Fairy Tales 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Of Feminie Subtlety

"Of Feminine Subtlety" could not have a more typical fairy tale beginning. We begin with a king, and his three sons. The king finds himself nearing death, so he divides his fortune amongst the three sons, and then dies. Interestingly, we never see the other two sons again. In a "typical" fairy tale, moral weaknesses of the two older sons cause them to forfeit whatever advantages they've gained from their deceased father, only to have the cunning, earnest, youngest son hatch a plan to get these treasures back. In this case, the older sons are thrown to the periphery of the narrative, and it is in fact the youngest son's foolishness that drives the plot. The story does maintain the ambiguity in time and place typical for a fairy tale, other than the conspicuous naming of the lead character; Jonathan. As the end of the story is overtly Christian allegory, perhaps this is a biblical reference. The story is also fairy tale like in that it seems to be preaching a very specific moral theme, that man's desires for women can cause trouble and that the only happy life is one in service of the Christian God. The "concubine" whom cons Jonathan out of his inherited treasures does so with quite mundane tactics. For the most part, she just asks for the things and Jonathan the fool just gives them over. The first two instances are nigh identical. The third thievery, that of the blanket, is done after he falls asleep with his head in her lap. I don't know if this was meant as sexual, but the proximity between his head and her groin, analogous to his mind being preoccupied with sex, certainly calls attention to itself. The story does not end in marriage, Jonathan instead enacting violent revenge through the use of cursed apples and water. The viciousness of it rivals those gloriously graphic punishments from the Grimms, and the son does go back to his family. So while we don't get a marriage for the youngest son to end the story, very atypical, we do get a reunited family.

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