The Goblin Fruit of Curiosity Shoppe Season by G. Thornton
Welcome to the season of the liminal, and the opening of Curiosity Shoppes everywhere!
It's October, the month of “O” and "oh" and "ooo…”—that time of year when the human world begins to decorate with icons of Other. The smell of magic is in the air and stores everywhere—on land and online—throw out their lures, charming you into lingering among tantalizing displays of age-old charms and rose-wreathed skulls—of spellbooks writ with raven feathers and iron-weighted keys smudged with rust. Or is that...blood?
"Come buy, come buy," and you roll your eyes. The chant is the same every year. Then, as always, your gaze alights on some goblin fruit you swear you'd never seen. In your mind's eye, it already sits as your seasonal centerpiece, potent and brooding over your forks, knives, and guests—your visitors' eyes glinting in the aftereffect of spellcast; just as you secretly wished. What a magical evening this fruit promises! You must have it after all...
Folklorically inclined fellows seem particularly susceptible to these offerings. Though we happily join the masses who give into the annual tradition of adding a new seasonal element to their tablescapes, landscapes, or personal masques, it's us folkloric folk who especially feel our senses hum. When certain objects appear in the mundane world of the everyday store shelves and virtual shop windows, we feel a sense of synchronicity, of destiny. Even poor imitations, made of resin, plaster, and plastics—yes, even those!—draw our eyes and our imaginations. How can we resist a skull entwined with briar thorns and rosebuds, handmade twig brooms, foreboding crowned ravens, imperfect (and suspiciously second-hand) cauldrons, teetering spellbooks with shaky hand-inked titles, and haunted typewriters that declare "I love you...to death..."? If we are truly honest with ourselves, we realize we don't. And we don’t want to. Even if we don't hand over our preciously-saved pennies to add such compelling echoes of fairy tales to our collections, the images of these made-manifest symbols of stories fill our thoughts and dreams, making us feel that this season we have stepped one length closer to that elusive mist we think of as Other...
Because, in a sense, we have. But there is a dark underbelly to these portals of promise.
Why are we drawn toward this carnival of wares every year? Do our hearts harbor greedy little gnomes, lusting after anything new and shiny? Or is something more at work here? The trick with Goblin Fruit is that it leads you to believe "... this is your one chance..." to grab it, to taste it but within the truth is also a great lie. It's not just about that unique taste but of being part of the Great Magic that the fruit promises, yet there are so many, many paths to enchantment; these cunning little fruits are only one of them.
Let's take a step back, out of the heady aroma, beyond the tangled webs of enchantment, to see what it is we're truly craving, and why it's so easy to hungrily buy (literally) into the goblin-ridden world of Halloween goods.
We all love the staples—the cauldrons, the brooms, the skulls, the black roses—but it's those familiar motifs with a fresh twist, combined with new items seemingly straight out of a tale, that make us stop and look again. These objects, for many of us, sing a particularly strong siren song, but why is it that particular items can have such an ensorcelling effect on our senses (and wallets)?
Because they are telling our stories.
In a time of overwhelm and discord, (also known as "now!") sometimes something as simple as holding a large rusting key in our palm, grounds us, stops the world spinning, and focuses our minds on Story. Items that represent tales and pieces of folklore, especially if they are Our stories, help bring those tales to our dimension, to life; our tangible present connecting us to both wondrous pasts and magical possibilities of the future. And let's be honest, those items with that darker edge, at this time of year, feel a little more magically-real in difficult times. A darker talisman brimming with potential and an escape into Story. How is that not alluring? Who doesn't wish to revel in magical possibilities?
It’s true that each fairy tale aficionado will have their inner chords thrum a little differently, according to the song (we are individuals after all) but despite how tired we are of the overused canon, we cannot help our heads turn on seeing a flash of red cape disappear through the trees, or a single, bright apple held out toward us for the taking. It's our shorthand and immediate door into "once upon a time,” yet it’s not a given that we will succumb and fall under the spell. We know, more than anyone, there is a way out of these darkly enchanted woods; we just have to remind ourselves that we can't quite see it. Yet. To browse with awareness helps you stay on a path of your choosing, rather than feeling, and becoming, lost. To recognize what’s happening is to become more aware of discovering true treasures versus transient cravings; to scent the true nature—goblin or not—of that fruit you’re about to bite.
So look, dream, imagine, and wonder. Heed the siren call if you must. And if you fear you'll find the fruit too tempting, take a fairy tale friend along for the ride. There's nothing like a sister, or bosom friend, to watch your back in a Goblin Market. Just take care which curiosities you add to your basket. The fruits are many and the stalls bigger than they appear—ready and waiting for you to take just one step further and Come Buy, Come Buy…
Gypsy Thornton (she/her) is the Guardian of a chicken-legged coffee cup with a mind of its own. A night owl forced to get up with larks, she often describes herself as liminal and is forever trying to do impossible things before breakfast. She can only be seen in her true form after midnight.
Images: "Goblin Market" by Warwick Goble, 1920
"Goblin Market" by Arthur Rackham, 1933