Barra the Bard, Christi Underdown Dubois, Csenge Zalka, Fiona Birchall, J. B. Rowley, Jack Abgott, Julie Moss Herrera, Kimberley King, Lois Springnether Keel, Lynnie Mirvis, Margaret Meyers, Mario Rups, Mary Bond, Mary Locke Crofts, Nick Smith, Norris Spencer, Yvonne Healy
…simpletons finished reading one response to Brown & Trembling’s question* than three more appeared. Magical friends from all over the world seemed eager to answer Brown and Trembling’s complaint. Messages in bottles washed up on the beach below the Fairy Tale Lobby. Some of the messages arrived via grapevine. Some through social media. Simplia watched, amazed, as her tea leaves began to take the shape of words, but then she sneezed and the message was lost.
When the flurry of mail finally subsided, their minds were boggled. Here is just a sampling of the thoughts the two friends had to ponder:
Many wrote sentiments of solidarity with Brown and Trembling:
Lynnie Mirvis said, “Alas, it’s true. Brownettes need a re-branding! How about ‘hair as brown as chocolate?’…Brownettes of the world, unite!! Give those ancient fairy tales and stories a new twist–a ‘tikkun,’ a repair!!!”
Jack Abgott asserted, “Frankly, I’m refreshed by a dark, curly heroine.”
Csenge Zalka encouraged B&T “to write to Snow White and start a club. Maybe get outside your own comfort zone and seek out Princess Rudabeh.”
Nick Smith said emphatically: “Blond princesses can stand around and look beautiful all they want and wait for a happy ending. The world is built by brunettes who write their own stories and their own luck.”
Some acknowledged the imbalance.
Fiona Birchall sighed and reached out with, “…fairytales and their progeny are not born multicultural or contemporarily uber tolerant. You may need to wear dark glasses when conversing with…sweet, blond, youngest children so that you can look deeper into their souls and, if you’re lucky, find that one of them is your soulmate.”
Mary Locke Crofts noted that there are enough stereotypes to go around: “Dear B & T: You may be Brown and you may be Trembling, but you are never a Bimbo!” And, she added,”…(l)ight is nothing without shadow, and there is plenty of that in Vasilisa’s story.”
Christi Underdown Dubois said, “Humanity seems to be afraid of the Dark–in more ways than one….(I)t is one of those strange dichotomies of the world for the Dark to be associated with death and bad and all those scary things under our beds. On the other hand, the Fair is light, life, and safety.”
Some shared ways to understand the dichotomy…
Mary Bond stated, “I would suggest that ‘fairest’ refers to the justice, wisdom, and kindness in Vasilisa’s heart, rather than the color of her hair.”
Barra Jacob McDowell recalled that her mother, “a stunningly gorgeous woman all her life, used to say that it was more important to have something under your hair….”
Norris Spencer asked, “But are they all blond? …I think an African fairy tale would not have a blond.”
J.B. Rowley observed, “The adjective ‘fair’ from Old English ‘faeger’ was apparently used with the sense ‘beautiful’ as well as with the sense ‘morally pure and unblemished.’ As the word journeyed through life…it gathered the meaning ‘light complexioned.’ We would probably have to look at the origins of a fairytale and the original wording to work out whether the fair maiden was a beautiful virgin or a fair skinned blonde…”
…or to fix it:
Lois Springnether Keel suggested, “Perhaps we just need to tell more stories from beyond the turf of these blonds.”
Yvonne Healy offered, “The few times I describe the fair heroine, I usually say ‘she was as good as she was beautiful; and as beautiful as she was good.'”
Mario Rups concurred, alerting B&T to the “linguistic tangle between two meanings of the English word ;fair.’ In a lifetime of listening to stories, if there is one thing I have learned, it is this: Fair is as Fair does.
Julie Moss Herrera recalled from experience that “…storytellers can change the story to fit their purposes. Hence, I, the oldest and with brown hair and eyes, was always cast as the heroine in our home grown productions of Cinderella and friends.”
(…at this point, Sagacia looked askance at her less experienced, simpler companion and muttered, “Hmm. It seems rank has its privileges.”)
Others commented upon the fairness/darkness question in broader terms.
Margaret Meyers warned, “Dear B&T: Baba Yaga will eat you if you ask the wrong questions. Don’t get hung up on words. You may be Brown & Trembling, but you have to go into the dark to get the fire.”
Kimberley King almost hung up on B&T “Hunh? I’m sorry, but I think you have the wrong Vasilisa. (Her) hair is dark brown. But, just out of curiosity, what do you have against blonds, anyway?”
“Whew!” said Sagacia. “Now we’re really in trouble. All these answers to Brown and Trembling’s question. They all sound so wise and true. How are we going to pick the right one?”
Poor Simplia merely shook her boggled head. And then the two of them very nearly burst into tears when looked up and saw a whole flock of little birds flying toward them with even more letters addressed to Brown and Trembling.
“Our brains have thought enough for one day,” Sagacia said solemnly. “Let’s go join our friends in the Lobby for a cup of tea. I recall the words of a modern brown-haired heroine, who was not the trembly sort: ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.'”
(…to be concluded.)
*In case you missed the December Fairy Tale Question of the Month, we have added it to the sidebar.