I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions, yet each year I make the secret deal with myself that I’m going to write more. It never works, but here I am, blogging for the second time in a week. That hasn’t happened since I started this thing. So happy 2016?
At this point, I’m just trying to write so that I can move on to things I actually need to get written and have words easily flowing out of me. Sometimes it works; sometimes I get to the end of my warm-up round and think, yep, that’s enough for today. This happens a lot with exercising too, hence the reason none of my unspoken New Years Resolutions have anything to do with gyms and effort commitments.
That’s good for today.
But anyway, after a lot of deliberation and random internet word lists,
D is for duende.
I love the internet. It’s a magical place where people appropriate all sorts of words and phrases that they probably really shouldn’t. And nobody cares a whit. It’s beautiful. (Unless of course it has something to do with feminism or race–then a lot of people get irrational–but that’s another thing.)
I first learned the word duende in a high school Spanish class during which we were paired up and asked to converse, coming up with a story about how we hurt ourselves. So naturally, my best friend and I came up with a story about how one of us (I don’t remember which) fell out of a tree and was bit by a leprechaun. That’s a totally feasible way to injure oneself, right? We turned to the trusty, beat-up Spanish-English dictionary in the back cabinet, because neither of us knew the word for leprechaun, and learned that the Spanish word for leprechaun is in fact duende. Of course we worked that into every story and conversation henceforward, and I’ve never forgotten it. Upon further research, however, I’ve learned that this is pretty much a catch-all term for any goblin, pixie, elf creature.* Not that that really matters.
A year or two ago I came across one of those pictures with a weird word defined in a fancy way–you know, the ones that float around the internet for the moderately intelligent to enjoy and for those who like to inappropriately work these not-quite words into everyday conversations to seem smarter than they are–and the word was duende. Not italicized. And not a faerie/sprite/leprechaun. Here’s the picture:
Huh. Not what I was expecting. As an artist (writer), this fascinated me. Of course everyone is always looking for that elusive quality that will make a person cry, give him goosebumps, make him smile wider than he ever has before, leave him wanting to come back for more. Its always talked about amongst artists, always looked for. Usually it’s just referred to as “it.” He doesn’t have it; she’s almost got it. Now it has a name, a very fun to say name that also refers to a leprechaun. As a curious and logical person, I needed to know why this word, my favorite Spanish word, had two very different definitions.
In the artistic sense, el duende is the spirit of evocation; it’s an earth spirit that wrestles with the artist and brings him face to face with death, transmitting this struggle through the art to the audience. It’s still a mischievous spirit; it’s the morbid, elemental uncle of the leprechaun with a thing for artists, who, frankly, don’t need any more help thinking about death.
Does this look like the face of someone who needs help facing death?
Duende is pretty much only used in reference to flamenco, that is until the internet appropriated it. I won’t go into more detail about it here, but you should definitely read this if you find it as fascinating a concept as I do. Now that I have a name for this elusive thing, maybe this sprite-like muse will help imbue my writing with duende? A girl can hope.
D is also for disappointment, disillusionment, and despair–all things I feel when I try to write. But maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe that’s el duende wrestling with me and making me a better writer. New years are about new hopes, right? So here’s to this one.
*Etymology fascinates me, so naturally I learned origin of the word and why it’s a catch-all phrase. I didn’t want to bore anyone and it didn’t really fit up there, but if you’re curious, here it is: The word duende originated as a contraction of the phrase dueño de casa or duen de casa, “possessor of a house,” and referred to a mischievous spirit inhabiting a house. The wikipedia article on it is here.