Simplia had awakened out of sorts.
“Well, you’re the one who insisted on buying instant,” said Sagacia.
“And my oatmeal got cold.”
“…While you were busy smashing cocoa lumps in your mug with the back of your spoon. What’s wrong?” her friend asked. “It’s not like you to complain about breakfast. You’re usually too sleepy to notice what we’re even having for breakfast, much less its texture and temperature.”
Simplia knit her brow and said, “Yesterday was the magical third of the month, and Vasilisa didn’t get any mail. I thought neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night got in the way of mail delivery.”
Sagacia said, “Yesterday was Sunday. There’s no mail on Sunday.”
“Sometimes we get visits from message-bearing toads and storks on Sundays,” Simplia countered.
“You’re right,” said Sagacia. “I guess the Magical Messenger Delivery System had a glitch in the dispatching office over the weekend. Maybe something to do with the new moon and the solar eclipse.”
“So we don’t have anything to ask our magical friends about this month, do we?”
“Guess not,” Sagacia said, absentmindedly reaching down under the kitchen table to dislodge a bit of trash she saw peeking out from under the braided rug. “Or maybe we do! Look what I found swept under the carpet.”
Letters! More letters responding to Activist in Oslo.
“Wow,” said Simplia. “Here’s an old one from Marion Leeper.”
…Taming of the Shrew. I’ve been struggling with that story for years! Part of me thinks that it’s a story that should be ripped out of every anthology for the way it suggests that women (or people of any other gender) should be kept in their place by violence if necessary, but the other part of me thinks that it’s a story that should be told often, and urgently, and right now, in a time when people forget that it’s more important in a relationship to get on with each other than to be in the right. And as a storyteller I think that every story should be told so that every interpretation is implicit in the telling; because then people can take the message they want and need from it. But I don’t want to tell a story that allows people to think they can offer violence to their spouse (of whatever gender: or even their dog and their donkey, who both come off quite badly in the Grimm version). How would other people treat the story? Whenever I try and tell it without being horribly sexist, it just comes out prim and moralistic.
“Goodness,” said Sagacia. “There’s enough to keep the Fairy Tale Lobby buzzing for many days and nights.”
Simplia bent down to pick up a scrap of paper on which she noticed Charles Kiernan’s handwriting.
I can’t let this conversation slip by without mentioning “The Princess Who Became a Man” in Steven Badman’s “Odds and Sods”, a translation out of Danish from the collection of Evald Kristensen.
She disappeared into the blue glow of her laptop for a few minutes.
“Holy cow!” she called out to Sagacia. “Did you actually read Charles Kiernan’s September blog about this story? Talk about ‘relationship melange.’ Self-inflicted trans-gender bending — with a happy ending. But not until some human sacrifice happens and it looks like cannibalism might be required. We could give ourselves nightmares and sweet dreams for weeks with this story.”
“No, but I will read it as soon as I look up this story for Norman Perrin. Listen to this.”
There is a Czech tale, the Wood Fairy, that to me has a LGBT theme in the two women dancing in the forest. Always thought it would make a great ballet.
There is an Arabic tale in which a woman disguised as a mans is betrothed to a prince. She is ‘cursed’ by a genie “If you are a man, become a woman, if a woman become a man” She, now he, marries and lives Happily Ever After. Sorry but I have lost the source. Help anyone?
At that moment, Raven swooped through the Simpleton’s cottage, dropping both a letter and a splat of bird poop on the dining room floor. The letter was a welcome missive. The bird poop, while not welcome, was no more than a one-paper-towel inconvenience.
Sagacia was philosophical: “It’s the price of communicating with liminal worlds. Let’s see what Robin Bady has to say.”
My dear Simpletons,
Now, this is indeed an interesting letter from Activist in Oslo. I can ID with many of her thoughts about fairytales. Yup. Elitist. Yup. Old tired economic systems that did not work the way fairytales present them.
But I love fairytales, I shout. Love, Love, Love. I gather strength from the knowledge that each teller, each folklorist, each translator, each author, each corporation (like Disney) brought in his or her prejudices and needs and the story I read or hear or watch reflects that. And my joy is in a. finding new versions (look at “Little Golden Hood” in Andrew Lang’s books) or telling them in a way that honors the structure and my own prejudices. Or I set it up so that the contradictions between then and now are clear.
If I feel I cant do it without destroying the story, or the intentions…or the story’s “givens” annoy me… I just leave the story to others who do not feel similarly conflicted.
Great book to read – thank you Julie Dellatorre who recommended it- is “Shall We Burn Babar?” by Herbert Kohl.
“So…” Sagacia said, “Maybe the Magical Messenger Delivery System had some way of knowing this discussion is still very much underway.