April 26, 2022

W is for Wishes

         (My A to Z Challenge theme this year is How to Make a Fantastical Creature, in which I explore 26 traits that are widely shared among the monsters and marvels of fantasy and folklore.  Have you been visiting some of this year’s other participants?  Find them here!)
        The ability to grant wishes is presumably a subcategory of M-is-for-Magic, but it’s a special enough sort of magic that it gets its own post.  There are many tales about people receiving the magic of having wishes come true, and sometimes these wishes and their stories have happy endings, but sometimes… not so much.
        Perhaps the most famous wish-granting beings are the jinn.  The usual story is that a jinni is imprisoned in some sort of artifact (bottle, lamp, ring…), and offers wishes to whomever sets them free.  Sometimes they become enslaved to the holder of the artifact and fulfill unlimited commands, while in other stories there are only three wishes.  (But in still other stories, they claim to have made a vow to kill the one who sets them free.  If that’s the kind of jinni you find, consider my Pro Tip under T.)
        Another famous wish-giving species is the leprechaun, that diminutive sprite (flashback to P) of Irish folklore.  If you can catch a leprechaun he may bargain for his freedom with three wishes, although in modern folklore it has become more common for leprechauns to bargain instead with the gold they keep at the end of the rainbow.  I suppose it’s a distinction without a difference for those numerous people whose first wish is wealth anyway.
        A particularly dangerous creature from which to obtain wishes is the animalito of Spain.  As their name implies, these are tiny animals (another flashback to P), small enough that they are kept in lengths of reed with a node at one end and a cork at the other.  They have lizard heads and dog mouths, and anyone protected by an animalito cannot be killed except by a silver bullet.  However, in return for this protection and the fulfillment of infinite wishes, an animalito must be fed every day on the flesh either of unbaptized children or of their own masters.  As you can imagine, this can become… difficult.
        Another dangerous wish-granter is the hinnagami, a sort of living doll, almost a sort of homunculus, made with a very long, complicated magical procedure involving cemetery earth and human blood.  A hinnagami will grant all wishes, but the downside is that after every wish it immediately asks “What next?” without any pause or rest, so that it haunts the owner obsessively - even going with them into the afterlife to torment them for eternity.
        This problem of having your wish-giver destroy your afterlife is shared by the eponymous Bottle Imp of the 1891 short story by Robert Louis Stevenson.  As with many wish-granting tales, the fulfillment of wishes is often double-edged, and there’s always a catch.
        Of course any magical being may offer wishes under certain circumstances, especially as bargaining chips in return for their life or freedom, or as rewards given in gratitude for kindness.  Probably the best-known of these is the 
golden fish who offered the fisherman a whole series of wishes - none of which could satisfy 
the fisherman’s ungrateful wife.  Many are the wishes bestowed by fairies and even gods, only to be squandered on foolish things such as sticking sausages onto and then back off of noses.
        The moral of these stories is always to be careful what you wish for, as you may find that things can all too easily go terribly wrong.  (A corollary is that it’s not nice to hold magical creatures for ransom, and wishes given resentfully because of extortion are that much more likely to become twisted into curses.)  A Pro Tip for wishers is never to use the phrase “I wish” as a mere colloquialism, lest you waste a precious opportunity.
        And if you could have one wish, what would it be?  What if you could have three wishes?

[Pictures: Jinni, illustration by F. Gross from Tausend und eine Nacht, 1838 (Image from Hathi Trust);
Leprechaun, vintage St Patrick’s Day card, c1900; 
Hinnagami, illustration by DJ-Duskie, 2018 (Image from Deviant Art);
Magic Fish, illustration by Kay Nielsen from Hansel and Gretel and Other Stories, 1924 (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
Golden Fish, illustration by Ivan Bilibin from Du Oetit Poisson D’Or, 1933 (Image from Vintage Illustrators).]


Lisa said...

I don't think it would be a good idea to trust wishes given by these creatures! Something would be needed to repay them, some day. Sometimes I do wonder what I'd wish for, given wishes. Like when I see a load of hay on a truck! When I was little we'd say, "Load of hay. Load of hay. Take my wish and go away!" I say it to myself to this day, if I'm feeling down about something. Lately I wished for "financial security." I also wish for my children to be happy, which would also mean healthy of course, because health is needed for true happiness. I have three of them, so there are three wishes!

Jayashree Srivatsan said...

It would be so difficult for me to decide and so like the participants in Miss Congeniality movie I would say "World Peace" Actually i do wish for that ... for everyone to be in harmony.
If it needs to be for myself then maybe the ability to eat as many fattening chips and icecreams possible but stay with an awesome figure ... ha ha... this came to my mind immediayely :)

Maria L. Berg said...

I really love your posts. They are so much fun.

Kristin said...

And then there is the monkey's paw. Best to leave those wishes alone. Although I do like the one above where I could eat whatever I wanted to and remain healthy and svelt. Or get that way. LOL

Unknown said...

There's a great new fantasy trilogy out about Djinns, wish granters, mages, and power brokers in the alternate Arabian Nights world. Daevabad trilogy. Be careful who you mess with. Great post.

Alana said...

"Be careful what you wish for" is one of my favorite sayings. So, if I used three wishes for good health for my husband, son and me, I would be fearful of it being twisted somehow. Or if I wished for world peace. There's another expression I like: "unintended consequences".

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone!
Yes, there's no doubt about unintended consequences... I, too, would want to wish for something like "world peace," but I think the difficulty is how to word it. But despite all the risks, there are also stories where the wishers do end up happily ever after, so it's not all bad!

Cheryl Wright said...

I remember seeing a movie many years ago called Wishmaster. It's about an evil genie that grants wishes. Enjoyed your post.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Mm, certainly be careful what you wish for!

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge My Languishing TBR: W

Anstice Brown said...

The part about wishing sausages onto noses just unlocked a childhood memory of watching the 1958 film of "Tom Thumb".