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from Charles Perrault’s 1843 edition of the fairy tale

Murzik snoozed in the window, purring away contentedly as the Simpletons wrapped presents at the kitchen table. That was where they did just about everything, in case you hadn’t noticed. Truth is, having tea and nibbles nearby can make any project more fun! And besides that, the kitchen was made cozy by the warmth of the oven and the sweet, spicy aroma of the pfeffernusse cookies baking inside it. The rest of the house seemed cold and colorless by comparison!

Murzik turned over to rearrange himself, and — he fell! Cats do that, you know. Of course, he righted himself before hitting the floor, and in the three seconds it took for Simplia to arrive to make sure he was okay, he had gathered up from deep within his soul that expression of indignity which the feline species has perfected.

“Well, look at this!” Simplia exclaimed, distracted from her mission by an envelope fluttering downward between where Murzik had fallen from and where he had fallen to. She took aim and clamped her fingers around it. “It’s a letter to Vasilisa,” she said.

“Oh, I had forgotten!” Sagacia said. “But now that you mention it, today is the magical third day of the month!”

Simplia sat down, took a sip of tea, and read aloud.

Dear Vasilisa the Wise,

Does anyone tell “Puss in Boots” any more? Because I would like to, but the story poses a problem for me.

Puss is such an appealing character! Who doesn’t love a cat!–even Facebook does! And he is such a devoted companion that I’d love to tell his tale, but his tricks and threats are so deceptive and so dire and so greedy that I can’t stand to. I love animal helpers in stories, but this one crosses the line! Helping his master becomes hurting and deceiving others.

The same thing happened to me with the Russian fairy tale “Emelya and the Magic Pike.” It’s easy to identify with this “Jack” character and some of his adventures are so imaginative, like when he races through village on top of his stove, that you just want to share it. But he does so much damage to people’s property and causes such pain to others, that you don’t want kids to get the idea that, well, to heck with everyone else! I’m getting what’s mine!

Some fairy tales can put you in such a dilemma!

Do you just make a big joke of it so that people see the irony? Do you ignore it and hope for the best? Do you place some kind of tag line at the end? “The views expressed in this story are not necessarily those of the storyteller?” I figure everything I say should express my views in some way!

There must be other stories that people have that experience with, too, like–well, I don’t know–what? I’ve tried several approaches to them, and I just haven’t found a satisfactory path. What do you do, Vasilisa? What do other storytellers do?

Dilemma In Duluth

“That happens to me sometimes, too,” said Sagacia.

“Me too,” Simplia agreed. “I mean, I try to just forget about stories with problems like that, but sometimes they just tracking me down. Inviting me back.”

“So, I wonder what stories have stalked others, and what they do about it?” Sagacia asked. “Let’s go post it on the door at the Fairy Tale Lobby and see what our magical friends have to say about it!”

“I’m there!” Simplia said, pulling her wrap off the back of the chair.

Murzik had climbed back into the window. “Z-z-z-z-z,” he purred.