Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part two
I'm thinking all the time. I should never have started this. But there's a streak of obstinacy in me that prevented me from stopping it. And so I went and I went and I couldn't afford a taxi in those days in fact I hardly knew a taxi existed and so I carried these great branches to Merrion Square. He hates his house and stood there having rung the door bell read like and read like branches streaming with rain looking like Birnam coming to Dunsinane to him. And wishing I was dead. And to my great disgrace and sort of Yanks himself opened the door. And friend enough to kill that man to be struck dumb is quite some. Nuance. Struck down at the site he was. And I heard him screech a name into the dark background of the house and he hurried away. And then the name came forward in a shit human shape and took me gently as though I was
somebody quite ill. Away down into the kitchen warmed and dried me to cook for branches gave me cocoa and I felt like somebody who had died and is on the other side peaceful and big glad to get out of the house. I was just gathering myself together dried and melancholy to go. When the maid came down he said and she said well no the master will see you now. Well you know Yeats was not called the master in the sense of Maya struck but in Irish families it's quite proper to call the head of the house the master the master which I said. But what for. I was terrified of what he might be going to say to me you see. Just see. And so up the stairs I went and there was Yates in his great room with blue curtains and the first thing he said to me he said my canary has lead an egg. And it took me it was such a joy because he had canary cages all by the window to show me this
wonderful lake the first hit in the head and then we went around the room together I getting better every minute and he telling me which books he liked and telling me how I remember he said when I get an idea you know he was always the bar always playing in the road. The great joy he never came into a room he always and did when he walked around the room it was a ceremonial peregrination. And one of the props be with when I get an inspiration I take down one of my own books and I read it and I am satisfied. And I thought here is Yates opening his heart to me it was wonderful. And so kindly we came to the end of this pilgrimage. And I was going just about to bid him goodbye when I saw on the desk a little glass of water and any one of around one sprig. And I glanced at him.
Distrusting him for a moment I thought. Is he teaching me a lesson. But he wasn't. I saw by his face that he wasn't he would do nothing so bad now only one sprig apparently been brought brought to him. But though he wasn't teaching me a lesson that was another only connector I learned that I had needed to bring him all those branches. I needed only the spirit and it taught me something about writing to whittled down and whittled down and whittled down you don't need a word. A branch will do. And when I told him next day he said to me next day he said. Utes was very touched you brought him a sprig of around. Oh I told him it wasn't a sprig had to tell him the whole story you couldn't be untruthful to E.. And he looked at me quizzically and he said I hope when you go to dun fana which was his hideout you'll not be cutting down all the willows for me. But. I did learn my lesson.
But you know. These men had heirs to crack mine. They didn't believe that an idea was suddenly a bomb. All that for them nothing was fragmented. It wasn't by itself and separate everything had. And to see the long family tree. So they weren't ashamed of talking about myths and fairy stories they were not like the rationalist who would say this can't happen because I've never seen it happen. They were willing to believe that things weren't born yesterday and that there is more there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in her ratios her loss of faith. And I took great heart from that. It was a he who first showed me how to begin to look upon one's own writing. He was just he said to me one day you said
you know poor kid. He always called her Hopkins never Mary never Mary Poppins was just plain Poppins Popkin as he said in another time in the good days in the old times from which came she would have had golden tresses carried a wreath in one hand perhaps a spear in the other and come with come with sand. But this being. The Carly Ugur of the Iron Age. She has to come in her bill a moment the disputable to it. Well of course I didn't. I couldn't make out anything about this. Mary Poppins had come. I didn't know how. That he could look at it and really know something about it seems astonishing to me. It was only over the years that I began to. Real is what he meant to that she had come out of some stall she'd come out perhaps of fairytales
and my love for the fairy tales never very long in abeyance. Remember one can get one fairy tale for a penny. And I'd always turn to them and turn to them but now. As Tolkien says somewhere any of you who have read the Tree and Leaf. He says there. That if you are natively attached to the fairy tales and lot of people aren't in there's no blame. It grows on you as you get older and it certainly has grown upon me. It is my great. Only connect to really come strongly into this not very long ago it was last week I think in the New York Times there was a story about how American and European was the American. It was only take a year to do it in the European Eagles Take Two and a half years all
