|Adrift at Sea, Nilah Magruder|
Some men actively set out to catch an otherworldly wife. There are endless tales of men who steal a mermaid's red cap or a selkie's sealskin to trap her on land. Others go about their wooing more delicately, like the Shepherd of Myddfai offering his chosen mermaid a bite of bread to entice her to a life on shore. Still others are forcefully wooed. The Fairy Queen is notorious for abducting handsome men with nice voices, regardless of their opinions. But the benefits of having a supernatural lover are immense. Without exception, the women's influence - from magical blessings to excellent housekeeping - win the men comfort and renown for their good luck.
So everyone's happy, right?
Not so fast. This is the fairy world. There's always a catch.
|Loss, Cheryl Kirk Noll|
What's more, when they go, they never come back. Volund's marriage to Hervor the Valkyrie, a perfectly happy one, ends for good when she decides she misses her old life. The husbands of local selkies get no warning when their wives discover their sealskins and return to the sea; some stories have the bereft husband walking the shore for the rest of his life, searching for his lost bride. Melusine's husband has an extra worry: in addition to the loss of his wife, he frets that she's cursed him and his lands in vengeance.
|Wayland, Max Koch|
|Mephistophilis Appears to Doctor Faustus|
|Mermaid, Laurent Miny|
So maybe there's a reason we forget those stories. They overturn the status quo. They remind us that there are forces we don't and will never understand. Like their heroines, they seduce with the promise of happiness and dash our hopes without warning. They're not comfortable bedtime stories; they're tales of man against nature, often without a clear villain or victor. Stories like that don't make for sweet dreams.