Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, readers, editorial assistants, or contributors.
Perennial slumberer Rip Van Winkle first appears in Washington Irving’s 1819 story of the same name. Though a great deal has passed during his decades-long sleep, Rip still finds time to enjoy the company of Henry Hudson and his crewmembers (ghosts, through and through) as they partake in nine-pin bowling and a round of magic liquor. Flash forward to 1896 during the motion picture’s infancy where actor Joseph Jefferson portrays Rip eighty-plus years before Repo Man’s Harry Dean Stanton takes a Van Winkle turn in HBO’s Faerie Tale Theatre directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Power nappers are nothing new to literature, as the Chinese story of Lan Ke originated in the fifth century, AD. Here the woodcutter Wang Chih comes across a pair of otherworldly men who feed him dormancy-inducing fruit. Chih wakes to a flowing beard and the sight of his axe handle reduced to dust, the tale later translated into a Japanese poem by the famed Ki no Tomonori in 900:
mishi goto mo arazu
ono no e no
kuchishi tokoro zo
Here in my hometown
things are not as I knew them.
How I long to be
in the place where the axe shaft
moldered away into dust.
It’s hard to believe The Flintstones and The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo—each featuring Rip-themed episodes—have anything in common with the Bhagavatam, yet passages devoted to its story “Muchukunda” recount a long-sleeping king, his reward for aiding the god Indra to oppose a demonic threat. The king hybernates in a cave, the length of his sleep revealed not through years but by the various evolutions that have occurred since his majesty’s last consciousness. One reason not to distrurb this mattress warrior in particular: his gaze will burn you to ashes.
This edition of Fairy-Tale Files is brought to you by poetry editor Jon Riccio.