…arrived at the Fairy Tale Lobby. It was addressed to Vasalisa the Wise, so the simpletons raced upstairs to deliver it to her, but what do you think? Vasilisa was gone!
“Alas, what shall we do?” asked Simplia.
“We must simply open the letter ourselves,” said Sagacia.
Tentatively, and with a twinge of guilt, Simplia broke the wax seal, and the parchment popped open. Together the simpletons read aloud, Sagacia pointing at each word as they spoke. (She was the bossy one.)
Dear Vasilisa the Wise,
Just look at you! You, with your long blond hair! You blond heroines think you have it made, don’t you! Why is it that fairy tale princesses are always the “fairest of them all,” anyway? Do you think *light* makes right? Is that fair?–Brown and Trembling in Brussels.
“Oh, dear!” said Simplia. “We have no help to give poor Brown and Trembling!” She turned and glared at Sagacia. “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!” she huffed.
“Now, now,” said Sagacia calmly. “Let’s just think about this a while.” But thinking was hard for her; so it actually took her two whiles.
“I know!” she said at last. “Let’s ask our magical friends for help!”
So they did, and soon the friends began to arrive, though there were not nearly as many as are gathered here in the Lobby today, I can tell you! The simpletons pleaded with them to help poor Brown and Trembling–without letting Vasilisa find out they’d opened her mail, of course. (They may be simple, but they aren’t stupid!)
Charles Kiernan, who was sitting in the armchair by the fireplace drinking a cup of chai, calmly composed a compassionate correspondence.
Dear Brown and Trembling in Brussels,
I think you have a justifiable rant against blonds. Some of your contemporaries are defined by their story as blond. Conrad in “The Goose Girl” tries to steal locks of her hair because he thinks they are gold. Rapunzel’s hair is a “golden stair”. More to your detriment, “Blond” is shorthand for “Beautiful”, just as “Ugly” = “Nasty”, “Pretty” = “Kind”. If the heroine is kind and gentle she is, in our minds, pretty (and probably blond). The inference goes both directions unless qualified. In “The Three Spinning Fairies” the old woman has a daughter who is beautiful, BUT lazy. The “but” is entirely necessary; “Lazy” is not part of the code for “Beautiful”.
You, my dear, are a victim of fairy tale shorthand.
Priscilla Howe, lounging on the overstuffed sofa in front of the window, sat up. She had had previous encounters with Brown and Trembling (maybe at Ashliman’s Castle or in the land of SurLaLune?), and she advised authoritatively:
Dear Brown and Trembling: Don’t you worry about Fair. Pay close attention to the henwife and the cowherd, and any other low-born nobles. Fair will get her just deserts. You know she’s just jealous of you, Trembling, and in the end, she’ll be set adrift on the seas. Maybe SHE’LL get swallowed by a whale herself.
At that moment, who should step into the Fairy Tale Lobby? Why none other than Gail Burgan Rosen! She snatched up the quill and scribbled out a quick prescription:
“Dear B & T”,
“Wake up and smell the gingerbread, girl! You are responsible for your own trip through these woods, just as I am. Life’s no happy ending even with a doll in your pocket and a skull light on a stick. Better be kind to every old woman and hungry animal you meet – and it’s not simply altruism, sweetie. You’ve got to work hard and thank your helpers, not be bitchin’ because some other girl gets the prince. Princes come with their own set of problems, you know. Own that reflection in the mirror and find your magic. I know you can do it!
The two simpletons simply wept at receiving so much help and support from their friends.
But they did not know what you and I know: that even more help was on the way.