Elisheva Bennet, Sylph


A colour fantasy image of a young, mysterious woman with piercing blue eyes.

Elisheva Bennet, Sylph. Image credit: Enrique Meseguer, Pixabay.


Author’s Note: My piece of flash fiction is a re-imagination of a small part (Volume II, Chapter IX, pages 136-138 from the 2004 Oxford World’s Classics edition) of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice.[1] Elisheva Bennet represents the delightfully complex character, Elizabeth Bennet, and Wilhelm Arcy the aloof romantic hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Using Austen’s novel as inspiration, I have changed its form, or genre, from a work of historical fiction to one of fantasy fiction, maintaining loose fidelity to the source material.


It might interest you to know that Elisheva is a Hebrew name (אלישבע. Translation courtesy of Google Translate), meaning ‘My God is an oath’ or ‘My God is abundance.’ The feminine first name Elizabeth is a variant of Elisheva. I thought the choice of Elisheva rather fitting for a Sylph, or elemental spirit of the air, while maintaining the link to Austen’s Elizabeth.


Wilhelm is a German cognate (i.e., having the same linguistic derivation) of William. The name means will, desire, helmet (helm) – again rather fitting for a character who is wilful and aloof but protective (or heroic) of nature, as Fitzwilliam Darcy is. What of the surname, Arcy? It is a contracted form of the surname D’Arcy (from Bois-d’Arcy, a commune in north-central France (Île-de-France)) and the origin of the shorter name Darcy and other variants. Darcy means ‘of Arcy,’ i.e., from the region of Bois-d’Arcy; ergo, source of my hybrid character, Wilhelm Arcy.

 

As a Sylph, an elemental spirit of the air, Elisheva understood her place in the sacred order of things. Like other Sylphs, she presided over one of the four elements – her kind responsible for air, the Undines for water, the Gnomes for earth, and the Salamanders for fire. She was a gentle creature, as was the natural way of Sylphs. However, unlike most of her race, she was not bereft of the need to have strong opinions about many things. One might even say she was high-spirited. ‘It is without doubt,’ said some with knowing expression and in hushed tones, ‘the result of a mixture of Salamander and Gnomic elements in her bloodline at birth. From her father’s side, you know.’


It ought not to come as a surprise, dear reader, that an elemental spirit should possess significant amounts of… well, spirit! For example, Elisheva had the most determined views about marriage, which she would offer as a panegyric to all who might listen, given the chance. Not for her the traditional courting and union with another Sylph; she rather fancied a break from the expected norm and would often engage in flights of fancy and drift off into daydream-like scenarios about an elopement with a mortal – one (of absolute necessity) who had preserved inviolate his or her chastity to afford them the right to enjoy an intimate familiarity with a gentle spirit like hers, and that of others like her. Female or male mattered not to her, for such concerns and constraints were the province of mortals, although such a union was ill-favoured by most Sylphs.


Despite her best endeavours, one such mortal, Wilhelm Arcy, she could not dispel from her mind, having crossed paths with him several times at secret gatherings of the Festum Spiritualis et Mortalis – Festival of the Spiritual and Mortal. She had found him to exude some strange syren magic of allurement which attracted her on the one hand but repulsed or otherwise unsettled her in innumerable ways on the other.


While lost in such close contemplation, the sound of the wind chimes at the portal of the small air temple in which she was staying roused her, announcing a visitor. She had expected to find a fellow Sylph at the threshold, her mind conjuring the mental imagery that such a visit would provide through light relief and distraction. To her utter amazement, however, when she threw open the door, she found none other than Wilhelm Arcy, his uncompromising features lit and stressed by the soft, dancing glow of fireflies circling the porch lantern. Her civility compelled her to invite him in. Once the usual (but curt) social greetings and constrained pleasantries had been exchanged, a silence of many uncomfortable minutes ensued. It came as a bolt from the ether, therefore, when Arcy expressed how ardently he admired and loved her. One cannot understate Elisheva’s astonishment at such an announcement, which was beyond expression.

 
Bibliography

Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)


Citation

Citation for this post (MHRA - Modern Humanities Research Association). Please use:


Priestley, James, ‘Elisheva Bennet, Sylph’, Elisheva Bennet, Sylph, 2022 <https://www.jppriestley.com/post/elisheva-bennet-sylph> [accessed D/M/Y]

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