Don’t be fooled. The little folk of fairytale and fable are the keepers of the wisdom. What’s more, they’re not stuffy about it. Worldwide, no matter the tradition, folk tales challenge the norm, encourage creative problem-solving, even question who you are in order for you to grow into someone else.
We need these stories. Proof is in the fact that if our families don’t provide, we will look elsewhere for them. I have a Native American friend who lives near Taos Pueblo in New Mexico who will not tell a story of the Corn Mother unless her listener also shares a story from his or her tradition. She worries that there are not enough storytellers. She believes that when we forget our stories, we forget everything.
Ireland, of course, is known for its storytellers, as this little video advertises . . .
If you meet a hobgoblin and he asks for a coin, find one. Dig deep if you have to. Otherwise, he’ll turn the forest around and you’ll lose your way. When I read that old eastern European tradition, I thought, THAT explains it. Aren’t we all lost in one sense or another? Maybe, we aren’t paying the hobgoblin.
Too many of us underestimate the Little Folk. Or think we outgrow them. Generations past didn’t make that mistake. My German grandmother literally believed in kitchen elves. They were blamed for spilled and spoiled food. She believed it was good, common sense to keep them placated. Even today, an Irish friend knows every fairy tree in her part of County Cork and never messes with them. She doesn’t need the trouble. Is that superstitious or wise?
Stories explain things we can’t explain easily. Got a problem (hobgoblin)? Find a coin, pay the price, deal with it. Otherwise you risk letting things get more tangled, less clear, even more difficult. We all know that, but stories allow us to frame the idea with humor. “Paid the hobgoblin?” might be a way to gently remind ourselves to get on with things. It also acknowledges that we all have hobgoblins, all of them ugly.
Old Man Coyote, an American folk figure, is said to be too clever for his own good. He’s always getting into trouble and frequently gets himself killed. No matter. His shit is magic. No, really! When he jumps over it, he comes back to life. If you don’t believe that, you haven’t been paying attention to American politics lately.
“If you don’t believe in fairies, you’re not Irish.”
–Liz Weir, storyteller
“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about and that was the beginning of fairies”
–JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan