Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy


Also known as: Auberon

Oberon is best known for his appearance in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in which we learn that he is King Consort to the reigning Queen Titania. Consort or otherwise, Oberon is a bit of a bully when it comes to his queen!

Both monarchs, you see, have entourages made up of both mortals and immortals alike. One of Titania's mortal followers died, leaving behind a lovely changeling child whom Titania wishes to bring up as one of her followers.

Oberon, however, covets the child and wishes to raise it as a henchman for his own entourage. The two monarchs begin to quarrel and, as powerful fairy entities, their quarrel even effects the weather!

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents . . .
. . . the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.
(Act 2, Scene 1)

Never a good sign when faeries begin to brawl!

Oberon famously decides to show his wife who's who and what's what. With the help of his servant Puck, he pours the juice of a magical flower into Titania's eyes while she sleeps. Thus when she wakes, she falls madly in love with the first thing she sets eyes upon . . . which turns out to be a mortal man named Bottom, who has been given a donkey's head by Puck!

Oberon and Puck

Things turn out well enough in the end, however. Oberon eventually feels sorry for what he did to his wife and reverses the magic, thus reuniting the king and queen . . . much to the relief of all the Fey Folk, I'm sure!

The name Oberon first appears in literature in the first half of the 13th century when the fairy dwarf Oberon helps the hero in the chanson de geste, titled Les Prouesses et faitz du noble Huon de Bordeaux. This elf appears dwarfish in height, though he is very handsome. He explains that at his christening, an offended fairy cursed him to the height (an example of the wicked fairy godmother folklore motif), but relented and as compensation gave him great beauty. You can read this story HERE if you like!

Shakespeare was probably familiar with this tale, thus discovering the name of Fairy King Oberon for his own use. You see, my readers? All writers are beggars and thieves in the end! And aren't we glad this is the case?

Oberon has made many appearances throughout literature since the time of Shakespeare. My favorite author, Diana Wynne Jones, featured him in her novel The Enchanted Glass along with a very dangerous Titania. He and his queen also appeared in several of Neil Gaiman's Sandman Chronicles, chilling and otherworldly as only fairies may be!

There have been many fairy queens throughout the history of literature. But tell me, have you ever known a fairy king more renowned than Oberon?


Molly said...

Ooh, I LOVE Shakespeare! Twelfth Night and A Midsummers' Night Dream are a few of my favorites. I still have to read Hamlet and I'm trying to get ahold of Much Ado About Nothing.

Oberon actually looks nice (they didn't have any pictures in the book) and I don't think I quite imagined him like this. :)
I love reading about the fairies!

Anonymous said...

When I think of Oberon and Puck, I think of The Sisters Grimm series. Oberon isn't a very big character, but Puck is one of the main ones :D

Galadriel said...

That's cool. Really cool.

Kira Thomas said...

Wow... On that first picture, the necklace that he's wearing looks /exactly/ like a pair of matching necklaces that my sister and I have... Funny thing is, we always said that they were magical.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

You girls better watch out then, Athelas Hale . . . Oberon might come looking for them!

Kira Thomas said...

*glances around nervously* This Fairy... Is he one of those who can kill mortals?