Annotated Fairy Tales: The Wonderful Sheep

Okay, gang, even by my standards this one is seriously out there. It starts at “King Lear” and goes straight to bugfuck crazytown. Along the way we encounter ghosts, talking sheep, and an honest-t0-god rain of lobster-patties. It’s…something.

This particular…thingy…was written by Madame d’Aulnoy of France and published in 1697. (d’Aulnoy also gave us rather more well-known stories, including “The White Cat” which shares some of the same window-dressings, although not the rain of lobster-bits.) The translation is found in Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, nearly two hundred years later.

Racism in fairy tales is hardly uncommon, but most of it is a sort of in-passing commentary (leaving aside things like Orientalism in the Arabian Nights, which is a whole ‘nother can of wet herring.) This fairy tale is somewhat unusual in that it has a black character who gets an actual speaking part, which is something I very rarely run across in European fairy tales and might almost be quite progressive…except that she’s relegated to the same role as the talking animal companions, and it gets worse from there. I honestly don’t know enough about the literature of the era to know how exactly to parse this in the context of the day, but it’s sure cringeworthy now. (If there are any experts on late 17th century French literature who’d like to weigh in on whether this is the equivalent of the crows in Dumbo or was a legitimate attempt at multiculturalism that comes out agonizing three hundred-odd years out, the comments are open!)

Seriously, though, the whole story is just messed up. So of course I had to talk about it.

Without further ado, then…and I may need alcohol to get through this one…I give you:

The Wonderful Sheep

ONCE upon a time–in the days when the fairies lived– there was a king who had three daughters, who were all young, and clever, and beautiful; but the youngest of the three, who was called Miranda, was the prettiest and the most beloved.

The King, her father, gave her more dresses and jewels in a month than he gave the others in a year; but she was so generous that she shared everything with her sisters, and they were all as happy and as fond of one another as they could be.

I told you, it’s starting at King Lear. This is totally how Regan and Goneril got started.

Now, the King had some quarrelsome neighbors, who, tired of leaving him in peace, began to make war upon him so fiercely that he feared he would be altogether beaten if he did not make an effort to defend himself. So he collected a great army and set off to fight them, leaving the Princesses with their governess in a castle where news of the war was brought every day–sometimes that the King had taken a town, or won a battle, and, at last, that he had altogether overcome his enemies and chased them out of his kingdom, and was coming back to the castle as quickly as possible, to see his dear little Miranda whom he loved so much.

It occurs to me that there must be quite an astonishing mail system in this kingdom if they’re getting daily news from the front.

The three Princesses put on dresses of satin, which they had had made on purpose for this great occasion, one green, one blue, and the third white; their jewels were the same colors. The eldest wore emeralds, the second turquoises, and the youngest diamonds, and thus adorned they went to meet the King, singing verses which they had composed about his victories.

When he saw them all so beautiful and so gay he embraced them tenderly, but gave Miranda more kisses than either of the others.

Presently a splendid banquet was served, and the King and his daughters sat down to it, and as he always thought that there was some special meaning in everything, he said to the eldest:

“Tell me why you have chosen a green dress.”

“Sire,” she answered, “having heard of your victories I thought that green would signify my joy and the hope of your speedy return.”

I have no idea how green is supposed to signify this, but I suspect if you’re living with that sort of person, you learn to make stuff up on the spot.

“That is a very good answer,” said the King; “and you, my daughter,” he continued, “why did you take a blue dress?”

“Sire,” said the Princess, “to show that we constantly hoped for your success, and that the sight of you is as welcome to me as the sky with its most beautiful stars.”

Better answer.

“Why,” said the King, “your wise answers astonish me, and you, Miranda. What made you dress yourself all in white?

“Because, sire,” she answered, “white suits me better than anything else.”

Not a good answer.

“What!” said the King angrily, “was that all you thought of, vain child?”

“I thought you would be pleased with me,” said the Princess; “that was all.”

The King, who loved her, was satisfied with this, and even pretended to be pleased that she had not told him all her reasons at first.

I am getting bad vibes about the king. He plays favorites and seems to have some weird paranoia going on.

“And now,” said he, “as I have supped well, and it is not time yet to go to bed, tell me what you dreamed last night.”

The eldest said she had dreamed that he brought her a dress, and the precious stones and gold embroidery on it were brighter than the sun.

The dream of the second was that the King had brought her a spinning wheel and a distaff, that she might spin him some shirts.

But the youngest said: “I dreamed that my second sister was to be married, and on her wedding-day, you, father, held a golden ewer and said: `Come, Miranda, and I will hold the water that you may dip your hands in it.'”

The King was very angry indeed when he heard this dream, and frowned horribly; indeed, he made such an ugly face that everyone knew how angry he was, and he got up and went off to bed in a great hurry; but he could not forget his daughter’s dream.

“Does the proud girl wish to make me her slave?” he said to himself. “I am not surprised at her choosing to dress herself in white satin without a thought of me. She does not think me worthy of her consideration! But I will soon put an end to her pretensions!”

Good thing she didn’t tell him about the dream where she was trying to get to class and there was a test she hadn’t studied for and then it turned out she was naked.

He rose in a fury, and although it was not yet daylight, he sent for the Captain of his Bodyguard, and said to him:

“You have heard the Princess Miranda’s dream? I consider that it means strange things against me, therefore I order you to take her away into the forest and kill her, and, that I may be sure it is done, you must bring me her heart and her tongue. If you attempt to deceive me you shall be put to death!”

I see Madame d’Aulnoy was cannibalizing Snow White…or wait, this was the 1600’s, maybe the Brother Grimm cannibalized this one. Hmm. Hard to say. The heart is one thing, but the tongue is an interesting twist.

The Captain of the Guard was very much astonished when he heard this barbarous order, but he did not dare to contradict the King for fear of making him still more angry, or causing him to send someone else, so he answered that he would fetch the Princess and do as the King had said. When he went to her room they would hardly let him in, it was so early, but he said that the King had sent for Miranda, and she got up quickly and came out; a little black girl called Patypata held up her train, and her pet monkey and her little dog ran after her. The monkey was called Grabugeon, and the little dog Tintin.

This won’t end well.

The Captain of the Guard begged Miranda to come down into the garden where the King was enjoying the fresh air, and when they got there, he pretended to search for him, but as he was not to be found, he said:

“No doubt his Majesty has strolled into the forest,” and he opened the little door that led to it and they went through.

By this time the daylight had begun to appear, and the Princess, looking at her conductor, saw that he had tears in his eyes and seemed too sad to speak.

He routinely lost large sums at poker.

“What is the matter?” she said in the kindest way. “You seem very sorrowful.”

