Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Otherness of the Otherworld in Stories

 The faerie queen
“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” ~John 11:25 MSG

Before diving in like a mermaid into the sea... I hope I have made the words well enough to be understood.  It's always been hard for me to explain this with words.

There is an otherness to all the old medieval works, all in their own ways.  By otherness, I think I mean mythology, somewhat.  The music of a harp can carry it too (and Enya and Moya Brennan's music.  They're sisters.  Enya did a song in Fellowship of the Ring's end credits).
Speaking of music, here is a video of two twins (yes they are actually identical twins.) who play the harp to remind you how beautiful the harp can sound.  It's a Christmas song so all the more reason to listen to it. haha

The Brothers Grim fairy tales (however edited and revised they were) weren't medieval, but they remind me a little of what I'm trying to find.  They had a raw feel to them, like wonderful bitter chocolate.  The Grim brothers themselves liked mythology and liked to put in an element of it into the tales now and then, and it gave the tales an air of their own.  They didn't have many details in them, and most of the tales don't tell us the names of the characters.  Maybe similar to the story jokes we sometimes tell.  All they tell us most of the time is what profession the characters are.

Also, there isn't much depth to the characters in the Grim's tales.  Those just tell us what happened, and many interpretations may be made of the characters by their actions.  I do like them though because they were collected in Germany (though some of the people who came up with the tales were actually French, not German).
They don't carry as much of an otherness to them.

Hans Christian Andersen, on the other hand, does.  He was the one who wrote the Little Sea-Maid (Little Mermaid with the original sad ending), The Snow Queen (that scary story of a boy and a girl and a scary white queen of winter, and growing up and adventure, and flowers and talking animals, and I recommend reading it), and Thumbelina (this one doesn't have as much of an otherness to it), which happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales.  Even though he lived and wrote in the same time period as Charles Dickens (who had a wonderful writing voice) and the Grim brothers, his stories capture the feeling of foreign mythology, which can be quite beautiful at times.   

The Faerie Queene by Edward Spenser (in it's original form) is probably the better example that I can give.  The language gives it a music, another world, a whole nother (I'm making this a word) realm that you feel like you've never been to before, in all senses of that phrase.  The word for it I am still looking for.  Perhaps I shall have to make up a word for it as well.  I think it's a VERY VERY tiny glimpse of what we'll feel when we get to heaven I suppose, except there we feel like we belong there.  Stories of other worlds remind us of this longing for heaven.
But anyway, the Faerie Queene is like a early version of Pilgrim's Progress, but much less an allegory of Christianity than it is of morals.  Also, it has more of an otherness to it than Pilgrim's Progress does.  Pilgrim's Progress feels like a church sermon using the Old King James language, but a sermon that's interesting.  The Faerie Queene... I haven't read a lot of it yet which is why I shouldn't place a word on it yet.  But from what I have read, it's just amazing, every word RICH in the middle English with many different spellings of words.  It's the sort of story that makes you look twice at words and fall in love with the sounds of them all over again.  The illustrations for the books (The Faerie Queene is six or seven books long) carry an otherness as well, some of them at least.

The Lord of the Rings books bring back an element of the otherness because Tolkien read and loved many of the older works, mythology of the North.  Peter Jackson nearly captured it in the films but it's not all there, and it's pretty much gone in the Hobbit movies now.  Whenever I watch the tv shows that are supposed to be in medieval times or another world (like Merlin and Once Upon a Time, for example), none of that otherness is there.  Everyone talks just like we do in modern days.  The stories feel... cheap.  I'm not saying I don't like these shows -- I do -- it's just that they always seem to be missing something that I loved in the older works.  Maybe it's because they feel secular.  Characters in them (and real people for that matter) are grasping for ideas of truth outside the Bible these days.  Hm... and back then, there was the Code of Chivalry, and all those other morals that were made clear, and in the medieval times the government survived because of the Catholic church, so people were fluent in the "Christian" speech back then (it just sounded different then haha).
OH!  Also, when I go into a beautiful cathedral, I felt God's presence so strongly there.  It was so beautiful, the light coming in through stain-glass windows.  I felt a sort of "otherness" there, you might say.  Maybe that's why the older works seem to have it.  I really can't put my finger on it but I wish I could.  I know I'll learn more in heaven.

I want to bring that otherness back into stories.  It's so very rare in newer works because we write like what we read, and a lot of us read mostly newer books, and because we live in the modern world and talk like everyone else.  But when I sit down to write, I sometimes feel like a different person, someone who has lived in another age, another world.  Sometimes I don't.

If you have any ideas about this, please comment!  I enjoy collaborating. (:
Also, when I write something I'm thinking one way, but I've been finding out that one can interpret another's writing in so many ways.


  1. Reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote... “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
    I'm reading the Faerie Queen right now too. Although I am finding it a little hard to understand... what with the v's being u's and the u's being v's and all. =) Have you read Beowulf? It's kind of like what you're talking about too... I think.

    1. Yes! I was thinking about that quote. (: I haven't read Beowulf yet, but I probably should one day.

  2. I think I understand what mysterious thing you're talking about. Books like the Chronicles of Narnia, and the modern-by-comparison Wingfeather Saga, spark that longing in my heart. It's like a longing for the ancient, good things that were far before we became. As if, even this great world that we are blessed with is merely a shadow of our Creator's glorious masterpiece. As if, through the ultimate corruption of sin, we have missed something deeper and lovelier than we could ever know. It makes me wonder what Eden was like. Perhaps the life that was there, fresh from creation, was richer and holier than what we live now, and had that "otherness" about it. :) I think that all stories are echoes of some part of the Great Story by life's Author. Maybe stories that bring us a sense of that otherness are echoes of an ancient time that we know not of. I wholeheartedly agree with you: we will find out when we reach Heaven.

    1. Yes! (: I know... even reading the beginning of Genesis feels like an otherworldly fairy tale. Maybe that's where that feeling came from. :D