, , , , , ,


Walter Crane’s illustration for Grimm’s “The White Snake.”

And so it was that the Simpletons found themselves back at the Fairy Tale Lobby. They pushed open the door gently – and quietly, too, except for that small squeek at about 60 degrees – and what should they see?

Why, a lobby filled with magical friends! Let’s see, going around the room there were Cathy Jo Smith and Priscilla Howe leaning into the plush pillows of the Chesterfield, Csenge Zalka wearing jeans and her “Tarkabarka” T-shirt and sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor, Papa Joe standing beside the hearth, and Charles Kiernan in the wingback chair tamping his pipe. (Charles was tamping the pipe, that is; the wingback wasn’t.) Mary Grace Ketner was lounging in the window seat, and Megan Hicks was perched on a footstool.

“Hello, everyone!” Simplia said, diving into a side chair.

Sagacia uncaped herself and sat at the small table, the one with the jigsaw puzzle on it. “Are you talking about the letter from Margaret @ Match.com?” she asked.

Charles waved a “yes” to her with his pipe.

“Part of the problem,” Cathy Jo Smith was saying, “Is that there is no conflict to resolve for those who have found a way to live happily ever after!”

“But does there have to be a conflict?” Simpia asked.

“Mythology mentions the loving old couple who were offered a wish from the gods and asked only that they never be parted,” Cathy Jo reflected.

“See, that’s no conflict,” Simplia said, looking around for approval.

“So, at their death, they became trees,” Cathy Jo concluded. “intertwining their branches forever.”

“Pretty mythical,” Sagacia said, moving some puzzle pieces around aimlessly. “Maybe it wouldn’t have to be a conflict between the couple. Maybe it could be a conflict which a married couple faces together.”

Papa Joe cleared his throat. “A married couple?” he said. “I’m remembering a version of Grimm’s ‘Hans in Luck.’ The husband goes off to the market and trades his wares, but on the journey home trades down each successive prize until he reaches the pub in his village where a stranger hears his tale and bets the man’s wife will be angry. The bet is taken and the man followed home where his wife praises each of his trades and the husband wins the bet.”

Sagacia giggled.

“Proving I guess that the love of a good wife is worth more than good sense.”

“What about the Nixie in the Mill Pond, that lovely Grimm tale?” Priscilla asked. The husband, who was promised to the Nixie when he was born, has vanished while hunting. The wife goes to the pond, suspecting the worst. She shows her distress, then dreams of an old crone who tells her how to get her husband back. She follows the dream and after three trials, saves her husband. And they lived…no, they were separated and lived lonely lives for years until they found each other again. And then they lived happily ever after.”

“So, yeah,” said Sagacia. “She did it on behalf of both of them and their marriage, too.”

“Or it could be an internal conflict,” Simplia said pensively.

Csenge jumped in excitedly. “At last week’s MythOff someone told an Indian tale about an orphan girl pretending to be a princess and marrying a prince, and then spending a lot of time trying to cover up the lie. The husband is devoted bordering on doting, and when he eventually finds out, he reacts really well.

“Lovely story!” Simplia sighed.

“And there’s that Russian tale, ‘The Lute Player,’” Papa Joe chimed in. “He’s faithful, though at the end when the evidence is against her, he falls for the lie. But isn’t he full of joy to learn the truth of her loyalty?”

Everyone nodded.

‘She is obviously devoted,” Papa Joe sighed. “I love that story.”

Charles nodded in agreement. “There are a number of stories like the Grimm’s ‘Maiden with No Hands’ in which the king goes off to seek his lost queen, who has been driven out of the castle during his absence. In stories like ‘The Sprig of Rosemary’ the roles are reversed. In either case they do it for love.”

Priscilla Howe smiled, but she looked puzzled.

“And for another question,” she said. “What about those strange episodes where the people don’t recognize each other even though it’s obvious to the listeners who they are? At the end of the Nixie story, the two are shepherds, tending separate flocks of sheep, when they come together. They don’t recognize each other until the woman plays a flute and the man recognizes the tune – or maybe vice versa.”

“I’ve wondered about that, too, Megan said. “I mean, I’d know Jack anywhere! It would take a lot more than a haircut and a cloak to fool me!”

“After 38 years, I’d know know my husband, too!” Cathy Jo said. “The way he walks, his gestures, his ears, his feet.”

Csenge said, “That always bothers me in superhero comics. too. I would recognize the man I love whether or not his cheekbones are covered. Seriously. But I do understand that in fairy tales actual magic might be involved . . . ”

“Enchantment, even,” said Mary Grace.

“But I still feel bad for the True Bride every time she gets forgotten,” said Csenge.

Simplia leaned forward and patted Csenge on the shoulder. “There, there, dear,” she said. “It will be alright.”

Sagacia started to say something when the magical friends heard a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it!” Simplia said, jumping up from her footstool. “Who could it be?”

“More magical friends with ideas, I hope!” said Sagacia.