Ask the Trope Fairy is an advice column for characters navigating science fiction and fantasy realms.
Dear Trope Fairy,
Yesterday, I made a mistake. I think. I certainly didn’t mean to trip and fall onto my mother’s painting and stain it with my blood. I didn’t mean to summon the painting to life, but last night, I helped it step out of the painting into our world. It started talking about hunting monsters then barged into my parents room. They knew what it was and why it was there, but all they did was fight about whose fault it was and not explain. My father just said, “You’re a child…It’s two o’clock in the morning, and your mother’s painting is standing here in our bedroom…It’s enough. Go and sleep." They weren’t like this when I told them I’m a girl, not a boy. They’ve never just dismissed me and my feelings like this before. They didn’t tell me I was a child who couldn’t understand these things. They supported me. They’ve always supported me before. Why is this different?
Now this morning, they say I’m the one with the power to send it back. I told them what the painting said about it being here to stop the monster living in my friend’s house, but they are convinced that the painting is lying or mistaken and that I should send it away before it ruins everything in Lucille. Are they right? Why would they take the chance of leaving my friend to a monster? How can they be so sure? Should I send the painting away?
Dear Reluctant Hunter,
I can’t tell you directly what to do about the Painting or the Hunt. Not only is it against the rules, but I shouldn’t make this decision. You are the one with all of the information. With the gut feeling. Both a Monster and a false Hunt could greatly threaten a place like Lucille. You must choose which you will risk.
Perhaps it will help you decide, however, if you better understand the source of your parents’ fear and rejection of your Painting. Many young heroes before you have thought that it would solve all of their problems if their parents had known magic as children. However, it is one of the great sadnesses of the Fantastic Realms that generational callings do not always lead to adult support for the new heroines.
True, the maternal Darling line historically gets over their qualms enough to allow a new child to inherit the “spring-cleaning” of Neverland and fly off with that heartless boy, sighing, “If only I could go with you." More often the adults simply offer gentle encouragement and broad hints like the Pevensies’ Uncle Digory, who explains that other worlds have “a separate time of [their] own” without actually mentioning that he has been to the world inside the wardrobe and knows that fact firsthand.
However, this attitude is more common in the tamer realms, and the kind of quest that would require a Hunter is harder for adults to accept that a child must face. In darker magics, adult understanding of the truth can become an obstacle.
I understand the instinct to compare this moment to your parents’ appropriate and approving reaction to your declaration of gender. After all, both monsters and parents who disapprove of their children’s self-recognition were supposed to be relics of Lucille’s past. Your parents fought hard for you to have easy, simple access to the resources to help you grow up as your true self. They won that battle, and your life is their victory. But in some ways, that is precisely what is troubling them about your Painting.
I don’t know their specific past battles, but I can assure you that they were horrible, long, and painful. What your parents faced while ridding the world of as many monsters as they could find is something they never wanted you to understand, especially firsthand. They don’t want to believe it could be happening again with the weight on your shoulders -- not when you were meant to be safe.
This is the emotional part of your parents’ resistance to belief in your Painting. Parents want you to be out of the fight, whether they know that the fight is magical or not. If you were asking me how to convince them to put you in magical danger, I could not tell you how. But you asked if they were right to doubt your Painting’s intentions. I still cannot tell you for certain, but there is a sadly common bias in their way that I think you should understand before you decide.
All parents were once the heroes of their own stories, magical or otherwise. Admitting that their daughter is the new protagonist means both that their happy ending is not permanent and that they are no longer the protagonists. Both are hard pills to swallow, all the more if you've fought for them with tears and blood (not necessarily your own).
The problem is even worse in Lucille, an entire society that has decided that it has reached the safety of the epilogue and the happily ever after. Your parents’ generation fought many battles both magical and non-magical to build your world, and they desperately want to believe that they have not left any trials for their children to face. They want to believe they are the last generation of heroes who defeated the last generation of villains.
You were not meant to be their heir to adventure but their reward for a job well done. They imagined, and in some ways feel entitled to, an ending in which “all were happy and made eternally so through legend." They might do better to remember that in other adventures, the ending reminds us “that happiness is always relative, especially when the person involved has been through great physical and psychological trauma."
Lucille’s happily ever after has no room for Hunts or creatures like your Painting. But that does not mean that the Hunt is not needed. Happily ever afters don't always last forever.
You are the one who must decide if they are right or if they are simply assuming that all is well because they believe it is only fair value for what they have suffered.
Transcribed and annotated by Katy Mulvaney with permission from the League of Fairy Surrogates and Interdimensional Meta—Fantasy Council. The Trope Fairy can be reached by holding your letter up to the mirror and repeating “Bloody Mary” three times. Please try not to scream when she arrives. She is a very reliable interdimensional messenger, and she gets that a lot.