Indeed, the poor simpleton found all this erudition to be entirely mind-boggling. Now and then she almost grasped what her magical friends were talking about, but then – Pfft! Understanding turned to fog.
“I’m going for a walk in the woods,” she said. Murzik slid down from his warm windowsill and followed her out the door.
“Don’t go far,” cautioned Sagacia. “It’ll be dark before long.”
Three hours later Sagacia sat on the steps of the Fairy Tale Lobby, wringing her hands with worry. All the magical friends had gone home. A half moon cast the landscape in blue and gray. Simplia was not back from her walk.
Sagacia fretted, “She gets turned around so easily. What if she’s lost her way?”
She peered up and down the forest path.
“And Murzik. Vasilisa gave us express instructions to take care of him.”
A moonbeam sparked a reflection at Sagacia’s feet. She looked down and there was the cat – gazing up at her, eyes aglow in the dim light. As soon as she noticed him, he made for the front door, behind which he was accustomed to finding a saucer full of milk.
Sagacia followed him indoors reluctantly, with the intention of feeding him and returning immediately to her lookout on the front steps.
There sat Simplia! On a three-legged stool in front of the hearth, rocking back and forth, staring into the embers. She started out of her reverie, regarded her friend with a quizzical expression, and said, “Where’ve you been? It’s dark.”
“Where have you been?” demanded Sagacia. “I told you not to go far!”
“I didn’t. I don’t think. ‘Cause, see, I’m already home. Oh, and here. I found these. Somewhere.”
She reached into her apron pocket and withdrew a scrap of parchment and a large Post-it note, both addressed to Curious in Caracas.
The two friends brought the papers nearer the dying fire and read:
Dear Curious – Have you ever been on your way somewhere, walking through the woods or even driving down the highway, and suddenly realized you’d been moving on “autopilot” for a while without being conscious of your surroundings? Of course you have, but have you ever thought to go back and deliberately *look* at the territory you’ve just moved through? Ah, but I wouldn’t recommend that, for that momentary quality of not-really-being-there hides the passages through to another realm — the realm of Faerie, the realm where fairies dwell; where nixies and pixies dart about their business and trolls stand guard beneath the bridges; where piglets build houses, wolves masquerade as grandmothers, and sisters knit sweaters out of nettles to save their swan-turned brothers; where magic is all too real and all too likely to be more dangerous than helpful in the end … in short, the realm where Faerie tales happen every day. Even as the word “faerie” changed over time to “fairy”, so did the name of the realm, and lost its capital in the process. And that, Oh Teller of Tales, is why “fairy tales” often have no fairies in them.–jjmarkin
Sagacia gave her friend a searching look. “Does this describe your walk in the woods, today?”
Simplia nodded. “What I remember of it. I guess just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there … in the woods, in stories, in the shadows…”
Sagacia unfolded the parchment.
“Oh good!” she said. “It’s from Vasilisa herself.”
These tales of mine and others are named for the land they come from: the land of Faerie. And, you are right; the stories seldom have actual Fairies in them, but there are other clues as to their origins.
If a tale begins “Once upon a time…,” you can be sure it is set in this magical place! Like our world, Faerie contains great forests and humble cottages, long journeys and loyal horses, relentless adverse forces and random acts of kindness, honest tradesmen and queens, and evil–by some other name. Look for shifts in the laws of nature such as frogs who aren’t frogs at all but enchanted Tsarevnas, birds who repay small kindnesses tenfold, or straw that can be spun into gold. In the land of Faerie, people who are wicked are outed and punished severely, a person with courage can negotiate with nature, and folks who are kind and persevering gain their heart’s desire and live “happily ever after.”
Hearing old stories from Faerie, or Fairyland, gives people in Caracas and Moscow and Honolulu hope that they can achieve personal happiness and fulfillment, too. Fairy Tales illustrate a truth that is common to both our worlds: personal fulfillment is attained by calling on your best self to act with persistence, kindness and courage.–Vasilisa
As soon as they finished reading Vasilisa’s reply to Curious in Caracas, Sagacia took the two new letters and included them in the unsealed envelope full of all the other responses.
“Well, that’s settled,” said Simplia with a sigh of satisfaction. “You know, I think I almost sorta really kinda get it now. My brain feels just fine. We should post this packet … post haste! Curious in Caracas has been waiting almost a whole month.”