“Which path are you going to take,” asked the wolf,
“the path of needles or the path of pins?”
No. 7: Rochelle Hurt
How does poverty affect your re-casted characters (Dorothy, Em, Henry)?
Poverty is degrading, and I think that inspires in each of my characters a desire to escape into a better life—one in which they might have some agency. Henry escapes through drinking, Em through monotonous domestic tasks, and Dorothy through her obsession with the Lone Ranger, who is the ultimate free agent: powerful, respected, mobile. Meanwhile, Henry makes himself feel bigger by asserting power over Em and Dorothy, who are dependent upon him—poverty is also paralyzing.
So they all want to be someone else, but in Oz, Dorothy actually fulfills that desire by becoming someone with social status, capable of saving Oz. I worked backward from that thought, imagining Dorothy’s motivation for leaving as something deeply connected not only to an unstable home life, but also to a sense of shame in her identity as a nobody, a poor kid.
Why do you think orphaned children are so common as a fairy-tale motif?
I think the figure of the orphan unearths in us a deep-seated fear—our first fear, maybe: abandonment. Her own vulnerability exposes us in this way, but that’s also what makes her such a great heroine when she prevails.
Of course, as a child who’s experienced loss, the orphan also represents a disturbing mixture of innocence and tragedy, and I think fairy tales often use this blending of light and dark elements to get at difficult realities. It’s funny that the fairy tale genre is sometimes viewed as a kind of turning away from reality (or the reality of Realism anyway); in fact I think this absurd and uncomfortable mixture of light and dark is precisely what makes stories ring true.
How would you describe the relationship between fairy tales and emotion?
Since so many old fairy tales served as warnings to children, old wounds can be reopened when we read them as adults (like that fear of abandonment). I find fairy tales extremely provocative in this way. I think it’s silly to assume that stories about or even from the points of view of children and adolescents are necessarily less emotionally complex than stories about adults. Childhood emotions are new, messy, confusing, unrestrained. That’s really the most human condition—childhood; it’s terrifying.
Rochelle Hurt’s Dorothy Poems appear in The Emerald Issue of Fairy Tale Review.
Dorothy and the Lone Ranger
He’s the quintessential reinvention: self-
servicing secret avenger, perpetual runaway,
and a voice like quicksand. He had you
at kemosabe–trust only the friend you can name.
But look at the way your sidekick drools
when you taunt him, say Toto–diminutive,
chucking the n like a bone he can chase
and chase. Little foundling, you’ll never stay
gone. Em once said if you’d been born
elsewhere–on a mountain, a mansion, a horse–
you might have a mother, a dollar, a dog
with a brain. But what for, on these plains.