Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Longing for the Elves

The Elves, first published in German in 1812 and translated in 1827, is a story written in the literary fairy tale tradition by Ludwig Tieck.  Click the link to read the full version.

A recurring trait of Faerie is the altered passage of time, and in this story, the little girl who wanders across its borders returns to a family she does not recognize.  There is usually a sense of bereavement--that is, sadness and loss--and the person is deeply changed.

artist unknown
Mary, the little heroine, later marries and embodies this profound change by giving birth to a child, whom she names Elfrida after the elves she befriended during her time in Faerie.  Elfrida is still a child, so the reasoning is blurred as to whether or not she can maintain contact with the elves for her youth or her otherworldliness.

"Such wise children do not grow to age," says the child's grandmother, who has no knowledge of her enchanted origin, "they are too good for this world; the child, besides, is beautiful beyond nature, and will never find its proper place on Earth."

Though Faerie is dangerous, the peril that resonates most deeply is the dissatisfaction for the world upon one's return.  At its essence,  the longing-for-something-that-is-lost is universal.  Fairy stories offer us a glimpse into that which we are missing.  The best ones go a step further and attempt to communicate the missing itself.   

The Elves is pretty good for that.  Enjoy.
Please have a look at the fairy tale contest and share with friends.

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