Generation 1: Rumpelstiltskin X Rapunzel
Her hair was lovely, part gold, part silk. It grew quickly, several meters per day. When harvested, it created shimmering fabrics, coveted by the well-to-do, and fetching fantastic prices.
Her eyes, however, were dark and ancient. Her face, like that of a woodland dwarf’s, was complexly wrinkled.
She lived in a tower, prisoner of the king, for whom she cut and spun her own hair. Her work was evaluated by a team of overseers: jeering rapists, who blistered her lower parts with their repeated misuse of them, and hacked out her tongue so that she would cease to cry.
At times, they would taunt her: What is your name? What is your name? They would laugh as she attempted to answer, degrading her with new brutality, as her tongue stump twitched ineffectively. Duh-Duh, she would say, Duh-Duh.
Generation 1: The Emperor’s New Clothes X The Pied Piper
In the city lived a horde of naked men, who preached a social anarchy, displeasing to the king. On Sundays, they dominated the city square, urging immediate rebellion and an end to all taxation. Their chest hairs gleamed with their excited sweat, and their buttocks twitched expressively.
One day, the king’s men, blaring military trumpets, bound and gagged the men, and marched them outside of the city. They flicked their whips to force blood, which, congealing, formed a sort of undergarment, partly cloaking each prisoner.
In a private place, just outside the wall, the prisoners were executed, and heaped into a communal pit. As evening came, their bodies attracted vermin. Rats scurried across them, providing a patchwork of outer garments: grey and white, black and brown.
Generation 1: Little Red Riding Hood X Sleeping Beauty
The wolf had pricked her twice: first at her finger, then at her throat. Within moments, she had fallen into a deep sleep, dreaming intently of the prince who would one day wake her.
As the wolf consumed her, she continued to dream, further refining her picture of the prince. He was a youth, tall and fair, with a red cloak and a masculine smile. He bore a fierce sword and rode a dark horse. He loved her intensely, more than his own life, and he galloped hard, determined to rescue her.
As she slept, her substance dissipated, extracted by stomach acid and absorbed by the wolf’s intestines. Gradually, she was transmuted to new shapes: wolf eyes, wolf ears, wolf fur. Her dreams, though increasingly fragmented, became more insistent: still, her prince would save her. With romantic fervor, he would descend upon the wolf, hacking her from its evil frame and reconstructing her old pieces.
Over months, then years, as she continued to sleep, she was further disintegrated. Portions of her were discarded into waste pits, where they nourished mushrooms and tree ferns and were gradually incorporated into the bodies of insects. She was exhaled as breath, excreted into water. Each part of her, still sleeping, but increasingly remote, sustained the old desire: a prince, mad with love for her, would vanquish the second law of thermodynamics and force her salvation. With a trillion kisses, he would repair her, part by part, fashioning, as before, an exquisite Princess, cloaked in her old garments, royal red.
Generation 1: Goldilocks and the 3 Bears X The 3 Little Pigs
It began with an orgy, held in a field beyond the last silo, where barnyard bordered forest. There were two types of participants. The first were domestic pigs, stout and splotchy-skinned. The second were bears, wild and burly, with thickly snarled pelts.
They were tender with one another. They kissed and petted. They tickled the space between the lips and throat, naming it, with absurd affection, the “chinny-chin-chin.â€ They entwined their limbs, paws clasping hooves. They exhaled occasional suggestions, in disyllabic moans: Harder, Hotter. At last, with convulsive shudders, they whispered: Just Right.
In the morning, they dispersed. In the females’ stomachs, the love continued to quiver, forming the incipient granules of new animals, part pig and part bear. In the pig mothers, these embryos were nourished by slop, consisting of porridge and bits of straw. In the bear mothers, they were nourished by a forest diet, consisting of leaf-topped sticks and golden-haired rodents.
From these materials, the pig-bear embryos constructed themselves, as might a builder. Methodically, they fashioned hearts and skin. With equal care, they laid the beginnings of lungs: intricate bellows, from which, at the moment of birth, they would violently exhale.
Generation 2: Rumpelstiltskin-Rapunzel X The Emperor’s New Clothes-The Pied Piper
There had been rumors of atrocities-imprisonments, assaults-which fueled a hatred of the king. Two rebel factions appeared. The first consisted of the golden-haired dwarves. Long brutalized by the king’s guardsmen, who had seized their scalps, their freedom, and their honor, they constructed a vast woodland army. The second rebel faction consisted of the university bohemians. They wore nothing-absolutely nothing-in order to emphasize their iconoclasm. Calling themselves the “naked revolutionaries,â€ they organized rallies and wrote speeches.
