Fairy Tale Logic by A.E. Stallings
Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—
You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.
Alicia Elsbeth Stallings (A.E. Stallings) is an American poet and translator, named a 2011 MacArthur Fellows. Stallings was raised in Decatur, Georgia and studied classics at the University of Georgia and University of Oxford. She is an editor with the Atlanta Review. In 1999, Stallings moved to Athens, Greece and has lived there ever since. She is the Poetry Program Director of the Athens Centre and is married to John Psaropoulos, who is the editor of the Athens News.
A beautiful reading of Fairy Tale Logic by Tom O'Bedlam
Tom O'Bedlam's comments were so thought-provoking, my interpretation of Stalling's poem wouldn't add much to what he's written although I might feel the inclination to try one day.
The following was excerpted from his video link:
The following was excerpted from his video link:
"The fairy tale of the modern girl is romance and marriage. First there's the dilemma of choosing a partner: the available men might seem outwardly equally suitable. They wear "identical masks", one of them is your Prince, but which? Marry the wrong man and he might turn out to be a monster.
It's common for people to advise you to "be yourself" or "be true to yourself" - as if the self were only one immutable thing. We can be many things: we all have a range of possible selves. We can turn out to be Saints or Sinners, depending on what circumstances we find ourselves in and who meet along the way.
The right partner is the one who makes you into the best self you could possibly be, who makes you both feel good and be good. The wrong partner brings out the worst in you, making you miserable, perhaps, argumentative and lazy.
Choosing the right partner isn't easy: we tend to be swayed by superficialities and what other people think. There's an Arabic proverb: "finding a good woman is like plunging your hand into a barrel of poisonous snakes, in the hope of that you will succeeding in pulling out one of the few non-poisonous snakes therein."
Young people who have always lived at home with an attentive mother find it hard to cope when they are out on their own in the world, they're like babes in the wood. There are good students who have a hard time adjusting to university life and looking after themselves. They wanted the freedom, perhaps, not realizing that it doesn't come cheap. These are the new brides who miss their home life and their mothers.
The reality may be very different from what a newly married woman anticipated - or maybe she was caught up in the magic of the wedding and never thought about it how it would afterwards be at all. The drudgery of everyday life, the relative poverty, the tasks that maybe she never had to do before like cooking and cleaning the house. What he asks of you may seem to be impossible without self-sacrifice.
Many women are faced with tough dilemmas as a consequence of living their fairy tale: they have to find a new determination, a secret strength. In marriage, even a good marriage, there is always some subjugation of the will and ambition.
Let me give you one of my favourite quotations from Alfred Adler
"Monogamy is the highest sexual goal of mankind: it is a combination of a man and a woman in a working partnership in which each puts themselves in the other's place and works to fulfill the other's needs and ambitions. They form a gestalt, more than the sum of its parts, stronger or more effective than either could be alone. In this they find a happiness that transcends all other human relationships." Actually that's from a distant memory and garnished by invention: I can't find the original. Adler's Marriage as a Mutual Task is worth reading: Link
If the marriage ends in divorce, loss of the first-born son - or any child - might well be possible. It's more likely in middle eastern countries, such as Iran, where the mother will lose custody of her son when he is two years old or if she remarries..." Link
Click here to further commentary by Tom O'Bedlam
Other interesting links:
The Better to Entertain You With, My Dear by Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times. "The world from which fairy tales and folk tales emerged has largely vanished, and although it pleases us to think of these stark, simple, fantastic narratives as timeless, they aren’t. Thanks to video games, computer graphics and the general awfulness of everyday life, fantasies of all kinds have had a resurgence in the past few years. But the social realities on which the original fairy tales depend are almost incomprehensibly alien to 21st-century sensibilities; they reek of feudalism. And the lessons they’re supposed to teach our young don’t have much force these days. Kids learn to be skeptical almost before they've been taught anything to be skeptical of."
The WoN Cinema: La Belle et la Bete (about 90 minutes long in several parts)
WoNderland: Malignant Narcissism: From Fairy Tales to Harsh Reality (Research article)