Simplia had knit her brow into a tight knot of concentration. Sagacia thought it looked painful as she, a picture of contentment and relaxation, continued with her own knitting — a sweater worked up in a lovely merino-alpaca blend.
“Go-ahead? Theory? Examples? What are you talking about, Simplia?”
“Our magical friends all agreed that it’s not only necessary, it’s might’ nigh impossible NOT to adapt fairy tales and other folk tales to make them culturally accessible. They all emphasized respect for where and from whom the story came. But… Yikes! What on earth was that!”
Something came clattering down the chimney. It landed not two inches from where Murzik had curled up on top of a pile of newspapers. Murzik didn’t stir. He barely even blinked. As soon as the soot settled, the Simpletons made out the shape of a brick. With a sheet of paper wrapped around it and tied with red and white baker’s twine.
“Have we just been vandalized!”
Murzik gave Simplia a feline eye roll.
Sagacia’s needles didn’t miss a beat. “Maybe,” she said. “If it were another time. Another place.”
“Oh yeah. Today’s the third. It’s Vasilisa’s question of the month. I better open it. You’ve got yarn.”
The envelope turned out to be a white bakery bag, stained with donut grease. Multi-colored sprinkles spilled out when Simplia withdrew a thin sheet of bakers’ parchment.
Yo, Vasilisa —
Thanks for dropping by the shop last week. You lent an air of class to the place, and people noticed. You know those caraway pumpkin crullers you ordered a dozen of? Well, you started a trend. I haven’t been able to keep them in stock.
Listen, about that conversation we had … fairy tale ethics and responsible adaptations … I get it. I so totally get it: The stories will die if they’re not given breath, and all it takes is a generation or two of silence before poof! they’ve slipped out of the collective memory. But some of those stories are…well, by today’s reckoning, totally off-base, totally inappropriate. I mean, for example, just today I encountered one where this dude buries his wife’s lover alive, right in front of her, and then he waxes poetical about how true is his love for her. Aside from the adultery issue, and a blatant double standard (she wasn’t his only wife; but he was her only husband) there’s also the homicide thing going on, and well… That particular story, I don’t think you could clean it up. It is what it is. Probably shouldn’t be changed; but who on earth is going to tell it? And to whom?
I get the necessity of doing what you gotta do to make old stories meaningful. Thing is, I have no idea how to go about the task. So I’m asking, you think you could collect some examples from the writers and storyteller friends you hang with? I know. Sounds like I’m asking for a how-to manual. A paint-by-numbers guide. I guess that’s exactly what I’m doing. I want to see some specific examples of how real writers and tellers actually do this. You think you can get your important friends to give some remedial attention to
Your old friend,
Bewildered in Bakersfield
Simplia folded the letter and returned it to the white bag it was delivered in.
She said, “Well, if I wasn’t freaked out by a brick hurtling down the chimney, I’m freaked out now. That guy is channeling what I was just trying to say to you.”
“It’s almost as if an unseen hand connected your thoughts,” said Sagacia. Since she was at the end of a row, she wound her yarn and put anything that had potential to become a cat toy into her knitting basket. “Let’s take that letter to the Fairy Tale Lobby and see who’s up for some storytelling demo.”
“You know,” said Simplia, “I wouldn’t be averse to watching some video of alterations. Or listening. Maybe they have links to themselves in action, live.”
“I hope so,” Sagacia agreed. “Um…before we go…you think you might want to wash the soot off your hands?”