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Unsung Heroes: Stories of Behind the Scenes Neopians


by thebanditrocks

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Author’s Note: This is the first in a series of interviews conducted with a handful of Neopia’s unsung heroes – those who keep our world spinning (sometimes, quite literally!). From gardeners to engineers, these often thankless jobs are the backbone of the Neopian way of life. I have spent months travelling across the globe, trying to convince many of these humble public servants to sit down with me for even a short while. While many were hesitant at first, all eventually opened up to me and shared wonderful stories, wisdom, and insights, which I hope I have captured adequately for all readers to enjoy.

     --

     Yesterday was my first interview for a new series I am authoring – “Unsung Heroes: Stories of Behind-the-Scenes Neopians” – and I was extremely nervous. I had spent the previous two weeks researching and rehearsing for this moment, and I had no idea what to expect. I am about to interview the Head Gardener of the Royal Faerie Gardens. Three months ago, I did not think this would ever be possible – until a chance encounter at the Marketplace led to a promising contact within the Faerieland Employment Agency. Within a week, I was in direct communication with Mr. Marvin Blu, who has held his position as Head Gardener for nearly 50 years. He was excited about the project I was pitching and offered to be my first interview. For that, I am eternally grateful. Yesterday, as I sat nervously in a small drawing room inside Faerieland Castle, my nerves were instantly calmed when the door opened to reveal Mr. Blu himself. A Blue Blumaroo of short stature, the ends of his coat were turning slightly grey. His round spectacles, balanced precariously on his nose, are the only other detail about him that betrays his age. His smile is warm and genuine, and the sparkle in his eyes reflects his clear zest for life.

     Thebanditrocks: Mr. Blu – it’s so nic-

     Marvin Blue: Please, call me Marvin! There’s no need to be formal around me!

     TBR: Okay, Marvin. It’s so nice to finally meet you. I don’t want to take up too much of your time – so shall we go ahead and get started?

     MB: Absolutely. I’m so glad you could come to visit and talk with me today.

     TBR: That’s usually what I’m supposed to say! But I’m excited to be here too. So, how did you first come to join the Royal Faerie Gardens team?

     MB: My father worked here during many harvest seasons – the Faeries often require extra help in autumn for those sorts of activities. When I was old enough, dad would bring me along. I would spend hours roaming the gardens, looking for the best-hidden spots. Once, I happened into a secluded glade with a small pond, and came face to face with Fyora herself!

     TBR: You must have been a bit star-struck, as a young child!

     MB: Oh, I was. But Queen Fyora was as gracious as the books describe her. We struck up a friendship, of sorts. When I came of age, she offered me the position here. It is a position that did not exist before my tenure, and I am honoured to be thought of so highly by Fyora as to be trusted with her precious gardens.

     TBR: Most of Neopia understands that the gardens are magical – but what does that mean, exactly? How much care do the gardens require, if any at all?

     MB: Well, all I can say is that if they required no care, I would be out of a job! Surprisingly, even magically enhanced gardens and groves require tending. It seems that magic is no substitute for a true green thumb. We may be able to cast watering spells on the plants, but planting, trimming, harvesting, and arranging are all still done by hand. I have a fantastic team of assistants that help me with each day’s tasks.

     TBR: What is the layout of the gardens? Do you have a favourite spot?

     MB: The gardens are sprawling, and take up a large central courtyard which is surrounded on all sides by the Royal Castle. The largest garden is the formal garden, which is home to the famous Faeriecinths. All the most beautiful flowers live here. It is stunning to behold, and the picturesque stream and gazebo also make this a popular spot for painters. Truthfully, it is one of my least favourite places. Perhaps because it is so well known, or perhaps because almost all the flowers are completely ornamental. I prefer a garden which has a purpose. The orchard is my favourite place to have a picnic or read a book, and the herb garden is where I do all my best thinking! We also have a rose garden, a large aquatic garden featuring Primella of every colour, and experimental growing fields for food research. After the interview is over, I’d be honoured to give you a tour.

     TBR: I can’t wait! So then, I imagine you live here in Faerieland full time?

     MB: Yes, for the most part. I have a modest apartment here in the city, directly above the furniture store. I try to take a few weeks off each winter so that I can visit home on Roo Island. Though, it has grown up so much that I barely recognize it anymore. Did you know they got their very own coffee shop recently? It’s practically becoming the Big City!

     TBR: Speaking of coffee, I understand that cocoa beans are grown in the research section of the Gardens that you mentioned earlier. Could you tell me a little more about that?

     MB: Certainly. Fyora has instituted an experimental garden as part of a sustainable food initiative she is working on. Being good friends with the Soup Faerie, Fyora is all too aware of how many Neopians are struggling to find reliable sources of nutrition. We use the space here to grow new varieties of plants which have high yields and resistance to disease – am I getting too technical? Oh, well, at any rate, we are trying to make more food for less money. And, while the Gardens aren’t technically open to the public, we do provide a large supply of foods, herbs and flowers to shops all over Neopia, free of charge. Most of the experimental food never leaves the castle grounds – at least, not until it has been thoroughly tested. The last thing we want to do is cause an accidental epidemic of Bloaty Belly.

     TBR: I know this question may be cliché, but do you have a favourite plant in the garden?

     MB: Not cliché at all. I have several! The Star of Paradise flower is my favourite ornamental plant. I adore the colours. Rude Daffodils make me chuckle each time I walk by them. The glow of the Florange tree is stunning, especially at night. (Author’s Note: At this point, Mr. Blu paused in thought for the first time during our interview. After some time, he responded as follows.) The Ummagine. I believe it is my favourite. It is unsuspecting and unglamorous (it grows underground) and a hassle to harvest. But it is abundant and affordable to all Neopians, with a unique taste and texture to boot. Yes, I believe of all the wonder and beauty we have here, the Ummagine may just be my favourite of the bunch.

     TBR: Do you have any gardening tips you’d like to share?

     MB: Actually, I’d like to talk to you about a book I am planning to write: “Marvin Blu’s Cure for the Gardening Blu’s.” What do you think? Okay, I admit it’s a working title. I do have two tips I would like to share. First, garden to your climate. Not everyone has the benefit of Faerie magic. If you don’t have access to magic, then research the best options for your area and plant those. Invasive species are a real problem in Neopia, and we can all do our part to stop their spread. And speaking of spread, also watch out for PetPet swarms, such as Scarabugs and Buzzers. I find that dedicating feeders to these creatures helps lure them away from my precious plants. Plus, then I have a fun feeder to watch from my window in the evenings.

     TBR: Thank you so much for your time, Marvin.

     MB: I’m happy to open the door to this project of yours. I hope you will speak with many others more deserving of your spotlight than a simple gardener! Now, how about that tour?

 
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