Monday, March 16, 2009

Lament, Fairies, and the moral order--a mini essay

Ok, I just finished reading Lament , by Maggie Stiefvater, and loved it. (I'm a sucker for Tam Lin retellings, and this is a GOOD one!)

It also got me thinking about the meaning of fairies ----- so I'm going to inflict a mini-essay on you. (I'm trying to move my 'first of the morning' rants off other people's blogs and onto this one. I think that's called 'establishing a presence', right? )

My favorite line in Lament comes at the end of the book.
"What happens to Deirdre?"

Eleanor shrugged. "Probably an extremely boring life. Ugly
children. Midlife crisis. Bed Pan. Death."

Why do I like this line so much? Because it hammered home the meaning of fairies. It's a given that Zombies represent our fear of death and decay, right? Well, I think fairies are more complicated. They represent BOTH our fear of adult-hood, and a fear of perpetual adolescence.

They represent our fear of adulthood, because they're perpetually young and beautiful. They kidnap teens and give them an eternity of parties, dances, feasts and music. They have no responsibility or consequences. They can dance in the moonlight while drinking champagne, and they never have hang-overs. They can have bruised egos, but never broken hearts. They're forever 16, and forever the coldest, cruelest, 16 imaginable.

And what do the fairies fear? You can see it in Eleanor's reply. "Ugly children." --Having duties and responsibilities to another, coupled with the unconditional love of a parent. Suffering because you see another's suffering. COMPASSION.

"Midlife crisis" --realizing you may have been on the wrong path. Wondering if you focused on the wrong goals. Despairing, because you can't go back and start over. REGRET.

"Bed pans" -- Aging. Growing weak and ugly. Needing others to take care of your most basic bodily needs. DEPENDENCE.

and DEATH.

The fairies shun all these things, and so they're evil and destructive. And in all the Tam Lin stories, the answer to the riddle, the way to SAVE the fairy knight from his cruel fate, is to embrace these things. Janet must love the fairy knight, and want to save him from his agony. She has to wonder if she's made the right choice as she's waiting in the darkness beside the road. She has to hold onto him, no matter what happens, and she has to endure pain, suffering, and the specter of death.

***Random Lenten Adendum---ignore if you're not interested.-------******

Another interesting thing, at least to me, is that the Tam Lin story, and the fears of the Fairy Queen, also echo the Way of the Cross. (Didn't Chesterton say something about all these legends pointing towards Christ? Or was that Augustine? Oh, well, I'll look for it later.)

How does Christ save us, and the world, from Satan's dominion?

Compassion - Think of when he meets the women on the road, and tells them to weep for themselves, not for him. Or when he says 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do'

Regret - The agony in the Garden. "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"

Dependence -- The wine-soaked sponge. Simon of Cyrene's help.



In a sense, everyone in the world is a Tam Lin, imprisoned by sin and cruelty. And Christ is Janet, riding to our rescue, so that we can finally LIVE.

****End of Lenten Rant********

Anyway, the upside of posting my morning rants on my OWN blog is that I can include religious themes if I want. The downside is no one will read them, argue with me, and call me out on my logical fallacies......


Maggie Stiefvater said...

*I* will read them and dance with delighted hand-clappings of shared musings. I love what you took out of LAMENT and your interpretations of faeries -- SO. GOOD.

I've had readers say "but you're Catholic and you write about faeries." or "Don't you believe in good and evil!? Your fairies are so evil!"

But they aren't. They're ammoral. The only moral characters in my faerie novels are the humans -- and they can choose whether they are good or evil. It's not an accident that the most wicked character in the book is . . . taDA a human.

This was a great rant. I loved it.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Thanks, Maggie! Btw-- I checked out you Livejournal and really enjoyed the "Fairies in Delaware" story-- You should totally submit it to F&SF magazine--they always want more humor, and that was GREAT. =)

As for the "How can you be Catholic and write about Fairies?" You can always tell them that all good fiction has SOME link to the truth....

So if you tell a story about courage and self-sacrifice and love and how physical things MATTER, then it's a Catholic story.

After all, aren't four-leaf clovers and iron nails in Fairy stories sort of like sacramentals? Physical things that affect spiritual things?

Fairies are VERY Catholic...

(Also--just thought of this one... a four leaf clover lets you see fairies.... which sort of points to the Shamrock (3 leaf clover?) that let St. Patrick explain the trinity..... See... super-Catholic! =) )

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Whoo, thanks! I'm pretty sure I can't submit any of the Merry Sisters of Fates stories anywhere useful though, because most big mags want to have the first edition rights (which I have given up by posting for free online). But I appreciated the vote of confidence!

I personally think that any novel that celebrates good and smacks down evil is perfectly fine stuff for Catholics to be reading. It's why I never got the hullabaloo over Harry Potter.