Monday, February 4, 2013

Unicorns Have Better Press Agents!

Merlin and the Unicorn, copyright Merlin, BBC Televsion
     What is it about Unicorns?  Why are they so revered?  Unicorns appear in the folktales of many human cultures.  Dragons do as well, but there's a difference.  Dragons are sometimes portrayed as good and often portrayed as evil while Unicorns are always presented as gentle, good and pure of heart.  Have you ever heard of an evil Unicorn?  What's up with that?  Think about it: is it realistic to believe that there has never been a Unicorn who went bad?  Really, what are the odds?  Actually, I wouldn't care that humans (and my own Faerie-kind) have such a positive view of Unicorns except for the fact that Dragons don't get the same respect.  Yes, there are stories about good Dragons, especially in eastern cultures, but often in western cultures Dragons are things to be fought, feared, detested and killed.  It's just wrong!  What have Dragons done to deserve such bad publicity?  Wait.  Don't answer that.  Your answer will likely be based on  the bias drilled into you by anti-Dragon tales.  Just keep in mind that villains and heroes often are defined by who's telling the story.

     Oh, before I go on, I should introduce myself.  I am Siobhan Rainshee.*  My aunt, Keena Mythweaver, has been writing posts for this blog for a while and she asked me to fill in for her this week.  We are both Faeries, but not the kind most humans (or the humans I've met) think of when they see the word "fairy."  We are human-sized and we do not have wings.  Neither of us can fly (though I would love to find a way to).  We do, however, have magic.  My aunt uses it to heal humans in Baile Eile, but the humans don't know she uses it.  They also don't know she's a Faerie; they think she's an "herbalist."  I don't have healing magic.  I have other gifts.  My favorite is the ability to make thunderstorms whenever I want.  But I'm getting way off the subject. Back to Dragons and Unicorns.

     As I was saying, before I went off on the tangent, when a story paints Dragons as evil, you have to keep in mind who's telling the tale.  Take The Hobbit for instance.  Poor Smaug is characterized as greedy, dangerous--murderous in fact--and conniving.  At the same time, he also seems to be a bit dull, which is a telling inconsistency, don't you think?  Now think about who's telling the tale.  I have no argument with the historian, J.R.R. Tolkien.  He's relating the tale as it was passed on to him.  I don't really even blame the Hobbit, Mr. Baggins (although you have to admit he can't be entirely trusted since he loves to play tricks and tell stories, stretching and twisting the truth to suit his own purposes.  Oh! And he deceived the Dragon--but I suppose that doesn't count since Smaug was, after all, a Dragon).  Who do I blame then for slandering Smaug's good name?  I blame the Dwarves.  I know they claim that Smaug killed their kin and took all their treasure, but look at it this way: they stole all his treasure.  They may argue that what they did was just since the wealth was theirs to begin with, but Smaug is dead and can't tell his side.  Perhaps their ancestor stole the fortune from Smaug in the first place.  The Dwarves are free to tell whatever lies they choose because Smaug is dead, murdered by a glory-seeking townsman. And what was the reaction to this slaughter?  Celebration!

     But kill a Unicorn and find out what happens.  Here are two quick examples.  The Harry Potter books say that, because Unicorns are so pure, anyone who murders them will live a "half-life" and a life that is cursed.  In the television series, Merlin, Prince Arthur kills a Unicorn while hunting and this action brings doom and destruction upon the whole of Camelot. To save his people, Arthur repents and undergoes tests to prove what is in his heart.  When, in the final test, he chooses to drink poison rather than allow his servant, Merlin, to drink it, he is finally judged pure of heart and Camelot is restored to health and well-being--as is the Unicorn who magically returns to life.  Which is fine.  I have nothing against Unicorns.  I just don't understand why people feel free to condemn Dragons as evil, greedy, treacherous, and so on, but refuse ever to say a bad word against the Unicorns.  I am sure that Unicorns are, on the whole, good, but they are not perfect.  I speak from experience.  I know a Unicorn--Cay--and she certainly is not perfect.  She is not bad, but she does have her faults.  Primarily, she is nosy, a bit pushy and a nuisance.  Maybe I'll write a blog post about her one day, just to put Unicorns in a more realistic light. In the meantime, keep this in mind: it's not that Unicorns are superior to Dragons; they just have a brilliant publicist!

Have you ever encountered a story of a bad Unicorn?

What do you think of Dragons?  Why?

Sonas!   [Happiness!]

*Both Siobhan and Keena are characters in the forthcoming novel, Music of Dragons, by Christine Dorman

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Which Wizard?

     Merlin, Gandalf, Harry Potter--who's your favorite?  Do you have a favorite?  I like all three, but I will admit that I if I HAD to choose, there would be no hesitation.  My favorite wizard is Merlin.  (NOTE: I can feel the energy from those readers who are thinking, "Why isn't Dumbledore on this list?" And my answer is: I'm trying to keep this simple and the books / films were called Harry Potter, not Albus Dumbledore, otherwise I would put Hermione Granger on the list since I think she could beat Harry in any Wizards' duel anytime if she so chose).  Okay, back on track: Merlin, Gandalf and Harry Potter are three of the most famous, iconic wizards of all time. Questions such as: Who would win--Harry or Merlin  / Gandalf or Harry--have been asked before, but I what I want to know is: of the three, who is the greatest / best wizard ever and why? 

