On Living the End of the Fairy Tale

Screenshot (4)Emergence at Easter is so cliché, it’s almost embarrassing, but here we are. I rose up from the ashes along with the crocuses and Jidasky buns.

In The Fantasticks, a beautiful musical theatre adaptation of the story of Persephone and Hades, the dark lord character, El Gallo, orchestrates the mythical journey to the underworld and back. The young, naive lovers begin in moonlit splendor, madly in love and incapable of seeing themselves or each other in anything less than enchanted, archetypal terms. She longs to be rescued by her hero from bandits, he yearns to be the defending liberator champion. The end of the first act has them posturing with their happy parents in a triumphant tableau, poised to live their happily ever after future together.

4522195Act II opens in unforgiving sunlight. The lovers see each other’s flaws, quickly begin to quarrel and then break off in different directions. She goes looking for romance, he for adventure. They are beat up by the world and reunite at the end, world weary and with new appreciation for each other. It’s a timeless piece, my favorite American play, and something about which I’ve been thinking deeply.

When the lovers find each other again, humbled and simple, they ask each the other for forgiveness. They’re grown up.

There is a curious paradox that no one can explain. 

Paradox is a wonderful word we don’t see much of these days. It describes something akin to a mystery, a contradiction, an enigma. But it is its own terrible, wonderful thing. It’s about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Being painted into a corner and having to either stay there until the floor dries, or walk over it, leaving footprints and taking up a mess on one’s shoes.

Who understands the secret of the reaping of the grain?

We don’t understand it. We can’t understand it. We appreciate it, because it feeds us. Sustains us. Gives us our very lives.

Who understands why Spring is born out of winter’s laboring pain…

Why are children born out of mother’s laboring pain? Why must we be torn open in order to bring forth offspring? Why do mothers die in childbirth, still, every day?

or why we must all die a bit before we grow again? 

We see it happen in the deciduous world every year, as the perennial cycle dances through the seasons. We have favorite seasons. Mine is autumn. Maybe because I burn so easily, I love the soft time of year, when the sun begins to move away from my skin and pigments change from chlorophyll-rich green to yellows, reds and purples. It is during the period when green things die that I seem to come back to life. I’ve always been contrary. But it is a simple fact that in the process of dying I feel most alive.

I do not know the answer – I merely know it’s true.

I suppose scientists can explain the “answer” to the need for death and rebirth in the world of flora. But can they tell us why it must happen to fauna, including ourselves?

I hurt them for that reason, and myself a little bit too.

There’s the rub. The Dark Lord loses his queen when she surfaces in the spring. The young hero regains his love. Each is worse for the wear, but also better and stronger for it. The King of Death must be himself wounded in order to evolve.


As Bellomy with Rozzy Schwartz as Hucklebee in The Fantasticks, 1993.

I have found my way home again. More to follow, very soon.

2 responses to “On Living the End of the Fairy Tale

  1. Each goddess (and probably god, as well) contains its opposite, I read the other day. Quan Yin, the serene and gentle goddess of compassion, is also the Devourer. That aspect of her is less publicized than the nurturing mother, holding us close to her breast. I experience paradox this way–two contradictory positions existing simultaneously: love/hate, activism/apathy, life/death, good/evil. Like you, I emerge in the fall amidst the death and lack. (Erica just asked me about paradoxes this morning!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I missed this comment before now. It rings so true, that double existence, or multiple is probably closer to the mark – we live in a state of love/hate/ambivalence/passion/exhaustion…. Quan Yin nurtures and she must devour, because life subsists on death. Paradox. There it is. Thank you, Yvette!


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