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In a lot of movies and TV shows I always hear the actors say “it’s Sophie’s Choice” whenever they have a hard decision to make. Truthfully, I’ve never seen anyone of them really have an impossible choice to make. So why compare their struggles with that of a woman who had to choose who’d live between her two children?
Because impossible choices make such a great story.
Folklore is rife with impossible choices, if you know where in the story to look.
Like the end of most legends of Tsurara Onna where the icicle woman dissolves due to a choice she had to make…
The Brothers Grimm have a few impossible choices in their folktales. Here’s my favourites.
A man and his wife longed and longed to have a child. Once the woman was pregnant, she desired nothing more than the delicious-looking Rapunzel-plants in her neighbour’s garden. She would eat nothing else. Her husband stole a couple of plants for her because he didn’t want her and their unborn child to die. And was sent back to get more. At which time the sorceress caught him red-handed and demanded her price: the child in return for as many Rapunzel-plants as his wife could wish for. She promised the child would be properly taken care of. He agreed.
– credit illustrator Michael Foreman
A miller boasted to the king that his beautiful daughter could spin straw into gold. The king insisted that she turn all the straw in a room to gold before morning or she’d die. Of course, she couldn’t do what her father had so callously lied about. While she wept, a strange man came to her and offered to spin the straw into gold. In exchange for something. The first two nights she was able to pay him. But the third she had nothing left to bargain with. Except her firstborn. So she chose life and a deal with a monster over death at her father’s lies and the king’s greed. The consequences a problem for the future.
– credit illustrator Michael Foreman
Aesop’s Fables are full of impossible choices. Some more impossible than others.
The Wasp and the Snake
A wasp settled on the head of a Snake, and not only stung him several times, but clung obstinately to the head of his victim. Maddened with pain the Snake tried every means he could think of to get rid of the creature, but without success. At last he became desperate, and crying, “Kill you I will, even at the cost of my own life,” he laid his head with the Wasp on it under the wheel of a passing waggon, and they both perished together.
– Aesop’s Fables, p178, William Heinemann Ltd 1974 Reprint
We all know that our choices have consequences. Even refusing to make a choice is a choice.
Some choices are easy. Choosing to watch Arrow instead of something that had been running for more than ten seasons with repetitive plot that should have been cancelled years ago, for example.
But other choices require more thought, more information, more consideration. Doing the AtoZchallenge for example. What’s the time commitment? Do I have the time to do it? What’s the possible rewards?
And then there are the impossible ones. No matter what the heroine chooses, she’ll lose.
Like Saphira the Faery Dog does in the newest instalment of The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog. In Saphira’s Impossible Choice she learns that there’s a different way to do things than Faery Dogs have always done it. But learning this, learning how to properly guard her ward in the human realm, could cost her everything.
Various folklore creatures appear in this story.
Faery Cat in Scottish Mythology that usually presents as a black cat with gem colour eyes.
They have no true allegiance, though rarely they do form a strong bond with another Faery.
They use Mindspeak to communicate and are usually cheeky. They speak as they wish.
Normally they bring misfortune on all humans who see them. They are mischievous in nature. Some do have ill-will towards humans.
They can make themselves invisible at will – even to other Fae.
The only known alliance between the Cù Sìth and the Caìt Sìth is that of the Cù Sìth Saphira and the Caìt Sìth Jade.
For more about the Caìt Sìth and magical cats, read my post Scaredy Cat.
Faery dog in Scottish Mythology that is usually in the form of a big black-and-tan dog (Rottweiler).
They have amber coloured eyes that burn brightly as they do magic.
They protect those of the Mist – humans with magical ability who are important to the Fae Monarchs and children of both worlds (half Fae and half mortal).
They use mindspeak (a form of telepathy) to communicate and all of them speak without contractions – except modern-day Saphira.
The Cù Sìth are the most powerful of all Fae. They control the very fabric of time and space. They create the Faery circles that are the most powerful and accurate of all magical teleportation. They can go anywhere in Time to correct or interfere in someone’s life.
Whenever the Cù Sìth protect someone, all who know about them know that the person who is protected is something special.
Not strictly Fae, they do belong to the same Realm.
Dragons are the most magical and wondrous of all the creatures found in any Realm.
They have four legs, large wings with thorns on the tips, huge head with horns and thorns, massive teeth – all sharp like a shark’s.
Each Dragon is the colour of a gemstone. Their eyes, though, are the same amber as the Cù Sìth’s.
Their blood, scales and even meat have powerful magical uses. Though it is an atrocity to kill a Dragon for any reason.
All Dragons collect different things that they keep in their hoard. Some collect glassware, others stained glass windows, even shoes are collected. The Dragon of Caledonian Forest collects books.
Dragons know things – the past, the present and the future. If they deem someone worthy, they will share their knowledge. At a price; usually an addition to their collection.
For further reading on the different kind of dragons in folklore, mythology and modern culture read my post Dangerous Dragons.
Brownies are the servants of the High Fae (from any Court).
They’re androgynous. They’re the size of a two litre coke bottle. They’re obsessed with technology. They’re excellent cooks. They’re obsessed with cleaning and cleanliness. They don’t like it when others try to do their duties.
<I do not see that happening. You know how my kind feel about them. I will be banished from my pack,> Saphira said softly.
‘Think about it. It’s a difficult decision,’ the dragon said. Moments later a mountain of books appeared before Saphira. ‘Until then, use these to help you.’
‘These books will be the start of a wonderful collection,’ Eolande said excitedly. ‘Thank you very much, mister dragon,’ she said to the giant creature and curtsied.
‘You’re very welcome, young lady.’
– Saphira’s Impossible Choice, The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog, Ronel Janse van Vuuren
I hope you enjoy reading the seventh tale in the series. Comments can be left here or on Wattpad – I always appreciate feedback. Anything about impossible choices you’d like to add? Do you have a favourite folktale, fairy tale of fable that has an impossible choice in it?