Fairy Tale of the Month: July 2015 The Pink Flower

pinnk true-myrtle-768

Pink

“Oh look.” Duckworth’s oars stop in midair. He nods toward the riverbank. It is solid with a growth of pinks.

“It reminds me of a Grimm story,” I say.

“Of course it does.” Duckworth resumes his rowing.

“No, really. It’s even called The Pink Flower.”

“There’s no escape. Go ahead. Tell me the story.”

A queen gives birth to a son to whom God grants the power of having every wish fulfilled. The castle cook steals the child, secreting him away with a wet nurse, and smears blood on the sleeping queen’s apron as if she carelessly let the child be eaten by a wild animal. Enraged, the king shuts his queen in a tower for seven years, in complete darkness with no food or drink. However, she is sustained by angels who come to her in the form of doves to bring her nourishment.

When the child is old enough to speak, the cook has him wish for a castle and lands, so that the cook can live like a lord. To entertain the lad, the cook has him wish for a beautiful maiden to look after him.

Later, afraid the young prince will one day wish to visit his father the king, the cook instructs the maiden to kill the prince in his sleep. When she reveals the plot to the prince, he wishes the villain into a poodle forced to eat hot coals until flames come from its mouth.

The prince then decides to return to his father’s kingdom to see what has become of his mother. He turns the maiden into a pink flower, puts it in his pocket, and with the poodle in tow, heads home.

He wishes for a ladder to climb the tower and calls inside to his mother, letting her know he has come to rescue her. He then presents himself as a huntsman to the king, promising him as much venison as he can want, although there has been no game in the kingdom for a long time.

The prince, still in disguise, leads the king’s huntsmen out, then wishes for deer to appear. They return with wagonloads of meat. The king is delighted and has the prince/huntsman sit by his side at the banquet. During the meal the prince wishes that someone would ask after the queen. The king does not want to speak of her, but the prince now reveals himself.

He tells the king it was the cook who stole him away, placing the blame upon the queen. The poodle is brought out to eat more hot coals before the prince wishes him back into his true state. Exposed as the kidnapper, the cook is thrown into the dungeons.

The prince then shows his father the pretty pink flower and wishes the maiden back into her form. The king calls for the release of his queen. She is brought to the banquet but refuses to eat or drink, declaring God has given her salvation, and dies happily three days later. The king has the cook drawn and quartered, but nonetheless grief overtakes the king and he soon dies.

“Good grief, is this a fairy tale or a Shakespeare tragedy I haven’t heard of?” Duckworth has stopped rowing again.

“Well, the prince and the flower girl get married in the end.”

“That hardly compensates for all the injustice.”

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: July 2015 The Pink Flower

pink hydraulics-diagrams-768

The Math

Duckworth and I continue our rowing, but I can see by his knitted brow he is thinking about The Pink Flower.

“Hold on,” he says. “The math doesn’t work.”

“What math?” I know my story is in trouble.

“Listen, the cook steals the prince and hands him over to a wet nurse. So, let’s say the prince is two years old at most. The king shuts the queen in the tower for seven years. When the son returns, the queen is still in the tower; therefore, the seven years have not passed. I’ll give the story a little advantage and say that the seven years are almost over. The lad was two years old when abducted. Seven years have gone by. He is nine years old at best. He goes to the king and passes himself off as a huntsman? A nine-year-old huntsman?

“And further,” he says, (Oh my goodness, but he is on a roll.) “the prince wishes for a ladder to climb the tower, and then he calls to his mother. Through a door, a window? She is supposed to be in complete darkness, yet they can easily call to each other through some sort of opening. And why does the king have huntsmen when there has been no game to hunt?

“Now, about his knowing his own history that he reveals to the king: who told him about it? Certainly not the cook. The prince wished the maiden into existence after his kidnapping. How would she know about it? Who else is there?”

“Well,” I say, feeling cornered, “the story does not tell us.”

“And what about the ‘hello’ factor?”

“The ‘hello’ factor?”

“Yes, as in ‘Hello, why don’t you wish your parents to forget their history and think they are living happily ever after and don’t have to kill themselves.’ I have no respect for this character. He could have wished for world peace. What do we get? A fire-breathing poodle.”

“Duckworth, Duckworth,” I defend, “you can’t apply everyday logic to fairy tales. They are not that sturdy, nor are they meant to reflect some piece of reality as mainstream fiction might do. Fairy tales aren’t necessarily trying to make a point or pass on a moral. They are here to flex our imagination.”

