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The Wilis in The Age of Tinder
March 14, 2019
Illustration of a ballerina in Giselle by Amélie Grenier

Have you ever heard of the legend of the Wilis? Slavic folklore compares these creatures to Greek nymphs, except for a slight difference: the wilis are actually walking-dead. Specifically, the wilis are young women who died after being jilted by their fiancés—since uncouth meatheads that disappear overnight are a timeless classic.

Back then, a young lady’s identity was built on marriage so being abandoned by their gallant was, so to speak, a fate worse than death. Worse than death, literally, because the legend tells of these desperate souls, restless in their graves, burning with that unsatisfied desire for a wedding dance since their life was cut short.

Deprived of their nuptials, they rise to gather at the stroke of midnight, spectres whispering biting jibes and vitriolic barbs about those rascals who gave them the slip. Together, they dance all night at the edge of villages and roads, in search of victims to seduce. Poor lads, who should have stayed in their straw beds that day, are enthralled and thus spend a frantic night boogieing till they die of exhaustion.

Today, it’s hard to perpetuate the legend of the Wilis in our modern age; there’s a wee difference between Rhineland during the Renaissance, when getting wed was a survival tactic, and Quebec in 2019 where a wedding is a story on Instagram.

The legend of the modern Wilis could go on but it would probably need a few minor tweaks: a young woman catches a glimpse of a chap on a popular dating app whose profile shows nary a pic of trout, car or naked chest. Even better: he can also talk about something other than himself and doesn’t interrupt her to mansplain things she knows. BETTER STILL: he shares her passion for Marie Kondo! A real catch, like the kind they don’t make anymore.

Out the gate running with passion, mane over heels in love, our young Wilis-to-be is then, unexpectedly, ghosted between the second and third date. She feels betrayed. Her heart is shattered. She dies of love (OK, maybe she really just leaves for Bali to recharge, do yoga and fall in love with an Australian dude named Bruce. But for the sake of the legend, let’s stick to the story of love that turns people into revenants).

The modern Wilis is henceforth doomed to spend eternity waking at the stroke of midnight to gather with her ghost besties humming Look What You Made Me Do by T-Swift, and go out dancing all night, waiting for a young man to fall prey to the ghastly tune of Despacito. The prisoner of these spectral single ladies, condemned to shake his thing forever, succumbs in turn.

In the rich history of nightmarish deaths, surely there are worse ways to go, especially if it involves drawing one’s last breath with a final hip thrust to some reggaeton tune. This modernized legend could even be a macabre cautionary message to scrawl on your next online profile : « better not ghost me unless you want to spend eternity dancing with me . . .” Plenty of menace to weed out the douchebags but mysterious enough to lure the others. Try it out sometime.

par Simon-Albert Boudreault

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