A Fairy Tale Starring Real Fairies (with apologies to W.S. Gilbert) by Barbara Ardinger

IolantheOnce upon a time very close to right now and in a realm way too much like our world there lived the Sisterhood of Faeries. We remember their names. There’s the Faerie Queen, Belphoebe, who spent much of her time composing epic poetry, which her sister Gloriana wrote down for her. Other fairies were Titania (who ran the orphan asylum for abandoned children), Carabosse (whose job it was occasionally to Speak Firmly to children, both fey and human, who were behaving badly), Fata (an astrologist), Morgan le Fay (no one was ever quite sure what she did), and Tinkerbell (who especially loved to play with well-behaved children). Most of the fairies worked as fairy goodmothers and guided their special human charges through their complicated human lives. A few of the younger fairies collected teeth. It was a rule in the Realm of Faerie that fairies were forbidden to marry human men, though they could (and did) of course flirt and dally with them.

One of Belphoebe’s favorite daughters was the adventurous Iolanthe, who traveled much in the consensual reality where the humans lived. Iolanthe had, in fact, gone among men so often that she had married the Chief Justice of the human realm. For her crime passionel, she was banished from the Faerieland. She took up residence in a stream, where she cast dreams and the occasional nightmare upon the Chief Justice, who had no idea where she’d gone. She also took up good works. Among other things, she pushed drowning children out of the water (though she occasionally arrived too late, as we know from young Ophelia’s sad demise). She spent most of her time reading great books, especially history and law. What no one had known when Iolanthe was banished was that she was pregnant. Her son, Strephon, was born and raised in an underwater castle. Because his mother was so busy with her books and works, the lad was nursed by a kindly female wolf and educated by scholars and sorcerers, and he finally found minimum-wage work as a shepherd. But the lad had ambitions! He abandoned his flock, found suitable clothing, and managed to enroll himself in a large university, where, inspired by his mother, he studied political science, law, history, music, and literature. When he confessed all this to his mother, she immediately blessed him and gave him more great books to study. Continue reading “A Fairy Tale Starring Real Fairies (with apologies to W.S. Gilbert) by Barbara Ardinger”

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