We have come to our dock and Duckworth ties a rope around a mooring. “Still, there must be reasonable structure to any story.”

I unship my oars and stash them on the bottom of the boat. “Well, to start with, a fairy tale is a folktale with the element of magic.”

“Fair enough,” says Duckworth. “What are the rules?”

“What are the rules?” I ponder this as I step from the boat to the dock. I don’t quite make it. My foot slips and twists on the wet, mossy planks of the decking. In a moment I find myself in deep water. I hope there are no nixies about.

When you ask, What are the rules of fairy tales? you are in deep water.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: July 2015 The Pink Flower

Pink Tower Regensburg 1400-1410Regensburg 1400-1410

My Foot

I feel foolish sitting here in my study with my foot nestled on a pillow and elevated on a table to ease the swelling and throbbing of my twisted ankle. After Duckworth pulled me out of the river and got me home, I should have limped off to the doctor. But now it is late and I simply will have to wait till morning.

The throbbing is keeping me awake, so I contemplate Duckworth’s question. What are the rules for fairy tales?

Fairy tales turn on its head the literary injunction to writers to “Show, don’t tell.” Where the fairy tale tells you flatly that the king had a beautiful daughter, the writer of a literary tale might cover the same fact by saying:

“The door opened and into the great hall stepped a girl, perhaps twelve year of age, her blond hair falling about her slender shoulders.

“’Oh father,” she said to King William . . .'”

And more likely than not, in fairy tales neither character will have a name other than “the princess” or “the king.” Dialog tends to be sparse, and the point of view is usually third-person objective; that is, we don’t get inside their heads.

But that is not what Duckworth objected to in The Pink Flower. What stopped him was the nonsense. Perhaps my question should be, What are the rules for fairy-tale nonsense?

No, I’ll change that again. What are the rules for fairy-tale beyond-sense?

I see fairy-tale plot lines as a series of images, a storyboard if you will, but a sketchy storyboard. The tales give little description of the scene at hand. Is the king’s castle in a town? On a mountain? Is the cook young or old? There is no author trying to get the listener or reader to image exactly what they want them to see. In these authorless tales the listeners provide these details for themselves. The images that make up the story are created by and belong to the listener. This is where the beyond-sense comes in. The listener also creates what lies behind the images.

In The Pink Flower, I see the tower as the central image, a phallic symbol in which a female is imprisoned. This tower appears in other stories, its prisoner invariably a female, put there by a king or a witch.

The notion of the tower’s entrapment lies at the heart of this story and is reflected elsewhere in the tale. The cook kidnaps the baby prince to control his wishes. The young prince does not know any better, and is being mentally entrapped. When the cook fears the prince is about to break out of that entrapment, he tries to have him killed, a plan that backfires.

The maiden, wished into existence by the prince, is beholden to him. Her entrapment is a gentle, loving one, represented by his turning her into a flower, but an entrapment nonetheless.

But these are my insights behind my images of the story. For someone else, the tower may not resonate. Their central image may be the blood-smeared apron. For them this is a story about injustice rather than entrapment.

My wakefulness and throbbing foot have brought me to this conclusion. There may be no hard-and-fast rules governing fairy-tale images, but the images need to be of such a nature that our imaginations can seize upon them, take our cues, and rewrite them for ourselves.

The implications of a cook being turned into a fire-eating poodle, I will leave for others to ponder.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: June 2015 The Three Rowan Trees

Three Soldiers Hans Sebald Beham2Hans Sebald Beham

A Trio

I sit on the window seat of the bay window in my study, watching the day disappearing over the magic forest in the near distance. I don’t usually sit here, but I have the windows open allowing the soft evening air to wash over me as I smoke a bowl of Dark Dwarf.

My thoughts—drifting away with the smoke—swirl about the three soldiers of The Devil and His Grandmother. While I can’t call the three soldiers a motif, the trio shows up in more than one Grimm story. To my thoughts comes The Three Army Surgeons, The Long Nose, and The Crows—although in this last one the three are not companionable. Outside of Grimm I can think of The Three Soldiers in Jacobs’ Europa’s Fairy Book, and the well-known Stone Soup.

I am sure with a quick search I can find another. Stephen Badman’s Odds and Sods sits atop a pile of books near me. I grab it and page through. Sure enough, I find The Three Rowan Trees.

Three soldiers are dismissed from service with little to show for their time. They agree to travel together and stumble across an empty castle in which all their needs are mysteriously met. That evening, to the soldier named Hans, comes a snake that crawls into his bed and turns into a princess.

