Fairy Tale of the Month: February 2015 Foundling

John B. Gruelle

Not Quite

Teddy, Thalia, and I are all secure in the comfy chair; the light from the fireplace sends flickering shadows onto the blanket covering our legs. In our erratic progression through Grimms’ collection of over two hundred fairy tales, we have landed upon Foundling.

A forester, out hunting, hears the sound of a child crying. After a puzzling search, he finds the child in the top boughs of a tree. The story tells us that a hawk stole the child from the lap of his sleeping mother and left him on a tree top. The forester rescues the little lad and decides to raise him with his own daughter, Lena. Because he found the child, the forester names him Foundling.

As the two children grow, they become exceedingly fond of each other. If they are not together they soon become sad. One day Lena sees the old cook, Sanna, carrying a great number of water buckets into the kitchen. She asks Sanna why she does so, and Sanna, after making Lena promise to tell no one, confides that she intends to cook Foundling in the morning after the forester goes out hunting.

Early the next morning Lena tells Foundling, “If you won’t forsake me, I won’t forsake you.” To which Foundling replies, “Never ever.” That becomes a refrain throughout the rest of the story. Breaking her promise to Sanna, Lena tells Foundling of his plight, and they run off together.

When Sanna finds that both children are gone, she sends three servants to bring them back. Lena sees them from afar. She tells Foundling to turn himself into a rose tree; she becomes a rosebud upon that tree. When the servants come to where the children were, but cannot find them, they return to the cook, telling her that all they found was a rose tree.

Enraged, the cook sends the servants back to cut down the rose tree and bring her the rosebud. Again, Lena sees them coming, and this time the servants find a church—Foundling—and inside nothing but a chandelier—Lena.

Thwarted again, the cook accompanies the three servants to accomplish the task. Lena tells Foundling to turn into a pond; she turns into a duck swimming on the pond.  Seeing this, the cook kneels down and begins to drink up the pond. Quickly, Lena grabs the cook’s head in her beak and pulls her underwater, drowning the old woman. It is in this last moment that the story reveals the cook as a witch.

Lena and Foundling return home.

“Teddy and I don’t like that story.” Thalia is pouting.

“Why? What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s dumb. Read the next one.”

“The next one is King Thrushbeard. We’ve read that already.”

“Goody. Read it again.”

And so I do.

I find “dumb” an insufficient analysis. The tale has the basic fairy-tale components: a beginning, middle, and end (This is not to be taken for granted.); a protagonist (two actually); a villain; lots of magic; and a happy ending.

And yet, Thalia is right. There is something about this tale that does not quite satisfy.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: February 2015 Foundling

foundling H J FordH J Ford

Evil for Evil’s Sake

Foundling. Foundling.” Augustus’ eyebrows knit. He rises from the overstuffed chair and stands before his bookshelves, which are lined with notebooks.

I had gotten here just as he closed the shop for the day, and we tucked ourselves away in his study for a visit. Augustus pulls a notebook from a shelf, peruses it, replaces it, and picks another. I know he is a self-taught scholar, and claims to have come up with a tale-classification system simpler and more scientific that Aarne-Thompson’s. He explained it to me once until I became completely befuddled.

“Ah, here, yes. I recall it now.” He sits down with a binder in his lap. “I have it in my notes as ‘a failed tale.’ ”

“How unkind,” I say.

“I am afraid this tale suffers from Wilhelmitis.

“Pardon? I think you are coining a word.”

Augustus smiles. “I have two arguments to justify that statement. Starting with a minor point, Lena promises the cook she would not tell anyone of what was about to be said. Lena breaks that promise by warning Foundling of his impending doom.

“That’s excusable in the real world, but in the fairy-tale realm that cannot be done without dire consequences. Promises, however ill-advised in their making, are binding. For Lena there are no consequences. That is a clear violation of fairy-tale law.

“More pertinent to my argument, the Grimms’ stories’ popularity and longevity have to do with the literary polish the brothers—particularly Wilhelm—worked upon them. However, there were casualties and this tale is one of them.”

