An Awakening (part 2)

April 11, 2018

whale neptune

Image of Neptune-Whale was inspired by a nineteenth-century Native American textile design, drawing by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Reversing the positions of humans and animals in imaginary depictions was a tactic used to teach children that human and animals suffering was comparable. More than twenty years before the establishment of the San Francisco SPCA in 1868, Lydia Maria Child (1802-1888) selected a story for her Rainbows for Children book that employed rhetoric related to humane treatment of animals in her children’s stories: if you don’t like this treatment yourselves, then don’t do it to us. This logic still can be applied to all minority groups today.

As the story, “Fanny’s Menagerie,” edited by Child, continues, an elephant stomps into the room, shouting, “I want my ivory back! Who carried off my tusks?” The elephant seizes Fanny’s treasured little ivory basket and he quips as he exits with the basket, “It is of no use to me now, but I should like to carry it home to show my little elephants.”

Soon little yellow canary flies into Fanny’s bedroom and she is very sad, the maple tree that has been her home was cut down to make Fanny’s wooden chair. Fanny realizes that she is using products made at the expense of other living creatures and this makes her very sad.

Neptune floats into Fanny’s room on the back of a whale demanding, “Who stole the oil from my favorite whale!” Neptune lifts Fanny’s oil lamp and sails out of the room with it.

Then a fluffy gray squirrel enters, demanding to know, “Who took my nuts?” Fanny feels most awkward since she just took the nuts for her cat to play with, not realizing that they were a food source other animals. When the squirrel realizes that his dinner was a toy for Fanny’s cat, he started pelting her with the stolen nuts.

Poor Fanny wonders what will come next until a great horse enters her room in a fury and rips up her mattress made his hair to shreds before trotting off.

Fanny awakens and realizes that she has only been dreaming. Will she change her ways?

Source: Lydia Maria Child. 1847. “Fanny’s Menagerie,” Rainbows for Children. Boston: Ticknor and Fields: 119-131.

Rosamond’s Choice

January 18, 2018

purple jar a

Design of the purple jar, inspired by consumer parable by Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Long ago, Rosamond, a little girl about seven years old, was walking with her mother. They passed many shops and she saw a great variety of things in the windows that were unfamiliar to her. Rosamond wanted to stop and look at them but the streets were crowded and she was afraid to let go of her mother’s hand.

As they passed a toy shop, she looked up at her mother and said, “How happy I would be if I had all of these pretty things.”

What, Rosamond… all!” Her mother exclaimed: “Do you wish them all?”

“Yes, all.”

Soon they arrived at a milliner’s shop that had windows decorated with ribbons, lace, and festoons of artificial flowers.

“Mommy, what beautiful roses! Won’t you buy some of them?”

“No, my dear.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want them, my dear.”

Next, they passed a jewelry shop that caught Rosamond’s eye. There were a great many baubles arranged in drawers behind the glass.

“Mommy, will you buy some of these?”

“Which one?”

“Which? I don’t know: any of them will do; they are all pretty.”

Yes, they are all pretty, but of what use would they be to me?”

“Use! Oh I’m sure you could find a use for them if only you would buy them first.”

“But I would rather find out the use first.” Her mother said.

“Well, then Mommy, there are buckles; you know buckles are useful things.”

I have a pair of buckles and I don’t need another. Her mother said and then walked on leaving Rosamond upset that her mother did not want anything.

Soon they passed an apothecary store that had some very interesting colorful things in the window that Rosamond had never seen before, but she did not know what the store was selling. “Oh Mommy, look at that!’ She cried, “Look, look! — blue, green, red, yellow, and purple!” What beautiful things? Won’t you buy some of these these?”

“What use would they be to me, Rosamond?

Rosamond pointed at a purple jar and said, “You might put flowers in them and they would look so pretty. I wish I had one of them.”

Her mother looked at her sternly. “You have a flower pot and that is not a flower pot.”

“But I could use it as a flower pot.”

“Perhaps if you examined it closer, you might be disappointed.”