She explains to Hans that she and her sisters are the three rowan trees growing in the garden. If Hans and his companions will bear being whipped all night long for three nights starting at Midsummer’s Night, the spell will be broken. Hans agrees to try.

In the morning he visits the rowan trees and is given three magical gifts: a purse that never empties, a cloak that will take him anywhere, and a bag that contains an army.

Immediately forgetting his promise, he and his companions travel to London via the cloak and Hans pursues the hand of the daughter of the King of England. She cheats him out of the magical gifts and abandons him. He is close to suicide when he comes across a tree of golden apples that cause a horn to grow out of one’s forehead, and a golden pear tree that removes it. Tricking the king, queen, and princess into eating the apples, they are beholden to him to have the horns removed. Thus he regains the magical gifts.

He uses the bag containing the army to release his companions who have gotten themselves into trouble, and returns to the castle by Midsummer’s Night. By keeping himself and his companions drunk for the next three days and nights, they survive the whippings and break the spell. Each marries a princess and Hans becomes king.

What is it about a trio of soldiers gallivanting around the countryside that engages the listener? Hans is the protagonist, but the other two companions are not completely necessary for the story. A teller could easily edit them out. Yet time and again a trio like this appears to populate a ribald tale.

I hear Thalia padding down the hall. For the moment, this puts an end to my reflections.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: June 2015 The Three Rowan Trees

Three Little Pigs jacobsJohn D. Batten

Threesome

After reading to Thalia, I return to my window seat and my pipe. The gentle evening air comes from the direction of the magic forest carrying with it the touch of enchantment. It has a hold on me and my wandering thoughts.

Oddly, Thalia asked me to read The Long Nose to her. It is a variant of The Three Rowan Trees; at least the element of a fruit tree causing disfigurement and another to cure it is in both, along with the soldier trio. While these two stories bear a resemblance to Jacobs’ The Three Soldiers, there is no one tale type that can be attached to the appearance of three soldiers.

Nor are these soldiers the only trio in the tales. From The Three Little Pigs to The Three Feathers we have other examples. I discern patterns with these threesomes, whether they be pigs, brothers, or comrades.

In the case of the pigs, the first and second were failures, while the third succeeded. When the trio is made up of brothers there is a hierarchy of age with the youngest appearing to be the least promising. In truth, the elder two have their shortcomings, while the youngest has what it takes to overcome hardships.

The pattern for the comrades is a little different. In the soldier stories the comrades are of equal status. Even in The Three Soldiers, where a sergeant, a corporal, and a private travel together, the sergeant never pulls rank on the other two. All decisions are made upon agreement.

I peer at the magic forest’s silhouetted tree line. Have I thought this through or is there another aspect?

In all three examples (pigs, brothers, and comrades) the lesser two members of the triad are a counterpoint to the nature of the third, who has become the protagonist. Hans, of The Three Rowan Trees, is an opportunist. It is Hans who suggests they all stick together. It is he who chooses the road they travel. Hans converses with the snake and a rowan tree. Hans pursues the princess in London. His companions almost wordlessly go along with him. The most they do is spend all their money and get into trouble, relying on Hans to get them out of their predicament. The companion’s lack of activity contrasts with Hans’ constant motion.

Watching my pipe smoke drifting along on the night air, my thoughts drift toward one more aspect.

The three soldiers offer up the chance for roguery. Hans’ conduct is not exactly exemplary. He clearly “slept” with a princess, and after receiving magical gifts from her, pursues yet another princess. Later, he uses trickery to get back the gifts he carelessly gave away. When he returns to the rowan trees (and just in the nick of time) to do the right thing, he does it by getting his comrades so drunk they don’t know they are being mysteriously whipped all night long.

These are antics the decent youngest brother could never get away with, behavior not even appropriate for pigs. But soldiers—well, we give them license for our own entertainment.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: June 2015 The Three Rowan Trees

Magic Cloak BattenJohn D. Batten

Gifts

“There is a fairy in my bookstore!” Melissa’s eyes are wide with concern. She didn’t even say hello when I entered the shop. She fairly slammed her book down.

“Yes, I know. So sorry. Thalia was careless.”

“Thalia?”

“Yes, it was her fairy.”

Her expression softens. “Well then, I haven’t gone crazy. I’ve told three of my friends. Two of them suggested therapy, and the third an exterminator.”

“Exterminator. Oh dear no. Fairies are rather rare and need to be cherished.”

“There really is a fairy in my bookstore?” Melissa’s alarm is slipping toward wonderment.

