November 20: The power of dress

     Right.                      Wrong.

One of the things I don't like about comedy writers, as a class, is that they dress in a low-status way, with their baseball hats and flannel shirts, which is what I'm wearing right now. Plus pants, I hasten to add. On the other hand, you can't dress too fancy out here, or you're weird, and it's hard to live up to weird.

But while it's all very well to say that it doesn't matter what you look like, it's what's in your heart that counts, the truth is that we prefer a whited sepulchre to one that's tumbling down, and this lesson is reinforced for the children -- who, I have heard it said, are our future -- in today's Grimm's Fairy Tale. Our hero is a little tailor who kills seven flies at once, stitches himself a "girdle" commemorating this fact, and then is deferred to by giants and kings and stuff. Not that they don't suspect him of boasting -- they're constantly asking him to prove himself. But he always outwits them in harebrained ways, a lot like those Duke students who are going to save the economy so they can keep their frat house. Here's an example:
After a while he perceived both giants. They lay sleeping under a tree, and snored so that the branches waved up and down. The little tailor, not idle, gathered two pocketfuls of stones, and with these climbed up the tree. When he was half-way up, he slipped down by a branch, until he sat just above the sleepers, and then let one stone after another fall on the breast of one of the giants. For a long time the giant felt nothing, but at last he awoke, pushed his comrade, and said, “Why art thou knocking me?” “Thou must be dreaming,” said the other, “I am not knocking thee.”
I think we can guess how this will end.

The only other thing to note is that our hero, like many heroes in unsantized fairy tales in my experience, is an extremely disagreeable man. Here's how we meet him:
Then came a peasant woman down the street crying, “Good jams, cheap! Good jams, cheap!” This rang pleasantly in the tailor’s ears; he stretched his delicate head out of the window, and called, “Come up here, dear woman; here you will get rid of your goods.” The woman came up the three steps to the tailor with her heavy basket, and he made her unpack the whole of the pots for him. He inspected all of them, lifted them up, put his nose to them, and at length said, “The jam seems to me to be good, so weigh me out four ounces, dear woman, and if it is a quarter of a pound that is of no consequence.” The woman who had hoped to find a good sale, gave him what he desired, but went away quite angry and grumbling.
What a jerk! And he's a self-promoter. And his comeuppance is that he gets to be rich and powerful. Let that be a lesson to you, children.

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