Snow White Learns Witchcraft
by Theodora Goss
One day she looked into her mother’s mirror.
The face looking back was unavoidably old,
with wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. I’ve smiled
a lot, she thought. Laughed less, and cried a little.
A decent life, considered altogether.
She’d never asked it the fatal question that leads
to a murderous heart and red-hot iron shoes.
But now, being curious, when it scarcely mattered,
she recited Mirror, mirror, and asked the question:
Who is the fairest? Would it be her daughter?
No, the mirror told her. Some peasant girl
in a mountain village she’d never even heard of.
Well, let her be fairest. It wasn’t so wonderful
being fairest. Sure, you got to marry the prince,
at least if you were royal, or become his mistress
if you weren’t, because princes don’t marry commoners,
whatever the stories tell you. It meant your mother,
whose skin was soft and smelled of parma violets,
who watched your father with a jealous eye,
might try to eat your heart, metaphorically —
or not. It meant the huntsman sent to kill you
would try to grab and kiss you before you ran
into the darkness of the sheltering forest.
How comfortable it was to live with dwarves
who didn’t find her particularly attractive.
Seven brothers to whom she was just a child, and then,
once she grew tall, an ungainly adolescent,
unlike the shy, delicate dwarf women
who lived deep in the forest. She was constantly tripping
over the child-sized furniture they carved
with patterns of hearts and flowers on winter evenings.
She remembers when the peddlar woman came
to her door with laces, a comb, and then an apple.
How pretty you are, my dear, the peddlar told her.
It was the first time anyone had said
that she was pretty since she left the castle.
She didn’t recognize her. And if she had?
Mother? She would have said. Mother, is that you?
How would her mother have answered? Sometimes she wishes
the prince had left her sleeping in the coffin.
He claimed he woke her up with true love’s kiss.
The dwarves said actually his footman tripped
and jogged the apple out. She prefers that version.
It feels less burdensome, less like she owes him.
Because she never forgave him for the shoes,
red-hot iron, and her mother dancing in them,
the smell of burning flesh. She still has nightmares.
It wasn’t supposed to be fatal, he insisted.
Just teach her a lesson. Give her blisters or boils,
make her repent her actions. No one dies
from dancing in iron shoes. She must have had
some sort of heart condition. And after all,
the woman did try to kill you. She didn’t answer.
And so she inherited her mother’s mirror,
but never consulted it, knowing too well
the price of coveting beauty. She watched her daughter
grow up, made sure the girl could run and fight,
because princesses need protecting, and sometimes princes
are worse than useless. When her husband died,
she went into mourning, secretly relieved
that it was over: a woman’s useful life,
nurturing, procreative. Now, she thinks,
I’ll go to the house by the seashore where in summer
we would take the children (really a small castle),
with maybe one servant. There, I will grow old,
wrinkled and whiskered. My hair as white as snow,
my lips thin and bloodless, my skin mottled.
I’ll walk along the shore collecting shells,
read all the books I’ve never had the time for,
and study witchcraft. What should women do
when they grow old and useless? Become witches.
It’s the only role you get to write yourself.
I’ll learn the words to spells out of old books,
grow poisonous herbs and practice curdling milk,
cast evil eyes. I’ll summon a familiar:
black cat or toad. I’ll tell my grandchildren
fairy tales in which princesses slay dragons
or wicked fairies live happily ever after.
I’ll talk to birds, and they’ll talk back to me.
Or snakes — the snakes might be more interesting.
This is the way the story ends, she thinks.
It ends. And then you get to write your own story.
Are you going up or going down? Or perhaps you’ve decided to travel sideways or back-ways or forward? All are possible on this Dr. Seuss staircase.
Enjoy the abstract!
The Queen turns 90 on April 21, 2016.
She’s been through a lot in those ninety years. There was Wallis Simpson & the abdication, World War II, the death of her father at an early age, the Diana years, the loss of both her sister and her mother. A lifetime worth of trails and tribulations.
She is old enough to forgive and forget. Myself, I still hold grudges. I still want people to admit they done me wrong and some of these people are dead.
The Queen was born at 2.40am on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. That makes her a Taurus like my eldest sister. Like most Tauruses, she’s reliable, practical, ambitious, and independent.
On her official birthday during the weekend of June 10 – 13th, there will be many celebrations. There will also be celebrations from May 12 – 15th.