“She has black, static-filled hair?” I prompt.

Melissa moves her hands about her head in imitation of the fairy’s floating locks.

“Consider her a magical gift,” I say.

“You mean like a purse that never empties, or a cloak of invisibility?”

“Rather like. Yes,” I say.

Actually, not, as I think about it. The magical gifts are inanimate objects imbued with magic. The fairy is alive and entirely a creature of the fey.

And where do the magical gifts come from? Who made them? In The Three Rowan Trees the gifts of the magic purse, cloak, and bag are given by the enchanted rowan tree. Do the gifts fall from the branches like fruit? We are not told.

Sometimes in the fairy tales, the gifts are not objects, but rather attributes or events. A heroine may be given the gift of flowers falling from her lips when she speaks; she may grow more beautiful every day; or her destiny maybe to marry a prince. These are blessings granted at the moment of their uttering. But we get the sense that the magical objects preexist their being granted to the hero or heroine.

I suspect they preexist because they represent our wishful thinking for things such as wealth (the purse,) freedom (the cloak,) and power (the bag.) The cloak can give its owner the freedom to travel. Sometimes this ability to travel is represented, appropriately, by a hat. The cloak can also be one of invisibility (security). Another common gift is a glass vial, allowing the holder to become a great doctor (health.)

The gifts of attributes and events are more a reflection of the hero or heroine’s worthiness. These are more often conferred upon women, and not always to their benefit. Sleeping Beauty was one such recipient.

“What do you feed fairies?” Melissa jolts me away from my still-wandering thoughts.

“I don’t know. I never had to.” I think for a moment. “We always have milk out for Johannes. Maybe they are like house brownies and go after milk.”

Melissa’s brow knits.

“Listen,” I continue, “I have come for a purpose. I want to order a copy of The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales. These are the tales uncovered by Erika Eichenseer. The translation is by Maria Tatar, by the way.”

“Really.” Melissa grabs a pen and paper.

We return to our everyday world of mundane concerns, but our fairy, out of sight, flutters about the edges of our normality, and perhaps nibbles on it.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: May 2015 The Devil and His Grandmother

Devil Grandmother H J FordH J Ford

A Dragon

“Melissa stole my fairy.” Thalia enters my study in her pajamas, dragging Teddy behind her.

“She wouldn’t.”

“She did!”

I consider. “You took the fairy to the bookstore?”

“She crawled into my pocket.”

“She is a bookish fairy. I fear you tempted her fey nature to indulge herself. She probably thinks she is in Nirvana.”

Thalia and Teddy settle in beside me on the comfy chair. “Nearwana?”

“The best of all possible places.”

“Oh. Yeah. Melissa’s is pretty cool.”

“I am sure the fairy will come out every time you are there.”

“Maybe.” Thalia pouts.

“Well, tonight I have a story with a dragon in it.”

“Really?” she brightens.

I read her Grimms’ The Devil and His Grandmother.

Three soldiers desert by hiding in a wheat field, expecting the encampment to move on in the morning, leaving them behind. The army doesn’t move. By the second day the deserters are desperate.

“What’s a desserter?”

I note Thalia’s arms are crossed. “One who likes ice cream and does not want to fight in a war.”

A dragon, who proves to be the Devil, descends from the sky to ask them what they are doing. He then promises them if they will serve him for seven years he will get them out of their predicament. The soldiers readily agree. The dragon goes on to offer them an extravagant life for seven years at the end of which their souls belong to him unless they can guess his riddles. He gives them a small whip, which when they snap, sends gold coins dancing through the air.

“Can the Devil be a dragon?” Thalia’s brow knits.

“In this story he can.”

The seven years pass quickly—as time does when one is having fun—and two of the soldiers fall into depression as their end nears. The third of their number remains hopeful, and on the advice of an old woman, who comes wandering down the road, he visits the Devil’s grandmother to plead his case.

“The Devil has a grandmother?” Her brow knits again.

“Apparently. Did you ever notice that “Devil” is evil with a ‘D’?”

“Cool.”

The Devil’s grandmother takes a liking to this optimist and hides him in her cellar when the dragon comes home for supper. She engages her grandson in a conversation about the riddles for the next day. The devil is preparing a feast in hell for the three soldiers. To avoid the feast, they must guess that the roast will be a dead monkey floating in the North Sea, their spoon will be the rib bone of a whale, and their wine glass a hollow horse’s hoof.

