Blesok no. 30, January-February, 2003
Is a Fairytale a Labyrinth?
Srđan V. Tešin
It seems in fairytales there is not just one major story and one minor story that exist, but there are countless of minor stories that branch off into all directions from the major story. It might be that in fairytales even the major story is just one of the minor stories, like in a labyrinth: the right path is the one that leads to the exit, not the one that is the widest and most adequate. A fairytale is a labyrinth of minor stories. Gilles Delouse, writing about the Lewis Carroll novel “Sylvie and Bruno” said: “… there where two parallel stories are, one major and another minor… (they coexist unlike)… one story into another, but one next to the other.” Delouse has observed two stories in Carroll’s novel: major and minor, and Iring Fetscher (Das Marchen – Verwirrbuch) Fairytales doesn’t limit stories to an ultimate number, he leaves the option of discovering as many stories as possible. Fetscher’s thesis is closer to mine. If I am not mistaken Coover wrote a book about the possible ending of the fairytale Sleeping Beauty, not one, but tens of endings, all different by any means. And Fetscher too, worked on the same fairytale, applying postulates of different ways of reading it.
Marina Cvetayeva wrote a lyrical satire The Ratcatcher (published for the first time in 1965) relying on the legend The Pied Piper of Hameln. The fairytale of The Pied Piper of Hameln is one of the darkest fairytales ever written (narrated); we all know that tale: Hameln is overfilled with rats, the Piper comes and promises to rid Hameln people of the rats, and in return he asks for the Mayor’s daughter’s hand. By playing his flute he guided the rats out of the city, but in return, instead of the Mayor’s daughter’s hand, he got a new case for his flute. Resigned and disappointed with the people of Hameln, he decided out of revenge to take all their children to death by taking them out of the city, like rats, using magic music from his magic flute. Marina Cvetayeva offers an alternative version: The Ratcatcher is at the same time a political allegory and a complex and above all modern point of objective of the arts and artists which must be disideologized and supermoral in order to be an action of pure arts. (Marina Cvetayeva: The Ratcatcher; Draginja Ramadanski’s translation and afterthoughts have been used in this text.)
From these inserts it is obvious that Cvetayeva followed a back pathway of the fairytale. With a vision like this, the tale of The Pied Piper of Hameln became a political allegory, but also something completely different: linguistic version. Iring Fetscher’s text also talks about it. If we apply Fetscher’s postulates word for word, a fairytale like The Ratcatcher could provide even more unusual readings. For example, what if we found an excuse for the immoral act of the Hameln people? Possibly the Major’s daughter suffered from a rare contagious illness? Would the Hameln people reward the Piper by giving him an ill woman who would eventually lead him to death? In that situation the flute case as a reward is the best solution. Is there a central story in a fairytale?