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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Faery tales

There's a deliberate spelling there, not a typo. I do mean faery tales. 

On to the subject matter. We were just at the cinema watching Disney's Frozen. I knew it was a musical (or could guess as much, knowing Jonathan Groff and Idina Menzel were voicing some of the characters) but I did not know what it was about. I have a major objection with the storyline: namely, that nothing happened when Anna found out about Elsa's powers and I never quite understood why she wasn't allowed to leave the castle, which kind of makes those years of silence pointless. Other than that, I'm very happy with the strong female leads and that nice turn where true love was not necessarily a kiss from your other half but an act of love for anyone. Moreover, they even had time to teach girls about scoundrels who only pretend to like them and boys about respecting boundaries and asking. Well played, Disney. Well played. The music was okay, the singing was superb. And then, when the credits rolled and I looked eagerly for the name of the person doing Anna's voice, I found out it was all based on The Snow Queen. As in Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. Probably not the best adaptation, but I don't hate it. 

At any rate, it's interesting because just before leaving I had been looking into faery tales. There's a make-up contest I thought I'd give a shot (I tried last month and lost, but I refuse to be discouraged: I could use an excuse to play around with make-up and I kind of like having a theme). The theme for the month, you may have guessed, was faery tales. I'd been looking at a list on Wikipedia trying to find inspiration and I had coincidentally pored over Hans Christian Andersen's stories briefly. My other tabs? Oscar Wilde's short stories, The Beauty and the Beast, Babiole, Belle-Belle (I'd never stopped to think of a Mulan-style, transgender plot in a faery tale, but there we have this one)... and The Forest Bride. I'll be honest, part of it is because I was drawn to the whole forest bride reference, as it reminded me of Kementári and other Earth-element women of mystery in other legends (kind of like the forest equivalent of the yuki-onna in another tab, or perhaps nymphs). Then I read a translation of the story and started reading too much into it. Maybe you can guess why. Even if you can't, I suppose you can't be too surprised to find me overanalysing anything so... 

My research went no further than a quick skim through the Wikipedia article until I reached a couple of conclusions. First, they can be used to talk about unlikely (or flat-out impossible) stories. Second, they are tales of an older time when magic was still the norm. Why, apparently an alternative to "Once upon a time" is "In the old times when wishing was still effective." And that just evokes all the right pictures. For me, at any rate. 

This should explain my choice of spelling for the word "faery."

I don't suppose it's exactly clear now because it's been so long since I last brought it up, but mythology, legends and faery tales were my introduction to literature (and some cheap philosophy, might I add). I've always been drawn to these mysterious enchantresses in the woods, to the spirits of the forest and the Mother Earth figures. Maybe it's because they're strong/powerful/magical/wise and live alone independently (think of Galadriel* or Nimue). They tend to be lonely characters or have love stories that don't quite work out. They're strong and embody a fundamentally feminine sentiment. I don't think I'd given it this much thought until just about now. Well, they're amazing. In a genre that specialises in giving out beautiful women as prizes to men with the right set of moral values (or military prowess) they stand above it all. Not so in The Forest Bride, big disappointment there (unless you see it as her victory for scoring the man she laid eyes on and convincing him to marry a mouse). But something's still to be learned from the story.

You see, the lead character only found love because he set out in the wrong direction, which is to say he tried to find love where no one would have thought of trying. He's rewarded, of course, with a wife who is beautiful, rich and good at housework, would you give me a break? NOT THE POINT. Our "hero" finds his wife because he's kind, persistent and a bit optimistic even in the face of an almost certainly unpleasant future. There's an element of blind faith in fate thrown into the mix somewhere. That about sums up everything you want a lead character to do in order to reach a happy ending. You see, it's because they can wish for something and blindly trust that things will sort themselves out if they follow a simple (however hard) set of instructions. That sort of thing doesn't work in real life anymore. Magic is very much dead these days. At least the magic that made faery tales happen. Talk about being born in the wrong time period.


*I know she's married. Just how often is her husband mentioned? Does he ever do anything other than help welcome guests? She's the one ruling the land and making decisions. She's the one who comes from a line of demi-gods. She's the one with the amazing powers. 

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