Thursday, November 23, 2006

In a Strange Land


...and a replete Thanksgiving to you all, courtesy of Peregrine White who was born off Provincetown as a certain ship first dropped anchor.

Have been dipping into Frazer's The Golden Bough in search of "shiny bits."

Remember that endless ditty, There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea?
Which we all sang right after the one involving greasy, grimy, gopher guts?
Seems to me the song may be the remnant echo of how-to-kill-the-evil-magician and based on the primitive concept of an external soul, rather familiar in folk tales from Hindi to the Hebrides.
The standard trope concerns a giant, a magician or a king who is immortal or invulnerable because he keeps his soul hidden far, far away. There is, of course, a female involved, who by her hussy arts in pillow talk (suitably glossed for tender ears), flattery, or sheer guile, inveigles her captor to reveal his secrets.
Thank heaven for little girls.
The Russian tale of Koshchei the Deathless repeats the pattern thus:
"far from here and hard to find there is an island in the middle of the ocean. On that island is a green oak, and beneath the oak is an iron chest, and in the chest is a small basket, and in the basket is a hare, and in the hare is a duck, and in the duck is an egg; and he who finds the egg and breaks it, kills me."
There's a frog on a log in a hole in the bottom of the sea.

All this reminds me of the G.K Chesterton quote:
Fairy tales don't teach children that monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed.

Traditions themselves are things for which we may be most thankful.

22 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Happy Thanksgiving, even if you're Canadian so it's late!

I've noticed here on the New Brunswick border there are as many Canadians buying turkeys in the grocery store as Americans. Is it the cheaper price, or are they angling for a second Thanksgiving? Enquiring minds want to know...

As far as fairy tales teaching children that monsters can be killed, I'd have to agree that some do that; but there are a lot of old tales that are intended to be horribly, horribly cautionary.

Have you seen really old versions of fairy tales, the ones that are illustrated and which haven't been watered down for kids?

I recall a particular one which had a little boy running with scissors. There were illustrations. They featured a lot of blood spatter in a progressive series of drawings as running with scissors had Consequences. The result? Loss of hands, feet, an eye (or some similar and gory variety of limb damage)... What really got to me was the depiction of the spraying arterial bleeding! Ew!

Bernita said...

Good morning, Writtenwyrdd.
Thank you. Happy Thanks to you.
They may be buying them just for cheap, or for cheap intending to freeze them for Christmas.
Bird is good anytime though.

Those sound like Edward Gorey's inspiration.

anna said...

What a magnificent fox!
Loved the Chesterton quote.
I agree about faerie tales - most are gory things but there is usually a moral - Good prevails over Evil. IMHO Some little kiddles could do with a good scare -- ducking.
Enjoyed this blog immensely Bernita. As for the turkeys - wish I was close enough to fill the freezer HAH

Bernita said...

Thank you, Anna.
I certainly enjoy yours!
When the mundane world intrudes too much I will go read it for an infusion of magic.
Lately, I've replaced the turkey with 2-3 chickens ( stuffed, of course) as easier to handle.

MissWrite said...

Happy turkey day to you all! I've never heard the Chesterton quote before. I like that. I always feel like I've left here with a little bit of knowledge I didn't have before Bernita. And so for my first act of Thanksgiving, Thank you for all the time you take on your wonderful blog throughout the year.

Carla said...

Did GK Chesterton say that? I've liked that quote since I first heard it but never got round to finding its provenance. Isn't it strange how some elements of the same tale keep turning up in different cultures all over the world? As if stories were hard-wired into the human brain, along with language (which I suppose they are).

Steve said...

i like the quote also. Hadn't heard it before, but so true.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Tami, for that warm thought and for just being out there.
I am immensely thankful for you all.

Got it from a secondary source, Carla,and assume it's a Chesterton but confess I didn't check.
What further amazes me is how strong and current some of those elements are.

It IS nice, isn't it, Steve?

EA Monroe said...

...and me without a spoon. Even after all these years, I still catch myself humming school yard ditties. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Bernita. I always enjoying visiting and having the flood gates of my thoughts unclogged. ;)

Bernita said...

Inspiration?
EA, why do you think I visit you?
I am thankful I found you.

Ric said...

Happy Turkey Day! Almost 50 degrees here - much better than last year when it was 5 and 8 inches of snow!
Bernita, with a great topic, as always. I've never agreed with the dumbing down/ sanitized versions of old tales. The instructive nature has been altered too greatly.

Bernita said...

"Turkey Day..."
I like that. Same to you, Ric.Thank you.
Sunny/bright day here too.

The PC versions make me snort. I corrupted my kids with the older ones.
Wonder if that is one of the reasons why Harry Potter was so popular? Kids distrust the warm 'n fuzzy/send the wicked witch to counselling style?

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Ice storm here,so I'm staying put until black Friday shopping!

LOL...that explanation at the bottom reminds me of nesting dolls...

And the word "inveigle" ...LOL...I haven't heard that in years! It used to be one of my Mom's favorite words when I was young!

Bernita said...

An ice storm?
Last week it was a flood. Bonnie, are you sure you're not among Egyptians? (At least it's too cold for locusts...

One of your mother's favourite words... Hmmm... Now I wonder why...

Happy Thanksgiving, Bonnie love.

raine said...

Gorgeous painting, as always.

I think you're right about the fairy tales, monsters, and Harry Potter. I remember gleefully making up un-sanitized fairy tales for my sister's children when they were little, and they ADORED them. To this day, they tell the stories, and the story behind hearing the stories, to everyone who'll listen.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Bernita said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Raine.
You have such a beautiful blog.
~sighs~
Somehow not surprised they adored your stories.

Meant to note: picture, "Red Fox," is an oil by Galina Perova.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Egads, don't say locust! They may materialize out of thin air!

At least our area made it to be designated a federal disaster! $25 Mil damage to just the roads, not including everything else.

And now that it's afternoon, you'd never know there was ice this morning...all gone!

PBW said...

I've always wondered how American parents would react if Disney had animated the original version of Alf Laylah wa Laylah (Aladdin/The 1001 Nights.) Scholars don't think that one was written as children's literature, as it contained lots of adult elements, including sex, alcohol and drugs.

Fairytales annoyed me when I was a kid, but most of the heroines were lousy problem-solvers or beyond stupidly helpless. I thought Snow White especially needed a good kick in the pants -- but back then, every good Catholic girl knew that you never take apples from strangers.

MissWrite beat me to it, but like her I always leave here with more knowledge and beauty than when I arrived. Thank you, Bernita.

Robyn said...

A-freakin-men, PBW. Cinderella was another one I wished would grow a spine. At least spit in stepmama's tea, okay?

Happy Thanksgiving, late. Loved the Chesterton quote. Did you ever read Hans Christian Andersen's stuff, especially Thumbelina? Dark and disturbing, but good!

raine said...

Thank you, Bernita.
A great compliment from a woman of your taste.

M.E Ellis said...

LOL @ the quote.

:o)

Bernita said...

Am so glad you live uphill, Bonnie!

It would make a great adult movie though, PBW!
Snow White particularly burned my wee behind.
The only decent character was the Huntsman. Fortunately I had access to earlier versions of many tales where the females were not entirely TSTL.
Thank you.
Hard to say without it sounding like serious suckage, but I admire you. Much.

Enchanting background plus direct and honest attitude, Raine, is always a winner.

Glad, Michelle.