When I first started writing Maira and the Rainbow City (the working title for my upper middle grade fantasy), I knew I wanted my wish-giving creature to have some interesting qualities. Qualities which would affect how Maira experiences the world after she becomes one. In this fantasy world, the wish-giving creatures are called wishgivers or aranea, and Maira’s adventure being one of them needed to affect her physically as well as mentally and emotionally.
First, I wanted the wishgiver to look different but not too different. This creature can hide in plain sight. And unless you have history with one, you might not recognize it. It might only look sickly. As Maira discovers, wishgivers have grayish skin and purple fingernails. To keep her secret, she wraps her favorite scarf around her arms and shoulders to cover most of her skin. And being naturally shy, she usually doesn’t mind hiding herself.
Likewise, the skin of the wishgiver feels strange. Maira’s sisters describe it as touching fog. Sometimes they think their hands might pass through her. When she touches them, it makes them shiver or shudder. Touch is probably the best way to identify a wishgiver, though most of us don’t go around touching others!
Something unique to these wish-granting creatures is that they are linked to the elements. The master wishgiver, Tafa, who turns Maira into an aranea, shares that they can channel the wind in their magic. So, Tafa is also known as the master of wind. Another unique quality is that wishgivers have a heart of cold fire, and they don’t breathe. So when Maira turns into a wishgiver, she feels like her breath gets away from her and she can’t catch it.
Next, wishgivers don’t feel cold or heat. They aren’t bothered by a hot day which is why Maira’s sisters may feel the need for a long drink of water after walking to the palace while Maira doesn’t. Or Maira only knows the sun is scorching when she sees sweat on her sister’s forehead. Finally, aranea don’t need food or water. They can certainly eat or drink, but the need is no longer there.
All these changes make Maira feel very different from the girl she was before. It’s hard to miss being hungry or feeling hot, but she misses holding her sister’s hand without making her shiver or feeling her heartbeat.
These qualities developed as I wrote the book, but I also needed a name for these wish-giving creatures. And when we’re thinking of names, we have to consider where these creatures come from and how they came to be in this world.
When I thought of these creatures, I imagined they’re wish granting is like weaving magic. We learn Tafa became the master wishgiver/master of wind by accepting a demon’s price to help his wife. But what sort of demon is this?
There are only hints in the book, but the biggest hint is the word aranea which means spider in Latin. So, it is implied that Tafa makes a deal with a demon spider. While developing this origin, I ran across Arachne’s myth in Greek mythology. She was a brilliant weaver and her color was purple. Unfortunately when Arachne’s work was destroyed, she hung herself with a rope. So, in this fantasy world, this weaving spider demon has purple, glowing power (which is why Maira’s hands sometimes glow purple) and the silver bracelets which appear on Maira’s wrists are braided rope. You may also notice other spidery hints snuck into the story!
Aranea is such a beautiful word, and I imagine weaving magic to be a beautiful power. But in Maira’s world, aranea are both the heroes and villains in the stories she’s heard. They are similar to trickster figures we find in mythology. Many times, Maira thinks of Tafa as a tricky, desert fox. And she’s right! So she’s not sure how to feel about becoming one. But she does know she wants to hide what she is. Some might want wishes while others might hate or fear aranea. And for good reason!
Fantasy worlds and the creatures we create are some of my favorite aspects of writing. Thanks for joining me on this exploration of wish-giving creatures in Maira and the Rainbow City!