Mason-Dickson Historical Park covers 295 acres and straddles the border between Pennsylvania and West Virginia. You would not expect to find fantasy there. From the parking lot, this seems to be your standard, quiet family pit stop, with a picnic pavilion and a baseball field. But just beyond the first sunny hillside, after the bend of the storm-swollen creek, the color and consistency of the chocolate milk is just right, and the small, brightly colored residences dot the Appalachian landscape. A fairy tale village.

The concept of “fairy tale house”—— Often expressed as a small door, attached to the bottom of a helpful rock or tree stump ——It feels a little weird when you think about it. Why do fairies need to live like humans? Why not sleep in the bend of this oak tree tonight, and tomorrow on the smooth rock in the middle of the gurgling stream? Eat all the meals from the buttercup bowl? But of course, the design of these small houses takes the human eye into consideration-a temptation for us mortals to venture into the wild and rediscover our love for nature.

A fairy tale house can be seen from behind the logs in Mason-Dickson Historical Park. Grist/Eve Andrews

I was looking for that special forest on a humid, heavy, and hot day like July, and sweat immediately gleamed on your forehead and arms. Soon after getting out of the car, I felt bugs on my skin, and I didn’t even bite people, just trapped in a damp place. Around me, everything is green; even the heavy air seems to have an emerald green sheen. As I walked damply along the path, lined with painted mushroom doors and bunk beds made of old card catalog drawers, I was surprised to be taken to a childhood environment that I often imagined: FernGully.

For those who weren’t sleepless girls in the 1990s, Jugou It is an animated film about a community of fairies living in the tropical rainforest. They find themselves threatened by a group of loggers who come to cut down their homes (a classic work of environmentalism propaganda). The lumberjack’s machine is controlled by a vicious oil pit named Hexxus, who is the embodiment of evil industrial pollution. In any case, the fairy protagonist Crysta has transformed a particularly strong lumberjack to the size of a fairy. They fell in love and led the fairies against Hexxus and all industrial development.

My two best friends and I like it very much Jugou, Although the reasons are slightly different. My friend Natalia likes David’s victory against Goliath, the victory of nature over industry. My friend Justin likes the beauty of the fairy tale world. To be honest, I might like the popular logger’s love story. But the idea that all three of us like and try to embody in the green spaces that can be found in our own city life is Very In the world of trees, streams, and rock formations, we cannot even see all life. Perhaps, if we spend enough time in the woods to make ourselves feel at home, we will catch a glimpse of the supernatural.

JugouThe overall message is clear: fairies are good, naturally good, and industry is bad. Humans can be good or bad, depending on whether they choose nature or industry. However, the relationship between humans and fairy tales is not always so pro-natural or so anti-technical. It is only in the last few years that the change in our concept of natural space has reshaped fair people as staunch defenders of forests.

The tradition of fairy tales originated from the Celts in the British Isles and is usually a way for humans to add mysticism to the dangers associated with the landscapes they inhabit. Stay away from these dense woods, because fairies may steal you; Stay away from this swamp, where fairies often make trouble; This mountain road is famous for demonic civilians.

Those “terrible” fairy tale myths may have led generations to believe that the wilderness is something that humans can tame and conquer. But some scholars believe that the awe instilled in fairy tales is also conducive to protecting the ecosystem. Ecologists Patrick LaViolette and Alastair McIntosh wrote in an article in ECOS magazine, “Traditional bearers see fairies as between many things The intermediary of nature and human beings.” They believe that since the reverence of humans in the sacred forests in East Asian countries is very effective in protecting the biodiversity of these areas, the same traditions surrounding fairy tales can be established in the woods and swamps of the United Kingdom. To the protective effect.

It is easy to think that fairies are just human inventions, stories made up by our peasant ancestors to explain nature or death or any other vast, unknowable aspect of life in the country. But the anthropologist WY Evans Wentz spent several months studying the culture of the Celtic fairy tale tradition around the British Isles in the early 20th century. He was a little annoyed by this academic interpretation and insisted that fairy tale culture should be “in a compassionate and sympathetic way. Research”. scientifically. ”

For urban skeptics of the existence of fairies, he wrote:

“Are people in cities like this, those natural and unnatural children who are constantly struggling for wealth and power, social status, and even bread, are they suitable for judging natural children who believe in fairies? They don’t believe in something they can’t imagine. Is the invisible world correct? If it exists, they-even if they are scientists-can’t know through environment and temperament? Or the countryside, sometimes “unrealistic” and “unsuccessful”, dream and “uncivilized” farmers right?”

Even in 1911, there was healthy cultural hostility between urban and rural residents! Despite his high academic qualifications, Wentz insists on respecting the belief in the fairy tale world that exists in the UK, and is angry at the idea that science and fantasy must have such an opposition. Similarly, the supernatural protagonists in fairy tales are far from black and white in terms of their principles or kinship. They blend the boundaries between useful and dangerous, urban and rural, natural and unnatural.

