LEST WE FORGET
Point the rifle
Pull the pin
Release the bomb drop…
It’s that time of year again, when countless innocent pumpkins, their one night of jack-o-lantern glory past and gone, are unceremoniously dumped into the compost bin. Ah, the melancholy…
I can’t help but be reminded of the pumpkin shards littering the road as Cinderella limps home, one glass slipper still left on her foot, supremely indifferent to her dress that hangs in rags on her or the rain that streams down her head, as she is still lost in happy memories of the ball and the prince. In both of the Disney films the pumpkin comes to a quite spectacular end, splattering to pieces under the hooves of the palace guard in frantic pursuit of the mysterious princess.
Interestingly enough, I didn’t encounter the pumpkin in the Cinderella tale until I came to Canada and watched the Disney cartoon, which is modelled on Perrault’s telling of the story. The Grimms’ version of “Cinderella”, which is what I grew up with, hasn’t got a pumpkin in it; Aschenputtel gets to the ball on foot. She’s a much more independent sort than Perrault’s French court lady. There also isn’t a fairy godmother, not really. Aschenputtel’s fairy, umm, god-creatures are a pair of turtle doves that live in the tree on her mother’s grave (and peck out the stepsisters’ eyes during the grand finale – yeah, there might be a reason Disney went with the Perrault version).
Pumpkins aren’t too prolific in fairy tale land, but Perrault is by no means the only one who uses them. Another tale that brings in pumpkins, in an interesting juxtaposition with roses, no less, is Clemens Brentano’s “The Legend of Rosepetal”. Brentano was a contemporary of the Brothers Grimm, one of the chief members of German Romanticism. He wrote various fairy tale collections, and his tales are cited as prime examples of the literary fairy tale. However, his Italian Fairy Tales, of which “The Legend of Rose Petal” is one, are actually adaptations of Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone – in other words, Brentano didn’t “write” them, per se, but took existing tales and retold them. Basile’s version of “The Legend of Rosepetal” is called “La schiavottella”, “The Kitchen Maid” – but Brentano expanded the tale, and, what’s of greater interest to us here, added pumpkins.
The story comes in two parts. Part One begins with the Duke of Rosmital, whose beautiful sister Rosalina is only interested in roses and having her hair combed. Prince Foreverandever wants to marry Rosalina, but she’s having none of it – “That’d be like a rose marrying a pumpkin!” Ouch.
But the prince isn’t so easily put off. He goes to an enchantress, who works things so he becomes a rose bush, which she presents to the princess as a seedling stuck inside a pumpkin to keep fresh. The princess, of course, wants the rose bush to plant in front of her window. But first, the enchantress makes her eat a few spoonsful of pumpkin seed and promise to do a monthly game of “Jump Over the Rose Bush”. The princess agrees to anything, no matter how weird, just to get a hold of that rose bush. Of course, during her very first game, she knocks a rose petal off the bush, which she quickly catches hold of and swallows. Ooops!
“Now you’ve done it,” says the enchantress. “You’ve swallowed pumpkin and rose – so now you’re married to Prince Foreverandever. See ya!” And off she goes. Rosalina passes out from shock, and the next night she dreams she has a rose bush growing from her mouth.
The next month, when the bush has another rose blooming, the princess isn’t feeling so good. By the third month, she keeps having dreams of turning into a pumpkin, which become more and more intrusive, until finally, by month nine, she is convinced she’s a pumpkin, and that she’s going to die! (Yeah, that’s one way of describing it…) What do you know, when she wakes up, beside her bed there’s half a pumpkin, in which lies a beautiful baby girl whom she names Rosepetal.
Part Two: We’ll skip over a few things. Suffice to say, this is where the story turns “Snow White”, “Bluebeard”, and “Cinderella” at once. Little Rosepetal grows up. Mommy gets jealous of her, and in her rage accidentally kills her kid by stabbing her in the head with a comb. Oh dear. She has the girl put in a glass coffin and kept in a spare bedroom, and then she and the rose bush at her window both die from grief.
Rosalina’s brother (the duke from the beginning of the story) marries a nasty woman. One day, she opens the door of the forbidden chamber and finds the girl in the glass coffin. She takes out the comb and wakes the girl, Snow-White-style, and then goes all Cinderella and makes the girl her slave, making her do dirty work and abusing her. Eventually, to carry on the Cinderella theme, Rose Petal asks the duke to bring her a gift from the market.
