Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Boy Bathing

What is a fable? A fable is a very brief tale which is used to make a point. These tales often include supernatural happenings, but not always. Nevertheless, we often place the word fable within the ranks of the fairy tale elite. And that is fine.

Surely the most important contribution to fables came from a mysterious man named Aesop. I say mysterious because there is very little we know about this person. He lived in the good old days of Ancient Greece in and around 600 B.C. It is entirely conceivable that the man never lived at all and that his stories are merely the works of a number of people who all shared a clever wit. Even so, he was accredited with all of these tales so that they might have a face behind them. These stories are popular to this day and surprisingly relevant.

I do intend to use these spotlights to cover a wide array of Aesop's Fables over time. I consider them to be important in the extreme as to their universal depictions of morality within the human condition. They are perfect examples of how nothing has really changed in all of history. Humans are humans and time has done nothing to improve or evolve us in any way. The more and more you look into Aesop, you will come to understand how true this really is.

Very well. Let us have a look at "The Boy Bathing." Because of the fable's brevity, I see no reason why I should not simply give you the direct text rather than merely summarizing it. The fable ran as follows:

A boy bathing in a river was in danger of being drowned. He called out to a passing traveler for help, but instead of holding out a helping hand, the man stood by unconcernedly, and scolded the boy for his imprudence. “Oh, sir!” cried the youth, “pray help me now and scold me afterwards.”

A moral is sometimes listed along with a fable. In the case of "The Boy Bathing," the moral is listed as "Counsel without help is useless." And so ends the fable.

"The Boy Bathing" is a story that is entirely grounded in reality, yet the circumstances seem greatly forced. The older gentleman really does seem fairly idiotic for making speeches while the boy is clearly in the process of drowning. This is what a fable does. It is a simple A + B = C structure. The drowning boy (representing A) is approached by an idiotic man (representing the B). They are forced together by authorial destiny to equal C (the moral.) Fables are, more often than not, extremely forced so that the point of it is as clear as possible. You must relate to it or else the fable has failed in its duty to convince you of anything.

This particular fable ridicules people who tend to argue more than assist. There are people out there who are very quick to speak but not act. Talking without actions is usually indicative of an out-of-control ego. One may consider himself wise and wish to assist others by correcting them. But they do this from atop of a rock where no man can join him. The others must stay below and be miserable while the man atop claims that it is simply unfortunate that they did not climb on top of their own rock. It would have benefited them to do so. Meanwhile, he is not making any effort to actually help them up onto his own rock.

Everyone has an opinion as well as the right to have one. But opinions, in truth, are very worthless things. Speaking them is also worthless. Action is the only things anyone can be truly accredited with. We can only judge a man by his actions. A man's wisdom is also suspect unless there are actions to back it up. There is nothing good about a man who talks and talks and does nothing at all to back those words up.

As to the boy in the story, he is portrayed, at first, as a wayward juvenile that got himself into a bad situation. To err is human, yes? The boy made a mistake and found himself in a terrible spot. He needed help. Perhaps he was ready to make amends for his foolishness, or perhaps not. Whatever the case, he needed help. What he did not need was a speech. When someone is desperate and raise their hand up to others, the correct response is to take their hand. If they continually find themselves in a  likewise predicament, it may perhaps be best to ignore them. Personal judgement is key in cases like these. We have to make them at the time they occur and not plan them out in one way or another. I have never advocated living life by a set of rules. Simply be who you are and act with the best of intentions. Personal intentions have nothing to do with rules.

There are people out there who spend their whole lives destroying themselves. Whether it be an innocent first time or a repetitious deliberate action, they do not need others scolding them. You either help them or leave them to their fate. The actions or lack there of is the only thing that matters. And that is really what I got from this story. In every way, the old man was in the wrong. He spoke out of ego purely. It was all about him. And that is why he was cast as the villain regardless of the unknown character of the boy.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoyed it or hated it, you can comment below, or you can email me at tkwadeauthor@gmail.com. Splash!

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Old Man Made Young Again

I'm not sure if I mentioned that I have read the complete works of Grimm. I found a grand majority of them fascinating. There are a lot of little gems therein, and I will likely be showcasing even the obscure ones during the run of this spotlight series. This week I would like for you to look at a humorous yet still grizzly fairy tale that involves some religious figures.

There are quite a number of Grimm tales that star both Jesus and St. Peter as main characters. These stories are non-canonical to the Bible and are written as anecdotal stories to teach people lessons about their place in the world. It seems to me that proper Christians have mixed feelings about stories like this. Some think that they reinforce the faith and others think that it is blasphemous to reduce these characters to the state of a fictional fairy tale. For me, I really don't mind it at all.

In any case, let's get to our story. In "The Old Man Made Young Again," the story begins by explaining that the world exists in a state where the Lord (probably meaning Jesus himself) and Saint Peter roam about the earth. The period this happens oddly seems to hint at a time before the days of Christ. However, it could just as well be during his lifetime. There are a lot of stories that seem to place Earth in a period where Jesus would just come down from Heaven and pop by to say hi. Nothing wrong with that.