“Alas! Princess,” he answered, “who would not be sorrowful who was ordered to do such a terrible thing as I am? The King has commanded me to kill you here, and carry your heart and your tongue to him, and if I disobey I shall lose my life.”

The poor Princess was terrified, she grew very pale and began to cry softly.

Looking up at the Captain of the Guard with her beautiful eyes, she said gently:

Will you really have the heart to kill me? I have never done you any harm, and have always spoken well of you to the King. If I had deserved my father’s anger I would suffer without a murmur, but, alas! he is unjust to complain of me, when I have always treated him with love and respect.”

“Fear nothing, Princess,” said the Captain of the Guard. “I would far rather die myself than hurt you; but even if I am killed you will not be safe: we must find some way of making the King believe that you are dead.”

“What can we do?” said Miranda; “unless you take him my heart and my tongue he will never believe you.”

The Princess and the Captain of the Guard were talking so earnestly that they did not think of Patypata, but she had overheard all they said, and now came and threw herself at Miranda’s feet

“Madam,” she said, “I offer you my life; let me be killed, I shall be only too happy to die for such a kind mistress.”

Sigh.

“Why, Patypata,” cried the Princess, kissing her, “that would never do; your life is as precious to me as my own, especially after such a proof of your affection as you have just given me.”

“You are right, Princess,” said Grabugeon, coming forward, “to love such a faithful slave as Patypata; she is of more use to you than I am, I offer you my tongue and my heart most willingly, especially as I wish to make a great name for myself in Goblin Land.”

…okay. This is taking a weird turn. Grabugeon appears to have some peculiar agenda. Is the monkey a goblin spy? Why are goblins impressed by offering to give up your organs?

“No, no, my little Grabugeon,” replied Miranda, “I cannot bear the thought of taking your life.”

“Such a good little dog as I am,” cried Tintin, “could not think of letting either of you die for his mistress. If anyone is to die for her it must be me.”

Oh, barf.

And then began a great dispute between Patypata, Grabugeon, and Tintin, and they came to high words, until at last Grabugeon, who was quicker than the others, ran up to the very top of the nearest tree, and let herself fall, head first, to the ground, and there she lay–quite dead!

It is a bad day when your followers begin committing suicide to spite each other.

The Princess was very sorry, but as Grabugeon was really dead, she allowed the Captain of the Guard to take her tongue; but, alas! it was such a little one–not bigger than the Princess’s thumb–that they decided sorrowfully that it was of no use at all: the King would not have been taken in by it for a moment!

“Alas! my little monkey,” cried the Princess, “I have lost you, and yet I am no better off than I was before.”

“The honor of saving your life is to be mine,” interrupted Patypata, and, before they could prevent her, she had picked up a knife and cut her head off in an instant.

Right, I’m off to get some gin.

And hey, even leaving aside all the unpleasant overtones to this and going straight for the practical, how the hell do you cut your own head off with a knife?

But when the Captain of the Guard would have taken her tongue it turned out to be quite black, so that would not have deceived the King either.

WHAT. THE. HELL.

“Am I not unlucky?” cried the poor Princess; “I lose everything I love, and am none the better for it.”

…more gin. This requires more gin.

Okay. I’m going to leave the black tongue thing because I cannot even figure out how to deal with it—I mean, where do you even GO from there?!—but on a purely psychological note, the princess is really…off…here.

For my money, there are a lot of perfectly appropriate responses to having two friends commit messy suicide in front of you. I would have accepted screaming, wailing, sobbing, curling in fetal position and rocking, swearing, cursing god, and deciding to go back to bed for a month. Any of those would have been fine. This is not fine. Maybe the King was on to something.

“If you had accepted my offer,” said Tintin, “you would only have had me to regret, and I should have had all your gratitude.”

Tintin’s being a bit of a dick about this whole thing.

Miranda kissed her little dog, crying so bitterly, that at last she could bear it no longer, and turned away into the forest. When she looked back the Captain of the Guard was gone, and she was alone, except for Patypata, Grabugeon, and Tintin, who lay upon the ground.

Wait–hang on–how did the dog die? What? Did the Captain of the Guard kill him and take the dog’s heart and tongue? This can’t be a small dog, if it’s got a human-sized heart, and the King will have to be pretty dense not to recognize a dog’s tongue from a human one and dude, this whole sequence is just majorly messed up.

She could not leave the place until she had buried them in a pretty little mossy grave at the foot of a tree, and she wrote their names upon the bark of the tree, and how they had all died to save her life.

A) Have you ever tried to dig a grave for a human and a human-sized dog, with your bare hands, in tree-root filled soil? Not gonna happen. (We’ll assume the monkey was negligibly sized.)

B) That’s a very large piece of bark, or she is writing very very small.

C) If the king is trying to kill you, do you maybe think that right outside the palace is perhaps not the best place to write the full accounting of how you’re deceiving him? This is like the huntsman in Snow White getting his stag taxidermied, wall-mounted, and then hanging a little sign around its neck saying “Used Its Heart To Fool The Queen.”

And then she began to think where she could go for safety–for this forest was so close to her father’s castle that she might be seen and recognized by the first passer-by, and, besides that, it was full of lions and wolves, who would have snapped up a princess just as soon as a stray chicken.

See above on the inadvisability of sticking around writing bark eulogies.

So she began to walk as fast as she could, but the forest was so large and the sun was so hot that she nearly died of heat and terror and fatigue; look which way she would there seemed to be no end to the forest, and she was so frightened that she fancied every minute that she heard the King running after her to kill her. You may imagine how miserable she was, and how she cried as she went on, not knowing which path to follow, and with the thorny bushes scratching her dreadfully and tearing her pretty frock to pieces.

You’ll forgive me if I’m still hung up on the freaky competitive suicide pact and not all that worried about her frock.

At last she heard the bleating of a sheep, and said to herself:

“No doubt there are shepherds here with their flocks; they will show me the way to some village where I can live disguised as a peasant girl. Alas! it is not always kings and princes who are the happiest people in the world. Who could have believed that I should ever be obliged to run away and hide because the King, for no reason at all, wishes to kill me?”

When he’s that kind of king, he’s just that kind of king, honey.

So saying she advanced toward the place where she heard the bleating, but what was her surprise when, in a lovely little glade quite surrounded by trees, she saw a large sheep; its wool was as white as snow, and its horns shone like gold; it had a garland of flowers round its neck, and strings of great pearls about its legs, and a collar of diamonds; it lay upon a bank of orange-flowers, under a canopy of cloth of gold which protected it from the heat of the sun. Nearly a hundred other sheep were scattered about, not eating the grass, but some drinking coffee, lemonade, or sherbet, others eating ices, strawberries and cream, or sweetmeats, while others, again, were playing games. Many of them wore golden collars with jewels, flowers, and ribbons.

