The Fairy Bride

Perhaps you have heard the story of the fairy bride. There are various incarnations of this folktale, but the bare bones of the story are this.

A man glimpses a beautiful maiden unlike any other he has seen. She may be bathing in a river, tending to wild animals, perhaps asleep in the shade of a tree. Whatever the situation, he falls instantly in love with her and vows to take her as his bride.

After much searching, the man finds her again and discovers that the maiden is not a mortal woman, but a fairy. He pursues her relentlessly, declaring his love, and eventually she allows him to ask her father for her hand in marriage.

There are many tests the man must pass before he is considered worthy of her, and when the father finally agrees to let the man marry his precious daughter, there are conditions. These conditions vary according to the many versions of the tale, but some of the more common conditions are that the man must never strike her or touch her with iron, iron being anathema to fairy folk.

The couple marry, have children and enjoy a happy life together for a good few years until one day when they decide to go out horse riding together. As the man helps his fairy bride with her horse, the bridle slips from his hand and the iron bit strikes her in the face, whereupon she vanishes back to her immortal world.

At first sight, the fairy’s vanishing seems a ridiculous overreaction to an accident, and in many ways it is, but at the heart of the story lies a lesson in personal values, or deal breakers.

We all have deal breakers, though usually they’re more fluid than the fairy bride’s, and can be tightened or relaxed according to the situation. Deal breakers are a fundamental part of one’s makeup, although sometimes you don’t know what they are until a particular situation brings them into play. They are the make or break of relationships, for good or ill.

Some people will walk away from a good relationship into a bad one, simply because the latter offers marriage and children and the former didn’t. Others will forgo love altogether for the sake of a career. You live and die by your deal breakers, and only you know if they’re worth the sacrifice. Only make sure you’re certain, as sometimes there’s no way back.

There is a codicil to the story of the Fairy Bride. As she had lived among humans and raised a family, when she returned to the Fairy world she was forbidden ever to set foot in the human world again. But her love for her husband and children was so strong that she built a raft of earth and came up out of the lake at night, as close to the shore as she was allowed, so that she might talk for a few hours with her human family, they on the shore, she on her floating island.

While this was a far from ideal solution, it illustrates that perhaps a mistake hasn’t really broken a deal, perhaps bridges can be built. And the story in itself warns against both carelessness and hasty reprisals.

We could all benefit from taking a breath and counting to ten before reacting to any situation. And whilst it is important to be true to one’s own values, it is equally important not to let ideals get in the way of your happiness and peace of mind. It’s a long road ahead, and life is too short to let stubbornness lay rocks in your path.

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By SJB

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