One of several articles based on fairytales and fables
This Easter, before I could talk myself out of it, I made a present for my next-door neighbours. They are devout Christians, although of Sri Lankan origin. They like Abba and God Rock. The reason I know this is that the music is clearly audible through the wall. I have nothing against modern religious music. I saw a very good episode of Songs Of Praise once where they had written a hymn to the tune from Hawaii 50, it went: ‘In the name of Jesus, da da-da da da’. So listening to what sounds like the guy off the theme tune to Baywatch singing about Jesus is ok. The irony of it when I am sitting there trying to align my chakras is not wasted on me. But after hearing ‘Mama Mia’ for the third consecutive time I decided I was going to make them a CD. I had enormous fun doing it. I lovingly printed out the insert (mainly Al Green) and then put it in their letter-box, quick. I had to do it quickly because otherwise I would have sat there going should I, should I, and made myself so fractious with indecision that I couldn’t do anything except sit and twitch. Later on my mother told me I shouldn’t have done that, she’d been up half the night worrying about it. She thinks I’m too rash, I’ll never learn. Granted, she saw the message, which said ‘I thought you might like to hear some different music, I know I would (ha-ha)’, but that aside, it was an affectionate response to something that had irritated me quite a lot.
There is a fairy tale by the Brother’s Grimm that tells the story of a poor boy called Hans. I’m hazy on the exact details but it goes like this: He is given the task of taking a chicken home from a friend’s house. He puts the chicken on the ground, driving it ahead of him. A wild dog kills it and eats it. When he gets home he says: they gave me a chicken but a dog killed it. His family tell him he should have stuck the chicken under his arm. So the next time he visits his friends they give him a pitcher of milk. He sticks it under his arm and it all trickles away while he’s walking. He gets home and he says: they gave me a pitcher of milk but I stuck it under my arm and it all trickled away. His family tell him he should have carried it on his head. Next time he’s given butter and carries it on his head and it melts in the sun, all down the back of his neck. Eventually he does something so breathtakingly stupid that he makes a princess laugh or an old man happy and he ends up considerably better off.
I tell this story because it makes me feel better about all the various stupid things I have done in my life. I would like to think that if I display enough well-meaning incompetence that the fates will take pity on me and let me win the lottery.
I envision them on a vague kind of cloud somewhere saying:
“This girl is clearly a dangerous moron. We should help her out.”
I also think it illustrates a point. Hans would have been much better off reasoning for himself how to deal with all this stuff. Maybe his experience with the chicken ruined his faith in his own judgement, who can say? But I like the contradiction of the popular assumption that you can learn from your mistakes. It would be nice if life always gave you a chicken. You would always know what to do with it. Realistically though, it’s not the case. And really, who would want to be continually transporting chickens around when there is milk to be spilt and princesses to amuse?
The neighbours came round a couple of days ago. They wanted to say thank you. They really are lovely people. I haven’t heard anything through the wall since then and they gave me a bar of chocolate.