This has taken an unexpected turn.

Miranda stopped short in amazement at this unexpected sight, and was looking in all directions for the shepherd of this surprising flock, when the beautiful sheep came bounding toward her.

“Approach, lovely Princess,” he cried; “have no fear of such gentle and peaceable animals as we are.”

“What a marvel!” cried the Princess, starting back a little. “Here is a sheep that can talk.”

“Your monkey and your dog could talk, madam,” said he; “are you more astonished at us than at them?”

This is the only logical thing anyone says in this entire story.

“A fairy gave them the power to speak,” replied Miranda. “So I was used to them.”

“Perhaps the same thing has happened to us,” he said, smiling sheepishly.

*groaaaan*

“But, Princess, what can have led you here?”

“A thousand misfortunes, Sir Sheep,” she answered. “I am the unhappiest princess in the world, and I am seeking a shelter against my father’s anger.”

Dude, quit whining. You’re not even in the top ten unhappy princesses. The girl from Donkeyskin would have a lot to say about that, and the Goose Girl is probably still talking to a severed horse head on a wall.

“Come with me, madam,” said the Sheep; “I offer you a hiding-place which you only will know of, and where you will be mistress of everything you see.”

“I really cannot follow you,” said Miranda, “for I am too tired to walk another step.”

The Sheep with the golden horns ordered that his chariot should be fetched, and a moment after appeared six goats, harnessed to a pumpkin, which was so big that two people could quite well sit in it, and was all lined with cushions of velvet and down.

I keep seeing snatches of other fairy tales here, like the pumpkin carriage, and wondering if d’Aulnoy was taking them or if they got taken from her. Probably this is doctoral thesis material for somebody.

The Princess stepped into it, much amused at such a new kind of carriage, the King of the Sheep took his place beside her, and the goats ran away with them at full speed, and only stopped when they reached a cavern, the entrance to which was blocked by a great stone. This the King touched with his foot, and immediately it fell down, and he invited the Princess to enter without fear. Now, if she had not been so alarmed by everything that had happened, nothing could have induced her to go into this frightful cave, but she was so afraid of what might be behind her that she would have thrown herself even down a well at this moment.

This might save trouble.

So, without hesitation, she followed the Sheep, who went before her, down, down, down, until she thought they must come out at the other side of the world–indeed, she was not sure that he wasn’t leading her into Fairyland. At last she saw before her a great plain, quite covered with all sorts of flowers, the scent of which seemed to her nicer than anything she had ever smelled before; a broad river of orange-flower water flowed round it and fountains of wine of every kind ran in all directions and made the prettiest little cascades and brooks. The plain was covered with the strangest trees, there were whole avenues where partridges, ready roasted, hung from every branch, or, if you preferred pheasants, quails, turkeys, or rabbits, you had only to turn to the right hand or to the left and you were sure to find them.

…sooooo the magic sheep lives in an underground orchard with meat hanging from the branches. No, sir! Nothing weird going on here!

In places the air was darkened by showers of lobster-patties, white puddings, sausages, tarts, and all sorts of sweetmeats, or with pieces of gold and silver, diamonds and pearls.

Like I said…rains of lobster-patties. And puddings. And diamonds. Depending on where in the orchard you go, this could either be near-fatal or very very messy. And what happens to the lobster-patties? Do they just lay around on the grass? Does this whole section stink of rotten fish, or is there some clean-up sheep who comes through with a rake every few hours?

More importantly, how much absinthe was going around the salon that “wonderous” = “rain of lobster-patties”?!

This unusual kind of rain, and the pleasantness of the whole place, would, no doubt, have attracted numbers of people to it, if the King of the Sheep had been of a more sociable disposition, but from all accounts it is evident that he was as grave as a judge.

Keeping his people out from under hurtling gold projectiles tends to keep you grim.

As it was quite the nicest time of the year when Miranda arrived in this delightful land the only palace she saw was a long row of orange trees, jasmines, honeysuckles, and musk-roses, and their interlacing branches made the prettiest rooms possible, which were hung with gold and silver gauze, and had great mirrors and candlesticks, and most beautiful pictures. The Wonderful Sheep begged that the Princess would consider herself queen over all that she saw, and assured her that, though for some years he had been very sad and in great trouble, she had it in her power to make him forget all his grief.

“You are so kind and generous, noble Sheep,” said the Princess, “that I cannot thank you enough, but I must confess that all I see here seems to me so extraordinary that I don’t know what to think of it.”

As she spoke a band of lovely fairies came up and offered her amber baskets full of fruit, but when she held out her hands to them they glided away, and she could feel nothing when she tried to touch them.

This is never adequately explained and seems strangely nightmarish.

“Oh!” she cried, “what can they be? Whom am I with?” and she began to cry.

At this instant the King of the Sheep came back to her, and was so distracted to find her in tears that he could have torn his wool.

“What is the matter, lovely Princess?” he cried. “Has anyone failed to treat you with due respect?”

“Oh! no,” said Miranda; “only I am not used to living with sprites and with sheep that talk, and everything here frightens me. It was very kind of you to bring me to this place, but I shall be even more grateful to you if you will take me up into the world again.”

Take me to a place where the weather does not turn to seafood, I beg of you!

“Do not be afraid,” said the Wonderful Sheep; “I entreat you to have patience, and listen to the story of my misfortunes. I was once a king, and my kingdom was the most splendid in the world. My subjects loved me, my neighbors envied and feared me. I was respected by everyone, and it was said that no king ever deserved it more.”

He’s modest, too!

“I was very fond of hunting, and one day, while chasing a stag, I left my attendants far behind; suddenly I saw the animal leap into a pool of water, and I rashly urged my horse to follow it, but before we had gone many steps I felt an extraordinary heat, instead of the coolness of the water; the pond dried up, a great gulf opened before me, out of which flames of fire shot up, and I fell helplessly to the bottom of a precipice.

“I gave myself up for lost, but presently a voice said: `Ungrateful Prince, even this fire is hardly enough to warm your cold heart!’

“`Who complains of my coldness in this dismal place?’ I cried.

“`An unhappy being who loves you hopelessly,’ replied the voice, and at the same moment the flames began to flicker and cease to burn, and I saw a fairy, whom I had known as long as I could remember, and whose ugliness had always horrified me. She was leaning upon the arm of a most beautiful young girl, who wore chains of gold on her wrists and was evidently her slave.

“`Why, Ragotte,’ I said, for that was the fairy’s name, `what is the meaning of all this? Is it by your orders that I am here?’

