Anne Sexton’s Ominous Fairy Tales: Part One, Snow White

 

“The speaker in this case
is a middle-aged witch, me-
tangled on my two great arms,
my face in a book
and my mouth wide,
ready to tell you a story or two.
I have come to remind you,
all of you:

Do you remember when you
were read to as a child?”

So begins Anne Sexton’s book Transformations,  a dark and prophetic retelling of fairy tales. True to the Brothers Grimm, she did not balk at gory details, but rather added her own peculiar and twisted endings where the characters live not so happily ever after. Anne Sexton took on many topics with her unique brand of “Confessional” poetry, but her fairy tale interpretations are perhaps the most interesting.

Into the Forest Dark

Most fairy tales, before they were Disney-fied, were pretty terrifying. Don’t forget their origins. They were told by Medieval grandmothers in thatched cottages who had a vested interest in notifying the children of all the evil and malicious things that lurked before them. Death, plagues and hunger were rampant, not to mention wild animals, thieves and kidnappers.  Children had good reasons to be scared. It was a dangerous business, going outside your door. Fairy tales could act as a sort of guide to warn them and toughen them to the fact that life would not be easy.

Anne Sexton’s life was not easy either, fraught with mental illness, an abusive childhood and finally ending in suicide at age forty-six.

Fellow poet and editor Maxine Kumin has said that Anne Sexton read and referenced fairy tales like most writers read the Bible or Greek myths. She was always attracted to the work of Andersen, Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. She herself had been read to as a child by her beloved grandmother.

In Transformations, Sexton takes these tales and revises them for the 20th century, warning the reader of modern day evils.  The princesses and heroines, rather than living happily ever after, end up in the quagmire of trappings that include jealousy, egotism, mediocrity, old age, and just plain bad marriages.

I’ll be looking at several of these poems over the next few days. Stay tuned as I explore Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and more. But first up — that innocent ingenou with skin white as snow and hair black as coal, who decidedly had an aversion to apples…

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 

Beauty fades, but dumb is forever. Furthermore, no one escapes the ramifications of vanity… There is an evil queen, a fragile virgin, a hunter, some helpful dwarfs and, of course, a handsome prince.

“Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
Her stepmother, 
a beauty in her own right, 
though eaten, of course, by age, 
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.”

“Beauty is a simple passion, 
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes…”

The evil queen is so jealous, she orders her huntsman to track down Snow White, kill her and bring back her heart for the queen to eat.  But the huntsman cannot bring himself to kill the girl. Instead he kills a boar and brings back that heart.

“The hunter, however, let his prisoner go
and brought a boar’s heart back to the castle.
The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.
Now I am fairest, she said, 
lapping her slim white fingers.”

This is the first of many times Snow White will escape death.  She then ventures further into the forest where “the birds called out lewdly and the snakes hung down in loops, each one a noose for her sweet white neck.”

Eventually she comes upon the cottage of the seven dwarfs, and all should have gone well. Except the evil queen returns, still seeking to kill Snow White who makes the dumb mistake of opening the cottage door. Thus she falls prey to the queen’s poison dress and comb. After saving her twice, the dwarfs warn her not to open the door to strangers, but Snow White just can’t seem to learn her lesson.

“Snow White, the dumb bunny, 

opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.”

The dwarfs put her in a glass coffin. A prince, passing by, sees the coffin and decides he must have the beautiful creature inside it. While his men carry the coffin home, Snow White’s body is jarred, causing her to spit up the poisoned apple. She then awakens.

Of course, she marries the prince. But what will be her final fate?

“Meanwhile Snow White held court, 
rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut
and sometimes referring to her mirror
as women do.”

The poem bleakly suggests that Snow White will become exactly like her evil stepmother, a vain and aging one-time beauty, haunted by, and beholden to her own reflection in the mirror.  The entire poem can be read HERE.

And finally, here is a lovely word/ music/ pictures rendition of this poem. (Running time 7 minutes.) Hope you like it!

 

 

 

Parallel Universes & The Berenstein Bears

berentsein-bears-parallel-universe

We all remember the Berenstein Bears, right?  That wacky family of talking bears that got into all sorts of mischief?   They even had their own cartoon show. The Bears were outlandish, witty and fun. I remember their name distinctly. It was Berenstein. Such clever alliteration.  As  I got older, I even pictured the Berenstein Bears as Jewish comedians, right up there with Seinfeld or Larry David.  I am certain —  positive — I mean,  lie detector test SURE —  that the name was Berenstein! Stein with an ‘e’.  However, it seems I am wrong.

There currently exists not one book, not one cartoon, dvd or vhs of the Bears in which their names are spelled Berenstein. Look ‘em up on Wiki.  Their name, it seems, is Berenstain (like a grass stain or a stain in your blouse.)  It has, apparently, always BEEN Berenstain.

