I have written a book of 39 fairytales that I hope will make a family member or friend smile. They are not fairytales with new characters and plots. And they are not just the old fairytales with some new flourish or illustrations. They are the familiar characters from the old fairytales—Goldilocks, Samson and Delilah, the Big Bad Wolf and so forth—but they have got themselves in a whole new kind of trouble, either repeating their familiar episodes in unfamiliar ways or by finding themselves in whole new situations. The title of the book is When Goliath Took a Dive.
For example, what if Goldilocks had only three dwarfs working down in the mine while Snow White had seven bears? I could have them meet up in a meadow, Snow White coming home from the mine in need of many more workmen and Goldilocks sitting at a picnic table with too many restless and squirmy bears eating porridge. What would happen?
Or what if, in digging at a construction site in lower Manhattan, workmen discovered the minutes of the Patriots’ committee meetings in 1776 after Betsy Ross was selected to design the flag? She shows up at one weekly meeting after another with one design after another, each worse than the one before. How would that work out?
In a way, writing these tales was something of a writer’s delight for me. I’d just plop down some characters and watch them run around. They’d be angry, scared, happy, puzzled, loving, gullible—all the things that characters tend to be. But maybe they’d break some new ground.
When they did, and certainly the Big Bad Wolf was one who did, it was sure news to me. Who was writing these stories, anyway? Where did this stuff come from?
The stories each took me about two hours to write. Mostly, they are each three or four pages long. And they can each be read aloud in 15 minutes. But to whom? To yourself? To a kid? To a broadminded adult? I don’t know. I’m just putting them out there.
I’ve illustrated each of these stories with one or two cartoons. In the Betsy Ross story, she is holding up a flag whose main feature is a nasty-looking fanged snake. The background is pink, she says, for the Women’s Movement. Mrs. Ross herself is no treat. She wears too much lipstick. She looks sort of batty. The committee members are stroking their beards trying not to look horrified.
I think the genesis for this book came from my Uncle Ed. He’s now passed on. But when I was a little boy, he’d tell me these fantastic stories that he just sort of made up on the spot but which somehow relate to reality.
One story he told I vividly remember. He had been a soldier. His job, he said, was to guard the Parsippany Reservoir in New Jersey. He sat there for days and days. Then one day, he saw a whole line of Germans sneaking along the curved shoreline of the reservoir, up to no good. He put a single bullet in his rifle, aimed, fired, and it went through every one of those soldiers, around the rest of the reservoir and landed, kerplunk, right back into the breech of his gun, ready to be fired again. He got a medal for that.
Featured in this book are tales of Hannibal, Ben Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, Bigfoot, Noah and Paul Revere among many, many others. They are billed as “stories you thought you knew.”
To give you a sense of the writing, here is one of the entries of the minutes of the meeting with Betsy Ross.
“August 2, 1998
The fourth meeting of the flag committee was held at the home of John Hancock beginning at 8 p.m. Six of the seven members were present. While waiting for Mrs. Ross, a vote was taken about the pink snake on the black background and it was six to nothing against. It was asked if someone could contact Wayne and ask him how he would vote as he was believed to be down at Fraunces Tavern and Jefferson said that he should not be asked to vote on the flag without seeing it, and they would not disgrace it by bringing it to him in a tavern and if he wanted to see it he could jolly well come to the meetings. There was a mumbled assent about this comment.
Mrs. Ross arrived at 9 p.m. and asked how they had liked her flag and they told her they had something different in mind, that it might be fine for a country, but not this country. She seemed angered at this and said that was all the sewing she intended to do and if they wanted her to design another flag that she would do that, but she wouldn’t sew it, but the committee would have to pay people to sew it and she would supervise them. Everybody agreed to give Mrs. Ross a second try. And they said they would pay one shilling to Mrs. Ross and she could pass it on and she said that was a pretty tiny sum for such a project but would make it do. The meeting was then adjourned.”
When Goliath Took a Dive is available at BookHampton and Canio’s Books for $26.95 and also online, for $9.95, as an eBook at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. (Think Nooks and Kindles.)