“I bet your face does, too,” said Sagacia. “It’s all squinched shut. What’s wrong? You usually love our visits to the library.”
“Yeah. Well, I’m usually sitting on the floor over in the 398’s. Today, you will notice, I am at a table and before me there is a fat book with no pictures.”
Sagacia nodded. “I noticed. Heavy reading. What’s that about?”
“Dilletante in Delhi mentioned this thing called an Aarne-Thompson motif index, that she couldn’t get at without being enrolled in school.”
“Yeah, so we’re collecting the information she asked for — titles of more stories about letters intercepted and replaced by forgeries. We’re not exactly awash in new information to send her, but what we do have should satisfy her.”
“For now,” said Simplia. “But what about the next time she runs across a intriguing thread that she wants to follow up on? Give a man a fish, he has food for one meal. Teach a man to fish…”
“…and he can look up his own motifs. You’re right,” her friend agreed. “What are you finding here in our teensy little public library.”
“I think it’s treasure. But it’s taking me awhile to figure out how to navigate.”
She closed the book so her friend could read the title: The Storytellers Sourcebook.
“Margaret Read MacDonald,” Sagacia nodded with recognition. “Of course. Right here in the public library for anybody to use. And Dilletante in Delhi did say she’d like to know if we could — um, if Vasilisa could suggest sources available to the public for free. Bingo, Simplia! Good work!”
“But this is only one,” Simplia pointed out. “Are there any others?”
“As soon as you’re done, we’ll go over to the Fairy Tale Lobby and see if any of our Magical Friends have other ways of finding variants of the stories they love. And… we can check to see if there’s anything new on the message board.”
As it turns out, at the Fariy Tale Lobby hey ran into Fiona, addressing a birthday card. When she saw the Simpletons, she put down her calligraphy pen and said, “Hmmm…..I’ve just remembered studying one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales 50 years ago which has definite similarities, although I can’t remember if a fake letter was the reason for someone being cast adrift. Not much help am I, but thanks for reminding me of my school days!!” She picked up her pen and got back to work.
Simplia wandered over to the message board, and sure enough, there was an index card with a maptack stuck in the middle of it. A quick observation dashed off by none other than Charles Kiernan: There is “The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate” which is from India, an English version “The Fish and the Ring,” and also “The Story of Three Wonderful Beggars” is a Serbian fairy tale, and known as “Vasilii the Unlucky” in its Russian form. Certainly there are more. All of these have the intercepted letters, and are basically the same story.
She took the card over to the table where Sagacia had laid out their tea cups.
“So,” she said. “Dilletante in Delhi has fish for two or three meals.”
Sagacia noticed an open laptop on the table next to them. When she saw what was on the screen, she grinned and said, “Maybe we need to think outside the box … or the book about this motif search.”
“I can’t,” said Simplia. “Not now. My brain still hurts.”
Jacobs, Joseph. English Fairy Tales. John Batten, illustrator. London: David Nutt, 1890.