“The Remarkable Rocket” by Oscar Wilde

What a relief to encounter Oscar Wilde in this monster of an anthology (The Big Book of Classic Fantasy).

His “The Remarkable Rocket” is Story # 27, and I read a Tolstoy story, “Ivan the Fool,” before getting here, and that story is nothing compared to “The Remarkable Rocket.”

An excerpt:

  • The Prince and Princess were leading the dance. They danced so beautifully that the tall white lilies peeped in at the window and watched them, and the great red poppies nodded their heads and beat time.

Sentence of the Day: Leo Tolstoy

“The women began to rain down bombs onto the army like borax upon cockroaches.”

The Story of Ivan the Fool, Story # 24, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

Whew, this story! Another multi-chap, the second one so far in this anthology. She doesn’t like these long fables as much as the short ones. In fact, the only long fable she liked was one of the early ones in this volume, the excerpt from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker. The Jules Verne multi-chap was just painful to slog through. And even though she read it only a few days ago, she’s already forgotten the title.

Sentence of the Day: Story # 23, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

The floors of the passageways were decked with poppy-petals, so that the queen’s feet would tread on purple only.

Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants, by Carmen Sylva (1843 – 1916), translated by Gio Carval

The Jules Verne story, Master Zacharius, was extremely silly.

The next story, by Louisa May Alcott, was something cute-sy about fairies and the Frost-King.

Self flew past Stories # 16, 17, 18, and 19.

She liked the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Will-o-the-Wisps Are in Town, but it did not slay.

She didn’t read the Lewis Carroll excerpt from Through the Looking Glass because she already knows that book intimately.

She was on the point of cherry-picking (instead of reaching each story in order) until she got to Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants. She hasn’t finished reading it yet, but it is soooo charming.

Furnica got to be Queen of the Ants because: 1) She is an orphan; 2) She is virtuous; and 3) She is extremely hardworking. The ants just love her. After becoming Queen of the Ants, she takes her job so seriously that she “visited the pupae every evening, to test the softness of their cots.” She is a just Queen, banishing recalcitrant ants and even condemning a few to death, though her heart bleeds as she watches “the merciless stabbings” carried out.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Twofer: Stories # 13 and # 14, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

These were the dullest stories ever. How does self know? It took her a full day to read “Feathertop,” and now self is stuck reading “Master Zacharius,” which is about a clockmaker in Geneva.

“Master Zacharius,” by Jules Verne (!!!), is divided into chapters (Oh no!) and the most momentous and scary things happen at night (No, not really) and the dilemma is: should Master Zacharius give his beautiful and virginal daughter Gerande to an ugly, wizened old man? What to do, what to do?

SHUT UP, give her to the old man!

There’s some nonsense about a clock not being allowed to strike midnight because Satan . . .

Whoa! By judicious skimming, self has reached THE END OF THIS STORY!

The next one is by Louisa May Alcott, and even though this one will probably not slay, because it’s about the Frost King, and self doesn’t think fairy tales are Louisa May Alcott’s specialty, it is, mercifully, short.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

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.

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.

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