Author Topic: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam  (Read 18272 times)

Heradel

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Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« on: November 10, 2008, 03:22:04 AM »
Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam

By Bruce Holland Rogers
Read by An Owomoyela

In his vegetable garden, Old Kwaku planted collard and okra and cowpeas. He showed the second princess how to cut the weeds down with a sharpened stick.

“I don’t think I’m learning any wisdom,” she said. “And look at my hands! Imagine what they’ll look like at the end of the summer!”

“Here is part of wisdom,” Old Kwaku said, and he began to rearrange some okra pods while they were still on their mother plants. He pulled one and nudged another and coaxed a third. He moved this one and that one together and tied the pods together in the shape of a little green person.

“That doesn’t look like wisdom to me,” the princess said. “Oh, I’m going to go home and die in my father’s house, an old maid!”


Rated G. Contains three princesses.
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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2008, 04:03:25 PM »
ummm ... what?  ???
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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2008, 01:13:45 AM »
Okay.  I get it and it's a fine idea and well-told in many regards.

Our lives are brief and we waste them in empty passions and obsessions.  The wisest course is to appreciate existence for the miraculous gift that it is, to see how we are like plants grown within the bounty of nature, feeding on that bounty, and ultimately feeding it with our bodies and beings.  It's well-done and I get it.  Keep this picture in mind, and like old Kwaku, you can live a life that's worthy of the gift.  This is the teaching of the Buddha as well.

But, the last sentence irks me.  I admire the author's subversiveness for ending the story like that.  But it still irks me.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2008, 12:30:44 PM »
Once again, I must admire PC's choice of flash fiction. This was wonderful on every level. And the last sentence was great - it was a perfect coda, entirely consistent, explaining everything, and yet, to me, entirely unexpected.

Zathras

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2008, 01:19:06 PM »
I'd thought this was familiar.  Is there a story about the 3rd princess gaining wisdom?

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2008, 10:16:03 AM »
And while it isn't needed - it was somewhat jarring to jump into what felt like the middle of the story.  The lead-in says, "
Rated G. Contains three princesses."  Sorry, there was mention of two of them, the story was about one.

Did we miss something?
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eytanz

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2008, 10:23:40 AM »
There was mention of three princesses, though only one appeared as a character.

Rachel Swirsky

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2008, 12:18:00 PM »
The first princess had already failed, the second princess was the main character, the third princess was yet to try.

Zathras

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2008, 12:22:01 PM »
The first princess had already failed, the second princess was the main character, the third princess was yet to try.

Somewhere in folk lore or mythology is there a story about the 3rd princess?

Rachel Swirsky

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2008, 01:49:56 PM »
Of this story specifically? As far as I know, Bruce Holland Rogers made it up.

However, a great many folk tales involve three siblings (often, but not always women) who have to engage with a test of character, such as whether they will be kind to an old woman on the road (who turns out to be a fairy). The elder two fail. The youngest (the third, usually) succeeds.

These stories usually focus on the third princess. This story focuses on one of the ones who fails.

Zathras

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2008, 01:59:05 PM »
Thank you, Rachel

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2008, 06:09:09 PM »
Did this story take place in the winter, very close to the Arctic Circle?  Each "day" appeared to be only two or three minutes long.

Also, the princess was too "scared" to eat the first day, too "greedy" to eat the second, and too "????" to eat the third?

The first day I got, but after that, I wasn't really believing that whatever was going on with the sorghum and sweet potatoes would really keep a hungry girl from eating.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2008, 02:03:39 AM »
Of this story specifically? As far as I know, Bruce Holland Rogers made it up.

However, a great many folk tales involve three siblings (often, but not always women) who have to engage with a test of character, such as whether they will be kind to an old woman on the road (who turns out to be a fairy). The elder two fail. The youngest (the third, usually) succeeds.

These stories usually focus on the third princess. This story focuses on one of the ones who fails.

Well that clears things up. I like the story about 200% more now that I "get it."

I enjoy this style of story and I thought this was well done, even if the .. "point" of it if you will went over my head until it was pointed out.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2008, 04:14:39 AM »
I can’t believe people would miss the point of this story, but then again, after Disney’s criminal bastardization of Fairy Tales, maybe it’s not so mysterious.

The point of a Fairy Tale is not for the protaganist to succeed, or in this case, “gain wisdom,” the point is for the listener to gain wisdom. As such, Fairy Tales can be stories of overcoming obstacles, or they can be cautionary tales.

Or, to use Editor Swirky’s archetype, WE are the third sister.

The actual wisdom that we (and for that matter, the princess) can glean from the situation is immense. It is also both philosophical and practical.

Our lives are short, and to live them in fear, in constant desire of something better, and with constant anger over our present is to miss what’s going on.

And if THAT’S not enough, we could miss a meal!

And if THAT’S not enough, at the very least we should learn that you’re never going to get the long end of the stick from a man who can make Dancing Yams.

Words to live by.

What these “adults” have missed kids would grasp intuitively.

Bloody well done, Mr. Bruce Holland Rogers. Olk Kwaku would be proud.


