Saturday, December 14, 2019

StorySpotting: Fae vs. Human (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

I am not a fan of Disney's recent "live action" phase, but Maleficent is the one exception because it actually manages to create a new story instead of just CGI-ing the crap out of a cartoon.

Where was the story spotted?

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (aka Maleficent 2)

What happens?

Humans decide to start a war to get rid of those pesky fae creatures in the Enchanted Forest once and for all. The whole story culminates in an epic battle scene, and a bunch of fae locked in a church, being turned into flowers and plants by poison gas (yeah, I know.).

What's the story?

Sure, fairies and humans have their differences in various tales and legends, but all-out war and genocide? Really?


Illustration (Castle Sirok)
For starters, there is a Hungarian legend about Castle Backa in Transylvania. It claims that the castle was built by fairies, who lived at a distance from, but in general peace with, the humans - that is, until we started to build churches with bell towers. The fairies repeatedly warned humans the sound of the bells bothered them, and when that didn't work, they raised an army, attacked the human villages, and destroyed all churches. Some time later water disappeared from their castle. Dying of thirst they came to the humans to beg for water, but the humans, remembering the destruction, denied their pleas. The fairies left, and no one ever heard from them again.

Another tale, from Transcarpathia, takes an even darker turn. It's titled Where have all the fairies gone?, and it was recorded from storyteller Pályuk Anna about 100 years ago (I published it in English in by book Dancing on Blades). It is told in first person by a girl who sets out to investigate why all fairies are gone. A mysterious man tells her the story: one time human children started to die in great numbers, and someone claimed they were being killed by fairies - so humans set out and systematically hunted the fairies all down. Or so the mysterious man claims... and then he disappears.

There is a local legend in Ireland's County Leitrim about two neighboring cairns, Sigh Mor and Sigh Beg. It claims that under the piles of stones two warriors are buried who fell in a battle fighting each other. Since both sides in the battle had fairy allies, the fairies continued fighting long after the humans were gone, and they continued their battles for centuries.

Also, moving away from fairies to other mythical creatures, there is the legend of King Laurin's Rose Garden, one of my favorite medieval stories. In this one, humans accuse Dwarf King Laurin of kidnapping their princess, and set out to take revenge. In truth, the princess ran away with the Dwarf king out of love, but her family refuses to believe that. Even when they manage to start some diplomatic talks with the help of legendary King Dietrich of Bern, civility soon breaks down, and the human knights kidnap the Dwarf king. He manages to get a message to a relative of his, King Walberan, ruler of the Dwarfs and Giants of the Caucasus, and he shows up with an entire army to save Laurin and level Dietrich's human kingdom. The battle is averted in the last minute, and eventually Dwarfs and Humans manage to make peace.
(I have a full-hour storytelling show of this legend, called Roses in the Mountains)

Last but not least: Irish leprechauns are officially a protected species under the E. U. Habitats Directive. A man who met a leprechaun was told that there were only 236 of them left, and since no one can prove or disprove their existence, their habitat was declared protected.


I feel like we need to remember all these stories, and see what we can learn from them about acceptance, coexistence, cultural diplomacy, and other important topics.

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