     Now that may sound like a simple question, but it really isn't.  Why?  Because none of these three is a simple, linear character (this is part of why they're so memorable).  I've heard the question, "Who would win: Merlin or Harry Potter?" Bradley James, of the BBC series, Merlin, answered that Merlin would, of course, beat Harry because Potter has to use a wand and Merlin just uses his hand.  Good point--IF Merlin is the wizard as portrayed in that series.  Or if the Merlin involved in the duel is the character from Mary Stewart's Crystal Cave (or the rest of her Merlin trilogy) since he wins more often by using his wits rather than his magic.  Then again, if he's just using his wits, could Merlin win against a wand-wielding Harry?  Of course, the wizard of Arthurian legend has been known (in other incarnations) to use a staff like Gandalf (or more accurately, Gandalf uses a staff like Merlin). There are in fact so many versions of Merlin in literature, film and television that answering "Who would win: Merlin or...?" or "Who is the best wizard ever--Merlin, Potter or Gandalf?" requires the clarification question,"Which Merlin do you mean?"

     All right then, I'll be specific and just focus on the character from the BBC series as he is brilliantly portrayed by Colin Morgan.  Now the question can be answered, right?  Not really.  Are you talking about Merlin in Season One?  Season Three?  Season Five?  He is on a journey and he grows, so he's not the same wizard.

     Similar complications arise with Harry.  The twelve-year-old wizard in The Sorcerer's Stone (or The Philosopher's Stone) is obviously nowhere near as skilled or experienced as the eighteen-year-old who defeats Voldemort in The Deathly Hallows.

     Even talking about Gandalf isn't simple.  Do we mean Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White?

     So having acknowledged these complications, I ask again: Who is your favorite wizard ever and why?

     Five years ago, I would have said, "Merlin from The Crystal Cave," but now, I'd say Colin Morgan's Merlin, Season Four / Season Five.  Yes, I didn't answer the why part.  That'd be a whole other blog.
And just to stir things up a bit: Hermione or Harry--who's really more powerful?  Morgana, Hermione, Morgause, you notice that only one of these magical women is portrayed as "good"?  Oh wait! That's another blog too. In the meantime, think about it.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

With Great Power Comes... (2015 Revised Post)

Photo copyright Sean Heavey / Barcroft Media
     There is a saying: "With great power comes great responsibility."  It is a concept that I am trying to get my niece to understand. I have yet to succeed.

     For those who are new to this blog, please permit me to introduce myself.  My name is Keena. Christine asked me awhile back to write some guest blogs for her and I have carried on longer than she expected (although not as consistently as I should have, I must admit).

     Although I am a Faerie, I do not look at all like Tinker Bell. Faeries come in many sizes and kinds.  I am, in human terms, five-foot-four-inches tall, I don't have wings, and I look similar to a human in her mid-thirties.  This enables me to live among humans in a town called Baile Eile without anyone (except a very close friend) knowing that I am a faerie. I minister as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner and an herbalist, and the townspeople accept me as one of their own.  During the time I've lived here, I've come to have great affection for them and love my life here.  I wouldn't want anything to spoil that.  However, my niece, Siobhan, who's only been here for a week, may manage to get us both run out of town!

     Siobhan is my sister's child.  She is sixteen and a half ages old and, overall, she is a fine faerie. I am quite proud of her. She is intelligent, courageous, resourceful and even charming--when she decides to be.  But she still has some growing to do, particularly in the area of considering consequences before acting and in using her power responsibly.  Siobhan was born with the ability to create thunderstorms at will. She likes to create storms when she gets bored and feels in need of a little entertainment. Her mother told her that her "entertainment" might adversely affect others. Still, she stirs up storms whenever she believes she can get away with it.  Actually, I don't really mind that.  I was her age once and I was at least as mischievous and rebellious as she is.  If that were the end of the story, I would say, "Let her have her fun, as long as she chooses her moments judiciously."

     But that's the problem.  Siobhan's judgment needs some fine tuning. She also needs to contol her feelings, especially her pride and indignation--both of which are ever at the ready. Recently, Siobhan encountered a seventeen-year-old human guy, Ewan McAshinagh.  A quite decent young man usually.  I've known him since he was born.  His mother is my closest friend in the human world.  (She knows I'm faerie; he doesn't).  Anyway, Siobhan is rather beautiful so Ewan flirted with her.  Unfortunately, Siobhan doesn't know anything about flirting.  (In our world, she's only just become old enough to be courted).

     Well, Siobhan misinterpreted Ewan's flirting and teasing as condescension and insult.  So she went into default mode, summoned up a thunderstorm (which she can do with a casual squint of her eyes) and hit his bicycle with lightning.  Fortunately (for her, because I would have murdered her in a most painful way had it been otherwise) Ewan wasn't on or near the bike at the time.  Also (again fortunately for her) he didn't know she was the source of the storm and the destruction of his beloved bicycle.  He thought it was all a freak accident.

     Now, Baile Eile is not a very big community so word spread quickly through it.  After hearing the rumors of this lightning-fried bicycle incident, I (as casually as possible) asked Ewan to tell me what happened.  He did and when he mentioned that it happened shortly after he had met this pretty but haughty teenage girl who was new to town and who would't tell him her name, I knew the incident had been no accident.

     So Siobhan and I have since had a conversation about the responsible use of power. Siobhan genuinely had had no thought about hurting Ewan himself...well, not physically.  Her actions were spiteful but not malicious.  Still, anyone who has the ability to create lightning at will, needs to be able to deal with  her anger in a healthy way.  With great power comes great responsibility!

     Oprah once asked, "If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?"  Someone interviewing the cast of the BBC series, Merlin, asked the cast, "If you could have one of Merlin's powers, which one would you want and why?"  So I ask you to consider a similar question:If you could have one magical ability, what would you chose and why?  Then consider: What would you do with that power?  In what ways could you benefit others with it?  Or do you want the power just for your own benefits? What drawbacks would there be to having that power?  What responsibility would you suddenly have to deal with as a result of having that power?

As always, I wish you many blessings!


P.S.  Watch out for thunderstorms--and peeved Faeries!