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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2008, 04:22:08 PM »
This went outside the box.  I like that in a fable.  The princess failing to recognize the lessons actually made them more poignant for me.  It reminds me that not everyone automatically gets it.  We each learn our own lessons from what we read or hear.  That also means if some of the readers did not "get it", it was their own interpretation of the story they did not get.  Its more interesting to see why we fail than why we succeed as we really only learn from our failures.  The princess allowed the various failings in the dolls to become her own failings, without recognizing they were her own failings.  And the last statement was delectable, as we must imagine our own view of successfully learning the lessons.  Really nice story.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2008, 06:22:05 PM »
PC, you are putting a smile on my face. 

Observe:  :)

Very nice.  And kudos to Bruce Holland Rogers.  The Keyhole Opera is on my list, from when VanderMeer recommended it on his blog a while back, but sadly, I haven't gotten to it yet (my list is looooooooong, some might qualify it as interminable) so it's nice to have a little taste in the interim between finding out about an author and getting around to read his stuff.  And maybe he gets a nudge upward from my exposure to him here. 
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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2008, 05:56:36 AM »
Well, having to have the point of the story explained makes this story a failure for me. However, I really enjoyed the reader and hope we can hear them do more stories in future.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2008, 09:10:54 AM »
Well, having to have the point of the story explained makes this story a failure for me. However, I really enjoyed the reader and hope we can hear them do more stories in future.

I imagine that those who "got" the story would say the failure lies with those of us who didn't.
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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #18 on: November 20, 2008, 04:45:22 PM »
Well, having to have the point of the story explained makes this story a failure for me.
I imagine that those who "got" the story would say the failure lies with those of us who didn't.

Which is why I said it didn't work 'for me'. I don't care what The Brights say.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #19 on: November 20, 2008, 09:12:28 PM »
I "got" the story, but I didn't really like it. I don't think the princess as a character was at all sympathetic, and the vegetable men weren't either. Old Kwaku was also static. We had to wait too long for the payoff at the end, and as a fable this was too long to really work for me as a story.

The reading was passable.
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Zathras

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #20 on: November 20, 2008, 09:49:33 PM »
I'm still not sure I got it, unless it was that the 3rd sister was the wise one.  I had to listen several times to hear the last line.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #21 on: November 22, 2008, 01:42:56 AM »

I liked this one a lot.  As I've said before, there are few things I like better than a classic tale built from modern parts, and this one worked beautifully in that respect.  Not quite up to the standard of Hillary Moon Murphy, but that gave me practice in appreciating what is presently available.  ;D
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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2008, 02:21:28 PM »
My laptop broke again, so this is Rachel on her husband's account:

Quote
I'm still not sure I got it, unless it was that the 3rd sister was the wise one.

Yes, according to the formula of these legends, she would be.

Also, there's something in the emphasis on the second sister instead of the third -- which is asking why do we only make the wise people our protagonists (in folktales)? Maybe it's more interesting (or equally interesting) to listen to the story of someone flawed.

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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #23 on: December 09, 2008, 08:53:33 AM »
Got it, it got a C in my book.  I like re-tellings, I liked the style, the format was passable, the reading was "meh".
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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #24 on: December 19, 2008, 07:54:12 PM »
Well despite understanding the point of the story, my first reaction was the same as stePH:

ummm ... what?  ???

I didn't like this one, which is a first for both PC and EP.  But then I read all of the other posts, and this one hit me right between the eyes:

Our lives are short, and to live them in fear, in constant desire of something better, and with constant anger over our present is to miss what’s going on.

Thank you, Hyperion, not for making this story more understandable (as I said, I got it, and I still don't like the story), but for reminding me of what's important in my life.

My husband lost his job in June, and we lived on savings until he got another, much better job in September.  The drawback is, we live in southern California, and the job is in Oregon.  So he's working and living there, and I and our two teenage children are still here, waiting for our home to sell.  Luckily, I have a very generous aunt & uncle living near the job who have opened their home to my husband, so we're still only maintaining one household.  And so much about this job is fantastic.  But the housing market is horrible right now, and though we've had many people interested in the home, nobody has been able to successfully make an offer, for various reasons (not enough down payment, not enough income, bad credit or bankruptcy, etc.).  Thanks to the new job's company, hubby will be here for nearly two weeks over the holidays, which is wonderful.  But lately, I've had a very hard time with the frustration of our home not selling, as we REALLY REALLY want to get the move over and done with.  (I'm SO over southern California traffic and congestion, just to name one thing I won't miss.)  Privately I've been feeling sorry for myself, despite telling everyone who asks that, "Yes, we are being patient, and we know the time will come."  I've been dwelling too much on how miserable I am that we haven't sold yet, instead of enjoying the good things I still have, not the least of which are my family.  Hyperion's post reminded me that life IS short, and if I'm not careful, I'll miss it.


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Re: Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam
« Reply #25 on: November 11, 2009, 04:14:59 PM »
I got the message very early on in the story, or at least A message summed up as this:
"You can only be happy when you enjoy what you have (like soup).  If you dwell on what will be, what should be, or what was you will never find happiness."  A good moral, no doubt about it.

And then the same moral was shown twice more, and I said "so what?" and wanted it to go somewhere new, but it didn't.  I realize that repetition in 3's is common in this sort of tale, but I'd like the 2nd and 3rd to add something new.

And it's kind of cute to show the 2nd sib instead of the 3rd, but that alone wasn't enough to carry the story.