Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fairy Refugees and Outcasts

While many fairies lived in glamorous courts, beautiful crystal castles, and on golden mountains, many others lived in squalor, refugees, hiding from both humanity and fairy kind. These fairy refugees were banished for a number of reasons from Wars to political rivalries, or simple jealousy.

In Denmark one small troll/dwarf like being was caught flirting with the king of the trolls wife. Thus he had to go into hiding, taking the form of a cat and living with a human family to avoid the kings wrath.

In Brittany one fairies clan was destroyed by another neighboring clan of fairies and was forced to hide in the form of birds (and they would grant wished to any human kind enough to feed them while they were in hiding)

On "The Isle of Man" a fairy danced with a human girl on a day sacred to the fairies, and so was banished by the fairy court to live among humans for the rest of time.

Often times the house fairies of Europe were fairies who'd been banished from the fairy court, forced to learn hard work by serving the humans until the humans saw fit to pay them, thus proving their worth. Other house fairies lived among the humans because they needed shelter.

In Ireland, and many other places it was believed that humans had at one time waged war on the fairies, a war which the fairies lost. Defeated the fairies were forced into hiding. Humans, after all, have many forms of magic to help them overcome the fairies. Humans can use salt and iron, magical symbols and words which drive the fairies away or destroy their magic. In other places, such as Japan, and even the Celtic lands, humans had the power of the evil eye and were impure, both of which weakened the power of the fairies. Thus fairies could only use their greatest spells when humans weren't looking at them. More than this humans could accidentally place a curse on a fairy with a simple look.

In Ireland the Tuatha De Danann were unable to defeat the Irish in a test of arms because of the Irish peoples’ powerful druids and deities. So now the fairies are forced reside in the hills and rocks of Ireland much as fairies do throughout Europe (Wentz, 1911).

“Pixies were often supposed to be the souls of the prehistoric dwellers of this country. As such, pixies were supposed to be getting smaller and smaller until, finally, they are to vanish entirely.” (Wentz, 1911)

This paints a much more terrifying picture of some of the fairies than we often imagined. According to this account, the pixies who people often think of as cute, little, playful fairies, are small because they are shrinking into oblivion. What’s more, they have had to live for thousands of years with the knowledge that they will eventually disappear and that those humans who will remain are the decedents of the people who forced them into their horrible fate. It is no wonder then that such beings are caught between human-like sympathy and incredible bitterness because, while they must retain some human emotion, much of this emotion must be anger at being driven into their current state.

Many fairies are starving and bedraggled, they dwell in squallier, some even live under human homes, in invisible huts in backyards or in even worse conditions such as where humans throw their garbage. “There is a widespread story of a fairy woman who begs a cottager not to throw water out at the doorstep, as it falls down her chimney. The request is invariably granted (Andrews, 1913).

Such fairies often create an illusionary world, a world filled with good food, yet they still depend on human food for their sustenance. They therefore steal bread, meat, fruit and more from humans.

It may even be that many wilderness fairies (such as brownies which can also haunt forests and pools of water) became house fairies because they no longer had anywhere else to go but still felt the moral need to continue working.

In fairy tales many fairies were ostracized, considered far less then human. This is shown clearly in one German tale where a King chases down a “Wild Little Dwarf” as if he were game. Later when the king complains that he didn't catch any animals that day his men assure him that; “there is not so good a sportsman as you to be found in the whole world. You must not, however, complain of our day's luck; for you have caught an animal, whose like was never before seen or heard of." (Desent & Anderson, 1906)

Fairies often returned this cruelty in kind in yet another German story some travelers come across a group of fairy like beings living in a cave, huddling around fires to keep warm. Here the fairies trap the humans and begin to use them for their meat, roasting them on spits. (Krauss, 1883) Yet the fairies must always remember that humans once defeated them, drove them into the caves and so humans can still destroy them with iron, the evil eye and magical symbols if we wish.

