I watched a show on Gypsy Vanner horses last night, which got me thinking about gypsies and tinkers and those people who used to travel around in Europe the last century by horse-drawn caravan. They’d pull into town, fix some things, camp on someone’s fields in the outskirts, sell some things, and then move on. According to the show I watched, they were very in to horse breeding and selling, and went to a big yearly fair in Appleby England. The show was about the horse, but I am curious about the people. Were there gypsies in the United States? The only people I can think of who primarily use horse and buggy are the Amish, and I don’t think they travel around like the gypsies do. And yes, I know the proper word is Roma or Romani (not to be confused with the Romans, who are from Italy).
Urban Dictionary has a different and more typical view on the people.
So a story popped up, as they do.
Because gypsies are rumored to have magic, and there is an iconic image of a gypsy woman wearing veils and bending over a crystal ball, I asked a what if.
Background: The gypsy vanner horses are used to pull the fancy gypsy wagons to the fair because the horses are impressive with all their wavy hair and feathery feet. They draw attention, which brings customers to the camp where the wagon sets up business.
So, what if the horses were actually family members who were shape-changed? The family members could take turns pulling the wagon, and being a horse is certainly cheaper than being a human, so it would be a cost saving measure – for a people who are very poor. And what if these draft horses were stolen and then turned back into humans in their captor’s hands?
Who would steal horses? Well, the obvious answer would be other gypsies – or a rival family of gypsies. Which lead me to think about the political and social setting of this potential story. I’m thinking Victorian or Medieval era. Possibly Ireland or Wales. The church is anti magic and the government is anti vagrant. There are still Lords and Ladies and big estates with big houses and people primarily travel by horse and carriage.
So, I know my heroes are poor, and unpopular with the general public, they have magic, and they are independent. I know my villains are jealous or anti magic or anti vagrant, or all three.
Because of the song The Whistling Gypsy/Gypsy Rover, romantic elements took hold. So, one horse/man is sold to a Lord, for his daughter. The horse turns back into a man, and a romance happens between the daughter and the gypsy man. Then, the daughter of the gypsy family that had lost its horses has a romance with the son of a rival family (the primary suspect in the theft), so a touch of Romeo and Juliet there. The romances intersect when the gypsy daughter and her beau track down her brother and his Lady. Then they all have to flee to some haven, because the real bad guys are after them.
I figure that the magic is matriarchal, and that only one female in this family per generation can have the magic at a time. The magic grows strong in youth and fades with age. The shape shifting also has a time limit, and it is hard for the person to hold the shape for a long time, and if he does, then he goes crazy. There would be some item that allows the shape shifter to change, like a gem or a jewel, and some ritual to first make the magic work. Which gives me some symbolism to work with.
And the ending…
Well – once again, I assume that everyone lives HEA, but I guess how that happens depends on my villains and my heroes.
They get to the haven, some dramatic climax happens, and the heroes prevail. How exactly? I’m not sure. I don’t know these people yet. I’m not entirely sure who my main villain is.
Does this idea have potential? Sure. Is it a “concept,” as defined by Story Engineering? Er, um, maybe. It’s lacking a theme I think. Some of the elements have been used before (the love stories, the church hating magic)…but the gypsy aspect is fairly fresh. And if I go Victorian instead of Medieval, I could introduce some Steampunk aspects, which may bring in the magic versus technology trope.
Obviously I need to ponder.