Friday, January 9, 2009

Waking the sleeping king


I was reading a version of one of Madame d'Aulnoy's fairy stories, "The Blue Bird" and was struck by a part near the end where, after incredible trials and transformations, the abused princess, disguised as a beggar girl, manages to gain access to the Echo Chamber in the castle of King Charming, who loves her as she loves him but believes her lost. What is said in the Echo Chamber can be heard distinctly in the royal bedchamber above. The princess wails her story of love and loss, assuming it will awaken the king to the fact that she is alive and available and recall him to the pledges they exchanged.
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But night after night, the king fails to hear. The princess has used up nearly all of the magic a good witch gave her - which has enabled her to buy entry to the Echo Chamber - before she learns that the king does not hear her because he takes a sleeping-draught every night. She manages to bribe a page to withhold the sleeping potion. Awake in the night, the king hears her love pleas, goes in search of her, and they are united.

A much more relevant story for our times than the theme of the sleeping princess. Here the woman has to wake up the man, as is much more often the case. How many "sleeping kings" do we know? How many forms do their "sleeping draughts" take? Whenever you run into a guy who has lost touch with his dreams, who may even say, "I don't dream", remember you may be dealing with a sleeping king, and you may be called on to play the role of the Awakener.

The very adult message in this story made me want to know more about the author. Where did her clarity of perception, amongst all the fantasy and finery (and raw horror, too) come from? The story of the author of "The Blue Bird" is fascinating, and takes us into the raw depth of lived experience from which the pre-Disney and pre-Victorian fairytales come - in this case, not from peasant folklore but from the no less brutal life dramas of France's real-life princesses.
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At age fifteen, Marie-Catherine le Jumel de Barneville was kidnapped from a convent school and raped under the pretext of an arranged marriage - the polite name for an arrangement by which her father sold her to a rich and depraved aristocrat three times her age. The Baron d'Aulnoy was odious, a heavy drinker and gambler with very unpleasant sexual penchants. Three years into the marriage, it looked like Marie-Catherine had found a way out of her cage when her husband was arrested on charges of high treason against the king. However, under torture two of the accusers confessed that they had invented the treason charges because they were Marie-Catherine's secret lovers.
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The baroness had to flee to Spain, where she restored herself to royal favor - over many years - by functioning as a secret agent for the French. The fantasy writer and editor Terri Windling discusses Madame d'Aulnoy's story in a marvelous book on fairtytales and survivors titled The Armless Maiden and in an essay, “Les Contes des Fées: The Literary Fairy Tales of France”, that is available online.

We derive the term “fairytale” from this extraordinary survivor, Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy.. She titled her first collection, published in 1697, Les Contes des Fées. She spun her tales for adults, rather than children, in her seventeenth-century salon, in fashionable colloquial style, as reflected in the subtitle of her second collection, Les Fées à la Mode. Hers is a true-life story of spinning soiled hay into gold.

11 comments:

Lisa said...

Hi Robert,

Bowl me over with a feather! Just yesterday I was reading Windling's article, and I literally surfed to your blog just now directly from an online version of "The Yellow Dwarf"! Thank you a hundred times for the synchronicity, one I can't ignore, that seems to be saying loud and clear, "Keep doing what you're doing": I have taken to writing literary fairy tales myself, having had the channels opened for this by your Imaginal Healing workshop in Duvall (mine was the Hansel and Gretel-type tale with a tricksterish red fox as animal helper). The response I received from you and others was very gratifying and encouraging, and beyond that, soul-affirming. Hopefully I will attend your writing workshop at Moss Hollow, where I'm sure a magical and healing font of inspiration will flow.

Cheers,

Lisa Cote

Nancy said...

Robert,
Thanks for this. I love the theme of the woman being the Awakener, called to pull the man out of his zoned-out state. This could be literal slumber or being over-focused on what's not important. This reminds me of Scheherazade, captivating her captor king with stories night after night so he won't kill her. I wonder if some of these important stories came from her dreams? She was "waking him up" to how important she was! True power can be more subtle than might & violence.
Nancy

Robert Moss said...

Lisa: Isn't synchronicity a marvelous guide? There really are things that "want to happen together", as the Chinese say. I'll look forward to welcoming you nto "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming".

Nancy: Scheherazade has to to tell stories to stay alive, also a theme in other wonder-tales from other traditions. There's a sense in which all of us need to tall stories - first and last to ourselves, about the meaning of things - in order to stay alive.

Mary said...

Hi Robert,

I've just discovered your website and books and now this fascinating blog--I'm looking forward to reading everything. I have a question for you which may well already be covered in your writing. It's something I've tried to figure out for years.

Given the ability/gift to get into conscious dreaming, or shamanic journeying, or whatever word suits a given person, what techniques are there for bringing those visions back into "ordinary" time? How do you put a vision to work, I guess is my question. (Other than writing.)

Maybe you could point me to a book or post of yours that addresses this? Thanks in advance and thanks for all the wonderful writing!

Mary

Naomi said...

Robert,

What is the link for the on line story?

This just blows me away.

diane said...

Hi Robert,
Reading this part of the tale puts me in mind of an exercise we've done where we concentrate on the longing of the heart, on what our heart is saying at the moment, and give voice to it in a sound(s) - sometimes words. The heart strikes me as such an echochamber (chambers of the heart, echocardiograms...)- the princess' longing reverberating through it. Maybe sometimes the sleeping king may be our own mind; the draft of forgetfulness hiding our bigger stories. Isn't the true longing of the heart a gateway for awakening?
Couldn't we all use an ally to find out what keeps the king - whoever or whatever that king may be - in slumber!
I wonder how many of us feel this "longing for the beloved" echoing inside us - and listen for a response- is it our higher selves we long for? a lover in a parallel dimension? a lover in this dimension? A friend of mine published a book of her poetry and entitled it, "Waiting for the Echo".

Thanks for sharing so many wonderful things on the blog!

Robert Moss said...

Dear Mary: My whole approach is centered on bringing energy, healing and magic from the deeper world into embodied life. Possibly the most helpful book for you to work with in the is cause is "The Three Only Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination" which also contains my rules for navigating by synchronicity and reading the sign language of the world about us. When we go dreaming, we step through the veil of consensual reality. Through the play of coincidence, forces of the world-behind-the-world come poking or ticking through the veil to play with us.

Robert Moss said...

Naomi: I read "The Blue Bird" in Andrew Lang's "Green Book of Fairies." You'll probably find an online version, in this translation or others, if you go searching.

Mary said...

Thanks, Robert. I'll definitely read that book. I have to admit I'm ambivalent. I absolutely believe (and experience regularly) the "world behind the world" but have trouble integrating it. Thanks again though--I'll keep trying!

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