Armed with the answers, the soldier returns to his companions. The next day the dragon is cheated out of his victims and loses his power over them. He flies off leaving them behind, along with the small whip that keeps them in luxury for the rest of their lives.

“I like the money whip. I don’t like the dead monkey,” she muses.

“Both are striking images.”

“I still want my fairy back.”

“I’m afraid that’s the fairy’s choice.”

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: May 2015 The Devil and His Grandmother

Devil Grandmother John WaterhouseJohn Waterhouse

A Visit

“Hello, my nixie,” I call, as I settle myself on a rock above the water’s edge of the magic forest’s pond. Slowly she comes from below. I see her high cheekbones and the arc of her brow before she breaks the water’s surface.

“Hello, my human.”

I toss her an unshelled peanut from my paper bag, which she breaks between her long, pale greenish fingers to get the kernel inside.

“Can you tell me,” I ask, as I toss her another, “can the Devil be a dragon and have a grandmother?”

“No, I can’t.” She raises her hand for another peanut.

“Why won’t you tell me?” I withhold the nut.

“Because he is not of my pantheon. I know little of him.”

I relent and throw her the treat. “Sorry, I assumed all the (here I almost say ‘evil creatures’) adversaries of humans knew each other.”

“Adversaries? You and I are not adversaries. I am of the merfolk. We often have love for humans.”

“Whom you seduce, and sometimes drown,” I add.

“Drown if they deserve it, but that does not make us adversaries.”

“What can you tell me of the Devil?”

“He is a fallen angel, along with his other demons. Their conflict is with their god. I see where you mortals get trapped in the center.”

The nixie and I have fallen into a rhythm of tossing and catching peanuts as we talk.

“Now that you mention different pantheons, it occurs to me, I don’t recall any stories with merfolk and demons together in the same tale.”

“I wouldn’t keep company with them.” The nixie frowns.

“Nor do you merfolk look for souls to steal. You might steal the whole body, but you are not after the soul.”

“Steal?”

“Possess.” I correct. “Do you have a soul?”

“Of course not. Why would we immortals want souls, ours or anyone else’s, unless we have a heaven or hell to populate?”

I see a pattern I had not seen before. “You merfolk often look for human lovers. The Devil is looking for souls. Witches are looking to harm humans by death or enchantment.”

I absently shell a peanut and pop it into my mouth.

“Hey!” The nixie glares.

“Oh, sorry. Now elves are a little more complicated. They can be helpers or tricksters. Giants and trolls are simply problems.”

“Stepmothers?” the nixie puts in.

“Now there is an adversary,” I agree, “at least in fairy tales.”

I continue pitching her peanuts while I think.

“Wait a moment. Pantheons you say. What about the Roman pantheon? Fauns, satyrs, nymphs? The Romans conquered most of Europe and moved well into the Isles, but they left not a single dryad behind in the tales. Why is that?”

“Fauns, satyrs, and nymphs did not arise here. We did—the nixies, elves, dwarves, and giants. The mystic realms of this land belong to us.”

My hand rustles inside an empty paper bag. I look to find the peanuts are gone. I hear a splash and my nixie is gone as well.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: May 2015 The Devil and His Grandmother

Devil Grandmother Rackham Arthur Rackham

A Dragon’s Grandmother

“Tell me, can the Devil be a dragon and have a grandmother?”

Augustus eyes me suspiciously, then relaxes. “Ah, you are talking about The Devil and His Grandmother.” Augustus is easily the sharpest person I know; at least among fairy-tale aficionados like myself. As always, we inhabit his comfy chairs, surrounded by tobacco smoke.

“It is a rather unGrimm-like story; there is more of the tavern than the nursery in it.”

“True, Thalia was a little uneasy about parts. She didn’t like the dead monkey.”

“Yes, the dead monkey floating in the North Sea. What an image. I suspect that is the invention of a particular storyteller. Monkeys are not native to northern climes. By asking the poor soldiers to guess that it might be their roast, the Devil set up an impossible task. Storywise, the teller presents an informed, sophisticated device within the riddle. That speaks to a modern addition to the motif of the three questions. When did the monkey come into the folk consciousness? I think that might date this version for us.”

I take a pipe cleaner from Augustus’ supply on his side table and pull the stem from my bowl. “She also likes the money whip.”

“That is new for me too. Usually gold coins drop from mouths, are found under pillows in the morning, or come out of an endless bag of riches.”

“I keep thinking of The Devil and the Three Golden Hairs.” I reassemble my pipe.

“Well of course you do; it follows the same pattern of the grandmother helping the protagonist find out the questions.”

