Dullahan or Troll

SPoots

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
143
#1
I recently wrote a children's story about a Dullahan (because when looking for ideas my mind seems to reset to Dullahan) for a monster themed anthology aimed at kids aged 6-9.
Some of my beta readers have advised changing it to something more generic, like a troll, while another beta reader has adamantly opposed this. Could you please take a look at this segment and tell me your opinion?

Fairy Wings (Dullahan)
A gust of wind slammed the door open. Mary had to hang on or she would have been blown away too. Someone was at the door. A big someone, a someone in a black, billowy coat that flapped and snapped. Mary looked up and up and up, and then she stopped because the someone had no up left. They had no head!

It pointed a long white finger at Mary. “I am the Dullahan,” it said in a voice that boomed like thunder, “and I have come for you today, Mary Calhoun.”

“Where’s your head?” Mary asked.

“What?” The Dullahan said, sounding puzzled.

“Your head. Where is it?” Mary asked again. “You need to have a head.” She took a step to the left. Then a step to the right. “Can you see me if you have no eyes?”

“Of course I can see you!” The Dullahan yelled.

“Wow!” Mary said. “You must be really good at hide and seek!”

The Dullahan didn’t have a face, so it could not look confused. It coughed and tried again. “I have come for you, Mary Calhoun. I will take you away to the land of fairy-“

“You’re not a fairy,” Mary said.

“Yes I am,” The Dullahan said. “We fairies have lived for many years. We walk unseen, we sing, we dance, we steal people away and leave terror behind. We – “

“You don’t look like a fairy,” Mary said.

The Dullahan growled. “Oh, have you seen a lot of fairies then?”

“Yes,” Mary said. “Here, I’ll show you.”

Before the Dullahan could do anything, she reached out and took its hand. She pulled the Dullahan behind her into the house. They went past the kitchen, where her dad was still singing.

“Where are you going, Mary?” Dad asked.

“I’m showing the Dullahan what a fairy looks like, Dad.”

Dad looked over his shoulder and chuckled. “OK love, have fun. Dullahan. That’s a nice name for an invisible friend.”

“Why didn’t Dad see you?” Mary asked as she led the Dullahan up the stairs.

“Only children can see the fairies,” The Dullahan said. “Which proves I am a fairy!”

Mary shook her head. “Nope. Look.”

She opened the door to the play room. The floor was messy with all her toys. Mary stepped over a teddy bear, tiptoed past a puzzle, and ran over to a red chest in the corner. She opened it up and began throwing costumes onto the floor.

Behind her, something squeaked. “Don’t touch that!” she snapped.

The Dullahan dropped the teddy. “Sorry.”

Mary looked and looked inside the chest and at last pulled out a pair of wings on stretchy straps. She put her arms through the straps, making them go twing and twong. Then she found her wand. It had a star on it. “See? I’m a fairy now,” she said. She danced around the Dullahan, spinning like a ballerina.

“Not all fairies have wings,” the Dullahan said. It sounded grumpy.

“Yes they do," Mary said. “And wands like this one.” And she tapped the Dullahan with the star and said “Ting!”

The Dullahan drew in a deep breath. Then it sat down on the floor and started to cry.

“It’s not fair,” The Dullahan said. “It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair. I am a fairy! Just because I don’t have wings...”

Mary stopped dancing. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You can be a fairy if you want to.”

The Dullahan just cried louder. He hammered his hands on the floor. He kicked and kicked and had the biggest temper tantrum Mary had ever seen. She reached up her sleeve and pulled out the tissue her dad put there every morning. She walked over to the Dullahan and held it up to where she thought its nose might be.

“There, there,” she said. “Have a good blow.”

The Dullahan did, making a noise like an elephant.

“I’m sorry,” the Dullahan said. “It’s just the other fairies don’t like me.”

Mary nodded. “Is it because you’re big and don’t have a head.”

The Dullahan nodded. “And no wings.” It gave a big sigh. “Even the ugliest fairies have wings. But not me. I never had any wings. They all laugh and point and call me names.”

“I thought fairies were nice,” Mary said. She couldn’t find a bin for the tissue, so she put it back up her sleeve.

“Not if you don’t have wings,” The Dullahan said in its voice like thunder.

Mary thought about this. She walked around the Dullahan, who was sitting on her teddy bear. It looked scary in its big, black coat, with nothing where its head should be, but it sounded so miserable.
 
Last edited:

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
9,786
Location
nearly the New Forest
#2
I've no idea what a dullahan is, so can't help you there!

I've only glanced at the extract, so I can't make any larger comment, but I do think you need to deal with spacing to make it more easily readable -- it's too bunched up and like a wall of text at present to be a comfortable read. I imagine the software has ripped out your original formatting, so you'll need to add a line's space between each paragraph. You've got plenty of time before the edit window closes, but if you can't manage it, let me know and I'll do it for you.
 

SPoots

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
143
#3
I've no idea what a dullahan is, so can't help you there!

I've only glanced at the extract, so I can't make any larger comment, but I do think you need to deal with spacing to make it more easily readable -- it's too bunched up and like a wall of text at present to be a comfortable read. I imagine the software has ripped out your original formatting, so you'll need to add a line's space between each paragraph. You've got plenty of time before the edit window closes, but if you can't manage it, let me know and I'll do it for you.
Ah yes, thanks for spotting that. I do have it formatted in the word doc.

