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06 November 2018

Posted by Simon McCormack


West Howe Writers 6/11/18 


& just when our maiden had got 

good & used to her isolation, 

stopped daily expecting to be rescued, 

had come to almost love her tower, 

along comes This Prince 

with absolutely 

all the wrong answers. 

Of course she had not been brought up to look for 

originality or gingerbread 

so at first she was quite undaunted 

by his tendency to talk in strung-together cliché. 

‘Just hang on and we’ll get you out of there’ 

he hollered like a fireman in some soap opera 

when she confided her plight (the old 

hag inside etc. & how trapped she was); 

well, it was corny but 

he did look sort of gorgeous 

axe and all. 

So there she was, humming & pulling, 

all the pins out of her chignon, 

throwing him all the usual lifelines 

til, soon, he was shimmying in & out 

every other day as though 

he owned the place, bringing her 

the sex manuals & skeins of silk from which she was meant, eventually, 

to weave the means of her own escape. 

‘All very well & good’ she prompted, 

‘but when exactly?’ 

She gave him til 

well past the bell on the timeclock. 

She mouthed at him, hinted, 

she was keener than a TV quizmaster 

that he should get it right 

‘I’ll do everything in my power’ he intoned, ‘but 

the impossible (she groaned) might 

take a little longer.’ He grinned. 

She pulled her glasses off. 

‘All the better to see you with my dear?’ he hazarded. 

She screamed, cut off her hair. 

‘Why, you’re beautiful?’ He guessed tentatively. 

‘No, No, No!’ she 

shrieked & stamped her foot so 

hard it sank six cubits through the floorboards. 

‘I love you?’ he came up with 

as finally she tore herself in two. 

By Liz Lochhead (The Grimm Sisters, 1981) 

Today our group read the above poem by Liz Lockhead, and launched into a discussion on the clash between the fairy-tales we tell our children and our experiences as adults. It’s a poem in which real life intrudes on a fairy-tale (or fairy-tales), where the main characters struggle to find the right words and the right actions to make their happy ending. The everyday ‘corny’ magic of the fairy-tale becomes new again in the magic tragedy of the everyday.

The poem lead us into a discussion of the sign-posts, or tropes, that we see in fairy-tales; how the introduction of a ‘glass slipper’ or the ‘chimes of midnight’ or a ‘red cape and picnic basket’ are shorthand for a particular type of story. We talked about how these tropes can act as doorways between the everyday and the magical, how a character with ‘ruby lips, jet black hair and pale skin’ will always be on the edge of a fairy-tale, and how the reader will automatically be on the lookout for a ‘wicked step-mother' or a ‘red, red apple’.

We listed as many of these tropes as we could think of using characters as a starting point, but soon spreading out to settings, ‘the woods, a tower’, and dangerous animals, ‘dragons, wolves’.

We then wrote an everyday story but injected these tropes in where appropriate and let the magic take us where it lead.


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