Friday, August 28, 2009

A Soldier's Fantasies - 1940's.

Photos from a World War 2 soldier's photo album. Hawaii and unknown.

The Dancers

France - About 1900

France - About 1870

Shanghai - Late 1920's or early 1930's.

In this era being a dancer was a rough life. It often involved protitution and was sometimes only one step away from slavery.

New York - About 1910

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bill Kirton - Guest Post

Ship's Figure Head by an 18th Century French Artist

Bill is the author of The Darkness (2009), Rough Justice (2008) and Material Evidence (2007)

Visit Him Here:


OK, so Sha'el asked if I’d contribute a guest blog. I was flattered, intrigued and said yes. She told me that it was aimed at anyone, but especially writers and readers of fantasy and historical fiction. Hmmm, but I’m a crime/mystery writer. I’ve written one historical novel, The Figurehead, which is due out later this year in paperback and ebook. I’ve also written one short story set at the same period, i.e. Scotland in the 1840s. I’ve written and recorded some stories for children which featured a fairy called Stanley who lives under the dripping tap in my bedroom. And recently, to my surprise, I had a short story accepted for a fantasy/sci-fi anthology. All of which adds up to the fact that, while not totally ignorant of the fantasy genre, I know far less about it than anyone who’s likely to read this. Sha’el did give me carte blanche, and floated the literary and philosophical potential of postings on a picnic or maybe belly button lint, but it’s a fantasy site, so the challenge is to be relevant.

A warning, I have difficulty in taking things seriously. Not those which involve compassion, sympathy, tragedy and all the other personal things, but all those portentous outpourings which fill the news bulletins and wise newspaper columns. My intention is not to judge, undermine, satirise or otherwise criticise the fantasy genre. I have many friends who write romantic novels and, just like crime novelists, they’re constantly having to put up with seemingly innocent observations which suggest that they’re somehow involved in an inferior form of literature. No doubt fantasy writers experience the same thing. I don’t intend to add to it.

All I want to do is try to imagine myself as someone exploring the genre and give myself a brief fantasy experience. I should confess that I did once write a rather nasty erotic fantasy at the request of the editor of an online magazine. It was based on a conversation I had with a friend who, to my surprise, revealed that, for her, pain was an essential part of sexual pleasure. It seems that it makes the gentler bits even more gentle. In other words, it’s the equivalent of banging your head against a wall in order to feel good when you stop doing it.

So, without any real experience of writing fantasy, and with an unfortunate absence of belief in anything supernatural, what can I think of as a potential fantastical subject in my immediate surroundings (which is where all my other writing ideas are conceived)? How would I set about finding a story and the characters who drive it?

I imagine that, first of all, I’d have to suspend my normal beliefs and perceptions and that they’d be replaced by others which I’d have to invent. Fantasy no doubt frees you but it simultaneously creates other restraints arising from its settings and conventions.

My feet are up on the desk and I have the keyboard on my lap. So what if, instead of being aware of ‘me’ in my head, ‘me’ was over there in my feet? How would that alter my perception of the world? Well, for a start, I’d see less of it – no, not because I’d be inside a shoe most of the time, but because my viewpoint would be so low down. On the other hand, I’d be nearer the earth and could hear and feel its rhythms more intensely.

Wait a minute though. I said ‘see’ and ‘hear’. So do my eyes and ears have to be down there too? If so, it means relocating all my main features around my ankles, which leaves me (and everyone else in this brave new world) with a head which now is basically a bone globe with skin and hair stretched over it. Well, at least that would overcome the problem of not being able to put names to faces.

But no, of course, the sense organs would all be left where they are and the brain could still process their information if it was tucked between some metatarsals. And, since the feet are the things which support my physical self and the brain is the basis of my abstract self, I have a convenient parallel which I can exploit to pretend that I’m saying something significant. So this particular distortion of reality begins to open some interesting possibilities. The cutting of toenails could be seen as a lobotomy, bunions could be the outward manifestations of existential angst, and an entire race of creatures thus constituted might be wiped out by a plague of athlete’s foot.