Saint Peter notices a beggar man who is extremely old and ill. Peter has pity on this man and asks Jesus if there is anything he can do for him. Jesus, being the miracle worker that he was, takes him to a blacksmith and asks him to fire up the coals. The old man is then tossed into the flames were he seems to be perfectly fine. The man is then taken out and tossed into some water to cool. At that moment, we find that the old man is now a handsome young man. All his woes are ended, and so Saint Peter and Jesus exit the story.

Now, the blacksmith had watched Jesus very carefully and thought he could do the same. He had a very old and ugly mother-in-law that he thought he might be able to help out. When he promises he can do the same for her, she reluctantly agrees. So as he saw with Jesus, he fires up the furnace and promptly threw in his mother-in-law. As you may be expecting, it did not go well. She was screaming at the top of her lungs that she was burning up in terrible pain. Humorously, the only thing the blacksmith has as a comment at this juncture is, "I have not quite the right art."

Finally, he pulls her out of the flames and likewise tosses her into the water to be cooled. She is entirely burned and screaming in miserable pain but still somehow alive. The screaming draws in the blacksmith's wife and daughter-in-law who both happened to be pregnant. The moment they saw the horror that was the burned woman, they immediately go into labor and give birth to... and I am not joking here... apes. The two apes then run off to the forest to then give rise to a race of apes. And so ends the story.

I'll give you a moment to process that surprise ending.

Good? Let's continue.

The most obvious explanation to the story is that "we are not God and cannot do what God does." To some degree, this is not true. For myself, the real problem was the ego of the blacksmith which overrode his good sense. So sure was he that he could copy the actions of Jesus that he was willing to risk the life of his mother-in-law to do so.


He really... REALLY disliked his mother-in-law. ... With a passion.

The story also acts as a fanciful origin for a race of apes. You are welcome to form your own conclusions here. [Dangerous territory.] Nevertheless, it was a bit of a twist ending and was not really necessary to complete the story.

I do personally believe that human beings have the ability to do God's work. We can do miracles if we want to but not in the same manner as Jesus. He had a particular set of skills that he used, and we all personally have our own. Amazing things happen with humans all the time. We may not be turning water into wine, but we still went to the moon. The mistake made by the blacksmith was trying to be somebody that he was not. He wanted to steal what came naturally to Jesus. He should have stuck with blacksmithing.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: The Water-Nix

When we grow up into adulthood, some fairy tales seem odder than they did when we heard them as children. Children are marvelous when it comes to hearing fantastic or impossible things. However, sometimes impossible things are based on incidents that were indeed amazing. We can look at these cases and try and imagine what really happened. "The Water-Nix" contains situations that do not seem possible, but only in the modern day. First, let me spoil the story for you so you understand.

A brother and sister are out playing by a well. They both fall in and encounter a fairy creature called a water-nix. This creature is quite evil and forces the children to do hard labor for her with dull or broken implements--such as collecting water with a bucket that had a hole in it or cutting down a tree with a dull axe.

One day, the water-nix leave the children alone to go to church. The children take the opportunity to run away, but the nix figure this out and gives chase. This next part is where it gets weird. The girl tosses a brush behind her which turns into a hill with bristles on it. This gives the water-nix much trouble, but she inevitably manages crossing it. The boy then tosses a comb which transforms into a hill with 1000 x 1000 teeth that the nix will be forced to cross. With much trouble, she still manages it. Finally, the girl tosses her mirror which turns into a hill made of glass. It proves too slippery for the nix to cross.

The nix returns to her lair to get her axe and uses it to split the glass hill in two. However, by this time, the children are long gone. The water-nix is forced to return without her slaves. Thus ends the story.

There are a number of anomalies here which I need to cover. Here is a list:

1. What is a water-nix?
2. Why was the water-nix going to church?
3. How did the children come across the magical items? -or- How were they able to use them?
4. Is this story real?

Let us begin.

Question #1: What is a water-nix?
A water-nix is primarily something found in Germanic folklore. It is generally portrayed as a formless, shape-shifting creature that lives in the water. They are almost always female. The water-nix is a malicious spirit entity that tries to lure people--generally men--into the water to either drown them or make them into slaves. Depending on the region, they can also be referred to as a neck, nicor, nixie, or nokken. They are always evil and must be avoided at all costs.

Question #2: Why was the water-nix going to church?
Short answer is that I really have no idea. I was unable to uncover this information. However, I do have a good, old-fashioned guess for you. It may be a plot device used to demonstrate hypocrisy. I know of a number of people who loyally go to church despite the fact that they are terrible people everywhere else. Realistically, I am incredibly doubtful that a water-nix would ever actually go to church, what with them being somewhat busy trying to kill and enslave. Another educated guess would be that it was a placed within the story as a light joke. What do you think?

Question #3: How did the children come across the magical items? -or- How were they able to use them?
Go into your bathroom, grab your brush or comb, and toss it outside to see what happens. I bet you that 10 out of 10 times, it will just flop to the ground without incident. So what gives? There are a number of possibilities actually. One suggests that they were being helped. There very well could have been a section of this story that was unknown to the teller. A secondary fairy character could have met with these children and given them these magical objects or the ability to use them. When the children tell their story, this part was left out.

