Welcome to the first installment of Catherynne M. Valente’s tour of Fairyland:

Nine Lessons from a Wyverary Governouressse.

 If you have not read Cat’s introduction please go to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

  1. On Governessing

First, you must understand than when folk say “Governess” or suchlike words, what they mean is “Adventurer.” A governess is simply an adventurer who occasionally lets small children ride on her back. Consider that the word originally meant “woman who rules.” It is quite important to know what words originally meant. Just as when you meet a new and interesting person, when making friends with a word, you must ask after the word’s childhood, its education, its travels in exciting foreign parts. Otherwise you can hardly be said to know the word at all, and may be surprised by its behavior in days to come. I have it on good authority that in the terrifying but intriguing world called Omaha, “governess” means a prim and old-fashioned kind of baby-sitter. Well, that won’t do at all for myself. Look at my spines! I am very wild and big, and I don’t sit babies. I know better games than that, and as I always say, she who can breathe fire makes the rules.

So just you remember what “governess” meant when it was young. Young creatures rarely become less fierce and bold as they get older in Fairyland. I have been told that in other countries this is not so, that as children grow up they become responsible and clear-headed, gentler and kinder and wiser. Now, I do not have experience with every kind of child, and I can safely say that most of us here in Fairyland surely grow wiser. But we use our wisdom to have more fun and think up more wonderful ways to sneak up on our friends in the forest or devise magical machines or teach toadstools to get up and seek out a profession or learn to jump so high it looks like flying.

Very few of us are responsible or clear-headed or gentle. I believe they live in the mountains, and have a very tidy village.

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