Friday, February 10, 2012
On New Year's Eve, a poor girl is on the streets, barefooted, cold and hungry. No one is buying her matchsticks and she can't go home until she sells some or her father will beat her. Finally, she seeks solace in a sheltered corner and lights one of the match sticks to keep warm. Suddenly she is seeing visions of a roasted goose. When that match stick burns out, she quickly lights another and can feel the warmth of the fire she sees before her. In one vision she sees a shooting star. Her grandmother had told her that shooting stars mean a soul is going to heaven, and when she lights her next matchstick, she sees her grandmother. Quickly the girl lights the rest of her matchsticks because she so wanted her grandmother to remain with her. The grandmother grabbed the girl up in her arms and together the two ascended to heaven. In the morning, the body of the little girl was found in the corner, a smile on her face.
Lovely and touching, yes? I think so. Which is why I can't, for the life of me, explain how Rikki Ducornet took that story as inspiration for her story "Green Air" which appears in My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me. In her story, an unnamed woman (I assume it's a woman, she is locked in a drawer in a cedar chest the entire story so can it be a human), is married to a brute of a man who dreams of nothing but violent sex and abuses the woman. The only correlation I can see between this story and Andersen's tale is a note that the woman has a matchbox tucked in her pocket which she begins lighting, that and the idea of an abused person looking for an escape from an untenable life. At the end of this story, I had no idea what the heck had happened. Usually if I'm stumped with these stories, the author's notes at the end did nothing to enlighten me. It was the first tale I've read in the book that I didn't enjoy.
That wasn't the strangest thing I discovered as I researched the story of "The Little Mermaid." I had no idea that it had ever been made into a musical. I love musicals and I love this story but even I couldn't possibly see how you could take such a short story and stretch it that far (although I guess if you can turn Where The Wild Things Are into a feature film, anything is possible). Still, when I found this 1987 television adaptation of the movie on YouTube, I found myself irresistibly drawn to what I was certain would be nothing short of a train wreck of a movie. In that I was not disappointed. The music is awful, the story preposterous. Let's face it, if you're a movie starring Roger Daltry and Twiggy, there's not much hope for you. I'll give the little girl playing the match girl props - she did have a terrific voice. I wonder if she was ever able to recover from starring in this bomb?
Next, in honor of Valentine's Day, my focus will be on love in fairy tales.