“`And whose fault is it,’ she answered, `that you have never understood me until now? Must a powerful fairy like myself condescend to explain her doings to you who are no better than an ant by comparison, though you think yourself a great king?’

“`Call me what you like,’ I said impatiently; `but what is it that you want–my crown, or my cities, or my treasures?’

“`Treasures!’ said the fairy, disdainfully. `If I chose I could make any one of my scullions richer and more powerful than you. I do not want your treasures, but,’ she added softly, `if you will give me your heart–if you will marry me–I will add twenty kingdoms to the one you have already; you shall have a hundred castles full of gold and five hundred full of silver, and, in short, anything you like to ask me for.’

“`Madam Ragotte,’ said I, `when one is at the bottom of a pit where one has fully expected to be roasted alive, it is impossible to think of asking such a charming person as you are to marry one! I beg that you will set me at liberty, and then I shall hope to answer you fittingly.’

I will give the prince credit for thinking on his feet here.

“`Ah!’ said she, `if you really loved me you would not care where you were–a cave, a wood, a fox-hole, a desert, would please you equally well. Do not think that you can deceive me; you fancy you are going to escape, but I assure you that you are going to stay here and the first thing I shall give you to do will be to keep my sheep–they are very good company and speak quite as well as you do.

“As she spoke she advanced, and led me to this plain where we now stand, and showed me her flock, but I paid little attention to it or to her.

“To tell the truth, I was so lost in admiration of her beautiful slave that I forgot everything else,

Oh my god, you’re a moron. Look, I realize common wisdom has it that men think about sex seven hundred times a day or some ridiculous number like that, but you couldn’t go ten minutes, with an evil fairy standing in front of you, without tuning her out to fantasize about her slave girl? Dude. How can you possibly have run a kingdom?

and the cruel Ragotte, perceiving this, turned upon her so furious and terrible a look that she fell lifeless to the ground.

“At this dreadful sight I drew my sword and rushed at Ragotte, and should certainly have cut off her head had she not by her magic arts chained me to the spot on which I stood;

That faint thudding sound is me banging my head quietly on my desk.

all my efforts to move were useless, and at last, when I threw myself down on the ground in despair, she said to me, with a scornful smile:

“`I intend to make you feel my power. It seems that you are a lion at present, I mean you to be a sheep.’

“So saying, she touched me with her wand, and I became what you see. I did not lose the power of speech, or of feeling the misery of my present state.

“`For five years,’ she said, `you shall be a sheep, and lord of this pleasant land, while I, no longer able to see your face, which I loved so much, shall be better able to hate you as you deserve to be hated.’

“She disappeared as she finished speaking, and if I had not been too unhappy to care about anything I should have been glad that she was gone.

“The talking sheep received me as their king, and told me that they, too, were unfortunate princes who had, in different ways, offended the revengeful fairy, and had been added to her flock for a certain number of years; some more, some less. From time to time, indeed, one regains his own proper form and goes back again to his place in the upper world; but the other beings whom you saw are the rivals or the enemies of Ragotte, whom she has imprisoned for a hundred years or so; though even they will go back at last. The young slave of whom I told you about is one of these; I have seen her often, and it has been a great pleasure to me. She never speaks to me, and if I were nearer to her I know I should find her only a shadow, which would be very annoying.

Everyone in this fairy-tale is either dead or unspeakably self-centered. “I ogled the girl and the fairy killed her, but now that she’s trapped in a horrible shadowy undeath, I enjoy ogling her from a distance, but find it annoying that I cannot actually press my sheeply attentions upon her.”

However, I noticed that one of my companions in misfortune was also very attentive to this little sprite, and I found out that he had been her lover, whom the cruel Ragotte had taken away from her long before; since then I have cared for, and thought of, nothing but how I might regain my freedom.

It’s no fun ogling the dead when you know they’re the property of another enchanted sheep.

(Dear god, how am I even in a situation where I am typing that in context?)

I have often been in the forest; that is where I have seen you, lovely Princess, sometimes driving your chariot, which you did with all the grace and skill in the world; sometimes riding to the chase on so spirited a horse that it seemed as if no one but yourself could have managed it, and sometimes running races on the plain with the Princesses of your Court–running so lightly that it was you always who won the prize. Oh! Princess, I have loved you so long, and yet how dare I tell you of my love! what hope can there be for an unhappy sheep like myself?”

Also, I’m a stalker sheep.

Miranda was so surprised and confused by all that she had heard that she hardly knew what answer to give to the King of the Sheep, but she managed to make some kind of little speech, which certainly did not forbid him to hope, and said that she should not be afraid of the shadows now she knew that they would some day come to life again. “Alas!” she continued, “if my poor Patypata, my dear Grabugeon, and pretty little Tintin, who all died for my sake, were equally well off, I should have nothing left to wish for here!”

Prisoner though he was, the King of the Sheep had still some powers and privileges.

“Go,” said he to his Master of the Horse,

The sheep have horses…? Wow, this is getting kind of Animal Farm here.

“go and seek the shadows of the little black girl, the monkey, and the dog: they will amuse our Princess.”

Let’s trap them in shadowy undeath too! It’ll make her feel better!

And an instant afterward Miranda saw them coming toward her, and their presence gave her the greatest pleasure, though they did not come near enough for her to touch them.

I like to think they spent their off hours plotting to trap her in a hellish undeath, too.

The King of the Sheep was so kind and amusing, and loved Miranda so dearly, that at last she began to love him too. Such a handsome sheep, who was so polite and considerate, could hardly fail to please,

I realize that love will find a way and all, and of course he can talk, which is something, but…err…SHEEP! Jesus christ, people! “Where the men are men, and the sheep are enchanted princes who are really kind of bastards.”

especially if one knew that he was really a king, and that his strange imprisonment would soon come to an end. So the Princess’s days passed very gaily while she waited for the happy time to come. The King of the Sheep, with the help of all the flock, got up balls, concerts, and hunting parties, and even the shadows joined in all the fun, and came, making believe to be their own real selves.

The horrible fraying of my soul in the black wind between worlds is hardly noticeable during the party!

One evening, when the couriers arrived (for the King sent most carefully for news–and they always brought the very best kinds),

I will admit, I do love that line. Almost Carroll-esque.

it was announced that the sister of the Princess Miranda was going to be married to a great Prince, and that nothing could be more splendid than all the preparations for the wedding.

“Ah!” cried the young Princess, “how unlucky I am to miss the sight of so many pretty things!

Oh my god, could you be any more shallow?

Here am I imprisoned under the earth, with no company but sheep and shadows, while my sister is to be adorned like a queen and surrounded by all who love and admire her, and everyone but myself can go to wish her joy!”

