slightly Ot: fairy tales

minnow at minnow at
Tue Sep 30 15:04:54 EDT 2003

Jennifer wrote:

>The fairy godmother in The Slipper and The Rose is my favourite- slightly
>astringent, determined not to wear sparkles and wings, and very overworked.
>("I sometimes wish we had never been invented!")

There's a couple of fairy godmothers whose authors have a sideways swipe at
the whole conventional element ...  One is in Joan Aiken's story about the
girl whose godmother happens to be a fairy, and sends her a wish (in
Patience Strong rhyme) in each birthday card; unfortunately the wishes
weren't very well thought out, and they always do exactly what the rhyme
specifies, and (for instance) it's a downright embarrassment to have
flowers growing wherever you step if you travel to work by London
Underground!  (The escalators get clogged with vegetation apart from
anything else.)  The other is somewhere in an anthology called "The Second
Century of Humour", which we had when I was a child, and concerns the old
Three Wishes business: the prince wishes for I think it's called a Wunk
because he wants to know what one is, then when he has met it he wishes it
away again very swiftly, and the fairy gloatingly says words to the effect,
"Tee hee, told you so, everyone does that, only one wish left!" and the
prince says "Sez who?" and she says "Sez me," and he says, "OK then, I wish
for three more wishes..."  She gets him in the end, but some of the things
he wishes for by accident (after he's increased the wishes to fifty, and
then to several million) are finely drawn as comic moments.  I think that
story was written by someone called Anthony Armstrong, but I know nothing
else of his and may have got the name a bit wrong.

I also rather like the fairy godmother in a story by Dickens, who says
things like "Are you questioning my judgement?" and when the girl whose
godmother she is says, "No, no, I wouldn't dream of it, of course not!"
replies, "Be good then, and don't." in a forbidding voice.  Um.  "The Magic
Fishbone"?  Something like that.  The girl has just the one wish, and is
very sensibly hoarding it in case of Real Emergency, and her father keeps
wanting it to be used.  But for some reason that story doesn't seem to be
in the Complete Collected (blue cloth bound) Dickens we have in the house.
Not Uplifting enough, or something, I suppose.


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