Image by Dina Goldstein for the Fallen Princesses Project
Street of Libraries
I am writing to you on behalf of the Arbitrators of the Patriarchy, in my official role as a representative of the Council of Fables. We have a serious breach occurring in the narrative fabric of the twenty-first century and require immediate assistance; it seems a bunch of previously ignored or exiled characters of folk and fairytale are coming forward and threatening to sue, and I’m not talking chocolate money.
The worst of it is, they’re all mothers, and you know how we hate mother figures. We’ve got the mother of the Little Mermaid insisting that, without her wilful and headstrong character setting the example, little fishy-tits wouldn’t have had the courage to go around trying to cross-breed with landmen and turn into a Christian allegory. We’ve got the mother of HRH Cinderella’s arse-faced sisters complaining that we have supported the current monarchy of Far Far Away in distorting the truth about her ‘situation’, muttering about ‘protecting one’s children in a world openly hostile to divorceés’. We’ve got the mother of Red Riding Hood claiming the whole martial arts ‘theme’ was excluded from her daughter’s fairytale. (Can you imagine how tawdry it would have been if we’d left it in? Karate-chopping beskirted forest dwellers? Really? Woodcutters rescuing virgins is sexier.) All these matriarchs, and more, are claiming that their voices are vital for a fully rounded fairytale, which is a load of gynocentric guff if you ask me.
Then the situation deteriorates. Spurred on by the model set by these harridans, who would look awful on a dust jacket, by the way, previously traditionalist fables have started making unreasonable demands. Snow White wants to set up a Wicked Witch Outreach Program for marginalised older female characters who are, she claims, forced to turn to mischief-making to stay ‘relevant’. Jill wants out of her lifetime working contract with Jack & Jill Inc. so she can set up her own bucket-carrying ‘concern’ in which, she claims, no one is going to go around pulling her down hills. Sleeping Beauty wants a divorce (something to do with ‘I CAN’T FUCKING CONSENT IF I’M FUCKING ASLEEP FOR ONE HUNDRED YEARS CAN I’).
We are prepared to make a deal. If you would be willing to lend your considerable narrative force to power our Silencing, we are, in turn, willing to bend the rules pertaining to your story. Our lawyers have suggested that, since your legend concludes with the rumour that Nimue trapped you in a rock because she was afraid you’d jump her, we can technically bend the story to include the possibility that she failed. And you did get to jump her. If you see what I mean.
I await your reply with great urgency.
Your obedient servant,
4th Rock on the Right
Seventh Blessed Clearing
Forest of Brocéliande
Dear Mr Snufflebottom,
Thanks for your missive, rec’d May 12th.
Would like to remind you that purpose of fairytales is to make folklore and received wisdom entertaining. V. likely it was a bad idea to wear red capes and visit wolves in bed (e.g., start menstruating and shag a hairy stranger) back in the 14th century. No doubt a girl out of the sea / her element / immediate social class deserved martyrdom so that the peasants were kept in order. Nevertheless, altho’ I don’t get around so much these days, I have a feeling times have changed and the tales people tell one another should too. They’ve invented so many fascinating mediums to tell tales in. Might be nice to see some variety on the maiden whose beauty is her greatest asset, rescued by the man with the (metaphorical?) sword. Might be nice to see some mothers. I approve of mothers.
Quite a different sort of female visits my forest these days – bare shoulders & legs in the summer, bright colours even on the commonest of girls in winter. Ah, why do you offer me poor Nimue (how dare you ‘offer’ me poor Nimue?) when I can see these cigarette nymphs, full of piss and vinegar, strutting around like they’ve never been told to treat their gender like a cage? It gets some of them eventually, of course, but I’ll never know love until a woman like that has kissed me then punched me in the face.
Re: lawyer’s loophole. You don’t think I taught the Lady of the Lake everything did you? I’ve been in and out of here since William the Conqueror. Ever wonder where all the wolves in England went? Hoho. Darling of you to try tho’.
Send my love to Nimue. Tell her I’m almost sorry.