Still not all relationships between humans and fairy refugees were bad. A farmer who lived in Emserwald Germany had no friends or relatives nearby to stand as Godfather for his child so he entered the woods. Here he found a dwarf, who asked to take the role. The dwarf was very pleased to be asked but he was too poor to give much of a gift to the child. When searching the cave where he lived the dwarf found a coal-black root and told the farmer that if he was starving he should distribute a little of this root to each member of his family. Than one hard winter the family was starving and so they ate the root which put them into hibernation until spring when there was food in the forests again. The fairies gift in this case wasn't some treasure but a means to avoid starving to death by avoiding the problem (Jegerlehner, 1907).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

3 Animated Fantasy Shorts

Amazing idea.

The Passenger
By Chris Jones





The Switch
By Tyson Hesse






Control Bear





Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Secrets of the Forgotten Goddesses

The first people were not farmers, they didn't concern themselves with the earth they worried about the hunting and fishing, the forests, mountains, and the water. Thus the most important goddesses in ancient lore was not the earth mother, rather they were the spirit owners of specific places.

In Selkup lore a forest goddess could appear to hunters and give them great skill, while in Japan the Kami of the mountains were most often goddesses who had a close relationship with hunters. Other Siberians would talk of a women who gave birth to magical reindeer, sometimes with eight legs, that would help shamans. Just as Loki in his female form gave birth to an eight legged horse that helped Odin. This has lead to the notion of the "Deer Mother."

More common in folktales from Japan and Europe, however, is the importance of female water spirits, which could often take the form of serpents. In the earliest lore we have from Japan it was female water kami that could take serpent form  which ruled the mountains. In Northern Italy it's female water spirits that take the form of Golden snakes the cause the plants in a region to grow. Just like the nymphs of Ancient Greece, the Nixies of Germany. These water spirits were commonly believed to possess early shamans giving them the skills and knowledge they needed to build and protect civilization.

So as civilization adapted the water goddesses transformed from being spirits of fishing and clean water to being spirits of farming and civilization. Indeed the idea of muses, and fate spinners is likely based on these early hunting and fishing goddesses. Indeed the Celts believed that skills from poetry, ship building came from the will female fairy like beings. Further in parts of Eastern Europe people held rituals to honor the water goddesses contributions to agriculture, weaving, and civilization into the modern era. Yet oddly enough the focus shifted away from this multitude of goddesses, of fairies, towards beings like Gaea, for which we have no evidence of extensive worship in most places. Indeed the Siberian people's didn't start worshiping any form of Earth Mother until the introduction of agriculture, while the Greeks, Celts, etc didn't pay much attention to her, and the Japanese primarily worshiped local mountain goddesses until they were conquered by the Imperial Court and forced, often with violence to recognize the Imperial ancestor, the Sun Kami as the primary deity.



Interesting points for Writers

Raised By Heroes

Nymphs in mythology founded cities, raised Zeus, and heroes, just as they raised Heroes in Germanic, Russian, and Celtic lore.


Protectors of the Land

Each land is protected by a deity, most often female. This deity helps the animals and plants thrive, inspires the people of the land, and protects them from evil spirits. If she gets sick, comes under attack, or is killed the region would unravel. In Japanese and Greek mythology she would often call on hunters to help her fight off evil, unclean enemies.

In Celtic lands the fairies often needed human knights to help them, for humans had iron and other magical devices weapons which they could not touch.

Further if one of these goddesses died a new one would have to be sought out, otherwise the land and it's people would die with her.


Descended from the Goddess

The people of a region were very often descended from a goddess's union with a hero figure. The people of Arcadia Greece, for example, were the children of a nymph who determined what the moral standards of the city would be and enforced these moral standards. She did this not only as the goddess of the city, but as the grandmother of the people who lived within it.

There are tales throughout the world of a man who marries a fairy figure of some form, has children, only to have the fairy eventually leave him. Yet she still watches over her children in secret. There are a number of reasons why she can't show herself to her children directly. Such as the fact that humans have the power of the evil eye which can harm fairies, or humans are impure which can also do them harm. In Russia it was believed that sins hurt fairy like creatures, and that humans eventually became so sinful the fairies had to flee the land. In Japan impurity (such as dirt, blood, death, etc) caused kami to loose their power. While in Western Europe if a human gazed at a fairy it could actually hurt the fairy, preventing it from using their magic.

So while humans may be descended from a fairy like beings which love them as a grandmother would, this fairy like being can only show itself to a few people.


Lament of Ur and Jenny Greenteeth

There is an ancient Mesopotamian poem called "The Lament of Ur" in which the founding goddess of Ur morns the destruction of her city. A ghost city to which she is now tied.

Jenny Greenteeth is a water spirit of Shropshire next to Wales, and is likely a former water goddess similar to those found in Wales. Except her land was conquered and her people destroyed. So she was forgotten and left alone.

These are essentially ghost goddesses.

Jacob Grimm tells of many of these ghost goddesses throughout Germany who've lost the ability to speak, but will still occasionally show people hidden treasures.

These spirits are lonely refugees from a forgotten world, though they appear to occasionally try to get their old world back. Nymphs and Jenny Greenteeth, among others will often possess people just as they used to, likely hoping to gain another shaman, but in the modern day this is often considered to be an attack, as possessions cause people to have violent reactions at first, thus the spirit is exorcised.










Monday, April 7, 2014

Bad Marriages - Feminism in Fairy Fairy Tales

Learn about Analyzing and Interpreting Fairy Tales

Many fairy tales, especially those told to the Grimm Brothers were passed on from mothers and grandmothers or nannies to their children, as men participated very little in raising children during the "Once Upon a Time." Yes there were peasants who told each other the tales in bars, hospices, or on trips, and there were wondering entertainers who told tales, but women were the ones from who most children learned fairy tales. This means that to some extent the themes that exist within fairy tales are the themes which the women of the past wanted to exist within them.

It's important to keep in mind, however, that fairy tales aren't the tale of the warrior caste, they are the stories of peasants, and as such they are primarily about people, men or women, who succeed through kindness, hard work, luck, cunning, or by following the advice of others. In other words there aren't many strong characters, mythology is the realm of the warrior women. The moral of these stories are the morals of a culture that was obsessed with hard work, rather than being true to oneself.

You can learn more at Fairy Tale Hero Archetypes and Fairy Tale Heroines.

Further for all their fancifulness with regards to the existence of magic, fairy godmothers, and the like, fairy tales tended to take a realistic, though often harsh, view of the life of women and girls. This is likely in part because part of the purpose of these tales was for mothers to prepare daughters for the troubles they might face, and pass on information on how to survive the harsh and cruel reality, while giving some, all be it, magical hope to them.

Marriage
For every Cinderella who lived happily ever after there were other women who like in Rumpelstiltskin was married off to a greedy king who was going to kill her if she didn't do impossible work. It's important to keep in mind that women rarely ever chose who they would marry instead they were married off, given away by their fathers. In fairy tale worlds of magical creatures they are given away not only to cruel men but to beasts, pigs, lions, frogs, devils, and dragons.

In most such cases there were four methods by which women could deal with this situation.

1-Take control of the situation. In the original "Frog Prince Tales" the princess would get tired of the annoying frog and so throw him against the wall causing him to burst out of his skin. While in "Hans My Hedgehog" the princess burns the hedgehogs animal skin forcing him to stay in human form.

Of course, it would have been difficult for most women to take control of a situation by force, because they went to live in their husbands town, which meant they were were outsiders with few allies.

(Note there is an alternative explanation for the notion of the women taking control in these relationships which is that shamans and witches across Eurasia would get familiar spirits. If they were to survive as witches they often had to take control of their familiar spirits. When shamans heard tales of fairy tales in which a person committed violence against a magical being they identified the theme of the story as a shaman encountering their familiar spirit for the first time. and establishing their dominance in the relationship.)

2-Women could try to win over their 'beast' husbands with love and kindness.

3-Women could try to gain an ally. Given that they were in a strange village when they first married, women would often seek out an ally who could help them. Of course there were risks involved in this as well. In a variation of "Rumpelstiltskin" a little man named Tom Tim Tot tells the girl that he'll help her, but then she belongs to him. In this story it's obvious that in return for the alliance girls were often expected to give up things they might not want to.