Wish her joy. Uh-huh. Mind you, the line “no company but sheep and shadows” isn’t bad either. “I’m half-sick of sheep and shadows!” she said, in a very strange retelling of the Lady of Shalott…

“Why do you complain, Princess?” said the King of the Sheep. “Did I say that you were not to go to the wedding? Set out as soon as you please; only promise me that you will come back, for I love you too much to be able to live without you.”

Miranda was very grateful to him, and promised faithfully that nothing in the world should keep her from coming back. The King caused an escort suitable to her rank to be got ready for her, and she dressed herself splendidly, not forgetting anything that could make her more beautiful. Her chariot was of mother-of-pearl, drawn by six dun-colored griffins just brought from the other side of the world, and she was attended by a number of guards in splendid uniforms, who were all at least eight feet high and had come from far and near to ride in the Princess’s train.

They were secretly hoping for a pick-up basketball game with the other guards.

Miranda reached her father’s palace just as the wedding ceremony began, and everyone, as soon as she came in, was struck with surprise at her beauty and the splendor of her jewels. She heard exclamations of admiration on all sides; and the King her father looked at her so attentively that she was afraid he must recognize her; but he was so sure that she was dead that the idea never occurred to him.

However, the fear of not getting away made her leave before the marriage was over. She went out hastily, leaving behind her a little coral casket set with emeralds. On it was written in diamond letters: “Jewels for the Bride,” and when they opened it, which they did as soon as it was found, there seemed to be no end to the pretty things it contained. The King, who had hoped to join the unknown Princess and find out who she was, was dreadfully disappointed when she disappeared so suddenly, and gave orders that if she ever came again the doors were to be shut that she might not get away so easily.

Some faint echoes of Cinderella here, again, but it’s getting a little creepy with the king.

Short as Miranda’s absence had been, it had seemed like a hundred years to the King of the Sheep. He was waiting for her by a fountain in the thickest part of the forest, and the ground was strewn with splendid presents which he had prepared for her to show his joy and gratitude at her coming back.

As soon as she was in sight he rushed to meet her, leaping and bounding like a real sheep. He caressed her tenderly, throwing himself at her feet and kissing her hands, and told her how uneasy he had been in her absence, and how impatient for her return, with an eloquence which charmed her.

Is anyone else wondering how he’s doing all this caressing? I mean, the hooves…

You know, let’s not speculate too closely.

After some time came the news that the King’s second daughter was going to be married. When Miranda heard it she begged the King of the Sheep to allow her to go and see the wedding as before. This request made him feel very sad, as if some misfortune must surely come of it, but his love for the Princess being stronger than anything else he did not like to refuse her.

“You wish to leave me, Princess,” said he; “it is my unhappy fate–you are not to blame. I consent to your going, but, believe me, I can give you no stronger proof of my love than by so doing.”

The Princess assured him that she would only stay a very short time, as she had done before, and begged him not to be uneasy, as she would be quite as much grieved if anything detained her as he could possibly be.

So, with the same escort, she set out, and reached the palace as the marriage ceremony began. Everybody was delighted to see her; she was so pretty that they thought she must be some fairy princess, and the Princes who were there could not take their eyes off her.

The King was more glad than anyone else that she had come again, and gave orders that the doors should all be shut and bolted that very minute. When the wedding was all but over the Princess got up quickly, hoping to slip away unnoticed among the crowd, but, to her great dismay, she found every door fastened.

She felt more at ease when the King came up to her, and with the greatest respect begged her not to run away so soon, but at least to honor him by staying for the splendid feast which was prepared for the Princes and Princesses. He led her into a magnificent hall, where all the Court was assembled, and himself taking up the golden bowl full of water, he offered it to her that she might dip her pretty fingers into it.

At this the Princess could no longer contain herself; throwing herself at the King’s feet, she cried out:

“My dream has come true after all–you have offered me water to wash my hands on my sister’s wedding day, and it has not vexed you to do it.”

Also, I have a death-wish!

The King recognized her at once–indeed, he had already thought several times how much like his poor little Miranda she was.

“Oh! my dear daughter,” he cried, kissing her, “can you ever forget my cruelty? I ordered you to be put to death because I thought your dream portended the loss of my crown. And so it did,” he added, “for now your sisters are both married and have kingdoms of their own–and mine shall be for you.” So saying he put his crown on the Princess’s head and cried:

“Long live Queen Miranda!”

Personally, my first order would be to send him into immediate exile. You’re obviously dealing with an unstable personality here, and tomorrow you just know he’s going to wake up and start the civil war.

All the Court cried: “Long live Queen Miranda!” after him, and the young Queen’s two sisters came running up, and threw their arms round her neck, and kissed her a thousand times, and then there was such a laughing and crying, talking and kissing, all at once, and Miranda thanked her father, and began to ask after everyone– particularly the Captain of the Guard, to whom she owed so much; but, to her great sorrow, she heard that he was dead.

Gee, if you’d thought of it, you could have trapped him in a horrible undeath too!

Presently they sat down to the banquet, and the King asked Miranda to tell them all that had happened to her since the terrible morning when he had sent the Captain of the Guard to fetch her. This she did with so much spirit that all the guests listened with breathless interest. But while she was thus enjoying herself with the King and her sisters, the King of the Sheep was waiting impatiently for the time of her return, and when it came and went, and no Princess appeared, his anxiety became so great that he could bear it no longer.

“She is not coming back any more,” he cried. “My miserable sheep’s face displeases her, and without Miranda what is left to me, wretched creature that I am! Oh! cruel Ragotte; my punishment is complete.”

Y’know, I might–just might–have gone “Oh, crap! Her father, who already tried to kill her once, figured out what was up and decided to finish the job! Maybe I should lay siege to the palace with my awesome SHEEP ARMY and figure out what’s going on before I automatically assume that she hates me because I’m a sheep!”

I have different self-esteem issues than an enchanted sheep, though. I guess that’s a good thing.

For a long time he bewailed his sad fate like this, and then, seeing that it was growing dark, and that still there was no sign of the Princess, he set out as fast as he could in the direction of the town. When he reached the palace he asked for Miranda, but by this time everyone had heard the story of her adventures, and did not want her to go back again to the King of the Sheep, so they refused sternly to let him see her.

People are dicks. On the other hands, the sheep’s sort of a bastard, so maybe they’ve got the right idea.

In vain he begged and prayed them to let him in; though his entreaties might have melted hearts of stone they did not move the guards of the palace, and at last, quite broken-hearted, he fell dead at their feet.

Unexpected. Presumably he’ll be raised from the dead, right?

