A Deal Me In catch-up post

Hello again!  Hope anyone who is reading this is doing well and, if it’s winter where you are, staying warm.  🙂 

I was off to a good reading start this year, but the last month has been nothing short of hectic.  My excuse this time is I’ve been mentoring young programmers on a local robotics team, gearing up for a big competition next month.  Between work during the day and robots in the evening, reading was pushed to the back burner.  However, the bulk of our programming is completed, and now we can kick back a little and I can (hopefully) find time to read again.

I’m actually on track with Deal Me In; I’ve just not blogged regularly.  Here are the stories I’ve drawn for the last month or so (and yes, diamonds keep randomly showing up!).

Q ♣ Circles

This essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson is probably quintessential Transcendentalist reading.  In “Circles,” Emerson encourages the reader to look at life in the form of circles – Venn diagrams, really.  He suggests there is always a bigger circle than the one you see; that, for example, knowledge and religious beliefs are circles which can be at some future date surpassed by larger circles, the decryption of the present unknown.

Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood; and if there is any truth in him, if he rests at last on the divine soul, I see not how it can be otherwise.  The last chamber, the last closet, he must feel, was never opened; there is always a residuum unknown, unanalyzable.  That is, every man believes that he has a greater possibility.

It was interesting to read this story at this time.  I recently read up on the Sikh religion and can see certain parallels between Sikhism and Unitarianism, the latter of which has links to Transcendentalism.  I can see the appeal in this philosophy, but I find problems with it, from a religious standpoint – but I won’t go into that here (at least, not for now). 

This is a good one to read if you want to get the gist of Transcendentalism in a short, digestible format.
 
9 ♣ The Death of a Moth 

My first Virginia Woolf was disappointing, actually.  The writing in this sketch is ok, but underwhelming for such a big name.  I still want to read one of her longer works; maybe short stories weren’t her thing.

5 ♦ Rumpelstiltskin

A wicked king enslaves a girl to spin gold…and then marries her?!  I don’t remember this one being so troubling – did I grow up with a censored version?  Either way, another unsettling story collected by the Grimm brothers. 

4 ♦ The Woman with Two Skins

You know it’s a bad story when it starts and ends with slavery.  The Grimms have serious competition with this frightful tale, which I found on World of Tales.  It was collected by a man named Elphinstone Dayrell (there’s a fairytale name!), who apparently worked as a district commissioner in Nigeria and was a member of the Royal Geographical Society…considering he was interested in local folk tales, I’d say he was probably unusual for a colonist.  This story has certain universal elements – a wicked woman, a witch (male, in this case), and a small but strong protagonist.  In any case, though some may not like the turn-of-the-century British vocabulary, I have to give Dayrell credit for documenting the story.  I’m not sure it’s suitable for children; like Grimm, it is what it is!

7 ♦ Hansel and Gretel

I have memories of sitting in a computer science lecture and viewing a graph of what looked to be white noise.  “You may think it looks random, but a truly random pattern wouldn’t look so evenly distributed.”  This Deal Me In challenge is confirming it in every respect – my thorough shuffling may have been random, but that doesn’t necessarily equal balanced!

I’ll assume you know the story of “Hansel and Gretel”…there is really not a whole lot I can add to it.  It does bring me to the question – why are the antagonists in fairy tales so very often female?  And not just female, but in a twisted mother-figure role: the stepmother in “Hansel and Gretel,” the stepmother in “Cinderella,” the Snow Queen, all the witches, etc.  Now I’d be curious to know whether the original storytellers were male or female, and whether any of these stories were based on real life events.  After I finish this challenge, I think I’ll be seeking out further reading about the Grimm brothers and their collection of stories.

What say you – any theories as to why it’s always evil stepmothers and wicked witches?

Q ♦ The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen by Elena Ringo
The Snow Queen byElena Ringo http://www.elena-ringo.com
[CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

” His stuff always makes me cry.  😦 ”  That was my summary note, on finishing “The Snow Queen.”  It’s true; either his stories have aged well, or I have aged hardly, but Andersen always gets to me.  I shouldn’t have put this one off, and I’m glad it came early on in Deal Me In (while it’s still winter in the Northwest!).
 
“The Snow Queen” was the original inspiration for Frozen.  I love the story of Frozen, and I’m not sorry they deviated from the original, but “The Snow Queen” is as good a story as it is a different one.  It starts with a magical mirror that distorts the viewer’s sight, so that if they look into it, all they see is bad things.  The mirror breaks into pieces that get scattered over the world and find their way into people’s eyes and hearts, making them cold hearted.  At the same time, two neighborhood children, Gerda and Kay, find their friendship split apart when Kay disappears while sledding in the snowy street.  Gerda, who really loves Kay, decides to leave the safety of her home to search for him.  She encounters strange obstacles of all kinds, as she braves summer and winter, temptation and fear, to find her lost friend.

