Friday, November 13, 2009

In which Cousin Jennifer sends me a boxful of destiny.

It looks like ordinary beauty cream.

But no!

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!


Leah Z said...

Cousin Jennifer's package thoroughly trumps any envelope of moist panties. What will you do?

Too bad you don't have one of these Choose Your Own Adventure Graphs to guide you:

(The best part is under "animations." Choose a book and then click "play.")

Carvel said...

Finally, a new post, Marie. It's about time!
I really enjoyed it, and have no significant complaint to make.
However, so far as the minutiae go, which of the following should carry more weight?
On the positive side, you placed the trademark mark after "Oprah". But, on the possibly-negative side, you might have employed an incorrect, or substandard, spelling: I seem to recall "plebeian" rather than "plebian."
Perhaps I'll look it up.
This could remind me of the time when the instructor in my "Descriptive Writing" course at Weber College took exception to my using "lovable" rather than "loveable" (Wow, this current dispute ALSO involves a dropped or retained E!) My memory has significantly faded in 40 years, but I do remember insisting that my version was acceptable in an ordinary (abridged) dictionary. And apparently I have a subconscious fixation, or strong preference, for spellings resulting from dropping an E, because in the 6th grade I lost the spelling bee because I spelled "judgment", and the teacher insisted on "judgement." Or could all this be merely a series of coincidences?
Thanks again for the delightful, if too brief, entertainment, Marie! Have a great week!

Carvel said...

A minute triumph is better than none, I suppose: Wikipedia shows, "plebeian" but not "plebian."
I learned from the article that a plebeian person at Rome was called a "pleb", not a "plebe."
So I suppose that when that certain category of students at West Point is/are called, "plebes", that is a modern, and not an ancient term.
Boy, with my talents for minutiae, I should have been a scholar!

Keryn said...

You are amazing, Marie. And hilarious.

And I SO SO SO want the "Wicked Plants" book. It's been on my list ever since I heard an NPR interview (or some public radio station) with the author. I'm actually hoping Santa leaves it under the tree for me.

sharonsfriendjen said...

I love this post!! Your cousin Jennifer has a lovely name by the way. I can't wait to see which path you choose. I say follow the dark side. You know me, the dark side is MUCH more fun :)

Sharon said...

Ok, you have the world's hippest cousins.

lenalou said...

You are fabulous and so is Cousin Jennifer.

JennMarshall said...

Yikes Cousin Leah... moist panties!? That is just cruel! But perhaps I am not one to judge since my gift has cast our cousin into the deepest of turmoil! Dear Cousin Marie - I give you my word that I was ignorant of the malevolent plot at hand.

Marie said...

Leah -- You know that the moist panties live in my kitchen, don't you? In a discreet place of honor where I can get a laugh out of them but they won't shock my guests? I loved those CYOA books. I wish I could get the online one to work -- I click Animations and get nothing.

Dad -- I've always preferred the spellings *with* the e, which are now considered 100% incorrect by American dictionaries. So I guess you were just a few decades ahead of your time. Or a bit too British for your own good. Too much Monty Python. As for the spelling of plebeian, it appears that yours is the primary spelling and mine is a variant. While we're nitpicking, in America the punctuation goes INSIDE the quotation marks, dude.

Keryn -- It's a great little book. Spitting plants and exploding plants and plants that make you insult your mother. It's a lot of fun. If Santa doesn't bring it, you can borrow mine.

Jen -- I know. And no one likes straight-up good characters anymore anyway. There is no evil in modern stories -- just misunderstood. Misunderstood witches, misunderstood dragons, misunderstood serial killers.

Sharon -- They really are highly awesome, and that is one truth that I did not have to learn. Even as a kid I knew I was lucky in the cousin department.

Lena -- Cousin Jennifer and I thank you for the compliment.

Cousin Jennifer -- I choose to believe you. 'Tis a lovely gift even if it proves my undoing. It's the thought that counts, and you can put that on my headstone :)