M&A Book Club – Grimm’s Fairy Tales


Through the magic of bibliomancy I selected “The Summer and the Winter Garden” for our next tale. This seems to be a version of beauty and the beast.

This tale appears more modern. There is much less symbolic language and repeatedly the heroine suffers from “anxiety”. I wonder what this word is in the original german -maybe Aya knows.

So lets start with our symbols. First we have three daughters and a sort of negligent or thoughtless father. The father is a merchant – I imagine the magician from the tarot deck – a hustler. The merchant asks his daughters what gifts they want. The eldest wants a dress, the middle wants shoes and the youngest a rose. Of course the youngest is his favorite. What is the meaning of 3 – the three fates I have mentioned before, also matter soul and spirit. There are more. A dress is the costume we wear – our persona. our shoes concern how we travel in life and how we are grounded to the earth. A rose is our connection with beauty. The petals of the rose are the same as the movement of venus through the sky in a 5 year cycle.

It is midwinter. I think of In the Bleak Midwinter by Rosetti and of Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer. As I write this, midwinter is fresh in my memory. There are no roses in midwinter. The father searches and searches and eventually steals a rose from a garden that is half in sunshine and half under snow – a summer garden and a winter garden.

I see this image very strongly in my mind’s eye. A walled courtyard half in summer and half in winter. I have been thinking a lot about the Dionysian impulse and the Apollonian impulse from Nietzsche’s birth of tragedy – and then explored in Walking with Nobby. I have been thinking about another impulse – The Artemisian – which comes from Artemisian the maiden huntress and goddess of the moon (and twin of Apollo). Artemis is the goddess of the third way – and it is at where three roads meet that Oedipus meets the Sphinx and that births psychology. The winter garden and the summer garden makes me think of Demeter and Persephone. What is a Demeterian culture and a Persephonian culture. We cannot eat the food of the underworld if we ever want to leave it. But do we want to leave the underworld – maybe no – maybe a life in the underworld is ego death – a life in radical plutionan truth and riches.

Ok – so the idiot father steals the rose a beast runs after him and says he can keep the rose but he will marry the beautiful most loved daughter in a week.

A WEEK! weeks figure in this story. But not seven days. A week is an aggregate. I think of the Sorites paradox – when does a grain of sand become a heap. When does a bunch of days become a week?

Then does winter become summer? When does the beast become a man? When does a woman fall in love? This is starting to sound like a bad bob dylan song.

Anyway, this is about phase transitions – which is the neglected corner of metaphysics and epistemology. So obv the girl does not go to the beast in a week, and the beast goes and kidnaps the girl. This is problematic for me, even though I have been an instrument of the patriarchy for much of my life – and still am in many respects – and now with full consciousness of this fact. The girl falls in love with her kidnapper – we call this Stockholm syndrome – and it is FUBAR. This is why we need new tales and new myths. Aya is writing these and we will publish them in 811.

Without these violent overtones, we could read the story of the girl and the beast as the light and the shadow, beauty and the ugly, the sacred and the profane, the refined and the brute, the play of duality – the alchemical play of duality that creates something new – in this case the young prince resurrected from the dead beast buried under cabbages – but I digress.

The girl falls in love with the beast – ugh. But the girl misses her father. The beast has a MAGIC MIRROR. I sometimes wear an ankh pendant. This is very 1970s of me. I wear it because it symbolizes the mirror- to keep my mirror clean, of dust, of projections, to see clearly what is reflected in our world – the maya – which is also an illusion like the mirror. In the magic mirror the girl sees her sick father – heart sick – and goes home. BUT the beast says she needs to come back in ONE WEEK (not 7 days).

She goes home and then her father dies. The girl is consumed with grief and forgets to return in a week. I am reminded of Antigone. Where do new rules come from? I am really into this idea?.Where do we get the laws? Our own laws? Our transvaluation of values? Peter Kingsley has some provocative words on this – and dream incubation … but perhaps new laws come from grief – or perhaps grief breaks laws. Grief is a rupture – a lacuna.

The girl returns to the beast too late. The castle is covered in dark cloth. There is no summer garden only a winter garden. She sees Cabbages! Cabbage heads, actually. Brassica oleracea. Most Indo-European words for cabbage include the word head. Cabbage comes from caboche meaning head. There is something about cabbage that is about decapitation. Apparently, cabbages and grape vines cannot grow next to each other. With grapevines, we cut the first growth because the second one propagates – that is the stories about the two sons. Also people thought if you ate cabbages you would not become drunk. This has no relevance for the story.

The dead beast is buried under the cabbage heads. The girl waters the beast and comes alive, becomes a handsome prince, and the castle is restored and the summer garden returns.

The male principal is the one that transforms -the beast – but the woman does all the work.

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