“Creatures of the Sleight” (Gnomes and fairies)


My 4-year-old knows the only way he’ll play with Super Mario is through a Wii, and he has figured out that zombies are safely confined to television. So I’m unsure what to make of adults who believe in gnomes, fairies, and elves, but we’ll try to unravel this monster of a problem.

At southererncrossreview.com, Buck Young lays out the history of such creatures. Whether he made it all up or stole it from others who did, I’m unsure. In either case, his claims are accompanied by no evidence or sources.

He writes that, Once Upon a Time, “They tended the forest and took care of it, played in it, danced and sang in it, cared for wounded animals, worked out disputes between species, sat on mushrooms discussing matters of importance and drinking Labrador tea, rode down streams on leaves and bark, parachuted from trees on dandelion seeds.”

If a 25-year-old pines for the 1940s, an era in which he never lived, it’s indicative that there’s something significant missing in his life. He’s supplanting his current, unsatisfying existence with a romanticized version of a time that never was, and thinks his life would be different if only he had been born in the right place and time. Fairy chasers are an even more extreme case. They are seeking an idealized world on a higher plane populated by benevolent creatures who will provide unrivaled companionship.

Not only is reality inadequate, but there are hints of self-loathing. For at some point, this paradise was ruined by malevolent men. Buck blames agriculture, one of Mankind’s most important developments. At first, he writes, farming was a Communist utopia in which everyone received a half acre of land and a goblin government fulfilled every need. Naiads brought fresh water, elves harvested vegetables, and wizards explained how the lunar cycle benefited farmers.

But then humans cleared too much land and became concerned only with the bounty, not the land from which it sprouted. With their homes chopped down and dug out, the diminutive dudes fled. Only trolls stayed behind, tormenting and killing those who tried to cross bridges or low-lying marshes. Young offers pointers on how to avoid these trolls, and since following his advice, I’ve safely journeyed over many a river. 

The problem for Young is how to square the pixies and nymphs running away with their still being here for us to try and fellowship with. He halfway explains that they live on some sort of unspecified alternate plane, and it’s up to true believers to seek them.

If we ever find them, here’s what they will look like, per a youtube video: goo.gl/Evbm1v. This montage includes the Cottingley fairies, more than 30 years after the cousins who were photographed with them revealed how they pulled the ruse. Even by the almost nonexistent standards of fairy hunters, including the Cottingley affair today is bizarre.

In the hoax, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths copied drawings of dancing girls, added wings, and propped them with hairpins. They fooled many, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who ironically created a fictional character more fascinating than the Cottingley fairies. Doyle exemplified those who want so much for  something more to be out there in a better world, that they will suspend rational thought. Combine this insatiable desire to believe with pareidolia and a horribly out-of-focus video, and they have all the proof they need.

More faint, blurry, and distant evidence is offered at ufosundisclosed.com: goo.gl/4weFKe. This site’s mission statement rests on the twin fallacies of the ad populum and the appeal to ancient authority: “The fact that these little people have been so believed in over so many millenniums in so many different cultures and lands would suggest that there is a reality behind these tales.

In actuality, these creatures have their beginnings in myths take from either literature or oral storytelling. They were not meant to be taken as real any more than Chewbacca or the Three Little Pigs were. They were either entertainment or life lessons in the form of allegories.

Precisely what creatures the credulous seekers see is based on what culture they are in. No leprechauns are spotted in China, nor are any dragons spied flying over Dublin. No Tengu birdmen are seen in Greece, nor are any cyclops heard rumbling through Japanese forests.

As to why we can’t catch any of these Lilliputian critters, ad hoc rationalizations abound. They don’t want to be caught, they are too fast, too smart, don’t feel humans are ready, they escape to another plane, make themselves invisible, or blend into the forest.

Not that any of this would matter to the skeptic, writes poster Skygazer: “Some people are so blind to the world around them that they would be unable to see a thousand such beings if they sat on their laps.” I hear the same line from cryptozoological circles.

This strawman is used to swerve around the fact that there are no captive or domesticated creatures after thousands of years of sightings. If a leprechaun rode a Chupacabra into Times Square and this duo was subsequently examined by biologists and doctors, and determined to be undiscovered species, this proof would satisfy me. I am a skeptic, not a denier. Although given my druthers, I’d prefer to see science verify zombies and Chewbacca.

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