unsettling wonder

Household Tales: A Read Through illus-155   illus-155-title


his tale isn’t really a fairy tale. Tolkien would define it as a beast tale. It’s folktale, clearly, and a truly wonderful tale to tell aloud. It is not a story to be taken seriously. At least not when telling it, or when listening to it.

Afterward, however…

Afterward, it sticks around as one of those tales that—that you just like. It wasn’t just that you like laughing, or that you like talking donkeys, or that you like seeing villains in stories getting hard done by. There’s a deeper meaning here, as with all good tales and all true tales, that lingers. Not a moral, not a didactic teaching—just a deep sense that this, this is real. Whatever it is.

That is why I consider this one of the Great Tales.

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unsettling wonder

Household Tales: A Grimm Read-throughillus-051



his is a story about genocide, anguish, justice, and revenge. A straightforward reading leaves us with a pleasant, diverting tale with the general moral that ‘Mummy Knows Best,’ and probably, ‘Never Trust a Politician.’ A deeper reading challenges our assumptions about ethics and grief, probing and deconstructing our response to anguish. The world is cruel, and the world is just. Yet justice, also, can be cruel.

The story proceeds blithely enough. Nanny Goat has seven kids. Nanny Goat goes out shopping in the forest, and ‘Don’t open the door to anyone!’ says she. Especially not the wolf. You’ll know when it’s the wolf at the door (says Nanny) because he has a rough voice and black paws.

Ha (says I, the reader). One could easily deconstruct this morality tale, I thought, and write an anti-fairytale where the wolf has white paws and a pleasant voice—and a very large dinner. No sooner thought, no sooner read. That’s how the story goes.

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