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Glance at it, and you've got what someone with O.C.D. might paint as abstract expressionism; stare at it, and a pattern will swim out of the chaos; gaze into it and you'll see a bull and a swordfish duking it out on a rock.

Glance at it, and you’ve got what someone with O.C.D. might paint as abstract expressionism; stare at it, and a pattern will swim out of the chaos; gaze into it and you’ll see a bull and a swordfish duking it out on a rock.

“…only it’s in my brain, not my eyeballs,” Simplia said, shaking her head as though she were trying to dislodge water in her ear.

“What brought that on?” asked Sagacia. “And whatever do you mean?”

“I mean, I just read a comment Lance Foster wrote about this Ladder of Power thing,” Simplia explained. “I was brushing my teeth a few minutes ago and it just came in through the bathroom window. Here. You read it.”

She handed Sagacia an egg-roll wrapper on which had been written, in fine tip Sharpie, the following:

Hmm. …I think there are really TWO ladders. One is secular power and one is supernatural power. A king can have the highest rung in secular power, and the little old lady the lowest. But she can step right over to the supernatural ladder, and suddenly the king is on the bottom. Dueling ladders. Since our modern society, especially most academics, don’t recognize the supernatural world as being real, they only build one ladder. But you have to remember, these tales originated in a time when the supernatural was as real as the secular. And those worlds battled each other.”

For a long moment, the Simpletons pondered this idea.

“See,” said Simplia. “Just like one of those 3-d floating pictures. Only not visual. You look at the surface of the story, and it’s just a story. This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, as a result of which something changed. But you start looking beyond the surface and you see the power structure. Who’s at the top of eh heap, who’s climbing, who’s pretty much buried at the bottom. But THEN, you take into consideration the fuzzy stuff. You go past social and political structure and start getting into beliefs…”

“I see what you’re talking about,” Sagacia agreed. “You have to take into consideration who has power at the spiritual level — a hen wife or a rejected step-child can easily have more clout in the Kingdom of Heaven…”

“…or wherever…”

“…than a rich man or a beautiful queen or even the king.”

“So you got what the story says.” Simplia’s face was squinched shut in concentration, an exercise with which she was unfamiliar. “And then you got what the story implies…

And then you got what the story…I don’t know…what the story actually means?”

Neither Simpleton was entirely satisfied with that explanation.

Sagacia made a stab: “You look at it with one focus, and you take away one meaning of the story. Change your focus, and you get another interpretation. Change your focus again, and that interpretation might flip into something entirely different.”

Or as Mr. Foster remarked:  It’s just that while I am an anthropologist and certainly go with various etic paradigms and methodologies (structuralism, functionalism, power dynamics and hegemony), one should not neglect the supernatural emic viewpoint as well.

..except that neither Simpleton knew what an etic paradigm was, much less a methodology. And as for an emic viewpoint…they were so unversed in that idea, they thought it was a typo.

Simplia wondered aloud, “Do you have to do all that staring and gazing with every fairy tale? Can’t I just enjoy the story at face value?”

******

The illustration is from the blog designfloat.com, published under a Creative Commons public domain license.

DINE WITH THE FAIRIES! CELEBRATE WITH THE SIMPLETONS!

The Fairy Tale Lobby NSN Discussion Group Story Swap will be at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, August 2, at the National Storytelling Network Conference in Richmond. Do come and bring your 10-minute marchen, or just march in to listen and enjoy!

At 5:45 that same day, we fairy folk will have a Dutch Treat dinner at Baker’s Crust (information and menu at http://www.bakerscrust.com/) at 5:45. Jump on the shuttle to Short Pump Town Center, just a few minutes northwest of our hotel.

To help us make our dinner reservation as accurate as possible, please let us know if you are coming. You may do that in a comment below or by FB messaging or emailing Megan Hicks or Mary Grace Ketner.

We can’t wait to see you there!

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