I’ve been on a bit of a puppet kick lately.
New York City: Day 290
Lutz, Florida: Day 13
After studying Mabou Mines in Theatre History via an amazing presentation by Daliya Karnofsky and Siri Hellerman (Truly. It involved orange yarn, bags of jasmine tea, a piggy bank, and absolutely no guarantees. I love graduate school…) I got to reading about one of their productions, Peter and Wendy. The piece features one woman voicing all of the characters in J. M. Barrie’s beloved book. She tells the story on a white stage with stunning puppets reflective of the Japanese bunraku style. It looks eerie and beautiful and heartbreaking. High on my list of things to do when I get back to New York is to take a day trip to the Katonah Museum of Art where the Peter and Wendy puppets currently live.
Because I’m extremely puppet-curious these days, I thought it might be fun to put on a puppet show with my younger cousins. (Note: Sock puppets. Finger Puppets. Not bunraku-style puppets, but puppets nonetheless.) When I proposed that we try our hand at a lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale, one of the girls immediately got excited, telling me about a story she loved called “The Goose Girl”. It was charming… the way she told it.
Last night, I flipped through the Wordsworth Classics edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales until I found our Goose Girl. I wanted to give the actual story a few good reads so that I could get an idea of what kind of puppets we’d need to make today.
I. was. horrified.
Here’s the real story from those grim, grim brothers:
First line: “There once lived an old queen whose husband had been dead for a long time.” A little morbid, but… alright. This widow queen didn’t really want her young daughter, The Princess, being a burden to her, so she decided to send or off to a far-away land to marry a prince she’d never met. (Again, not something I can jive with, but that’s still sort of par for the course with fairy tales.) Before her daughter leaves, the old queen (for reasons that never quite become clear in the story) cuts her hand, bleeds all over a handkerchief, sticks it in her daughter’s dress and shoves her onto a horse with a name something like Falada. With her, the queen sends a waiting woman.
Now, the first major conflict of the story comes when the princess becomes thirty on the journey and the waiting woman refuses to fetch her golden goblet and retrieve water from the stream for her. And I quote, “And as her thirst was so great, the princess had to get down and stoop to drink the water of the brook and could not have her gold cup to serve her.” (Stoop? To drink sans golden cup?! The poor princess.) Then, after traveling for another hour, Princess asks for another drink because “she had forgotten all that had gone before” what with all the stooping and the drinking. (I’m sorry, this girl is pretty dumb.) Again, the writers make this poor waiting woman out to be a total witch when she responds, “If you want a drink, you may get it yourself. I am not going to be your slave.” That sounds pretty reasonable to me. Also, you’d probably be pretty mad, too, if you were getting sent away from your home and family so that you could wait hand and foot on a woman who has the attention and memory-span of a goldfish.
Long story short, the waiting woman “ordered the princess with many hard words” to trade clothes with her so that when they finally reached the kingdom of her betrothed, the waiting woman would be mistaken for the princess. Sure enough, they get there and Little Lord Fauntleroy marries the wrong girl. I’m sorry. If the princess was talked out of her dress and then just stood there mute instead of saying, “Hey. Guys. I’m actually the princess here,” she kind of deserved it, dumb bunny that she is. So, the king gives her the task of tending the geese.
Here’s where stuff gets even more weird. Impostor Queen asks that the horse she and her dim-witted pal rode in on be killed… because she’s afraid he’ll talk. (Ok, maybe everyone in the story’s just a little off.) But the little Goose Girl asks that the head of her horse be nailed up in the town where she can see if every day. So, they nail her horse’s head to a wall. (Brothers Grimm: what the hell…) Every day when she walks by, the little Goose Girl says, “O Falada, dost thou hang there?” (Um, yeah. You had my head nailed up, remember? Oh, wait. Of course you don’t…)
And the horse (or his dismembered head) responds, “If thy mother knew they pain, her heart would surely break in twain.” The king overhears this one day and presses the girl to tell him what would make her mother so sad (other than that she talks to dead animals) but the girl won’t answer. Because she won’t (because she’s dumb) the kind makes her climb into an iron oven. And she does and she’s crying her head off saying, “I’m a king’s daughter!”
So, the old king calls his son and proves to him that the woman he’s happily married to is “only a waiting woman”. (The horror!) At dinner that night, the kind asks the Impostor Queen what should happen to a servant who deceives her masters. The woman says this (I kid you not), “She should be put into a barrel studded inside with sharp nails and be dragged along in it by two horses from street to street until she be dead.” And that’s what they do. And when she’s dead, the prince marries the “true bride” and they rule their kingdom “in peace”.
Is anyone else as disturbed as I am? What kind of twisted messages is a story like that sending to young girls? I was already disturbed enough after flipping through one of my younger cousins’ Girl Talk magazines yesterday to find that they listed “having lunch by yourself” as one of the most embarrassing things that could possibly happen to you. It’s exactly that kind of mentality that had me retreating to the library during lunch period for the majority of my freshman year of high school. Hey, Cousins. If you’re reading this, I often like having lunch by myself. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a cup of coffee and a book and enjoying some solitude. And there’s nothing embarrassing about it, either.
In an effort to make myself less disturbed, I’m going to go tweak this story a bit and put together a script with a strong, smart, and capable woman who can do things for herself, own who she is, and who (on good days) can remember what she had for breakfast five minutes ago. She can still talk to dead animals if she’s into that, but I hope she won’t be. Pictures and puppets and updates to follow.
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