Simplia sat slumped with her hands in her lap and stared down into her teacup, eyelids at half-mast. Her usual lively chatter in the Fairy Tale Lobby, today, was reduced to grunts and nods and the occasional, “Mmmph.”
“Why are you so out of sorts this morning,” Sagacia wanted to know.
“We went off daylight savings time, and I’m feeling depressed about how early it’s going to get dark today.”
Sagacia, eternal optimist, said, “Think of how early we’ll be ready to stoke up the fireplace. Starting tonight and for the rest of winter we’ll be able to enjoy it for an extra hour!”
“I’m also depressed because there was no mail yesterday, which, if I’m not mistaken was the Magical Third of the Month. Usually someone sends a question to Vasilisa on the third of the month.”
Storytellers are inveterate eavesdroppers, and most of the Fairy Tale Lobby clientele were storytellers. One of them overheard the two friends.
“Yeah,” he said. “I was sort of expecting some back and forth this morning over one of those letters to Vasilisa.”
“Well, there was that big storm last week,” Sagacia reminded them. “Perhaps some of the mail has been delayed.”
“Or maybe some of the mail got blown off course,” said another patron of the Fairy Tale Lobby. He had just shaken the advertising inserts out of his Sunday paper. Among the coupons and special offers, there was a handwritten envelope, addressed to Vasilisa the Wise.
The letter inside read:
Dear Vasilisa —
I hope you can help me. I’m starting my first year teaching — fifth grade language arts. My students are the perfect age for fairy tales. But some of the stock characters that recur in different stories have both my students and me flummoxed. I’m referring to the craftspeople and tradesmen — tinkers, tailors, bakers, millers, blacksmiths, weavers, merchants, and spinners come to mind. I’m sure there are more.
Neither my students no I have any idea what a tinker is. I know millers had something to do with grinding grain into flour, but that’s about all I know; and I have no idea why they show up so frequently as fairy tale characters.
I know only one craftsperson who makes her living with her handiwork — a potter. I don’t recall ever encountering a potter in a fairy tale.
My question to you is — Can you cite examples of other craftspeople and tradespeople in fairy tales and give me some idea of why they recur in these stories and what they might symbolize?
Thank you so much —
Post-Industrial in Potsdam
Sagacia tacked the letter to the Fairy Tale Lobby’s message board and said, “Okay, Simplia. Time to perk up!”
Simplie went over to the bulletin board to re-read the letter. Then she uttered her first apparent non-sequitur of the day.
“Hmm,” she said. “A meditation on daylight.”
“She sat there weeping.”
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