In the meantime the King, who had not the least idea of the sad thing that was happening outside the gate of his palace, proposed to Miranda that she should be driven in her chariot all round the town, which was to be illuminated with thousands and thousands of torches, placed in windows and balconies, and in all the grand squares.

No fire hazard is too great for my little princess!

But what a sight met her eyes at the very entrance of the palace! There lay her dear, kind sheep, silent and motionless, upon the pavement!

She threw herself out of the chariot and ran to him, crying bitterly, for she realized that her broken promise had cost him his life, and for a long, long time she was so unhappy that they thought she would have died too.

…wait a minute, he’s actually dead-dead?

So you see that even a princess is not always happy– especially if she forgets to keep her word; and the greatest misfortunes often happen to people just as they think they have obtained their heart’s desires!

Dude.

Dude.

That’s a rather astonishing fuck-you to the audience at the end of the story, isn’t it? I mean, on the one hand, you figure with all those Beauty-and-the-Beast-esque endings where Beauty ALMOST doesn’t return in time, there’d have to be a case where she never did return at all, but still! Dude!

My only theory is that the author didn’t much like Miranda either by the end, and decided to crush her.

And I still want to know about Goblin Land, which you note never comes up again, and why the monkey was looking to make a name for herself. It’s such a weird aside that doesn’t go anywhere.

Rains of lobster-patties. What a world.

Annotated Fairy Tale: The Crystal Casket

What the heck, it’s been awhile! Here’s an Italian version of “Snow White” that, in my opinion, focuses on the REALLY important question—namely, what in the name of God was Prince Charming doing mooning after a corpse? (The Disney version really glosses over this point. I will accept that one may wish to kiss one’s dead loved ones one last time, but there’s a far cry between that and riding around kissing random dead girls in the woods.)

There are no dwarves, but there are fairies and an eagle, which is something. There is also an unsettling pre-echo of the whole Real Doll thing. It’s a bit worrisome and gets moreso as time goes on.

Original found at the marvelous folklore archive here. (I have corrected a couple of typos.)

The Crystal Casket

There was once a widower who had a daughter. This daughter was between ten and twelve years old. Her father sent her to school, and as she was all alone in the world commended her always to her teacher. Now, the teacher, seeing that the child had no mother, fell in love with the father, and kept saying to the girl, “Ask your father if he would like me for a wife.”

This she said to her every day, and at last the girl said, “Papa, the school-mistress is always asking me if you will marry her.”

This here is the set-up to a Disney movie all on its own.

The father said, “Eh! my daughter, if I take another wife, you will have great troubles.”

At least he’s aware of it.

But the girl persisted, and finally the father was persuaded to go one evening to the school-mistress’ house. When she saw him she was well pleased, and they settled the marriage in a few days.

Dad’s earlier prescience seems rather weird now. “Well, gonna suck for you. But hey, I’ll get married in a couple days anyway!”

Poor child! How bitterly she had to repent having found a stepmother so ungrateful and cruel to her! She sent her every day out on a terrace to water a pot of basil, and it was so dangerous that if she fell she would go into a large river.

While I try to start out sympathetic to our heroines, I gotta say, a lot of other heroines have to do REAL work. I water my basil occasionally, and it takes about thirty seconds. Basil is not noted for attacking gardeners, pushing them into rivers, or even being particularly frost-hardy. The only way this seems plausible is if it’s a sort of Cat’s Eye inch-around-the-building-on-the-ledge situation, and that renders the basil less than useful for cooking.

One day there came by a large eagle, and said to her, “What are you doing her?” She was weeping because she saw how great the danger was of falling into the stream. The eagle said to her, “Get on my back, and I will carry you away, and you will be happier than with your new mamma.”

This is already much cooler than a pack of dwarves. Do dwarves fly? No, they do not! You never saw Snow White tooling around the treetops on Grumpy’s back, now did you?

After a long journey they reached a great plain, where they found a beautiful palace all of crystal; the eagle knocked at the door and said, “Open, my ladies, open! for I have brought you a pretty girl.”

If this were one of the other types of fairy tales, the next line would be “Fire up the oven!”

When the people in the palace opened the door, and saw that lovely girl, they were amazed, and kissed and caressed her. Meanwhile the door was closed, and they remained peaceful and contented.

Let us return to the eagle, who thought she was doing a spite to the stepmother. One day the eagle flew away to the terrace where the stepmother was watering the basil. “Where is your daughter?” asked the eagle.

Clearly the inching-along-the-ledge thing was exaggerated. If it was really all that bad, you’d move the damn basil to the front porch, but the stepmom is still out on the terrace with a watering can. Also, the eagle appears to be female.

“Eh!” she replied, “perhaps she fell from this terrace and went into the river; I have not heard from her in ten days.”

Meanwhile, somebody’s gotta water the basil.

The eagle answered, “What a fool you are! I carried her away; seeing that you treated her so harshly I carried her away to my fairies, and she is very well.” Then the eagle flew away.

The stepmother, filled with rage and jealousy, called a witch from the city, and said to her, “You see my daughter is alive, and is in the house of some fairies of an eagle which often comes upon my terrace; now you must do me the favor to find some way to kill this stepdaughter of mine, for I am afraid that some day or other she will return, and my husband, discovering this matter, will certainly kill me.”

Or you could, y’know, move the damn basil and tell your husband she was carried off by a freaky talking eagle. Dear old dad is obviously not monitoring the situation closely. Seriously, people, it’s the cover-up that kills you every time…

The witch answered, “Oh, you need not be afraid of that; leave it to me.”

What did the witch do? She had made a little basketful of sweetmeats, in which she put a charm; then she wrote a letter, pretending that it was her father, who, having learned where she was, wished to make her this present, and the letter pretended that her father was so glad to hear that she was with the fairies.

Let us leave the witch who is arranging all this deception, and return to Ermellina (for so the young girl was named).

I take back what I said. Watering basil may be the least grueling task set to a fairy-tale heroine, but anyone named Ermellina has suffered a great deal already.

The fairies had said to her, “See, Ermellina, we are going away, and shall be absent four days; now in this time take good care not to open the door to anyone, for some treachery is being prepared for you by your stepmother.”

She promised to open the door to no one: “Do not be anxious, I am well off, and my stepmother has nothing to do with me.”

But it was not so. The fairies went away, and the next day when Ermellina was alone, she heard a knocking at the door, and said to herself, “Knock away! I don’t open to anyone.”

She is also smarter than Snow White. Plus Snow only got little happy singing bluebirds, and Ermellina gets an eagle.

