Friday, November 19, 2010

When I first watched Showcase’s series LOST GIRL, it sort of bothered me at first that the fae in it weren’t the traditional fae. For starters, the heroine is termed a succubus. To survive, she needs to have sex with someone and drain their life essence during sex. (That’s why the show is on basic cable!) Of course, traditional succubi are demons out of Christian folklore, not fairy folk.

For another example, in an early episode, she runs into a “fury,” who in the show is a sort of badass vengeance demon. Traditionally the Furies are not fae, but ancient goddesses out of Greek mythology. They pursue mortals for the unforgivable crime of kinslaying.

In fact there are very few traditional British Isles fae in LOST GIRL. Though the Seelie and Unseelie Courts exist (called “Light” and “Dark” fae), there are no selkies or hobgoblins. No kelpies, pixies, duergars, coblynaus, brownies or water horses. There are also no worldwide traditional fae: no Norns, no Yunwi Tsunsdi, no Anansi or Legba, no Baba Yaga. No Chinese dragons, no Washer at the Ford, no ogres, nixies, kachinas, manitous, Tunghat, Yaqui little people, Numuzh’ho, Pu’gwis, Inuas, gremlins, sluaghs, pookas or ifrits. (So far as I know, anyway; I’m a few weeks behind in my viewing.) As a fan of trad folklore, and a guy who developed a series and then a feature script involving traditional fae, I was kind of disappointed at first not to see redcaps, dybbuks or rakshasas.

But having pondered this lately, I am coming around to the opposite notion. I think LOST GIRL has it right after all. The fae exist within their stories. The traditional Irish and German fairy stories make sense within their Old World context. But a selkie needs a fisherman to steal her sealskin coat and make her marry him. A troll needs travelers to cross his bridge on foot so he can confront them.

The purist in me wants to bring the fae into the modern world unscathed, but that’s sort of backwards. If the fairies exist within their stories, then rather than trying to bring the old fae into modern stories, we need new fae that belong in modern stories. We need fairy stories that make sense in our moderns world ... and then we need to create fae to populate them. So LOST GIRL makes sense: in a sex-obsessed society we need a sex-driven fairy. She’s not a succubus in the traditional sense (a Christian demon that seduced me to steal their seed), but the traditional sense doesn’t really make sense in our world.

So I guess I’m resigning from the purist club after all...


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