This morning, once breakfast was cleared and the television was blasting jovially from the living room, I had to pause and yell at my children, for the fourth time so far to stop doing flips on the couch, that it wasn't a trampoline, and they were going to hurt themselves. I may or may not have thrown in something more poignant like "Santa's watching you!" or "Do you want an ONION in your stocking?" In the mean time, my son, who is sick, but still acting like a maniac, took a flying leap off the arm of the couch, flipping in the air at the exact moment that my oldest daughter propelled herself off the other arm, feet first. They screamed in unison, startling my youngest daughter, who was climbing onto a chair in order to reach the plate of peppermint fudge that the neighbors had brought over the night before, and she fell onto her blessed little diaper padded bottom instead of reaching the counter.
After tears were dried, kisses and hugs were given, and I had sufficiently scolded them for misbehaving, I asked them a question that my mother asked me, her mother asked her, and so on, into the depths of our family tree. "What was that about?" In unison, my little soprano voiced angels sniffed "The Naughty Faerie!"
We have all had our run-ins with the Naughty Faerie, who does indeed have a name besides the Naughty Faerie, but since names are dear and sacred in the Faerie realm, to us he is known only this way. Like Jack Frost, the Naughty Faerie is one of a kind. It is not a race of Faeries such as Pixies or Sprites or Kelpies. He is only himself, and he is there whenever a person, particularly a child, is doing something they are not supposed to do, and he causes the inevitable outcome, which is what my children affectionately call an 'owie'. Most of the time, the Naughty Faerie is pretty harmless. A small cut, a bump on the head, scraped knees, etc. But if you're being really naughty, he might give you a broken arm, or a ride in an ambulance.
At the moment, I know you're thinking that he sounds like a particularly horrible fairy to have around the house, and you want to know what charms to hang around so that he will banish himself forever from your home and leave you and your children to misbehave in peace. But when I've told you what I know, I doubt you will judge him so harshly. I will not send him from my home, and if I shouldn't, neither should you. My reason is only one, and it is simple: I believe in Santa Clause.
As with many faeries, it is impossible to talk about one without involving another. In order to convey the spirit of the Naughty Faerie, I must divulge a little about our dearest and most favorite Faerie, Santa Claus, even though his story is yet to come.
On a broader scale, if one is to fully understand Santa, the Naughty Faerie and his elves, one must understand Faeries in general. The problem with this is that even someone like myself, or on an even more expert level, Brian Froud, doesn't understand them to a 't'. Faeries are always changing, always rearranging, always becoming something they're not. And Faeries always have impossible rules. They have codes and morals that make no sense to us as humans, and they adhere to them with explicit perfection. For example, a Faerie gives no gift for free. None of them have any sense of charitable generosity. They have many magical powers that can heal or hurt, give or remove. They can be very generous and leave someone with greater things than they could ever ask for. But beware, because a Faerie will always retaliate and ask for a favor in return. It could be immediate, or it could be decades away. And they almost always ask for something impossible to give, like your teeth, or your memories, or your first born. And when the recipient of a Faerie gift refuses their request, they are subject to more debt. The wisest way to deal with a Faerie is to refuse any gift they might offer. A bowl of cream and a spoonful of honey might seem a very small price to pay for a Brownie who will clean your home top to bottom. But the repercussions one might suffer for paying him incorrectly are worse than scrubbing a floor on your own hands and knees. And always remember this: NEVER let yourself be tricked into thinking that YOU have the FAERIE at your mercy.
One can imagine that, if a human can get into unfathomable debt with the Faerie Folk, their world is heavy with it. Each Faerie owes a hundred other Faeries dozens of favors. But it's alright because a hundred Fairies totally different from the first hundred owe the first Faerie dozens of favors. It's a vicious cycle that just goes on and on for eternity. Humans are the only ones who are really trapped by this, and it is because of our steep sense of morality. We owe. We must pay. Faeries just keep tallying up more debt because, while they know they will never pay it off, they know that none of the others will either. And their wrath is lost on one another.
And so our story begins here.
Santa Claus, who also has many names, and none of us truly know which one is real, is what one would call 'High Sidhe' (pronounced Shee). The courts are a complicated hierarchy, and I would rather not waste time explaining the difference between classes here, however, I will say that the High Sidhe are rather important Faeries. We know this because 1. They are all human sized, and sometimes larger- The Ghost of Christmas Present for example. The more important a Faerie is, the larger they become in stature. The pretty little winged things that you see flitting from flower to flower like they are honey bees are of little to no consequence in the land of Faerie. 2. They often display morals that are normally only inherent to humans. Most of them, including the Queens who are arguably the most important of all, only manifest these morals for a brief moment during, say, an act of pity or forgiveness and then move along to being amoral, hedonistic little things that spread havoc wherever they go. They are much more powerful than the other, smaller Faeries, but they generally don't concern themselves with frivolous things like tying hair in knots or making milk go sour. For a rough comparison, a faerie of the High Sidhe nature is one that would be, in our world, of Royal birth, but not a King or Queen himself.
Santa Claus has always been an exceptional type of High Side. Of course, I wasn't there. I am mortal. But I know many stories.
You may be familiar with something called "The Kneeling Santa". If you are not, a picture is provided above. I was very happy to receive an early gift of it from my mother a few days ago. Ours is nestled very pleasantly beneath our tree, surrounded by dozens of Christmas gifts for our children. As a child, this representation was proof to me that Santa Claus is a Mormon. Now, I laugh a little at my innocent heart and revel in my new found understanding. I do not know what religion Santa is, or if he claims one at all. But I know he was there in that stable, and that he knelt at sweet baby Jesus' feet. In all of that baby Christ's glory, a Fairy, who must have looked quite a bit younger 2000 years ago, had a mighty change of heart.
From what I understand, Santa had no immediate plans when he came away from the stable that night. After all, he was a Faerie and existed on a totally different plane. He was bright of eye, loud of laugh, extravagant and unrestrained. He had (and still has) many friends in the Faerie land, and he wracked up his debt against others, and they wracked up theirs against him. But Christ's life was short to a Faerie, and his ministry, which lasted only 3 years, was unbelievably minuscule. And while other Faeries hardly took notice, the one we now call Santa Claus took every word to heart. I daresay he understood in perfect clarity the sacrifice that was made by our Savior.
Some may be surprised to hear of Santa being a Faerie. Some of you might not believe in him at all. (Which is why you have to put your OWN presents under the tree on Christmas eve, I might add.) But he is, and at the moment, it is not important. We will talk about our revered friend in a later post. Tonight, is about the Naughty Faerie.