But meanwhile the blows redoubled, and curiosity forced her to look out of the window. What did she see? She saw one the servant girls of her own home (for the witch had disguised herself as one of her father’s servants). “O my dear Ermellina,” she said, “your father is shedding tears of sorrow for you, because he really believed you were dead, but the eagle which carried you off came and told him the good news that you were here with the fairies. Meanwhile your father, not knowing what civility to show you, for he understands very well that you are in need of nothing, has thought to send you this little basket of sweetmeats.”

Ermellina had not yet opened the door; the servant begged her to come down and take the basket and the letter, but she said, “No, I wish nothing!” but finally, since women, and especially young girls, are fond of sweetmeats, she descended and opened the door.

I don’t even know if it’s worth commenting on specific episodes of sexism in fairy tales any more. There are too many. Instead, I think I’ll stare out my window for a minute. There’s a white-throated sparrow and a couple of doves out there at the moment. No eagles at the time of this writing.

When the witch had given her the basket, she said, “Eat this,” and broke off for her a piece of the sweetmeats which she had poisoned. When Ermellina took the first mouthful the old woman disappeared. Ermellina had scarcely time to close the door, when she fell down on the stairs.

When the fairies returned they knocked at the door, but no one opened it for them; then they perceived that there had been some treachery, and began to weep. Then the chief of the fairies said, “We must break open the door,” and so they did, and saw Ermellina dead on the stairs.

Her other friends who loved her so dearly begged the chief of the fairies to bring her to life, but she would not, “for,” she said, “she has disobeyed me.”

I initially thought that the chief of the fairies was being a bit of a hard-ass here, but when you think about it, you know this isn’t her first heroine. She’s probably been through this a dozen times in the last few centuries, and after the first couple, I imagine you get pretty stern. Raising the dead can’t be a cakewalk even if you’re a fairy. The first couple were probably “Oh, you poor dear! Let me save you from your own stupidity!” but after awhile, you get to “I told you not to open the door! How many times do I have to tell you people never to open the door?! No resurrection for YOU!”

But one and the other asked her until she consented; she opened Ermellina’s mouth, took out a piece of the sweetmeat which she had not yet swallowed, raised her up, and Ermellina came to life again.

We can imagine what a pleasure it was for her friends; but the chief of the fairies reproved her for her disobedience, and she promised not to do so again.

Once more the fairies were obliged to depart. Their chief said, “Remember, Ermellina: The first time I cured you, but the second I will have nothing to do with you.”

“Seriously, kid, I can raise the dead once a month, no more. I was going to go rez a very nice lady with three small children who did good work in the community, but noooo, YOU had to go open the door. This time I’m off to save some lepers. Learn from your mistakes.”

Ermellina said they need not worry, that she would not open to anyone. But it was not so; for the eagle, thinking to increase her stepmother’s anger, told her again that Ermellina was alive.

Whatever you might think of Snow White’s bluebirds, at least they didn’t go start shit with the Queen.

The stepmother denied it all to the eagle, but she summoned anew the witch, and told her that her stepdaughter was still alive, saying, “Either you will really kill her, or I will be avenged on you.”

The old woman, finding herself caught, told her to buy a very handsome dress, one of the handsomest she could find, and transformed herself into a tailoress belonging to the family, took the dress, departed, went to poor Ermellina, knocked at the door and said, “Open, open, for I am your tailoress.”

Ermellina looked out of the window and saw her tailoress; and was, in truth, a little confused (indeed, anyone would have been so).

“Gee, the last time somebody disguised themselves as somebody I knew, but surely this could never happen again!”

The tailoress said, “Come down, I must fit a dress on you.”

She replied, “No, no; for I have been deceived once.”

“But I am not the old woman,” replied the tailoress, “you know me, for I have always made your dresses.”

WHAT old woman? Who mentioned an old woman? Where do old women come into this? The last one was disguised as a servant girl.

Poor Ermellina was persuaded, and descended the stairs; the tailoress took to flight while Ermellina was yet buttoning up the dress, and disappeared. Ermellina closed the door, and was mounting the stairs; but it was not permitted her to go up, for she fell down dead.

Let us return to the fairies, who came home and knocked at the door; but what good did it do to knock! There was no longer anyone there. They began to weep. The chief of the fairies said, “I told you that she would betray me again; but now I will have nothing more to do with her.”

“We’re all invited to a party at the leper’s house, though!”

So they broke open the door, and saw the poor girl with the beautiful dress on; but she was dead. They all wept, because they really loved her. But there was nothing to do; the chief struck her enchanted wand, and commanded a beautiful rich casket all covered with diamonds and other precious stones to appear; then the others made a beautiful garland of flowers and gold, put it on the young girl, and then laid her in the casket, which was so rich and beautiful that it was marvelous to behold. Then the old fairy struck her wand as usual and commanded a handsome horse, the like of which not even the king possessed. Then they took the casket, put it on the horse’s back, and led him into the public square of the city, and the chief of the fairies said, “Go, and do not stop until you find someone who says to you, ‘Stop, for pity’s sake, for I have lost my horse for you.'”

This is oddly specific. I always wonder how much lee-way there is in these things—does the horse get to stop if he finds someone who says “Stop, for god’s sake!” or “Stop, for the love of bunnies!”?

Now let us leave the afflicted fairies, and turn our attention to the horse, which ran away at full speed. Who happened to pass at that moment? The son of a king (the name of this king is not known);

Oh, I’ve been through the desert on a king with no name…

and saw this horse with that wonder on its back. Then the king began to spur his horse, and rode him so hard that he killed him, and had to leave him dead in the road; but the king kept running after the other horse.

I like to think the eagle came by and ate the dead horse. Possibly with basil.

The poor king could endure it no longer; he saw himself lost, and exclaimed, “Stop, for pity’s sake, for I have lost my horse for you!”

Then the horse stopped (for those were the words). When the king saw that beautiful girl dead in the casket, he thought no more about his own horse, but took the other to the city. The king’s mother knew that her son had gone hunting; when she saw him returning with this loaded horse, she did not know what to think. The son had no father, wherefore he was all powerful.

I thought he was the son of a king, but apparently he’s actually the king, or something like that, with a dowager queen in residence.

He reached the palace, had the horse unloaded, and the casket carried to his chamber; then he called his mother and said, “Mother, I went hunting, but I have found a wife.”

“But what is it? A doll? A dead woman?”

“Mother,” replied her son, “don’t trouble yourself about what it is, it is my wife.”

Necrophilia or real doll action? It’s hard to tell, because they start calling her “the doll” later on almost exclusively.

His mother began to laugh, and withdrew to her own room (what could she do, poor mother?).

