Friday, June 24, 2011

Fairytale Reflections at SMoST

Bold as Love Cat Kin The Cat Kin: Cat's Paw

I haven't highlighted last week's Fairytale Reflections at SMoST yet and it is already time for a new one. So now we have two....

Last week was Fairytale Reflections (23) Gwyneth Jones. Jones discusses princesses with some references to Cupid and Psyche as well as Perseus and Andromeda. There is definitely an emphasis on mythology. Here is the first paragraph:

The Princess As Role Model

I’ve always been attracted to fairytales. I knew I was a storyteller long before I knew I’d be a writer: I took on my father’s mantle, and told epic bedtime stories to my brother and sister, at an early age, and my father’s stories (also epic, endless episodes from the same saga, about the same characters) were all based on a traditional tale, the one about a girl who finds out that she once had seven brothers, who were banished and turned into crows when she was born. It has many variants, but from internal evidence the original must be the Moroccan one (The Girl Who Banished Seven). Naturally, she sets off to find them and rescue them from the enchantment. That’s typical of a fairytale princess (she’s one of those who becomes a princess by marriage, but it’s all the same to me). They do the right thing. They stand up to evil step-mothers, and no task is impossible...

This week is Fairytale Reflections (24) Nick Green. Green's success story about self-publishing is interesting, too. Another example of how the publishing world is changing very rapidly. Green discusses Dick Whittington and his Cat. Here are the first paragraphs.

Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!
Turn again, Whittington, thrice Mayor of London!

Is ‘Dick Whittington and his Cat’ really a fairytale? I’m going to call it one. Even though there is no actual magic (but see below), most of the ingredients are there: the poor and naive youth, the quest, the hardship, and at least a semi-supernatural element in the prophecy of the Bow Bells, calling the young Whittington back from Highgate Hill. I would argue that ‘Dick Whittington’ is not just a fairytale, but a particularly interesting one, being the only one (to my knowledge) that features a real person.

The historical Richard Whittington, of course, was Lord Mayor a total of four times (but legend ignores that as it doesn’t scan). Also, he was never particularly poor, and no-one knows if he really kept a cat. According to my diligent academic research (Wikipedia), the story’s origins lie further back, in a Persian folktale of a youth and his cat, onto which the legend of Whittington was later grafted. We can only guess the reason for this, but by all accounts Richard W was an all-round good egg and probably deserved it.

No comments:

Post a Comment