Another possibility is that the objects belonged to the water-nix herself. The children did not know they were magical and simply were tossing them at her to keep her away. The items--being that they belonged to a magical creature--responded in a magical way much to the chagrin of the water-nix. A major contributing factor to this theory is how the water-nix splits the glass hill with her own personal axe. This suggests she already had magical items in her possession.

A third possibility is that this took place in a time where magic was much more common. The children simply knew magic and were able to transform these implements in their escape. This would date the original events back by a very large degree.

Question #4: Is this story real?
There is enough information within the story so that we can believe in the possibility that it MIGHT have happened. It, at the very least, could be based on something that happened long ago. It does feel like pieces are missing though. The story seems extremely abridged. As time goes by, stories often lose a lot of detail and can become more fanciful than they really should be. So this story gets a maybe.

I really do wonder if there was a secondary fairy character that these children ran into during their imprisonment. Who was he? Why did he want to help them? Had he helped others before these children? We may never find out, but please remember that not all fairy entities are hostile. Some simply want to help out. Either way, these kids made a grand escape that is almost impossible to believe. Think about it.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fairy Tale Spotlight: What Qualifies as a Fairy Tale?

Let's look at three books and see if we can decide whether or not they qualify as a fairy tale. Here is the list:

Bambi by Felix Salten - A realistic story about animals living in the forest from their personal perception/perspective. A translation of animal nature into terms we can understand... but still with talking animals.

Watership Down by Richard Adams - An adventure/horror story about rabbits trying to move from a dangerous area to a safe haven at the top of a hill. Story is similar to Bambi with one exception. The story occasionally depicts supernatural occurrences and entities.

The Holy Bible - A book considered by Christians to be an account of things that really occurred. Nevertheless, it is filled to the brim with supernatural happenings that are almost beyond belief. The book also contains instances of talking animals as well as ethereal beings.

Let us begin.

The first thing I am going to do is give you the full definition direct from a dictionary. See below:

fairy tale
1. a story, usually for children, about elves, hobgoblins, dragons, fairies, or other magical creatures.
2. an incredible or misleading statement, account, or belief: His story of being a millionaire is just a fairy tale.

British Variation

fairy tale
1. a story about fairies or other mythical or magical beings, esp one of traditional origin told to children
2. a highly improbable account

Before I continue, we need to all agree that, as of the recent century, fairy tales are for more than just children. If I need to bring up "Lord of the Rings" I will, but I don't think I will. Onward.

Now, the first definition of both variations seems to imply that the presence of some sort of magical creature must occur in the story for it to be considered a fairy tale. The American definition bothers to list out examples where the British one does not. Either way, there is not much difference between them. On definition #1, we can rule out "Bambi" as there are no magical creature in it at all. However, "Watership Down" and "The Holy Bible" appear to have more than enough to qualify.

The second definition seems more of an expressional use of the term, but let us look at it anyways. Definition #2 seems to imply that the statement made is a false one. Are fairy tales false? The American definition (#2) seems to push for a misleading account where the British definition (#2) uses the words "highly improbable" which means it still could be true. I almost feel like it is warning me against believing it. So this leaves me with the question: Does it have to be fiction in order for it to be a fairy tale? If so, then Christians would not be very comfortable calling "The Holy Bible" a fairy tale.

It seems to me that there is an overwhelming belief that if something is a fairy tale then it must be a work of fiction. But we tell stories all the time about amazing things. We have had heroes in our past that did amazing things and books were written about them. We look up to them and imagine what it would be like to be so great. What if fairies and magic were real? Would writing about them disqualify them simply on the grounds that they are fairy tales?

If "The Holy Bible" is true then it is clearly a true fairy tale. Nothing about either of the first definitions state that the story had to be a work of fiction. Therefore my own personal conclusion is that both "Watership Down" and "The Holy Bible" are both bonafide fairy tales whether or not either one of them is true or false because they meet the definition.

Now, I am going to do something a little wonky. I am also going to say that "Bambi" is a fairy tale too. I had a conversation with a few people about this recently. I had them all vote on it, and it all tallied to about 50/50. I think this happened because, despite the fact the animals are simply being translated, the fact that we see them speaking to one another seems like magic to us. They also seem more like people when we present them doing it. It is a stretch, and I am aware that many will disagree (as in my little voting session). I would, however, encourage people to not always be so "legal" when it comes to dictionary definitions.

Imagination is a funny, quirky thing. It is generally unrestrained by legalities and politics. It sort of just goes off on its own and does whatever it wants. When you read "Bambi" and hear those animals talk, you are letting go of everything real in the world and exchanging it for something impossible. And if the impossible can inspire your imagination, think about the possibilities that may come from those impossible things. Fairy tales, real or not, are powerful things in our universe. And as we read and create new ones, the true definition of a fairy tale may broaden ever so slightly in the direction of infinity. Never misjudge the power of human imagination.

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