help


brownie-sm

Illustration by Jean-Baptiste Monge

There’s always one in every crowd. You know, you’ve got a good thing going and that one guy or gal pushes things too far and ruins it for everyone. This is no less true when dealing with fairies.

I was reading R. Macdonald Robertson’s Selected Highland Folktales and he told the story of “The Fairies of Pennygown.” If any of the townsfolk of Pennygown needed help with a task, they brought the work of an evening to a certain nearby sithean, a lovely green fairy hill. By morning, the task would be nicely completed: spinning, weaving, repair, mending, you name it. One villager, though, kept leaving more and more difficult things, pushing it.

One night he left by their hillock a piece of driftwood which he had picked up on the sea-shore, with instructions that it was to be made into a ship’s mast. When the villagers came next morning to collect the property left overnight, they found none of the tasks executed. This last request had angered the fairies so much that they had left their hillock, in disgust, for good.

Any reasonable being would be put out by such oafish behavior, it’s true. But it’s also true that helpful fairies are a tricky lot. They can have goodwill towards humans, but it can also turn on a dime. If they’re insulted, they can get mischievous and mean. Some say poltergeists are fairies who’ve become insulted by a householder and take it out in spite.

They also have sometimes exacting standards of what constitutes insult. Brownies and hobs, for instance, will gladly help out with the housework, usually at night like the Pennygown folk. However, they don’t want to be seen, and don’t want payment, or even expressions of gratitude. They will, though, accept gifts, mostly in the form of food, especially porridge and honey. If a householder starts taking them for granted, openly thanks them, or considers the food “payment”—or if they try to get a glimpse of them—the brownies will forthwith abandon the house, never to be seen again or lend their help.

There are other European versions of such beings: tomte in Scandanavia, domovoi in Slavic countries, Heinzelmännchen in Germany, Haltija in Finland, many others. Some have even made the trip over the Atlantic to the Americas. But in my (admittedly limited) investigation of helpful fairy folk, I’ve only found one non-European example of work-helpful fairies, the koro-pok-guru of the Ainu people of the Northern Japanese islands.

These beings would hunt and fish for the Ainu in exchange for little gifts, leaving the goods overnight. Like the brownies, they hated being seen. Of course, one Ainu loser couldn’t leave well enough alone and blew the gig for everyone. The young man in question waited by the place where the gifts were left, determined to see a koro-pok-guru, and laid hands on the first one to appear. It was a beautiful koro-pok-guru maiden, but she and her people were so angered at this affrontery that they disappeared, never to help the Ainu or be seen again.

Very strong parallels with the European myths, but that isn’t entirely surprising. Ainu are racially distinct from the Japanese. Recent research suggests Okhotsk origins and there is still a small population of Ainu in Russia. They share that pan-European ancestry, so they share those ancient pan-European stories.

But as I said, I haven’t found anything else like it around the world. Good and bad spirits aplenty, but none who will pitch in to do the work for humans in exchange for small gifts. I am far from an expert on this, so if anyone knows of such a tradition in a non-European context, I would love to hear about it.

Random quote of the day:

“I think I have learned that the best way to lift one’s self up is to help someone else.”

—Booker T. Washington, The Story of My Life and Work, vol. 1

 lift4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The best cure for worry, depression, melancholy, brooding, is to go deliberately forth and try to lift with one’s sympathy the gloom of somebody else.”

—Arnold Bennett, Things That Have Interested Me

gloom4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“As you go on in life, you become aware of the folly of thinking you did something all by yourself.”

—Tobias Wolff, interview, The Paris Review, No. 171, Fall 2004

help4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Jun 6
I do have the sweetest cat on the planet: I open her mouth, drop her thyroid pill in, and she swallows it. This morning, she even purred.

Jun 6
Anyone who tells me what I should do is probably full of horsesh*t.

Jun 8
Riding the back of a flying dragon defies the laws of physics, but it’s become an entrenched fantasy trope. And hey, dragons aren’t real, PJ. My own solution to the Dragon Problem was painfully ludicrous, and I’m the only one who thinks dragon-riding is a problem, so I should just give it up.

Jun 8
To think I once got really excited and emotionally involved by beauty pageants.

Jun 9
I suppose it could be construed as unprofessional that I am sitting at my desk popping my gum loudly.

Jun 10
I’m in the process of reinventing myself yet again, always a slow and painful process, but more so because I am so distracted. I wonder who I’ll wind up being this time?

Jun 10
Jawdropping map: The 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. http://on.mash.to/1s4lz2O 

Jun 11
Bwoogity. I got rid of the Piers Anthony books a lifetime ago. I read them in junior high and thought something was off about them even then. Now Marion Zimmer Bradley is going into the recycling bin. I won’t inflict her on any library sale or Goodwill. Blech. http://tinyurl.com/kqhh9k5  and http://tinyurl.com/cf2uv3a 

Jun 12
A swarm of bees/wasps came in my mother’s bathroom window today. The beeman is on his way. WTF.

