Monday, 23 November 2009

Fox, Goose, and Cabbage

Fox trying to look innocent - by US Federal Government, National Park Service - public domainStill reeling from Golden Kate's counterstroke against my continuing attempt to write Three Katherines of Allingdale, I turn my attention again to the intractable second tale, Crown of Foxfires - which belongs to the variably wicked witch Kit Fox, just as the first yarn belongs to Katy Elflocks and the third to their mutual old enemy Kate.

Another major figure therein is the Crown Prince's awkward, shy, and unprepossessing bride, a rich grocer's daughter spitefully dubbed 'Cabbage-Caro' by her detractors. Kit is quite fond of Caro - but Caro is in Kit's beloved husband's way...

Which led me, this morning, to a little insight about how Act One of Crown might be approached, and what it is probably called. I have no idea why I didn't think of it sooner. Here is a new-minted and utterly characteristic piece of wisdom from Kit - now moving in exalted circles as Princess Dolly of Morgander - which may or may not eventually serve as an epigraph to that section. I think it can offer a Very Special Lesson To Us All.

The Fox, the Goose, and the Cabbage

They tell that Astrobal the Wise once came to Morgander, and propounded before the court a pretty fable of a fox, a goose, and a cabbage which were to be got across a river; but the boat would bear only one of them across with the peasant, nor might he leave any two alone on either bank, if the one would devour the other. The court confessing itself vanquished, he showed the changes that would speed the errand at last; and the moral was, how the wise man must sometimes go seemingly backwards if he would advance to his desire.

But Princess Dolly cried, "Nay, his errand was spent before it began; for why would a peasant carry a fox with him ever, unless it were wittier than he, and had tricked him into it?"

Said Astrobal austerely, "Highness, it is naught to this demonstration what a low fellow will be wanting with a fox."

"True," said Dolly, "but it's everything to it, what the fox is wanting with the cabbage!"

- A Better Mirror for Princes, by Lord David Cauldale

Of course, some might say that coming right out with that in front of everybody is not in itself a spectacular display of wisdom. It is, however, as spectacular an example as you like of what Kit and her big mouth think are funny. She is not really Loki in drag - but she'd probably enjoy a few beers with him.

And yes, this particular variant of the problem really was the first one I stumbled across, way back when. I did look for a link that referenced it, but I couldn't find one that didn't annoy the blazes out of me.

Do geese really go for cabbage at all? I don't know, but this goat with the wolfish moniker does. If brussel tops aren't in season, anyhow...

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