The Secret of the Faerie Quests
A collectable card. A toy ball. A stick of red lipstick.
These are all items that the questing faeries may ask for to complete their spells, but how on earth can these things be of any use? What can Edna possibly add to her potion by throwing in a small plastic car to melt and warp in the boiling liquid? And why on earth does the fire faerie need quite so many torn gym socks?
Some quests make sense. The eternally hungry esophagor asks for food; this is logical. The Underwater Chef also asks for food, but he is a chef - presumably he can make something edible out of the mish mash of ingredients you bring him. This is also a reasonable thing to ask. But the vast majority of quest items make no sense at all.
One popular theory is that the quests are a front. Fire faeries are known to find their magic temperamental; it's not too much of a stretch of imagination that their clothes get a bit burnt by stray bursts of magic. Sending kind neopians off for their wardrobe updates is certainly one way to avoid the crowds at the mall. Likewise, it's an awfully long way from Taella's home on top of terror mountain to any food stores. I'm sure she finds it quite convenient that so many people are willing to do her weekly shopping for her so that she can avoid the long trek down the mountain. Dark faeries and their toys? Well, I've heard it's serious business rebuilding Faerieland. I wouldn't say no to some new toys to break up the work.
The problem with this theory is that if it's true, then every faerie is in on the con. It's not just the air faeries keeping up with the latest make-up trends or Taella not wanting to leave the warmth of her house, it would be every single faerie. Fyora asks for any number of things; do we really believe that she's just sending us on random errands for her? What about the space faerie? And has anyone ever seen a fire faerie wearing any of the clothes she asks for?
No, the truth is as the faeries say. They need these items for their spells - or, in Edna's case, her potions. Without the inborn magic of the faeries, she has to run things just slightly differently, but the principle behind it is the same.
So how does it work? How could this motley collection of items ever be used to rebuild faerieland?
The answer lies not in the items themselves, but in what they mean to us.
Let me explain. Every object can be broken down into a collection of other, smaller objects. A scarf is a collection of wool and thread; the wool and thread are themselves broken down to be wool fibres. But the scarf is more than just a pile of wool; it's a scarf. It keeps you warm, it completes your outfit, sometimes it even mops up a spilt cup of tea, all things that a pile of loose wool fibres can't do. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Or take a story, for example; a story - this article, even - is just a collection of words. Each word is just letters. 26 letters, to be precise. But the greatest of stories are so much more than that. These stories can be almost living things, growing with each retelling, creating characters that seem at times to be more real than real life.
What's the connection between the scarf and the story? It's the fact that they've been made. Someone has taken babaa wool - or, if you've got a fancy luxury scarf, gnorbu wool - and spun that into threads, then taken those threads and woven them into a scarf. Someone else has taken the 26 letters and a smattering of punctuation and arranged them into words, strung those words together into sentences and put those sentences into a story.
The act of creating something is a magic that the faeries are all too aware of. The time, the care, and the skill that goes into creating these objects - this is powerful stuff. What better to rebuild faerieland with than the magic of making things?
It sounds far fetched. We create things every day; I'm creating as I type this article, you're creating every time you make your morning coffee or hum a random tune on your way to the bus. If there was magic in this, surely we would have noticed?
The simple answer to that is that we aren't faeries; we aren't designed to notice these things. An earth faerie in a forest can tell you the history of every tree. An air faerie can hear the whispers on the wind that warn of her bad weather travelling down the coast. Fyora can look out of her tower window, and who only knows what she can read in the pattern of the world. We can't do any of these things, and we can't feel the magic in the objects we make.
Except for sometimes. A scarf made with love seems warmer than one without. The teddy bear we've had since we were small is worn, one ear falling off and so many extra stitches in the left leg that the stuffing's gone all lumpy - it keeps nightmares away, makes sure the monsters stay under the bed and afraid of the night light. The slightly lopsided, slightly squished home made cake tastes better than the one from the shop that a machine churned out. This is the magic that we can pick up, even as magic-less as we are compared the faeries.
Which brings us to one last step of the questing process: the quest itself. The strongest magic is found in things that are made with the most care. This isn't limited to when the item is first made, but rather gathers and collects over its lifetime. The toys that the dark faeries ask for contain every laugh they ever brought, every make believe game of castle battles that they were used for. The gym socks contain the determination that this time, this time will be a personal best and I won't stop until I've reached the top. The more an item is used, the more the magic builds up.
And the last magic that is applied is the quest itself. The object is found, retrieved, brought to the faeries and given to them as a gift. The last piece of magic needed to make them powerful enough to rebuild faerieland is your time, your care and yes, your skill in finding the object. It's why you can't use the shop wizard; the more effort you put into finding it, the more powerful it will be when you do. And something you have brought to the faeries like this is immeasurably more powerful than anything they could go out and find themselves.
So there you have it. Faerieland is not built out of sticks of lipstick propping up bouncy balls, it's not rickety structures tied together with feather boas. The secret to the quests is not the objects, it's what the objects represent. And the final secret of the quests is the quests themselves; the fact that you are willing to help rebuild faerieland is what gives the faeries the strength to actually do so.