Archive for the Tales Category

Who’s the Fairest of Them All?…

Posted in Books, Tales with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2009 by Mj Rains

 

Haunted, and happy, is how I describe the feelings surrounding my November 12. 2008 blog about The Real Snow White.  It is one of the most popular articles I’ve written about a real life young woman named Margarete von Waldeck, who’s life was cut short mysteriously from an apparent poisoning back in 1554.  She was 21.

When Googling her name my blog site, The Wit Continuum, appears twice on the first page, which is pretty cool, but I wonder how many people are really interested in this infamous person of history.  Was she really the inspiration for the Grimms fairy tale Snow White?  The parallels are interesting to say the least. 

It seems there may be serge in historic discovery going on here by factions unknown.  Continuing the search for more info…and seriously thinking about starting my own Margarete Von Waldeck blog club.  But what do you do with a dead girl?

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Ho, Ho, Ho…Merry Christmas and …

Posted in Tales with tags , , , , , on December 19, 2008 by Mj Rains

With the season swiftly bearing down on us I have found under the Continuum’s spiral staircase another story with a strangeness that confounds us.  Written by one of my favorites, Neil Gaiman, “Nicholas was…” was published in his demented collection of short stories called Smoke and Mirrors.  It is one hundred words long, 102 counting the title, and Gaiman had it elegantly calligraphed one year to send out to everyone he could think of as a Christmas card.  Mmmmm……..(“Mmmmm…….” means we wonder at this with strange admiration.) 

 

Nicholas Was…

older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter.  He wanted to die.

            The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not actually working in the factories.

            Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night.  During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves’ invisible gifts by its bedside.  The children slept, frozen into time. 

           He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas.  His punishment was harsher.

          Ho.

          Ho.

          Ho.

The Real Snow White

Posted in Tales with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2008 by Mj Rains

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The poignant tale about a beautiful young woman whose life was cut mysteriously short may have been the inspiration for the folktale Snow White, written by The Brothers Grimm.  Scholars have uncovered parallels between the legendary Snow White and Margarete Von Waldeck (1533-1554).  Countess Margarete was the daughter of Philip IV, Count von Waldeck-Wildungen.  Like Snow White, Margarete had tempered relationship with her stepmother.

Margarete grew up in the town of Bad Wildungen where small children worked in copper mines owned by her brother.  The children became known as dwarfs.  They were bent and crippled from malnourishment and the terrible working conditions of the mines.  Most died before reaching the age of 20.  Another parallel is that of the man in Bad Wildungen who was caught poisoning apples in order to get even with children who were stealing from his property.  This poison apple story made it into the fairy tale.

At the age of 16, Margarete was sent to live at court in Brussels.  There she attracted the attention of a young prince, Phillip II of Spain.  It is said that Margarete had intense beauty and that she had blond hair.  The tale of Snow White, of course, expounds on her black hair, but the earlier version of Grimms book (in 1808) states that Snow White’s hair was “yellow.”  The young Spanish nobleman and Margarete fell in love, much to the anger and fears of her stepmother who hated her and the King of Spain, Phillip’s father.  A plot was made to end the relationship.   It is believed the Spanish secret police were ordered to poison Margarete, making it look as if she had fallen ill, in order to put an end to the political inconvenience the marriage would have created.

Margarete died at the age of 21.  The handwriting of her will, written shortly before her death, show evidence of tremor, no doubt caused by the poisoning.  The perpetrator was never exposed, but it could not have been her “evil” stepmother, who was already dead at the time.

The tale of Snow White has always inspired me – the Disney version, which I do not like, is plumped with fun and happiness, but the real tale is sad and poignant, riddled with mystery, and I believe probably shouldn’t end with the happy ending that fairy tales demand. It is more a tragic myth, a girl who can’t escape the immence ambitions of a powerful and psychotic woman.  Elements of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy may apply here also.

Artwork: by illustrator Angela Barrett for the beautifully designed book, Snow White, by Josephine Poole.

Sources: Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia and Hartforth.com/Snow White

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