HAWTHORN

  by Bill Vaughn






Coffee with a Canine:
Bill Vaughn & Hanna and Zoe

Featured at Campaign for the American Reader, 2 July 2015

Hanna and Zoe playing Big Ball

Hanna (left) and Zoe preparing to attack Big Ball


The author, on daily life with his dogs: "The dogs sleep with us. Zoe likes to get going at dawn, so we rarely get to sleep in. As the coffee brews we start off with ten minutes of Chuckit at a distance of a hundred yards. (Or this could be Farley, depending on what pasture we use.) Hanna doesn’t fetch, but prefers to carry a tennis ball as she “herds” Zoe. After their breakfast and the decanting of our coffee into a carafe, we play another ten minutes of Chuckit (or Farley). Then they run down our long driveway to help us fetch the newspaper. Later, the dogs play Fence. This is a game they invented in which they run along one of our four-hundred-yard fencelines—sealed with steel webbing to keep them in, as the many free-range neighbor dogs chase them from the safety of the other side. Much barking, much gnashing. In the afternoon they play Big Ball, a big inflated horse ball the dogs like to throw themselves against and push around. Then there will be swimming and stick-chasing in one of our sloughs. The day might include more chase games, moshing and maybe White Ball, a game the dogs play with a soccer ball.

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Hawthorn Power in Fairy Tales, the Cult of the Virgin and the Cult of the Undead

By Bill Vaughn, published at Yale Books Unbound, 20 July 2015

In “Hawthorn Blossom,” the Brothers Grimm rewriting of the folk story Sleeping Beauty, a queen is informed by a frog that the royal couple finally will have a child. Among the guests at the celebration of the princess’s birth are twelve “wise women” (the sort of traditional village healers accused of witchcraft in Germany during the 1600s and burned alive at the stake.) Because the palace has only twelve golden plates the kingdom’s thirteenth wise woman is not invited. Insulted, she puts a curse on the princess.

In her fifteenth year the maiden will prick her finger with a spindle and die. The curse can’t be lifted, but one of the other healers modifies it. Instead of dying, the princess and the entire palace fall into a hundred-year slumber. An impenetrable hawthorn hedge grows up around the castle, completely obscuring it. Over the decades many suitors try to penetrate this living wall, but all are impaled by thorns, and die agonizing deaths. On the last day of the century another prince approaches the hedge. This time the branches burst into a riot of white blossoms, and part to let Mr. Right inside. The prince finds the awakening maiden, kisses her, and they presumably live happily ever after.

The symbolism in this tale is not opaque. The hedge represents her hymen, the white blossoms her virginity. The odor of sex emitted by blossoming hawthorns signals that her purity will soon be a thing of the past.

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