The dark fairy Carabosse was in a snit. “Here I am,” she fumed, “the smartest, most literate, least mischievous fairy in any world, and no one will listen to me. I’m the best of all possible fairies in the best of all possible worlds. And do I receive my due respect? Why am I not Goddess of the Sun?”
“Hush, dear,” said Carabosse’s amanuensis. “There’s already a sun god. There can’t ever be a sun goddess. The sun shoots out masculine energy—that’s what the mortals say. The moon absorbs and reflects the masculine energy. The moon is the feminine planet.”
“Well, I’m tired of reflecting men’s power. I’m also tired of being ruled by the phases of the moon. I demand to be a sun goddess so I can rule the moon! Grimmella, what’s the moon phase today?”
Grimmella looked at her handy pocket calculator. “It’s eleven percent waning, Almost dark. Which might explain your mood.” As Carabosse sniffed and glared at her, she added, “You can’t be a sun goddess. It’s just not done!”
“Oh, Grimmella,” the dark fairy exclaimed, “don’t be so old-fashioned! Wake up! We’re done with all that reflected light business. I want to be the source of light. Besides, it’s a new century! Even for the mortals. And I’ve done so much for them—for us fairies, too—that I deserve a reward. I deserve to the Goddess of the Sun.” When Grimmella laid her pen down and frowned, the dark fairy went on with her rant. “Do you know who that hubristic Apollo really is?”
“The sun god,” said Grimmella. “God of music. Choir director for the Muses—” Carabosse gave another loud sniff of disdain, but her amanuensis soldiered on, counting the Greek deity’s attributes off on her fingers “—god of prophecy, medicine, poetry, dance, archery contests, intellectual inquiry—”
“Ha! He’s not nearly as intellectual as I am. I have dictated books. Whole encyclopedias of fairy lore and history. I have inspired choreographers. I have foretold the lives of princesses…of whole royal families.” Grimmella nodded. The dark fairy was speaking truly, though perhaps with more pride than was becoming to a fairy. “And,” said Carabosse, “you know who that shiny fakir really is? He’s the God of Mice and Grasshoppers! Yeah. Apollo Smintheus. Apollo Parnopius. If he were here, I bet I could beat him up with one hand tied behind my back.”
Suddenly—BANG! BOOM!! SHAZAAM!!! FLASH!!!! A figure appeared before them, a god so bright the fairies were nearly blinded, so tall their faces were mere inches away from the bulge under his toga. As the sound effects echoed through the forest, both fairies blinked several times and shook their heads. Grimmella closed her eyes, but then she opened them and took a closer look at the bulge. After all, she said to herself, it was her job to write down every details of any event that occurred in the land and especially everything that happened involving Carabosse. The dark fairy took a deep breath and muttered several unhearable magic words. She shot up until she was as tall as the visitor.
The visitor spoke. “Who are— Who are—WHO ARE YOU WHO DARE TO QUESTION ME?”
“I am the dark fairy Carabosse, the most intelligent, talented, and charming of fairies. Who are you?
“I am Apol—I AM APOLLO THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE.”
Carabosse signaled to her amanuensis to take notes, but Grimmella was already writing in her infinity-scroll, happy to have a pen with a magical fountain of ink that permitted her to write nonstop.
“So…Mr. So-Called Sun God,” said Carabosse, her darkness nearly as overpowering as his light, “what are you doing here in my forest?”
Looking around for a place to sit, Apollo beheaded an ancient oak and sat on the tall stump, which, thanks to his radiance, immediately took on the golden aspect of a royal throne. “You must know,” he said, “that my rule extends to the remotest corners of the world.” He looked around again. “Which this most certainly is. Remotest. Primitivest. Why, it almost reminds me of Delphi and how savage the place was before I killed that pesky prophetic snake.”
Carabosse took a seat on what looked like empty air. “I heard about your murder of Great Pythia,” she said. “Shame on you!” She leaned forward. “Sooooo, what are you doing here in my forest?”
“I am come to destroy it. Unless, of course, you and all your subjects, both mortal and fairy, bow down before me and bring hay every day to feed the mighty horses that draw my chariot across the sky. I’ve heard that your serfs are very productive farmers. That’s why I may be able to find a use for them. And for you, too, my girls. With all these trees around here, you almost remind me of the lovely Daphne.” He gave the fairies another appraising look. “Or maybe those nice Trojan girls. Hecuba. Cassandra. Tasty, yes, but ultimately unsatisfying.”
“As long as I have any power here,” said Carabosse, looking the Greek god in the eye, “you will do no harm to any of my people. All that is worthy about you are your music and the light of the sun. Well, maybe the healing, too, but women are natural healers and don’t need your help. Besides, we’re already training musicians and inventing musical instruments. We’re currently inventing the trombone, the kettle drum, the viola, and the guitar, which is far superior to your kitharon. And we’re inventing opera, too. Musical drama that looks like those endless tragedies your boys are writing.”
