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 Gustave Tenggren’s Loathly Lady. Copyright Gustave Tenggren, 1962.

“I don’t think there are any contracts in fairy tales.” Sagacia seemed a bit peeved as she said this aloud. “They just aren’t that legalistic; maybe not even that literate.” She turned on the faucet and squirted some detergent into the dishpan fiercely.

“Maybe an ‘agreement’ here or there?” Simplia contributed hopefully, carrying a stack of dishes to the sink.

“Maybe,” Sagacia concurred. “I just can’t feature a ‘party of the first part’ accepting any new conditions brought by the ‘party of the second part.’” She slammed a stack of saucers into the dishwater.

After some silence (except for splashes), she continued. “I mean, what if King Arthur had required Dam Ragnell to agree that, instead of one of his knights marrying her, he could substitute an Earl or Prince? Robert the Mad, say; or Bertrand the Blind. Peter the Perverse. I just can’t see a contract working in a fairy tale.” She rinsed a saucer and placed it in the dish rack.

“Yeah, but that wasn’t even the spell in that story,” Simplia objected, shaking a dishtowel free. “The spell was ON the Loathly Lady, Ragnell, that is, and it wasn’t mutually binding. Whoever put it on her was very specifically one-sided about it!” She snapped up the saucer to dry. “No consequences for them if she stayed a hag in the woods forever!”

“Hmmph.” Sagacia slipped some teaspoons into the dish rack.

“Well, at least, we can start a list of spells in fairy tales for Bewildered in Bozeman,” Simplia sighed. “What else you got?”

Sagacia fished around in the dishpan, recovered a teacup, and suggested, “A prince turned into a frog?”

“Okay,” Simplia put down her dish towel and made a note. “That’s another spell-for-sex one, like Ragnell”

“Um. Sleeping for 100 years?”

“That’s three!” Simplia said, writing it down. “Oh, and that reminds me! Priscilla Howe had a sleeping one. Where is that–oh, here!

As for spells, how about Hand of Glory, in which robbers light a hand on fire and say, “May those who are asleep stay asleep, may those who are awake stay awake.” They don’t count on the young maid who was still asleep and who was able to break the spell by dunking the hand in milk. Only then could she wake the rest of the house and catch the robbers.

In your definition, there’s a contract in The Nixie in the Millpond which is not honored, so the Nixie comes to get what is owed her.

“A contract!” Sagacia exclaimed, “I’ll have to think about that one. But how about a spell turning Brothers turned into swans?”

“Got it!” Simplia scribbled. “Another animal transformation.”

“And there are other people-to-animal spells,” Sagacia said. “My head is kind of swirling, but I know there are plenty more.”

“Well, then,” said Simplia. “Let’s ask our magical friends to help sort it out. Or at least add to the six we have to make a decent list.”

“Okay!” said Sagacia, pouring out the dishwater. “I’d need to see a few more contracts, too, if we’re counting those, too.”

“Those dishes can dry themselves while we take this over to the Fairy Tale Lobby and see who’s there!” Simplia said eagerly, already folding Bewildered in Boseman’s letter into her purse.”

“Somehow, I knew you’d say that!” said Sagacia, grabbing her sweater. “Lets go!”

And they did.

The rest is up to us, my magical friend. So, what’s your favorite fairy tale spell? Or contract?

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