make it to the Sargasso Sea to mate and lay their eggs and then they spend another year getting back to America and two a half years getting back together. But apparently it's worth it. And. I. Saw then I made another connection I saw Here's the fairy tale to me Sargasso Sea. That's where I go. I am a kind of. And this day takes me a long time to get there but when I get there I enjoy it. I came to see over all these years and pondering on the fairy tale letting them relive First of all because in order to learn anything about anything it seems to me you have to love it first and have it for itself. They really come out of myth as it were. No miniscule reaffirmation of myth or perhaps the myth made accessible to the simple mind of the pope. And you
know in the 19th century and all those pundits got hold of them and treated them as the meanderings of primitive people and then they descended to the psycho analysts and the anthropologists have had their go at them. But none of them seem to have been able to exhaust their meanings. They're like. You remember that story of both sis and Lehman and the magic pitcher they had it in Hawthorne. And it's very very Greek. The magic picture that was full of milk no matter how much you poured out of it there was still some there. The same story is the magic purse where whenever you take a gold coin out there's always another one. And the fairy tales are like that you can't exhaust their meaning no matter what you do. And. It
seemed to me that no one should ask because I wouldn't be able to answer. Who invented the myths though people do have the audacity to say that and to ask that question and then they say to me but do you really believe the myths of True Will. True but true. I do. It doesn't matter to me if the incidents in the myths never happened. It doesn't make them any less true because in a way they're happening in different terms all the time and not very long ago when I was in staying with friends in Virginia. There were two little girls of six and four. Had fun we watched them from the terrace down in the field. I had found a dead bird. And they didn't bury it. I don't think they wanted to touch it. But they were in the distance we could see them gathering flowers and covered in the bird with
them and then sticks winter sticks and sticks and crossed sticks and sticks like dead men standing up sticks and I wondered what they were doing and then they began to dance around it. Not a not a not a wild dog but a very pretty and graceful. Then they knelt down and obviously they were prey and then crossed the bird. These two little figures leaned over and embraced each other and they had never been to a few people that never seen anything dead. They didn't know anything about the rights but they were in a in a in themselves out of long memory that we don't know anything about something but absolutely true. I don't know what to make of it and I don't insist that you make anything. But it means something to me. And. We get a hint of the myths and how to face them when you when we hear about what the Aborigines say.
I lived we had many Aborigines near us when I was a child and they never could tell you anything much further back than a grandmother a great grandmother was already out of their camp. So anything that they don't know and that is past or is in the future they say it in the dreaming. It's gone into the dreaming. And to me that's where the myths lie. There's a wonderful Japanese phrase Zen koan which says they are not created but summoned. And it seems to me I can't really talk of myth because that's not my province to fairy tales in my humble province that the myths or the fairy tales are the myths fallen into time and localities. As it were this if that cup of water is full it's a myth. But when you've drunk it down to the last drop the last drop the last remaining leaves in the wind is fairy tale still of the same stuff.
The essential is there but small and perfect. You see we think that fairy tales amusements for children. To me they're not. And I think now it's becoming more and more realize that they're not tame it's for children. Tall and some of the nursery world no not the nursery world but those who deal with the nursery will have taken them and bowed arised them and made them less than they are and taken the good things out of them. Why even the most rewrites have very long antecedents. For instance Humpty Dumpty to be set in the wall all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again. But all the way back in Egyptian myth we have that we have ices going around trying to pick up the pieces of those Iris. The 14 pieces of the 14th which could never be found. It is a terrible truth in
that. And this is how children learn the best What's broken can't be put together again. Or the cow the cow that jumped over the moon. I was thinking the other day again leadership in Egypt. The car was in the sky. This guy was always known as the. Arching over the earth has four legs standing straight upon it. And what about how many mouths to babble in threescore and ten. What's that telling us. I wonder. And if you think this is hocus pocus or mumbo jumbo all you have to do is look in the Oxford Dictionary I suppose Webster but Oxford is the one I know best. Hocus pocus is really derives from. Ist corpus and mumbo jumbo has no derivation as far as its team ology its going
