The man-people climbs a ladder and bangs the nails into the roof: knock, knock, knock. He's fixing the house. He thinks he can live here. In our forest.
"Badness!" I cry. "This forest belongs to the fairies. You cannot stay."
The man-people is so surprised he nearly falls off the ladder.
"Who's there?" he says, scanning the trees. "Let me see you."
I laugh my wickedest laugh. "You don't want that. A people like you would scream and run away if you saw my face, and your hair would turn white as bone forever; for I am Wicked Nix, the foulest of the fairies."
"Oh," he says.
"Leave at once!"
"But ..." the man climbs down the ladder and squints up into the shivery tree."But it's my home, you know."
This makes me angry. I make my voice low, like the growl of a bear. "I warn you. If you don't leave, I will put a curse upon your garden so that nothing grows but thorns. I will put a spell upon your hearth so that your fire always smokes. I will turn your well water into skunk spit and ... and frog pee. I will give your cow wings, and she will fly to the moon!"
I can see he is afraid now. I am sure he is about to beg my fairy pardon. I am sure he is about to leave and never come back. I am very surprised when he says:
"Do your worst, Wicked Nix, foulest of the fairies! This cottage is mine, and I will never leave!"
A "people" has invaded the fairy forest! Not just travelling along the road, which is tolerated, but apparently moving into the abandoned cottage and that, Wicked Nix knows, is definitely not allowed. Nix, who is "the foulest of the fairies", had been left in the Mortal Lands when the rest of the fairies departed to return to Summer Country where "time passes slow and sweet as honey and no one is ever cold or hungry", and Nix assumes it was because the Good Queen meant him to protect her forest. Therefore, it is up to him to drive this people away. Nix threatens all sorts of evils; the people responds by placing a ring of salt around the cottage. A witch in the village, aka a little girl named Rose who dances through life and can't sit still to have her hair combed, gives him a magic song to sing so that he can cross the salt line without consequences (he won't shrivel up and "shrink to the size of a slug"). More tricks, more defenses, and still the people stays. Midsummer is approaching, the time when the fairies will return and, Nix hopes, will take him back with them to Summer Country. Rose wants to go with them, too, but Nix is worried about this. Rose’s mother makes him think back to a time when someone, possibly the Good Queen but maybe not, was kind and baked bread with him and was soft and loving.
Nix is pulled two ways on a lot of issues. On the one hand, he is the foulest of the fairies, but the other fairies, Flit and Fleet and the others, are often cruel, tease him, and treat him as an outsider. While he is trying to make the people leave, he is also fascinated by him and drawn to the little cottage. There is a conflict here, and Nix doesn't know where he belongs or whose side he is on.
The best stories have a deeper truth to them that is not an obvious moral teaching -- don't skate on thin ice or you may drown -- but merely gently suggestive. Nix tried to be the worst of the fairies and found that it was unsatisfying. What's more, when the other fairies were being bad, he was often the object of their cruelty. But was he really human as the people said he was? In opting for humanity, love, and family, Nix not only gets himself into his proper place, but he also keeps Rose from making his mistake and letting herself be seduced by the fairy promises.
I got my granddaughters, ages 8 and 10, to read Wicked Nix and, after the initial reaction, (that it was "good") managed to elicit that it was really satisfactory that Green insisted that everyone have to obey the ultimate rule: promises are important and cannot be broken. I'm okay with that.
Mary Thomas, sometimes of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was lucky enough to have the grands visiting for two weeks this summer; her book reviews would be much more relevant were they to be available always!