“Not my boys,” Apollo said. “The tragedians belong to my stepbrother Dionysus.” He stood up and drew in a deep breath. As he exhaled, he expanded his golden aura so that it enclosed the two fairies (and probably the whole forest) in a shimmering golden sphere. “Barbarians who live in forests do not invent musical instruments or dramatic forms. Only we Greeks have those capabilities. Why, barbarians can’t even speak decent Greek. They just go bar-bar-bar. Like nasty little dogs barking.”
Grimmella almost dropped her pen. “Sir,” she said, “our tales and our epic poetry are as fine and heroic as anything your blind poet ever sang. But we sing louder. And our literary works are written down!” She waved the fountainy pen.
“Apollo,” said Carabosse, “you’re nothing but a male chauvinist blow-hard. I intend to become Goddess of the Sun and banish you to a mountain. Like your father banished poor Prometheus. And, by the way, I’m developing plans to rescue him.”
Apollo doubled his height. He tripled his brightness, then tripled it again. Carabosse promptly invented sun glasses (fairies, to be sure, can do such things) and handed a second pair to Grimmella. Now Apollo held out one hand, and suddenly the sun was resting on his palm. He threatened to make a fist, but as the air began to go dark around them and owls began hooting, he changed his mind. (He didn’t want any trouble from his stepsister Athena.)
“Fairy,” he said, “you are dark and puny. You’re a…a…luna-tic. I could crush you with one hand and not even give it another thought.”
“Just try it,” said Carabosse, who was now holding the moon in her hand. “Wanna try dueling eclipses?”
Apollo gave this a minute’s consideration. “No,” he said, sounding actually reasonable for the first time since his arrival. “I don’t want to disturb or frighten the peasants. Not even your barbaric ones. Fairy, I ask again—what do you want?”
“I desire to be Goddess of the Sun.”
“Way!” She stepped forward, a sword suddenly in her hand…and she was immediately joined by a small army of tall fairies, all holding swords and other weapons. Apollo started laughing. He had just stepped forward, brandishing his own great sword, when—
—the potential battle was frozen. Hovering above the combatants were a statuesque blond goddess holding flowers in one hand and a hammer in the other and a dark-haired goddess wearing a delicate silk kimono and holding a mirror in her hand. These were, of course, the two sun goddesses Saule and Amaterasu. “Stop!” the goddesses sang out in one voice. “You shall not fight.”
The sun goddesses touched down, and Saule turned to Apollo and handed him her bouquet of flowers. “Peace,” she said. “Be at peace. Remember the light and the music. Share them with the people.” At the same time, Amaterasu faced Carabosse and held up her mirror. As soon as the fairy saw how ugly she looked, she bowed her head and murmured, “I will not fight.” As soon as she muttered, “But he started it!” however, the Japanese goddess held up her mirror again.
“Children,” said Amaterasu, “for that is what you are. Children. You may not throw the sky into chaos. You may not bring false night or false day upon the earth. You must let the sun, the moon, the five known planets, all unknown planets, and the stars whirl in the skies as they always have. You may not throw this beautiful earth into chaos. You may not bring either fire with your sun or ice with your moon to end life on earth.”
“But—” said Carabosse, and “But—” said Apollo in the same breath. “But he—” “But she—”
“Listen to us!” said Saule, who was still holding the hammer that had slain both frost giants and missionaries. “You may not fight. Grimmella, are you getting all this down on paper?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Grimmella was already planning to add an edited account of this encounter to the book of fairy tales she was writing. “Mesdames, we are flattered and honored to be visited by not one, but two Goddesses of the Sun.”
Saule and Amaterasu stepped aside to whisper together, then turned to face the god and the fairy, who were both the size of ordinary human beings now. “Since you both think you’re so smart,” said Amaterasu, “we’ll hold a riddling contest. Answer us this and claim your rewards. What is it that goes on four legs at dawn, on two legs at noon, and on three legs at dusk?”
Carabosse laughed out loud. “Old riddle!” she exclaimed. “It’s man. He crawls as a baby, then struts like this clown here, then walks with the aid of a stick when he gets old. I know who taught that riddle to the Sphinx.”
Apollo was still thinking. Although he and his priests could translate the garbled prophecies uttered by his pythonesses, regular riddles had never been popular in Delphi. He gave Carabosse an angry but admiring look and stepped back. “Does this mean I have to give up my chariot?” he asked.
The goddesses laughed. “No, you can keep riding it, but you must ride it only over North Africa, the Mediterranean lands, and the western part of Asia Minor. Farther than that, you may not go.” When he opened his mouth, Saule added, “No. Not even to Hyperborea.”
“And you,” Amaterasu said to Carabosse, “you will forever be a powerful fairy, and you may well come to be known as an ambivalent fairy godmother. But from today, because of your great wit and intelligence, we give you golden light in which you may forevermore examine your motives before you bless or curse. You are now to be known as Carabosse the Good.”
As Apollo summoned one of his golden steeds and galloped away and the zodiac clicked over from the cardinal sign Cancer (ruled by the moon) into the fixed sign Leo (ruled by the sun), Carabosse came to understand that she’d gotten the better deal. The light fairy Carabosse was happy.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.