Augustus pages through his notes before continuing. “Because they wanted to appeal to a middle class audience—and note this was an evolving middle class caught between the minions of the old Holy Roman Empire and the rabble of the German nationalistic movements—Wilhelm quickly made changes to the stories to satisfy their tastes.

“In the original 1812 version, the foundling is a girl baby whom the forester names Birdie. Putting myself in Wilhelm’s shoes, I think he made the change from a female foundling to a male foundling simply to conform to the popularity of the fond-brother-and-sister theme

“A bigger problem for Wilhelm was that in at least one version of the collected tales the villain was not the cook, but the forester’s wife, who wanted to cook the intruding foundling.

“The motive for the wife’s action is easy to imagine; that she would confide in her own daughter makes more sense than the cook confiding in Lena, but Wilhelm faced having the daughter kill her own mother to save the foundling. He apparently didn’t think that would fly with his audience. The usual solution of substituting an evil stepmother now gets complicated with a new wife, stepdaughter, and adopted daughter. Wilhelm solves the problem by turning the wife into an old cook.”

“Ah,” I say, “but she is a villain with no motive. That is what Thalia sensed. The cook is evil for no reason. Now that is unsettling.”

Your thoughts?

 

 

 

Fairy Tale of the Month: February 2015 Foundling

Ida Rentoul OuthwaiteIda Rentoul Outhwaite

Holding Magic

Our resident fairy is curled up and sleeping on Thalia’s copy of Grimm, which lies open to the Foundling; her black hair, filled with static electricity floats about her, moving and swirling with her breathing. I sit as close as I dare, contemplating the delicacy of her fey nature. Her beauty is that she is not common.

My “failed fairy tale” as Augustus calls it, has plenty of fairy-like magic in it. In the Foundling the children turn themselves into a rose tree, a rosebud, a church, a chandelier, a pond, and a duck. Not too shabby, but they have broken with acceptable decorum.

Mistakenly, some who imbibe story liquor allow that anything can happen in a fairy tale. Well, they are drunk. Fairy tales, in their own way, are stodgy teetotalers, walking a straight line of convention. The faux pas that the Foundling commits is granting commoners (Lena and Foundling) the power to transform themselves into other shapes, that is to say, possess magic.

No one has written the etiquette book for fairy tales but, if someone had, it would clearly state that commoners are not inherently magical. Magic is in the hands of witches, wizards (who rarely appear in the Grimm canon), fey beings, and royalty. This breakdown of who has magic fascinates me.

That fey beings, such as fairies, dwarves, and demons, have magic is a given. They are a class of beings all unto themselves.

Witches, however, are human. With a few exceptions, they are old, ugly, and poor. More accurately, they appear to be poor. Witches may have amassed wealth in the cellars and tunnels under their humble abodes. Still, even a gingerbread house does not rise to the level of a castle. In the Celtic tradition it is the henwife, poorest of the poor, who practices the uncanny arts.

At the other end of the medieval economic spectrum, royalty, by birth apparently, also hold magic. In the Goose Girl the elderly queen gives her daughter a protective token (three drops of blood on a handkerchief) and the talking horse, Falada. The young princess talks to the beheaded horse and raises winds to blow off the cap of an annoying little boy. The tale feels no need to explain these things. That the queen and the princess possess magic is as much a given as the fey beings having these skills.

The only magic commoners should have are those mysterious items given to them by magical helpers (old women in the wood, or little old men the protagonists chance to meet).

Quietly I tamp and light my pipe. The fairy opens one eye, but then slips off to sleep again. I am pleased she is not disturbed by my presence.

Magic is not common. It exists at the far ends of fairy-tale society, among poor old women, those privileged by birth, and the fey. Magic for the commoners should be doled out sparingly, a cloak of invisibility here, a magic sack there, and no more than three wishes at a time.