I relight my tobacco. “So what is with the Devil’s grandmother? He is a fallen angel, an immortal. He should not have a family linage.”

“There is a tendency for folklore to demote deities and heroes to folksy figures. Fionn mac Cumhaill, of the Irish tales, is an example. He was the leader of the Fianna warriors, and king of Tara. The latter-day tales about him—now called MacCool—cast him as a dumb giant dependent on the good advices of his wife.”

Augustus blows a few playful smoke rings, then continues.

“In the case of the Devil, the fallen-angel aspect is not frequently taught from the pulpit, and largely ignored by the folk. They did not discuss how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. The Devil to them had always been the Devil and nothing more. Jesus had a mother; why couldn’t the Devil have a grandmother?”

“What catches me,” I say, “is that we don’t hear of the Devil’s wife, mother, father, sisters, or brothers, only the grandmother.”

Augustus smiles. “Old women have a special status in these tales. There are two old women in the tales. One is a helper (as in our story), and the other is a witch. They are never the protagonist. Never is a story about a witch or a wise woman of the wood. These women always serve the story, for good or for ill, but never is the story about them.”

“And the Devil as a dragon?”

Augustus shifts uneasily in his comfy chair. “Having just said the folk didn’t connect with the fallen-angel thing, the Devil does appear as a great red dragon in the Book of Revelation in a battle where he is cast down to earth. That is perhaps the source for this image. I’ll suppose the storyteller picked and chose from the Bible what he liked and left the rest, but then, don’t we all.”

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tales of the Month: April 2015 The Golden Children

golden children gruellefisherman John Gruelle

Upstream

The rhythm of rowing puts me in a state of contentment. The weather stays mild and clear, letting the sun shine on the ripples that Duckworth and I make as we take our exercise on this leg of the Thames known as the Isis.

“Look, there,” Duckworth points. I see a flash of intense orange below the surface.

“What was it?” I look to Duckworth.

“A goldfish, well, carp really. I’ve read about it and have been looking for one. People who don’t want their pet goldfish anymore let them go into the Thames. That’s illegal. Some have been arrested. Invasive species and all that. This is the first time I have seen one. A big problem in some places.”

He gives me a challenging, sideways smile. “Got any fairy tales on goldfish?”

I think for a few. “Ah, yes, I do.”

Duckworth rolls his eyes. “I should know better.”

“It’s a Grimm, The Golden Children.” I give him the synopsis as we stroke our way up stream.

A fisherman catches a golden fish, who promises wealth if the man lets him go, but there is a condition. The fisherman must tell no one how he got his riches. His wife, unrelenting in her curiosity, gets her husband to tell her, and their fortune instantly disappears.

The fisherman returns to fishing only to catch the golden fish again. The same conditions are set, he returns home, and the same thing happens as before. The wife declares, “I’d rather live in poverty than not know who’s giving us all that wealth. After all, I want to keep my peace of mind.”

When the fisherman catches the golden fish for the third time, the fish concedes he is meant to be caught and instructs the man to cut him up into six pieces, feed two to his wife, two to his mare, and plant the remaining two.

The wife gives birth to two golden boys, the mare two golden colts, and two golden lilies spring from the ground.

When the boys come of age, they ride off on their golden horses. At an inn, on the first night, they are laughed at for being golden. Disheartened, one brother returns home, but the other ventures on. He takes the guise of a vagabond by covering himself and his horse with bear skins.

Soon after, he meets and falls in love with a maiden, who, unaccountably, falls in love with him. They are married on the spot, even before her father gets home. He is enraged and threats to kill the vagabond. Peeking into their marriage room, he sees his son-in-law is golden, and changes his attitude.

That night, however, the golden youth dreams of hunting a magnificent stag. In the morning, against his wife’s fears for his safety, he insists upon going hunting.

He spots the stag and the chase is on. By evening he loses sight of the beast, and finds himself in front of the cottage of a witch. When he threatens her annoying, yapping, little dog, she turns him into a stone.

Back home, one of the golden lilies wilts. The other golden youth comes to his rescue, forcing the witch to restore his form, after which one returns to his bride and the other returns home.

“What?” says Duckworth. “That’s it? What a horrible tale.”

“It’s not so bad,” I defend (weakly).

“Yes it is. Why, there’s no moral, no lesson learned.” Duckworth puts up his oars and folds his arms.

“Should there be? Must there be?” My oars hover in the air.

“Yes!” says Duckworth.

Your thoughts?

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