Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Elf Magic

(A contemporary adaptation of one of the Brothers Grimm "Elf Stories"--2nd story listed here)

Kate lived on a farm. She’d been hired to watch the property and tend a family’s small agri-business. She had no family of her own. She spent her days alone and silent, tending the organic vegetables, milking the goats, and cleaning the home. In the evenings, she treated herself to reading books of romance, or mythology, or psychology. Afterwards, over a cup of tea, she’d look at the stars, trying to learn their names. And later, in the quiet of her bed, she’d fantasize of possible tomorrows. Her sleep was filled with fantastic dreams.

She worked this way for 7 years.

Then, one evening, while falling asleep after a long day of harvesting and processing pickles, an idea popped into Kate’s head. It was a wonderful story for a movie. In an instant she saw it--the entire film. But she was exhausted. And she wasn’t a writer. Kate tried to stop imagining each scene and willed herself to go to sleep.

The next day, while weeding, or shoveling, or tending to the bees, Kate saw the movie even more clearly. Was it something she had seen before? No, the idea was new and unstable—the images morphed, transformed, and grew. More and more details emerged until Kate felt she was living a parallel life: one on the farm, and one in a fairytale kingdom in her mind. Soon, the elves from the story started talking directly to Kate, asking her to help them tell their story to the world. But she wasn’t a writer!

After a week of images, when she started talking back to the elves, Kate knew she had a problem. She had to stop these daydreams. The elves begged her to contact an agent in Los Angeles. But she didn’t know any agents! The elves wouldn’t be refused. She had been given a great honor to help birth their tale! She had to go to L.A. They’d take care of the rest.

The harvest was in and the bees were tended. She had come into some extra money unexpectedly. Perhaps it was time for a vacation? She could get someone to watch the animals while she was gone. A change of pace might be just what she needed. Clearly, she had lived alone too long. And if, in the course of events she met an agent? No, that was the craziness talking. She had a friend to visit. That was all she was doing. It would be nicer than a trip to a psychiatrist. Still, just to shut up the elves in her head, Kate packed her story notes.

On the plane ride she found herself next to a movie producer. She debated whether or not to tell her fantastic tale but, given the startling coincidence, and the high pitched yelling of the elves in her head, she acquiesced. John listened patiently, gave her his card and told her to visit him in two days.

Hollywood was an intoxicating mix: mountains, ocean, Grateful Dead parties, surfing, celebrity sightings, funky canyon hideaways, and New Age hedonists who shared a myriad of sensual pleasures with Kate.

She began to learn the business of Hollywood: meetings for screen treatments, meetings for financing. Meetings in hot tubs, at sushi bars, and while jogging on the beach.

A week after their first meeting, while she was packing her bags to go home, John called. He had arranged another conference for Friday, couldn’t she stay? Kate thought about the farm and her duties. The elves sang sweetly in her mind. Couldn’t she stay??

Maybe another week.

Back on the plane, Kate sat in a daze. The elves’ story no longer occupied her mind. Now she replayed visions of new friends and all she’d learned about movie-making. And a final image--her name on a check for $6 million.

It was a stifling, humid day when Kate got home. She was surprised at how flat the land looked. No one was around and the garden looked terrible. She didn’t even put her things away but merely laid them at the door and rushed to water the crops. Then, still in her traveling clothes, she began to weed. A man approached. What was she doing?

Kate looked at the man. She didn’t understand the question. And then she realized—all the meetings! The farm now belonged to someone else. She had been gone over a year!

©Lewis-Barr 2008

1 comment:

Kate said...

From Kate Randall-Mayhew - Some unvarnished thoughts on old and new tales as presented by Laura Lewis-Barr. Definitely a Grimm/grim ending for Kate. Whatever shall she do?

Elves Evil? Some associative thinking yields the following. Am drawing similarities to monkey mind which, like the elves chatter, causes disruption to what is currently before one. In new age parlance monkey mind chatter, like the elves chatter, can trick and decieve, deter one from success, and create a pull toward chaos – bad monkey mind, bad elves! This is in keeping with the typical enchantment element of fairy tales. Incidentally, eating the brains of chattering monkeys is believed in some eastern cultures to cure impotence. Impotence i.e., lack of power and stimulation can be inferred by Kate’s (love the name) story.

Gender message: elves lure a young maid full of longing and bordom with promises and romantic visions which eventually fade when reality hits. This is the story a mother might tell her daughter to warn of of consorting with big bad wolves. Hollywood, like the House of the Rising Sun, serves as a classic metaphor of illusion and temptation which foments one’s downfall.

Apropo to the more interdependent and microcosmic days of yore, a neighbor (whose gender is insignificant as opposed to a male stranger in the modern tale) ushers the protagonist into reality. The neighbor provides assistance; the stranger is reality itself. Is this the kinder, gentler existentialism of Camus or that of Sartre, in which she decides to venture off from the bourgeois defined world she has known but to whch she decides to return – only to find its elements of safety have disappeared?

In the antiquated version, a scary image courtesy of the Changeling is dangled before us. In modernity, reality provides more than enough scary images usually through electronic and paper media. Who needs the bogey man when the aftermath of suicide bombers appears daily?

In the older tale, there is a solution offered but not so for our current one. Resolution is the burden of the reader, or one might say, consumer.

Kate’s psychological prime element: in which she displaces her personal responsibility (a very human trait) onto elfin guidance. She deludes herself that she is not engaged in magical thinking but visiting a friend. More avoidance but demonstrates confusion and ambivalence, as well.

Or - do we have here a psychological journey into madness? Kate begins with auditory hallucinations, acts on them, becomes grandiose in an environment that tolerates and encourages such, decompensates, and comes to a full psychosis. This is innovative in fairy tales so far as I know the genre.

Now, for those inclined to optimism, both the traditional and modern tales satisfy. The classic version tells us a servant takes a delightful journey, faces a conflict, receives assistance and solves a problem with laughter. Lovely, right? In the new tale, a lonely dreamer comes into unexpected means enabling her to follow her dream and sychronicity assures her experience of it. She learns new skills of practical and transferable value. She is met with a new challenge but she now has friends and contacts and a new vision seeded on her celestial return. She has grown.