Tag Archives: rules

Coyote as Trickster

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Coyotewk1

Coyote says, “RUN!”

In this story of Coyote, we discover that he does not understand the cultural rules about gift giving. When he returns and demands the Rock, Iya, give his blanket back Coyote has disregarded the cultural belief that what is given is given forever.  He is reminded that the blanket is no longer his by Iktome who says, “It is Iya’s blanket now!” Coyote still thinks of the blanket as being his.

When Iya tells Coyote “NO” because he likes having the blanket.” Coyote explains that it is cold out and he needs HIS blanket back. He tells Iya he doesn’t want to catch a cold.  Yet,  Iya still says “NO!” This makes Coyote angry. Coyote just takes the blanket and leaves.  Iya warns him that it is not over.

There have been times in my life when I have not understood the rules or the person I’m dealing with seems to have a different set of rules that I don’t understand.  The whole idea of etiquette or manners is to make social interchanges comfortable and pleasant.

The newspaper columnist Dear Abby or the writer Emily Post are often asked about what manners and/or etiquette rules apply in very specific social situations. Not all rules are written down. In addition, as our society becomes more and more complex new rules have to be established.

My collage this week shows the Rock chasing Iktome and Coyote through the river. Coyote has his blanket flapping behind him. The over all collage depicts a patchwork broader suggesting that the entire piece is a blanket. The reason for the dispute.

Despite the fact that rocks don’t need blankets and Coyote did make the mistake of giving his away, Coyote cannot be an “Indian Giver”.  He cannot expect the Rock to give the blanket back. As the Rock explained, “What is given, is given.”

The Sun, Moon and Stars

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The Sky is the Limit

The Sky is the Limit

The Fisherman and His Wife

(Week #3 The Negative aspect.)

 The Sun, Moon and Stars

 When someone says, The Sky is the Limit,” they could be talking about the Fisherman’s wife. She wants the Sky, the Sun, Moon and Stars. Why not? All her other wishes to date had come true. However, this wish is different. This time the wish becomes “The end”! The Magic Founder takes it all away, everything. The Sky was the limit.

What is interesting about this tale is the lack of rules. When the Magic Fish is caught and released, the Prince Fish says nothing. The story does not explain the parameters, limitations or expiration of the Fish’s enchanted magic. The fish doesn’t say, “I will grant you 1, 2, or 3 wishes.” There are no boundaries stated in this story; nothing is specified. Is the Sky the limit?

When the Fisherman’s wife suggests to the Fisherman that he is entitled to ask for a wish because in essence he saved the fishes life, we don’t know what to expect. Perhaps there is an unwritten rule covering this event. The Fisherman’s wife seems sure that this is the case while the rest of us reserve our opinions until later. We don’t know the rules about magic fish. We gasp at the wife’s demands. We are appalled at her greediness. Yet the Magic Fish continues to grant wish after wish.

We are not sure how long the Enchanted Fish will demonstrate its gratitude.  We wonder when the pay back is exhausted.  We question why the Fisherman is entitled to wish granting.  Is it because he let the fish go? Alternatively, is it because the fisherman now knows about the fish’s magic and, therefore; is entitled to use its powers?

Another twist to the tale is it’s the Fisherman’s wife making all the demands and not the Fisherman. She didn’t catch the fish. She didn’t give the fish back its life. However, she is the one running the show. She feels entitled to her demands because she is married to the Fisherman.

The “bad guy” in the story is the wife. The wife may have become evil (greedy) because the fish didn’t set parameters, and the fisherman never stands up to her demands. I was continually annoyed with the Fisherman. He is an example of an enabler. He plays the role of the long-suffering husband. “What’s a fellow to do?”  He protests but weakly and ineffectually. He and the fish become the slaves of the wife.  He allows her to be the center of the universe, making wishes that always escalate never being satisfied.

What is the significance of the fish being a flounder?  Who in the story is floundering around?  The Sea demonstrates our emotions as the wife increases her demands?  The Sea is the reflection of the force of Nature, and the gauge of Divine wrath over the natural order of things. When the Wife asks to rule the moon and sun she is saying she wants to be in charge of the cosmos. “Dark and stormy,” the Sea Rages its fury.

In my collage I show the fisherman’s wife asking for the Sun, Moon and the Stars.  Finally, we discover when “Enough is enough!”  The Tale is over. Asking to be a God is over the top. The Sea, the Magic Fish, the Heavens all say, no more and everything is changed back to what it was in the beginning.  The Fisherman and his Wife live once again in their shack and order has been restored.

They got it all wrong

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Little Red picks flowers and enjoys the forest..

Little Red picks flowers and enjoys the forest..

They Got It All Wrong

What the story doesn’t tell you, the information they (the Brothers Grimm) left out is … The wolf and Little Red had met before. They were already friends. See, what the brothers didn’t know was Red Riding Hood often snuck off to the forest and played under the tall trees and along the small stream. She was a wild spirit, that’s right, Red was wild at heart. She loved watching the animals and being in nature. In fact, that’s how she had met Mr. Wolf in the first place.

