Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The story the Hyacinths told

is in the Third Story. In the Fourth Story you are introduced to Crow. Remember? Crow's one of the helpers in Snow Queen. Crow helps Gerda on her way to find Kai whose heart and eye have been pierced by mirror shards of unfeeling. Gerda laments that she never learned Kontti kielta - crow language - from her Grandmother who was fluent in it, but nevermind, Crow still manages to piece together help for her.

Now, the peikko, kaikkein pahempia, oikea paholainen, that is, the nasty forest gnome, of the worst kind, a real bad-maker, had made a magic mirror of topsy-turvy. Everything good and kind and beautiful changed to evil, nastiness, and terror in the peikkon peili, the troll-gnome's mirror. The Snow Queen starts when he drops it and it splinters into a million bits. One flew into Kai's heart and one into his eye, sending Gerda off to look for him. Crow sends Gerda on her way to the North, to the Snow Queen's castle of ice halls, to rescue Kai.

The Snow Queen has always been one of my favourite fairy tales. It is one of the few Western fairytales where all of the females are strong and do the action. In The Snow Queen the little girl is "the prince" and goes to rescue the little boy. Talk about topsy-turvy! Even in my young not yet feminist mind something drew me to these strong females. The little girl Gerda meets powerful older women who help her, and animals, too. She talks to the animals, even kisses them on the mouth! Of course, it depends on which version you read and there are many, some much better than others. The trick is, each story is made anew in its re-telling.

Take Hans Anderson, the Christian, for example. He did not "write" The Snow Queen. This old story of the Grandmothers (who materialize in it numerous times) was in existence long before Mr. Christian's pen. Even his Christianizing couldn't wipe out the vanha, vanha vaimo, that is, the old, old woman.

I remember reading The Snow Queen in my Grade 1 reader. It was my favourite story because it was the only reference to my Finnish culture that materialized in my schooling here in what was then Port Arthur. There was the Snow Queen who lived up North, yes, an anglocized / Christianized version of Louhi from Pohjala, but even my unschooled eyes saw her there in the text. There was the Finn woman who tied knots for the wind. Of course, in the Finnish version she is known as ruijanmuija. Remember? She comes after the Sami woman (known in the Christian version as the Lapp woman). These two women live alone, in the margins of society. Way way up North with only the Northern Lights and animals for company.

Now Gerda puts on her special red shoes and goes to bargain with the river. Some thought the River had taken Kai. The little girl throws her red shoes into the River as a sacrifice to get her friend back. Instead, the River takes her. Caught in the current, she ends up at the taikurivaimon house with windows of red, blue and yellow. (Really, the translation of taikurivaimo doesn't work--magic making wife?)

A garden of brilliant flowers surrounds taikurivaimon kirjava patchwork house. Each flower has a story to tell. The Tiger Lily, the snowdrop...but I am going to tell you what the Hyacinths said.

The Hyacinths tell her a story about 3 beautiful sisters, who have a beautiful, heady scent floating about them. One wears a red dress, the other a blue one, and the third, a pure white dress, vitivalkoinen. The 3 sisters are dancing hand-in-hand in moonlight by the shore of a mirror-like lake. Suddenly, the 3 sisters disappear into the forest and then 3 coffins drift onto the lake.

Clouds of small star-like fireflies flit about the coffins like small hovering lights. On each coffin lies one sister. As the 3 coffins float by the scent in the air becomes even sweeter. The scent of death, sweet. So sweet.

... the hyacinths' story popped into my mind yesterday when I read the poem my friend from Sweden sent me. That sweet scent of death. Doesn't it remind you of the sensibility of Forough Farrokhzad's poems? I asked Fataneh. The gloominess, the foreboding, the hopelessness. The love of life. Its exquisite unbearableness. The dark, that fatal realization that life is like this. So unromantic. But oh so sweet.


In the language of flowers, purple hyacinths mean sorrow. The scent of death hovers like delicate, ethereal lights around the hyacinth. Purple. The colours of the 3 sisters' garments washed together.

1 comment:

tabula gaza said...

i wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the piece of you that you left on my blog a while back. thank you for your honesty and humility to ask others to correct the mistakes of your people. only such a stance will bring any difference to a conflict so deeply rooted.
-tabula gaza