By now you’ll have either stopped reading or realised that I know even less about the subject than I claimed at the start. The truth is that I’m trying too hard. I know really that all I have to do is free the various objects about me and let them be what they want. The paper knife on the desk will shine and glow when I leave this evening and, as the darkness creeps in, it’ll be picked up by the small creature which left it there early this morning. He, she or it will look from the desk’s plateau across the void to the model boats sitting on the little table, bucking and rocking under the cliffs of books. The carved wooden eagle perched among the flowers outside the window will stretch its wings and carry the creature and its sword to the bottom of the garden, where the granite wall will open and show the fires flickering up from its depths onto the undersides of the clouds. And then there’ll be the songs and voices, the cries of prisoners, the gropings of blind, lost sisters, the unearthly growling of the ebony dogs.

And suddenly, I get a sort of intimation of the strength of fantasy. When I draw back from my imaginings, what am I left with? Predictability. Everything around me has a function, a specific, defined purpose. Even me. And it makes no concessions to the magic that makes the grasses and flowers outside appear each spring. The clouds aren’t billowing sails of aerial galleons but mere water vapour. The faint tick of the clock is simply an inevitable, mechanical fact, whereas I now know that, at night, it will separate itself from the clock, become the pulse of something, supply the rhythm of a creature’s advance.

I said I have no beliefs in the supernatural. This isn’t that, it’s natural. We carry all these race memories, dreams, imaginings; we can release people and things from their restricted functions. Maybe fantasy is simply a means of relaxing our grip on experience, a way to deny chronology and inevitability. Maybe it’s just a less uptight reality.

I’ve gone on too long. With any luck, I’ve managed to state the obvious. On the other hand, Sha’el may be making a resolution to be more careful with her invitations. But whether I’ve been talking utter crap or touching on things that might be true, I’ve enjoyed doing it and it’s been a relaxing piece of self-indulgence.

Thanks for reading this far.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oregon Shipwrecks

The Galena Ashore Near the Mouth of the Columbia River, November 3, 1906

Unidentified Wreck at Coos Bay, Oregon. No Date.

A Street in Tunis - About 1900

Children - 1905-1910

Religious Elements in Fiction

I posted this on Gary's blog in answer to a question. I'm reposting it here.

Pixie Warrior has religious elements in it. They are casually mentioned and not developed at length. Unless religion is an important part of your story, you won’t need to include many details. What detail is required should be accurate, unless you write fantasy fiction. Then it can be what ever you wish.

The historian behind this Pixie writes religious history. Some of the beliefs I document are strange and even unhappy. Most of the groups I research were or are prophetic movements. They believed that the judgment day has a discernable time, and they set their collective mind to discovering it. The results were often tragic, sometimes funny, and always embarrassing.

I’ve gotten to know the men and women involved in these movements by reading their letters, diaries, articles and newspaper accounts. They were people of faith, even if misguided. The best way to handle religious matters is kindly but truthfully, even if you think the beliefs were misguided and the practices regrettable. There are religious figures who were corrupt, venial, perverted and violent. Kindness only travels so far.

In fiction you have the right to create villains. You want villains. A book with only good guys is usually boring. You can make a villain out of anyone by how you describe them.

Religion is complex even when belief systems are simple. Human feelings are tied up in irrational beliefs. Religions are also power structures, even when they are not meant to be. Belief systems tend to create hierarchies. Christianity transitioned from a 1st Century synagogue-like system of older men and assistants to a system of Bishops and underlings in about two centuries. Systems that have tried to restore that primitive era do not maintain it for long.

It is possible for people to believe anything and to find symbolism in anything. Christianity found the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law symbolic of Christ. Other religions find symbolisms in creation, in flowers, birds, even umm goo.

I’ve wandered from my original point, haven’t I? In fiction religious elements should be limited to what furthers your story. If it doesn’t tell your story, there is no need for detail. If it does tell your story, give the details. At this point fantasy and historical fiction part ways. I get to make up my belief systems. If you write historical fiction, you will have readers who will see flaws if you are not accurate.

Anne Stokes

Visit her Gallery on Deviant Art

Historical Research and Writing

My friend Gary Corby has an excellent post over on his blog:

This is my response:

Well done, Gary!

I write fantasy fiction and history. My history articles appear in magazines such as The Journal From the Radical Reformation (Atlanta Bible College) that specialize in the types of religious experience I research. The first of a series of four history books comes out shortly. I am a historian and novelist. What Gary said is what is.

Historical research is really the pursuit of questions asked in more and more detail. It’s the examination of possibilities, probabilities and perceptions. The answers rest in the original sources. Even original sources can mislead you. The world is full of liars, false witnesses all, and most people simply do not see what they think they see. So a historian carries a hidden set of scales on which to weigh testimony. Think of an historian as a kind of Anubis weighing the hearts of the dead.

