Beach sand has a way of making sculptors of everyone. That’s because the beach is home to the sand faeries, the kind of faeries most concerned with telling stories. They’re some of the most prolific muses of the faerie world, comparable only to the ocean faeries who are known for inspiring shanties and tales of sea-faring adventures. The sand faeries are their wordless kin, who tell the stories of those who kept no written record of their lives, or for whom no written record survives. They inspire us to make sculptures in the sand as an ode those who have been washed away by the sea, whispering their stories in our ear.
Most of the time, these stories catch on the wind and leave us as we complete our task, so we do not remember them in great detail. And always, because these are the stories of those who have washed away to sea, so too must our creations wash away, not just to keep the secrets of the sand faeries, but to complete the story.
Sometimes they tell the tales of animals.
They see rather a lot of these, and sometimes they get a little carried away with exaggeration and invention, or mix stories about people with animals, but it’s all in good fun. The thing about sand is that it moves around with the tides, and when grains of sand are displaced and regrouped with new grains of sand, they recombine their memories endlessly. Sometimes they get a little confused about what’s real and what’s not after beach readers leave their books on the sand.
And sometimes they even learn a few things from sculptors who come to the sand with their own designs in mind and their ears shut to inspiration. The sand faeries never mind this, as creativity and the visual expression of stories are really what they feed on most.
But more often than not, they’re telling the story of a lost people, a forgotten fortress, or an unrecorded history. That is why so many of us, especially those of us who play in the sand without an agenda or design, end up building dwellings, and of those dwellings, most are castles and fortresses. And most of them creep upon us as we mold the sand, telling us what to do next with every new pile of sand.
On my most recent trip to the beach, I let the sand faeries speak to me, and I learned of a rustic kingdom by the sea that was constantly under siege from a neighboring fortress.
I began with the inner wall of the city. I had intended to dig only a trench, but before I knew it, I was molding a wall. At first I thought to do something more sculpted, but I ended up with a softly rounded wall instead. Before I knew it I was building an inner castle and digging an outer trench. I felt that this castle belonged to a rustic, isolated people. I imagined that all of their homes would be within the trench, but I couldn’t figure out what they should look like, so I left the land in a state of ruin.
I imagined the people who lived here to be mainly agrarian, but filled with a strong sense of community pride, mixing some softer, more hobbit-like round earthen walls with a few sturdier and more stalwart forts and towers. Nothing too elaborately built, however, and nothing too high.
At this point, the sand faeries began to whisper into my husband’s ear, prompting him to ask me what they were so afraid of – why did they need a protective trench and lookout towers at every corner? And so he was inspired to build a neighboring city which was far more militarily driven.
The result was craggy city on a hill, with rough fortresses built into the walls of a small mountain, their main road headed straight for my little rustic civilization.
Whatever happened between these two cities, in the end the same fate took them both. After most of the inhabitants moved to urban centers and towns further from the ocean, the sea levels rose and washed away the old ruins they left behind.
Leaving nothing but fragments of their story to be recalled by the sand faeries the next time they came along someone playing the sand, ready to listen to them.