Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sources for insight: Fairy Tales

"The definition of fairy story--what it is, or what it should be--does not, then, depend on any definition or historical account of elf or fairy, but upon the nature of Faerie, the Perilous Realm itself, and the air that blows in that country. I will not attempt to define that, nor to describe it directly. It cannot be done. Faerie cannot be caught in a net of words, for it is one of its qualities to be indescribable, though not imperceptible." JRR Tolkien

Tolkien understood that fairy is not just the pixie, the tiny translucent women who dance upon the moonbeams. Fairy is a realm, a place of possibilities and one of the greatest sources of larp adventure available to the plot person. The essay from which this was pulled is entitled "On Fairy Stories" and I recommend it to anyone who loves the fantastic. It is not a fictional tale, instead it is the primer by which Tolkien evaluated fictional tales and it has value in its classifications. Fairy stories then, per Tolkien, are stories that remove us from the realm of the natural and place us in the realm of the fae. A classic example of a story like this is "Alice in Wonderland"

Alice in wonderland removes the main character from the realm of men and moves her into a realm of playing cards and mad hatters. The story line is a relatively common quest archetype but the characterizations and situation that are encountered are very bizarre and strange. Borrowing from a story like this, a plot person can remove his players from the standard fantasy realm that they understand and move them into an infinite number of possible locations. For instance, in a relatively famous book, the author moves his characters into a bar populated by characters from Alice in Wonderland as the result of hallucinogenic drug use by a magic user. This would be an awesome way to introduce a new intoxicant to the game, and make the players aware of the dangers inherent in the substance.

Other presentations of the Fae are seen in stories like a Midsummers nights Dream. The puckish type troublemaker character is pretty much a larp standby. Tricky promises and oaths and the whole nine yards. These types of characters can be fun in moderation. If you run them too frequently then players will begin not speaking to anything that resembles fae. There are other fae in that story, Mab and Oberon? The Lord and Lady of the wood, so often in larp we ignore this other side of fairy. The dark and mysterious queen of the fae whose power is matched only by her capriciousness. The Lord of the Hunt whose dogs chase mortals for sport and change them into dogs for an year and a day. These types of encounters, pure power outside of the elementals and undead norms can be amazingly useful counterpoints, enemies, or even allies in a campaign. Plot people should consider reading some of the fairy stories that present this other side of the fae.

Overall the fairy tale is as broad as any other genre. Plot people should take advantage of this breadth by making their fae realm as varied as the one in other stories. Do not limit yourselves to the trickster, but keep him in mind, levity can be valuable as a tension break.

1 comment:

  1. Those are the things I am basing the Fae at NcN on.