An ethnologist pointed out that serf girls were often pushed to sell their bodies for extra food, and help, while Purkiss tells of a Scottish girl who was living in a strange new house where she was bugged repeatedly to give up her body. In order to survive this situation the women would often have to gain some knowledge, some secret with which she could blackmail her oppressors. This is likely one of the primary reasons women in fairy tales, and witches, often gained control of a situation by learning a secret, such as Rumpelstiltskin's name.

In Mikso Hane's book "Peasants, Rebels, Women and Outcasts," she tells of a women during the Meiji Era whose husband and his parents forced her to do nothing but weave all day. She couldn't take care of her son, she couldn't eat for very long, if she spent to long in the bathroom they would hit her, etc. She was essentially imprisoned to make them money, which they than used. Then she was cast aside for the husbands mistress. Standing out in the snow, watching her husband laughing with this other women she finally snapped, and burnt down the house.

The point is that in the past women could easily be married to both abusive and greedy husbands, who often simply exploited them for their labor, and for sex of course. There's a French memoir, in which a woman wished to be married but married an abusive husband, so she wished for children, but her children were just more work, so in the end the only dream she has left is for death.

This last point, the dream of death tells of the last means by which women had to defend themselves. Painful endurance, and or running away. There are many tales in which a father will essentially sell his daughter to a devil, such as in "The Girl with No Hands." In this story the girl cuts off her own hands and endures pain and suffering to avoid having the devil take her. Essentially she makes herself unable to work so the devil can't take her.

In Japan there are tales from Tono of wild women who ran off into the forests and mountains to live, likely to escape abusive husbands. While In Selkup lore Satyr like creatures would teach unhappy women the secrets of hunting so they could live int he forests on their own.

In the end then fairy tales were very often based on the possible dissatisfaction of marriage. Though at the same time they gave women hope, hope that they could change their spouses or find an ally. While such dreams are pleasant modern feminists have pointed out that what they really do is prevent women from trying to change their situation. Hope for magic, hope for a better world, in this case often prevents action to make things better.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dark Animated Short Fantasy Films

Ravens Shire's Guide to the dark and creepy films. Films which rarely have a happy ending but are beautiful without it.

Other Categories of Animation
Funny Animations       Strange But Beautiful


Francis
A ghost story about a girl in the woods.



Carn
A boy strikes a bargain with a Wolf




Alma
I didn't see the ending coming, so I'm not going to give it away...
Dark little animation.






Memoria
Really, really messed up, but it is very well done.









Saturday, March 29, 2014

Analyzing and Interpreting Fairy Tales



Folk Religion

Many fairy tales are remnants of older folk and peasant religions, fairy faiths which effectively remained the beliefs of the peasants right up into the modern Era. Yet even where beliefs in spirits of the fields remained they changed over time, so people often forgot the original meaning of many characters and events in fairy tales.

Although the ancient folk religions are complex a few of the more interesting aspects of them with regards to fairy tales include.

Building a relationship
Folk religion is about building a relationship with the spirit world. Thus in folk tales people often found success by being polite to supernatural beings, by acting in a moral way. For example, in "The Three Little Men in the Woods" a young girl shares her bread with three fairies "little men" who in return give her magical gifts. In the Russian Fairy Tale "Grandfather Frost" a young girl doesn't complain even as the Frost Spirit is making her colder and colder and so is given great wealthy.
In Japan there were numerous fairy tales about the importance of building and maintaining a relationship with everything from old tools, which were believed to have souls, to animals.


Forest Spirits and Fairy Soul Bargains
Fairies and similar spirits around the world desired human servants to help them as nannies, as black smiths, as servants, etc. Often such spirits would make deals with people, offering them wealth if they would agree to work for the spirit later. Thus most tales in which a person bargains with a devil are really remnants of older tales in which a person sells their soul to a forest spirit or fairy. After all the notion of selling ones soul to the devil isn't present in early Christianity or Judaism, in Christianity, for example, the devil gets the soul of the unbaptized or of sinners, so his goal would be to make people sin, not to get a nanny or servant.

