Fall befell, grey and breezy and a bit misty outside in the great world.
But meanwhile, back at the Fairy Tale Lobby, Simplia and Sagacia and their magical friends were still chatting away about, uh, “magical friends.” Between fending off Post Doc in Pasadena’s accusations and redefining “magical friends,” the room was grey with words, the conversation was breezy, and, at moments, eyes were a bit misty.
Brian Fox Ellis was saying:
OK, so literally speaking, magical friends are the imaginative creatures like the old crone or elf or white deer that bestow advice or gifts that make magic possible.
And Mary Grace Ketner gave an example:
In one version of “The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship,” there is a fast runner, a guy with super-hearing, a hunter with a gun whose scope lets him see to the end of the world, an endless eater and a big drinker, a guy with sticks that turn into soldiers and one with straw that turns everything it touches to ice. The hero needs every one of those characters to win the hand of the princess!
Csenge Zalka added,
Storytellers are actually magical helpers quite often :) One of my favorite examples is the Black Thief (who is also a great storyteller), and also the ballad singer in the Black Bowl story from Japan.
“You mentioned a ballad singer in a Japanese tale?” Sagacia asked. “That’s one from a non-western tradition. What other ones are out there?”
The room fell silent for a moment, then Adam Hoffman shrugged. “Well,” he began.
While the most well-known magical friends are from European and European-derived stories, there are some in other cultures. From Japan, there’s Momotaro’s little army that consisted of a dog, a monkey and a pheasant. Or, there’s a tale from Palestine entitled “Seven Magic Hairs” in which the lead character is helped by a very wise talking horse.
Csenge jumped back into the conversation.
They definitely show up everywhere. For my thesis I collected some 42 versions of the Extraordinary Helpers folktale type, and I have found quite a few new versions since, spanning from Mongolia to Jamaica.
What I like about tales with magical friends or magical helpers is that they go against other story types people like to quote these days: “You just have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “I am okay on my own.” Some of these are applied to social and political and economic issues. People seem to forget that everyone has helpers along the way, even if you don’t always notice or acknowledge them.
At that, Megan Hicks trembled with excitement!
Csenge — Bingo! We all need Magical Friends. John Wayne and the self-sufficient, independent cowboy have dominated the American paradigm for so long, we actually believe the Self-Made Man exists. It takes a village. EVERYTHING, every human endeavor, in order to succeed, takes a village.
The spirit of gratitude began to rise in the room as each storyteller’s thoughts fell upon his own guides, her own mentors, and their many companions on this bardic journey. The gathered company began to name and and nod and name again, another and another of those who had helped them, set examples, led them to new understandings. (This is the part where some eyes became misty.)
A round of wine seemed in order, and Simplia and Sagacia provided. Toasts were pronounced by all present.
Outside, the clouds and breeze and mist grew into a rainstorm. Mark Goldman—good scout!—lit a fire in the fireplace, which earned him a toast of his own.
As the clinking of glasses and the sounds of good cheer subsided, another sound could be heard.
Simplia looked out the window. Sure enough, it was Murzik pressing against the door, under the eaves.
“Did he follow us all the way here?” Sagacia wondered aloud.
Simplia rushed to let the dripping feline in, and as he hastily tripped inside, someone—maybe it was Modhukori, Erika Taraporevala—said, “Murzik, my magical friend? Did you hear us talking about you?”
The room fell silent again as folks awaited Murzik’s response. He shook himself off, slinging droplets of water in all directions, inspiring an affectionate chuckle.
“Animals can be magical friends, too!” Simplia affirmed.
Csenge Zalka didn’t hesitate!
Very true! In a lot of cases animal helpers, especially horses, are remnants of shamanistic elements in stories. They are gatekeepers to another world, and they often guide you in a place that is their domain, not yours. They are not helpers in the sense superhero sidekicks are helpers. They are guides that have knowledge to share to help the hero grow and succeed.
“Of course!” Sagacia agreed. “Adam already mentioned the dog, the monkey, and the pheasant in ‘Momotaro,’ and the talking horse in ‘Seven Magic Hairs.’”
“I’m sure there are others!” Simplia said. “Animals can be the greatest of friends!” She glanced toward Murzik, now licking himself by the fireplace
“And, perhaps,” Sagacia said. “They are the most magical of all!”
“To animal friends!” Simplia said, raising her glass. “Let’s hear it for animal friends! Let’s hear about more magical animal friends!”