Episode 87: Solitary Fae: Galno
The folklore of the galno in a nutshell and how I imagined them for my writing.
Written and narrated by Ronel Janse van Vuuren.
Copyright 2023 Ronel Janse van Vuuren — All rights reserved.
Learn more about the galno in folklore here.
Get the transcript here.
Music: Secrets by David Fesliyan (FesliyanStudios.com) and Dramatic Heartbeat by FesliyanStudios.com
You’re listening to the Faeries and Folklore podcast by Ronel.
I’m dark fantasy author Ronel Janse van Vuuren. With almost a decade of digging around in dusty folklore books, researching creatures of imagination that ignited my curiosity, I’m here to share the folklore in a nutshell and how I reimagined it for my writing in an origin of the fae.
This is the Faeries and Folklore podcast.
Hi, I’m your host Ronel Janse van Vuuren. You can just call me Ronel. In today’s episode, we’re continuing our exploration of the fae realm.
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We’re continuing our exploration of Solitary Fae.
Today’s Faery: Galno
Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel
Though I usually use creatures found in folklore as-is with minor adjustments, I had this wonderful idea for a specific Faery race that incorporated a variety of Celtic races, customs and histories.
The Celts in a Nutshell by Ronel
Thus their name, Galno, is a Celtic word meaning “power” or “strength” which I think works great for them. Especially since that is the way other Fae see them.
If you have any image of the fierce Celtic warrior in your head, it is most probably inspired by the Greek and Roman historians who first encountered them and wrote about them. This basic image would be of a woad-painted, half-naked, howling warrior that inspires fear and awe in his enemies. You’ll also have a vague idea about druids. When most people think of druids, it is that they got together beneath sacred oaks, harvested mistletoe and supervised human sacrifice (usually by stuffing mistletoe into the unfortunate person’s mouth before drowning them in a bog).
The ancient Celts built various forts to protect their clans against others, for warfare was common. These consisted of duns (stone hill fortresses), crannogs (forts and houses built on stilts in lochs) and brochs (round stone towers, tapering inward as they rise from the ground) to name a few.
It is believed that the Romans grouped the various Celtic tribes (clans) together according to where they lived: Britons in England, Scotti in Ireland and Picts in Scotland.
The Picts in a Nutshell by Ronel
We know from what classical authors wrote that the people from northern Scotland were referred to as “Picts”. They have been shadowy, enigmatic figures throughout history. And by the time the Norsemen invaded and compiled their sagas, the Picts had faded into folklore as a mythical race of fairies.
“Picts” means “painted people”, most likely referring to the fact that they used war paint (made of woad) and tattoos to embellish their bodies.
Before the Romans arrived, the Picts were mostly involved in fighting among themselves. But when the Roman threat came from the south, they united and won the war (Scotland holds the distinction of never falling to the invading armies of Rome, despite many attempts on the part of the Romans).
The Picts were ruled by clan chieftains. The clans were known as Caerini, Cornavii, Lugi, Smertae, Decantae, Carnonacae, Caledonii, Selgovae and Votadini. They lived separately, but when threatened by a common enemy, they would elect a single chief to lead them all. Each clan would still follow their own chief, but each chief would obey the warrior they had all chosen as the group’s leader.
The males of the tribe were all warriors, but when not called upon to defend their clan and land, they were (as were the women) farmers, fishermen and herders.
Julius Ceasar remarked in 55BC: “All the Britons, without exception, stain themselves with woad, which produces a blueish tint; and this gives them a wild look in battle.”
And from stone carvings, we get a general idea of what they wore: women wore ankle length tunics and men wore varied lengths.
All of this leads me to believe that the Picts were a lot like the Woads in the King Arthur movie.
Of course, that’s a lot to think to tie together. So where did I originally get the idea to go and look at all of that? Most probably when I read through The Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson.
The Wee Free Men or the Nac Mac Feegle are loosely based on the Pechs, so a bit of history on the folklore (from our world) is included in the account of the folklore of the Wee Free Men.
Robert Chambers, in his Popular Rhymes of Scotland (1870), wrote: ‘Short wee men they were, wi’ red hair, and long arms, and feet sae braid that when it rained they could turn them up owre their heads, and then they served for umbrellas. The Pechs were great builders; they built a’ the auld castles in the kintry.’
This refers to brochs, a type of ancient round tower, which Scotsmen called ‘Picts’ castles’.
There’s a lot more in the chapter about the Nac Mac Feegle, but this is what stood out the first time I read it.
I was inspired by a lot of modern culture when creating these creatures.
The knights and Woads in the King Arthur movie always impress me when they go up against the Saxon army.
And though many dislike the movie for its creative liberties with history and folklore, as a writer I don’t mind that much. (Seeing as I rarely know the day of the week we’re at, why would historical inaccuracies in a movie bother me – it’s all Dark Age, so what does a century or two matter?)
The knights and Woads are wild, fearless and will fight to the death for what is theirs. And that is exactly why I like the movie. So I incorporated those traits in the Galno.
In a lot of my research, including that of the Nac Mac Feegle, the Picts and Pechs and so on are described as wild and fierce. And that they love to drink, eat good food and enjoy lots of fighting among themselves.
Much like the clans in Disney’s Brave.
My Galno stick to that tradition.
And, of course, the Galno are great warriors (like the Picts, the Celts, the Nac Mac Feegle and the Pechs).
The Galno started out as your average medieval Fae living in a broch and basically mimicking the Picts and the Celts.
Then I got tired of their almost barbaric ways and I made them almost knightly with proper manners and gallantry, but keeping the fierce warrior background. I also retained their love of brawling – it makes them endearing.
I recently stepped away from the pure medieval way of life, a character or two who’d prefer to dress a little differently while still keeping to clan colours making themselves heard. (So a pair of high heels with clan colours won’t be as strange as at first thought…)
Like all characters, they’re continually evolving as a group.
All the research, planning, thought and time that went into these characters (though I’m only looking at them as a whole today) was well worth it. They feature in most of my work because they embody all that is good – unlike the Seelie Knights who’ve lost all balance (though, that’s a topic for another time).
And now for my interpretation of the fae in an Origin of the Fae: Galno
Short, warrior Fae who embody the Scottish medieval way of life. Though there are a few rebels who’ve kept up with modern technology and fashion.
Each clan has their own shade of purple to wear. This is mostly shown through the tartan claimed by each clan. Each clan has their own shade of blue eyes.
Most all Galno have black hair, but some who embody summer have golden hair.
All the clans live in Kregora on a heath covered with heather. Kregora is a broch built out of special glowing stone. Kregora is situated in a part of Faerie located in the Highlands of Scotland. Humans know enough to stay away from this different realm located in their own world.
The Galno were Seelie once upon a time, but are now Solitary Fae. This means that they have to pay a Tithe to live on Court Land (all of Faerie belong to the two Courts).
They believe in honour, bravery, courtesy and gallantry toward women.
The Clans are led by three of the strongest Lairds: the MacKeltar, the MacGregor and the MacKinnion.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of the faeries and folklore podcast and that you’ve learned something new about faeries.
Remember that you can get a transcript of this episode in the description. If you’re new to the podcast, why not go and grab your free copy of Unseen, the second book in the Faery Tales series, on my website ronelthemythmaker.com? Loads of folklore, magic and danger await! Take care!
You can now support my time in producing the podcast (researching, writing and everything else involved) by buying me a coffee. This can be a once-off thing, or you can buy me coffee again in the future at your discretion.
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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.