Fairy Tales/Chaucer

alexandra.bolintineanu at utoronto.ca alexandra.bolintineanu at utoronto.ca
Thu Apr 6 16:47:02 EDT 2000

On Thu, 6 Apr 2000, McMullin, Elise wrote:

> > I always liked it because I felt that the leads *deserved* to live
> > happily ever after - the heroine makes her own luck, and the hero
> > finds her in the end by being observant and intelligent, not by
> > carrying some stupid shoe around and hoping that the first person it
> > fits will be the right one."

A most satisfying thought indeed.

> Hey, I didn't even know there were all these versions of it around - but we
> must all be thinking of the same story.   I read it in the English Faery
> Tales book I mentioned way back on the favorite books survey Nat put
> together.

Ooh, it would be lovely if you could dig up the title--the names of the
stories sound absolutely and positively enthralling.

> I like the older version, where she is a tough cookie, better.  What gets
> her in trouble is she tells her dad "I love you more than meat loves salt."
> He is pretty insulted.  I recall this pronouncement by her seemed incredibly
> strange and mysterious to me when I was a kid.  It made me experiment on my
> dinner more than once.

A lovely formula!  There's a Romanian version of the story (quite King
Lear-esque, with the two false fawning daughters and the one loving but
far too forthright one) in which the youngest daughter tells her father
that she loves him more than salt on meats, whereas his elder daughters
protest that they prize him more than sweetmeats and sugar. He drives the
younger daughter out, and, clever girl that she is, she marries the prince
of the next kingdom.  When her father comes to the wedding, she singles
him out and serves him soup with honey, steak with sugar, turnips with
marmalade... By the end of the meal he acknowledges the worth of her love
with tears.

As a child I loved that story, and asked to have it read to me over and
over.  Much was my dismay when at the tender and impressionable age of
eleven, when on an exchange trip to Austria, I was offered sugar on my
polenta (which every good Romanian eats only with salty cheese or milk or
delicious vegetables) and honey on my steak.  (The household dog, decadent
beast that he was, had a fine time of it.)
> There were some other stories in that book which were really powerful.  One
> was The Laidly Wyrm of Spindleston Howe.  Even the title!  The Red Ettin,
> Kate Crackernuts and my personal favorite - Mr. Fox.  I love Mr. Fox.

Indeed, if you should remember the title, I would be immensely and soppily
beholden to you.  There is nothing finer on earth than a truly fine

<  A few
> years ago in one of the annual Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy
> anthologies, I came across a new version of Mr. Fox - I remember the writer
> was familiar, but I forget who. 

If the new version was poem-like and harped on the formula "be thou bold,
but not too bold" (how deliciously sinister), then it must have been the
amazing Neil Gaiman.  (I've finally assented, after many friendly
entreaties, to discover the Sandman series; and oh how FABULOUS those
stories are--powerfully imaginative, stirring, disturbing, learned, and
altogether delicious.)


P.S.  My thanks to Elise, for suggesting Lisa Gerrard, whose music I am
now busily proselytizing (? is that a transitive verb?) among friends.
And Hallie & Becca, I've finally got a hold of The Tannahill Weavers--such
delicious music, sauntering in a cheerful way, and *most* reminiscent of
life in a certain pink cart.

P.P.S.  I *hate* Griselda.  We just studied her story in my Chaucer course
a while back, and Bah!  it was one of those few stories to fling across
the room.  Speaking of Chaucer, too, I would heartily recommend The House
of Fame (unfinished, alas) to those who are fond of DWJ's world-building.
Travel to the centre of the world, where lies the House of Fame, to which
voices travel through the air from each of the world's corners.  Receive
instruction in physics from a whiny golden eagle.  Visit, above all, the
fantastick House of Rumour.  (Don't mind me, I burble.)  Like DWJ, Chaucer
has that amazing gift to render a prodigiously imaginary place
extraordinarily vivid--with a sense of humour, too!

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