from Walter de la Mare's  Told Again: Old Tales Told Again. A. H. Watson, illustrator. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927

from Walter de la Mare’s Told Again: Old Tales Told Again. A. H. Watson, illustrator. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927

When Sagacia came in, Simplia was scanning the last reply to Grace Near Graceland’s question. Next she ran over to her laptop to attach it to an email. Sagacia sighed. How she admired her fellow Simpleton’s grasp of complex technical tasks! Next thing you knew, Simplia would be Tweeting, Instagramming, Dropboxing, Flickring . . . all sorts of things that didn’t used to be words at all, much less verbs with capital letters.

Simplia checked the scan, reading aloud:

“Fran Stallings,” she said. pointing to the little thumbnail image of Fran.

“Sagacia’s ‘Grace — undeserved good fortune” fits the happy consequences that come to the kindly Old Man in Japanese folktales who acts solely out of generosity or curiosity with no thought to his own gain. In contrast, when his greedy neighbor selfishly imitates those actions, he ends up poorer than he started. Scholars point to the difference between this kind of Asian plot and the western Mårchen whose hero sets out to seek something.”

“Well, there you go,” Sagacia responded as simplia finished reading. “Receiving a blessing which you did not seek. That is the epitome of Grace! The Gracefullest of Graces. Are there maybe a few in western tradition, like the good and bad sister motif? Anyway, I like that, and I definitely need to familiarize myself with more Asian tales!

Simplia was busy dragging and dropping on her monitor. “Let’s see, . . . ” she mumbled.

“Thhk!” went the computer. Then “Ding!”

“Whoa!” Simplia exclaimed. “Why did that open up?”

Sagacia turned around and watched over her friend’s shoulder as she click-click-clicked and moved the little arrow around.

“What is it, anyway,” she asked.

“Well, it’s not what I scanned,” Simplia said. “It says . . .”

Dear Vasilisa the Wise,

I have sometimes become confused about what is a fairy tale and what isn’t. For example: where’s the line between nursery tales and fairy tales? When people list “Three Little Pigs,”  as a fairy tale, for example, I just want to shout, “Talking animals don’t make a fairy tale! Animals talk in fables and folktales, too!” Also, some fairy tales seem to have started life as a legend and maybe become a fairy tale gradually. Or maybe a fairy tale motif got applied to a real person or place somehow.

Of course, it doesn’t matter a whole lot on the scale of things, and I’m not trying to put too fine a point on it. It’s just that fairy tales have a different purpose in life, and talking animals or something that happened in Bremin or Hamlin or just doesn’t get you there!

So I thought I’d ask the question a different way. What are some of the most intensely fairy-tale-ish fairy tales you know? IMHP, they should have magic, transformation, evil, a leaving and a returning home or a journey of some kind, a hero or heroine . . . . You know: real fairy tale stuff, and lots of it!

Thanks, Vasi!

Wondering in Winedale

“Well, I guess that’s worth a think,” Sagacia pronounced, then added, “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, Which is the fairy-est tale of all?”

“Hmmmm. Which tales will our magical friends come up with?” Simplia wondered aloud.

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