The gift (a little doll) is the instrument of the duke’s finding out the truth about his niece and his wife. He kicks out the wife, finds a princely husband for Rosepetal, and in the end, Rosepetal even sees her parents, Rosalina and Prince Foreverandever-the-Rosebush. She gets their blessings on a life of Happily Ever After, and they waft off into the ether. Shortly thereafter, a little prince is born, and he, Brentano says, told this story to him for nothing more than a piece of gingerbread. The End.
Cute, isn’t it? Basile’s version is very similar, but without the pumpkin. And presumably the gingerbread at the end.
Personally, I like this version. However, I’ll skip the gingerbread, but I’ll make a pie out of my leftover jack-o-lantern. Pumpkin pie is really easy to make. Here’s how:
Fail-Safe Pumpkin Pie
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
1 single unbaked 10″ pie crust
2 c cooked, mashed pumpkin (chop up jack-o-lantern, put in pot, cover with water, boil until soft, cool, peel, mash)
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c cream
Whiz all and sundry in food processor, dump into crust, bake for 45-55 minutes or until filling puffs evenly all the way to the center.
Remove from oven, cool on rack, serve with whipped cream.
Observe minute of silence for memory of jack-o-lantern or of Prince Foreverandever.
I’m angry right now. Angry that as of next week, the only way in and out of the valley in which I live will be by private vehicle or by airplane. That’s right – no more public transportation. No more Greyhound Bus. The bus company is shutting down in all of Western Canada – BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – because it is no longer “sustainable”.
Half the country will be without publicly accessible means of overland travel between smaller communities. I was going to put the word “affordable” in there, too – but there isn’t even any unaffordable means. If you want to go from, say, Merritt, BC, to Hope, BC, and you don’t drive your own car, you can, umm… hitchhike. That’s it. No, there is no train (c’mon, this is Canada. What do you think this country was built on – railways?). Maybe you could hire a taxi for the 120 km… (and pay them for the empty return trip, too. Yeah, that’s why I was going to say “affordable”).
There will never be another trip like the one I took two years ago, going over the mountains in December. That bus was packed full – declining ridership, my foot!
Usually, when I get angry, I just fuss and fume, grumble at my Man (which he hates), and eventually simmer down and try very hard to forget about it all. But this time, I thought, I have to at least say something. So I wrote a letter. And sent it to my MLA and my MP. And while I was at it, to the provincial premier and deputy premier, the provincial and federal ministers and deputy ministers of transport, and finally Mr Justin Trudeau himself…
I don’t know if it’ll have any effect. I got a whole lot of automated responses saying that somebody would look at my mail, eventually. Whatever. I had my say and I feel somewhat better for it. Still angry, but not quite as powerless. And who knows, maybe it’ll make a difference.
So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s my letter. Yes, I used words like “travesty” and “concomitant” – I guess that’s what happens when a writer gets ticked off. Slay them with verbiage.
Feel free to copy and paste, adjust to your tastes, and fire it off to your own MLA’s office. And to Justin Trudeau, don’t forget him.
But remember to sign it with your own name.
I’m writing to you about the imminent closure of the Greyhound bus lines in Western Canada, coming into effect November 1st.
I think that that closure is a travesty. It will cause serious hardships for the population of rural and small-town BC, and will hit especially hard for people with lower incomes, the elderly, people with illness or disabilities, students, and families where children might want to visit non-custodial parents or other relatives living in smaller towns – in other words, those members of our communities who can least afford an alternative mode of travel. The economic consideration of the Greyhound company being “no longer lucrative to run” led to a decision that is going to hurt the most vulnerable people in our country. In essence, rural and small-town British Columbians have been cut off from each other and from the rest of the province and country – and just in time for winter and the holiday season, when we most need reliable and affordable public transportation…
All that is not even taking into consideration the environmental impact of losing overland mass transportation – each cancelled Greyhound bus means so many more private vehicles on the road or so many more seats booked on an airplane, in other words, far greater fuel consumption and concomitant pollution – or the impact on First Nations communities. The Greyhound closure is in direct opposition to some of the stated goals of this government, and will hurt the people of Western Canada.
The government needs to step in and do something about this, whether it is declaring overland public transportation an essential service, funding (or at least subsidizing) an alternative bus company, or taking over and revitalizing Greyhound.
Please bring this issue to the attention of the government. I would urge you to put your influence behind changing this appalling situation, and going to bat for us as your constituents.
PS: An update, 29.10.2018 (one week later): I received a letter from my provincial MLA’s office with the very welcome news that several private bus companies have been approved to take over some of the bus routes. I don’t have exact details yet, but it appears that we won’t be left in the lurch entirely. I’m very happy about that, and am pleased and impressed with the very personal response I got from my representative’s office.