Watching the sleeping fairy, I resist the urge to pick her up and hold her in my hand. After all, she is magic and I a commoner.

Your thoughts?

 

 

Fairy Tale of the Month: January 2015 The Nixie in the Pond

nixieofthemillpondH. J. Ford

The Water’s Edge

“I didn’t know you liked fairy tales.” I address Thalia’s cat, Johannes, who sits on the study table, my copy of Jack Zipes’s translation of Grimm lying open in front of him.

“I never said I didn’t,” he answers coldly, inserting a deft claw between the pages, turning a leaf, and pinning the opposite page with his other claw. This explains why my books are not always where I leave them. They often end up on the floor.

Looking over his head, I see he is reading The Nixie in the Pond. In this tale a miller is approached by a nixie—a mermaid-like creature. He bargains for wealth in exchange for what is being born at that moment in the mill. He thinks it to be a dog or a cat, unaware that his wife is birthing a boy in the mill as they speak.

The miller cheats the nixie by keeping the lad away from the pond. The youth grows up, becomes a huntsman, and marries. One day, while hunting, he washes blood from his hands at the mill pond and is seized by the nixie.

His wife, discovering his plight, circles the mill pond, calling his name until she collapses and is taken by a dream. In the dream she climbs a mountain until she reaches a hut at the door of which an old woman beckons to her.

Upon waking, the young woman indeed climbs the mountain and meets the old woman who beckoned to her in the dream. The old woman gives the younger a golden comb with the instructions to comb her hair, in the moonlight, by the mill pond, then set the comb down by the water’s edge. When she does these things, the water rises up and takes the comb in exchange for a glimpse of her husband’s face.

Again, the woman dreams of climbing the mountain and, again, she actually does. The old woman gives her a golden flute to play by the mill pond. In exchange, the wife sees more of her husband.

Again the dream and the visit; this time the young woman returns with a golden spinning wheel. For it, the husband is fully revealed and escapes from the nixie. Together they flee, with the water rising quickly behind them. Fearful of drowning, the younger woman cries out to the older. She is transformed into a toad, and he into a frog. In these forms they survive the flood, but are separated. Returning to their human shape, each finds themself in a foreign land.

Lost and no longer together, they each become shepherds in order to make a living. For many years they drive their flocks from pasture to pasture, gradually moving closer together. When they again meet they do not recognize each other, but take comfort in each other’s company.

One evening the man plays a tune on his flute, the same that she played at the edge of the mill pond. She cries and tells her story. The veil falls from their eyes and they are reunited. And, ah yes, they live happily ever after.

“What do you think?” I ask Johannes.

“My fur bristled when she dunked him into the mill pond.”

“As well it might,” I say.

“And given the chance, I’d have scratched her eyes out.”

“You’re not a forgiving cat, Johannes.”

“Cats never forgive.”

“I’ll remember that.”

Johannes curls up and goes to sleep.

Your thoughts?

 

Fairy Tale of the Month: January 2015 The Nixie in the Pond

Nixie  A. L. BowleyA. L. Bowley

The Pond

While contemplating The Nixie in the Pond, I decide to go to the authority on the topic. I do this despite the cold weather and the lateness of the day. In addition, it always feels a bit warmer in winter and cooler in summer in the magic forest than elsewhere. I grab a paper bag of unshelled peanuts and head out.

My destination is fairly deep into the forest, but I know it is safe, even under the moonlight, as long as I stay on the path. At the path’s end is the pond. It’s never frozen over. I am sure that has something to do with her. I sit on my rock at the top of the bank to wait.

Immediately she appears, posing on her rock at the pond’s edge, water flowing from her hair and arms as though she were a trickling fountain.

“Hello, my human.”

“Hello, my nixie.” We have never exchanged names. I doubt it is safe to do so. I shell a peanut and toss it to her. She catches it in her thin, pale-green hand and pops it into her mouth, rolling her eyes in ecstasy.

“I want to ask you about the miller’s son you abducted.”

“Which miller’s son? There are many.”

