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“Puss in Boots” by Warwick Goble. London: Macmillan & Co., 1913. Our Murzik had no such adventures. In fact, he slept through this whole blog post.

“So, if we look at a story from our own culture, we might understand the subtleties of it in an emic way that an outsider just wouldn’t catch on to,” Sagacia said, flipping on the light as they walked into the parlor.

“Yeah. That’s the way I understood what Lance M. Foster said, too.” Simplia fluffed a pillow, tossed it into the wingback, and sat down in front of it. “If you live in the American south or west, and you hear one of ‘your’ stories told by a Yankee dude who totally ignores some elements that seem important to you, . . . ”

“Or the other way around,” Sagacia hastened to add, lifting Murzik from his spot on the Chesterfield.

“. . . it’s because you have an emic view, and he doesn’t,” Simplia continued. “Or, think about Native American stories, easily understood within the culture . . . ”

“They’re end-emic!” Sagacia agreed, taking her seat.

Simplia groaned, then continued. “Easily understood within the culture but often retold carelessly by outsiders.”

“That can be problem-etic!” Sagacia settled the cat into her lap.

“You can make fun of it, but when a culture has to put up with being misunderstood and trivialized all the time, it gets old fast,” Simplia said.

“Oh, I know,” Sagacia sighed. “It’s really sad!”

“But, on the other hand, if you’ve studied stories from everywhere and have a good sense of story . . . ”

“Like if you’re a scholar or a careful student of traditional stories, . . . ” Sagacia inserted.

“. . . or a storyteller, you might . . . ” Simplia inserted.

“. . . you might recognize some features that a storyteller isolated within the culture simply could not have known about.”

“That’s what I was going to say!” Simplia whined.

“And that would be . . . ”

Simplia took the cue. “Etic!” she bellowed. “The good side of etic.”

Sagacia continued. “If you heard a native storyteller’s repertoire, you would recognize a story that is ‘world class,’ so to speak, or a particularly strong variant. You would notice consistencies from story to story and cultural values that the native storyteller put there without really thinking about it. You’d see universal archetypes.”

“That’s what I was going to say, too!” Simplia insisted.

“So, emic for, um, . . . m-m-m, microcosm? And etic for — what starts with a ‘T’ and means that?”

“You may not be able to boil this down to mnemonics,” Simplia cautioned.

“I’ll just use the ‘T’ in ‘outsider’!” Sagacia said. Murzik began to purr.

“And there’s another way of hearing stories differently,” Simplia continued, ignoring her friend’s pedantic asides. “It’s the listener’s stage in life. Like Erica Taraporevala said . . .

. . . speaking of the many stories within a story, it comes through again and again: Just recently i was re-reading The Nightingale. In my teenage years, i thought it was incredibly romantic, what the nightingale did for love…sacrificing yourself for love :) then i grew older (few heart breaks), and i thought how stupid of the nightingale, much like the young student in the story… and this time i looked again… and found that the nightingale had missed the love of its true home tree and went looking for the love that he sang about …. thinking it to be a rare thing, outside of itself … mistook the illusion for the real, and missed the real, which was staring it right in the face, which had held its nest for years and loved it…. result: well you get thrown out, run over by a cart wheel. A kindly reminder from the universe, ‘til you see true love in all its glory :) This is not necessarily how i will see it tomorrow. And thats the beauty of a wonderful story.

“It’s like hearing the Christmas story over and over again every year, but instead of you outgrowing the story, the story grows with you,” Sagacia commented.

“It matures,” Simplia elaborated. “It accumulates layers of meaning.”

“Is that a miracle, or what!?” Sagacia exclaimed.

“Nope!” Simplia said, putting her feet on the ottoman. “It’s not. It’s magic!” She crossed her arms behind her head and leaned back into the pillow.

Murzik purred on in apparent agreement, and the Simpletons simply listened to the peaceful sound for a few moments.

“But what about Robin Bady‘s ladder of power?” Simplia asked at last.

“What about it?”

“Does that change? Does it add layers? or steps?”

“Well, first off, what is a ladder, anyway?” Sagacia inquired.

Simplia looked blank.

“A tool! A ladder is a tool!” Sagacia insisted, leaning forward.


“So, you use it!”


“You use it to — well, to understand the story better . . . ”

“Aha!” Simplia said.

“. . . so you can tell it better!”


“. . . so people will hear its meanings more clearly.”

“Yes!” Simplia chirped sharply!

In Sagacia’s lap, Murzik quit purring and cocked his ear.

“And then you put the ladder back in the garage,” she whispered, scratching Murzik under the chin, “so you can use it again with the next story.”

“Yes!” Simplia affirmed, but softly.

The soothing sound of kitty purrs began again.

“I guess we’d better get these replies off to Purist in Pikesville,” Simplia said after a while.

“Tomorrow,” Sagacia yawned, lifting her feet onto the Chesterfield and leaning her head back on its arm. “Tomorrow will be just fine.”


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!