(This is the third in a series of guest posts from Jeffrey Marlin whose e-books, including this one, are available from Amazon.com. )
The popular Red Riding Hood myth features vulnerable women terrorized by vicious beast until rescued by a one-dimensional “woodsman.” We all recognize (and deplore) the cultural biases served by this outmoded yarn. Today’s version is told in the voice of one elderly forester speaking to another as they wait out a blizzard in a bare forest cabin. It introduces deeply flawed twin brothers (Radleigh and Brother) whose sad fortunes engage three generations of Ridinghood women graced by wisdom, erudition, and courage. At this point in the story, one twins has already succumbed to the mutating bite of a young wolf, while the other is about to encounter two of the above for the first time.
“The sun cast its warmth with a generous hand through the tops of the birches and maples and larches. The budding of springtime unbuttoned such vapors as rise from the tremulous sexual organs which poets refer to with frank admiration as wild, aromatic, and colorful flowers. Songbirds alert to the joy of the season pitched in with their musical chirping and tweeting. In short, at the moment his sibling went wolfish, young Radleigh knew nothing of Brother’s misfortune.
“But rather his ear was afflicted by cries which resembled the sound of a crow doing battle, condemning the blue jay to hell and perdition and daring that cheeky marauder come hither. Yet this was no crow for the creature had words that no bird ever spoke on this side of creation. ‘Retreat, vile intruder, or you will complain of a hundred broke bones and a merciless skinning!’
“Now Radleigh stood still in the shade of a maple, his ears opened wide for additional dialogue, instincts impatient to render protection. The threat he’d just heard soon devolved to a cry of more general rage and a flurry of curses. Then entered the play a more pleasant soprano, whose lightness of tone and superlative diction bespoke a more tragically heart-rending story. ‘I beg you; take me for your hideous purpose, but leave my poor mother her limbs and her organs.’
“Having established the needful direction, the valiant young woodsman made hard for the action. A handful of steps showed a little stone cottage alone in a clearing of well-tended gardens, the center of which proved the scene of a drama as dreadful as any he’d recently witnessed. For there stood a matron of vivid dimension, built squarely and thick as piling of granite. Her pitchfork in hand, her unyielding expression confronting a monstrous bear of the forest.
Just off to the side stood a breathtaking maiden whose golden complexion partook of the sunshine, whose horrified lips bore the color of rubies, whose spacious dark eyes betrayed fear overflowing. She begged once again for the life of her mother: ‘Do chew me to bits as befits your digestion but spare from your maw my ancestral connection.’ Yet never the horror paid any attention, maliciously flaunting his gleaming dentition.
“The bear was much larger than those of today, standing almost as high as a mythical elephant, slavering canines as long and as sharp as our higher born princes might carry for daggers. His roar drove the children of earth and of air in disorderly panic to quit the location. He suddenly rose on his muscular haunches, preparing to strike without pity or caution. ‘Oh, no,’ cried the beauteous daughter distraughtly. ‘Oh yes,’ said the predator’s menacing posture.
“Adroitly he sprang with his eye full of mayhem, his claws glowing bright and his jawbone extended. And surely his prey, now absorbed in her prayers could expect nothing more from her sojourn among us. Likewise, that child whom she stood to defend looked ahead to the worrisome life of an orphan.
“When flew from the edge of the garden-strewn clearing, the furious axe of an agitate Radleigh. Its edge found a home in the skull of the monster, dividing the left from the right cerebellum. And so fell the beast at the foot of the matron, who hastily planted a toe in its rectum, persisting to kick wheresoever she felt that a dosing of vengeance might prove advantageous.
“My Dear, you can hardly imagine the scene. The blood of the ursine marauder flowed over like soup from the lip of a mighty tureen, just as red as the juice of a hot summer beet from which sibilant vapors rose swiftly above it. The woodland exploded with infamous chatter. The woodsman and savior in whom we take pride threw a glance in the beauteous maiden’s direction. Her exquisite form now assumed the recumbent, displayed like a jewel in a garden of cabbage. Unnoticed by mother still chiding her nemesis, only the hesitant breath of her bosom told Radleigh her soul had not fled from the premises.
“Swiftly he rushed to assist and assure her. He lifted her willowy form to his shoulder. He felt in the warmth that invaded his bosom a powerful force of magnetic attraction more potent of magic than he had encountered in nearly a thousand unbridled adventures. He too, might have fainted, except he was chartered with holding aloft the still senseless survivor. Now mother at last having done with the corpse made a gracious approach with her right hand extended, the pitchfork still gripped by the apposite member.”
The narrator chose to enliven his story with voices specific to all the participants, kicking it off with the noise of a crow as its owner let fly with this keen observation. “That’s quite a nice axe, as I think and I say so,’ declared a rough natured but kindly Ma Ridinghood.
“’My name is Radleigh, the woodcutter’s son, and I’m pleased to have shattered the hopes of your visitor. Likewise, I’ve hoisted up onto my shoulder an exquisite creature, who, having defied that unblinking assassin, more recently slept as a sister to cabbages.’
Mother regarded the fruit of her womb with a mixture of pity and honest affection: ‘Yes, any excitement will fell that poor child whose has never partook of my lust for adventure. She leans to a cautious and girlish demeanor, eschewing the risk for which I’m always ready. And so she advised me to stay in the house when that blasphemous bear sought to pilfer my honey.
“Yet I grabbed my pitchfork and might have prevailed had you not flung your axe with such perfect discretion. I must say she seems quite at ease on your shoulder. I see no good reason why we should disturb her. Come round to the back and my little veranda. I’ll make us some tea and dry herbals for smoking. Then, when my daughter is conscious again she may climb from your person to thank you directly.’