For the record, a Dullahan is an Irish headless horseman that comes for people when they die (the coachman at the end of Darby O'Gill and the Little People)

I have written another version of this where it has been swapped out for a troll.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
16,011
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
#4
Depends what your market is. Anyone outside Ireland probably is less familiar with the term. On the other hand, Irish sf is in the spotlight with the cons next year - and it does give the piece that flavour. It all depends what you want to do with the piece :)
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
9,786
Location
nearly the New Forest
#5
Ah, of course. I should have remembered from your earlier pieces in Critiques.

Personally, I would make it a troll, and not only to avoid confusion for those who won't know what a Dullahan is. I'll defer to those who have children and know their reading habits, but while I think children can deal with some element of fear, as in a giant coming to get a little girl, it's perhaps a little more unsettling that you're suggesting this little girl is set to die this day. I appreciate you probably will avoid her dying, but even if the Dullahan has made a mistake and it's 95 year old Mary Calhoun next door he should be taking away, it's still a tad unnerving in what I imagine is otherwise a very light story.

I've no idea as to vocabulary and sentence structure for that age group, so can't help you much there, though it felt perhaps a little young to me. I think it's the case that children like to read about someone a little older than they are, whereas Mary came across to me as younger than that. (But again, I'm not a parent, so that may be completely wrong.)

One thing, though, you've still not fully mastered is the dialogue tags -- you're getting some right but not all of them.

“I’m sorry,” the Dullahan said. This is right.​
“Yes I am,” The Dullahan said. This isn't. It's lower case "the".​

Anyhow, good luck with it!
 

SPoots

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
143
#6
Thanks very much. The capital T was intentional as it is "The" Dullahan, but looking at it the lower case does look more accurate.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
9,786
Location
nearly the New Forest
#7
I did wonder if it was deliberate, but sometimes in the tags it was lower case, and when appearing midway in ordinary sentences it was always "the Dullahan" which rather argued against. You'd need to be consistent whichever way you choose, but for my money, it definitely it looks better everywhere as lower case.
 

Onyx

Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
Messages
955
#9
There's a popular anime with a dullahan - the idea got out of Ireland, somehow.

Your story excerpt appears to be a running joke about the problems involved in being a specialist sort of a fantastic being. It is a comedy of taxonomy. I don't see how you can run the joke with a common troll or fairy when the whole point is that the dullahan is so removed from pop culture that it can't garner enough recognition to do its macabre function.
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2016
Messages
242
Location
Hampshire
#10
Troll is much easier to pronounce than Dullahan. If you do decide to use it, I would make the pronunciation clear from the outset.

It pointed a long white finger at Mary. “I am the Dullahan,” it said in a voice that boomed like thunder, “and I have come for you today, Mary Calhoun.”

"Dulla-what?" Mary asked.

"Dull-a-han." Replied the Dullahan.
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
1,641
#11
I say go for the Dullahan. Sure the kids will have no bloody clue what it is, but if you don't introduce kids to something new, how are they going to learn? Maybe it'll go wrong this time but it's worth the risk.

However, if you're going to introduce people to something they've never heard of, you need to introduce them properly. At the moment its just a name and a lack of head. I don't know how you introduce it properly but I'm not sure this is it.

Also, you say the dad is still singing, but since we never see or hear him singing before that point, the 'still' seems redundant.
 

ZlodeyVolk

The Lurker at the Keyboard
Joined
Apr 17, 2018
Messages
217
Location
Behind you
#13
Dullahan is no harder to say than "Houlihan" and is a lot more fun to say than troll. Also, troll is a bit like Helvetica: it has been used so often, for so long, and to represent so many different things, that it's essentially meaningless. Stick with Dullahan, I say.
 

TheDustyZebra

Aspiring notaphilist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2009
Messages
8,438
Location
Colorado
#14
I don't see how it would work with a troll. The point is that the Dullahan is a headless fairy and comes for you when you're dying. How would you do any of that with a troll? I would leave it as it is -- as pointed out above, kids have to learn these things somewhere, so why not from you? I like it.
 

ZlodeyVolk

The Lurker at the Keyboard
Joined
Apr 17, 2018
Messages
217
Location
Behind you
#16
@SPoots: Actually, a question just occurred to me … Is either of your beta readers familiar with Irish folklore? I ask only because I've noticed that some beta readers sometimes suggest changes concerning cultural things with which they are not familiar.
 

SPoots

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
143
#18
@SPoots: Actually, a question just occurred to me … Is either of your beta readers familiar with Irish folklore? I ask only because I've noticed that some beta readers sometimes suggest changes concerning cultural things with which they are not familiar.
All bar one are Irish.
 

ZlodeyVolk

The Lurker at the Keyboard
Joined
Apr 17, 2018
Messages
217
Location
Behind you
#20
It's the right thing to do. First thoughts frequently represent the correct choice. At least, that's what a chemistry lecturer told us, my first time through university; and I passed chemistry, with as many fingers as I'd had at the start.
 

Similar threads

Top