“The one who eluded you long enough to become a huntsman and to marry.”

“Oh, the one that got away. She did it with help you know.”

“Yes, I know. Why did you show her the huntsman, her husband?”

“I carved the golden comb, flute, and spinning wheel. We nixies make exchanges for the things we want. I knew what she wanted. Yet, I gave her only the sight of him. I did not intend to exchange all of him for the spinning wheel. He belongs to me. My fault was being too patient in collecting my due. He tasted being his own man. Willfully he abandoned me and prompted my anger.”

I can see that anger in her eyes and I throw more peanuts to placate her.

“They were husband and wife,” I reason.

“That is of no concern to me.” She is looking at a peanut kernel between her fingers.

“You nearly destroyed them, and set them each on a long, lonely journey. Was that not a bit harsh?”

The nixie looks at me with deviltry in her eye. “My human, I am immortal. You are mortal. Mortals live with their past in their thoughts. Our past is immense; we cannot keep it in mind. We live only in the present. Therefore, we love, we hate, we anger completely, untampered by what came before.”

As I shell more peanuts, I am thinking there is a bigger question, but I cannot wrap my mind around it.

“I see,” she says, “questions floating about in that human brain of yours. I will give you all the answers to your unasked questions.”

I am stunned by the offering. She sees into my soul. I am as transparent as glass. The enormity of this opportunity seizes me.

“I am interested. You are right, I am full of questions. Your offering of answers trembles my heart. You will do this for me in exchange for …? No, I am not going to ask!” Images of Thalia flicker in my mind. “Here.” I toss my nixie the bag of peanuts and make an escape.

Your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairy Tale of the Month: January 2015 The Nixie in the Pond

nixie ‘LITTLE SEAMAID’  Louis RheadLouis Rhead

By the Hearth

Back in my study, after checking in on Thalia sleeping peacefully, I light a fire in the hearth to soothe my shivering. Or am I trembling after my encounter with the nixie? I should know better than to underestimate anything fay, be it a tale or the real thing.

I settle into my comfy chair and let my thoughts wander back to The Nixie in the Pond. If Augustus were here, I think he’d agree that one of the striking features of this tale is the wife’s dreams.

There is something shamanistic about the wife dreaming three times and actualizing the dreams by climbing the mountain to see the old woman who beckoned to her. At this point in the story there are three realms: the nixie’s world under the water, the wife’s world on land, and the old woman’s world atop a mountain accessed by dreams.

When the husband escapes from the nixie, he and his wife are reunited briefly, but their world shifts; they are transformed into separate creatures—a frog and a toad—and swept away, each taken to a different land unknown to them. Now there are two realms, both alien.

Unaccountably, they become (transform into) shepherds, and slowly, unconsciously, drift back toward each other until they once again occupy the same realm. Yet, they do not recognize one another. It is not until they know each other’s story that their reunion takes place both physically and spiritually.

It is tempting to put this tale into Freudian terms. The three realms could be the Id (nixie), ego (wife), and superego (old woman). The two realms could stand for the disintegration of the personality (bi-polar, schizophrenia), and the one realm to represent the reintegration, the healing, of the personality. Many fairy tales fit neatly into the Freudian mold as Bruno Bettelheim famously noted.

With the fire tongs I work the unburnt ends of logs in toward the glowing embers.

I could view the tale in Campbellian terms (I looked that word up; it really does exist.), which is the “hero’s journey.” When the miller bargains with the nixie, I see that as the “call to adventure.” When the huntsman washes the blood from his hands and is snatched by the nixie, he enters the “belly of the whale.” The old woman whom the wife encounters is the “supernatural aid.”  Escaping from the nixie only bring them more hardship, casting them upon the “road of trial.” At the end of the tale the husband and wife are reunited, which is of course the “ultimate boon.

I could invent another scenario about how the story reflects on the trials of a mundane world’s marriage, but I need to stop somewhere.

