Still Story # 13, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

Story # 13, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is far from self’s favorite, why then has she been stuck reading it for a full day?

Anyhoo, Feathertop the scarecrow has been dressed up in fine clothing, has been taught how to smoke a pipe, and is directed by his fond creator (a witch) to go about. He immediately bewitches the prettiest girl in the village, who fancies herself in love with him. Alas, they happen to walk past a mirror, the girl glances at it, and sees — she is walking with a SCARECROW! A SCARECROW! A SCARECROW! She faints.

A figure burst headlong into the cottage door . . . It was Feathertop!

“What has gone wrong?” demanded the witch. “Did yonder sniffling hypocrite thrust my darling from her door? The villain! . . . Did the girl scorn my precious one? . . . I’ll cover her face with pimples! Her nose shall be as red as the coal in thy pipe! Her front teeth shall drop out!”

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Poetry Monday: Luis Cabalquinto

Depths of Field

I walk some hundred paces from the old house
Where I was raised, where many are absent now,

and the rice fields sweep into view: here where
during home leaves I’m drawn to watch on evenings

such as this, when the moon is fat and much given
to the free spending of its rich cache of light

which transmutes all things: it changes me now,
like someone resorted to the newness of his life.

Note the wind’s shuffle in the crown of tall coconut
trees; the broad patches of moon-flecked water —

freshly-rowed with seedlings; the grass huts of
croppers, windows framed by the flicker of kerosene

lamps: an unearthly calm pervades all that is seen.
Beauty unreserved holds down a country’s suffering.

Disclosed in this high-pitched hour: a long-held
secret displaced by ambition and need, a country

boy’s pained enchantment with his hometown lands
that remains intact in a lifetime of wanderings.

As I look again, embraced by the depths of an old
loneliness, I’m permanently returned to this world.

to the meanings it has saved for me. If I die now,
in the grasp of childhood fields, I’ll miss nothing.

Luis Cabalquinto was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1968. He is the recipient of a poetry prize from the Academy of American Poets and a fellowship from The New York Foundation for the Arts, among others.

Wu Xia: The Story of Jeon Unchi

This one’s from Korea. And it’s Story # 12 in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy.

It’s written by Anonymous, and translated by Minsoo Kang.

It’s filled with magic and dragons and whirling FANS!

He cast a spell on the pig’s head, transforming it into a long, three-pronged spear. Yongdam also cast a spell, turning the bull’s head into a great sword.

The long spear and the great sword clashed in the air, their blades shimmering as they reflected the light of the sun. Yongdam then threw his fan into the mix and cast another spell, turning the sword and the fan into a red dragon and a blue dragon. Unchi threw in his own fan and cast a spell, turning the spear and the fan into a white dragon and a black dragon. As the four dragons fought, the place became filled with clouds and fog while thunder and lightning struck. Yet no clear winner emerged.

This scene is so very Uther Pendragon, wouldn’t you agree, dear blog readers?

Stay cool.

Story # 13, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

Feathertop, A Moralized Legend

by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864)

These writers don’t live very long! Looking at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dates: he died at 60.

It is a great relief to read the opening sentence: “Dickon,” cried Mother Rigby, “a coal for my pipe!”

That is classic, that is beautiful.

The story before this one was very, very long, and self struggled with it for most of the day. She finally had to acknowledge defeat and leave it unfinished.

The “classic” stories she has read so far (an asterisk means the story found favor with her)

  • The Queen’s Son, by Bettina von Arnim
  • Hans-My-Hedgehog, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm *
  • The Story of the Hard Nut, by E. T. A. Hoffmann *
  • Rip Van Winkle, by Washington Irving
  • The Luck of the Bean-Rows, by Charles Nodier *
  • Transformation, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley *
  • The Nest of Nightingales, by Theophile Gautier
  • The Fairytale About a Dead Body, Belonging to No One Knows Whom, by Vladimir Odoevsky
  • The Story of the Goblin Who Stole a Sexton, by Charles Dickens *
  • The Nose, by Nikolai Gogol
  • The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Story of Jeon Unchi, by Anonymous

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Gogol

In Story # 10 of The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, a man finds a nose in his soup. Not only does he find a nose in his soup, he knows exactly whose nose it is, because the man is or was a regular in his barbershop.

What he doesn’t expect is that his wife will immediately accuse him of having murdered his customer.

Wow, Gogol.

There was another story like that earlier in the book, but that was about a corpse getting lost. And the MC was drunk at the time, so there is a suggestion that he might have been dreaming.

