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Half-Elf

Dreamed 2/14/1996 by Chris Wayan

A half-elf: blonde, pointed ears, cat eyes. Based on an old Vogue fashion photo. My apologies to its (anonymous) model.


A man who's an expert on elves, fairies, spirits, and gods, has a young friend who's only half human. He was friends with her elven father and human mother. They died together in an accident some years ago, when their daughter was in her late teens. He thinks of her as human, but that's familiarity, habit--so used to her magical side he's blind to it. Forgotten how other pure-bred mortals see her! She's grown from a cute little sprite of a child, to a creature they eye with envy... and fear.

She's very much on her own, and she relies increasingly on this old family friend's ease with her, for she doesn't fit in with either humans or elves. Alone, she reads of full-blooded elves and their miraculous powers, and starts to wonder--for she can't do half what they can. With no other halfbreeds to compare herself to, she starts to doubt her paternity, her ethnicity--is she, perhaps, all human? Having married an elf, did her mother have an affair with a man? Just another little family secret? Insidious doubts...

At last, our expert notices he's harming her by taking her for granted. So he asks her over to his cottage, sits her down in his kitchen, and confronts her doubts head on: looks at her as if she's a stranger, and tells her his cold professional assessment, as the world's best (mortal) expert on immortals.

It's obvious she truly is half-elven. She lacks the vast powers of the High Elves, but also their aloofness. She has human warmth, enthusiastically sharing her interests with others, though her interests show her nonhuman heritage: nature-magic, place-sense, empathy, telepathy, prophecy, healing. She works small miracles--but miracles. Yet she shares animals' and people's feelings in a way no elf-lord would stoop to. Though her emotions are quite human, her abilities are well beyond.

A true hybrid, she fits in neither world. Spooks humans, embarrasses elves.

And I like her so much!

I wake wishing I could meet her. I wonder who she is? Why'd I dream of her?

THE NEXT DAY

I go to the library, looking for a poem my friend Xanthe urged me to read: "In Praise of Those Truly Great." Find it in an anthology called 500 Best Poems, an odd book whose editors didn't choose the contents: they just polled the public about their favorite English-language poems. I gorge on 100 or so, and have to admit I'm impressed. The public has better taste than most editors would like to admit.

Great poets are quite shamanic. Proud, wild, incantations both lush and austere--many using Pagan images, a legacy of the Romantics maybe, but still... they're invoking spirits and souls, in a way religious people don't any more, lost in their issues and formulas and sects...

Compared to them, I feel like I'm the only mortal at the Fairy Queen's cocktail party. My dreamwork and dream art look so humble and childish--I'm a hobbit with little hobbit-concerns, scurrying around under the feet of elf-lords and heroes.

Then I see who that half-elf was last night. Wait a minute! Quit dissing myself, and take a cold look at who I'm judging myself by--a roll call of world-class poets, culled from centuries! I'm ashamed precisely because I can almost, sometimes, reach their level--can see how I fall short. I work alone so much, I've forgotten what ordinary is!

My own little doodles and songs and dreams are nothing like these classics, these elf-lords who might well disdain my hedge-magic. But it's real magic. And let's be honest--how much of theirs is just talk? Fine talk, I admit, and bards, like sport fishermen, have a license to exaggerate... but did all these great poets really have psychic visions, meet nature spirits, visit other worlds... heal people?

My art and my magic are small, but they're real, real, real. Maybe you can work your own magic, too. Maybe not. But if you don't try, you won't know.

Which tall elf-lords do you judge yourself by, so you come up short?



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