The tension that pervades this tale is that of the tentativeness of our existence, an element which underlies most good fairy tales. I sympathize with both the husband’s and the wife’s travail. It’s the story’s pattern that leaves me with a sense of satisfaction. Events come full circle. And of course, there is a happy ending.

I notice my shivering has stopped and I drift off to sleep lounging before the fireplace.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: December 2014 The Winter Rose

Winter Rose ford_beauty H J Ford

A Ceremony

Christmas Eve in my study has a form that must be followed. Thalia, although of tender years, insists on decorum. Traditions survive because of children.

We start with my reading The Night Before Christmas to her and Teddy, all of us squeezed between the arms of the comfy chair by the hearth. Over the hearth fire is a three-legged cast-iron pot containing mulled cider warming up to be ladled out into cups; the convenience of a microwave is not to be considered.

I recently found out there is a controversy surrounding C. C. Moore’s rendition of the poem, but that sort of thing cannot be mentioned now. The poem—tonight—is sacred.

Following that, it is my choice what to read. Grimm has nothing about Christmas in their canon. A winter-themed story that I have not already read to her and Teddy proves hard to come by, but I manage. I peruse my copy of Jack Zipe’s translation of Grimm, finding what I want in the third story from the last. The Winter Rose.

It is a Beauty and the Beast variant, complete with a traveling merchant, three daughters, and three requests, the youngest asking for a rose. As it is winter, the merchant cannot find a rose. On his return trip home, he comes across a garden, half in winter, half in summer.  The summer half has roses in bloom. The merchant picks a rose and returns to the road. A black beast chases after him, demanding with a threat that his rose be returned.

The merchant ends up keeping the rose, thinking he has outwitted the beast, but the beast forcefully seizes his youngest daughter and take her to his castle.

There the violence ends. The beast dotes on the girl until she becomes fond of him. After a time, she wishes news of her family. The beast shows her a mirror in which she can see what is happening at home. Her father lies on his deathbed.

At this point in the story, we stop to serve ourselves some cider. Thalia provides a doll’s teacup for Teddy’s cider, but I am sure he is going to spill it.

The daughter pleads with the beast to let her visit home and he relents, allowing her a week but no more. During her visit the father dies. In her grief, she overstays her time. Upon return to the beast’s castle, she finds he has disappeared. Winter dominates the garden. There she finds a heap of rotting cabbages, under which she uncovers the beast, who appears to be dead.

She pours a bucket of water over the beast to revive him. Up rises a handsome prince, the garden returns to summer, and they marry.

“I like the garden,” says Thalia, finishing her cider.

I like the garden too.

She toddles off to bed, dragging Teddy behind her. I clean up the cups and the spill.

Has anyone explored the role of gardens and cabbages in fairy tales? That does sound like a pedantic inquiry, even to me. But I am conscious that while popular fiction dwells on the unusual, exotic, and exciting, my genre pulls from the mundane. Popular fiction plucks low-hanging fruit, fairy tales look at the root.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: December 2014 The Winter Rose

Winter Rose boyle_beauty Eleanor Vere Boyle

Boxing Day

It’s Boxing Day and I visit Augustus, bearing the gift of a quality fountain pen, knowing his abhorrence for other ink devices. The shop isn’t open, but Augustus lives above his store, and his friends know the shop door is unlocked on this day after Christmas. As I enter, I am delighted to see Duckworth already there, the two of them surrounded by a haze of pipe smoke.

As I enter into this fraternal matrix, Duckworth asks me, “What have you been spouting at your granddaughter these days?”

“Spouting, spouting,” I object. “This is Christmas; I am sharing.”

Duckworth’s waves his hand in a gesture of acquiescence.

The Winter Rose,” I supply.

Winter Rose,” Augustus echoes. “Ah, yes, The Summer and Winter Garden.”

“Pardon?”

Behind Augustus’ eyes I know his encyclopedic mind is sorting through the data. “The story appeared in the 1812 edition as The Summer and Winter Garden, but was soon replaced by The Singing Springing Lark, the first version appearing in the notes, until it reappeared, as I recall, in the last edition as The Winter Rose.”

