Spoiler alert! I recommend missing this post if you have not read Delilah Dusticle and Delilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure.
I have written many times about how a bad cleaning experience gave me the idea for writing a story about a magical maid. However, I have never written about where her magic comes from. When I came up with Delilah Dusticle and her magical ability to eradicate dust, I had not completely formed who she was, where she was from and where she was going. It seemed obvious that she would work as a maid in a big house. I just needed to fill in the other details.
In the first story, Delilah gets her heart broken, she looses control of her dust disappearing magic and begins to shower dust everywhere. When she breathed she would exhale dust. When she walked across the room she would leave a trail of dust. At her most miserable, the dust would fall around her like snow. Making more mess than she could clear away she is let go. This is when her journey of rebuilding her life begins. She makes an unlikely friend and they start a business called Dustbusters and employ a team of Dustbusters. Delilah starts to control her ability to make and eradicate dust.
Here is their company logo. Pulvis et Servitium is Latin for Dust and Service.
So, where does this crazy dust magic come from? Well, Dustbusters becomes famous, and weird and wonderful offers to clean grand houses start to come in. Delilah and the Dustbusters accept an offer to go abroad to Transylvania to clean Dracula’s castle. Actually, this is what they think they have been invited over to do. When they arrive they find it quite the opposite. I can't give any more away so, I leave that to your imagination.
While in Transylvania, Delilah finally discovers from Count Dracula who she is. She discovers that she is a Brownie. This is where I need to explain, as I expect some of you reading this might be thinking of a chocolatey treat or even the girl guides/scouts (in the UK, a Brownie is a girl scout). But did you know a Brownie is also a type of house elf that helps out around the house or on the land? They are seldom seen by normal humans and exchange their hard graft for gifts of food. Brownies features in folklore all over Europe.
I grew up knowing about this mythical creature because in Sweden we have Tomtes. They are mainly represented at Christmas time, but they do chores around the house or on the farm in exchange for porridge.
Here is a picture by Swedish artist Jenny Nyström
In the UK, Brownies were mainly associated with the North of England and Scotland. They were also known as Hobs (hobgoblins).
I took all these details about house elves one step further and came up with the idea that each Brownie would have one special magical skill. Delilah can eradicate dust, but her brother can make things grow from nothing. Other Brownies would be able to bake amazing dishes from a few ingredients. Anything domestic, then there would be a Brownie that would be able to charm it into being.
I came up with a reason why humans rarely saw a Brownie and this was because they would take advantage of them. There is a house gnome in Germany called Heinzelmännchen and the story goes that the people of Cologne had gnomes working throughout the night, so they could be lazy during the day. I considered that Brownies all around the world felt tired of being used for their skills and wanted their freedom. They ran away into hiding and as far as Delilah knows, she and her brother are the only ones left.
So there you have it! Delilah is a Brownie, a mystical being, and that is where her magic comes from. Her adventures are fun, mystical and weird. Her friends are loyal, hilarious and complex. Her origin is written in folklore and she is quite possibly the only one left of her dust making kind. Or is she?
To read the first chapter of Delilah Dusticle, click the button!
A.J. York is a middle grade and children's writer. Author of Delilah Dusticle, Eliza Bluebell and A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story. A.J York has a Swedish and British background and currently lives in Gothenburg, Sweden.