once upon an after, 2 of 2

A Guest Post by Jarrell Waggoner


“Wait,” I exclaimed, “you mean that if any of your stories were to have an ending, then you’d have already lived that story?”

“Yes,” it said. “That is the very reason our stories have no endings. Nor can they.”

“Why couldn’t you have a story that went on just a bit longer than all the stories you’ve experienced, and then end it?” I puzzled.

It looked puzzled at my puzzle and then, quite rightly, replied, “by the time we had heard the recount of a story of such length, we’d have already experienced it ourselves. Nor could the crafting of such a tale be completed before we had fully experienced its contents.”

“Oh, bother.” Clearly, I had not fully grasped this notion. “So, tell me about the stories you do have.”

“We may have experienced every possible permutation of events, but we still exist in time, and the order in which we experience these events is different for every one of us.”

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once upon an after, 1 of 2

A Guest Post by Jarrell Waggoner

[A word from Mr. Pond: This week, I’m away to present an essay at Anti-tales: The Uses of Disenchantment, so there’s not my contribution to the blogalectic. Read Jenna St. Hilaire’s magnificent webpartee, though.

For the rest of this week, we’re delighted to welcome back Jarrell Waggoner. His article ‘Soundtracks and Extraterrestrials’ has previously appeared at Paradoxes. In his present conversation, he explores the power of a happy ending—or something like that, I think.

Is it part of the blogalectic? Strangely enough—perhaps.]

Once Upon an After http://www.flickr.com/photos/donsolo/3029452838/in/set-72157624648356842/

“Well…” said I.

“Yes?” said it.

“I don’t understand what you mean by ‘happy endings’ at all.”

“Every single of your stories is one.” It seemed insistent. It couldn’t have meant what it sounded like it did; its slightly strange phrasing being (I assumed) an artifact of adapting to our complex language.

“Surely you don’t believe all of our stories have a happy ending?” I added, trying to clarify things.

“Surely I do.”


“Because they end, happily.”

I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere without examples. “But what of stories that leave all the characters expired or cadaverous?”

“But they end.” Its reply so very matter-of-fact.

“Well, yes. But what of stories of lost love and unhappiness?”

“They still end.”

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unsettling wonder

Household Tales: A Grimm Read-Throughillus-064  illus-056-titleillus-056t

his tale is not about me. Really.  It’s not a tale I want to be about me, either. Oh, the title’s OK, the title’s cool. But the tale isn’t the sort of thing you want to happen to anyone.

That’s not exactly correct. It’s sort of the sort of thing that does happen. But not exactly.

There are probably two or three possible tales layered within this tale. ‘Faithful John’ can be read as an icon for fidelity and redemption, a psychological analogy for sexual exploitation and gender conflict, or a grim cultural memory of cabbalistic ritual, ordeal, and sacrifice.

Perhaps most correctly, it can be read as all three.

That’s part of the beautiful, crazy experience of being human.

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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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Over the Hedge -- http://comics.com/over_the_hedge/2010-07-25/

What more can we want, indeed. Jump down to Wednesday’s post to follow Hammy’s example and tell your own story—or addition to another story–in the once upon a what? thread. Let’s keep on seeing what we can come up with.

Pies, of course, are welcome. So are gratuitous Homestar Runner quotes:

Thank you once again for my pies. I spent particular effort on the Crème Bernard.

It’s such a lovely gathering of pies and pie people… Like to give a shout-out to Lemon Pretend over there…

The moral of the story?

When life throws pies at you, you make yourself a tall, cool glass of piemonade!


Happy Friday, everyone.