Fateful Questions

on December 5, 2009 in Fantasy

“Do you ever think about free will?” the spinner asked her mother as she handed her the thread for measuring.

“What?” her mother said, carefully marking out a length on one thread and then passing it on.

“Free will,” the spinner said. “Do you ever think about it?”

“What a question,” her grandmother said, as she took up a thread and snipped it off. “We are there when each child is born. We weave the course of their lives. Together, we spin up their potential, measure out the span of it, and bring it to its inevitable conclusion. What should we worry about ‘free will’ for?”

“Oh, well, that’s just it,” the spinner said. “Do we have free will?”

“Look to your child,” the grandmother said to her own daughter. “She has wax in her ears.”

“Mind your grandmother, dear,” the measurer said.

“I did hear you, grandmother,” the spinner said. “You said we do all those things, and we do… and they go about the course of their lives exactly as we have spun and measured it, and it ends exactly as you cut it. But does that mean we are making the decisions that they enact, or do their decisions dictate our actions?”

“Silly child,” her mother said. “The puppeteer’s arms may move at the same time as the puppet’s, but that doesn’t mean the puppet is pulling the strings.”

“But does the puppet even know it’s being pulled? Or does it think it’s in control?”

“What a lot of nonsense,” the grandmother said. “We’re not puppets. I would know if someone were controlling me.”

“Oh?” the spinner said. “Do they know? Or are they just as certain as you are that they chart their own courses through life?”

“You know, I think it’s quiet time,” her mother said. “Let’s just enjoy the silence for a while.”

The three did work in silence, but it’s doubtful how much they enjoyed it.

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7 Responses to “Fateful Questions”

  1. Lysaea says:

    A joining of myths – the maiden, mother, and crone of the Celts; and the fates of Greek and Roman times? At least that is how it appears to me. I like it – they are usually portrayed as all the same age, but this is more interesting 😉

  2. Steph says:

    Admittedly, while I’ve never seen a ‘classical’ representation of the Fates, most of what I’ve read in fiction portrays them fairly close to this. I’ve not seen them related this way, but I do usually see them as Maiden, Mother, Crone.

    Makes sense, doesn’t it? The beginning, the middle, the end? It’s a logical way to represent them and tell them apart at a quick glance. :-)

  3. sakuragirl says:


  4. AE says:

    @Steph – In classical mythology, they are sisters. Their parentage varies a lot but it’s generally held that they are the daughters of Nyx (Night).

    @Steph & Lysaea – A lot of modern fiction deliberately conflates the Celtic triple with the Greco-Roman Fates, the Nordic Norns, and so on. I don’t know if he started it, but Neil Gaiman deserves a lot of credit for popularizing it by having a “single” triple goddess character that showed up throughout The Sandman, originally embodied as DC’s “three witches” horror comic hosts from the era when such things were popular. I chose to use it here because it gives the three a handy way to have them speak familiarly among themselves and creates the dynamic I wanted with the young one saying “the darnedest things” to her elders.

  5. Steph says:

    Thank ye much, AE, for the info.

    At first I was going to point out that Piers Anthony uses the Maiden, Mother, Crone archetype in his Incarnations series. He has them as ‘aspects’ of Fate. Three beings, one body, three physical appearances. Then I realized that I’m a dork and probably shouldn’t be pointing that out with any real zeal.

    I also realized every fictional account of Fate or the Fates places the same Maiden, Mother, Crone spin on them, so I went with the general rather than specific.

    Note to self: Beg, borrow, steal, as a last resort, buy – just get hands on The Sandman.

  6. Miss Lynx says:

    Not to be a mythology pedant but the maiden/mother/crone thing isn’t Celtic. It’s largely a modern concept, originated by Robert Graves and then popularized via neopaganism. I think Graves actually based the idea on Artemis, Selene and Hecate in Greek mythology, but it’s been a while since I read The White Goddess, so I don’t recall exactly. In any event, the idea that it’s some kind of universal is pretty much his own notion. But the image evidently appealed to enough people to become hugely popular, even if it’s not actually anything ancient.

  7. Steph says:

    Bah. REread, Steph, reread.

    “Every fictional account that I am personally familiar with..”

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