Ha ha ha my son’s lost his shit oh god ha ha I need a drink…

Now this poor king no longer went hunting, took no diversion, did not even go to the table, but ate in his own room. By a fatality it happened that war was declared against him, and he was obliged to depart. He called his mother, and said, “Mother, I wish two careful chambermaids, whose business it shall be to guard this casket; for if on my return I find that anything has happened to my casket, I shall have the chambermaids killed.”

“Chambermaids killed. Got it,” she said, heading for the liquor cabinet.

His mother, who loved him, said, “Go, my son, fear nothing, for I myself will watch over your casket.”

Do those people who get really into their real doll thingies and talk to them and claim they’re married ever take them to meet their mothers? Does Mom have to sit through dinner with the real doll at the table? That’s sort of what I’m picturing here. “Oh, sure, yeah, I’ll take care of your, uh, “wife.” I’m sure we’ll…um….have a fine time. Yes. You go fight your war, dear. Damn, these bottles do not last as long as they used to, do they?”

He wept several days at being obliged to abandon this treasure of his, but there was no help for it, he had to go. After his departure he did nothing but commend his wife (so he called her) to his mother in his letters.

“Oh look, another letter from Junior. Majordomo! Send me up another bottle of the red. And the white. And those little butter cookies I like.”

Let us return to the mother, who no longer thought about the matter, not even to have the casket dusted; but all at once there came a letter which informed her that the king had been victorious, and should return to his palace in a few days. The mother called the chambermaids, and said to them, “Girls, we are ruined.”

They replied, “Why, Highness?”

“Because my son will be back in a few days, and how have we taken care of the doll?”

“In retrospect, using it for target practice was ill-advised.”

They answered, “True, true; now let us go and wash the doll’s face.”

They went to the king’s room and saw that the doll’s face and hands were covered with dust and fly specks, so they took a sponge and washed her face, but some drops of water fell on her dress and spotted it.

Apparently this was not a tightly sealed crystal casket, if the flies got in. Also, eww.

The poor chambermaids began to weep, and went to the queen for advice.

“You better have brought wine, girls. Momma’s going through a rough patch on the family front.”

The queen said, “Do you know what to do! Call a tailoress, and have a dress precisely like this bought, and take off this one before my son comes.”

This is the fairy tale equivalent of buying an identical goldfish.

They did so, and the chambermaids went to the room and began to unbutton the dress. The moment that they took off the first sleeve, Ermellina opened her eyes. The poor chambermaids sprang up in terror, but one of the most courageous said, “I am a woman, and so is this one; she will not eat me.”

She clearly hasn’t been reading enough fairy tales!

To cut the matter short, she took off the dress, and when it was removed Ermellina began to get out of the casket to walk about and see where she was. The chambermaids fell on their knees before her and begged her to tell them who she was. She, poor girl, told them the whole story. Then she said, “I wish to know where I am.”

Then the chambermaids called the king’s mother to explain it to her. The mother did not fail to tell her everything, and she, poor girl, did nothing but weep penitently, thinking of what the fairies had done for her.

Well, at least she’s learned from her mistakes, one hopes.

The king was on the point of arriving, and his mother said to the doll, “Come her; put on one of my best dresses.” In short, she arrayed her like a queen. Then came her son. They shut the doll up in a small room, so that she could not be seen.

The fact they’re still calling her “the doll” throws a creepy sort of light over all this.

The king came with great joy, with trumpets blowing, and banners flying for the victory. But he took no interest in all this, and ran at once to his room to see the doll; the chambermaids fell on their knees before him saying that the doll smelled so badly that they could not stay in the palace, and were obliged to bury her.

Incidentally, two of the compounds caused by the putrefaction of flesh are called “putrescine” and “cadaverine.” Which is neither here nor there, but rather interesting.

The king would not listen to this excuse, but at once called two of the palace servants to erect the gallows. His mother comforted him in vain: “My son, it was a dead woman.”

“No, no, I will not listen to any reasons; dead or alive, you should have left it for me.”

Finally, when his mother saw that he was in earnest about the gallows, she rang a little bell, and there cam forth no longer the doll, but a very beautiful girl, whose like was never seen.

What I find kind of interesting here is that the queen is obviously trying to keep him from meeting this girl, and only produces her in the end in order to save the two chambermaids from being killed. I could see two reasons for this. One, she doesn’t want him to marry a total stranger with a trash-talking eagle familiar and a pathological fear of basil. This would be quite understandable. On the other hand, I like to think that maybe she realizes that anybody who moons over a maybe-a-doll-but-maybe-a-dead-body in a casket is probably not a good mate for a living woman.

On the gripping hand, maybe she plans to kill him and rule the kingdom with an iron, if somewhat drunken fist. I would also be good with this option.

The king was amazed, and said, “What is this!”

Then his mother, the chambermaids, and Ermellina were obliged to tell him all that had happened.

Sorry, sweetie, I thought we might be able to smuggle you out of the country on eagle-back. Instead you’re gonna have to stick around. Let me pour you some wine…

He said, “Mother, since I adored her when dead, and called her my wife, now I mean her to be my wife in truth.”

“Yes, my son,” replied his mother, “do so, for I am willing.”

You’re sufficiently crazy-pants to kill me if I say no, I expect. Or send me to water the basil. (Maybe this has been a euphemism all along, and “water the basil” is the medieval Italian equivalent of “away in the cornfield.”)

They arranged the wedding, and in a few days were man and wife.

Not to be, um, excessively graphic here, but am I the only person wondering if the king was going to ask her to lay really really still when…ugh. Now I’ve squicked myself out. Where’s that wine, again?

Not dead!

I’m not dead! Really! The Hugo nomination did not kill me! It’s just been a whirl of trying to get crap done, murderous allergies, appalling taxes—I owed more than my CAR cost! And when did the state suddenly turn into a starving wolverine?—and more trying to get crap done. I’m in the death march stage of art for Book Eight, I have to start writing Book Nine–by which I mean I should have started it a couple of weeks ago–and I am trying to come up with a new project for Life After Dragonbreath, which is tricky and involves returning to the rejection circuit. (If you thought that once you had a successful series, you no longer got rejection letters, think again. You just get a better class of rejection letter, which generally boils down to “This one isn’t for us, but since you can obviously sell books, send us the next thing!”)

And we had our driveway re-graveled, which means that there are suddenly large gaps in the wooded area, and if I want any control over what goes there, I have to put the plants in the ground NOW, because disturbed dirt = weedtopia. So I am getting up every morning and dropping seven or eight plants into the ground, which involves digging holes in miserable ground. (Shrub sized holes, some of ’em.)  Then I stagger in and shower and compose blog posts about how overworked I am, and now I have to go write on Book Nine, codename Toothbreath.

Whew. But not dead!