When confronted with conflicting testimony, we’re left with some choices. You can decide which you think true, based not on preference but on the weight of probability. You can find harmonies between the conflicting evidence and present the conflicts as unresolved. Or you can throw up your hands and make something up. The last is unethical, but done more often than you may think.

The heart of good research is inventiveness. “Where else can I look?” is a key question. Good history is really the art of associating ideas and actions in more and more detail until a cogent and accurate story can be told.

The best resources out there include the two major digital libraries. Of the two, Google Books is best because it’s searchable. Our biography of Nelson Horatio Barbour took almost three and a half years to write. I believe we would have consumed another two years without Google Books.

I also relied on digitalized newspaper databases. There are several. Newspapers are notoriously inaccurate, but they do take you to events and persons who have become obscure. For instance, we found a reference to a two-day conference held in Allegheny in 1886. All the speakers were listed by last name only. Most of them I could identify from pervious research, but one I could not. A man named Tavender was presented as a significant person within the movement.

The magazine in which we found the article is digitalized both online and on a CD. A search did not provide a first name, but it did provide other material including the area in which he lived. There is a massive online database of New York newspapers. A patient search yielded his full name, an obituary and a photo. With a full name, I then turned to Google Books and gathered additional material. Then a casual search of ebay took me to a “store card” from his business. I bought the card, we’ll use it in book two as an illustration.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Laura La Plante - About 1922

A Xan Stark photo of silent move star Laura La Plante. Naughty for 1920 or so. Pretty.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Steven Hägg-Ståhlberg

I so want to contact this artist. I've failed to do so, and I don't have permission to post his work. But I think he deserves a spot on this blog. The work is outstanding.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Okay ... so this made me giggle

Samelessly stolen from Deviant Art. See this artist's portfolio. Umm they're all pregnant. ... But this one reminded my of my pregnant momma pixie from Pixie Warrior. (

Gary Corby - Guest Post

A bit of not so ancient Greece: Captains of the Host, 1908

The first instalment in Gary's new mystery series is coming out early next year. It will be published by Minotaur:

Nicolaos, the ambitious son of a minor sculptor, walks the mean streets of Classical Athens as an agent for the promising young politician Pericles. Murder and mayhem don't bother Nico; what's really on his mind is how to get closer (much closer) to Diotima, the intelligent and annoyingly virgin priestess of Artemis, and how to shake off his irritating 12 year old brother Socrates.

The Pain of Leaving Stuff Out

Sha'el asked if I'd care to do a post on the challenges of historical research for a writer of fiction. I'd love to, because anyone thinking about writing an historical should be warned.

Of all the tough research problems a writer faces, the worst of all is leaving stuff out. You'd think it'd be the other way round, but it isn't so. Finding stuff to put in is easy. I've had any number of people ask me how I knew some obscure detail or other. I've even had a professional archaeologist ask how I came across the details of a Scythian bow.

You've probably guessed the first part of the research answer is Google. Google any subject, no matter how obscure, and there's a fair chance someone, somewhere, has written about it. Some of the experts on the web are an astonishing gold mine of information. Want to know the minimum voting age in Classical Athens? Or the crew assignments on a trireme? Or how to make ancient fish sauce? I've found experts on all those.

But that's not the end of the answer. Just because someone's written about something doesn't make them an expert. Wikipedia is a good example. Any Wikipedia article on a subject that's even slightly off the beaten track is quite likely to be wrong in some significant way. I've reached the point from bitter experience where I automatically assume if Wikipedia says it, then it's wrong. The good news is, Wikipedia insists on references. Sometimes the references are high quality (and sometimes they're not). The references can prove Wikipedia is right after all (or not, as the case may be).

The high quality references are frequently real books - in fact, they almost need to be - and the real books are frequently to be found on Google Books, which makes doing brief searches easy. If the book can't be searched, or if it's so full of information I want to read the lot, then I'm off to the university library. The most comprehensive where I live is the stacks of Fisher Library at the University of Sydney. If you're doing book research, the nearest university library is your friend. If you want to try and stalk me at Fisher, by the way, go ahead, but you'll have to be patient, because I usually save up trips and do big visits with long gaps between, because once I'm in there, it's hard to get me out. It's so easy to browse the day away.