In "The Soldiers and the Devil" for example, a dragon (which the fairy tale calls a devil) appears to some starving soldiers and promises to make them rich if they'll work for him at the end of seven years. At first they are happy to make the deal but as the end of the seven years draws closer they start looking for a way out of their deal.

This notion of tricking the spirit after getting wealth from it was common. In France it was believed that many wealthy people had become wealthy by making a bargain with  with  fairies, in which the fairies would provide them with wealth for seven years, at the end of which the fairy would own the person. However, when the fateful date was coming up the person would run out to the priest and get blessed so that the fairy couldn't take them.

Shamanism and Witch Familiars
Often in fairy tales a persons encounter with strange creatures was based on the witches encounter with familiar spirits. For example in stories with the The Frog Prince motif, the frog was very much like a witches familiar, demanding and controlling, until the witch took control through violence.


Entering the Realm of the Dead or Sky
The characters of many stories enter the spirit world. For example, I would argue that in their tale Hansel and Gretel entered the world of the dead, as newly dead spirits were often lead into the world of the dead which resembled the forest by a white bird. The realm of the dead was often guarded by an evil witch who would seek to eat the spirits of the dead. and in order to escape this realm you had to ride a duck or boat across a body of water.



Hidden Witchcraft
Fairy tales are filled with hidden witchcraft. For example, in the Russian and German versions of Cinderella the heroine creates her own fairy godmother by growing a tree on her mothers grave and gets help from familiar spirits (mice were the most common familiar spirits in these lands.)


Protecting Oneself
Fairy Tales are often filled with tales of how to keep oneself safe from evil influences. Not going out at night, not going near certain rivers, staying on the reindeer path, putting iron under ones bed, getting a baby baptized as soon as possible, etc.


Feminism (Read the Full Article)

Ultimately when interpreting fairy tales it often helps to interpret them through the lens of the ancient female perspective. This is because although people would share stories in bars, hospices, and on the road, fairy tales tended to be passed down from mothers and nannies to children. Indeed the Grimm Brothers collected most of their tales from women. Because of this the voice in fairy tales is very often female. Yet the society these women lived in didn't empower them, and so while there are many stories in which men are treated as an object, a prize to be won by heroines, women aren't necessarily empowered by these tales. Instead fairy tales with female protagonists tend to be lessons which teach young girls how to survive in a world which is very often against them.

One of the key things to remember is that at one time young women would be sent away to marry by their fathers to a man they might not know, in a village where the young women would be treated as outsiders. What's more their new husbands might be abusive and cruel. Further, the women were expected to work themselves practically to death. In Japan there is one women who would be scolded if she spent too long going to the bathroom, while in Russia women were the first ones awake in the morning and the last ones to bed at night.

There are four key motifs we see in fairy tales that deal with this.

The overworked women, such as in the tales of Rumpelstiltskin in which a women is locked away and required to do an impossible amount of work.

Women who must take control of their situation with violence or blackmail. There are many stories in which a women finds herself married to a monster, and manages to succeed by reveling what they are.

Winning the affections of a "Beast" through love.

In the wilderness. From Japan to Ireland there are tales of people encountering 'wild women' in the forests. Women who don't fit into society. Among the Selkup wild women were specifically women who had sought the wilderness to escape abusive husbands. In Japan one wild women tells how she used to live in the village but had to flee it. While less specifically stated in Europe it's likely that there were many women who chose to flee into the wilderness when possible, rather than stay in an abusive home.  The wilderness in this case represents both freedom and fear, for it is an unknown place, a place away from society, where those who've suffered must flee.


Peasants Tales

These are peasants tales, which means they are both lessons about how to survive as a peasant and dreams of success. For the most part this can be understood in the context of the hero archetypes which exist within fairy tales. There are a few things to keep in mind, however.

Cunning is moral
To the peasants cunning is a form of morality, because in many situations only the cunning could survive.

