Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, interns, or past contributors.
A common figure in the mythologies of the Indigenous North American inhabitants of the Midwestern and Plains regions is that of the cannibalistic monster known as “Rolling Head.” Often said to be the head of a woman decapitated by her husband, Rolling Head pursues her murderer, seeking revenge and flesh. In other tellings, Rolling Head is all that is left of an individual who has succumbed to self-cannibalism, eating himself until only the head remains, rolling and searching hungrily for more. In still other stories, Rolling Head pursues the members of its family, who in a fit of flesh-eating cruelty, consumed the missing pieces of its body.
In Shel Silverstein’s 1975 children’s book, The Missing Piece, a disembodied, rolling head is in pursuit of something different; the missing pie-slice-shaped piece that would fill its mouth, making it a full circle. This idealized sense of completeness drives our hero, referred to throughout as “it.” After much adventure, trial and error, it does indeed find its missing piece, and takes it, cannibalistically perhaps, into its mouth. But there is a twist: in its complete O form, it rolls too fast to do the things it loves most: singing, letting butterflies land on its nose, smelling flowers, and most importantly, looking for its missing piece. And so, “It stopped rolling…and it set the piece down gently and slowly rolled away.”
Similarly, in The Simpsons short, “Dial Z for Zombie,” from the 1992 “Treehouse of Horror III,” Bart accidentally summons the undead to Springfield. We see a zombified Principal Skinner on the loudspeaker, calling the large-brained Martin Prince Jr. to his office. Cut ahead, and the zombied bullies Dolph, Kearney and Jimbo are shown (we can only assume out of revenge) rolling Skinner’s head back and forth between their kicking feet. “Ow, careful!” he says, “Not the face!”
This edition of Fairy-Tale Files is brought to you by Emerald Issue contributor Michael Hurley.