Origin: Carrotfinger Man

Where do you get your ideas? From history, of course!

This story has a specific origin: the Carrotfinger Man is a figure from legend. While I was still in graduate school, I read a book by Eugen Weber entitled Peasants Into Frenchmen. It’s a marvelous book with rich material for the historical novelist. Its subject is the transformation of France from a place with a wide diversity of local communities into a single nation. This transformation did not happen, as is so often presented, as part of the “rise of the nation-state” in the 17th and 18th centuries, but occurred in the 19th century as a result of economic shifts and was not completed until the crisis of the First World War. I recommend the read to anyone interested in the period, but that’s not why we’re here.

We’re here for the monster.

Somewhere in those pages (my copy of the book disappeared ages ago), Weber tells the story of a Breton legend. Brittany is up in the northwest corner of France and has always been quite separate from the rest of the country. Its people are Celtic and for a very long time they spoke an entirely different language from French. One of the points Weber makes is how scary the world was beyond the confines of the village, and this legend is but one of many told at the time (19th century).

If you were out walking at night in the empty lands between villages, and you came to a bridge, you must be wary, for a monstrous creature roamed. He was tall and thin, with long arms and long fingers and toes. These were in the shape of carrots, though he was strong and quick, and he would drag away the lone wanderer, to throttle and eat them.

It was only a few lines in the book, just one of numerous examples Weber supplies, but it stuck. The Carrotfinger Man stood there at the back of my mind, long arms folded, waiting for me to tell his story. Finally, in 2016, I did, just to make the guy go away. I had no plot, just the core idea of someone encountering the Carrotfinger Man, and that it must take place in Bretagne (Brittany).

Then came the dwarves.

I used two because I wanted opportunity for dialog. I used dwarves because I had not yet written a story with dwarves in it. It was a happy selection because the story takes place in a forest and that’s not the natural habitat for dwarves, so this gave me a reason for them to be on the move. By making them blade smiths, they could have weapons with them.

Then came the pixies.

I don’t quite remember how the idea arrived, but as soon as I thought of them, I knew they had to be in the story. I could foreshadow the monster while providing some comic relief. Interplay between fright and funny is often a good choice. To make their creation tall enough, they had to be three in number, which gave more opportunity for dialog.

Then came the monster.

Weber didn’t give me much, which I suppose is a good thing. Its physical attributes and behaviors are largely my own, aimed mainly at creating a decent sense of horror. The reader will judge my success at that. I knew I didn’t want it to speak.

That’s all there is to it. The rest is just the dreary, difficult work of writing. I hope you enjoy(ed) it!


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