During the civil war, the two factions fought together. After their victory, they negotiated the outlines of a new republic-what shall we name it? how shall we rule it?-and oversaw the trial and execution of the king and his men.
Lesser officials, also guilty, were condemned to rot in a castle bell tower. Rats gnawed at their limbs, partially amputating them. The bells-clang, clang, clang-blistered their ear canals, creating watery scabs.
Their repentance, though insincere, was immediate. Their tongues twitched-at first with great energy, later without spirit-as they insisted, uselessly, that they were “sorry.â€
Generation 2: Little Red Riding Hood-Sleeping Beauty X Goldilocks and the 3 Bears-The 3 Little Pigs
After a few centuries, the story of Sheryl, the Eaten Princess, had become a unifying national tragedy. It was featured in children’s songs: “Tomorrow, Tomorrowâ€ and “The Prince that Never Came.” Actors performed it, delivering elaborate soliloquies about her “hopeless vigilâ€ and “irrevocable disintegration.” Countrymen, upon taking leave of one another, often alluded to it. They used a traditional phrase, containing a slightly ironical optimism: “May she yet emerge from the wolf.â€
A five hundred acre expanse-”Eaten Princess Parkâ€- just east of the capital, also memorialized her. During the summer, visitors descended upon it, depositing elaborate bouquets, tucked with well-wishing notes, “We love you, Sheryl!” During the winter, the park was quiet. The gifts decayed, forming odd sticks and wisps of straw.
In the center of the park lay a vast-though empty-mausoleum, hewn from red sandstone. Fronting the entrance was her statue, made from the same stone. It depicted her at rest, whole and lovely, as she would have been, had she never been eaten.
Beside the statue was the seal of her royal house, rendered in a deeper red, which showed a pig and bear, romantically embracing. About the park ranged the living emblems of this love. They consisted of two varieties: “pears,â€ with pig snouts and clawed bear limbs, and “bigs,â€ with bear muzzles and cloven pig hooves. Docile and sweet-tempered, they served as “spiritual emissaries,â€ conveying prayers and homages to “Her Eaten Highness.â€
During the day, the animals foraged through the mausoleum, accepting presents of porridge from the visitors and park wardens. At night, they settled at the base of Sheryl’s statue, nuzzling lovingly at the stone. As they slept, their expressions became pensive, tinged with an awareness of their disintegrated princess. With small sobs-Grroink, Grroink-they seemed to mourn her. Their lungs worked, inhaling occasional pieces-bits of carbon, scraps of hydrogen-that had once composed her.
Generation 3: Rumpelstiltskin-Rapunzel-The Emperor’s New Clothes-The Pied Piper X
Little Red Riding Hood-Sleeping Beauty-Goldilocks and the 3 Bears-The 3 Little Pigs
It is a complex national emblem, composed of four faces, grouped into a single silhouette. Two-indicating the Eaten Princess and a sleeping pig-bear-represent the old monarchy. Two-indicating a long-haired dwarf and a naked bohemian-represent the revolution and the new republic.
The emblem summarizes a conflicted national feeling: admiration, first, for the divinely-appointed kings, and, admiration, second, for the upswell of common feeling, organized by the kings’ victims, which had utterly obliterated these kings.
In the earth, there is another sort of memory, pressed into layers of clay. Near the surface are the marks of the Great Unrest. There are swords, reddened with rust and blood, and the shells of discharged explosives. There are decayed bits of propaganda, inscribed with dueling slogans; while the monarchists had cried “Today, Today!â€ the rebels had shouted “Tomorrow, Tomorrow!â€
In a lower layer exist the remnants of the old regime. There are hewn stones, framing the outlines of old ballrooms: immense, domed chambers, through which silk-coated princesses had once promenaded, led by dainty pig bears. There are fragments of old tapestries, gold and white, consisting of threads harvested from the scalps of woodland dwarves. There are metal shards, the remnants of the once magnificent castle bells, from which, every third hour, the strains of the national anthem had pealed, “Preserve the King…â€
Mixed in the same layers of earth, though less well-preserved, are the remains of the peasant huts: thatches of straw, framed by wooden posts. Within these outlines, there are charcoal scraps, evidencing inadequate meals: bits of porridge, mixed with wolf gristle and rat skeletons.
In every layer, more confusedly, exists a great jumble of human bones. They are large and small, elderly and infant, healthy and deformed. Each indicates its own tragedy. Some, the results of violence or deprivation, are profoundly horrifying; others, the results of age or illness, are merely routinely so.
Beneath these corpses-deeper yet-there are striations of sterile earth, which, preceding man, contain no stories.