Illustration by Matt Wall, Awakening Magic
The Grassman first appeared in a short story I wrote that became the beginning of Guided by Magic:
I never told anyone that I saw the Grassman steal our baby. I was four years old, minding my newborn baby sister, Toola. Mam had set Toola in a basket in the sun.
“Keep the baby quiet, Sada,” Mam said. “Don’t let her holler.”
She went into the cottage to gather the washing.
The day was fine, bright and sunny, and I closed my eyes while I leaned on the porch rail. It was a rare moment that I wasn’t doing some chore or other, like picking burrs out of my brothers’ socks, or carding wool for Mam to spin.
A shadow fell across my eyelids. I opened one eye just a slit and saw a small green man carrying a bundle. He was hurrying along the neighbor’s wall. Jumping down, he tiptoed up to Toola’s basket. He set down his burden, and peered at Toola asleep in her blankets. Then he leaned over and pinched her cheek between a long green finger and thumb.
“That’s my sister,” I said.
“Oooh, yes, that’s so! And a fine wee worka girly she is, too. We Grassmen be making a trade today–a girly for a girly,” said the green man. He bent down with his arms outstretched. –Chapter 1, Guided by Magic
As the Karakesh Chronicles expanded, the Grassmen gained depth as characters. They were the middlemen between the dwarves and others in the kingdom. In Guided by Magic, Miela’s stalker, Mick Curmin, hires a Grassman to find her. A Grassman has no conscience. He would, as I wrote in one of the books, murder his own mother for gold.
When the Grassman Vetch kidnaps Prince Emric (Awakening Magic), he has no regard for his victim’s misery. Vetch first pulls a sack over the prince, then callously slings Emric across the back of a horse. Hardly able to breathe, Emric passes out.
Grassmen are horse-lovers, but they prefer to steal a horse rather than pay for it. In Tangled in Magic, Malcolm loses his good pony to a Grassman after his mad escape from the half-warlock, Santer.
Grassmen, of course, are all green. They have green skin and wear green clothes. Rami, the changeling from Guided by Magic (Chapter 1, above) is half Grassperson. Her skin is pale green, and her hair almost white. The Grass People reject half-breeds and exchange them for human offspring. They sell these children to the dwarves to work as slaves in the mines.
The Grass People live in Liriope, a town of grass buildings shaped like stooks (sheaves of grass or grain stacked on end).
In the evening, the grass houses glimmer with faerie lights, since candles or fires would be a foolish, dangerous source of light or warmth.
The Grassmen in the Karakesh Chronicles seem to have an odd appeal. Readers mention them more often than other fantasy characters. Here’s one reader who made himself a Grassman hat for Halloween!
The three Karakesh Chronicles (Tangled in Magic, Guided by Magic, Awakening Magic) are available on Amazon