“No, I am sure I want it.” Rosamond countered, “Perhaps you have no money.”

“Yes, I have money.”

“Mommy,” she said excitedly. “If I had money, I would buy roses, and boxes, and jewelry, and purple flower pots, and everything.”

Rosamond was obliged to pause in the middle her speech. “Oh, Mommy! Can we stop, I have a stone in my shoe and it is hurting me.”

“How come there is a stone in your shoe?”

violet shoe

Rosamond pointed at a big hole in her shoe. “My shoes are quite worn out, can you get me another pair?” Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2017.

Her mother looked closer. “Rosie, I don’t have enough money to buy shoes, and flower pots, and buckles, and boxes, and everything.

This was not what Rosamond wanted to hear, especially since her foot was starting to really hurt, obliging her to hop every other step, so that she could think of nothing else. Soon her mother brought her to a shoe store, and they entered it. The shoe store was full so the two had to wait for assistance. Rosamond was not very interested in the shoes because they appeared to be very drab and the store smelled of leather. Rosamond looked around and spotted a small pair of shoes: “These will do, they will just fit me find, I’m sure.”

Her mother went up to the shoes and observed: “Perhaps, but you cannot be sure until you have tried them on…” Adding, “Any more than you can be quite sure of that you would want the purple vase, until you have examined it more closely.”

Rosamond, a bit contrary today, quipped: “Why, I don’t know about the shoes, but I am quite sure that I would want the purple jar.”

Her mother saw the opportunity for a teaching moment, responded: “Well, dear, which would you rather have: that jar or a pair of shoes?”

“Mommy, can I have both?”

“No, not both.”

“Then I would like the jar.”

“Okay, but I will not give you another pair of shoes this month. Are you sure?”

With that, Rosamond paused. A month was a long time for a seven-year-old girl. She needed the shoes, yet the purple jar beckoned her. Her shoes were not that bad, they could be worn a little longer. “I can make the shoes last until the end of the month, don’t you think?”

Oh, my dear, I want you to think for yourself.” Her mother went off to inspect some shoes for her own needs, leaving Rosamond to ponder her options.

When she returned, “Well, Rosie, what have you decided?”

“I choose the flower pot… it will make me happy.”

Her mother paused, and then said, “Very well, you shall have it. Clasp your shoe and come home.” They stopped at the apothecary shop and requested that the jar be delivered, and continued on. The walk home was long as Rosamond was obliged to stop many times to remove stones from her shoe, and soon was limping with pain. However, her thoughts of the purple jar prevailed and she defended her choice again and again.

Once they arrived home, Rosamond immediately went into the garden to look for some flowers for the jar, anticipating its arrival. Hours passed before the jar was delivered, and when it came, she asked, “May I have it now?”

“Yes, my dear; it is yours.”

Rosamond, in her excitement, dropped the flowers onto the carpet and seized the purple flower pot. She lifted the top: “Oh Mommy! There is something dark in it that smell awful. What is it? I didn’t want this dark stuff!”

“Nor do I, my dear.”

“What should I do with it?”

“I don’t know.”

“But it is no use to me!”

“That, I can’t help!”

“I will have to pour it out and fill the jar with water for the flowers.”

“As you wish.”

purple jar b

Rosamond proceeded to empty the purple vase into the sink only to discover that when the vase was empty, it was no longer a purple vase. It was just plain white glass that appeared to be the beautiful color from the liquor with which it had been filled. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Rosamond burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, my dear?” Her mother asked, somewhat mockingly. “It will be of as much use to you now as ever for a flower pot.”

“But it is not as pretty.”

“Didn’t I tell you to examine it more closely?”

To Rosamond’s chagrin, she was in no position to negotiate: “If I give you the flower pot will you get me the shoes, after all?”

“No Rosie, you have dumped its contents down the sink, the shop will not accept it as a return now. The best thing you can do now is to bear your disappointment with good humor.”

It was a long month, indeed.

 

Source: This story was based upon Maria Edgeworth’s parable called the “Purple Jar” (1796).

Purple Jar notecard