ind by Susanna Clarke:
'Fairies born in the last eight centuries or so – sophisticated, literate and consorting all their lives with Christians – have no more difficulty than Christians themselves in distinguishing between the animate and the inanimate. But to members of older generations the distinction is quite unintelligible.
Several magical theorists and commentators have noted that fairies who retain this old belief in the souls of stones, doors, trees, fire, clouds etc., are more adept at magic than the younger generation and their magic is generally much stronger.
The following incident clearly shews how, given the right circumstances, fairies come to regard perfectly ordinary objects with a strange awe. In 1697 an attempt was made to kill the Old Man of the White Tower, one of the lesser princes of Faerie. The would-be assassin was a fairy called Broc (he had stripes of black and white fur upon his face). Broc had been greatly impressed by what he had heard of a wonderful new weapon which Christians had invented to kill each other. Consequently he forsook all magical means of killing the Old Man of the White Tower (which had some chance of success) and purchased instead a pistol and some shot (which had none).
Poor Broc made his attempt, was captured and the Old Man of the White Tower locked him up in a windowless stone room deep in the earth. In the next room the Old Man imprisoned the pistol, and in a third room the shot. Broc died some time around the beginning of the twentieth century (after three centuries without a bite to eat, a drop to drink or a sight of the sun, even fairies grow weaker).
The pistol and the shot, on the other hand, are still there, still considered by the Old Man as equally culpable, still deserving punishment for their wickedness. Several other fairies who wished to kill the Old Man of the White Tower have begun by devising elaborate plans to steal the pistol and the shot, which have attained a strange significance in the minds of the Old Man’s enemies. It is well known to fairies that metal, stone and wood have stubborn natures; the gun and shot were set upon killing the Old Man in 1697 and it is quite inconceivable to the fairy mind that they could have wavered in the intervening centuries. To the Old Man’s enemies it is quite clear that one day the gun and the shot will achieve their purpose.'
Susanna Clarke's novel 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell' is required reading if you like this sort of thing. As is Neil Gaiman's novel 'Stardust'. For the last couple of years I've been lending these books to whoever I think will read them.