Lately I’ve been attracted to the characters in fairy tales who screw up in spectacular ways – especially the ones we don’t expect to screw up – like fairies, for example.
You would think that the entities who are put in charge of human fate would be wiser than humans, but fairy tales indicate that a certain amount of education is necessary to wield “higher powers” effectively. Unfortunately for us, however, the fairies seem to be learning on the job.
My current favorite example of a fairy who screws with human affairs is Dindonette in the French tale, A Fairy’s Blunder.
Here’s Dindonettte to tell you what happened (spoken by me, with several bells and whistles):
I do wonder what a more experienced fairy might have said to Dindonette had she thought to consult one. The elder would most certainly have advised her to slow down and consider her plan. Dindonette suffers from a recognizably modern condition: “hurry sickness.” She’s in a big rush to make people happy with her grand gestures, but on closer examination, she seems to be after the brownie points. I mean, she’s just a wee bit too pleased to be strolling around the village swinging her wand and telling everybody what she’s done.
I think the wisest fairies would instruct Dindonette on the subject of consequences. “Uh, consider this, Dindie: even under the best circumstances, if the children grow instantaneously into adulthood, they’re not going to acquire any experience, and if the elders suddenly become young again, they’ll forget everything they know. You’re basically cancelling out the life experience. You really want to do that?”
Dindonette is left with a question. How do you effectively grant human wishes? What people appear to want may not be what they truly want or need. It’s complicated. So what do you do with your brilliant mind and all your technology? How can you effectively help humanity?
For fairies this is a bit of a conundrum. They’ve got all the power in the world to execute their plans, but the bigger the vision, the higher the risk of backfiring. Which leads me to surmise that fairy’s higher education must include more than spelling and the mechanics of wands. One must learn the power of restraint, and those (crash) courses would be painful. What would they entail, I wonder? Ha! I know. You become human!