Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Beaten to the Sith

Sidhe is the Irish word for Faerie. It's pronounced shee. In Scotland, shee is traditionally spelled Sith. Writing a book set in Iron Age Scotland, I used Sith by default, and was told in no uncertain terms by members of my writer's workshop that I cannot do that. Sith now belongs to Disney.

Originally coopted by George Lucas for Star Wars, it was passed to Disney with the rest of the franchise.

Part of me recoiled at the notion of a corporation taking over an archetypal aspect of human history.
Of course, that's not really what happened. Neither Lucasfilm nor Disney actually own the word Sith. But it is a undeniable fact that the word can no longer be used without conjuring Death Stars, Jedi knights and midichlorians.

So now I have to decide what to use in its place. Fairy comes with as much or more connotative baggage as Sith, albeit less specific, so somewhat more versatile. Nevertheless, the word cannot be used without invoking a whole raft of connotations, having been previously used as a pejorative for gay men, as a dismissive way to refer to the arts (airy-fairy) and ...and somehow, everytime I see the word fairy, an image of Tinkerbell flits like a glowing butterfly through the corridors of my mind. Disney again! Arggghhh.

It's no surprise to me that the predominant force in children's entertainment has redefined the tropes for our generation. I - like most of my generation and all subsequent generations, at least in North America - was reading Disney/Little Golden Books long before I was reading literary classics.


Using Sidhe definitely puts an inappropriately Irish spin on things, so the only real option is going to the Faerie spelling. Either that or change the name of my villain to Darth Dhammalion, and turn my novel into fan-fic...or try to reinvent the wheel.

Faerie it is.  Damn you Corporate Gods of Entertainment!