Simplia had been thinking about this for quite some time, and walking the forest path to the Fairy Tale Lobby seemed a good place to run her ideas past her friend.
Sagacia was perplexed. “Good news/bad news?”
“Yeah. Like Thomas the Rhymer and that lady Cassandra in the Iliad. When the queen of Faerie bid Thomas adieu she told him her parting gift was that he’d be incapable of dishonesty in all its forms. He thought it would be a curse. It turned out to be the quality that makes him worth remembering all these centuries later.”
Sagacia got it immediately. “Oh…and Cassandra could see the future but the gods saw to it that nobody would every believe her. Man, with that gift of second sight, she could have made a fortune.”
“Yeah, but as it is all she got was a reputation for being fatalistic and smug. Nobody likes to hear, ‘I told you so.'”
“I just encountered a curse in a story from ‘The Turnip Princess,'” said Sagacia. “In one story eating a certain apple will put a horn on your head. Good people, bad people, in between people…it’s just this random curse.”
Simplia said, “So there’s another sub-category to fairy tale curses: Random…versus malevolent…versus mischievous…versus retributional…versus ambiguous.”
“Like in Thomas the Rhymer. The inability to be dishonest — at all — a lot of people could have let that ruin their lives, turned them into recluses or bombastic jerks. But Thomas adapted and became a celebrated judge with a reputation for being evenhanded.”
“Still,” said Sagacia. “I bet he was lonely.”
“What other ‘good news/bad news’ spells or curses can you think of?”
They had arrived at the Fairy Tale Lobby, and from inside they heard Marion Leeper talking about a couple of stories from India that were uncannily on topic:
I like the stories explain how you can always wriggle out of a contract. There’s the evil king in the Holi story who has a promise to say he can’t be killed by day or night, man or beast, by wood or water or metal or fire, and he still gets it in the end. Or the demon who has to be given work to do, every moment of the day or night, or there will be trouble: and the clever wife gives him the impossible task of uncurling her little dog’s tail.
To which Chaz Kiernan replied:
I think my favorite spell comes from the The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh, The way I tell it is thus:
“The witch queen retired to the castle dungeons and there she cast a spell on Margaret. Nine times nine she passed round, three times three she uttered the spell. Now every witch and warlock knows for every spell there is a curse and a benefit. It is the talent of the witch or warlock to make that benefit so difficult to achieve, it is nearly impossible.
Nine times nine she passed round, and three times three she uttered this spell:
I would she were a loathsome worm and never more Margaret be,
Until Childe Wynd, the king’s own son, gives her kisses three.”
“Which I bet totally happens,” Simplia predicted as they ascended the steps to the screen door.
“Five’ll get you ten,” Sagacia agreed. “So I wonder…are fairy tale curses just a handy way to introduce conflict in stories, or does their significance speak to a deeper level of understanding?”
“Dunno,” said Simplia. “Maybe somebody will pose that question to Vasilisa the Wise and we can hear what bigger brains than ours think about the matter. Hey…I smell fresh molasses cookies! I’ll treat!”