Death by Common Household Item


I’ve looked before at the Wicked Witch of the West’s vulnerability to water, and mentioned how Ruth Plumly Thompson extended this weakness to dragons and ogres. It’s also the weakness of the aliens from Signs, prompting the frequently asked question as to why they would invade a planet that’s largely composed of the stuff. I assume the Wicked Witch didn’t have access to a spaceship. Really, though, between this and the Weaksauce Weakness page on TV Tropes, it’s noticeable that a lot of creatures in folklore and fairy tales have these weaknesses that would be awfully difficult to avoid. I’ve recently mentioned trolls and some dwarves turning to stone in the daylight.

Sunlight can also sometimes kill vampires, but their weaknesses vary considerably from one legend to another. Sometimes they’re vulnerable to garlic, or are so obsessive-compulsive that they have to count anything you throw on the ground, or cannot cross running water. Or sunlight can make them sparkle, which for some reason is something they try to avoid at all costs.

There are other fairy tale beings that don’t like sunlight but aren’t actually destroyed by it, like George MacDonald’s goblins and L. Frank Baum’s Nomes. They have other weaknesses of their own that are quite easy to exploit, however: the goblins hate singing and have soft feet that are easily injured, while Nomes have that whole egg thing going on. Werewolves being vulnerable to silver apparently only dates back to the nineteenth century, while werewolf legends are much older than that.

Fairies traditionally hate iron, although some stories have them successfully driven off by bread or wearing clothing inside out.

What, do they have a particular hatred for seams? A lot of folkloric creatures, sometimes including the Devil himself, are also easily injured or at least driven off by the symbol of the cross, which can be made by simply placing one stick over another.

At least a Star of David or even an Islamic crescent moon would take a little more effort. Theoretically, it’s actually the power of Jesus that’s driving them off rather than the crosses themselves, but in that case you’d think it would only work if there were some genuine faith behind it. Holy water can be pretty potent as well. It even temporarily stopped Freddy Krueger until a dog peed on his burial place.

Anyway, I think the main point of these pathetic weaknesses is that, while folklore is full of monsters who want to do you harm, these monsters can also be successfully driven away by just about anybody. It’s like G.K. Chesterton’s quote about how fairy tales don’t teach children that dragons exist, but that dragons can be killed. It makes the legends scary, but at the same time not TOO scary. Still, I have to wonder how some of these mythical beings could have survived for so long.

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This entry was posted in Fairy Tales, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Monsters, Mythology, Norse, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson, Urban Legends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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