The End of the World

The End of the WorldThe End of the World

White River Sioux

Somewhere in a cave that no one can find, there is an old woman who is shriveled up and wrinkled like a walnut. There she lives, working on a blanket with quill work. Her teeth are worn down to nubs because she has flattened so many quills. She lit her fire over a thousand years ago. On the fire is a pot filled with berry soup. Every once in a while she gets up to stir the pot, but when she does, her dog pulls her work out of the blanket strip and she has to start that work over again. It is said that if she ever finishes the blanket strip that the world will end.

Observations

It’s as good of a reason as any for the world to end.

Themes

The idea of there being some great constant in our universe that makes it go on is an interesting one. It doesn’t matter what that constant is, but when it stops, the world stops. In this story, it’s an old woman making a blanket, but it could easily be anything else. In reality, we have scientific explanations for things that make the world work, like heat, and photosynthesis, and water–take any one of these things and the world quits working. The world dies.

Overall

It’s the dog that keeps us alive then because it undoes the woman’s hard work.

Weigh In

If you were going to make up some sort of constant that kept the world running, what would it be?

Is the woman a villain? Is the dog a villain? Are they neither good nor bad?

The Poor Woman and the Little Canary Bird

The Poor Woman and the Little Canary Bird The Poor Woman and the Little Canary Bird

There once was an old woman so poor that she could not afford a casket for her recently deceased husband. A canary flew in through the window and sang happily to her. The old woman fed it. Another woman came in and said it had been in the papers that a family was missing a canary and that this might be the very bird.

The old woman took the canary to the family who was so happy to have the bird back that they paid for the casket for her husband and invited her to dinner. The old woman prayed to God and thanked him for sending the canary to her.

Observations

Any time I hear of a bird being returned to its owners, I find it quite remarkable. Birds can fly away. One of my friends in Okinawa actually found a parakeet just flying around outside. Someone had lost it and she took it as her pet when no one reported one missing. She had it for a while.

Themes

This canary was such a small thing, but it caused great things to happen for the old woman. Small things can lead to very big things. Maybe that dime on the sidewalk is just a dime, or maybe it’s going to lead you to an entirely different life. No one can really for sure. As the scriptures say, “By small and simple things shall great things come to pass.”

Overall

This was a sweet little story.

Weigh In

What would have happened had the woman not encountered the canary?

Is the family better off for having known the woman?

#634 One Witch at a Time by Stacy DeKeyser

One Witch at a Time by Stacy DeKeyserOne Witch at a Time by Stacy DeKeyser

Rudi was going to market with the tanner’s daughter, Susannah, she was six. Rudi said he was allowed to sell a cow as well as the milk and butter, if he got a good price. At the market Rudi is separated from Susannah. She says she has sold his cow for magical beans. They look like ordinary beans to Rudi. He knows his family will not want to lose a cow for beans to a foreign person no less.

Rudi races home where he talks to his grandmother. She thinks that the beans might indeed be magic, but they should go ask the witch up on the hill. Everyone knows she is a witch, but people simply say she is an old woman. Rudi and Susannah go to see her. She confirms that the beans are indeed magic and they should go back to the land from which they came, but she could not go there herself because only one witch was allowed in one land at a time. Rudi and Susannah would have to go. She tells Rudi to plant one of the beans at the border between the lands. He does and a beanstalk grows.

Rudi and Susannah climb to the top where they endeavor to return the beans to the witch there, who is a giant and a man. A girl named Agatha is going with them, but it turns out she’s the girl who started the trouble in the first place. She helps with the task, sort of, but she doesn’t like the witch. Rudi tells her that there can only be one witch so if someone were to take the place of the witch there, then maybe Agatha could get what she wished.

What I liked

This was a fairly entertaining story. I liked the twists on traditional fairy tales. I liked how the people in the story admit there’s a witch, but don’t admit there’s a witch. They secretly acknowledge that they don’t know all the pieces of things, but outwardly they persist in putting on a front that everything can be explained. Typical humans.

What I didn’t like

The whole one witch at a time thing seems illogical, but it’s not my written world.

Overall

Everything ended up ok.

Weigh In

Would you trade a cow for magic beans?

If there is something you can’t explain do you admit you know the answer, or do you put up the front that you think it’s silly?

What One Can Invent

What One Can InventWhat One Can Invent

There was once a man who wanted to learn poetry. He went to an old, wise woman and lamented to her that all the great stories had already been told. All the great things had already been invented. All the great ideas had already been thought. It wasn’t like the old times. The old woman agreed that it wasn’t like the old times because old, wise women used to be burned at the stake.

She told him to write down what he say, “For even crumbs are bread.” She lent him her ear-trumpet and spectacles. She urged him to look at the bees buzzing in a hive by her door. She urged him to hear the story of the sloe bush that the Norsemen had appreciated. She urged him to think about the potato and where it had come from and what it had done and what people had done to it. She urged him to look at a crowed of people, each of them with their own stories, then she told him to give the spectacles and ear-trumpet back. He could see no stories afterward and the old, wise woman told him that he could not be a poet. The man would have to have an ordinary career that did not involve inventing things. He would speak out against poets because he himself could not be one. The old, wise woman knew what one could invent.

Observations

This story was written in a time when it was a little more admirable to be a poet. It was something a person could actually make a living on. Today, even published poets, with multiple books, generally have to have other jobs to earn their daily bread, or kale, whatever the case may be. I have a cousin who is a published poet. True story, people. She’s had several poems published, but it hasn’t netted her enough to do much good. Poetry is not the lucrative career that it used to be.

