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Politically Correct Bedtime Stories
 

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Politically Correct Bedtime Stories


  To the Theater of the Bizarre, including Pepe, Armando, Egon, Ted, Matteo, Nick, and Julietta; James Ghelkins, Jr., and Willie, Smitty, and Jocko of the Teamsters Children’s Puppet Theater; and Others too numerous to mention. To Carol, for help and encouragement, and to Lies, for everything.

  CONTENTS

  TITLE PAGE

  DEDICATION

  INTRODUCTION

  LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

  THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

  THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

  RUMPELSTILTSKIN

  THE THREE CODEPENDENT GOATS GRUFF

  RAPUNZEL

  CINDERELLA

  GOLDILOCKS

  SNOW WHITE

  CHICKEN LITTLE

  THE FROG PRINCE

  JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

  THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN

  COPYRIGHT

  INTRODUCTION

  When they were first written, the stories on which the following tales are based certainly served their purpose—to entrench the patriarchy, to estrange people from their own natural impulses, to demonize ‘evil’ and to ‘reward’ an ‘objective’ ‘good’. However much we might like to, we cannot blame the Brothers Grimm for their insensitivity to womyn’s issues, minority cultures, and the environment. Likewise, in the self-righteous Copenhagen of Hans Christian Andersen, the inalienable rights of mermaids were hardly given a second thought.

  Today, we have the opportunity—and the obligation—to rethink these ‘classic’ stories so they reflect more enlightened times. To that effort I submit this humble book. While its original title, Fairy Stories for a Modern World, was abandoned for obvious reasons (kudos to my editor for pointing out my heterosexualist bias), I think the collection stands on its own. This, however, is just a start. Certain stories, such as ‘The Duckling That Was Judged on Its Personal Merits and Not on Its Physical Appearance’, were deleted for space reasons. I expect I have volumes left in me, and I hope this book sparks the righteous imaginations of other writers and, of course, leaves an indelible mark on our children.

  If, through omission or commission, I have inadvertently displayed any sexist, racist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist, ageist, lookist, ableist, sizeist, speciesist, intellectualist, socioeconomicist, ethno-centrist, phallocentrist, heteropatriarchalist, or other type of bias as yet unnamed, I apologize and encourage your suggestions for rectification. In the quest to develop meaningful literature that it totally free from bias and purged from the influences of its flawed cultural past, I doubtless have made some mistakes.

  LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

  here once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water to her grandmother’s house—not because this was womyn’s work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.

  So Red Riding Hood set off with her basket through the woods. Many people believed that the forest was a foreboding and dangerous place and never set foot in it. Red Riding Hood, however, was confident enough in her own budding sexuality that such obvious Freudian imagery did not intimidate her.

  On the way to Grandma’s house, Red Riding Hood was accosted by a wolf, who asked her what was in her basket. She replied, ‘Some healthful snacks for my grandmother, who is certainly capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.’

  The wolf said, ‘You know, my dear, it isn’t safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone.’

  Red Riding Hood said, ‘I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid, worldview. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be on my way.’

  Red Riding Hood walked on along the main path. But, because his status outside society had freed him from slavish adherence to linear, Western-style thought, the wolf knew a quicker route to Grandma’s house. He burst into the house and ate Grandma, an entirely valid course of action for a carnivore such as himself. Then, unhampered by rigid, traditionalist notions of what was masculine or feminine, he put on Grandma’s nightclothes and crawled into bed.

  Red Riding Hood entered the cottage and said, ‘Grandma, I have brought you some fat-free, sodium-free snacks to salute you in your role of a wise and nurturing matriarch.’

  From the bed, the wolf said softly, ‘Come closer, child, so that I might see you.’

  Red Riding Hood said, ‘Oh, I forgot you are as optically challenged as a bat. Grandma, what big eyes you have!’

  ‘They have seen much, and forgiven much, my dear.’

  ‘Grandma, what a big nose you have—only relatively, of course, and certainly attractive in its own way.’

  ‘It has smelled much, and forgiven much, my dear.’

  ‘Grandma, what big teeth you have!’

  The wolf said, ‘I am happy with who I am and what I am,’ and leaped out of bed. He grabbed Red Riding Hood in his claws, intent on devouring her. Red Riding Hood screamed, not out of alarm at the wolf’s apparent tendency towards cross-dressing, but because of his wilful invasion of her personal space.

  Her screams were heard by a passing woodcutter-person (or log-fuel technician, as he preferred to be called). When he burst into the cottage, he saw the melee and tried to intervene. But as he raised his axe, Red Riding Hood and the wolf both stopped.

  ‘And just what to you think you’re doing?’ asked Red Riding Hood.

  The woodcutter-person blinked and tried to answer, but no words came to him.

  ‘Bursting in here like a Neanderthal, trusting your weapon to do your thinking for you!’ she exclaimed. ‘Sexist! Speciesist! How dare you assume that womyn and wolves can’t solve their own problems without a man’s help!’

