Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Fairy Tale For Our Time

Someday, we need to come to grips with the losses that came with Monotheism. In polytheism, there is an understanding that we are plural, not singular beings. So if you had a need in ancient Greece, you didn’t pray to Zeus, but found the god most relevant to your situation and petitioned them at their particular temple. So it is in the Hindu pantheology and even Catholic saints suggest you be more specific. 


In a similar vein, the most useful response to crisis is not, “Which fundamentalist ideology should I cling to to give me the illusion of security?” but rather, “Which story are we in that I need to consider now?”


Every Halloween, I tell a story to the kids at school and one that I often recycle is a Norwegian tale about a giant who has no heart in his body. Can you guess where this is going? One week before our election, this is the story we need to hear.


The short version is this: 


A King and Queen with six sons sends them out into the world to make their fortune and begin their families, keeping their youngest child, a daughter named Hope, at home with them. The sons happen upon a castle with another royal family with six daughters. They conveniently fall head-over-heels in love with just the right one and begin to make their way back home. But on the way, they pass a giant who, jealous of their happiness, turns them all into stone.


The King and Queen begin to mourn that their sons didn’t return and their daughter, Hope, insists that she go out to find them. On the way, she meets a Raven, a Salmon and a Wolf, each of which is in some kind of distress. Hope helps each of them and each promises to help her in return should she ever need them. 


When she tells the Wolf the nature of her quest, the Wolf takes her to the Giant’s house and advises her to ask the Princess who lives with the Giant for help. The Princess advises her to leave, warning him that the Giant has no heart in his body, but Hope persists and finally she advises her to hide while she tries to find out where the Giant keeps his heart.


Two nights in a row, the Giant returns and sniffs around with his Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, but the Princess assures him that a magpie accidentally dropped a bone down the chimney and then asks him where his heart is. Both times he lies to her (for he is a chronic liar). but the third time he finally relents. “Far away in a lake, there is an island and on that island stands a church and in that church is a well and in that well swims a duck and in that duck there is an egg and in that egg, there lies my heart.”


Hope calls on the Wolf, jumps on his back and rides to the island. There she finds that the church keys are high up in tower and calls on Raven to fetch them. She is able to grab the duck from the well, but the duck drops the egg and it sinks to the bottom. She calls on Salmon, who retrieves it. With egg in hand, she begins to squeeze it and she hears the cry of the Giant (who is a sniveling coward) screaming in the distance and begging for mercy. Hope demands that the Giant release her brothers and their wives. He does. Hope then squeezes the egg in two, the Giant falls down dead and Hope and company all return home to feast and celebrate, the brothers and their new wives and Hope with the princess who the Giant had held captive. And it goes without saying that they lived happily ever after.


So there it is. Our Giant with no heart has turned so many into stone, rendered them frozen and incapable of human thought and feeling. He has held college-educated suburban housewives captive in his house, with no clue as to where his heart is. It took the daughter, the youngest still in touch with her ideas and ideals, the one who unquestioningly helped those in need, the one brave enough to set off on behalf of her brothers instead of claiming all the inheritance for herself, to get things moving. And in our modern version of the story, we can say that inside of the egg was a voting lever she pulled, a ballot she filled out and delivered—and the giant was no more.

May it be so!

(PS All gender roles can be changed as you wish. Given their voting record, I'd say Hope would best be cast as a black woman)


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