Monday, March 14, 2005

Faerieland: by request

Actually this was a post I've been holding on to, but just can't seem to get enough time to edit it properly...so here goes.

May I propose that our culture has lost its ancient sense of superstition with its fascination with technology. Except, of course, if our superstitions are founded upon a technological imagination. It is not preposterous for a well-respected person to believe there is life somewhere besides earth: just turn on the Sci-Fi channel and you may be blessed by a number of different films, shows dedicated to this possibility. Just recently I was watching one with Val Kilmer wherein he must do something heroic on Mars to get the girl.

So lately I've been teaching myself about the lovely "Longaevi" or Long-livers (no, their livers are not long). These are the those whom the ancient and modern Celts call the "good people," the "people of the wood," "fairies" and whom fantasy writers have taken a liking (we have to remember that C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein were first and foremost professors of Medieval English literature--they are not what you would call "original"--and that is, of course, what makes them great).

Apparently there is no question, for some, whether these folks actually exist. Just like for some demons are real and, though unseen, they invade our comfortable world. Many a college professor's career was put into question after s/he "came out" dedicating their research to these superstitions. Just ask W. B. Yeats who spent much of his early career gathering faerie stories from Irish folks and collecting them into lovely anthologies.

So while a good college roomate adored artwork of the faerie, I feel obligated to set the record straight: these are not little people with wings (I do not know enough of the pixies)--this was a modern invention (kinda). They are usually human-size folks who are not governed by the rules of this world--they are overly passionate, violent, they love to hunt with hawks, clothe themselves in wonderful garmets, create beautiful gardens, etc.

Some famous examples occur in canonical literature such as: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Lanval, Sir Orfeo, Spenser's Faerie Queene, etc. Or take Shakespeare's Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream.

They can be fierce (even green) persons and beautiful at the same time. In fact, these two--beauty and horror--seem inseparable at times. They dwell in the space between this world and the next: just before you fall asleep at night, in-between night and morning, or in the cleft of a two large rocks.

What is necessary to be warned of is what role the faerie play in y(our) lives. Oftentimes they are ministers of a certain test. They invade our comfortable worlds in quite disheartening ways and remind us that they too share this earth. When you lose your phone or keys--yep, faeries. When you are cutting down a tree (they love trees, horses) and your ladder all of a sudden slips out from under you. You get the idea--this is the "aventour" (adventure)--a moment when you are to consider the frailty of your existence alongside a much deeper, more passionate, playful, skilled race.

I use frivolous examples since we are not religious/superstitious/spiritual enough to see the significance of this other world. Or are we?

3 Comments:

Blogger johanna said...

Now I have no choice. I will have to get Spenser's "Faerie Queen."

Merci beaucoup, Michel.

5:08 PM  
Blogger mattreed said...

1) You can still change the date, I think. Try to edit the post and change the date and the bottom.

2) I always get Edmund mixed up with Herbert. Not a pretty picture. Also, I'd read the Faerie Queen, too. But, it is long, long, long...

3) Recently, I keep being Thunderstruck while reading Chesterton. He writes along similar lines as you do in a chapter in Orthodoxy called "The Ethics of Elfland." Here is a sample, which like all good quotes begins with a quote within a quote (this time by Yeats--how fitting for the date, don't you think?):

'"Ride on the crest of the disheveled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame. "

'It is a dreadful thing to say that Mr. W. B. Yeats does not understand fairyland. But I do say it. He is an ironical Irishman, full of intellectual reactions. He is not stupid enough to understand fairyland. Fairies prefer people of the yokel type like myself; people who gape and grin and do as they are told. Mr. Yeats reads into elfland all the righteous insurrection of his own race. But the lawlessness of Ireland is a Christian lawlessness, founded on reason and justice. The Fenian is rebelling against something he understands only too well; but the true citizen of fairyland is obeying something that he does not understand at all. In the fairy tale an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition. A box is opened, and all evils fly out. A word is forgotten, and cities perish. A lamp is lit, and love flies away. A flower is plucked, and human lives are forfeited. An apple is eaten, and the hope of God is gone.'

But the whole chapter (slash book) is good. Cheers.

8:51 PM  
Blogger johanna said...

I knew it! I damn well knew it! I was raised with two fairies!

Case and point:

...when I was perhaps nine, a fairy raced into my room. Just as the sun was tracing the hills' backbone, I yawned and opened my eyes to find our family globe being spun round and round in my face, as fast as it would go. Then the fairy asked me, "Johanna, just how deep is the Pacific Ocean?"

Must've been a fairy, else he would've perished from the globe being hurled at his head, surely.

5:31 PM  

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