Old Pipes…, 2012, And Beyond

01/29/2012 § Leave a comment

Why, who can be blowing the pipes of Old Pipes?”

-Frank Stockton

It has been over a year and I find myself antsy; longing to exercise my writing and critical thinking muscle. Yes, that one muscle is responsible for both those things. Perhaps this is merely an involuntary response to the Bauhaus song that is quietly and mysteriously storming my eardrums. It’s a possibility.

I do not know with what frequency I will update this blog but I intend to do so at regular intervals. The theme will remain mainly intact, allowing ample wiggle room for anything else that suits my fancy and may require delineation.

Old Pipes and the Dryad by Frank Stockton

Frank Stockton is probably best remembered, if at all, thanks to the efforts of Maurice Sendak. While best known for his wonderful Where the Wild Things Are, it was Mr. Sendak who fell in love with Stockton’s uniquely American brand of  Folklore and, to everyones benefit, illustrated two stories by Frank Stockton; The Griffin and the Minor Canon, and The Bee-Man of Orn. 

What I love most about Frank Stockton is his ability to craft an original tale by blending old traditions with a journalistic simplicity reminiscent of great american writing you might find in Hemingway. There’s a tongue-in-cheek humor found in most of his writing, focusing on the generally selfish nature of everyone, whether they are men growing old, a tree spirit, or a mountain dwarf.

Old Pipes and the Dryad is a simple story of an old man who pipes to bring the animals down the mountain at night for the townsfolk. He gets too old to pipe effectively but, as luck would have it, he finds a Dryad along a mountain path locked in her tree. He releases her and she kisses him. Her kisses of course cause him to grow younger, as kisses from Dryads tend to do, and he can once again Pipe.

There is a villain of sorts, in the form of the echo-dwarf who was enjoying his holiday from echoing Old Pipe’s piping. He’s not all that bad though, just lazy. This story is a great example of what I think Stockton does best. He can create a story in which everyone is sort of likable, and everyone behaves in just the way you want them, but you still find yourself surprised and entertained…..and just when you find yourself content, the last paragraph gives you a tiny tragedy. And while it is a bit deus ex machina, you find yourself not caring and enjoying the characters for saying and doing exactly what you had wanted, but somehow couldn’t have predicted.


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