The excitement was almost too much. The sun dawned bright and… sunny; today, finally, at last, was the day I was to bless twenty-four neighbours with twenty-four copies of one of my most favourite books as part of World Book Night. From the word go the experience of being an official ‘giver’ had been one of personal fulfillment and righteous pride. For once, I was actually making a difference!
That was, of course, how I felt until the slightly uneasy feeling of last night emerged fully-grown into some kind of twenty-four-copies-of-Good-Omens-shaped nightmare. What was I actually going to do with these books? Who would I give them to? Oh, crap… and then, it sunk in. Not only had I no idea where I would offload my precious charges, but I had entirely forgotten the fact that I would be approaching total strangers to do so.
I hate to begin a post with a negative comment, but here it is: my attempt at the ’50 book challenge’ last year ended in tears. Tears as in the liquid kind, dear reader; after all, could you imagine a devotee such as me, defacing a book? Moving on swiftly… before I admit to the hundreds of condemned flyleaves torn out, date sheet still attached, or the inside covers stamped and scribbled upon for the purpose of book sale, or that one occasion I lost my temper with a so-called Christian book* which had ‘homosexuality’ marked as the opposite to ‘marriage’ in a neat little chart… I love and respect all books. Honestly.
However, after bravely beginning the year with Hans Christian Andersen (and realising I’d bitten off more than I could chew), I came to realise that not every book I may lay eyes upon will readily see me through until its last page. It is not with pride that I abandon a badly-chosen book, either for the nature or the SHEER AMOUNT of its content. Therefore in this year’s attempt I promise to avoid such books which threaten the average Bible girthwise.
I’ve written quite a lot about the folklore of China and Japan in the last few weeks, so I thought it was time to write about the folklore of other countries. The one I’m about to tell is a well-known version of the classic Cinderella tale from Russia. I first encountered the tale of the Slavic Cinderella, also known as The Twelve Months, late last year and was surprised by the similarities it bears not only to Cinderella but also to Neil Gaiman’s short story October In The Chair, which features the Twelve Months sat around a campfire sharing their stories. I wonder if this may have been one of them…
There was once a widow who had two daughters. The younger of these, Helen, was her own daughter; the elder, named Marouckla, was her husband’s daughter from a previous marriage. The widow loved Helen dearly and lavished as many gifts, clothes and other expensive indulgences as she could afford upon Helen; but she did not love Marouckla at all, and gave Marouckla only what dignity begrudged her to. Helen lived a carefree life full of parties and other amusements, but Marouckla was forced to remain at home and work hard for the widow and her half-sister.