Today we’re talking about the Gancanagh, which too me is just like a super cool topic and something that really ended up shaping the series. The original trajectory for Quill and Cobweb was so much different before these creatures and it really became something that ended up shaping the story of Whynne. Probably the most controversial thing I did for the series was continuing to call the Gancanagh by its name even though it is a mouthful. How the characters in Whynne pronounce his name is Gan-coun- uh.
Gacanagh in traditional folklore are actually believed to be related to leprechauns. They’re not these super high ranking Unseelie fae or even all that well known. Their name means love talker and it’s typically a male fae. They’re not shapeshifters in most lure, but they are blond haired, blue eyed hunks who roam the woods and preyed upon milkmaids and peasants. It was kind of their general background that first drew me to them.
Originally one was going to be a lesser figure in the series, luring Wren into the woods where the trees themselves would be the initial antagonists.
A scene was written in which Wren was out on the lawn alone and looked between tis Gancanagh and Luka (who was sitting at his desk at his window), and eventually decided that the Gancanagh was so charming she had to go with it. The problem was a flaw in Wren’s character, i.e. the fact that if she saw Luka at a window and he wasn’t paying attention to her at all, she would go out of her way to make him do it.
Which brings us to the Gancanagh in Whynne.
So, when you get deeper into Whynne mythos, you kind of have to get this idea of old fae vs new fae, and have an understanding of how Unseelie vs Seelie magic works.
Basically, the fae come from the trees, the Elder and Rowan trees. If you don’t know why these particular trees, just give it a good old google and you’ll get it. Rowan is the Seelie tree, replanted on the palace lawn, and Elder is the Unseelie tree, lost to time itself. When we talk old fae in Whynne, we’re talking about fae that are not very far removed from these trees. Higher ranking old fae, like Edwyn’s father, the Gancanagh, and Bugul Noz– Tend to more closely resemble the forest, or have abilities that allow them to live on the edge of society. There’s still a good amount of old fae around, like Dryads, some form of sith, and so on; but we see a lot of new fae in Whynne.
So a lot of old fae, if more magically inclined, have bark-like skin, moss coverings (dog sith in Whynne are the older of the two and they are basically moss balls), and traits that put them more in tune with nature. Even the ones who do manage to look human look far too perfect and strangely crafted. We don’t get too much into the Gancanagh’s true appearance, because Wren only sees it for a flash (barely a second), but I like to think that it’s humanity perfected, with a little touch of forest in it. When you walk to the realm of the Unseelie, you occasionally see the spiderwebs hanging above… white and ghostly like his hair, and then we have his too perfect skin, hollow blue eyes, and their lips with a little dip in them for their pipe…
He’s not as pretty sans glamor.
I like to think that in the earlier days of Whynne, the Gancanagh was pretty low ranking. There were larger trolls and other more powerful Unseelie, they just ended up being hunted out of fear. But you know who wasn’t? The Gancanagh, mainly because he’s hard to find and not considered a threat.
When you talk Unseelie vs Seelie in Whynne, you have to understand that there’s a general assumption made both by the fae and humans that Seelie get weaker as they grow older, even though that can take hundreds of years, and Unseelie get more powerful. It’s comparable to rotting, where the amount of an object deteriorates, but the smell gets stronger. You can’t really see it, but though most Seelie and Unseelie fae stop normally aging at their late to mid twenties, there’s slow hints of the process happening underneath it all, little wrinkles and very sparse grey hair eventually– That’s the rot.
The Gancanagh’s main defense/offense is casting illusions that make them appear enticing to others. The further you go into the forest, the easier you make it for it to get an idea of what you like, or who you like, since enticement so often involves emotional attachment. This is good, to a point. the Gancanagh likes to go with the form of someone that you are least likely to rebel again.
Which brings us back to Wren and Luka. The reason the Gancanagh never does the scars is because Wren wishes she had done something different in that situation and somehow helped Luka, she continues to want that. Eventually it also becomes a moot point with the Gancanagh because he’s not hiding from Wren anymore, nor trying to stay on her good side.
Another power that the Gancanagh has is just its connection with the forest. It’s the oldest living Unseelie, having sprouted from the tree itself, and therefore it has the strongest connection to the woods of Whynne, almost as strong as the crown would make someone.
Much like Bugul Noz, the Gancanagh is the last of its kind. This is an incredibly lonely existence.
Long, long ago– before Wren or even Amelie existed, before the idea of endless night was even thought of– the Gancanagh was a young, curious Unseelie. It tended to take advantage of its illusions to wander around the edge of towns and pick up nightly lovers, only to rob them blind the next morning and steal what it could. It had spent most of its time away from its own kind, and knew more of human mannerisms than anything else.
The Gancanagh was a fan of milkmaids, as many fae are prone to loving cream and baked goods. They, unfortunately, fell in love with one of those milkmaids and decided to spend their life helping her, putting on an illusion closer to their own appearance than anything else. Eventually, however, the milkmaid’s lover came back from their trip across the country to sell cattle, and she defected her attention to them. The Gancanagh was desperate to maintain her attention and reveal itself as a fae.
She requested its true name to prove that it loved her. It gave it.
What happens next is lost to history, but the Gancanagh has a contempt for humans to this day.
Artwork by Edmund Dulac 1882-1953.