into it im ology is concerned. But mumbo jumbo is what African chiefs invent a great figure that African chiefs in the various countries are supposed to invent in order to keep their wives disciplined and give them a sense of awe. And what about FIFO fi fum. That's a nice Cholas that was said by the Iranians when they the three triple villain goddesses who chase after anybody who's done any wicked deed to feed five full time would come down for a very long way to get into our nurseries. Because you may think this is drawing the long bow. But I don't think it's a bad thing to draw a long bow in fact I think a draw a long bow is meant to be drawn because the longbow itself comes from. The great Philip TT's who was one of the Argonauts and he inherited it from Harry please. And a man had to be very strong to string that and to
draw that we alter everything by turning them into what we called our wives tales. But the old wives of the best tales they have the best stories they have the best idea. Why treat them with contempt. Every man has to be the hero of the story. But when I speak of the fairytales I mean the real ones. I don't mean those invented. I would call Hans Andersen. Ask a wild stories or not. Piro heroes weren't invented they were taken from the pen tamarind but the ones that I think most derive most clearly derived from myth and their antecedents are to be seen most most evident Grimm is very very old trees rooted in the folk carrying along meaning full of meaning and ritual telling the stories telling there are myths and terms that can be understood by literate people. And
every fairy tale it seems to me is asking this something telling us something about life. Of course now I'm on my hobby horse and if anyone feels that they want to get up and shoot me I wish they would or at any rate ask questions because I like things to go back and forth. I don't like to sit here and stand here and assert but when we come to think of all the stories that have three brothers in them that have to go off and find some marvelous treasure and I've always thought of them as a child as three brothers but now I think of them as one man in different stages. First brother whom you remember is very handsome and is always delayed at the crossroads by beautiful dancing maidens Oh you're going find the treasure some time or other but he doesn't do it. And then the second brother he relies on his cleverness. And his cleverness always found. But if the third brother who realizes that he knows nothing he's a simpleton is always called a
simpleton and he's humble enough to ask for help from a helpful animal who is after all offered the other brothers to help you remember the story. And I think of this as the three brothers as one man. He begins by believing he's too handsome he can do everything and then he thinks perhaps not so handsome but I'm clever enough. And then you find that even that's not true. And he ends by feeling that he knows nothing. And when she knows nothing he can begin to know something. And then as I was saying it's made the other day because Smith College is a girl's college full of girls like daisies and I was I didn't have much difficulty in persuading them to read the fairy tales because they were already ready and interested in them and I was saying to them that after all the fairy tales tell us a very great deal about women a woman and her road. You see each story deals with one as one of her aspects. Maiden
mother or crow. And I was saying to them it should be every woman's hope Lucy. To become a crone at last. First of all everybody is a maid and this is not necessarily you don't have to be a mother a physical mother or indeed a physical grandmother but a crone. It seems to me the last great hope of a woman that she is the grandmother. She's dangerous you know to be a grandmother to be. Oh to be an old woman is really quite a marvelous thing I've come to see and very well worth achieving because you can gather up all the threads of life and sit in a rocking chair. Well the wisdom is there in your hand that you've been able to learn and you will sit in your rocking chair as in the fairy tale. Or I will anyway. And
be there in case the young ones want you to tell it you not force it on them. But that's what the Clones in the fairy tale are doing the good and the bad. Killing the wisdom of God. And then so having made that long parish and beginning I've come to those fairy tales that I think relate to myth. Well every one of them does but just take a few for Cinderella for instance. You know Cinderella it's been very badly treated because she's been so often in pantomime and in books where. They twist the story to make it so that all she has to do is to say oh I wish I could go to the ball and immediately had one of her godmother was there. But this is to distort the story which is very ancient and found in every mythology and in every country's legends. No she she really it isn't because she wishes because it was for wishing we'd all be having godmothers with the
pumpkin coaches and we'd all be off to marry the Prince tomorrow. But no it's because she accept her fate and this is Oh never never put into the young stories the stories the illustrators make of Cinderella just to beautify their own pictures. Just because she wishes but it's much much more than that in a room. She has gone to the grave of her mother and performed the necessary rites before she meets the little bird who gives her the beautiful golden dawn. And then she had so many sisters. I once made a search for Cinderella through all the folklore of the world and I found a hundred forty five and thought very highly of myself until some librarian said to me are you should read Madeline or Margaret medaling Cox. She found three hundred forty six. There's nowhere you go where you don't buy Cinderella. And she is.
