[DWJ] Feeling sorry for Penelope (was Fire and Hemlock Question)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Aug 22 18:15:48 EDT 2006

And then it was Dorian again:

>Minnow replied to me...

>> Dorian wrote:
>>>I always get annoyed when the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" turns into a
>> I don't get annoyed exactly, I just think it's futile; the moral of that
>> story when I was told it as a child was "handsome is as handsome does",
>> and
>> the Beast was already kind and lovable inside so he didn't *need* to be
>> any
>> ol' boring Prince as far as I was concerned.
>Well, yes, that's a large-ish part of my annoyance; the stupid futility of
>it.  (Also, Handsome Princes are, to me, intrinsically boring, whereas the
>Beast is interesting.)

I suppose the poor things can't help their looks any more than dear Beast
could, and one should strive to be charitable, but why do they *always*
have to be "handsome"?  How about "The Intelligent Prince" or "The Lucky
Prince" or "The Prince With A Heart Of Gold", who turn up when they aren't
being the heroine's rescue-pawn but are Seeking Their Fortune?  How come
they are never the ones who meet the Princesses Disguised As Goosegirls?

>> Some of the heroines of the Norse folk-tales are positively oomph-ful.  I
>> suppose it's not surprising.  That east-of-the-sun west-of-the-moon girl
>> is definitely in charge, and nobody's pawn: it's her idiot lover who is in
>> need of care-and-protection.
>The Norse girls are great, aren't they!  No surprise that "East of the Sun
>and West of the Moon" is one of the tales DWJ specifically references in
>"Fire and Hemlock".

For a long time I thought I was the only person who had ever heard of it,
because none of the people I knew at school knew what I was talking about
when I mentioned it -- or come to that "The Mill That Kept On Grinding
Salt", or "The Bear On The Dovrefell", which were all in Sir George
Dasent's *Tales From The Norse*.  Nobody had ever heard of Little Ludivik
either (he built card houses, and Annie-the-Witch blew them down again, and
they lived in *Christmas Tales From Flanders*), and I really did start to
believe that my mother's collection of books from her childhood, which
included Elizabeth Wordsworth's *The Snow Garden* and Laurence Housman's *A
Doorway In Fairyland* and Walter de la Mare's *The Lord Fish* and Mrs
Ewing's *Old-Fashioned Fairy Tales*, and a book called *Lob
Lie-By-The-Fire* that has got lost drat it, was uniquely wonderful and we
had the only copies in the world of these books.  (When *Castle Blair* was
mentioned as being on the bookshelf in *My Friend Flicka* I was completely

*And* we had Beatrix Potter's *The Fairy Caravan*.  They all knew Peter
Rabbit, but none of them knew that one, and Habitrot -- and she's another
splendid woman in a fairy-story.  Maybe tales from the Lake District are
more Norse, on account of it holding out against the Conquest for so long?

>> Where *does* the story of the girl who makes shirts for her six brothers
>> out of thistles to disenchant them from being swans come from?
>*Seven* brothers, isn't it?  But anyway.  I couldn't swear to it, because
>the book is in my parents' house and I'm not, but I *think* this one is
>another Norse one; I'm fairly sure the book I know it from is a collection
>of Norse tales.  (Must see if I can find that book when I'm over there

Do let me know if it is: she seems to be a Saga-ish female to me!

>> Now *there's* a girl with ooomph -- and not a male
>> protector in sight anywhere, as far as I remember, given that the King who
>> marries her whilst she's not-speaking because the spell requires silence
>> for its breaking isn't exactly supportive, what with sending her to be
>> burned at the stake for eating her children and all.
>The king is a bit of a prat, really...and doesn't she stay with him after
>All Is Revealed?  That's a bit annoying.

Well, they do have three sons by then, whom his wicked mother hid away as
soon as they were born, and maybe she feels some responsibility for
bringing them up to have a bit more sense then any of the *other* men in
the family!

All those kings do seem to have terrible taste in wives, really.  Or maybe
the first wife is so sweet and all the rest of it before she dies young
that they marry tarters second time round just for a bit of interest in
their lives.  That would explain the awful mothers that the Princes often
have, too.


More information about the Dwj mailing list