A Faery Song
Buttercups in the sunshine look like little cups of gold
Perhaps the Faeries come to drink the raindrops that they hold.
The daisies with their golden hearts fringed all about with white,
Are little plates for Faerie fold to sup from every night.
Soft moss a downy pillow makes, and green leaves spread a tent,
Where Faerie fold may rest and sleep until their night is spent.
The bluebird sings a lullaby, the firefly gives a light,
The twinkling stars are candles bright, Sleep, Faeries all, Good Night.
Elizabeth T. Dillingham
On reading the Tolkien essay, 'On Fairy-Stories', I gleaned many interesting facts about the history, etymology, and ideals of fantasy. I'd like to share them with you, so here are my notes.
To begin, the whole lore of fairy-stories is misnomered, as the very term 'fairies' originated from a mistranslation that should have been 'of Faërie'. The people of Faërie are really called elves and fays. These personages were also joined by dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons, and then mortal men who had been offered the Silver Bough of enchantment.
As fairies are strange to the lore of Faërie, so are the little Thumbelinas generally depicted in modern Disney movies. Elves, historically, were tall and angelic-like creatures––much in the style of the Lord of the Rings and King Arthur's Court––until England and France, with their obsession of refinement, effeminance, humor, and shallowness, turned them into the absurd, annoying, little people with impish faces and leering expressions.
As the very term 'fairy' is mis-used, so is the term 'fairy-tale'. What most people call a fairy tale usually isn't a fairy tale at all. They are generally either traveller's tales of awe-full and often satirical happenings and adventures, or they are merely stories of the dream-world. Tolkien says, 'If a waking writer tells you that his tale is only a thing imagined in his sleep, he cheats deliberately the primal desire at the heart of Faërie: the realization, independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder.' Of course, they can still be good stories, like Alice in Wonderland, but they are not of Faërie.
And, just as the terms of Faërie are wronged, so are the lore of Faërie degraded in the eyes of our society because of the encroaching shallowness that has pervaded the arts of the imagination in history. Ever since the rise of Calvinism and Puritanism, adults have become too cynical to enjoy Faërie. As the adults rejected the beautiful reminiscing of Eden found in Faërie. the only remembering of it was found in ignorant Irish nursery maids telling it to children. Yet children love to copy their elders, and followed in their parents' footsteps, until the tradition of the tales of Faërie had been degraded until the only relic left were silly, shallow movie and story characters that would earn the contempt of anyone. For this reason, Tolkien hated when stories were dramatized or made into movies and plays because it trumped the personal imagination of the reader. He believed that imagining things was one of the most important parts of experiencing a book.
We have forgotten that elements of the truths of Faërie can be found in the Old Testament. Anyone can read the King James Bible and see many references to unicorns, dragons, griffins, and other animals that were believed in until the people of the last three hundred years decided they were smarter than antiquity. One reads of blessings, curses, miracles and powerful words, magic trees, spiritual laws, universal truths and the strength and glory of the God of Love.
Every sort of culture going back to the very earliest historical records had their own mythologies and beliefs about Faërie. It rose to its highest peak with the mythology of the Romans, and then went on a demise as people began to scoff creativity and embraced the ideals of the philosophers of the time. This belief system, however, failed them as well, since their sophistries merely went in circles and when taken to their conclusions negated life itself. In the end, they all turned to atheism. Atheism was the last shock––the last shot of adrenaline for their wearied minds.
Then Jesus was born, and in his enigmatic, wonderful, and heroic life He melded the two together. He was the second Adam, and He proclaimed the truth that sets us free. It was not the truths of fatalism, that explains everything good and beautiful in life away, or the giddy fantasy of mythology, which negates the more serious issues of life, but He showed how both the material and the spiritual are one. He blazed a path that had never been blazed before––His words were shocking to His listeners, and yet everlasting––His life was a Story, a Word, a Logos, that brought a sword to sunder the demon-worship of the time. He died and rose again, and arose to the Father, and His legacy has never died out. Where mythology, stoicism, and sophism are all too old to die, as in the ideologies of Asia, Christianity has been a constant resurrection of the fire that purges away the chaff from the wheat. It has revealed, and is forever revealing, the real Truth of Elohim, the God-Head, which is the Trinity of three distinct Beings in love and unity with each other. It is the Family that, though blinding in its very splendor, shines its truth-bearing light on the world, and fills our hearts with the soul of son-ship. We too, may become children in the Family.