Contrary to popular belief, Rumpelstiltskin did in fact eat the Queen’s firstborn; Sleeping Beauty never woke up; and Cinderella’s foot didn’t fit the glass slipper. So why all the lies? In this winning submission to The Fairy Tales à la Feathertale Contest, Jeremy Hanson-Finger may have found the answer to this most ponder worthy of questions as he reveals the truth behind one of the world’s more endearing fairy tales.
“They’ve got me analyzing fairy tales for the summer,” says my roommate, when I open the door for him. “But…weird fairy tales. I had to sign all this security paperwork saying that I wouldn’t ever divulge any of the information I read at work. Loose lips and all that.”
“What do you mean, weird fairy tales?” I ask, as he kicks off his shoes. “What does the National Library and Archives have to do with fairy tales?”
“Well,” he says, “the one I read yesterday was called ‘The Three Little Prigs.’”
“There’s nothing weird about that,” I say. “Every kid knows it. I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll –.”
“Prigs,” he says. “There’s a big difference. Prigs are people who are arrogant and self-important and behave as if superior to others. Pigs are just swine.” He throws himself onto the couch.
“How did the story go?” I ask.
“Well there were these three lawyers from Norfolk, Virginia,” he says, “none of whom were over five foot five in stature. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Lawrence of Arabia was only five foot five and a half.”
“And you’re what, five foot four?” I ask.
“Five foot six,” he says. He pauses. “So these lawyers decided to go on a hunting trip with their Armani vests and titanium briefcases and Israeli submachine guns and fig bars.”
“I think I can see where this is going,” I say. “Who’s afraid of the Virginia woods?”
“Quiet,” he says. “So as they trekked through the woods, with nary a deer in sight, they began to realize they were getting more and more lost. It was March, and although there was no snow, the temperature was set to reach close to zero and the sky looked like rain.
“So they sat there on the rich, loamy ground and argued about how they could go about constructing a shelter to protect them from the unruly elements. The shortest one thought the contents of their legal documents were unimportant in the face of the oncoming storm. He suggested they use them to construct a tax shelter. The others didn’t think that was a very good idea. They felt it was bound to fail sooner or later and they would be horribly exposed.
“The other two thought about the dilemma individually for a number of minutes.
“‘Ah!’ said the middle prig. ‘The natives seemed to do pretty well with their tepees – how about a home of the brave?’
“The others shook their heads.
“‘I don’t care what you think,’ he said. ‘I’ll build it anyway.’ He began looking for a birch tree to quickly strip of its bark, or an animal to quickly strip of its skin.
“‘Fine,” said the first prig, and dumped his briefcase full of tax papers out on the ground, then bent down and started folding.
“Fuming that the others hadn’t even asked him before beginning construction on their respective lodgings, the third prig began stacking the DVDs he had in his briefcase.
“‘What on earth are you making?’ asked the first lawyer, looking over from his folding.
“‘A house of flicks,’ said the third prig, stretching to place another disc on top.
“All three retired into their respective homes for the night, and each dined alone on a tasty selection of fig bars. The fresh air must have been healthier than their normal corporate environments, for they slept like innocent children, not greedy middle-aged men whose inner children had been euthanized by decades of practiced callousness.”
“You’re making all this up,” I say.
“No, I swear,” says my roommate. “Not a word.”
“Anyway,” he continues, “The first lawyer slept for about three hours, until there was a scuffling and a snuffling outside his dwelling. He crept to the wall, and peered out through a staple hole. Outside, its pelt shimmering in the moonlight, was the biggest wolf he had ever seen, licking the ground with its long slobbering tongue.”
“Oh no!” I say. “The three little prigs and the fig-mad wolf!”
My roommate ignores me.
“The lawyer stood stock still, but he had run out of paper before he completed his hut, and there was a hole in the back, big enough for a wolf to stick his head through – a loup-hole in his tax shelter. There was a growl and a great gnashing of teeth and the tax shelter changed in hue, from white-coloured grime to stained crimson.
“Lawyer number two slept through the tax invasion that was happening right next to him. He hadn’t been able to find an animal to skin, or a birch tree, so he had constructed his tepee out of TP. A rush of hot air awoke him from his slumber, and he looked up to see the 3-ply walls gone and the wolf standing over him.
“‘Son of a bitch!’ he said, ‘I didn’t know the home of the brave was also the land of the teeth!’ The wolf looked quizzically at him with his big golden eyes and then lunged.
“Lawyer number three slept through both events. He cleaned his conscience daily by repeating ‘there is no court on earth that can judge me’ – a line from his favourite movie, The Innocent by Italian director Luchino Visconti. The wolf loped toward the DVD tower and sucked in a huge lungful of air. But when he blew it out, the shelter stood rock steady.
“The lawyer awoke with a start as the wolf began climbing up the side of his house, sinking his claws into the soft plastic cases. Disregarding everything the Motion Picture Association of America had taught him, he pulled out a pack of matches and started burning some DVDs right below the opening in his roof. Soon he had a roaring, oily fire and as the animal plummeted from the ceiling, it was engulfed in flames. The howling wolf quickly turned to cinders.”
“And that’s it?” I say. “Why on earth would the National Library and Archives keep such a ridiculous text? It can’t be more than a couple of years old and I can’t see what possible historical value it could have. It’s not even Canadian.”
“Well,” says my roommate. “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but apparently this was the original, raw, uncut revolutionary text. Full of politics and harsh satire on capitalist, male patriarchal society. And after the powers that be found out about it and started disappearing anyone who propagated it, the rebel Grimm brothers circulated a slimmed-down, seemingly innocent version that reminded people of the original enough that they could keep the memory alive. This was the ‘three little pigs’ version that you are familiar with.”
“You’re all mixed up,” I say. “I heard the three little pigs story when I was five years old. DVDs didn’t even exist then. Wait – powers that be?”
“You’re so naïve,” says my roommate. “To think you’re a political science major and you don’t know about the reptilians!”
There is a knock at the door.
My roommate turns white. He holds his finger to his lips.
After a second, there is a hissing, like a soft rustling of pages.