Which Song Inspired Nancy Holland’s THALGOR’S WITCH?

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“Gilded Splinters” is all about magic, what it does to the person who holds it (both good and bad), its limits, and its costs. These are the basic elements out of which I built the laws of magic in the world of Thalgor and “his” witch, Erwyn.

Most fantasy writers cite the same sources of inspiration — J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, T. H. White. More recently Patrick Rothfuss, J. K. Rowling, and Raymond Jacques have joined the list. Those authors inspired me, too, but today I thought I’d focus on another important source for the world building in Thalgor’s Witch, a song by Dr. John called “I Walk on Gilded Splinters.”

Dr. John puts hints of magic in several of his songs, which are most often based on the folk traditions of southern Louisiana, but “Gilded Splinters” is all about magic, what it does to the person who holds it (both good and bad), its limits, and its costs. These are the basic elements out of which I built the laws of magic in the world of Thalgor and “his” witch, Erwyn.

In their world all witches can heal and see the future, and these powers are what earn her Thalgor’s respect. Magic also protects witches from rape and gives them weapons against her enemies no ordinary woman has. But Erwyn has rarer powers, too–the ability to make magic fire and to “fly” (in a ritual also based on the lyrics to “Gilded Splinters). All of this makes her stronger than other women, but it also makes her stubborn and defiant, not always good traits to have when captured by a proud and equally stubborn warrior like Thalgor.

Her power also has limits. Most sadly, although her magic demands she always heal where she can, she cannot save everyone. Her vision of future events is narrow in scope and can be clouded by enemy magic. She cannot make Thalgor love her or even make him understand why she’s willing to sacrifice everything to keep her magic, to be who and what she is.

Erwyn’s magic is not only limited, it carries a cost. For one thing, she struggles with the conflict between the demand to heal and the needs of those with whom she lives. This conflict between “professional” commitment and family may be familiar to modern women and the men in their lives, but comes as an unpleasant surprise to Thalgor. And magic has less familiar costs. In Erwyn’s world, no one trusts a witch. Exercising her powers can exhaust her. She cannot use her magic when with child. And she cannot kill without losing her magic altogether. (“’Till I murder,” a line from “Gilded Splinters” was the original title of Thalgor’s Witch).

So that’s how I took a few lines from a song and transformed them into a world of magic. More importantly, however, the atmosphere of “Gilded Splinters” — its darkness and swagger but also its musical and lyrical beauty — inspired me to create Erwyn and Thalgor’s world, a world that, for all its sadness, loss, and pain, is full of joy, hope, and love.


Nancy Holland recently began to live her dream as a full-time writer. After being a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart© contest and publishing two short contemporary romances, she is thrilled to return to her first love and write fantasy novels for Tule Publishing.

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5 Comments

  1. i love the magic, the traditions involved, myths or legends involved, and the imagination of the author to be able to tell the story.
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