During that faithful visit to the woods, Mr. Wolf had just had a big meal where he stuffed himself, and I mean stuffed. He had eaten a whole deer, granted it was a bit on the small side. He had also had several rodents and a good size bird that flew into a tree trunk and practically dropped dead on Wolf’s head. Mr. Wolf had waddled over and fallen sound to sleep under a shady bush. Little Red was playing hide and seek with a raccoon when she tripped over Wolf. They got to talking and discovered they both loved the wilderness and disliked rodents. Wolf wisely didn’t mention the ill-fated deer he just ate. So you see there was no reason for Little Red Riding Hood to be afraid of Mr.Wolf.

When her mother told her “Don’t talk to strangers” and “Stay on the path, go straight to Granny’s cottage”, Red knew it was a hard directive to follow but planned to do her best. She struggled to ignore the two deer, the four blue jays and eight butterflies that scurried past her and disappeared into the trees. When she unexpectedly ran into Mr. Wolf of course she told him where she was going and why, he wasn’t a stranger, he was her friend. When Wolfy learned that Granny was ill he suggested a bouquet of wildflowers as the perfect gift to cheer the old gal up. It is then that Little Red lost her self, mentally pictured the bouquet and ran off on a flower-picking quest.

But, you might say … what about Mr. Wolf gobbling up Granny? Or you might ask … Didn’t he eat Little Red? See, they got that part wrong too. All that stuff is an out-and-out lie … he never ate Little Red. In fact, he didn’t even growl at her. The truth be told, As Wolfy explained it was the whole incident was caused by his unresolved hunger issues. He hadn’t eaten in several days. He was out of his mind ravenous. Wolves get ravenous. When he got to Granny’s cottage Granny was a lot sicker than any one knew. She was very, very sick … at death’s door… likely to die soon, very soon. She even said she wished she were dead. Now while Wolf was explaining the Granny excuse his posture changed. His head hung lower and lower, he tucked his tail between his legs… He even rolled over onto his back, wincing and crying. Well, the Woodsman and Little Red took pity on him. He was so pathetic. He clearly had lost control of himself. They agreed to let him go back to his pack.

But, Little Red cried and cried about Granny because she loved her so. The Woodsman suggested that she demand that Wolf pledge with a cross your heart and hope to die promise, to never, ever eat people again and Wolf promised. He hated to see Little Red so unhappy. He told her no matter how hungry he was he would leave people off his menu. However, later he told me that eating Granny had helped satisfy his hunger, and for that he was grateful but… he also said she really tasted awful and in fact had put him off people meat forever.

So you see the Brothers Grimm and a lot of their stories about wolves eating people and stupid little girls blindly embracing danger just doesn’t jive with the facts. The Grimm boys just got it wrong, all wrong.

Positive

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One of my big struggles as an artist, whether I’m writing or patching together a collage, is literalism. Literal, literacy, literature, litigate, liturgical all have their origin in the mysterious word “littera” meaning a letter of the alphabet. To use the alphabet, everyone using a particular alphabetical system must agree on what the signs mean. Strict adherence to those meanings is imperative. To be a literate person one must agree and abide by those values. In a sense, everyone who reads is trained to work with fixed meanings.

Writing strives to be literate. Even the most far-fetched fantasy uses words to paint realistic details, which encourage the reader to suspend his belief in his own preconceptions of reality and his disbelief in things that contradict that reality.

The problem is this- how does one break the bonds of that literalism? Beginning writers often struggle in incorporating scenes from memory into story because to fit the plot some detail in the anecdote must be left out, added or tweaked. A feeling of wrongness steals over them because “it didn’t actually happen that way.” In other words it wasn’t written that way into memory.

You may think that understanding this tendency would serve to correct it- not so. It just becomes more subtle. This week, striving to use my own first prompt, I got hung up on the word positive. I define the word as meaning something one is attracted to, nevertheless a little voice in my head keeps harping on the literal meaning of positive. So I looked it up and found that its roots lie in the French word ponere meaning ‘to put” or “place.” Not until 1916 did it acquire its psychological sense of “concentrating on what is constructive and good.”

 Good brings us right back to Red Riding Hood and her story, which tells us terrible things happen to good little girls who act badly. Even though, like Red, I prefer to make my own rules, part of me still wants desperately to hear a parent say, “Good girl!”  However, I like outcasts, lone wolves and strangers and I find the bleaker side of human nature fascinating in its complexity and grim sadness. Like most humans I had some grim sad moments of my own as a child; hence, my affinity for fairy tales.

In summary, I want to appear to be positive (good), though in the case of Red Riding Hood I really relish the odd and grotesque details of her story.

So here’s what I am going to do- concentrate on placing the elements at hand in positions that satisfy both my aesthetic and my need to play in the shadows once in a while. Whatever happens I’ll call it “good.”