Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Damnation of the Fey Folk

"Don't you see," she said, "the moon is not out of reach. In fact, it's waiting for you to embrace it."     @scottstabile

     So, I did miss Sunday's update, but I have a good excuse! I woke up at 6:00 and drove to Austin for a concert there (called Spirit Fest - Switchfoot, David Crowder, Mercy Me, etc.) and didn't get home until 1:15... the next morning.... So! It is Wednesday and I am updating now! On another interesting note Louie Giglio is my convo speaker today so yay! 

      Today's topic of conversation is that of the Faerie! Mostly when the average modern thinks of the Fairy they think of sweet little creatures with butterfly wings, like this:
Soaring on a Blue Butterfly, Ida Outhwaite 
but I am here to tell you that this modern conception is completely false... and insipid. The modern fairy, while pretty, can hardly be called a fairy at all. In tradition Fairies are shape-shifting troublemakers known for causing mischief and being particularly dangerous. Most treatment of the subject of fairies in antiquity deals with how to protect one's self  from their malice. Fairies were known for anything from leading travelers astray on their journeys, creating any sort of unexplained mischief, and even kidnapping children. They weren't particularly nice sorts of creatures, in fact the name Fairy - or Fair Folk - is a sort of platitude meant to keep the recipient of the title in a good mood. Fairies weren't even exceptionally pretty (except when they wanted to be) and their shapes could  range from ethereal humanish beings, to small little troll looking things. It was really the Victorian Age that killed the real fairy. Tinkerbell can be seen as the last vestige of an old tradition. 

     But, then, why does this even matter? Well, I think it matters because in modern times we don't have monsters anymore, at least not in our stories. Well, who cares, and  isn't that a good thing? I would argue that it's actually a disturbing trend in literature. We take creatures like Fairies and render them utterly impotent. We've seen this done with other creatures too - Vampires are now the boyfriend every thirteen year old idiot girl wants because he's dangerous and sparkles, werewolves are sympathetic creatures who have no control over what they do, an ogre can be a hero, and even witches and wizards can be merely misunderstood people who were never given love and affection as children. Now, don't get me wrong,there is some kind of human appeal in stories like this (except Twilight, I will never understand the appeal of Twilight). It's always nice to root for the underdog or explore some aspect of goodness in a creature that's typically evil, but stories like this come at a cost. When you redeem monsters you have no choice other than to make human beings the villains, or at least make real humanity irrelevant.

       By making monsters more human or stripping them of their ugliness you lose the opportunity for effective moral stories. You can make moral points of good triumphing over evil using only human characters, but the effect is much more horrifying. If, however, the evil is wrapped up in some inhuman creature you can fully support the actions of the hero. Of course Dorothy melts the witch, of course, of course Harker and Quincey destroy Count Dracula, of course Aslan destroys Jadis. The old monsters, the old mythical creatures were created to serve as tools for human morality. You do them a disservice by lessening their malice, and you do the human race a disservice too. Having a sweet and pretty butterfly fairy strips it of all of its power and renders it only useful for drawings and paintings. But if you have malicious fairies, fairies that are spiteful and dark, and mysterious, then you have a story. If you have vampires that sparkle then you have Twilight, but if you have Count Dracula then you have allegory and moral meaning. Human beings are storytelling creatures, we only do ourselves a disservice when we take away the potential for a moral story away by giving monsters humanity. The only way we can save creatures like fairies, then, from the fate of becoming completely impotent is by damning them. It is only by damning monsters to a fate of wickedness that they become safe for human beings. The real danger lies not in their evil, but in allowing them to be saved. When the monsters are blessed we have no other choice than the damn ourselves.
I do apologize for the garbled nature of this post, it was written as a stream of consciousnesses sort of thing.   

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