Here, not only does the unfortunate MC have to figure out what to do with the nose, but his wife won’t stop screaming at him. So he walks out of his house with the nose in his pocket.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Story #10, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

The Nose, by Nikolai Gogol (Ukrainian, 1809 – 1852)

translated by Claud Field

You will notice that self moved rather quickly through the Dickens story (Story #9). That means self found it engaging. Unlike the Mary Shelley story (Story # 6), which had the most laborious pace, and took self almost an entire day to read. The only time self was truly interested in Shelley’s story was when the ugly, hunchbacked dwarf appeared and offered to exchange bodies with the (stupid) main character. After that, it moved along at a fairly brisk pace.

Anyhoo, Story # 10 has a great opening sentence:

  • On March 25, 18__, a very strange occurrence took place in St. Petersburg.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Story # 9, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

Dickens!

The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton reads like a precursor of A Christmas Carol. Only MUCH more interesting, because instead of the ghost of Bob Marley, we have goblins in a graveyard.

The story contains a paean to womankind:

  • He saw that women, the tenderest and most fragile of all God’s creatures, were the oftenest superior to sorrow, adversity, and distress; and he saw that it was because they bore, in their own hearts, an inexhaustible well-spring of affection and devotion.

Nice! That’s because Dickens’s wife took care of their (13?) children while he wrote and had dalliances with other women.

Had Dickens not had a wife, he wouldn’t have been able to be so prolific. Oh well, sucks for the wife.

Question: Why is a sexton digging graves at midnight? He says that’s his job, but — really? A sexton was expected to dig graves?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Story # 6, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

I arrived in Genoa. I trod the pavement of my ancestral palace. My proud step was no interpreter of my heart, for I deeply felt that, though surrounded by every luxury, I was a beggar . . . We kept nightly orgies in Palazzo Carega. To sleepless, riotous nights, followed listless, supine mornings.

Transformation, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797 – 1851)

This is one Mary Shelley story self is not familiar with. Interesting that she chose to write it from a man’s point of view (Oh wait, isn’t Frankenstein also written from a man’s point of view? It is! So are all Shelley’s stories written from a man’s point of view? What’s up with that?)

This is an extremely long story. Self has been reading it the whole day, and she’s still not done.

Oh, hello, what have we here? The MC encounters a dwarf squatting on top of a treasure chest, on a wild and lonely stretch of beach. All the dwarf wants is the loan of the MC’s “fit and handsome” form for three days. Then he will grant the MC his dearest wish (which is to abduct his fiancée and murder her father?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Luck of the Bean-Rows, Hurrah!

Story # 5 in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is by Charles Nodier (1780 – 1844) and it features a main character who is two-and-a-half feet high and is called Luck of the Bean-Rows (love the name!) because his beans grow so fat.

When he is twelve, his parents send him off to town to find a market for his magnificent beans (and also to see the world), and before long he encounters a tiny princess, Pea-Blossom, who lends him one of her hundreds of tiny carriages to ride in.

  • “The springs of this carriage are a trifle lively,” he thought to himself (he was nimble-witted, remember); “it started off on its giddy race before Pea-Blossom could tell me whither I was bound. I don’t see why this journey should not last for ages and ages, for that lovely princess, who is young enough to be something of a madcap, told me how to start the carriage, but had no time to say how I was to stop it . . . It sped from the tropics to the poles and back from the poles to the tropics, across all the parallels and meridians, quite unconcerned by the unhealthy changes of temperature.”

Loving this story. Hopefully it will not end on a cliff-y, like that “Hard Nut” story by E. T. A. Hoffmann.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Nutcrackerkin

Still on Story # 3 in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy: The Story of the Hard Nut, by E. T. A. Hoffman

After 15 years of hard looking, Drosselmeier, the Court Watchmaker finds the hard nut, Krakatuk.

Not only has he found the hard nut, he has found a man who is up to the job of cracking it open, thereby saving Princess Perlipat from permanent ugliness (A mouse sat on her face, never mind it’s a long story). This man is “the gilder’s son . . . a handsome, well-grown lad” who, “besides having his hair beautifully powdered and curled,” is known for his “gallantry” in cracking nuts “for young ladies,” so much so that he has earned the nickname Nutcrackerkin.

This information immediately fills the court watchmaker with joy, because now he can return to court without fearing he will be beheaded by the King. But, just to make sure the young man is up to the task, he decides he needed to reinforce the young man’s underjaw “with a tough piece of wood.” So Drosselmeier equips the young man with “a wooden jaw” and has him practice “cracking the hardest peachstones,” which he does quite easily.

Self can hardly wait to see how Nutcrackerkin does with Krakatuk once he is in the presence of the King! There is no time to waste: the Princess Perlipat’s ugliness has advanced to such a degree that she now has “a woolly beard, which spread over” her mouth and chin.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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