Having had no luck with a cursory rummage through her pocketbook, Simplia shifted into full-tilt Ransack Mode. Out came her Swiss Army knife, out came her flashlight, a crumpled tube of arnica gel, random toothpicks and paperclips, ballpoint pens, phone charger, tangled ear buds, dog-eared business cards, an emery board, and a wad of crumpled cash register receipts. They lay in a heap on the seat of the front porch glider. But there were no keys.


Punishment: The wolf is eviscerated. Consequences: Red’s disobedience gets her killed. Sometimes it just depends on which version of the story you want to run with.

“You checked your pockets?” Sagacia asked helpfully.

“Why would I, when I distinctly remember dropping them into my purse?” Simplia’s reply teetered on the brink of snarky. She backed off immediately. “I’m sorry. Here. Just to be sure, I’m checking my pockets. Good heavens! Between my jeans and my jacket, I’m wearing eight pockets. Why do I even need a pocketbook? What’s this?”

She pulled what appeared to be another crumpled cash register receipt from her jeans, but when she flattened it out, it proved to be something else entirely.

“Today is the Magical Third of the month,” Sagacia observed. “Is that what I think it almost has to be?”

Simplia was nonplussed and bemused. “Yes. But when I put these on this morning they were still warm from the clothes dryer. How did this thing get into my pocket?”

Sagacia hazarded a guess. “Magic? What’s it say?”

In the golden glow of the front porch light, Simplia read:

Dear Vasilisa–

Your correspondents have been curious about fairy tale villains — how the numbers stack up comparing the ratio of good:bad male characters with good:bad female characters. This vein of discussion sparked my own curiosity about what the fates of these villains might have in common.

Punishments, “consequences” of their nefarious actions, redemptions, forgiveness, unremarked consignment to nebulous oblivion. I’d like to make an inventory of “upshots” and see what sort of demographics emerge. For instance, in The Battle of the Birds the treacherous giant meets his end — drowning — through the magical machinations of his own daughter. In un-bowderlized versions of Snow White, the jealous queen is often made to wear red hot iron slippers and dance herself to death. Molly Whuppie goes head to head with a cannibal giant who fully intends to beat her until she is bloody pulp, and yet, in spite of his reputation for eating children, all we know about him is “they never saw the giant again.” That’s getting off pretty easy, if you ask me. Mr. Fox’s fate was so gruesome that the narrator of the story refrains from telling us about it, “lest that your heart’s blood should run cold.”

It appears that within the realm of fairy tales, as a rule, heroes prevail; but when it comes to vanquishing villains, their fates are all over the map. I’d like to see if you and your Magical Friends can recall and relate the fates of some of their favorite evildoers. Maybe a pattern will emerge. (Maybe not.)

Many thanks —

Morbid in Monahans

“What a strange fascination,” said Sagacia. “Let’s run this over to the Fairy Tale Lobby and tack it on the message board. I’ll bet out Magical Friends have some favorite juicy ‘consequences’ to share.”

“Why not,” said Simplia. “While we there, let’s see if we can find someone willing to crawl into the house through the upstairs bathroom window.”

As they turned to retrace their steps back to town, something fell out of Simplia’s pocketbook and landed at her feet with a metallic jangle. Sagacia bent and scooped them up.

“I’ll take custody of these,” she said. She clipped the keyring to the handle of her handbag. In plain sight.