza.
Siobhan Bla h'Eithne reflects under a willow tree while enjoying her favorite human creation: pizza.

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Slán go fóill


All artwork for this post (except for the Ukrainian flag and the GIF) by Christine Dorman via Bing Image Creator.

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