This is a 20-year-old film student's perspective on the fairy and folk tales read in my Sophomore Interdisciplinary Studies class. I'm not shy and I don't hold back opinions--whether good or bad I'm always honest!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Beard vs. the Bird

I've never cared much for the Bluebeard tale type. I hate horror films and literature--I hate most horror-based art, to be frankly honest--so a fairy tale that's largely centered around a serial killer who chops his wives' bodies into pieces and hides them away to rot in a secret chamber of his house? No, thank you. Keep Bluebeard, Mr. Fox, Fitze Fitcher, and all their other incarnations to yourself. I prefer tales of clever, headstrong women outsmarting their arrogant, devious male counterparts...

...Except, wait. Isn't that what the would-be bride in "Fitcher's Bird" does with a vengeance? 

True, the heroines of "Bluebeard," "Mr. Fox," and "The Robber Bridegroom" escape their husband or fiance's dastardly plans, but in each of those tales, who really saves the day? It's always the men: in "Bluebeard" and "Mr. Fox" it's the girl's brothers, and in "The Robber Bridegroom," it's "the proper authorities" who handle the band of thieves, not the girl or her friends. But in "Fitcher's Bird," it's the bride herself who rescues her sisters and escapes on her own.

Of all the Bluebeard tale heroines, the bride of "Fitcher's Bird" is the only one who seems to possess any intellect beyond basic common sense. The ladies in "Mr. Fox" and "The Robber Bridegroom" hide from the murderers just in time to avoid detection. The finger that is chopped off the current victim's hand falls into the would-be victim's lap, and the girl happens to think of keeping the finger as evidence. In "Bluebeard," the wife manages to buy time by asking for time to say her prayers, and asks Sister Anne to make her brothers hurry up. But that's pretty much all they do, and the rest of it is luck. The finger just happens to fall into the fiancee's lap. The wife's brothers just happen to be visiting that day. Mr. Fox just happens to forget to look behind the cask where Lady Mary has hidden herself. There just happens to be a cook who's willing to help the Robber Bridegroom's fiancee escape.

Meanwhile the heroine of "Fitcher's Bird" cleverly avoids the trap set for her by hiding the egg before she explores the house. She saves her sisters by reassembling their bodies (pleasant image, that) and tricks the sorcerer into carrying her sisters home on his back by hiding them in a basket and covering them with gold. She tells him, "Don't you dare stop to rest" and whenever he tries to stop, one of her sisters calls out, "I'm looking out my little window and I can see that you're resting. Get a move on," so that the deceived sorcerer thinks she's watching him. What she's really doing, however, is setting up a dolled-up skull in the window to mimic her face, submerging herself into a barrel of honey, and rolling in the contents of a split-open feather bed so that she looks like a "strange bird that not a soul would recognize." Her own fiancee passes her on the way to her carefully-laid trap and doesn't see her. The help that she asked her sisters to send is already waiting. She is far out of harm's way, but the sorcerer isn't so lucky: he and all of his fellow miscreants are burned down with his house.

What I love most about "Fitcher's Bird' is that even though the heroine doesn't actually kill her captor, she still triumphs by escaping him. In today's society, popular media has taught us that the bad guy must always be killed, and the hero or heroine must always do it themselves, in order for the main character to achieve any kind of fulfillment. But the heroine of "Fitcher's Bird" is incredibly proactive in planning her escape and his demise. She doesn't need to kill him herself; just the fact that she has forced him to carry two of his own victims home on his back is sweet enough revenge for her.

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