Charles Kiernan, Csenge Zalka, fairy tale lobby, fairy tales, mary grace ketner, Mary Hamilton, megan hicks, modhukori, moral ambiguity, national storytelling network, Nick Smith, Sheila Arnold, Tarkabarka
Sagacia heard her friend’s incredulous question, but she didn’t look up from the letters she was reading. The Simpletons had worn the path smooth between their cottage and the Fairy Tale Lobby, and she could have negotiated it in her sleep.
She told Simplia, “Don’t be silly. It’s all the kids and parents lining up to have their pictures taken with Santa today. Like when we were kids. Remember? They announced it on the radio this morning.”
“Yeah,” said Simplia, “but when my mom and dad took me to visit Santa, they left the bullhorn at home.”
Sagacia looked up to find that, indeed, an angry crowd carrying homemade posters paced back and forth in front of the little “chalet” set up on the porch of the Fairy Tale Lobby.
“Don’t poke your North Pole into my privacy!”
“Stalker alert! Santa Claus is comin’ to town.”
“Fat men in red suits are not above the law. Breaking and entering is a crime!”
“Milk and cookies, indeed! — Join Vegans for Nutritious Celebrations.”
“Boycott Santa’s sweatshop! Elves are people, too!”
“My rooftop is a No-Fly Zone!”
“Makin’ a list? Checkin’ it twice? Santa Claus, who are you to judge!?”
Sagacia said, “Whoa! Don’t these people know the whole Santa thing is just make believe?”
“Evidently not,” Simplia replied. “And I’m not going to the be the one to try to talk them down. Come on. Let’s go around to the back door.”
“Don’t you think we should stand up to these loonies and defend Christmas traditions?” Sagacia demanded.
“Naw. I didn’t ever believe in Santa Claus. I’m not really attached to that tradition. But if you are…go for it. I’ll see you inside.”
The Fairy Tale Lobby was buzzing with families and children awaiting Santa’s arrival. Several of the Simpletons’ Magical Friends packed themselves around a corner table and discussed the kerfuffle outside on the street, which shared common ground with the conundrum expressed by Dilemma in Duluth. (See “This Month’s Question” in sidebar.)
Mary Hamilton cut right to the chase:
She said that Dilemma in Duluth should… Find a different story to tell. There are so many stories in the world, it just seems to me that a teller has no need to be telling stories not loved by the teller. …Stories are stories. I don’t believe it should be assumed that we are passing along lessons for life with every story we tell. However, when a teller is only comfortable telling the stories that…pass along lessons for living the teller wants to impart to listeners, then that provides the teller with specific story selection criteria….
Mary Grace Ketner concurred. Sort of:
I think yours is the best solution overall, and the one most likely to happen when one tries to work with a story but ultimately something sours the effort.
It is strange, though, that some stories seem to follow me around and say “Try again,” so I do, but then I still can’t get them to work for me!
modhukori sounded as though she were in the same boat with Mary Grace:
I love it that these letters though specifically about fairy tales, apply to all genres of stories. As an Indian, it would be so great to tell stories from the Ramayana or Mahabharata or even even a lot of tales from the Jataka tales and the Panchatantra…. but so much of that which one cannot accept… so i dont tell them. Not the best solution, but that’s the one i have adopted.
Sheila Arnold cast a sideways glance out the front door of the Fairy Tale Lobby to where the picketers, seeing they weren’t getting a rise out of anybody, had finally wandered off.
Well, I have definitely had that experience, she said. I read a version of “The Wolf and the Kid” and the “kid” (goat) had a saucy attitude at the end, where he said basically that he could wander off anytime he wanted to because he was smarter than the wolf. Not really the message I want. …I usually have to just sit on those stories until I understand why that bothers me, or I find a way to tell the story with a change, or make peace with the dilemma. Oftentimes people listening to the story find their way through the dilemma quicker than I, the Storyteller. That usually means I’ve made the story (in my mind) more complex than needed.
Nick Smith cited Puss in Boots and other morally ambiguous stories:
…Trickster tales aren’t about right and wrong, they’re about being more clever than the world around you. Take a close look at the two “morals” at the end of Perrault’s version. They’re both emphasizing style over substance as the path to a good life.
I’ve never been personally fond of Puss in Boots, not because of the odd morality, but because the boy is such a nothing character. In some ways it would have been a better story if the CAT had ended up owning the castle and marrying the princess.
Goodnaturedly, Tarkabarka defended the story and offered a less “morally ambiguous” variant:
The only person Puss really causes harm to is the giant/wizard in the end. I don’t see telling people to lie for the boy as very serious, in folktale terms anyway. Sure, Puss lies about who the Marquis is, then again, a king willing to give away his daughter solely for wealth kind of deserves it too. This might just be my inner trickster talking, but I don’t see a serious problem with Puss. If you are worried about his behavior though, you can always give a try at the Pentamerone version (titled Pippo). For one, Puss is a lady in that one, and two, she has a falling out with the boy in the end and walks away.
Right then the chimney rattled and rumbled. In a cloud of ash, with a hearty laugh, Santa Claus committed probably more than one misdemeanor. He was welcomed with a cheer and a nice cup of Darjeeling.
Recommended reading for more thoughts about the past two months’ FTL discussions. If the Simpletons were deep thinkers, they might express themselves as cogently as Charles Kiernan does. http://chaztales.wordpress.com
Illustration: Andersen, Hans Christian. Hans Andersen’s Fairy Stories. Anne Anderson, illustrator. London: Collins, 1924 (Thank you, Surlalune!)