The Simpletons’ public library had set up a little annex in the far corner of the Fairy Tale Lobby, sort of like one of those kiosks they used to put in malls, only cozy. Here the two of them sat side by side, poring over the tea, the prose and the pictures laid out on the table in front of them.
It was an old-fashioned library, with circulation cards and card pockets. When Simplia’s attention wandered and she flipped open the cover of her book in order to look for familiar names on the circulation card, she found no card in the pocket. Instead, there was a folded sheet of onionskin paper that crinkled when she flattened it out.
“I was wondering how the next question would arrive,” she said.
Sagacia was so rapt in her book that she barely looked up as she asked, “Yeah? What is it this time?”
Dear Vasilisa the Wise —
I’m sitting here in the library, among the 398’s — my favorite section. And I’m looking at all these books full of fairy tales. Some of them are crusty old volumes with torn spine covers and brittle pages. Some of them are slick and new, retellings written and illustrated by the current batch of children’s book artists. The thing is, though, all these books — even the crusty old ones — are retellings of old, old stories.
Vasilisa, you hang out with archetypes. Maybe you can tell me: Are there any new fairy tales bubbling forth? If so, where do they come from? Do the motif indices ever need to be updated to accommodate new stories? And this business of freezing folk tales (originally oral in transmission) in the silence of print — isn’t that sort of like killing a butterfly in order to study it?
Pondering in Pomona
Sagacia merely responded with a distracted, “Hmm. Interesting.” And she went back to her book.
Simplia tacked Pondering in Pomona’s letter to the bulletin board by the front door of the Fairy Tale Lobby. She read the notices of cottages for rent and talking donkeys for sale that their magical friends had recently put up. She scritched the cat and sang to the canary. Gave the geraniums in the window box a drink of water. And when she finally returned to the table, Sagacia was still buried in her book.
“Whatcha reading?” Simplia asked.
Her friend didn’t even look up. “The Princess and the Goblin,” she said.
“Hmm,” said Simplia. “The cover says it was written by George MacDonald. So it’s not a real fairy tale.”
“Whatever,” her friend said, still not taking her eyes off the page.
Editors’ note: It’s obvious that Sagacia is too absorbed in her story, and by now it should be apparent that Simplia just doesn’t have the intellectual oomph to be much help with Pondering in Pomona’s question. We’re hoping their Magical Friends will drop by the Fairy Tale Lobby and shed some light on the matter. You are invited to leave your comments here on the blog, on the Storytell listserve, and on Facebook (Storytellers or Fairy Tale Lobby).