Monday, June 23, 2008
I'm Worth a Million in Prizes
I recently got a hold of some old books I had when I was a child. The volumes are two hard backs, one of Grimm's fairy tales. Now, this is not your Disney version of Cinderella. This is the real version where the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in order to try and fit into the slippers. And worse. Which probably explains a lot about me since I was around eight years old at the time I was reading all this.
My favorite story in the collection, however, didn't involve any self-mutilation. The story is called "The Fisherman and His Wife." In the tale, a a poor fisherman, living in a hovel near the sea, captures an enchanted flounder, and when the fish talks to him, he lets it go.
His wife sends him back to ask the fish for a favor in return. She asks for a cottage the first time. The fish grants the wish. But it's not enough. She then asks for a castle, to be king, then to be emperor, then to be Pope. Each time, she gets more material wealth, glory, and power. Each time it is not enough. Finally, she tells her husband to ask the fish for her to be Lord of the Universe.
When the fisherman returns home, he finds his wife living back in the hovel by the sea.
I think about this tale sometimes. Once, as I was with my child at the farmers market. After a morning of talking with the farmers, gathering beautiful foods, we sat and listened to music in the community square. Next to us were other families with kids. We parents watched the children play together, dancing and laughing. The woman next to me offers me fresh bread from a loaf she just bought as our kids talk. We are a village, we are sharing, and we have everything that matters most near us; healthy children, gifts of food, music, cool breeze, warm sun. And I am wealthy beyond words in this.
The next day, we go to visit a park and petting zoo we love. It turns out to be a festival day there. There is music, a family with six kids and both parents all playing music and singing. It reminds me a bit of the songs in "O Brother Where Art Thou." We sit and listen, my child is tired, head in my lap. Turns out the family is friends of someone we know. We all talk and laugh and spend the time. It's peaceful. There is nothing more we need in this moment. Here, again, I know am truly rich in this life.
No, there aren't talking magic flounders, but there is definitely much truth to that fairy tale. Of course, with no merchandising opportunities, I am betting Disney will never remake it.