A lot of the inspiration behind my love of writing comes from growing up in Wales. This place is steeped in so much folklore, myth and legend, that you couldn’t escape even if you tried. My life has always been filled with stories. Welsh tales of brave fairies who would face off against evil witches, mischievous fairies who played tricks on people who were selfish or greedy… My gran loved telling these stories so much she even wrote her own, in which fairies visited children like me in their own gardens. Those stories, of course, became my favourites.
I grew up on a council estate in Pentwyn, and my sister and I spent most of our time in the woodlands and circling the lake, catching newts and bugs that seemed otherworldly and absolutely enormous at the time. We would make fairy gowns out of wildflowers and follow otters down this dark, concrete tunnel which ran alongside a graffitied subway – it was like crossing a line between the real and the imaginary world.
I live on a council estate in Llanishen now with my own children, and right behind our flat we have a gorgeous strip of woodlands with a stream running through it. A few feet in, you feel that you’re in the middle of nowhere, not just around the back of the Rugby Club. Fairy folk never seem far away. I do believe in fairies, by the way.
I have actually seen one with my daughter a few years back, up at Forest Fawr by Castell Coch. We were trailing behind her brother and their dad on a winding, stony path, and this small creature fluttered in front of us. It had four pale, yellow wings that moved independently of each other. It had red and yellow striped legs, and tiny red, pointed ‘shoes’ dangling below its body. Light brown hair flowed from its crested head and it just floated across our path. We froze as we watched it hover above some bramble leaves before disappearing inside the bush. My daughter Izzy, her mouth gaping, looked at me, pale as a sheet. “Did we just see a fairy?” she asked. Struggling to believe my eyes, I said that I thought so. My adult mind had also been blown.
I told some of my colleagues at school what had happened that day and they just laughed at me. But when I told the kids in my class, they were enthralled. And I think that’s probably the thing I love most about Wales. The stories reflect the environment. There’s a magical place that everyone can access, whether you live in the city or in the country. And, it’s not a great leap for children to understand and experience that magic. That’s what makes Wales a place unlike any other.
Emma Jayne Evans studies Creative Writing and Media at Cardiff Metropolitan University and lives in Cardiff with her two children. As a ‘late to the party student’, she’s enjoying her new status as a full time student and aspiring author, and has spent a great deal of Lockdown at online festivals, in Zoom workshops, and stuck in books, trying to craft her craft.
You can read Emma Jayne Evan’s story, The Last Chance, in our first issue.