FIND in
<--prev V30 next-->

From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) PEACE: The Princess and her Four Suitors
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 16:12:49 

This is the first case of a fairy tale story in PEACE that clearly and
obviously relates directly to Den's life: "The Princess..." is parallel to
Olivia and her suitors.

In brief, the tale tells of a strange prophesy regarding the infant
princess (a paraphrase: earth, sea, air will try; but fire will win her),
for which reason she is placed in a tower at sea.  She grows to marrying
age, and a series of suitors brave the dangers to attempt to win her.
Three suitors try and fail, then the story breaks off.

Princess Elaia . . . (Greek "of the olive") . . Olivia
Prince of Gnomes . . Earth . . . Professor Robert Peacock
Young merchant . . . Sea . . . . James Macafee (dept. store owner)
Prince of Clouds . . Air . . . . Stewart Blaine (banker)
__________ . . . . . Fire. . . . Julius Smart (alchemist)

Peacock is assigned to Earth, fitting with his archaeological field trips;
his troglodyte fantasy expounded to Olivia (almost a courtship song).

Macafee is assigned to merchant/Sea, not too bad since his department store
has things from around the world (transported by sea), and his courtship
involves that Chinese egg.

Blaine, whose courtship remains unrecorded (but the princess makes her
third suitor do all sorts of dirty, degrading work).

Smart, who married Olivia (and alchemists traditionally created their
products through fire).

So far, so good.

The story itself seems to be one taken from Andrew Lang's fairy books
(based upon the context it appears in; the style of the story; the
illustrations it has), and since the text of PEACE mentions THE GREEN FAIRY
BOOK, we might reasonably assume it to be there.

It is not.  Nor is it in any of the many other Lang books.

Nevermind research--intuitively we know that the structure itself is
unusual: we expect there to be three suitors, with the third one
successful; we also worry a bit about the grimm side of "fire will win her."

This common sense is buttressed by research in fairy tale index: never a
case of four suitors.

Three suitors: princess offered to correct guesser (3 caskets); princess
won by the combined efforts of three suitors, so to whom is she awarded?
(these stories feature a judge who is neither princess nor suitor).

Five suitors: "The Lady and Her Five Suitors," a comedy in THE ARABIAN
NIGHTS where the adultress wins.

Six men: "The Vampire's Fourth Story: A Woman Who Told the Truth" (in
VIKRAM AND THE VAMPIRE, another Burton translation, this one from India).

And yet, the pattern of four suitors is not all that unfamiliar to us,
since it appears in TBOTNS.

Princess . . . Foila (armiger's daughter)
First    . . . Hallvard (the seal hunter)
Second   . . . Melito (the farm boy)
Third    . . . Loyal to the Group of Seventeen (Ascian officer P.O.W.)
Fourth   . . . Foila/death by fire

Yep, there's that "bride burning" thing again.

So for the time being, let's consider this a Wolfe story that we have seen
at least two times.

Within the context of PEACE, it amounts to another subtle forgery (amid
countless forgeries); just as the later story of "ben Yahya and the Marid"
amounts to an ARABIAN NIGHTS forgery.

So the "Princess" fragment reflects and explains the fragment we have of
Olivia's courtship, marriage (to Julius Smart, the fourth suitor), married
life (adultress and glutton), and later fate (killed by a car while
crossing the street).  Combining these two fragments, we can guess at the
parts missing to both: the courtship of Blaine, for example; and how the
fairy tale would end.

But wait: Olivia's life after marriage seems like an odd match to the fairy
tale beginning, doesn't it?  (The poor little princess morphs into a
destructive sow goddess?)  Well, it did to me, at least, until I looked at
the fairy tale more closely.

If the princess is a virtual prisoner, we would expect the king to act more
like her jailor, but instead he asks after each vanished suitor, and the
princess gives vague, ellusive answers.  This suggests that the princess
has the power, and is living apart by her own design and desire (which
certainly seems to fit Olivia); and it almost seems as if the princess has
actually _consumed_ the three men.

Well!  This puts a different spin on things: the princess is perhaps less
Andromeda than she is a siren.  Her exile is perhaps less for her safety
than the safety of the kingdom.  In short, she is a monster-bride.

Ah, but she is also the bride of Frankenstein. <g>


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

<--prev V30 next-->