(The Curious Tale of) Mr Tumnal is working its way into my mind. My problem with the story is that it is important to me that Louis Tumnal is a sympathetic and likeable character, but someone who cheats on his wife and family, even when his wife and family are imaginary does not lend him to be considered in a sympathetic light. One of the constructs that I have always wanted to achieve in this story is to base the central theme on an old poem or traditional story, in the vein of Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire & Hemlock, much as Jane achieved so successfully in her novella, The Hyacinth Girl.

In the story of Mr Tumnal, the Queen of the Faeries is the headmistress of the school where he works, and was formerly a student. As a student Louis is ‘selected’ by the headmistress and the seeds of his imaginary friend planted in his mind. She encourages his education, and arranges for his university scholarship and his return to the school as teacher in order to keep watch over him, and control the development of Louis’ ‘wife’ as a body that she can later inhabit when it is time for her to be reborn and her immortality assured. In this way, I am echoing both the legends of Tam Lin and the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, and the character of Laurel in Fire & Hemlock. In further referencing Diana Wynne Jones’ book, the town where Louis lives, although for the most part, Oxford should be an anagram of Nowhere.

Jane helped me with suggestions for this town name, with Rowhene, but after also considering Wheenor, Row Hene, Rhowene and Rhoween, I have settled for the intriguing, and I think more convincing Wren Hoe (I also get the opportunity to play with bird/wren motifs)… 🙂