It is magical. Dangerous. It offers a Choice, and upon this Choice turns the fairy tale.
You all know that if you are walking through the woods and meet a warty old woman who asks for your last dry biscuit, you must ALWAYS give it to her, right? Of course you do -- you all passed Happy Endings 101. Well done.
Well, this enchanted youth cream is from another folk tale trope. In case you’re not familiar with it, it goes like this:
Plucky plebian opens the door of her humble hut and sees a peculiar package. In it are three thingies –
the elixir of youth,
a book of cursings,
and a book of rejoicings.
There is no note explaining the purpose of these three gifts, but no note is needed, for they were forged in the Cosmic Smithy and exist only to reveal the girl's character and assign her destiny.*
Three Paths diverge from the mysterious box.....
PATH THE FIRST: If the heroine ignores that liquid loveliness and reaches first for the book of cursings, if she chooses to giggle over descriptions of twitchy death-by-jimson-weed, she will thereafter hold the power to destroy her enemies in delightful ways. She will become the sadistic sorceress in a thousand bedtime stories.
But hope remains for her despite this dark decision, for one day her up-creeping ugliness might remind her of her mortality. She might have a witchy midlife crisis, pull that dusty box from under the jar of pickled newt spleens, open up the book of rejoicings, and let it transform her into a nice ugly witch. The sort of ugly witch that wanders into other people’s fairy tales, plants herself by the byway, and trades nifty dragon-proofed swords for lousy dry biscuits.
PATH THE SECOND: If she ignores the youth juice and reaches for the book of rejoicings, then she chooses to seek for beauty in the ugly, to wonder in her weakness, to linger lovingly over the shape of scissors and the browning of bread, and her hair will gray into silver and her face will line into labyrinths and she will become the Wise Woman in the Willows. Wannabe white knights, damselbound, will cheerfully drop $39.95 (plus their last dry biscuit) for her self-helpings in hardback.** She might even score her own Oprah spinoff show.
PATH THE THIRD: If she reaches for the seductive elixir of youth (oh, Wail! oh, Doom!), nothing thereafter can save her soul. No power over life nor death will move her, for she will no longer love life nor dread death – she will only prize praise.*** No waking death will frighten her, so long as it wears a lovely face. No tortured life will concern her, so long as its catwalk stride is strutty. The moment she touches the vial of vanity, she becomes a hollow shell.
Nay, worse: a shadowy shell, shallow, sure to shatter.
So I stare into this wondrous box that appeared on my doorstep.
What will I reach for first? What will be my fateful fate? Will my ending be Disney or the grimmest Grimm?
Buzz off, ye Joseph Campbellites! I will not be your cautionary Everychick! This morality tale is going offline til further notice!
Must consult the OprahTM Omniscient Oracle Object**** I scored with my last dry biscuit.
Oprah will have the answer. And if not Oprah, then one of her many minions.
* And were mailed to her by her sweet and classy cousin who apparently is actually a sweet and classy double agent, hired by the nosy gods to sift her very soul. Why, Cousin Jennifer? Why?
I’m She's not ready for the truth, and you know it!
** Popular titles include Melt Monsters with the Power of Positive Thinking, French Knights Don't Get Fat, Passive-Resistant Dragonslaying for Dummies...
*** She might also adore alliteration. Just a jot.
**** In Ostentatious Onyx -- collect all five fabulous finishes!