Success through luck
Often people in fairy tales were successful primarily for luck, because peasants thought that success came from luck or supernatural forces. A person who had suddenly become wealthy was believed to have found fairy gold for example. (Which given that every once in a while people find

Rob the rich
Peasants often viewed it as acceptable to rob from the rich.

Hard Work
Success in fairy tales tends to come from hard work, because that's how peasants succeeded.

Be Kind
When you are powerless your survival often depends on being kind and listening to the advice of others.




History 

Many Lands and Many Times
Fairy tales belong to not one, but many times and lands. "Hansel and Gretel" for example, came out of a famine in the 1300's in Western Europe. Yet at the same time the idea of using a chicken bone to trick a blind witch into thinking the protagonists were skinny came out of Ugric lands in Eastern Europe and Asia. Further the story itself was collected in the 1800's. So the story of "Hansel and Gretel" belongs not only to Germany but also Eastern Europe, and to many time periods as well. This makes it very difficult to interpret fairy tales through the lens of history as they can often mean so many different things.

Dreams of Childhood
Most fairy tales were collected during an era when people began having a romanticized view of childhood. This is in contrast to most of the eras in which they were told when childhood was in essence ignored and forgotten by the adults telling the stories.



Psychology 

There are two ways to view the psychology of fairy tales. One is from the modern perspective, that is to try to understand how these stories are seen by readers today. The other is to try to understand how they might have been seen by people who heard them "once upon a time." This later use of psychology while interesting is extremely difficult, as with no one to interview, we don't have an exact understanding of past cultures.


B.S.

Unfortunately, most fairy tale books are primarily filled with B.S. which mostly comes from the ideas of Frued and Jung. For although Jung and Freud are popular bases for trying to interpret mythology and fairy tales, their ideas have largely been debunked and their understanding of ancient or even international cultures was limited to say the least. For example, Carl Jung claimed that the similarity between many fairy tales and myths represented deep seated psychology which was present in all people. Apparently Jung forgot to take into account the fact that he was primarily only looking at European tales which for the most part have common linguistic and even Genetic Roots. He for example, failed to take into account Yupik Tales, Japanese Tales, South East Asian stories, and tales from a plethora of other cultures. Indeed even in Europe the meaning of tales has largely changed. Originally European Heroes were by and large selfish, only caring about themselves. They did the things they did merely for their own glory, to build their own fame. This is far different from the current Western idea of what makes a hero.

Yes it's fun to say that this or that figure represents something to all humans, or that the fact that Hansel and Gretel have to ride on duck represents their budding sexuality, but the truth is that none of these notions make any real sense.






The Top Ten Most Touching Moments in Animated Feastures

These are the ten most touching moments in American Animated Feature Films. Choosing them was extremely difficult as there are so many wonderful moments, so many beautiful pieces of animation, so please let me know what you think the most touching moments are.

Up

Up was perhaps the most touching movie ever, dealing with both age and youth, but most of all with life in a beautiful way. This is the moment when the protagonist passes on the badge his wife gave him to a boy whose been ignored by his father.





The Secret of NIMH

A mother feeding her sick child, just before she goes on a series of adventures, risking everything to save him.





Ratatouille

Art can transform people.

Food transforms an egotistical critique into a man who loves the art he critiques again.





Iron Giant 

Perhaps the most beautiful moment of self sacrifice ever created, the Iron Giant flies into a nuclear missile to save his friend.





Lion King

A father teaches his son about responsibility.





Mulan






An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

The two "American Tail" movies are a very touching pair of movies, so why did I pick this scene? Because this is the moment when Fievel accepts his heritage even as he looks to the future.






Cats Don't Dance

For some failure is a constant companion, so constant that they grow embittered. This song is sung by a character who had given up on her dreams, only to discover them again. The song "Tell Me Lies" lets us that she doesn't know if she can succeed, but it tells us that she has started to dream again.





Lilo and Stitch

"This is my family. I found them all on my own. It's Little and Broken But Still Good, Yeah still good."

Even little broken families can be perfect.




Wall-E

Eva finally admits that she likes Wall-E in a very real way, and Wall-E gets his first taste of love.