Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Fairyland

My girls are making their Halloween costumes this week. They’ve fallen in love with D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths, a book we’re reading as part of our home schooling. My older daughter is putting together a costume for Freya, the goddess of love and beauty, and my younger daughter is assembling one for the thunder-god Thor.

They sketched their costumes based on what they got from the D’Aulaire illustrations and from the other Norse stories we’ve read this fall. The girls were full of questions while they dreamed up the details: What kind of pattern would be best for Freya’s dress? How should we make her golden tears? What do her shoes look like? Could Thor have the teeth of giants he’s defeated sewn onto his boots? Should we have lightning bolts coming out of his magical hammer Mjolnir, and if so, how? And how do I get my hair to bunch up into the wild red spiky style he’s got?

These questions took us down a crazy rabbit hole of ancient Viking lore and mystery. The process of answering them just added to the imagination that goes into our preparations, and none of the questions take away at all from Halloween’s wonder.

The questions which threaten to do that, however, are the ones the girls will be asked on the big night: “Who are you supposed to be?” is a question most children have to answer as they go from door to door. But to this I expect Freya will also have to answer the question “Who is that?” and Thor will hear “Then why don’t you have blond hair like in the movie?”

Our family loves folklore, but these sorts of questions, and Halloween in general, show that folklore isn’t necessarily “of the folk” any longer. There’s absolutely no external pressure to agonize over the details in getting our costumes ready, and plenty of reason not to. After all, for $29.99 I can buy my girl an instantly recognizable Thor costume. (“Screen-accurate” is the term.) My daughter who likes Freya is out of luck, though, as her favorite Norse god didn’t make the Hollywood cut. Not that I think the girls will mind the confusion, as long as they know that they’ve made costumes themselves and put as much of their own spirit into the process as they do everything else.

Of course, no one of any age needs an excuse like Halloween to take on aspects of our favorite characters and archetypes. We actually do it all the time without even thinking. But any time of year is a good time to stop and consider what mythological or fairy tale characters have shaped your heart.

Who is it from stories and legends that has made you who you are? How intentionally are you bringing those characters into the world? What do you bring to them that is all your own? I could have guessed that each of my girls would have been drawn to the characters they chose for their Halloween costumes. But the joy and genuine surprise has come in watching them tell me a little bit more about who they truly are.


Susan Krzywicki said...

As I was reading your post, I was thinking exactly the same thing: people will not know who these characters are.

And a gift you can give to your children is to help them learn how to deal with these situations with grace and polish. Being "different" is a painful adolescent phase that can be helped along by parent who can teach their children EARLY that not everything is dictated by the mainstream.

Mo'a said... makes me so happy to hear that there are children who choose not to Disneyfy their idea of Halloween.
I am from Iceland...Freya and Thor have always been a big part of my life.
Kudos to you and your children :)