As You Like It
Augustus and I sit in his comfy chairs sampling a new tobacco mixture, True Bride. I’ve finished explaining my thoughts on Maid Maleen, and wait for his appraisal. Augustus, for his part, has remained silent too long.
“I am not buying the Seven Years’ War part,” he finally says.
“Oh? I thought that was clever of me.”
“You’re conjecturing, snatching things out of the air. As for the cocoon and chrysalis, that’s your romanticism showing through a thin argument.”
“Well then,” I puff. “How do you see Maid Maleen?”
Augustus considers while I pack another bowl of True Bride. “Not bad by the way. I can taste the Cavendish, but what is the other flavor?”
Augustus is still considering.
“Shakespeare won’t get out of my head,” he sighs. “You know:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
“Perhaps my brain is trying to suggest Maleen has spent, not seven years but all her seven ages—her life—in the tower. Her world, in the meantime, disappears.
“I am not thinking so much on the lines of this being a transformation story, but rather a reincarnation story. Maleen enters the tower as a princess. When she is reborn from the tower she is born a maid. Her karma draws her back to the prince to fulfill what she failed in her previous life.”
I stare at Augustus. “That’s wilder conjecture than mine.”
“Yes, rather,” Augustus smiles. “I think I was being too hard on you. I’m not coming up with anything coherent myself. But this is what I love about the fairy tales.”
“What’s that?” I relight my pipe.
“We get to author our own meanings because there are no story authors to tell us otherwise. With authored works, be it novels, plays, or poetry, we readers and listeners are, more often than not, voyeurs to another’s personal creation. With the folk tale, and its subgenre the fairy tale, we deal in common property, created for us by us, yet no one owns these tales. The tales live as an ongoing project, changing, evolving, becoming variants, and being transmitted into the future by us through collections, recordings and tellings.”
“Then,” I conclude, “neither of us may have the final word.”
“Quite so.” Augustus reaches for his cold pipe.
“What is the other ingredient?”
I wonder if he is kidding.