Huh? This actually freaked me out.  How do you remember the name?

I had some of the books, like this one:

Berenstain learn to read

I first became aware of this of few days ago while perusing youtube for parallel universe vids. The one I happened to find stated several ‘matrix glitch’ incidents which could be explained as parallel universes. But the spelling of the Berenstain Bears really hit home for me, because I DEFINITELY remember them as ‘Berenstein’. And so do a lot of other people.

I am a believer in parallel universes.   Even before this Bear phenomenon, I have been certain they exist. As I have stated in other blogs, recent findings of quantum physicians suggests that there may be as many as eleven different dimensions existing on unseen microscopic planes.  If these multi-dimensional planes exist, why not parallels of space and time? Past, present and future could all actually be happening at once, cutting through distance in a super-imposed matrix of reality.

Cool, huh?

space-suits-shot-from-a-parallel-dimension-6

Some psychics and paranormal observers have suggested that humankind actually move through several different parallels on any given day.  The problem is, the parallels are so similar that we do not notice the slight differences. Like the spelling of a bear’s name, for example 🙂

This matrix glitch has become a bit of a pop cultural phenomenon.  There are TONS of other videos out there exploiting the theme and declaring that all sorts of commonplace items have ‘mysteriously’ changed names. Take Jif peanut butter. Was it always Jif? Some claim it was  Jiffy.

For the record, and as a bona-fide peanut butter connoisseur, I contend it was always ‘Jif’! There was, however, ‘Jiffy Pop’ popcorn.  There is also Jiffy Lube and Jiffy Cakes. Memory is selective. Memory is peculiar.

Here are some more examples of the so-called matrix glitches: Is the product Fabreze or Fabreeze? Coca-Cola or Coke-Cola? Sex in the City or Sex and the City?  Captain Crunch or Cap’n Crunch?  Fruit Loops or Froot Loops? What was Forest Gump’s famous line — either ‘Life IS like as box of chocolates’ of ‘Life WAS like a box of chocolates’?

Yeah I admit it sounds a bit contrived.

I contend it was always Fabreze. It was always Cap’n Crunch. It was always Froot Loops. This being because advertisers, like rock bands, know the value of bad spelling. It draws attention to the product. That is why we had The Beatles, not The Beetles.  (Interestingly I notice as I type, my spell check does not even pick up Beatles as a misspelled word!  Way to go Lennon 🙂  )

I contend it was always Sex AND the City – this being because the city of New York was considered a character in the show as much as Carrie, Samantha, et al.

Coca-Cola? You know the story and it is true. In the 1920’s when cocaine was still legal in America, this soft drink did indeed contain strains of the substance itself.  It was always Coca. (At least I think so…)

The doomsday theorists have taken this whole parallel thing one step further. They are claiming the King James Bible itself has been tampered with.  Pop quiz for Bible enthusiasts:  Does the Lord’s Prayer ask ‘Forgive us our trespasses’ or ‘Forgive us our debts’?  Do the ‘Lion and the Lamb’ sit together in the peaceable kingdom, or is it the ‘Wolf and the Lamb’?   Well now. The poor old Bible has been interpreted and translated from Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew and Latin so many times, it would actually be strange if we did NOT have some  ever changing words in it.

Here is where Dana Carvey pops in, purses his lips and asks: “Could it be… SATAN??”

satan

 

Although there are a plethora of youtube clips exploring this phenomenon, I will include the following because it makes an interesting comparison to Star Trek. (Incidentally, I remember ‘Interview With THE Vampire’, not ‘A Vampire’, which is apparently correct in this current matrix… but I am a huge Anne Rice fan 🙂 )

 

At any rate, I also contend that no matter how you remember any these words, parallel universes DO exist and they always have existed. It is only now that they are actually coming to the surface in tangible, pop culture type ways. Finally!  (Thanks, Berenstein Bears!)

What starts out as tiny, seemingly insignificant words can grow to greater awareness, paradigm shifts and life changing phenomena.

Would you like to live in another parallel where, for example, the current system of banking is changed? Would you like to live in a parallel where water is abundant? (Yes, California, I mean you.)  Would you like a parallel where food, clothing and shelter are adequately provided for all regardless of economics and demographics?

But where would all this stuff come from? you ask. Well now.  Where did electricity come from?  Where did this very internet upon which you are reading, actually come from? Either the grand Magi pulled it out of her hat, or there are several hidden parallels which are constantly adding to the development of humankind. Which is kind of the same thing, really…

Nikola-Tesla-1

To take it one step further, would you like to live in a parallel where wars are eradicated, where hatred and power-mongering have been replaced with love and world peace?  Well then. Follow your matrix. It is the human mind that leads to discoveries, inventions and the archeology of new dimensions.  We will get what we think about. Whether we want it or not. We will achieve as little, or as much, as we believe to be possible in human capacity.

BrighteningthePath