By Laurie Steven. November 3, 2022
Have you ever felt that desire for more, a desire that hooks its claws into your guts and drives you relentlessly forward? Here are a few of my musings as I consider this theme in some favourite folk tales.
In The Fisherman and His Wife, this duo lives in a piss pot until the fisherman develops a rapport with a wish-granting flounder. The wife tells her husband to ask the flounder for a cottage and then a castle. Still not happy, she asks to be made king, then emperor, then pope. Nothing satisfies her.
Some of us can relate to this. For example, eating one potato chip leads to devouring the bag. A spree of shopping, cleaning, or winning, promises to soothe the savage beast. Workaholics are always just one more task away from enjoying a better life.
In the end, the fisherman’s wife wants to be like God, but winds up back in her piss pot. And we wind up with stress-related health problems and a mountain of debt.
How about the queen in Snow White? When Snow White displaces her as the fairest in the land, she is consumed with envy and decides to murder the ingénue. Or consider Dr. Faustus. Fed up with the mundaneness of all human endeavours, he sells his soul to become a mighty magician.
Spoiler alert: these pursuits will not turn out well. The queen is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and dance herself to death. Dr. Faustus is dragged to hell by the devil.
The message is clear: if you can’t accept the realities of the human condition, you’ll be devoured by your desires and self-destruct.
Are you finding this blog post depressing? It’s too soon for that yet. I’ve only just begun.
You’ll also be sorry if you yearn for fast money. Take the poor miller in The Handless Maiden. He agrees to sell what’s behind his shed to an old man. It turns out that his daughter was behind the shed, and the old man was the devil.
Plan for a life of hard work like the third little pig or be gobbled up by a wolf. Don’t be tempted by gingerbread houses or you’ll end up in a witch’s pot. And in general, when beggars and talking animals ask for help, don’t let your hoarding instincts get the better of you.
Is there no help for those of us who want to improve our lot in life? Fear not, for Jack, and a slew of goodhearted bumblers, come to our rescue.
The Jack I refer to is the seemingly foolish boy who trades his cow for magic beans. But these beans turn into a wondrous beanstalk and lead him on a great adventure. Jack is rewarded with a sack of gold, a hen that lays golden eggs, and a golden harp.
I believe that Jack is rewarded because, though he would like to improve his circumstances, he isn’t obsessed with doing so. He meanders through life at home with himself and his world and ready to see opportunities that others might pass by. He is rewarded for trusting himself and believing in his dreams.
I hope you enjoy Marty Chan’s mischievous musings on wanting more in Double Trouble.