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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Pastiche of Modern Fairy Tales [2]

Read part one here.

Love in the Plot

Love, so the scientists reportedly say, is a roller-coaster ride that can seriously damage our health, as well as break our hearts. Researchers at Imperial College in the UK have said the range of physical effects caused by the ups an downs of romance can cause serious long-term damage to the human body.

Almost all the greatest stories include love; be it fantastical or real, it features in all our personal tales. In the absence or providence of it, love is a common factor in any analysis of human interaction. Whether it oversteps the mark or makes fools of us, we can relate to the world easier within the wider context of love.

When we analyse the world's fairy tale within a collection of stories, we can often see that it's our up-and-down relationships with living things and the environment which causes damage to our world and ourselves, even those who indirectly get caught in the line of fire. The recent story of some emaciated horses explains this well. Standing forlornly in a dusty field in northern Serbia, a famous white breed known as Lipizzaners became war refugees in 1991. Malnourished, with sores and scratches on their white skin, their story is one of innocent victims caught in human warfare. Or the struggle of Fata Orlovic, who like many Muslims in the hills of eastern Bosnia, was ethnically cleansed from the village during the war in the early 1990s. Her husband was killed and she was made a refugee by ethnic Serb military aggression. She finally returned home to find a Serbian Orthodox church built on her land. Or the tale of Iraqi refugees living in a collection of huts made of blankets and paper, doused with a stench caused by the absence of proper latrines and lack of running water. These are the camps that refugee workers say have no "pull factor"; places where conditions are so bad as unlikely to pull in all but the most desperate.

However, love heals when it makes its presence known. A good example is the story of a sixty year old woman who decided that contacting HIV 16 years ago while working as a nurse due to the incompetence of a fellow worker was a chance given to her to help HIV-infected children in Kenya. Within the grotesque stories of young girls being raped and taken as wives by their fathers after infecting their mothers, or sold as cattle for three goats to 55-year-old men, is the passion and energy of a woman who appears at least a decade younger than her age. "If [being infected] hadn't happened to me look how many kids would still be living in pit latrines or abused," she says.

And then there is the type of love that sometimes money can buy. The book A Friend Like Henry by Nuala Gardner is an affecting story, especially for people like me who had childhood dogs who were more than just pets. Gardner's first child, Dale, proved to be severely autistic, who could only respond through Henry, an affectionate golden retriever puppy they bought for their son. For a long time his parents had to pretend to be Henry talking to him to get through to Dale. It was Henry that Dale first said he loved; then the same day, his parents. The story of Henry's death is touching too, and Dale himself comments: "Henry brought me through all of my childhood and because of that I was able to help him at the end, when he needed me...I have decided that for the rest of my life I am never going to let my amazing dog down so that he will always be proud of me, as I will always be of him."

Bitter irony then, that our humanity at certain levels get things so right, and at others so very, very wrong.

Which stories would we prefer to add to the pastiche of tales we are creating in our world's fairytale, that will one day be told to future generations? Which stories make for good reading as an analysis of our humanity?

We must each decide for ourselves.

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