We’re not celebrating Her Majesty’s birthday here in Canada as far as I know. The RCMP Musical Ride will go to London to join the Royal Celebrations there and we are publishing a charming children’s book to mark the occasion.
Our government here in Canada is pretty boring especially compared to the British Monarchy (though there was that Prime Minister who had seances to contact his mum).
We may not have castles but our Prime Minister resides in a very lovely mansion as he governs the country. Honestly, we’ve not had anyone interesting living there since Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Prime Minister! Politics have been boring, boring, boring ever since he left but maybe his son (our current Prime Minister) can liven up our world-wide reputation.
What has the Queen been fantasizing about lately? Maybe these quick, amusing reads have the answer.
The Uncommon Reader deals with the Queen as a bibliophile.
What she was finding was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do. (p. 21)
As Queen…pleasure had always taken second place to duty. (p. 31)
To read is to withdraw. To make oneself unavailable. (45)
Once she been a single-minded woman knowing where her duty lay and [her] intent [was] on doing it…(104)
The moral, of this book, is that the love and act of reading can lead to the act of writing which leads to abdication.
A moral, I’m sure, our current Queen would be against considering how long it took her and her mother to forgive Edward and Wallis.
The Uncommon Reader is written by Alan Bennett. Faber & Faber published it in 2007.
In this fairy tale-ish book, the Queen takes a melancholy jaunt alone to Scotland to visit the decommissioned Royal Yacht.
People had been writing about her from the very first day she was born in April 1926. (p. 5)
It was Prince Edward [who had] shown her (he knew his mama’s bad habits) a website where she could place a small bet on the races. (p. 8)
She had already called the IT woman three times. She couldn’t call her again. The Queen knew she needed help, but she hated to appear helpless. (p. 4)
The Queen set store by doing everything as Queen Victoria had once done it. (p. 135)
This story is set in December 2002. It is a charming, small, book with lovely black & white illustrations throughout. Here the Queen’s world is populated by many charming and eccentric characters.
There is Lady Anne Bevil, one of her Ladies in Waiting who at seventy has little money left to support herself and is estranged from her son.
Shirley is the queen’s senior dresser. She is sixty and her grandmother and mother worked for the Queen before her. She has no family left.
William is the senior butler. He is gay and has made this job his whole life.
Luke, an equerry and Iraq vet considers his job to be temporary.
Rebecca is a stable girl who takes care of the Queen’s horses. Queen Elizabeth’s latest horse, who was born on the Queen’s birthday, likes cheese. This is a very important plot point!
Rajiv works as a shop clerk at a cheese store and has a sideline profession of taking & selling candid Queen shots to the press. He likes Rebecca (every story needs a romance).
The tale becomes a cozy mystery involving the queen’s household vs MI5. It is very Doctor Whoish. The servants are at friendly odds with each other. They are not sure who to like or who to trust and must find the Queen before it is noticed that she is missing.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train was written by William Kuhn. HarperCollins published it in 2012.
After 40 years on the throne, The Queen and her family are rehoused to a council estate because the People’s Republican Party has gotten rid of the monarchy. Everything the Royal Family once had belongs to the state; the new Prime Minister sells off some of royal treasures to Japan and Windsor Castle is turned into a hotel. The former Royal family have no servants, make no public appearances, and they must check in/out with a guard every time they leave the house.
This was subversive fiction written during the Thatcher’s 90s!
The sweetest scene is when the Queen Mum dies and is laid out by neighbours.
Even with all this upheaval, the Queen gets on with it.
The sequel featuring Camilla instead of Diana is not as strong.
The Queen & I was written by Sue Townsend. Methuen published it in 1992.
Further readings written by me:
Here is my article about Princess Anne’s wedding.
Here is my article commemorating Elizabeth’s longest reign in September.
It seems Ailsa & I both had books on our mind this week!
Happy Birthday Your Majesty.
Walking the dog in Spring,
Traversing a minefield of ice,
Breaking thin ice covered puddles with our steps;
She laps up the cold dirty water.
I step over a pile of deer droppings.
Morning after morning after morning,
The sun rises earlier and earlier –
We long for the refreshing end to Winter.
Is it Spring yet?
Thanks Ailsa for the prompt.