The bees had formed a colony in our attic. They are gone now. And we caught the wasp nest just in time. Life is exciting.

The “hilarious” part is that Mom sat there for 20 minutes wondering what that buzzing sound was. Flies, maybe. Thank God, no stings. We got lucky, considering she’s half-blind. She recognized the danger and got out of harm’s way in time.

The bees were back by evening. The bee man will be returning in the morning and my mom is sleeping on the futon.

Jun 13
The bees dealt with again this morning, vents sealed. Hopefully this will do it. I’m so stressed I’ve got hives. *rimshot* Gotta laugh. It’s a ridiculous situation. Terrifying in retrospect but we bumbled our way through.

Jun 13
Whatever you love has consequences.

Jun 14
Someone egged my car last night. The neighbor’s car next to it was untouched. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me. It’s a late model banged up Honda Civic and the neighbor’s car is spiffy and new. Such is life.

Jun 14
Dr. John Dee has shown up as a character in so much recent spec fic that he’s practically become a new fantasy trope.

Jun 15
That was fun. I sat on a cloth garden chair and kept right on sitting until I hit the ground. Guess I shouldn’t have let it winter outside.

Jun 16
Mom fell on the way to the door to let the medical transport guy in. She said she was okay and went to dialysis but it scared the crap out of me. Dealing with all this over the phone at work while the neighbors help her is nausea-inducing.

guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt

Jun 17
I was typing in my mother’s insurance company and spell check came up with “trickster.” Which is pretty appropriate now that I think about it.

Jun 17
Products I would like to see: InstaMan, for all your hefting and moving needs. Just add water!

Jun 19
If you describe yourself as having “clarity and courage” perhaps what you have is “smugness and self-absorption.”

Jun 20
Ironic (and unfortunate) Twitter juxtaposition. http://twitpic.com/e6kxdg 

Jun 20
On the 24 hour Dodger station Mom never knows if she’s watching a replay or a live game, and the she thinks the commercials are also games.

Jun 21
Sometimes I think white people are purposely stupid when dealing with a person with a Latin accent. A lady at the donut shop asked why the whole wheat bagel was more expensive than the others. “It’s 9 grams,” said the clerk. The lady kept repeating “9 grams?” like it wasn’t perfectly clear and making the clerk also repeat herself several times. Finally I turned to the lady and said sharply “It’s because it’s heavier!” That shut her up. I smiled at the clerk & said, “Perfectly understandable to me.” The clerk laughed, gave me my receipt and said, “Thank you for everything.”

I think people do this because it’s a power trip, an attempt to assert (pseudo) authority over someone because of language differences.

Jun 22
Here’s one of our new Patty O’ Chairs. Please note: it is not cloth. It has lovely cushions which I was too lazy to bring outside.

pic.twitter.com/H4hlA1mhkS

And here’s the new bench that goes with the chairs.

http://tinyurl.com/o39ehcr

Sturdy is GOOD. The literature said it will weather to a “nice grey.” And yes, it’s very comfortable and easy to get up from. Mom had no trouble. Nor did I. They are Strathwood Gibranta if you want to look for them elsewhere.

Jun 24
Here’s a thing I don’t get: “My team just won a big game! I’m going to go out and destroy things to celebrate!”

Jun 25
The Rasta Bus I passed three miles earlier passed me as I waited for a light on Main Street. There’s a metaphor there somewhere.

Jun 25
Life is a lot like Faery: once you enter it, you can’t go back. You must go through it.

Which is the premise of one of my novels. God and the fairies know if it will ever be written.

Jun 26
I think I’ve got outrage fatigue.

Jul 15
One of the downsides of having someone in to stay with my mom while I’m at work: snooping.

Jul 16
Min disappeared for hours and we thought she’d gotten out. I combed the neighborhood for her. Finally we heard her scratching from the underside of my mother’s giant recliner. She’d gotten trapped when Mom put the footrest down. All three of us were traumatized.

Jul 16
An epiphany this morning listening to NPR about living with teenagers: caregiving is like living with a toddler and a teenager at the same time.

Jul 17
Trust is a fragile thing, and when you have an unreliable 93-year-old narrator, it’s sometimes mighty difficult to know the truth.

Jul 23
Isn’t the idea of in home care to take the burden off rather than add more stress? Did I miss a memo? We recently received a grant from the VA allowing us 12 hours of help a week but it has problems of its own.

Things could be much, much worse. June was hellish. This month things are looking up. But there are always complications.

One of the nice/complicated things: a very nice, mature, solid replacement to a snooping, manipulative, thievish sort, but with scheduling conflicts. I’m going to ride it out and let next month take care of itself because I’m exhausted and can’t take more time off and because it’s not a perfect world.

