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Also it has interesting things to say about the way older women are treated both in fairy tales and real life.

Paid Piper

May. 25th, 2010 09:34 pm
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Once upon a time I said The pied piper seems to be a trickster archetype, he is very often depicted as a jester figure and I wonder if you could follow the thread far enough you would find at the end a depiction of the God Pan, or some other trickster god. because to me tricksters and gods are kind of intertwined, I automatically see tricksters as gods or godlike figures. Damaged and dangerous gods sometimes, often but still gods

Ive been reading Tanith Lees Red as blood (which is beyond awesome BTW) and the first story the Paid Piper retells it from the position that the piper is a god, but what Terry Pratchett would call a "small god" he only exists so long as people believe in him. He offers the people freedom from cages and ties but they refuse him and his punishment is devastating. but tricksters offer no middle ground and they often offer and give people what they think they want and not what they need. He could have loosened their bonds, and opened t6hir eyes but if you cut all the bonds don't things fall apart, isn't part of being human acknowledging and acting on our ties and responsibility, isn't being human about balance?

The story describes him as a "Vagabond" a beautiful word along with words such as tatterdemalion and ragamuffin, all shapeshifty, tricksterish, pied pipery words

It is a beautiful sad story in which almost everybody loses.
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I liked this book a whole lot, it's thoughtful, complex and has well drawn characters. I wrote in a recent post that within the Rapunzel story was a retelling dying to get out here about a narcissistic overprotective over entitled adoptive parent, and this is pretty much it. It tells the story of a woman (who is just known as "Mother") who was barren and became bitter with it and would do anything to have a child including sell her soul. She is so desperate for this child and so selfish that she doesn't care about the grief and anguish she has caused to the child's mother:

the crying woman would have other children. Of course she would. she was a breeder; one look told you that. but for the running woman, the escaping woman, the child was unique

It's a really interesting critique of how being infertile in a world that says women are broken if they can't or don't have children affects women. After all this woman is extremely talented in all sorts of ways, she's musical, she's a talented seamstress and embroiderer, she has a knack with other peoples children and yet she feels broken, unfinished if she can't have her own. It also explores how some women feel so entitled to a child, any child, that they ignore the grief of the women the child comes from. When Mother discovers Zel is pregnant it is this more than the knowledge of the prince or the fact zel has kept something from her that causes her to banish Zel, her jealousy that Zel is able to have so easily something that she yearned for so long leaves her furious.

This story is also a beautiful study in mother daughter ambivalence. The narcissistic obsessive love of the mother turns itself into something abusive and controlling, convinces itself that locking Zel up in the tower is "for her own good".

Mother is desperate to keep Zel by her side easily and although she convinces herself that she wants zel to want the same out of her own free will, out of love, she also has high bargaining chips that she knows are more likely to keep Zel by her side:

I work hard too keep my arms from becoming iron like my teeth. As much as i would want to i must not shackle Zel to me. I love her. That love must be returned freely. I cannot bear anything less.And I have a ready means of persuasion p61

Zel loves her mother, deeply, as a child would if their mother was the only person they had ever really known but mixed in that love is increasing resentment and fear at the constrictions Mother places on Zels life:

Then stay with me Mother. Oh stay
I must search for the enemy
"Someday you will tire of looking for this enemy. You seem near exhaustion when you come"
"I will never tire of it Zel. I will protect you forever."
The words chill Zel more than the fall winds, more than anything else mother could have said.

Zel knows that keeping her mother happy is vitally important and in a way she wants to but she is also angry so she resorts to passive aggressive defiance:

Zels only reliable company is mother. the one slim daily hour with mother is zels best treasure. She must be obedient and good, so mother will come without fail. She calms herself...Zel feels the tension in mothers hands on her hair, Mother is always tense when zel talks of the goose. Other things make Mother Tense, also. Zel can't resist exercising her power to make mother anxious. She is almost giddy as she speaks.

Napoli has a really coherent understanding of an adolescent in mental distress. After zell has been locked up for a good amount of time her sanity starts to fracture

Zel shakes her head harder and harder...Each time her ears hit the floor they ring. Her Chest rises in pain...Pain is lovely. It stands out from a vast sea of monotony

Zel would take that sharp stone and dig trenches up the lengths of both arms, She would fill her room with blood. She would do many things. But for Mother, dear Mother

But she does not stand a second too long in the light. The suns seduction has to be planned against. The sun tries to make her believe in colours

These passages along with Zells repetitive, obsessive thought patterns and her hallucination of friendly animals depict excellently the inner workings of a trapped, emotionally abused and virtually abandoned adolescent.

One of the things I especially liked was that Napoli explained things that in the original story don't make a whole lot of sense. It never made sense to me why Rapunzel's father would agree to give his unborn child away so easily. In this retelling Mother makes thorns grow up around him that cut into his flesh and threaten him with blindness until he agrees.

I have to say though I didn't really like the prince, he seemed as obsessive and controlling as Mother, he also seemed like a scary stalker. But I suppose there is only so much you can do with fairy tale princes,

Something I didn't think about while reading the book but that strikes me now is how well the settings are described, how real and easily imaginable they are. i don't have a big imagination for places but I could see these all vividly, almost smell and feel them.

cross posted to [ profile] other_tales
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The wolf, now piously old and good,
When again he met Red Riding Hood
Spoke: ‘Incredibly, my dear child,
What kinds of stories are spread–they’re wild.

As though there were, so the lie is told,
A dark murder affair of old.
The Brothers Grimm are the ones to blame.
Confess! It wasn’t half as bad as they claim.’

Little Red Riding Hood saw the wolf’s bite
And stammered: ‘You’re right, quite right.’
Whereupon the wolf, heaving many a sigh,
Gave kind regards to Granny and waved good-bye.

Rudolf Otto Wiemer.
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nobody gets eaten and the wolf escapes!

Also interesting how the woodcutter becomes her father.
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I grow old, old

without you, Mother, landscape

of my heart.   No child, no daughter between my bones

has moved, and passed

out screaming, dressed in her mantle of blood



as I did

once through your pelvic scaffold, stretching it

like a wishbone, your tenderest skin

strung on its bow and tightened

against the pain.   I slipped out like an arrow, but not before



the midwife

plunged to her wrist and guided

my baffled head to its first mark.   High forceps

might, in that one instant, have accomplished

what you and that good woman failed

in all these years to do:      cramp

me between the temples, hobble

my baby feet.      Dressed in my red hood, howling, I went –




the white clad doctor and his fancy claims:       microscope,

stethoscope, scalpel, all

the better to see with, to hear,

and to eat – straight from your hollowed basket

into the midwife’s skirts.     I grew up



good at evading, and when you said,

“Stick to the road and forget the flowers, there’s

wolves in those bushes, mind

where you got to go, mind

you get there”. I

minded. I kept



to the road, kept

the hood secret, kept what it sheathed more

secret still.   I opened

it only at night, and with other women

who might be walking the same road to their own

grandma’s house, each with their basket of gifts, her small hood

safe in the same part.    I minded well.   I have no daughter



to trace that road, back to your lap with my laden

basket of love.  I’m growing

old, old

without you.    Mother, landscape

of my heart, architect of my body, what other gesture

can I conceive



to make with it

that would reach you, alone

in your house

and waiting, across this improbable forest

peopled with wolves and our lost, flower-gathering

sisters they feed on


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October 2010

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