Walter Crane’s The Marquis of Carabas: His Picture Book. Routledge, 1874

Murzik napped peacefully on the hearthrug.

“He’s so cute when he’s sleeping,” Sagacia sighed.

“He’s cute all the time,” Simplia insisted.

Suddenly, Murzik bolted up, crouched, extended his neck, and gaged in distress!

“Oh, no!” Sagacia shrieked, lunging toward their pet! “Get him some water!” she shouted.  “I guess, water,” She puzzled, holding Murzik steady, then she asked, “Would water help?”

“Nope,” said Simplia. “It’s probably a hairball. He just needs to cough it up.” She changed to her talking-to-the-cat voice. “Come on, Kitty. That’s good, boy.”

“Oh!” Sagacia said, relieved. “Keep it coming, Murzik,” she sang.

“Hack, hack, hack,” said Murzik.

“Atta-boy,” they both said, comfortingly. “Keep going.”

“Hack, hack, PTOO-EY!” said Murzik. “Umh, umh, umh.”

“Good boy!” said Simplia. “Good boy!”

“I’ll get a paper towel, “Sagacia said, sprinting toward the kitchen.

She pushed through the door and returned quickly.

“Oh!” she said, entering. Simplia had a small white sheet of paper in her hand. “What’s that?”

“It wasn’t a hairball at all!” Simplia said. “We should have known! It’s that magical third day of the month letter for Vasilisa!”

“Of course!” Sagacia acknowledged.

“Umh, umh, hack,” said Murzik.

“EE-ew!” Sagacia winced.

“No! Look!” said Simplia thrusting the page toward her. “It’s not even wet. See?”

“Still, EE-ew!” Sagacia said.

Murzik coughed again, but just once.

“Okay, just read it!” Sagacia said, seating herself.

And Simplia did. She read:

Dear Vasilisa the Wise,

The other day someone in the office asked about animals in fairy tales. Yeah, the accounting department; things can get weird around here.

The question was about why there aren’t any, once you get past Nursery Tales. At first I agreed, but the more I thought about it, the more animals I thought of in fairy tales. And not just incidental animals like sheep in a shepherd story, either. Consequential animals. Animals that play into the outcome of a story, like Ivan and the Grey Wolf, for example, or Snow Maiden and her Fox. Or those tales where someone gets turned into a raven or a swan or duck. A frog prince. A frog tsarevna. Puss in Boots. See what I mean? They’re everywhere! I tried to figure out what role animals fill in fairy tales—or what roles, plural—but I kept getting mixed up. Maybe you or the Simpletons or some of their magical friends could help.

What are your favorite fairy tales with animals. Does the animal contribute to making it a favorite tale? What role does the animal play in the tale?

Hibernating in Hibernia

“Animals!” said Sagacia.

“Umh, umh!” said Murzik.

“Yeah, but, why?” Simplia said, thumping the letter. “What are they doing there? That’s what they want to know!”

“We’d better go post this in the Fairy Tale Lobby!” Sagacia said, reaching for her jacket.

“Umh!” Murzik said.