Duckworth looks mildly amused. “How many editions were there?”

“Seven,” I say, taking out my pipe.

“For a children’s book, really?”

Augustus smiles. “They initially produced the work for an intellectual, nationalistic Germanic audience. As it gathered a popular following, they kept re-editing it to suit bourgeois tastes.”

I settle into one of the comfy chairs and tamp my pipe. “It seems to me—with The Winter Rose being an example—there are at least as many gardens in fairy tales as spinning wheels.”

Augustus nods. “Part of that is the extensive number of these Beauty and the Beast variants littering the fairy-tale field, the better number of them having a rose plucked from a garden. However, beyond these variants and still staying within Grimms’ collection there is Rapunzel, The Lettuce Donkey, and The Hare’s Bride, in which the garden plays a large role, and the garden is mentioned in passing in such stories as The Fisherman and his Wife and The Pink Flower.”

Duckworth clicked the stem of his pipe on his teeth. “Spinning wheels and gardens are ordinary things. Why are they of any interest?”

“Exactly because they are ordinary.” Augustus relights his pipe. “Fairy tales move from the everyday to the extraordinary, suggesting to us that the common can be imbued with meaning we did not notice before.”

“I am taken by the image of a garden half in summer and half in winter.” I look to Augustus for his thoughts. “I didn’t realize the first incarnation used that image in its title.”

“The tale is not that well known.” Augustus’ eyes are not focused. This is good. He is formulating, not recounting. “But anyone who has read it is struck by the garden in two seasons. What is it? Ying and yang? Folk recognition of duality? The cycle of life and death?”

“All of the above, I’d guess.” Duckworth puffs contentedly. He’s smoking “Elfish Gold” I realize.

“I’ll concur,” I say. “Pre-Freudian listeners were not schooled to analyze the hidden meanings of images. They felt the images, emotionally, as I am sure modern listeners still do—initially—before their brains take over.”

“I like that,” says Duckworth. “You suggest moderns try to think their way out of a fairy tale.”

Augustus looks dubious.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: December 2014 The Winter Rose

Winter Rose goble beauty Warwick Goble

A Rose

The smell of burning logs on the hearth sets me at ease. The glow from the fireplace illuminates my corner of the study. A Chromebook glows over my fingers, a Christmas present from my daughter. I like that they call it a “book.” That gives me permission to have it in my lap.

My favorite computer game is treasure hunting across the web, searching for tidbits on a topic. My topic tonight is “roses.”

I tip-tap in “roses in fairy tales.” Below the offers to buy roses in fairy tales from various proprietors, Grimm stories with the word “rose” appear, Snow White and Rose Red, Briar Rose, and The Rose. I follow the link to The Rose. It’s an odd little, grim Grimm tale about a youngest son encountering a child in the wood, who gives him a rosebud, saying he will visit again when the rose blooms. The next day the rose blooms, and the mother finds her youngest son dead.

The Winter Rose does not appear in the listings.

Typing in “roses symbolism” brings a wealth of information. Starting with the Wikipedia entry, and linking through the other offerings, a consensus emerges. The rose, as a symbol, pervades Western culture.

The entries like to start with the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and their goddesses’ connection with the rose. I ran across two references to the Roman practice of hanging a rose on the door or from the ceiling of a room where matters of secret are to be discussed. Hence the term “sub rosa,” that is to say, “under the rose.”

The name Rosicrucian has something of the same origin, in that the rose lies at the heart of their symbol, the Rose Cross.

Another fun item: the rose holds the honored position of being the national flower of England. That came about with Henry VII, who introduced the heraldic Tudor Rose, which is composed of the red rose of the House of Lancaster and the white rose of the House of York. Henry ended the fifteenth-century civil war—later branded the War of the Roses—between the two houses by defeating Richard III in battle (A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!) and marrying into the House of York.

