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“Bluebeard” by Walter Crane, 1874.

“Promises! Promises!” Sagacia said, setting her tea on the end table and lifting Murzik from the end to the center of the Chesterfield. “Especially promises to not do something,” she continued, sitting down beside her favorite beverage.

“Yeah, like Raymond promising not to look at Melusine on Saturdays,” Simplia acknowledged, flicking the cat’s tail off the other end cushion as she seated herself. “But that would have been okay if he hadn’t embarrassed her by telling everyone her secret, that she had a serpent’s tail!”

“Indeed!” said Sagacia! “Or like when Clever Manka promised not to interfere with her husband’s decisions. Not a good promise to make to one less clever than oneself!”

“For sure!” said Simplia. “But even he recognized later that he’d been wrong! How could she not try to fix his mistake?” She hesitated a moment. “Anyway, that turned out okay. Their marriage was stronger in the end.”

“And the bride in Bluebeard,” Sagacia continued.  “How could she accept the order to not open the door, but then keep the key? Too risky, if you ask me.”

“I always wondered about that, too,” Simplia said. “Why didn’t she just take that key off the ring and give it right back to him?”

Sagacia sniffed and pitched her voice high, imagining the poor bride. ‘I won’t need this key. Here, You keep it!’ But, no!” she added in her regular voice. “She allowed herself to be set up for failure!”

“All that stood between taking the key and unlocking the door was her word. That makes it a promise!” Simplia concluded.

“Oh, and do you remember the promise in Pretty Maid Ibronka?” Sagacia asked. “She told the boyer she would marry him, but . . . .” Sagacia struck a pose and whined, “‘You must promise that you will never ask me to go to church with you.’”

“I remember that!” Simplia exclaimed. “And I like the way the promise was ultimately broken, remember? He got tired of those gossips asking him why his wife didn’t come with him? And at last he broke his promise and asked her to go to church with him!”

Sagacia stuck her nose in the air and turned stage left. “‘You promised you would never ask me that!’”

Simplia cleared her throat and orated stiffly, ‘Must we abide by that old bargain forever?’ Then, in her own voice, she added, “Oh, I love that line!”

“Me, too,” Sagacia agreed. “One of my favorites in the whole fairy tale cannon!” She smiled. “It’s so . . . um, so . . .”

“Husbandlike!” Simplia finished the sentence assertively. “And definitely one of those ‘Big Important Conditions’ that Languishing in Luxumburg refers to in his note to Vasilisa.”

“A ‘Big Important Condition’ that didn’t fade in its importance one bit!” Sagacia agreed.

“I’ll say! That oopir was going to look for her until his iron sandals rusted and his iron staff broke to pieces!” Simplia said. “That promise had to outlast iron.”

“On the other hand, she never would have gained such an important understanding about herself nor gotten rid of the oopir if her husband hadn’t broken the promise,” Sagacia said thoughtfully. “I mean, there’s a reason why promises are in stories: to see what happens when they are broken!”

Simplia stepped forward and addressed their lone audient, Murzik, “Will Bluebeard’s bride meet the same fate as the victims in the unlocked room?”

Sagacia entered, stage right: “Will Manka’s marriage survive?” she enunciated in a deep announcer voice.

“Will Ibronka herself survive? Will she be transformed?” Sagacia said, stepping in front of her.

“Tune in next week!” they announced together boldly.

The Simpletons fell onto the Chesterfield, laughing raucously. At last, gasping for breath, they sighed and sat in silence for a few moments.

“All of which leads me to ask,” Sagacia said cautiously, “In Fairy Tales, is keeping a promise always a good thing?”

“Or, in Fairy Tales,” Simplia pondered, “Is breaking a promise always a bad thing?”

“Perhaps our magical friends know,” said Sagacia.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men,” Simplia chanted, scraping the bottom of her vocal register to sound like Frank Readick, Jr.

“The Shadow knows!” Sagacia said, laughing ominously.

Murzik flattened his ears and rolled over.

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