Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fantasy Writing Prompts - Shepherds in Fairy Land

You might not realize it but shepherds, cowherds, etc. are some of the most important characters in the original fantasy stories (myths and fairy tales). From the cyclops shepherds of Greece to the shepherd girls who worked for the fairies of France, shepherds existed at the border between the magical and human world. As such they were often liminal, magical people who knew a number of spells to help keep away evil spirits and bring luck. Some were just clever people who knew a few tricks, while others were out right witches who had alliances with the lords of the forest.


1-Someone is hired to be the shepherd/cowherd for the fairies. In some fairy tales this happened because a girl was poor and the fairies were trying to help out, other times it happened because the fairies genuinely needed help watching and cleaning up after their sheep (they hated doing these sorts of jobs). As a general rule the fairies over paid for this service, often making their herds people extremely wealthy.

Of course guarding the sheep of fairies could also mean that the shepherd has to keep these animals safe from greedy kings who want to steal the magical herd, ogres, other fairies, and more.

2-The problem of keeping sheep safe from enemies and monsters in a magical world is a common one which shepherds in a fantasy world would have to deal with. During a time when so many people died of starvation those who protected people's food were the true heroes.

Tell the story of a shepherd who is called in to keep a herd safe from witches which steal the milk, werewolves, giants, dragons, etc.

(Note: In Russia a shepherd/cowherd would get paid by the whole village to watch their animals, and would take turns staying with each villager for a certain amount of time so they would get to know everyone)

3-Watch the children
In many places children were responsible for watching the sheep and cows. So instead of a cowherd or shepherd a hero could watch the children who watch the animals. Keeping them safe from boogiemen and hags.

4-Shepherds and cowherds would often bring the animals on journeys into dangerous wilderness areas. Either to deliver them to a buyer or to allow them to graze on large, fresh pastures. Tell the story of some herdsmen bringing the animals through a wilderness in a fantasy world.

5-Because they knew so many wilderness paths, cowherds would sometimes become ninjas in Japanese lore, using their job as an excuse to spy and their knowledge to aid their allies.

6-Because they had to fend off bandits and wild animals herdsmen occupy a mythical place as warriors in many cultures. Cowboys, David slaying Goliath, etc.

Tell the story of a peasant rebellion lead by shepherds.

Read all my Fantasy Writing Prompts here...