If you go around telling ordinary people you’re a poet these days, they’re going to look at you and sneer, much the same way they’ll sneer at you if you tell them you’re an artist, or a writer, or an actor, or a musician, or a songwriter, and so forth, and so on. The arts are admired to a degree, but are not seen as normal careers and are more often jokes to people who are accountants and such things. Don’t worry about it too much. If you’re truly meant to be an artist, or a writer, or a juggling clown for the circus, it will come to pass. Que sera, sera.

Themes

This guy was not meant to be a poet. Some people desire greatly to be in profession of one of the arts, but one cannot merely be an artist. You can try, but it’s not always going to work out. Some people have more of a knack for it than others. Being an artist involves thinking differently than most average people do. An average person may look at a pile of junk and see a pile of junk, while an artistic person is going to look at that pile of junk and see what it can be, or what use it could serve.

To a regular person, a thing is what it appears to be. To an artist, a thing is what it appears to be, but also what it could be. The question “what if” is always rolling around inside the head of an artist, no matter what art that may happen to be. If you need help to ask “what if” then you’re not naturally any type of artist; this doesn’t mean you couldn’t learn to a degree. We can be trained to do many things; we’re quite smart when we put the effort into it.

The guy in this story couldn’t ask “what if.” He only saw what was. To him, what was, was that all the stories had already been told and all the great songs had already been sung. It’s a sad way to live a life, to an artist, but to a regular person, it’s not so bad. An orange is an orange is an orange, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you’re trying to save up for retirement.

Overall

I like this old woman.

Weigh In

Are we more open to listening to the old, wise women in our lives than we were five-hundred years ago? Why or why not?

Are the people who don’t question happy with their lives?

The Snow Queen-Third Story: The Flower Garden of the Woman who Could Conjure

The Snow Queen-Third Story: The Flower Garden of the Woman who Could ConjureThe Snow Queen-Third Story: The Flower Garden of the Woman who Could Conjure

Since Kay had been gone, Gerda had been very sad. No one knew where he had gone. Gerda looked for herself, she thought the river might have taken him. She offered up her red shoes in return for Kay, but the river would not take her shoes. Gerda decided to get in a boat and look for Kay, but as it turned out, the boat was not tied up and Gerda drifted and drifted away.

An old woman saw her and pulled the boat in. The old woman heard Gerda’s story and wanted Gerda to stay with her because she had wanted a little girl around. The woman had a beautiful garden, which was beautiful all the time. Because of Gerda’s story about Kay and the roses they used to sit under, the woman caused the rose bushes, which were beautiful, to sink into the ground.

Gerda had a wonderful time. She had her own room with beautiful things inside of it. The garden was always beautiful. Gerda played in the garden often and thought it was beautiful, but it seemed there were flowers missing, but she couldn’t place her finger on it. One day she saw a hat of the woman’s. On the hat was rose. Gerda knew that roses were missing from the garden. She looked for them and could not find them. She cried tears which fell to the Earth and softened the ground. The roses sprang up.

She remembered Kay. She remembered her family, which would surely be sad for her. She knew she had been kept at the woman’s house and from her quest. She began asking the flowers were Kay was. The flowers talked, but had no stories about Kay. Each flower seemed to have its own story, empty of anything about anything real. Every  flower said something. No flower had information about anything.

Gerda finally decided to get out. She ran to the garden where there was a gate and forced it open. Once outside, she ran. She looked back and no one was following. She looked around her and it was Autumn, where it had been spring when she left. The world was turning to winter and everything was dark and dreary to her.

Observations

Talking flowers is a concept that has happened a few times in literature, most notoriously, in Lewis Carroll’s stories of Wonderland. In Lewis’ description of flowers and in this story, the flowers seemed to be concerned with only themselves. They all seem very vain. I couldn’t say what all goes on in a flower’s mind, but maybe they are vain.

Themes

Gerda was distracted from her goal and only reminded when she saw one rose. It is easy to be distracted from something if there is nothing around to remind us of it. Gerda’s worry for Kay was replaced with nice things and she forgot the cares of the world. That’s how it would happen with any of us. If someone took our worries away from us and put something else in their place and hid the reminders of those things, we might be very apt to forget all of those things ourselves. Only our minds would hold the key to where we were and what we had been doing. Our minds would forget, for a while, until there was a trigger, just like there was for Gerda in this story.

Gerda spent all this time without even realizing that it was passing. She had been drawn away from everything real, at least to her. That’s not to say the garden wasn’t real or the woman wasn’t real. Each of these things were real in the story, they just weren’t real to Gerda. They didn’t fit into her reality.

It’s the same way with us. If some prince road up to us and was like, “Marry me,” you might be thrilled, but you would know there was something fishy about it. It just doesn’t fit in with how your world usually works. We can be awfully pessimistic about how our lives go, but we’re generally right about the general nature of our lives. Would a prince ride up to you and propose marriage? Probably not, even though you might really like for it to happen.

In another literary note, think of the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter. It’s a similar concept to Gerda’s time in this garden.

Overall

The old woman sought to trap Gerda, but Gerda also trapped herself to an extent.

Weigh In

If someone took away your worries, do  you think you could ever truly forget them?

Would you question the most wonderful and surprising thing in the world, if it happened to you, or just go along with it?