That's how I find the research. I have reams and reams of fascinating stuff about the life and times of Classical Athens. So now I write all of it into the books and people will be fascinated, right?


I could write a couple of pages on the drainage system of Athens in 460BC, but somehow I have a feeling you're not going to read it. No one wants to read technical description. They want to read story, and plot, and characters. Technical description is called exposition, and the rule for writers is, Research = Exposition, and Exposition = Death. What you can do, though, is write about the consequences of your research. For example, I know in Classical Athens sewerage pooled in gutters running down the middle of the street. When my hero Nicolaos is dragged off by a couple of thugs, something squishy which doesn't bear thinking about gets caught between his sandal and his foot, and he has to hop on the other foot while shaking the first to get it clear. A whole day's research on drainage has devolved into two lines of book text about a messy foot. That's good, because a foot with poo on it is story and character, a treatise on drainage is not.

That's the right way to do it. The wrong way is what I frequently catch myself doing, or else my beta readers catch me. For example, in every book I've written a few paragraphs of explanation about the difference between a chiton, a chitoniskos, and an exomis. And every book, I take those paragraphs out, because the explanation is exposition, and Exposition = Death. (If you're wondering, they're all different styles of clothing worn by Classical Greeks. I could tell you more, but that would be exposition.)

So a warning to any beginning historical writers who might be reading this: the temptation to include your hard-won research is almost overpowering. DON'T DO IT. Not because your knowledge isn't interesting or useful, but because it doesn't move the story forward. When you've finished your first draft, go through your ms and remove the exposition. There's probably pages and pages of it. There certainly is if you're me. Remove it all. Then sit back and see what's the minimum exposition necessary to keep the story moving. You're allowed to weep, scream and tear your hair as pull out your research, but out it must come. What's left will be a great book.

You can find Gary on his blog. In my opinion his blog is one of the best out there:

And Gary's Agent Superlative (and my friend) is here:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Angouleme, France - About 1870

Mystery Photo

Charlotte Elizabeth - 1922

Mystery Photo - About 1865

The photo was taken by Cephas M. Huddleston, a pioneer Indiana photographer.

Childhood Wonder

Columbia River Sturgeon. A water-monster.

Milk Weed: An Alien Plant

Snake Grass: I was hesitant to touch it.

The Wilds at the end of winter. In a few days this area will be green with new growth.

If we lose the wonder we had as children we lose a part of life. From that widely focused thought, let me take you to the particular.

When I was a child we lived in a small town the borders of which stretched up the banks of two rivers. The largest of these was the Columbia River. The Columbia is a moody river, peaceful for days, sometimes quietly raging, showing the degree of its anger only in the swiftness of its current. Dams restrain it. People drink its waters, fish in it, swim in it, hunt along its banks and speed their boats up and down its pools, lakes and reservoirs. It’s a river. Seen a few rivers, seen them all, right?

No. That’s not at all right. I remember when I was eight and walking along its banks in the summer’s heat, and I saw my first water-monster. I remember the wonder of it and the fright. “That’s a sturgeon,” one of our group said. It was as if the mere naming of it tamed this wild thing. It didn’t. Such wonder and such an extraordinary sight – it must have been over six feet long.

When I was seven or so, I was the tag-along with a group of older children. I remember the day they came knocking at our back door wanting me to go with them down to the wild areas across our main street. The river was down there too, but there were other things to see. My mom made the two oldest of the group swear by their father’s blood to take care of me. (Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not much of one.) And take care of me they did. The two leaders of that gaggle of children were Sherry and Chester. They probably lacked the sense God gave a rock, but they did well by me.

We crossed the wide main street where it exited town, found Martin Road (since renamed and redirected) and walked down to “the horses.” This was my first close encounter with a mythic beast.

You don’t think a horse is a mythic beast? You only reject the thought because horses have become commonplace to you. They weren’t to me. They were the beasts of legends and of tales told by my grandfather and great grandfather. There were four exceptionally gentle horses in a pasture, but not such a pasture as you might imagine. It wasn’t green with grass but was full of tall, wild grasses and clumps of rye gone wild. It was overgrown with Locust trees, the numerous progeny of a tree planted back in the 1890’s.

We pulled clumps of tall grasses and wild wheat and rye and offered them to the horses. I remember how tentative I felt and how excited I was when my offering was accepted. I was full of stories and told them in childhood fashion with many digressions and repeated sentences to my mother. The next day she walked down there with us. She brought carrots, and the horses vied with each other for them.

