Beware the Ides of March
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
February 29, 2020
“Beware the Ides of march,” thought often to be a term from Shakespeare, really originated in Rome around 753 B.C. marking the first full moon of the new year on the Roman calendar. It sounds ominous. Julius Caesar was assassinated on this day. Today the Ides of March ushers in a celebration for St. Patrick and the wearing of green. But beware, there is a dark side to leprechauns and October is not our only scary month!
As humans, we are curious by nature, whether that curiosity is good for us or not. We walk into haunted buildings, check after noises in the dark, look under rocks, open “do not open” doors. We just can’t seem to help ourselves. We are drawn to mysteries even if dangerous, with the possibility of ghosts and alien visitation, and we even wish things like fairies and leprechauns to be true. Did you know fairies can come with attitude and leprechauns have a naughty side? Or so the stories go.
Leprechauns are a type of fairy in Irish folklore, usually described as short, red headed bearded men in green suits (though sometimes red) that tend to stay to themselves, making and repairing shoes and hoarding and hiding gold, though probably not in pots at the end of rainbows. Granting three wishes appears to be wishful thinking as well. Instead, leprechauns appear in stories to be quite clever and sly, with the ability to outsmart humans. Their greediness for gold may actually lead to stealing and in some stories the leprechauns of folklore are portrayed as downright evil. These leprechauns do not offer bowls of Lucky Charms!
Though the last verified leprechaun sighting was back in the mid 1800s, the mythology has stayed alive and well all these years. Vivid myths appear throughout other cultures as well. Not just leprechauns, but stories of strange and magical beings, visiting our real world. Have you ever seen a black trash bag flapping in the wind, only to have it turn into a flying raven before your eyes? The American Indians tell many stories of mystical wildlife. I recently read “Follow the Crow” by B.B. Griffith. On a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, a little girl disappears from her hospital bed, never to be seen again. At the same time, crows appear in numbers and become a large part of the mystery. Both brutal and intriguing, the story follows the brother, father and grandmother down a heartbreaking yet hopeful path, offering the reader the opportunity to speculate on the meaning of each clue, and at the end, to contemplate the largeness of the unknown.
Then there is the 2020 Newbery Honor recipient Christian McKay Heidicker and his book, “Scary Stories for Young Foxes.” We find that not only humans are curious and love scary stories. Foxes do too. When a kit of seven young foxes seek scary stories from a storyteller deep in Bog Cavern, the reader realizes that this book, written for middle graders, can satisfy an adult desire for scary as well. The prose is beautiful as Heidicker weaves his way through tragedy and triumph with realism and wit. Some parents may be cautious to share this book with a timid child. But there the discussion can begin. Is our job as adults to sugar coat the precarious dangers our children will find in real life? Would it not be better to prepare them for the journey instead of trying to protect them until they are too old and won’t listen to our experience and wisdom? This book is a door to facing harrowing life experiences, whether that of a fox or human. It opens the discussion about difficult situations, how to be smart and brave, and even how to accept the ultimate ending of death after living, unforeseen sudden accidents and the reality that life is both glorious and difficult. Each parent must decide.
Whether it is leprechauns or crows, scary stories or real life, it is always prudent to “Beware the Ides of March.” As winter blows out and spring blows back into our town, March is not for sissies! Read a scary story, try to hold off planting that garden and keep watch for things that may not be what they seem. Keep your eyes on the Ides!
Good books. Good reading.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.