Tag Archives: time

A Tail of Time


A long time ago in galaxy far, far away and as it happens a parallel universe of a different dimension, a pilgrim set out to seek The End Of The World. No longer in the first flush of youth yet not old enough to have slowed down too much for a long journey, he felt that the time was right to make his search. This took a good deal of time, as you might imagine. Eventually, you may be surprised to hear, with great jubilation and wonder, and some relief since his feet were quite exhausted, he did indeed find what he sought. There followed the all too brief period of satisfying rest that pilgrims enjoy before their inherently restless nature sets them a new goal.

During this time he frequently enjoyed the view from The End Of The World, sitting on the last rock, dangling his grateful feet over the edge and watching the faint twinkling of distant turtles swimming through space with their plate like worlds upon their backs*. Although there was a certain peace in this activity it also brought with it a heightened sense of the passing of time. Watching space go by, and the shifting patterns of the planets, turtle powered or otherwise, tends to do that since, as Einstein realised, time and space are pretty much the same thing.

Despite the successful achievement of his challenge and partly because of it and the time it took, his hair having turned from black to grey on the journey, the pilgrim began to feel a desire for more time, a pressing need to slow down its rapid transit. Looking down from his precarious perch one day his eye was drawn to the nearest visible object in the firmament: the scaly tail of the turtle upon which his world sat. As he watched it swing majestically from side to side a thought formed in his head, and so his new project began.

Day by day he cut trees and harvested hemp until he had fashioned a device of prodigious size. A pole-snare on a pivot mounted on the edge of the world. With this he reached out and down far further beyond the limits of the land than any person had ever done. He swung the great pole and, after many attempts, caught the tail of the enormous turtle in the loop of rope at its end. Quickly he hauled on the longest rope ever made and brought it tight, then applied the principles of leverage to the rod so that it began to pull back on the tail of the immortal diapsid.

Do you think it worked? Is it possible to halt the progress of time, or at least slow it down just a little bit? If it is possible anywhere then a world which really does have an end, one that overhangs the rear of a vast cosmic reptile, is surely the place to give it a try. If you have ever wanted to stop the world and get off, even just for a bit you will be very much on the side of the old man as he heaves on the landward end of his audacious device.

Far, far away, a whole world away in fact, diametrically opposite where the old pilgrim was tugging on the tail of time, a youngster, desperate to be free of the constrictions of youth sat on a rock. Their feet dangled over the edge of the world. In their hands they held a stick, and tied around the stick was a long, long string, on which a carrot dangled in front of the face of the great turtle.

* There are universes with flat earths that do not require the services of testudines to facilitate their locomotion but this is not one of them. The intermediate elephants that are often part of the arrangement are, however absent in this iteration of creation.

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Fairy time


Fairies as such, are fairly limited in Geographic scope, being primarily a European phenomenon. Their name and characteristics can vary significantly across this area too, but there is a type of fairy encounter which is common throughout the lands, widely different in the specifics yet exactly the same in it’s outcome, and so prolific one has to wonder if there is some truth behind this tale type.

As is often the case with close encounters of the fairy kind the person, whether young lad, maiden or wandering drunk, who features in the story is captivated by faint musical, magical sounds. Following the entrancing harmony they come upon the Good Folk dancing, singing and making merry. Often they will watch unobserved from behind a tree or rock at first but soon the music will pull them into the whirling dance. It may be that they stay for a couple of hours, nights, weeks, or even three months. At the absolute maximum it might be seven years. It would seem that this period is full of intoxicating joy and pleasantness. Nevertheless, at some point they decide to head for home. On arriving back in their village, or castle they find many things changed and unfamiliar, all the people they knew are gone and their home is occupied by strangers. On further enquiry they find that their family are long dead and there is only a faint memory of a story about someone by their name having vanished without trace more than a lifetime or two ago. As they struggle to come to grips with this news they age rapidly and crumble to dust.

Sometimes the plot may have a longer set up. King Herla goes to a far land to witness the wedding of a fairy king; Oisin is wooed by a beautiful princess from the land of youth. In each case they return to discover hundreds of years have passed. Interestingly, in both of these cases a change of epic proportions has fallen upon the land. In Herla’s case he leaves a British King and returns to a land long under Saxon rule. The Irish Oisin leaves a pagan Eire and comes back to tell the tales of Finn mac Cumhal to a fascinated Saint Patrick.

Curiously it is by no means guaranteed that a sojourn in the Otherworld will lead to a powdery demise. Pwyll Prince of Dyfed manages to count off a year and a day in Annwyvn
with exactitude before coming home the same year and a day later in his own land. Many others come and go between the lands with less loss of time than I encounter whilst eating breakfast. Certainly the fairies themselves have no problem reconciling time between our two plains, happily making and keeping appointments accurately to the hour.

So are these tales based in fact? Possibly it was common for people to leave home without warning, maybe falling in with Romanies or other nomads in a rush of excitement after accidentally joining them for a few nights revels, then losing track of time before coming home to find their family had died in their absence. It is easy to see how the tale might be elaborated and exaggerated by re-telling until it spans hundreds of years.

…and yet, the rapid onset of the time spent in the land of youth and the ensuing sudden de-hydration are less easy to see being the creation of so many different storytellers in so many assorted places. So if you are out in the forest or on the moors of a night and your ears are assailed by the most delectable melodies you have ever heard, take thought before you let your feet follow the captivating rhythm: your life may never be the same again.

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