These horses were far removed from the ones described in Job chapter thirty-nine of whom God asks Job, “Was it from you that his great strength comes? Did you caparison him with terrors?” But to me they represented all the war chargers of my imagination. They were ordinary things seen in the extraordinary way of childhood.

There were other things to see too. One of the most alien was Snake Grass. I have never lost my wonder at this natural planting. If Yahweh wished me to be in awe at the variety and strangeness of creation, he succeeded with this plant. It grew tall and rank along a wastewater drainage ditch. We wandered down a dirt service road toward the other river which fed itself into the Columbia, and I remember with exceptional clarity first seeing this alien growth. Its joints glistened in the sun, and the plant seemed more animal than vegetable.

Chester and another boy we called Jimmy named it for me. It’s Snake Grass, they said, as if naming it would take away its wonders and make it ordinary. Unlike the promise of name-magic, the mere naming of it didn’t give me a sense of control over it. It remained alien, looked dangerous, perhaps even wicked. I had to be coaxed into touching it. One of the boys picked one and urged me to touch it. I remember Karla, another tag-along and a sister of one of the older boys, was even more hesitant than I to touch this growth.

Milk Weed grew there too. It has its own strangeness, but, unless you find it growing unwanted in your garden, it is a more benignant growth. It seeds itself as do dandelions, but its seeds are many times larger. It gets its vulgar name from the milky sap it bleeds if wounded. I remember the first time I saw the plant bleed. I’ve never lost the wonder of it.

Skunk Weed grew there too. I remember the strangeness of it both as a green plant and as a tall gone-to-seed plant turned a dark brown and with seeds ready to fall off. One of the boys said it was “Indian Tobacco.” The Indians put it in their pipes and smoked it, he claimed. I doubted his every word. But I was fascinated by the plant. There was maybe a little truth in his claim. The plant has hallucinogenic properties, I’m told. To me it held the wonder that those things which seem extraordinary and alien have.

For some the sense of wonder they had as a child has died. It was smothered by more adult concerns and by the press of life. Never let it die. The world is a strange and alien place. It’s layered. In the places grown ordinary because of familiarity there are hidden things – things overlooked, not clearly seen or not ordinarily visible. Go look. You will see.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

One of the Hazards of Marrying a Pixie is .... this.

From an Old German Post Card


Really good fantay art is hard to find. Here is another artist/writer you absolutly should visit!

Pixie Warrior Review

Pixie Warrior, by Rachael de Vienne: In a genre that’s been heavily overpopulated by urban fantasy the last several years, it’s a nice change of pace to get a period fantasy novel set in a decidedly non-urban locale. It’s also kind of neat to get a story in which the protagonist, the pixie daughter of a human lumberjack and his pixie wife, gets romantically involved with NO ONE. The love story with her parents is certainly an important subplot, but really, this story’s all about Sha’el.

Champs-Elysee Looking toward the Arc de Triomphe

Between the Wars

Westood, Lassen County, California - About 1925

Pixie Warrior,, is set in Westwood near the time this photograph was taken. This is what passed as the Westwood business district. The Westwood Club is visible in this photo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guest Post by Catherine Schaff-Stump

We All Dance to Our Own Music

From a story in progress
From the land of pixies

The Love Song of Oliver Toddle
Catherine Schaff-Stump

The story I'm working on now, The Love Song of Oliver Toddle, is about a little gnome who works in a garage.
Oliver waltzed the toy broom around the square edge of grease pit, nimbly balancing as he twirled the pink handle in his hand. He dipped the broom and used one square hand to smooth the rope mop that was his partner's hair. “You look lovely this evening,” piped Oliver. He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, and smiled knowingly at the face he imagined was there.

Oliver and his partner spun away from the pit. He two-stepped a dust hill of wrappers and metallic dust. The air was acrid with automotive fluids. He peeled the mop off the broom handle and reached up to place it on a stool. Then Oliver swept stray dirt back into a tidy pile with his partner's bristles. The shop’s speakers silenced for a second, the torch song ended and the baritone voice of the jazz station announcer echoed through the garage. “This is Gentle Breeze, jazz for lovers.”

