Once there was a girl, make that a woman, who lived in the woods, but was not lonely. She was perfectly happy, sitting inside a hollow tree painting acorns. She had many friends painting acorns alongside her, some human like herself, some wood animals who would hold acorns between their paws or hooves and clamp paintbrushes in their teeth. She was busy and content, when one of the gentlemen painting acorns alongside her asked if she might like to get some honey mead.
You want to know if the gentleman was married?
Well, yes, now that you mention it, he was. But this gentleman and his lady were not entirely happy. In fact the lady had said to the gentleman that she thought they might be better off living in separate hollow trees. But they had two beautiful children and hadn’t yet taken proactive steps towards any particular tree relocation.
Yes, the two beautiful children did have names. Timothypherson was a lad training to be a bard, and Francessina was an archer, with the most excellent aim, who could best in archery all men and women, including the acorn-painting woman who would eventually become her stepmother. And Timothypherson would tell this same acorn-painting woman the most wonderful stories, and invite her to tell her own, during which he would ask many a relevant question and make many an insightful correction or improvement, thereby honing his skills as future bard.
So the acorn-painting gentleman and woman had a glass of honey mead, and over this honey mead soon discovered that their dreams aligned. For instance, they both imagined living in a hollow tree that had a back yard big enough to have a chicken coop, in which they might keep butterscotch-colored chickens, the color, the gentleman’s son Timothypherson would later point out, of his father’s chino pants. And verily—
Well, yes, as established already, the acorn-painting gentleman was married, but his wife had already voiced her dissatisfaction with their hollow tree, et cetera.
Well, of course, there were some bumps and bruises to overcome, some sore spots—see, this is what fairy tales leave out! They conclude with “happily ever after,” curtain drawn. But truly, kids, that’s spin.
No, not that kind of spin. Spin like—well, like whirling through the messy parts. Frankly there’s a lot that fairy tales screw up, excuse my French.
Correct, not real French.
Well, for example that stepmothers are bad news. The fact is, in real life birth mothers can be every bit as bad-newsy. It’s only in fairy tales that birth mothers are always good and kind and innocent. Note that they are also most often dead. It’s easy to be innocent, once dead.
Now of course there are stepmothers who absolutely deserve their bad rap, who have evil, intrusive mirrors and poisonous apples and the whole shebang. But listen, verily, there are other stepmothers who have no incentive to be evil, because their stepchildren, say for instance Timothypherson and Francessina, are interesting children. They keep their stepmother on her toes every day, and make her life maybe more full of chickens than she ever dreamed of, but nonetheless delightful. And she feels, in all sincerity, so lucky to have met these children! The acorn-painting woman was very happy with her life beforehand, one does not need a prince to complete oneself. That goes double for you, Francessina. But her life is richer today, and she is so grateful that the future bard and gifted archer are part of it. She is speaking from the heart here, verily.
Who else gets a bad rap? Well, I’ve always been mystified by why people love doves and hate pigeons. What’s up with that? Timothy, want to tell us a story about bias? Bias is when you don’t like someone or something, but you don’t have a good reason to feel that way. I’m oversimplifying. Okay, Timothy, how about a story about a thoughtful, clever pigeon?