“They didn’t pay the full price for their story; they didn’t sweat blood. They just made fun of a fairy tale that was already written and famous in its own right,” Sagacia huffed. “And which came to them free, by the way.”
“That’s what I mean!” said Simplia. “As I said, they just plugged their two-dimensional stereotypes into a story that already belongs to everybody! They are relying on the beloved reputation of the ancient tale to bring attention to their efforts.”
“Right!” Sagacia slammed the teapot a little too boldly onto the table. She watched the lid wobble then settle into place. “And if their efforts are worthy, it’s a win-win, but if they don’t pull their share of the load, the fairy tale gets overexposed to no good end! Oh, it’s not a pretty sight!”
On the carpet near the window, Murzik rolled over in his sunbeam. “They-ey-ey-ey?” he purred inquisitively.
The Simpletons looked at one another with blank expressions. Sagacia filled her teacup.
“They,” Simplia said at last. “I can’t think of a good example of a ‘they’.”
“Good!” Sagacia says. “Serves ‘them’ right that you’ve forgotten ‘their’ names.”
She shuffled through the stack of letters on the table. “Fiona may have an excellent example for you, though, even if its a bit outside the genre. Listen:
YES!!! Excuse the shouting, but I fully concur with lancemfoster and like my traditional stories told in the traditional way. And YES!!! too for Simplia’s view of artistes who lack the ability to write original literature, take other people’s works and interpolate them in spin offs – prequels, sequels, alternative viewpoints, et al. I am sorry that Jane Austen wrote only 6 major novels, but I will be content with what I have and don’t need a lesser writer to tell me that Darcy fathered an illegitimate child, that Captain Wentworth was a bigamist or that Catherine Morland became a lady of easy virtue.
“Indeed” exclaimed Sagacia, putting the letter down. “That would be Miss Austen’s prerogative to do in her own good time, which she didn’t have enough of. But, what was it Lance Foster said that Fiona agrees with?”
“Let’s see. Okay, here’s his reply to Outraged in Oswego.” Simplia held up the envelope then opened it and read…
Me, I tell it the old way and prefer to hear it the old way. Not word for word, but with the original characters, original events, etc…. But occasionally I am surprised by a skillful re-telling using more modern characters like O Brother, Where Art Thou? as a riff off The Odyssey.
“And look how much care was taken in creating that whole story!” Simplia couldn’t help following up on Lance’s observation. “You don’t even have to have read The Odyssey to enjoy it.”
“You don’t really even have to know the two are connected in any way,” Sagacia added. “Ethan and Joel Coen did their own work–great amounts of inspired artistic work!–and brought the Odyssey’s classic themes to a new generation. Their movie makes you want to go back and re-read the epic poem, in fact. It makes you realize you probably missed a lot when you read it in High School.”
Simplia interupted, waving another letter. “It’s like Mary Hamilton says,…”
Spin offs? Parodies? Change of point of view retellings? Are they cheap? Well, they can be if they are treated as though they were created with no underlying source material, but they can also be quite wonderful and enjoyable. And it’s entirely possible that one person’s annoying spin-off proves to be another person’s way into an appreciation for a story that sends them to the original with insights they never thought possible before.
“And,” Sagacia said, adjusting her spectacles, “Mark Goldman says…
As far as stories go, who is to say what is actually the “original?” Does anyone REALLY know? How many revisions might a specific “classic” tale have gone through after the first draft?
“Or before the first draft,” Simplia suggested.
“Exactly! Before the first written draft, that is,” Sagacia said. Removing her glasses and folding them, she continued blindly. “Oral storytellers have probably always parodied and fractured some of the tales they’d heard–intentionally, I mean–but the ‘real’ story was still there. The next teller didn’t parody their parody, didn’t fracture their fracturing. The next teller went back to the real story: the saga told with empathy and pride, the deep fairy tale with it’s truths about life. The spoken parody simply died with the speaker–or shortly after. The original fairy tale lives on.”
“So, I guess that’s what we mean by ‘original’,” Simplia acknowledged. “The part of the story that survives all retellings, whether cheaply or dearly bought.”
“Truth will out,” Sagacia sniffed.
“Do you think Outraged in Oswego will be comforted by that?” Simplia asked.
“It’s all she has!” Sagacia sighed. “All any of us have. It’s all we can give her.”
“So, let’s get these responses off to her today!
“Do we have a box they will fit into?” Simplia asked. “Where are the scissors and twine? Where’s a Sharpie?”
“There,” Murzik hummed with a flick, ridding his ear of an imagined fly. “There-ere-ere,” he purred.
*As you suspected, dear reader, that is not the real title of this classic 1909 painting by Herbert James Draper. He called it “Ulysses and the Sirens.” The image is in the public domain.