Jul 23
Proof that there is a God: http://tinyurl.com/pp7dd9e 

Jul 25
So Mom fell in her bedroom today when she was alone. Not hurt, thank G–, but the neighbor who came over to help took the opportunity to lecture me about having someone stay with her full time. “We don’t have the money. What do you suggest we do?” “Oh, well, it looks like you’ve got a situation,” she said. Indeed, we do have a situation. Mom and I will have a talk tonight about using her medical alert button next time she falls rather than calling the neighbor. I work a half hour away so it’s difficult to get home to her in a timely fashion.

People are real free with the lecturing and advice, whether they have experience with caregiving or not.

Jul 25
I used to think I was a good judge of character but recent events have shown me that may be an illusion.

Jul 27
Thunder, lightning, and downpour. What are these things?

Rain pouring down, all the windows wide open, and fans going at full blast. We are not use to humidity. It sucks.

Poor Minnie is hiding under the bed. Every thunder strike is followed by sirens. We Californians really don’t know how to drive in the rain.

Turns out the sirens were due to a lightning blast a couple of miles away at Venice Pier. One killed, several injured. In fact, today 9 people were struck by lightning on Venice Beach CA, and a man and a girl hit by a plane forced to land on Venice Beach FL.

Jul 28
I suppose it’s too late to cry, “Foul!” on spoilers for The Big Lebowski, a movie I’ve always meant to see.

Jul 28
Discuss: “All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously.” ― Tom Robbins

“All” is a bit broad. Some depression has roots in brain chemical imbalances and that cannot be said to be a character flaw. There’s a constellation of causes for depression. Self-pity and taking oneself too seriously may be two.

Perhaps Mr. Robbins is a dick.

Jul 30
My latest Etsy obsession: http://tinyurl.com/n3d9l5w 

Jul 31
The whole “Unfriend a Man” thing? http://tinyurl.com/jvos6l9  I can’t think of anything more boring than being surrounded only by women. Besides, when has reverse bigotry ever solved anything? When has blaming an entire half of the species because of the actions of a few led to anything other than Elliot Rodger? If you want to live in an estrogen-only environment, more power to you. As for me, I prefer a more varied hormonal environment, with give and take and the possibility of dialogue. Keeps life interesting.

Aug 2
Mom’s confusion tonight is too vast for 140 characters but too exhausting for anything larger.

All the perky caregiver advice experts make my ass burn.

Aug 4
A lifetime ago I read Malamud’s “The Magic Barrel” and adored it. Gave me the warm fuzzies. I read it yesterday for the first time since. I barely remembered it and when I was done I thought, “Why did this loom so large in my young imagination?” I mean, I liked the story, but it wasn’t the epic turning point it had been back then. And I remembered it as much more romantic, less downbeat. Could it be that I myself was more romantic and less downbeat? One must draw the conclusion that it is possibly so. Maybe the reason it loomed so large was because for the first time I saw one could be a fabulist and still considered literary, an important distinction for me back then.

Aug 4
I just learned that my cousin, the one who was going to stay with Mom while I had surgery, passed away in her sleep last night. Shock and sorrow.

She was diabetic and had COPD, and about five or so years ago, successfully fought off breast cancer. But when she realized her health had deteriorated to the point where she’d have to go to an assisted living situation, she decided she wouldn’t take her meds anymore. Her independence was everything to her. She wanted that last bit of control, I guess.

She wanted peace. She was done. She wanted to go be with her husband, the love of her life, who passed when he was only 35. She didn’t have an easy life. I hope she found that peace she was after.

Aug 5

To make the week even more perfect I am currently sitting in the jury room at the L.A. Metropolitan Courthouse.

Aug 5
I’ve gotten to the age where when I think back to how long it’s been since I did X activity the answer is often a bit frightening.

I’m also so old I have no shame. I am wearing my steampunk bifocals (reading glasses over my distance glasses) in the jury room. I’d take a pic but, alas, no pictures allowed in the jury room.

However, in a couple of weeks I will have grown up glasses at last and my army of reading glasses will go into the recycler.

Aug 7
Much easier feeling compassion for someone’s life once they’re dead, much harder when confronted with the irritations of day to day living. I guess we always assume they’ll always be around to irritate us, no matter what our head tells us about the impermanence of life.

Aug 8
I am not a responsible adult. Whoever put me in charge of this household made a HUGE mistake.

Aug 8
A death in the family, jury duty, and two days of stomach virus. I am D-O-N-E with this week.

For urgent family reasons, she would very much like to contact her brother’s daughter, Danielle—but she disappeared years ago into the wilds of Washington state and they haven’t been able to locate her. Please take a look a her post on the subject and please help if you can.

If you haven’t heard by now, the wonderful editor, writer, and artist Terri Windling has fallen on hard times. If you’d like more details, and to participate in the auction being held on her behalf, you can visit magic4terri. There are lots of cool goodies being offered—plus it helps a very special someone.

and would like the added benefit of helping someone who really needs it, read this post or check out the Norilana Books website.