A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring
In contrast with the things that sing
Not Birds entirely – but Minds –
Minute Effulgencies and Winds –
When what they sung for is undone
Who cares about a Blue Bird’s Tune –
Why, Resurrection had to wait
Till they had moved a Stone –
A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring
In response to The Daily Post’s photo challenge Half-Light!
It was almost Spring last week (or as the locals reminded me) it was our “first Spring” last week.
The 2016 Spring equinox was, for us, yesterday, March 19 at 10:30 p.m. CST.
This is a simple fact that we in Saskatchewan are reminded of every year. Our weather is very paradoxical.
Here is this week’s equinoxical weather in pictures.
On Monday, we were almost down to brown ground and budding trees. The Lake of Four Corners (from last week’s post) had become a Lake of Two Corners.
On March 11th, though I could see no brown out front yet, my front steps were bare and dry. This tree had enough snow to reach out and smoosh into one giant snowball. Beware the Ents, my friends!
On March 14th, we were in the city which had been completely dry up to this point. On Tuesday, the city got a sciff (ie a small amount) of snow. Here snow sits lightly on the benches.
Back home, two hours north, they measured the new snow in inches. Enough snow that I would spend an hour shoveling when I got back home on Friday.
This is Spring in Saskatchewan. Snow. Melt. Ice. Snow. Repeat.
The Spring Equinox has come and gone. It is time for the snow to go!
Spring is being creative. All the snow is melting and forming into new shapes and challenges. I face an obstacle course of streams, rivers, and hurdles as I walk. Yesterday, it took me thirty minutes to walk downtown. I can usually do this walk in ten minutes in ideal conditions. The above picture is of the Lake of Four Corners.
I did these doodles when I was in university. I would doodle during lectures because it seems my mind is happiest multi-tasking. There is a Computer Genius and a Mad Scientist – you can see part of a multi-media piece (Frankenstein‘s Guardian Angel) in the background. I don’t doodle much any more. I only trust my art making skills when half my mind is occupied elsewhere!
I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t understand perspective, I didn’t understand shading, and I didn’t have the innate ability that this kid and people like him had. I recall feeling frustrated and sad and eventually giving up.
Who do you think of when you think of great Canadian Women?
I think of authors first. The Margarets (Atwood & Laurence), Lucy Maud (Montgomery), Mavis (Gallant) and Alice (Munro) who recently won that big prize! I feel like I should be on a first name basis with them because I’ve read all their writings and so many bios about them that I feel I know them personally. Does this make sense?
Lately, I think of Laura Secord when I think great Canadian women. Why? Partly because the War of 1812 has been in my news feed and partly because I recently purchased her chocolate.
There is a dispute as to who really won the War of 1812, the Americans or us? We did, of course (back when we were British). We are the only nation to have successfully burnt down the White House after all!
Laura Secord was a heroine of the War of 1812 because she heard that the Americans intended to surprise the British outpost at Beaver Dams and capture the officer in charge, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. It was urgent that someone warn FitzGibbon and Laura resolved to take the message herself to FitzGibbon.
Thus a legend was born. The legend of Laura and her cow trekking 30 miles through the woods to warn FitzGibbon. The cow came along to provide cover because a women and a cow in the forest was normal back then!
Laura delivered her message and became legend. We aren’t told what happened to the cow!
A hundred years later, a chocolate company is named in her honor.
In 1913, Frank P. O’Connor, the founder of a small candy business in Toronto selling hand-made chocolates, chose Laura Secord as the name for his company because she “was an icon of courage, devotion and loyalty.”
This has been your Canadian History moment inspired by the latest Canada’s History (formerly The Beaver – a name I much preferred) magazine.
Canadians you have until March 8th to submit your vote for a Great Canadian Woman.
Vote always. Always vote!
Early mornings, when the weather is decent (cool, not too sunny), I like to walk out to the local cemeteries and take pictures. I find this activity calming and relaxing. The long walk to the cemetery stills me. The aloneness centers me within myself. It is a time for me to reflect and take many photos (over 300 the afternoon I spent in St. Andrews, Scotland).
This image is from a Saskatchewan (Canada) cemetery. You can tell it was early morning because of the shadows.
It was a pensive day.
I have not found any cemeteries near my new home to shoot photos in yet. I fear there will be none within walking distance as that is the norm here. There is, however, a park with a labyrinth to walk right on the edge of town. I plan to go walk there after the snow melts.
This is my early state of mind.