By A fly on the wall
Oh, the stories you get to hear when you’re a fly on the wall!
The trick is to be as quiet as possible, don’t even flutter your wings. Once you’re on the wall, humans don’t really bother you, unless they are the vindictive kind). They’re too busy listening to the story-teller, and you get to listen along, too.
So last week, I wasn’t really on a wall, I was in a car with a group of passengers going to a wedding. But I stayed still; no-one noticed me. It was a long, long journey, so they decidd to stem the boredom by telling stories.
And oh, the stories I heard!
Imagine this: a girl forgets that she’s supposed to be cooking beans. She burns them, much to the wrath of her mother, who pounds her in a mortar and then throws her remains out of the compound. The winds blow the remains into the sea, where the girl’s dismembered body is gathered by a loving, caring crocodile. He sews the girl (I knew those sharp teeth had to count for something) and makes her whole again. Then he marries her.
This could be a happily- ever- after story were it not for the fact that the girl feels responsible for her young sister, and regularly leaves the lake in order to help her sister carry the clay pot used for water.
And the sister is not about to keep such good news to herself; she informs people at home that her sister lives under the lake. The older sister is captured (that’s the word used in the story) by the villagers and taken back home.
The crocodile is angry over the villagers’ actions. He swallows the entire lake and starts spewing it out, singing all the while. The villagers dies in the resulting flood, all except for Mrs Crocodile who, having lived in a lake before, is acclimatized as far as rivers and lakes are concerned. Crocodile takes his wife and they go back to live under the water. Do they live happily ever after? We don’t know.
VERSION TWO: A married woman falls seriously ill, and her husband is advised to cast her into the sea just in case whatever she has is catching and might affect the whole village. After all, the villagers reason, the woman is dying.
So off into the sea she goes, and she is caught by a crocodile, who heals her. He marries her, and gives her the freedom to go out and bask in the sun whenever she wants to.
One day, people from her village see her as she sits enjoying the sun, looking very beautiful and what do you think they do? Yep. They go and tell the former husband. And they offer to help him get her back (Sigh. How very helpful).
So they capture her (she protests through song) and they decide to have another wedding ceremony. Through it all, she sings miserably.
The husband hears the song, swallows the sea and floods the village while singing. He gets the girl and off they go to the bottom of the sea.
So…Loving crocodiles? Cruel husbands? Cruel husbands? I don’t know… But these tales make for some grim material. If humans can do this to their own kind, what would they do to a poor, harmless fly like yours truly? At least I know a crocodile wouldn’t harm a fly, he’s got bigger fish to fry (hey, I like how that sounds)!
But human cruelty aside, I know that crocodiles aren’t exactly the kindest of animals. So, I’m thinking, maybe, maybe, the crocodile is a symbol? There are supposed to be symbols in these stories, it’s the only way I can wrap my little head around the cruelty.
So let’s say the first story focuses on a growing girl’s freedom. As in the Western Rapunzel tale, the mother doesn’t want her to grow up too quickly, but this time around, she doesn’t shut her up in a tower. She metaphorically breaks her up in the hope that the girl will be malleable and conform to expectations. A similar pattern for the second story; the wife lives by society’s dictates. So our two girls find a new space, unfettered by society’s rules. Society seeks to mould them back into what they used to be. But when you try to make someone fit into a mould that they have outgrown, the results can only be disastrous, can’t they? I know this from having stayed on so many walls, and from having heard so many stories it could make you weep. Or yawn.
I can’t help thinking about it. I mean, the language used is about restraint, isn’t it? The two girls are ‘captured’. A home that was once familiar is no longer that familiar. These girls welcome the fluidity (yes, fluidity) of the lake and the sea as opposed to the rigidity of their society.
But then, you might ask, doesn’t the crocodile do his share of seizing and capturing too? Well, well, well. I would say the crocodile is more of a force than, than…a crocodile. He could be all about the force that sweeps away society’s order.
Hmm, I think I want to go and think some more about some of these stories. So, until next time, I shall buzz off, in the manner of all flies.