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s e e l i e a n d u n s e e l i e
This is a slightly edited transcript of a conversation I had on LiveJournal with Paradox about xir particular kind of "dark elves", the practice of child-stealing, and notions of "seelie" and "unseelie". My comments are the ones in italics.
July 2007 (at the time I still went by Eshari)
Paradox: ... I read about elves/fae etc. stealing children in relation to walk ins [...] I've only heard or read stories about faeries stealing children and then being discovered in the context of a myth or fun story but not in the context of a possibility... I had this feeling like "that's the sort of thing we'd do" and asked myself why "we" would be so motivated to steal babies and leave one of us in their place. [...] It occurs to me that replacing the child with an elf satisfies the elves' need to fulfill their end of a bargain, to provide payment so they can justify stealing people's children. What's worse is that I am almost 100% convinced that people can be possessions in elven society (human, elf, whatever) and can be offered in exchange for something. I don't know how much consent would have played into it. For example, people could offer themselves as possessions in exchange for something, but I'm totally not sure if some one could offer some one else they owned or if the owned would have to agree to the arrangement. I have a nasty feeling that once you are essentially owned, your ability to concede goes out the window. [...] this doesn't seem to be SSC or a temporary kink but a form, albeit strange, of institutionalized slavery. [...]
Eshari: Certainly sounds "unseelie", and isn't something I myself remember, but that doesn't mean much (I think it's well established that you and I are not at all the same thing nor from the same society, heh). But as long as you don't plan to repeat the process now, I don't see why it's something to worry about?
Paradox: Um... no, I'm not keen on kidnapping. lol You bring to mind an interesting though by your use of the word "unseelie". The more I study such creatures (elves/ fey), I have come to understand that even the "seelie" are not exactly good by human standards, just not pointedly malevolent toward humans. Their ethics are such that they may place tricks, take revenge for small slights, wreck your stuff for lying to them etc. I don't know... I have so many lines of thought running through my head about this now... Seems to me my elves (?) wouldn't quite understand what it would be like to be on the parents' end, to be one ones that lost the child. I also have this odd feeling that the child wouldn't live terribly long in whatever elf land place it'd be carried off to. *shrugs*
Eshari [quoting characterization of seelie]: Quite right. Unlikely to seek humans out just to be jerks to them, but don't get on their bad side, and they definitely do have one -- sometimes even a worse one than "unseelie" because it doesn't come out as often. To borrow some concepts from Erelin, who maps seelie and unseelie roughly to creation and destruction (although not necessarily to order and chaos -- most faeries tend to be chaotic to some degree), one might say that unseelie are destroying more often, so they do it with more "grace" -- but when a seelie starts destroying, brother get the hell out of the way. Heh.
Paradox: Interesting assessment/interpretation. I'm inclined to believe that, in the most general and human biased terms, seelie and unseelie can be similar in energy and approach to life... Seelie are more inclined to grace (in the sense of being graceful not in the sense of being charitable or forgiving), keeping up appearances, [...] gentility, calm and what humans tend to find beautiful and ethereal, but look out. Underneath the glamour is a huge can of whoop ass and an unpredictable attitude based in different ethics than most humans carry so it's hard to know when to zig and when to zag. I don't see them as inherently dishonest, but they are more apt hold a knife behind their back while shaking hands (while unseelie are apt to have said knife out in the open).
This isn't always bad. Letting on that a human a human's family member will die soon may do more harm than good and is not always preventable. This also may take the form of manipulation (like not telling the human that by embarking on a particular path to benefit her society will result in her own demise). The light elves/seelie seem to take a philosophy of keeping of appearances and playing the cards VERY close to the chest, "What /they/ don't know can hurt them, but we're okay with that if it doesn't reflect badly on us because we're just that fantastic."
Unseelie are capable of the same manipulation but put less emphasis on projecting the smooth flowing grace of their "light" more personable brethren. Indeed, they have a grace all their own. They carry the same capacity for weaving long tales to transpire generations into the future with vast far flung effects.. They have the same appreciation of and capacity for beauty and glamour, though their attitude toward it is a bit different. An unseelie will likely lay the prospect of doom squarely in a human's lap. Though the darker brethren may lure a human into its web of plots in order to effect a certain end, there will likely be no mistaking on the part of the human the fact that these creatures are not welcoming to humans as a matter of course, the razzle-dazzle, if any, will be to make a point, not to woo the human into a sense of false comfort. Just as seelie are apt to allow only images of life into their midst, the unseelie welcome and shape beauty out of the concepts of death, pain and war. You might imagine a more honest form of manipulation, an uglier (though just as majestic and... flowing) natural beauty, a more earth and stone brand of ethereal...
I realize that I made the seelie out to be jerks. Sorry. Didn't meant to, honest! At this point, I should emphasize at least one similarity, and that is, if you are truly welcome among any of the elves/fey I feel I remember (the feeling in my bones that tells a story or three), you are indeed heartily welcome. If you are given a token of good will by these elves, while it may be a prank or a seemingly useless doodad made solely to be foolish, it is definitely a gift and a show of genuine good will. They may not tell you the whole truth, but they will tell you truth. They may intentionally convolute things, but every convoluted thing, if followed to its meaning, will hold truth. They play, they laugh, they love, they wonder... The story inside of me holds that there was a time when elves and humans associated with one another cordially, and while there was never complete trust, there was a time when there was much less xenophobia on either side. Perhaps I should write a story... lol
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