An illustrated man with a donkey head looks at a group of fairies
In William Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, fairies partially transform people into donkeys. Universal Historical Archive/Universal Image Group via Getty Images

West Virginia folklorist Tyler Chadwell-English (Tyler Chadwell-English) said that it is generally believed that the realm of fairies is underground, lurking below the surface, which is ambiguous with the kind of ambiguity they intend to occupy. The moral space is similar. “There is a dualism of good and evil in American beliefs today,” he said, “and in Celtic traditions, older beliefs do not believe that supernatural beings are good or evil. They are pranks, hoaxes; or they can warn humans about what is coming doom.”

Not all fairies should be relegated to green glades. British miners who immigrated to Appalachia in the 1800s brought the story of “tommyknockers”. They were fairies living in coal mines, mainly from “coblynau” in Wales. They will be closer to goblins, As described by British writer Wirt Sikes In 1880:

Coblynau is described as about half a yard tall, looks very ugly, but has a very good temper, and is a friend of miners. Their clothes are grotesque imitations of miners’ attire, and they carry small hammers, pickaxes and lamps. They were busy working, filling the ore in barrels, flying around in the shaft, turning the small hoist, and rushing like crazy, but in fact they did nothing.

West Virginia’s own fairy tales are also deeply rooted in its coal-rich history. As the most mountainous state in the east, its protected valleys and jagged canyons have delayed many developments and modernizations, and these developments and modernizations have come faster in the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and Virginia. As one of the regions with the richest coal reserves, it has become a destination for thousands of immigrants eager to work in the mines. They brought a fairy tale story and found themselves very suitable for this new wilderness.

As we all know, the practice of coal mining is accompanied by superstition because it is dangerous and underworld work. Historically, miners would leave sacrifices for tommyknockers to maintain their good demeanor and hope to be warned in the event of an impending collapse or fire. Like other fairy tales, the story of tommyknockers serves human purposes, giving miners and their loved ones a way to understand the luck or tragedy that those who dig around in the mountains may encounter.

Knowing what we are doing to the incredible destruction that the coal industry has caused to the Appalachian ecosystem and the entire atmosphere, it’s hard to imagine a coal fairy in the same universe, just like in FernGully-esque Playful Forest. But coal seams are part of the land that the Appalachians want to understand with supernatural creatures and magical stories.

“Appalachia, especially the land of West Virginia, has its own personality. It is part of our character, daily life, and has aesthetic significance,” Chadwell-English explained. “People respond to this in many different ways. Some are paying tribute to it, and some are giving it spiritual elements, but in the final analysis, this land itself has a living breathing spirit.”

As our relationship with nature changes, the purpose of fairies and the stories we tell change over time to adapt to our needs. Where there was a need for caution in the past, and now eager to communicate, the existence of fairies is not used as a way to shut out humans, but to bring them in.

The head of Monongalia County Park, JR Petsko, said that the fairy tale house in Mason-Dixon Park was originally an idea put forward by a group of artist friends, inspired by a similar project in Orange County, California. They are looking for a project to help them through the cold, dull West Virginia winter, and at the same time looking for a way to bring them some fun and wonders in the nature around the community. This trail opened in the spring of 2019, but the popularity has skyrocketed in the past year, and more and more people are eager to get out of their homes. The occupancy rate in the park has tripled, almost entirely thanks to the Fairy House.

The fairy tale house in Mason-Dickson Park. Photograph by Grist / Eve Andrews.

The extension of the fairy house is a deliberate section of the road from the entrance to the park; you have to walk about 15 minutes through the woods to reach them. Petsko said: “You know, before COVID, many people have lost contact with nature. We tried to gently reintroduce it to them instead of hitting them in the face.” “Walk half a mile and do some exercise. When I’m in nature, it refreshes my brain. I hope other people can get the same benefits.”

Before Monongalia County designated this land as a park, it was farmland that was heavily drilled for oil and gas, and the last well was blocked around the 1970s. You can still see the old drilling infrastructure on the ridge of the park, overlooking the sloping hills. If you dig further under the foundation of the fairy house, you will find the remains of an old coal mine. The entire area sits on top of intricate mines that have been excavated, excavated and closed in the past two and a half centuries.

Even some fairy tale houses themselves seem to embody this contradictory combination of humanity and inhuman influence: here, an elf-sized tire swing; there is a mini 18-wheeler and a doll-sized sports car. A fairy tale house even has a mini helipad.

With this method, The fairy tale park in Monongalia County is a bit like real life Jugou on the contrary. Despite a gravel parking lot and a frowning teenager driving a lawn mower on a nearby grassy mountain bike trail, this fairy tale trail feels strangely cut off from the rest of civilization. The place where oil, gas, and coal mining was chaotic once again turns green, unless there is occasional coal runoff in Duncard Creek where algae blooms; the place where humans extract fossil fuels from the ground is now home to fairies.

Who says they are real or fake? Haven’t they already used magic?

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