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A Queen's Discontent, By Marcia Sherman

Editor's note: This is a thorough mashup that had me identifying villainesses and other characters the whole time I read it. It also digs into that stepmother business rather effectively. As for the picture, well, there's no Lancelot in Marcia's poem, but I think the picture captures the mood of it rather nicely.


I will let you in on a secret.
Of course none of us have actually died.
That is all just written for dramatic effect.
It seems so much more -
Interesting,
Heartwarming,
Difficult,
To have a father raise a daughter.
Alone.
But we are all here.
All the mothers.
In the background,
Or on another estate.
Or in another, smaller, castle.
We all keep in touch.
And we meet at least once a year.
Queen and commoner alike.
Even that doe,
The one everybody thinks was shot.
And that clownfish.
In a bowl of course.
Those of us who live close enough,
Visit with one another quite often.
And we have more to do with the stories than anyone realizes.
Take for example that silly girl and Rumplestiltskin.
I can say that silly girl.
Because she married my son.
Do you really think, for one minute,
She was able to get out of that situation alone?
Do you really think, for even one second,
Her mother and I were going to let her take a chance
On giving up our first-born grandchild?
Pish, we were there to help her all along.
We did the "heavy lifting."
I would love to be able to tell the truth about that.
Who would believe me anyway,
After these hundreds of years of fairy tales.
Every so often someone new comes along.
Some little-known tale
Suddenly becomes popular.
Or gets modernized.
Thanks to Walt.
That brings something fresh
To the annual meeting.
But for the most part we just live in the shadows.
We keep the households
And the kingdoms running smoothly.
It does get a little lonely,
Husbands and families
Unable to acknowledge us publicly.
Makes you feel hemmed in.
Unappreciated.
Makes you want to blow off some steam.
So every five years or so we come here.
Across the pond.
Visit with Powhatan's wife.
Let our hair down.
So to speak.
Another silly girl, that Rapunzel.
Why, I would love another, thank you.
That is very charming of you.
And believe me I know something about charming.
Yes, we do age very well.
My room?
I would be enchanted to show you my room.
I am sharing, but the roommates are out shopping.
Something about shoes and mirrors and roses.
Just mind the spindle in the corner,
It is sharp.

"The Four Queens Find Lancelot Sleeping," by Frank Cadogan Cowper

Marcia A. Sherman is Mama to one perfect Rose.She writes for Llewellyn Publishing under the name of Emyme, has self-published the children's book The Splendid, Blended Family, and is writing the Great American Wiccan Novel.

11 comments

  1. This poem is more like a speech given by a Queen or Queens who may seem to be angry with how the male gender, such as the way kings chose to treat their Queens and Princesses within the Kingdom. Centuries ago, women were married for one reason, to reproduce a child. Their duties to their husband were, to served them, and agreed upon their every word. Women had no saying then, many mothers lost their lives during child birth, and some tales such as Rumplestiltskin were tales once told to show other downfalls of women not having enough power over the male gender. This poem or saying, is very interesting, it shows how women actually felt about not being notice for their hard work back stage of their husband life. As well as how they felt unappreciated by the male gender, or the rest of the world. However, through every struggle, women endured the most pain, when they loose their son or husband by death. The content of this poem or saying, kind of shows the anger, and rage some women have about not being appreciated.

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  2. I’m not sure what to think by, “A Queen’s Discontent”, by Marcia Sherman. I understand what she is saying, but then again I don’t. Does she mean to say that her belief is that the queens’ are there all along, in the stories, but in hiding or in spirit, or just busy doing everyday chores? I understand the riddle behind it but I’m not convinced that it makes sense. It seems like she is hoping to speak in rhyme, but then it loses steam. Regardless, whenever we “are alone” we do often tend to comfort ourselves with hopes, and beliefs that our loved ones are still with us; helping to guide us or to protect us from harm, whether it is real or imagined. People when on their deathbeds even tell their loved ones that they will always be with them, but it is generally just words meant to comfort those that they leave behind. I’m not sure if the queens in the story, or the people in real life, are with us once they die, but it can sure be comforting believing that they are.
    Serena W. 12 Ex. Credit
    November 27, 2012

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  3. I really like the idea that all of those mothers from fairy tales that we’ve believed dead all these years are really out there somewhere, watching over their husbands, children, and grandchildren. These wives and mothers are not only watching over their loved ones, they are also taking an active role in their livelihood, making sure they’re not getting themselves killed or at least they are getting their loved ones out of some pretty sticky situations. It seems to me that their feelings about being hidden in the background may be the same feelings real life mothers may feel from time to time. While they wouldn’t give up their positions to protect their family for anything in the world, at the same time they wish they may be a little bit more acknowledgeable and in the open. However, at the same time they want what’s best for their children and if what they need is for their mother to be hidden in the background and to learn by their own mistakes then so be it.

    Anna W.

