There's something comforting about the cadence of fairy tales... the rhythm and repetition give you advanced warning of the story's direction and remind me of the beloved stories of my childhood. The Robber Bridgegroom is a modern American interpretation of the Grimm Brothers tale. Before I read Welty's version, I printed out a copy of the original (well, not original, because I don't read German, but you know) and it was extremely grotesque, as one can only expect from the grim Brothers Grimm. The story featured cannibalism and the mutilation of young maidens, but luckily Welty left out most of the blood and guts in her telling.
Set along the Old Natchez Trace trail in Mississippi, TRB is a cross between a fairy tale and an American tall-tale. Many of the old staples we come to expect from a fairy tale were included, but some with a twist:
- a beautiful lonely blonde maiden who sits by her window at night and sings about finding her true love (but who lies with more frequency and creativity than Huck Finn)
- her evil, ugly, jealous stepmother
- talking animals
- mystical jewelry
- a dashing hero who is not exactly who he seems to be
Fair Rosamond, the lonely blonde, goes everyday at the request of her evil stepmom to gather the herbs that grow at the edge of the woods. One day, she is set upon by a bandit with a berry-stained face! This is his clever disguise and works just as well as Clark Kent's glasses. This just made me giggle. Who knew the identity-concealing properties of blueberries? Of course, lots of hijinks ensue, with a Southern twist, before Rosamond and the berry-stained bandit can find true love in each others' arms.
I will definitely read more Welty. Here's a good quote:
New Orleans was the most marvelous city in the Spanish country or anywhere else on the river. Beauty and vice and every delight possible to the soul and body stood hospitably, and usually together, in every doorway and beneath every palmetto by day and lighted torch by night. A shutter opened, and a flower bloomed.