Oliver used a whisk broom to urge the dirt onto the square plastic dust pan. It was also pink, like the broom. Usually the brooms Dan bought him were pink or yellow, because in the toy section those were the most popular colors. It was easier these days to find plastic vacuums, but of course they did nothing except shoot colored plastic balls into what Oliver thought of as the maelstrom chamber. Oliver propped the broom against the wall, balanced the dust pan, and climbed a small stepping stool to the top of the shop's industrial plastic trashcan. Oliver gnome-handled the lid with one arm. The plastic twanged and scraped. He pushed the lid back down with a domestically satisfying pop.

Before clambering down the step ladder, Oliver paused to click open the lid of his golden pocket watch. Three. Time to turn off the music and straighten the manager's office. He slid the watch into the side pocket of his coveralls. Dan’s wife embroidered Oliver's name on them every time he got a new set. The guys were all pretty good to him.

Visit Catherine here:
Catherine's novella Sister Night, Sister Moon is available in the collection Needles and Bones from Drollerie Press. In January, 2010, her first book Hulk Hercules: Professional Wrestler will be available from Cats Curious Press.

Nanny Norrish!! See I told you we Pixies were real ...

Remember the post about Nanny Norrish and the pixies? Remember I suggested she was a real person? That her story was true? Well, if you've forgotten the whole thing, the post is below. But ... before you read that, read this email from a member of the Norrish family:

Hi, my name is Jennifer and strangely enough I came across your page today and also solved the problem of who was Nanny Norrish also today.

I had found the story of the Pixies ages ago and kept it thinking it must have to do with my Ancestors, the Norrish family from Huccaby.

There are writings by a George Norrish, b.1831 Dartmeet, Widecombe in the Moor, you can find them on the web if you type in Memoirs by George Norrish.

On reading these memoirs today, there it was, George was telling of his Uncles and their histories. (I have been doing my family history)

In the story of the Pixies, it says that Nanny Norrish was married to a crippled teacher named John and lived on the Moors.

Well George had an Uncle, whose name was John Norrish. He lived on the Moors near Huccaby. When young he broke his thigh or similar and was then lame for the rest of his life. He took up teaching as he couldn't do any other sort of work as he was crippled.

His wife's name was Annie.

So when I read this it was all there, it made complete sense and I was thrilled.

If you look up George's memoir you can read it for yourself, George and his parents moved to Canada when he was growing up, some of the family stayed on the Moors.

The inheritance history of this family is also interesting.

The first son of each family is always called William, and it is William who would inherit the old farm and house, the old retiring parents would then move into a smaller cottage nearby. This was done on this farm at Huccaby for many generations. The family is very old, I have records going back to the early 1600's and I am only an amateur so I am sure there are records going even further back.

I am in Australia and am very happy to have Ancestors from these beautiful places and to have a family with such old ongoing history from the one area....Let me know how you go....Jennifer

Original Post:

Nanny Norrish met the Pixies here about the year 1800. Nanny was a schoolmaster's wife who often expressed disbelief. If there ever were pixies, she believed them gone:

But the pixies had not forgotten Nanny. Often had they heard her jeering at them but they had suffered her to go unmolested for she had done them no personal injury. On this particular night, however, she had actually gone so far as to express her belief that none of the elfin tribe remained, and they decided it was time that old Nanny should be taught better and should be made to speak more respectfully of them in the future; so they determined upon giving her an ocular demonstration of their existence.

Nanny trudged on, and, when her thoughts were far away from the pixies and all their works, she was suddenly startled by a loud hubbub as of numberless voices close to her chattering in a shrill key and as she afterwards declared ‘makin sich a clatter as you never heerd.’ She stopped, and before she could well collect her senses she saw before her an immense crowd of little people standing on one another's heads and forming a living pyramid reaching to an immense height, piled up, as my informant of the circumstance put it, tower high. I remember how the old man's eyes would sparkle when he spoke of the pixies assembling in such numbers and reaching to such a height and pictured to himself Nanny's discomfiture. But there the little creatures were perched one upon the other tower high chattering with all their might a veritable tower of Babel, and Nanny Norrish knew she had met the pixies at last.

From Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies, as run serially in The Western Antiquary, 1888.Because we're small when children, you often think us tiny. We average four feet in height as adults. Nanny Norrish met pixie children.

There was a large Norrish family in Devon. A check of genealogy sources suggests that there is historical person behind this story, and there was a Norrish family living in Widecombe in that era. If I can find more information, I'll pass it on. Anyone want to help research?

John Norrish was christened 24 APR 1831 Widecombe-In-The Moor, Devon, England.