Continuing my search, I find a lot about the rose representing the Virgin Mary and other sainted women, the rose garden symbolizing Paradise, and the rosary connection to our flower. When I consider the rose appeared in the Old Testament largely metaphorically and not symbolically, and does not appear in the New Testament (according to my source), I jump to the assumption that the rose in Christianity is a medieval invention.

My “Ah ha!” moment comes when the internet provides a link to Tam Lin. Tam Lin, of course, that quintessential Scottish ballad.

She had not pulled a double rose,

A rose but only two,

Till up then started young Tam Lin,

Saying “Lady, pull thou no more.”

 

“Why pullest thou the rose, Janet,

And why breakest thou the wand?

Or why comest thou to Carterhaugh

Withoutten my command?”

 

I had not seen Tam Lin in the usual list of Beauty and the Beast variants, probably because it is a ballad. The ballad dates to at least as early as 1549. Given its age, I wonder if it might not be the inspiration for that plucking-of-the-rose motif.

I look up at the hearth. For a moment I see a rose in the flames, its solid red petals and verdant green leaves in contrast to the orange and yellow flames. It quickly turns to ash.

Your thoughts?

 

Fairy Tale of the Month: October 2014 Fitcher’s Bird

fitchers bird RackhamArthur Rackham

It’s Halloween

Thalia’s mother had taken her trick or treating, allowed her to snack on some of the loot, given her a bath, and now Thalia, with Teddy dragging behind, is in my study, a demonic gleam in her eye.

“Tell me a scary one.”

For a moment I consider Blue Beard, but judging her tender years, I settle on another.

“How about The Fitcher’s Bird?”

“A bird? That’s not scary.”

“It’s got a sorcerer, a skull, other body parts, and . . . ”  Now I sell it. “And blood.”

“Tell me.” Thalia and Teddy settle into my lap.

A sorcerer kidnaps young women with the intent of marrying them if they can pass his test. He declares he must journey for a few days and leaves the girl with an egg, which she must carry with her, and the keys to the manor, which she may explore with the exception of one room. He even points out the key it is she must not use on pain of death.

The sorcerer has captured the eldest of three sisters and puts her to the test. Inevitably, after her explorations of the manor, she finds herself in the forbidden room facing a basin filled with the hacked-up bodies and the blood of the women who entered the room before her.

Trembling at the sight, she drops the egg she carries and it falls into the bloody basin. No amount of cleaning will removed the stain on the shell, giving her away upon the sorcerer’s return.

“You went into that chamber against my will,” he says, “and now against your will you shall go into it once again. Your life is finished.”

Thalia’s thumb is in her mouth. She hasn’t done that for some time. I am hoping I haven’t crossed the line with this choice.

The sorcerer returns to the abode of the sisters and steals the second eldest and the scenario repeats itself. The third and youngest sister, in true fairly-tale fashion, is a different matter. She stashes the egg safely away before heading directly to the forbidden room.

There, with unexplained wisdom, she pieces the body parts of her sisters back together, restoring them to life, then hides them in another room.

“Whew!” Thalia is relieved and her thumb released from duty.

Appearing to have passed the test, the bride now demands the sorcerer carry a basket of gold to her parents before the wedding. In the basket she conceals her sisters, instructs the sorcerer/bridegroom not to rest or tarry, and says that she will be watching him from a window. She puts a decorated skull in the attic window as her decoy, but it is her sisters’ voices from inside the basket that goad the carrier on, allowing him no rest.

Meanwhile, the bride dips herself in honey, rolls in white feathers, and goes outside to greet the wedding guests, the sorcerer’s nefarious companions. The sorcerer himself does not recognize her, thinking she is the bejeweled skull in the attic window looking down on him.

Help, sent by the sisters, quickly arrives, shuts up the house with the sorcerer and wedding guests inside, and burns it down.

Content with just the right amount of fright for a Halloween night, Thalia and Teddy toddle and drag themselves off to bed.

Your thoughts?

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