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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) PEACE: The Princess and her Four Suitors
Date: Sun, 22 Oct 2000 12:29:05 

Michael Andre-Driussi wrote:
> 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.

In a way, though, Peacock's and Macafee's courtships are inversions of
the fairy tale.  Peacock discovers rare, hidden things but (presumably
unlike the prince of gnomes) keeps them for himself.  And in the Chinese
egg affair, Olivia tries to maneuver Macafee into using his trading
prowess for her benefit, like the merchant; but her plan backfires
somehow, and she ends up buying the egg herself.

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

And the inversion also applies to Blaine: he makes out that running a
bank doesn't interest him and is beneath him, but from his overheard
words to Ricepie (p. 91 of the first edition) we know this is a pose.

> 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.

Are any of the many embedded tales in Wolfe's works taken directly from
(as opposed to being modelled on) an earlier work?  None spring
immediately to mind.

> 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.

Cute; but Weer explicitly attributes the princess's exile to the king's
jealousy of the princess's future husband (62).  Nor does his
questioning strike me as inconsistent with his role as jailer: he wants
to know if the unwelcome suitors are still threats.

It's true, though, that neither the princess nor Olivia are portrayed as
very likeable: both try to milk their suitors for all they're worth (the
princess more successfully).  Certainly Olivia, at least as portrayed by
Weer, comes off badly compared with the principal women in Weer's
pre-Olivia life: her scheming around the Chinese egg contrasts
unfavorably with Weer's mother's generosity with her father's gift, and
her cosmopolitanism comes off as shallow and artificial compared with
Hannah's "roots".  (On the other hand, the paragraph on p. 68 beginning
"Nor death, but only once" seems to be Weer's tribute to his aunt.)

Incidentally, there's an odd parallel between the princess's suitors and
the imaginary races Weer describes in the course of describing his
knife, in one of the most enigmatic passages of an enigmatic book.
(16-17)  The orange people worship sundails, and the first suitor has a
shield that looks like a sundail; the scarlet people are skilled in
reatil merchandising, and the second suitor is a merchant.  The
parallelism is less clear with the third suitor, but his bodyguard may
reflect the russet brown people's skill at soldiery.  What, if anything,
this means I have no idea.


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

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