The Culture of Faerie
Sometimes it's useful to know some of the things that differ between our modern society and Faerie, so here's an overview of some of the most important things to remember when reading about Faeries.
Faerie is a female-dominated society, where it is generally accepted that males should show deference to females. In addition to this gender separation, there are three basic social strata to which a Faerie can belong: the commoners, the nobles, and the royals. Rather than being a result of, say, one's economic status or familial relations, this status is reflected in a Faerie's very body. Common Faeries have dragonfly-shaped wings; noble Faeries have moth-like wings; and the wings of a royal are butterfly-shaped. One's wings and status are considered a reflection of a Faerie's abilities--therefore a Faerie can, to an extent, be judged on sight--at least in a superficial, societal standing sort of way.
The rules that govern interaction between persons of different social spheres are considered very important, especially among the higher classes. In an early version of The Fairie's Daughter, Cecylia explains this to Jeanne:
"What I intended to discuss with you had more to do with society in general. I know that our world is very different from the humans'. Here, as you have discovered, women hold a higher rank than men. The head of every household is female, and the head of state is always a Queen. Men are expected to show respect toward women at all times. You know about the natural divisions we have: commoners, nobility, and royalty. These distinctions have nothing to do with money, of course. Some of the richest families in Fairie are mostly commoners. They have to do with a person's abilities. It's all determined before we are born."
"Well, we say that Saint Deirdae determines this for each child before her birth. The lowest in society are the common males, who are expected to show respect to everyone. Noble males are usually expected to do this as well, unless they come from a distinguished family--that generally only applies to males of our line. And royal males are excused somewhat from this, though they're still expected to show proper respect toward those of a rank higher than them."
"The royal females," Jeanne said.
"Right. And the rest is as you might expect."
"What about within families, like ours, for instance? Do you have rules like 'respect your elders' for that?"
"To an extent," Cecylia answered, "but that really only applies to you when you're speaking to me or your mother. No one else is of the same rank as you."
Although most of the characters in the Faerie stories are from the upper echelons of society, it can be important to pay attention to their interactions with those of different ranks. Appearance and cultural expectations play a large role in the series.
One final note: it is customary for the person of highest rank to speak first. It's considered highly rude and insulting for someone of lower rank to speak first.
Of Chervaris and Carisaes
Faerie was created by Carisae for her daughter, Chervari, who later took the name Aderana. The relationship that the two had was extremely close, and was something that was passed down among some of the mothers and daughters of the higher classes. It's a concept that's very important in the Lésane family; for example, for most of Jeanne's childhood, Cecylia is appalled by the suggestion that Jeanne could be Adryana's chervari.
Adryana tries to explain the concept to Richard in an earlier draft of The Fairie's Daughter:
Women, especially those with a lineage like mine, have a daughter, usually their firstborn, who is what we call 'chervari'. That is the mother's name for the child. And the mother and child have a special bond that goes very, very deep. I can't even describe it. But when the daughter is small, and especially when she is a baby, the mother must be with her. If they are separated, then both of them can die. And, even if they live, they are likely to be… damaged. Permanently. Richard, Jeanne is this to me. She is my chervari, and I am her carisae. She is the only chervari I will ever have. Perhaps she is the only child I will ever have.