Kind and Unkind Girls, Otters, Snakes and Other Revelations

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“Diamonds and Pearls” (Kind and Unkind Girls) Les Contes de Perrault illustrated by Gustave Doré, 1867.

“Diamonds and Pearls” (Kind and Unkind Girls) Les Contes de Perrault, dessins par Gustave Doré. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1867.

Simplia had the newspaper spread out all over the table when Sagacia toddled over with her cocoa.

“Can I have a little corner for my tiny cup and my little bitty book?” she asked with a note of sarcasm.

“Of course,” said Simplia, tugging a large sheet toward herself to create a space for her friend without noticing the tone of the question.

Sagacia seated herself and put the book and cocoa on the table. “Are you reading the whole paper at once?” she asked, a bit sharply, as you or I might have observed, but Simplia stuck to the content of the question.

“In a way, I am,” she said. “See, here are all these countries, and over there are a bunch of politicians, and on this page are some sports figures who are all blaming their failures on someone else, taking no responsibility for their own role in the matter, just like that story Bob Kanegis sent us for Wondering in Wyoming.

“I guess I didn’t see that,” Sagacia said, blowing on her cocoa. The evening was too warm for hot chocolate, but when you really like something, it doesn’t matter. At least, that was the theory Sagacia espoused.

“It’s from Sumatra,” Simplia said. “He told it like this:”

Otter, hungry for a meal of lobster, leaves her children in Deer’s keeping. But soon after, war drums are heard in the forest. Deer, who is the “Chief War Dancer” responds to the drums and begins her dance but accidentally steps on several of the baby otters and kills them. Mother Otter returns, and devastated and furious upon hearing the news, seeks justice from the King. The King summons Deer who begs forgiveness but explains that when she heard the Woodpecker beat the drum, in accordance with her duties, began the war dance. Woodpecker is questioned, and explains that he beat the drums after watching Lizard arm himself. The chain of events unfolds. Lizard watched Horned Toad put on his armor. Horned Toad saw Crab take up his sword. Crab in turn explains that he saw Lobster sharpening his claws. Lobster was the last to be questioned by the King.

“Did you prepare the weapons of war in a manner that would indicate that you were going to battle?

“I did,” replied Lobster, “Because I saw the otter approaching the waters of the cove with the intention of swallowing my young.”

The King turns to Otter and dismisses the case with these words:

“You, Otter are solely to blame for the tragedy that occurred. And your punishment has already been delivered.”

“Oh, of course!” said Sagacia. “And I hope people who blame others will soon have their punishment delivered, too!” she sighed. “And swiftly! I liked that other tale Marilyn McPhie sent us, too.”

“Got it right here!” Simplia said, shuffling through her newspaper sheets. “Right . . . here!”  She whipped out the letter and read aloud:

Isn’t it striking that sometimes current events ring an I’ve-heard-that-before bell?

A couple of months ago, I read an article about a con man who’d been to prison. He found religion (he said), and when he was released, he became a minister, and then he proceeded to steal from the church who hired him. When his fraud was discovered, he said, “They knew what I was when they hired me.”

Ding-ding-ding “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”

This is one reason why we love fairy tales and folk tales, right? They are true.

“I have Csenge’s letter, too,” Simplia added, and with a small flurry of newspaper, she came up with another envelope and quickly released its contents:

One of you linked a blog post that mentioned the Barbour adoption case, where the family seems to have treated their own children well while they abused their adopted kids. Reminded me of all the “Kind and the Unkind Girl” stories, or even Cinderella. In old times of high mortality rates among women, it was way more common to have step-parents or adoptive parents than nowadays; it is probably (I guess) why it is also a common theme in story.

On a more cheerful note: Which father who has teenage daughters would not pay to know where they go out to party at night?… :D

“Right!” Sagacia chuckled.

At that moment Murzik leapt gently into Sagacia’s lap, sniffed the cocoa, sniffed the book, then settled down for a nap, lulled by Sagacia’s strokes and rubs.

“You know, you could go the other way to find the answers Wondering in Wyoming wants,” Sagacia said. “Start with the fairy tale and see what real life situation it–well–explains! Take ‘Puss in Boots,” she whispered, not wishing to offend the cat in her lap. “Know anyone in the news recently who lied and lied and lied and lied to get something their stakeholders didn’t even know they wanted? And a good deal for themselves as well? While destroying the lives of others? And then they end up getting respect at the end? I mean, they are never punished for their bad behavior, not really, and they seem to revel in their own cleverness!”

“I see,” Simplia said. “Might you be referring to . . . Citibank?”

“Exactly!” Sagacia replied. “And they aren’t the only Pusses in Bootses in recent memory, either.” She scratched Murzik under the ears. “I’m sure our magical friends can identify a few other villains and heroes whose fairy tale stories have real life parallels!”

Bring a 10-minute fairy tale to share during the Fairy Tale Lobby Story Swap at the NSN Conference in Phoenix on Friday, July 24 at 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Also on Friday, you are invited join us for Dutch Treat Dinner at the Red Lobster at 5:30. (RSVP by email to fairytalelobby at talesandlegends.net or by commenting below.)

Red Lobster is right across the street from our hotel. Besides seafood and full meals, they also offer beef and chicken entrees, salads, soups, and hamburgers.