You remember she was the girl in kink affair church and the big shoes in Little Two Eyes and one eye to eye and she's patient. And don't you see hints of her. Don't you see where she exists in King Lear. It's called Delia with those two monstrous sister. That Cinderella again. And of course to take her right back into myth you find her seater the prototype of all the feminine virtues in the great myth an epic of the Ramayana in India. Everybody every woman in India hopes that they will be like see and see to it is really Cinderella. And then you know the story of those multiple stories. Where a man or a woman agrees to give the villain the one that is trying to get something from him whatever runs to greet him on his return. It's a wonderful story find it in the King of the Golden Mountain. And in the singing
and you also have to go right back to the Old Testament to find it in the story of debtor's daughter. She's very old. They come from a long long way. There was one story that was very dear to me when I was a child and I still think it's the most beautiful of all and yet it's the most brutal and most bloody of Greenland. Other people think it's called the juniper tree. You all know the story of how a stepmother asks the little stepson to put his head and bend down to get an apple from a chest and she puts the lid over and his head falls off. Even now I never go to and look down into a chest of making quite without making quite sure I'm holding them. Then you go from bad to worse. She sits the body puts the head on it with a net can round it and she says to the little sister go and tell your brother supper's ready. And she goes and tells him and he doesn't naturally
takes no notice. So she shakes him in the head pulls off and she says terrible child. So then. And then worse goes to further worsen cheap boilers and cooks him in the stew and when the father comes home. He eats this meal he says How delicious. Never was so well fed I feel as though it was mine as indeed it is. And of course it all comes right in the end when the little boy is out and free again and of course the stepmother has a middle put around her neck. Well this didn't bother me at all I knew the little boy was perfectly safe. Maybe it was quite natural for the father to eat him. He's solid and straight again but this. This really comes from a very long way. It goes right back to CONUS where he had his children the gods did really frightful things if you come to think of it. Child after child really I had in CONUS and heels plump me and he did
until at the last moment it was her very last child Rhea swaddled it swaddle a stone and gave it to him which is it. And therefore Zeus was saved to become the king of gods and die and I says after all was after his mother was burnt up for having been rude presumes was taken into use for the rest of his the time of his bearing and when he came to his full nine months he came out again and there he was. It goes really right back a very very way and well you all know the story of the demon lover the lover that is perhaps a beast or a lion during the day and persuades the maid to marry him on the understanding that she has never never look at him and always the maid and the Maiden cannot either she's persuaded by her family or her curiosity gets the better of her and she looks and he disappears.
Or else he goes to the very grave grave tortures before he can come to his own self again. But this too this is the story of Cupid and Psyche is a story of simile and his use comes right straight down out of the myths. And then I think about Rumpelstiltskin. You know the story of the miller's daughter. My mother by the way could never remember names you could remember any poems you'd written but if you knew a man called Morris and he was she always called him William or vice versa or my father used to say mock tragically. What a pity I married the miller's daughter. And. I came to see why you said that because of course the miller's daughter is the heroine in Rumpelstiltskin and you remember she marries the king and the king says because that her father says that she can spin straw into gold and the little man comes and at last helped helps her. But she has
to promise to give him her first child. Well she does anything because she thinks he probably won't come to pass. And then the child is born and he says now you are only the child. And she said I can't part with it. And he says Very well I let you or I let you keep him if you can remember my name. And of course she tries this and she tries that. Day after day until he says to her this is the last day. If you don't find to morrow I take charge. And so she sends her courtiers far and wide she's no queen and one of them comes back and he says I think I have a clue because in the country where the wolf and the lamb say good night to each other Wolf and the hare say good night to each other. I heard an old man singing my name is Rumpelstiltskin. That's it. And so when he comes he tries this name and she tries the other name and then at last she says is it
Rumpelstiltskin and he screamed. And he says yes it is how did you find it out. And he tells himself he literally pulls himself up by ankle and destroys himself and tears himself to pieces because she's discovered the name.
- Library of Congress lectures
- Pamela Travers, part two
- Producing Organization
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- This program, the second of three parts, focuses on novelist Pamela Travers, author of "Mary Poppins."
- Series Description
- A series of lectures given at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
- Media type
Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Travers, P. L. (Pamela Lyndon), 1899-1996
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.2-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part two,” 1967-09-25, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-z02z7n05.
- MLA: “Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part two.” 1967-09-25. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-z02z7n05>.
- APA: Library of Congress lectures; Pamela Travers, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-z02z7n05