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  4. I thought that this poem was quite interesting. Like most common fairy tales, we learn or start off the reading discussing a girl raised by a father alone which made me automatically think of it as a typical fairy tale. But as you read through it becomes more complex and fun to read. I really enjoyed reading this because it read like a conversation. I took me a couple of times to read through it to help understand, but I think that is what makes a fairy tale good. Good fairy tales shouldn’t unleash all their messages or morals during the first time you read it. The flow of the poem is a little abstract which I believe is what made it difficult to comprehend. But, overall I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to others for an interesting and twisted tale.

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  5. I have to say this is an interesting take on the mothers of main characters of fairy tales. Some of it I do not agree with how ever. I am pretty sure that Bambi's mother was show being killed by the hunter, not to mention some of these character's mothers had to die for the stories to progress, for example "Cinderella." I do like how you did make reference to some of the Disney movies that were not fairy tales that showed how Walt Disney had some real mother issues. I did notice that the mothers of these main characters were mentioned that they did help out their children when they were in trouble, which kind of gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling. There is also the fact that with some fairy tales don't mention what happened to the mother so some of them could still be living at their castle with there family and not in a random castle in the middle of nowhere.
    TJ

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  6. I found this poem very interesting. I had to read it over and over again numerous of times because at first I did not get it. In the beginning when she said that the mothers never died, they just found it interesting, heartwarming and difficult to see a father raise their daughter alone stood out to me. This comment made me think about numerous of things, one; why is it interesting when fathers raise their daughters alone when they should be there in the first place. I find it ironic that when mothers raise their sons alone, fewer things are said, as if it’s okay. I feel as though both parents should be there if possible. Secondly, from a fairy tale standpoint, most pain and suffering came from the stepmothers decisions and how they would treat their step children, how could the real mothers stand to watch that and do nothing. This poem was really interesting to me and I wish we could have discussed this in class. Thanks for posting it.

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  7. This poem seems to be mostly about the real mothers of princesses in fairy tales, but a few lines seem to be about the fathers. I think it accurately describes what the life of the real mothers would be like if they weren’t dead like many authors write. It sounds to me almost like a classic case of modern day parents who are divorced. Often times one parent sees the child more than the other, like here the mother only sees her daughter every so often because the child lives with her father. They still communicate of course because they have a child to share, and the mother still wants to play an important role in their child’s life. I like this poem because it touches on a subject we rarely see in fairy tales, the life of the biological mother. It’s a breath of fresh air! It gives readers a new way of looking at fairy tales. When we read about biological mothers dying in the beginning of tales we can look at it now as if the mother didn’t really die, instead she’s just hidden in the shadows.

    Haley Baker

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  8. A clever twist about what would happen if the queens had lived instead of died. I appreciated the feedback of the others who have commented and helped me to appreciate and interpret this poem. I like the idea of imagining mothers as puppet-makers behind the scenes. My mother was that sort of a mother and I can imagine her as my guardian angel asking for special dispensation for my family and I so I can relate to this poem on a deeper level. Nicely done!

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  9. This poem was a very unique perspective answering an unheard of question about where the mother’s in the stories really reside. The mention of Walt made me chuckle, and even more so the crass attitude to Disney’s story-telling of these time old stories. The lives of these women are modernized and cleaned up so they will sell. The creativity about the mothers actually all living together in an alternate land did not even seem far-fetched, but a magical idea. It appears the woman speaking is Malificent since at the end she talks about the spindle in the corner being sharp. I really enjoy reading poems or stories that connect multiple fairy tales. This one appeared to connect “Rumplestitskin” (the miller’s daughter) to “Sleeping Beauty”. I was not sure if the spindle she referred to was the spindle used to spin straw into gold, or if maybe the spindles from both stories are actually one in the same?

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  10. This poem is quite interesting, and a tad scandalous, if you ask me. Based on the ending, I get the feeling this queen is sitting in a bar, telling some of her deepest, darkest secrets to a handsome man, all while becoming more and more uninhibited, if you know what I mean. She invites this person to see her bedroom, for goodness sake! I digress. So, none of the queens or mothers are dead. What do you know? I have to question whether the mothers find it more interesting and entertaining to have their husbands raise the children, or if this mother is admitting that she’s just a character who follows the orders of an author. It’s as if she’s admitting that all fairy tale characters are equivalent to actors in a play, able to act a part, but still alive at the end of the murder scene. I do have to question why mothers would allow anyone to raise their children for them, but then again, my life isn’t controlled by the stroke of someone else’s pen.
    Rachel B.

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  11. This is hands down the most interesting and intriguing thing that I have ready about fairytales thus far. Just the thought of the mothers’ still being alive is amazing. I would never think of them to be somewhere off in the background, almost staying out of publicity. I’ve always thought of help in fairytales to be magic or just pure luck, but I like the idea that it was their own mothers’ somewhere far off helping them out. And their little meetings are even better. It’s like a book club in a sense where you meet on a specified date and time every so often to catch up. I also really liked how they wish for new mothers and thank Walt Disney for modernizing old fairytales and making them popular again, so that they have something new to talk about amongst each other.

    Taylor B.

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