Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tinkerbell Is A Jerk

Yes, I wrote that. Today, you and your children- your children, surely- view Tinkerbell, and her conveniently ethnically-diverse friends, as cute, nice, friendly, slightly ditzy wads o'fun and wonder.

Cute I'll give you. But do not be fooled by the friendly persona. This is actually Tinkerbell's community service. In actuality, left to her own devices without her girlfriends present, Tinkerbell is a jerk.

You don't believe me? Take a look at the first minute and a half of this...

...and then pick up this clip at 50 seconds and go for the next minute or so.

You might think this a bit on the shocking side to watch. Tinkerbell wouldn't do that!

Oh, yes, she would. In fact, that's about par for the course, maybe a tad on the mild side for her kind. You have to remember, this is a fairy on the payroll of Disney. When you hear about something being 'Disney-fied' or 'Disneyed up' or something to that effect, you take it to mean that whatever it is has been toned down, glossed over, and made more family-friendly.

Fairies- and other mythical magical beings- are more accurately depicted as beings that view humans largely as playthings. As Terry Pratchett once wrote...

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.

By the way, it should be noted at this point that Peter Pan doesn't come off very well in those clips either.

You know the 2008 Angelina Jolie movie 'Changeling'? The one where she loses her son, then gets something back that isn't actually her son and then the trailer ends with her yelling "I want MY son back!" That's what a changeling is. In folklore, it was used to explain any child that failed to grow up properly due to what we'd recognize today as sickness or mental disability or even bad temper. It was believed that the real child had been taken away by the Fair Folk and replaced with one of their own.

Naturally, if this happened to you, you'd want your child back. If the parent didn't opt to merely do something spectacularly strange, such as carry water in eggshells, this is where things tended to get ugly for the changeling, which as we today know, was still actually their real child. One folk remedy instructed a parent to "Take it out to the meadow where you left your previous child and beat it hard with a switch." Other solutions took similar liberties with the changeling's welfare.

Of course, we no longer engage in this practice, right? Someone might want to tell Egypt, or at least Egypt circa 1982, as a folktale book from that year by Hasan M. El-Shamy reports localized beliefs involving jinn (genies) as "widespread".

Oh, yes, jinn. Consider them Middle Eastern Fair Folk.

A small sampling of their other exploits:

*In A Midsummer Nights Dream, you have fairies. Fairies that took the nectar from a flower which, when applied to someone's eyes, would cause them to fall in love with the next person they saw, and the fairy king, Oberon, first used it on his wife to get her to be attracted to someone else in a love triangle on the other side of the plot. 'First'. There were additional uses.
*Sleeping Beauty begins with a king and queen that have a daughter. They round up all the fairies they can find, and the custom is that each one gives the child a gift. The first six give the daughter beauty, grace, wit, and the ability to sing, dance and play instruments. The seventh, who you know as Maleficent, gives the gift of pricking oneself on a spindle and dying at age 16. The eighth softens it to merely sleeping for 100 years.
*Another fairy tale, Katie Crackernuts, sees a prince rendered sick unto death because fairies make him get up at midnight, travel to a hall, and dance to exhaustion.
*In more recent writing, Charles de Lint's 2004 book The Blue Girl features a character who is a ghost. The fairies here befriended him, told him they could make him fly (which they could; the Fair Folk can't lie), but when he tried to by leaping off the school roof, just for a laugh, they went ahead and let him fall. Then they wondered why his ghost was ticked off at them.

In conclusion: don't cross Tinkerbell. You don't know when she might slip back into old habits.

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