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What is a pear tree, and what does it mean for a king to have one in front of his castle that provided the most beautiful fruit? And why most beautiful, why not the sweetest or the juiciest?

And why should we concern ourselves that each year, at the moment the pears were juiciest, they would disappear before the could be harvested? How was it that no one saw the culprit or knew what happened to the fruit?

We know the king had three sons, and that three is a cardinal number for such tales, but why is there always only one son who is somehow different? Why could there not be more than one dullard in the bunch, or if it be girls, more than one beauty? Why this singling out?

How predictable is it that the older, smarter brothers who guard the tree fail in their duty, and how do they manage to both do it in exactly the same way? Could the first brother not warn the second brother to be extra cautious the night before harvesting? Would not the king bring on other guard to help the second brother after his failure? Is this are just kingly pride and arrogance?

So when the older brothers fail in their task, does anyone expect the younger brother, the simpleton, to succeed? Each time before it took a full year for the fruit to mature, you begin to wonder, is it really worth all this effort? Again we come back to that pear tree: what made it so special?  Was it rare? Were there no others like it? Did everyone imagine the most beautiful fruit possessed some special powers?

Is anyone surprised when the simpleton succeeds?

So what do we make of this dove that comes the night before the harvest and carries each pear away one by one silently in the night? Is it significant that it is white? What alarms does a white dove signal, what symbolism is at play here? Purity? Virginity? Fidelity? Beauty? Peace?

A partridge in a pear tree, perhaps?

But when the simpleton follows the dove to a mountain and finds a little gray man standing beside him, why say “God bless you?” Is this an archaic form of surprise, a sort of religious expletive designed to delight through blasphemy?

So… how exactly do these words, then, release the little gray man from his spell?  What spell? How is he changed by all this? Is he no longer middle, or gray? Does being a little gray man suggest middle age? Is this all an allegory for midlife crisis?

When the little gray man tells the simpleton that he will find his happiness in the cliffs on the mountain, where the dove has disappeared to, why does he go? Is it because he’s a simpleton or because the story demands it? Is this simpleton truly so simple that he does what he’s told without question? Was he even unhappy to begin with?

And now he finds the bird, this dove, trapped in a massive spiders web… and he does nothing? He stands there watching the bird struggle to become free? Why? And what is it that compels the bird to struggle in such a way that it breaks free of the web, as if it would not wish to survive were it not for the audience? And when she does, this bird, this dove, break free, how does this act break her particular spell? Was she not freed from the web by her own actions? Again, is the simpleton as a spectator really all it took to free here?

Honestly, were both the little gray man and the dove waiting years for someone to follow a thieving bird in the hopes of being free? What are the odds?

Is anyone surprised that the dove was really a princess, and does anyone believe the married and lived happily ever after?

Does the king’s pear tree continue to produce beautiful fruit, or was that part of the enchantment as well?

Did people tell this story to their simpleton children in order to give them hope?

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“The White Dove” is freely adapted from The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated and edited by Jack Zipes. This story, number 246, ran into a bit of a delay due to problems surrounding my proposed vacation to an area currently getting pounded by hurricane Irene. That issue — my vacation — is still being hammered out, but the Tales from the New Grimmoire continue forward. Eventually.

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So work on the Critical Thesis for school is plodding along.  Today I got my first dump of articles I requested from the library and began to sort through to figure out what’s useful.  I’m in this odd state where I’ve got some ideas about what to say but not really how to put it.  At the same time I’ve got all this information that I’m thinking would work well if I could find a way to force them into the text.

This is where I’m trying to force slivers of truth into my thesis.  Suze thinks I’m doing this backward, or wrong, but I’m not really sure what I’m doing.  I mean, I know what I want to say, but not how to say it, and as I’m finding a chunk here and a nugget there I’m finding it doesn’t really fit like the jigsaw puzzle I imagined.

In talking with my classmates its become clear that we are either doing the impossible or need to reinvision the end product.  The average for most of us to come up with a first, rough draft is three weeks.

Three weeks.  For a critical thesis.

With most of us still waiting for books or articles and other secondary sources, or reading books frantically instead of giving them the close reading they deserve, this idea of a draft of anything coherent is simply impossible.  Fortunately none of us believe its impossible and we’re setting out to prove it.

Some are writing sections of their drafts with notes to themselves to drop in documentation when they find it (if they find it!), while others are still gathering the raw data.  I tried dictating some and transcribing it, and that seemed to work to get some rough ideas down, but I’m still worried I won’t have the time to do it all this way — a bit to leisurely — and I’m going to have to work a lot faster.

Just to really show how disorganized I am, I’ve also got a journal going that has a list of running questions.  Anything that I think can be asked or challenged, I phrase as a question with the idea of going back and making sure I cover every base.  What do I mean when I say a picture book?  How does a picture book biography differ from other picture books?  From other children’s biographies? And so on.  It’s a little like an assignment I had when I was credentialing to be a teacher.  We were charged to write an entire essay on our subject area — in my case, teaching art history — using only questions.  Each question had to lead to the next, or suggest the answer to a previous question, and it had to make sense in the end.  It was a lesson in the Socratic method, getting us to think about how we would organize and phrase our thoughts to lead students to draw the conclusions we wanted them to.  It was a great exercise, but it was only four pages, and it didn’t require footnotes and MLA style.

What am I trying to say in this thesis of mine?

Why is it important?

Is it possible I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, or can barely understand within the aloted time?

If I was worried about page count that went out the window when I began makin notes on the individual titles and found them coming in at around two or three pages per book.  Given that I’ll probably expand some of these ideas, at eight books, I’m not going to have any problems meeting my minimum 20 pages (though my advisor keeps saying things like 30 pages, which scares me because I think she might be right).

So I’m up late worrying about things because I can’t sleep and I can’t focus.  I’m looking at the weather and praying there’s no snow days this week because, much as I love the girls, I need these full days I have withou distraction to knock this thing out.  I need to have an outline and some structured ideas by the end of this week.  I need to write solidly all next week.  I need to edit and slot and jigger and slam and wobble this thing into some sort of shape.

Because all of a sudden I can hear my middle grade novel calling me.  Loudly.  It’s saying Hey!  I think we’ve got a new angle!  Present tense! And that sounds more intriguing to me than anything else right now.  Of course, the whole time I was playing with the boys in my middle grade novel there were ideas about the thesis trying to catch my eye.

Figures.

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