Short of being a huge coincidence, the Snow Queen rings bells of the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I was quite surprised, but it must have been C. S. Lewis’s tribute to (may I call him?) the King of Fairytales:  “‘We have driven well,’ said she, ‘but why do you tremble? here, creep into my warm fur.’ Then she seated him beside her in the sledge…”  It is an extremely menacing gesture, because it is so seemingly kind.  I don’t want to be the reviewer who always looks for “loss of innocence” as the theme, but honestly, that was the vibe I got.

It is not just Kay who is taken away by a stranger; Gerda also encounters strangers who don’t wish her well.  I loved the fact that Andersen chose Gerda to be the “knight in shining armor” – not merely of her own doing, of course, but in part through her determination and faith.  As in “The Wild Swans” (another favorite) and “The Little Mermaid,” the little girl becomes a heroine.  She doesn’t need brute force, only what help she can find, and, in “The Snow Queen,” prayer.  It’s also interesting that Andersen deliberately wrote Christian themes into the story: another parallel to LWW.

I think this has probably got a larger readership since the release of Frozen – still, “The Snow Queen” is quite an underrated fairytale.

J ♦ The Prince Who Feared Nothing

Using my Lighthouses deck this time!

The Prince Who Feared Nothing is another strange tale from the Grimm Brothers’ collection.  It is about a young prince who, “sick of living in his father’s house,” goes off into the world to end his boredom by having adventures.  As is usually the case in the world of Grimm, his boredom is soon relieved by the equivalence of an R-rated film, when he falls into the path of an evil giant and vies against demons to save a beautiful princess from her spell.

It is hard to find a rhyme, reason, or moral to this story, since the prince is rather dense, not exactly “fearless” in the best sense of the word.  Some reviewers find the princess’s subplot to be a racist statement; it could be, or it could be referring to some kind of disease, I’m not sure.  Either way, the story has a speed of narrative that is typical of Grimm tales.  Maybe after so many generations, the tale lost some of its old morals and meaning, and became simply one child’s imperfect memory passed on to another.

Deal Me In 2016

In 2015, I was on a roll with this challenge, then, eight stories in, failed as gloriously as I had begun.  On the bright side, I still have my list and eight new stories to replace the “read” ones.  I’m going to ace it this time (pun intended)!  🙂

Challenge hosted by Jay at Bibliophilica.


A – Snow White – Grimm
2 – The Minotaur – Hawthorne
3 – The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights – Pushkin
4 – The Woman with Two Skins – African folktale
5 – Rumpelstiltskin – Grimm
6 – The Shadow – Andersen
7 – Hansel and Gretel – Grimm
8 – The Girl Without Hands – Grimm
9 – The Fir Tree – Andersen
10 – Puss in Boots – Grimm
J – The Prince Who Feared Nothing – Grimm
Q – The Snow Queen – Andersen
K – King Thrushbeard – Grimm


A – The Argonauts of the Air – Wells
2 – A Country Doctor – Kafka
3 – The Adventure of the German Student – Irving
4 – Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor – Kafka
5 – The Artist of the Beautiful – Hawthorne
6 – The Purloined Letter – Poe
7 – The Country of the Blind – Wells
8 – A Report to an Academy – Kafka
9 – The Hunter Gracchus – Kafka
10 – My Kinsman, Major Molineux – Hawthorne
J – The Masque of Red Death – Poe
Q – The Last Question – Asimov
K – William Wilson – Poe


A – Investigations of a Dog – Kafka
2 – A Little Woman – Kafka
3 – The Nightingale and the Rose – Wilde
4 – Eleonora – Poe
5 – A Virtuoso’s Collection – Hawthorne
6 – Wedding Preparations in the Country – Kafka
7 – The Lady with the Dog – Chekhov
8 – Regret – Kate Chopin
9 – The Necklace – Maupassant
10 – The Looking-Glass – Chekhov
J – The Snow-Image – Hawthorne
Q – The Cherry Orchard – Chekhov
K – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – Bierce


A – Symposium – Plato
2 – Nature – Emerson
3 – On Heroes and Hero-Worship – Carlyle
4 – In Defense of Sanity – Chesterton
5 – On the Duty of Civil Disobedience – Thoreau
6 – Common Sense – Paine
7 – On Evil Euphemisms – Chesterton
8 – The Twelve Men – Chesterton
9 – The Death of a Moth – Woolf
10 – Self-Reliance – Emerson
J – Camping Out – Hemingway
Q – Circles – Emerson
K – The Snows of Kilimanjaro – Hemingway