  When she heard Red Riding Hood’s impassioned speech, Grandma jumped out of the wolf’s mouth, seized the woodcutter-person’s axe, and cut his head off. After this ordeal, Red Riding Hood, Grandma and the wolf felt a certain commonality of purpose. They decided to set up an alternative household based on mutual respect and cooperation, and they lived together in the woods happily ever after.

  THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

  ar away, in a time long past, there lived a travelling tailor who found himself in an unfamiliar country. Now, tailors who move from place to place normally keep to themselves and are careful not to overstep the bounds of local decency. This tailor, though, was overly gregarious and decorum-impaired, and soon he was at a local inn, abusing alcohol, invading the personal space of the female employees, and telling unenlightened stories about tinkers, dung-gatherers and other tradespeople.

  The innkeeper complained to the police, who grabbed the tailor and dragged him in front of the emperor. As you might expect, a lifetime of belief in the absolute legitimacy of the monarchy and in the inherent superiority of males had turned the emperor into a vain and wisdom-challenged tyrant. The tailor noticed these traits and decided to use them to his advantage.

  The emperor asked, ‘Do you have any last request before I banish you from my domain forever?’

  The tailor replied, ‘Only that your majesty allow me the honour of crafting a new royal wardrobe. For I have brought with me a special fabric that is so rare and fine that it can be seen only by certain people—the type of people you’d want to have in your realm—people who are politically correct, morally righteous, intellectually astute, culturally tolerant, and who don’t smoke, drink, laugh at se
xist jokes, watch too much television, listen to country music, or barbecue.’

  After a moment’s thought, the emperor agreed to this request. He was flattered by the fascist and testosterone-heavy idea that the empire and its inhabitants existed only to make him look good. It would be like having a trophy wife and multiplying that feeling by 100,000.

  Of course, no such rarefied fabric existed. Years of living outside the bounds of normal society had forced the tailor to develop his own moral code that obliged him to swindle and embarrass the emperor in the name of independent craftspeople everywhere. So, as he diligently laboured, he was able to convince the emperor that he was cutting and sewing pieces of fabric that, in the strictist objective sense of reality, didn’t exist.

  When the tailor announced that he was finished, the emperor looked at his new robes in the mirror. As he stood there, naked as the day he was born, one could see how years of exploiting the peasantry had turned his body into an ugly mass of puffy white flesh. The emperor, of course, saw this too, but pretended that he could see the beautiful, politically correct robes. To show off his new splendour, he ordered a parade to be held the next day.

  On the following morning, his subjects lined the streets for the big parade. Word had spread about the emperor’s new clothes that only enlightened people with healthy lifestyles could see, and everyone was determined to be more right-minded than his or her neighbour.

  The parade began with great hoopla. As the emperor marched his pale, bloated, patriarchal carcass down the street, everyone loudly oohed and ahed at his beautiful new clothes. All except one small boy, who shouted:

  ‘The emperor is naked!’

  The parade stopped. The emperor paused. A hush fell over the crowd, until one quick-thinking peasant shouted:

  ‘No, he isn’t. The emperor is merely endorsing a clothing-optional lifestyle!’

  A cheer went up from the crowd, and the throngs stripped off their clothes and danced in the sun, as Nature had intended. The country was clothing-optional from that day forward, and the tailor, deprived of any livelihood, packed up his needle and thread and was never heard from again.

  THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

  nce there were three little pigs who lived together in mutual respect and in harmony with their environment. Using materials that were indigenous to the area, they each built a beautiful house. One pig built a house of straw, one a house of sticks, and one a house of dung, clay and creeper vines shaped into bricks and baked in a small kiln. When they were finished, the pigs were satisfied with their work and settled back to live in peace and self-determination.

  But their idyll was soon shattered. One day, along came a big, bad wolf with expansionist ideas. He saw the pigs and grew very hungry, in both a physical and an ideological sense. When the pigs saw the wolf, they ran into the house of straw. The wolf ran up to the house and banged on the door, shouting, ‘Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!’

  The pigs shouted back, ‘Your gunboat tactics hold no fear for pigs defending their homes and culture.’

  But the wolf wasn’t to be denied what he thought was his manifest destiny. So he huffed and puffed and blew down the house of straw. The frightened pigs ran to the house of sticks, with the wolf in hot pursuit. Where the house of straw had stood, other wolves bought up the land and started a banana plantation.

  At the house of sticks, the wolf again banged on the door and shouted, ‘Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!’

  The pigs shouted back, ‘Go to hell, you carnivorous, imperialistic oppressor!’

  At this, the wolf chuckled condescendingly. He thought to himself: ‘They are so childlike in their ways. It will be a shame to see them go, but progress cannot be stopped.’

  So the wolf huffed and puffed and blew down the house of sticks. The pigs ran to the house of bricks, with the wolf close at their heels. Where the house of sticks had stood, other wolves built a time-share resort complex for holidaying wolves, with each unit a fibreglass reconstruction of the house of sticks, as well as native curio shops, snorkelling, and dolphin shows.

  At the house of bricks, the wolf again banged on the door and shouted, ‘Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!’

  This time in response, the pigs sang songs of solidarity and wrote letters of protest to the United Nations.

