unsettling wonder

Reading Through the Grimm


The Elvesillus-193t (Die Wichtelmänner)

hese are a true fairy tale—a story of the fairies. And they are like the stories told of that strange and sinister folk, less troubling than some, less easy than others. The shoemaker befriend the household sprites that haunt his workplace, and whey they vanish they leave their blessing. Other shoemakers were not so lucky, and were left with a curse.

Elsie, the good hardworking girl who’s invited to the fairy christening (strange that they’d have such a rite, but no matter) is only gone seven years. Others, like the piper invited to play at a fairy wedding, were gone a hundred years or a thousand, and when they returned to their long-forgotten homes, they crumbled away into dust.

And the mother of the changeling was fortunate indeed that the fairy child was foolish enough to laugh out and yell when she boiled the eggshells, that she didn’t need to beat it with red hot tongs or expose beside the sacred well in order for it to leave. And that the fairies so willingly brought her own child back.

There have been many excellent books discussing these and other troublesome things, and I won’t rehash their arguments here. This subject is intricate and fascinating, and not really one where I, the casual passerby, wish to venture much of an opinion. But I urge you to read these tales, tales too solemn or too specific, perhaps, to be entirely untrue.


2 thoughts on “unsettling wonder

  1. Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
    Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
    Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
    Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
    Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
    Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
    The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
    No one ever said elves are nice.
    Elves are bad.

    –Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

  2. I was reminded this morning about your interesting “troublesome things” link you have above, while listening to the radio (WQXR, a classical music station in the New York metro area). They played Dvorak’s “The Noonday Witch”:


    It’s from a symphonic poem he created that ultimately originates in a rather troubling old Slavic folk tale about The Noon Witch, or Lady Midday:


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