The Child Who Came From an Egg Commentary
Though I was drawn to rewrite the tale "The child who came from an egg", I have to admit that as a fairy tale it is vaguely unsatisfying. "The child who came from an egg" is interesting, however, in that it incorporates traces of a number of typical fairy tale themes. This may also be one of the problems with the tale as well, the ending to which feels forced. The puzzle is skewed, something left out of the mix, despite the tale's broad scope. The read is similar to a second rate romance novel, the mystical quality essential to such a tale ironically lost in its devotion to artifacts of the "weird" world.
"Dotter" is a supernatural child. In my commentary on "Minnikin" I explore the idea of the doll-child, so will not delve too deeply into that here. However, with Pinocchio, another example of the doll-child, we are always aware of his not being quite human--yet. A problem with "The Child who came from an egg" is that it can't quite decide what Dotter is. She is given as being supernatural, a doll-child, then at the end we suddenly have her as the daughter of the enemy king. The forced twist carries us over into the territory of the Lovers, as depicted in the tarot, which I briefly cover in my commentary on "Beauty and the Beast". The feminine used here as a device communicating Dotter as an "opposite" to the masculine child, rather than being of mysterious supernatural origin, in order as if to further annotate the child as an "opposite", we find she is the daughter of the warring king. Just as the Lovers card can be viewed as referring to Eros, as well as depicting brothers, the brother and sister pair of Dotter and William are transformed into lovers. Despite the mystic truth had in this idea of the uniting of opposites, when Dotter is revealed as the child of the warring king, the twist feels false, an apologetic contrivance which conveniently legalizes a union that would otherwise offend sensibility with the two being familially-bound. Nevertheless, Dotter and William remain half-brother and half-sister through the queen, which means the queen was, in effect, consort to both kings.
Dotter is also a Cinderella figure. Alchemically, perhaps, we can see Cinderella as an allegory for the transformative qualities of putrefaction. From the ashes and cinders comes the queen. "The child who came from an egg" stops just short of this extreme, however. Dotter, as a refugee, is lowered in status, becomes a servant whose appearance is alien to what it had been. Cinderella too after her brief stint as a princess in glass slippers, must experience again a time of hiding her true identity while she waits to be discovered. Cinderella inspires sympathy, but Dotter's sufferings never become real enough for us to truly feel for her, even if we believe she has been wronged. Or so it seems to me. Any sympathy we could have has from the beginning been associated to the queen mother, despite her being a minor figure who also never attains emotional reality; this sympathy is never successfully transferred to Dotter, and certainly not to William who scarce enters the tale at all.
A problem could be that Dotter's trials and tribulations visit her as haphazard fate. No ill befalls her as a result of any foolish error of her own, the effect of which she must work to supercede, or which reveals itself eventually as good luck in wolf's clothing. We never feel her weaknesses or strengths. A hapless victim, all that she really manages to do is take some good advice when it is given her.
Points of interest are the lime or linden tree by which the queen mother meets the fairy godmother (who appears as crone, virgin and lady), and the birch bark basket in which Dotter's hopes are kept. Robert Graves writes that the linden, a tree that was popular with romantic poets, was of some importance in Thessaly. The bast or inner bark of the tree was used for writing tablets; when torn into strips these were used for divination. Thus the old woman telling the queen's fortune beside the linden tree. A connection with the doll child may be through the centaur Cheiron, who was a son of Philyra (linden) and famed as a doctor, scholar and prophet. Cheiron was also a descendant of Ixion. And who was Ixion? Well, Ixion was a Lapith king (a son of Phlegyas) who planned to seduce Hera. Zeus, becoming aware of his intentions, shaped a false Hera out of a cloud. Ixion didn't notice the deception and the false Hera, afterwards called Nephele (cloud), bore Ixion the outcast child Centaurus, half a man and half a horse.
It is perhaps not without significance that the birch tree is given by Graves has beeing used in the flogging of delinquents and lunatics with the purpose of expelling evil spirits, as well as driving out the spirit of the old year. Dotter was the daughter the king we are to see as evil, and it is as if through her various tribulations (remember, she is repeatedly beaten by her "evil" stepmother) that this spirit is cleansed.
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