When trying to come up with a title for this blog, I felt the same excitement and exasperation as when trying to come up with a title for a painting or a short story. It's a challenge, but a fun one. I brainstormed, jotting down words and images and ideas that seemed to be in keeping with the direction this blog might go in.
Ferns have always been a magical plant to me. Perhaps it's where they live: on the floors of Rackhamesque forests. Perhaps it's how they look: unfurling their leaves until they become a green sea of delicate, yet sturdy plants harbouring all manner of magical creature.
Bracken, that quite special type of fern, I have only recently encountered in the flesh. On a visit to magical Dartmoor last November I found hills covered in a beautiful mauve-brown plant. As I approached one of them I saw that it was a type of fern lying in a tangled mass against the granite hill. I asked someone about it and was told it was bracken. On a return visit this past June, the hill was transformed. Gone was the mauve-brown mesh. Instead there was an army of green ferns on spear-like stalks almost as tall as a person. The transformation was incredible.
The idea of being "beneath" the bracken, submerged in the secret world within it, a world which could transform itself so completely, appealed.
Then I tried to think whether I'd encountered ferns in fairy tales. The only one I could come up with was in the English folk tale "The Fairy Widower" (a variation of "Cherry of Zennor"). The girl of the story is holding a fern leaf when she meets the fairy man, and he makes her seal a promise on a fern-leaf.
I'm sure there must be other examples of ferns as a motif in folk and fairy tales. I'll keep my eyes open. If anyone else knows of any, please feel free to add a comment.