  By now the wolf was getting angry at the pigs’ refusal to see the situation from the carnivore’s point of view. So he huffed and puffed, and huffed and puffed, then grabbed his chest and fell over dead from a massive heart attack brought on from eating too many fatty foods.

  The three little pigs rejoiced that justice had triumphed and did a little dance around the corpse of the wolf. Their next step was to liberate their homeland. They gathered together a band of other pigs who had been forced off their lands. This new brigade of porcinistas attacked the resort complex with machine guns and rocket launchers and slaughtered the cruel wolf oppressors, sending a clear signal to the rest of the hemisphere not to meddle in their internal affairs. Then the pigs set up a model socialist democracy with free education, universal health care, and affordable housing for everyone.

  Please note: The wolf in this story was a metaphorical construct. No actual wolves were harmed in the writing of the story.

  RUMPELSTILTSKIN

  ong ago in a kingdom far away, there lived a miller who was very economically disadvantaged. This miller shared his humble dwelling with his only daughter, an independent young woman named Esmeralda. Now, the miller was very ashamed of his poverty, rather than angry at the economic system that had marginalized him, and was always searching for a way to get rich quick.

  ‘If only I could get my daughter to marry a rich man,’ he mused, in a sexist and archaic way, ‘she’ll be fulfilled and I’ll never have to work another day in my life.’ To this shabby end, he had an inspiration. He would start a rumour that his daughter was able to spin common barnyard straw into pure gold. With this untruth, he would be able to attract the attention of many rich men and marry off Esmeralda.

  The rumour spread throughout the kingdom in a manner that just happened to be like wildfire and soon reached the prince. As greedy and gullible as most men of his station, he believed the rumour and invited Esmeralda to his castle for a May Day festival. But when she arrived, he had her thrown into a dungeon filled with straw and ordered her to spin it into gold.

  Locked in the dungeon, fearing for her life, Esmeralda sat on the floor and wept. Never had the exploitativeness of the patriarchy been made so apparent to her. As she cried, a diminutive man in a funny hat appeared in the dungeon.

  ‘Why are you crying, my dear?’ he asked.

  Esmeralda was startled but answered him: ‘The prince has ordered me to spin all this straw into gold.’

  ‘But why are you crying?’ he asked again.

  ‘Because it can’t be done. What are you, specially abled or something?’

  The differently statured man laughed and said, ‘Dearie, you are thinking too much with the left side of your brain, you are. But you are in luck. I will show you how to perform this task, yes, but first you must promise to give me what I want in return.’

  With no alternative, Esmeralda gave her assent. To turn the straw into gold, they took it to a nearby farmers’ cooperative, where it was used to thatch an old roof. With a drier home, the farmers became healthier and more productive, and they brought forth a record harvest of wheat for local consumption. The children of the kingdom grew strong and tall, went to a cooperative school, and gradually turned the kingdom into a model democracy with no economic or sexual injustice and low infant mortality rates. For his part, the prince was captured by an angry mob and stabbed to death with pitchforks outside the palace. As new investment money poured in from all over the world, the farmers remembered Esmeralda’s generous gift of straw and rewarded her with numerous chests of gold.

  When all this was done, the diminutive man in the funny hat laughed and said, ‘That is how you turn straw into gold.’ Then h
is expression became menacing. ‘Now that I have done my work, you must fulfil your part of the bargain. You must give me your first-born child!’

  Esmeralda shot back at him, ‘I don’t have to negotiate with anyone who would interfere with my reproductive rights!’

  The vertically challenged man was taken aback by the conviction in her voice. Deciding on a change in tactics, he said slyly, ‘Fair enough, dearie. I’ll let you out of the bargain if you can guess what my name is.’

  ‘All right,’ said Esmeralda. She paused a second, tapped her chin with her finger, and said, ‘Would your name be … oh, I don’t know, maybe … Rumpelstiltskin?’

  ‘AAAAAKKKK!!’ shrieked the man of nonstandard height. ‘But … but … how did you know?’

  She replied, ‘You are still wearing your name badge from the Little People’s Empowerment Seminar.’

  Rumpelstiltskin screamed in anger and stamped his foot, at which point the earth cracked open and swallowed him up in a rush of smoke and sulphur. With her gold, Esmeralda moved to California to open a birth-control clinic, where she showed other womyn how not to be enslaved by their reproductive systems and lived to the end of her days as a fulfilled, dedicated single person.

  THE THREE CODEPENDENT GOATS GRUFF

  nce on a lovely mountainside lived three goats who were related as siblings. Their name was Gruff, and they were a very close family. During the winter months they lived in a lush, green valley, eating grass and doing other things in a naturally goatish manner. When summer came, they would travel up the mountainside to where the pasture was sweeter. This way, they did not overgraze their valley and kept their ecological footprints as small as possible.

  To get to this pasture, the goats had to cross a bridge over a wide chasm. When the first days of summer came, one goat set out to cross the bridge. This goat was the least chronologically accomplished of the siblings and thus had achieved the least superiority in size. When he reached the bridge, he lashed on his safety helmet and grasped the handrail. But as he began to cross, a menacing growl came from beneath the bridge.

 
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