Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentines Wind Up - Langwidere

I learned to love books by listening to my Mother read to us before bed.

Every night she'd sit us down and open a book. When it was warm we would sit out on the front porch as the shadows lengthened and listen to Mon's voice. In the winter we'd snuggle up under our covers and listen to the rocking chair creak while she brought those wonderful stories to life.

The stories that I remember most clearly were a set of fairy tales from around the world, and the Oz books.

If you haven't had the lovely chance to grow up in the Land of Oz, you should be warned that there are many MANY books about Oz. L. Frank Baum wrote 14 books during his life, then Ruth Plumley Thompson took over. She and several other authors brought the count to 40 books! (Although I only like about 37 of them. I'm soooo particular.)

Mind you, I like the movie musical just fine. Unlike now, as a child I didn't care about literary purity (heh) and so I thought what they'd done to the story was just fine. But now that I'm older... well, I do enjoy the movie and watch it nearly every year at Easter time, but there are some things that just stick in my craw. For example: Glinda.

Who ever decided to turn the grave and kind sorceress of the South into a bubble headed twitter brain?? Ugh!!
This is what Glinda really looks like:

I always wanted to be Glinda. Wise, intelligent and caring.

One of my favorite books in the series is the third, "Ozma of Oz".

In it you meet the clockwork man Tik-Tok, Bellina the talking chicken (for years I thought her name was Belinda, because I'd only heard Mom say it), the wicked and totally scary (at least to an 8 year old) Wheelers and... Princess Langwidere.

Ah, Langwidere. When Mom first brought her to life I was amazed! The very idea captivated me, even as it repelled me.

But why am I talking? I should let you read about her yourself!

"...The maid led them to a richly furnished
drawing-room, lighted with subdued rainbow tints that came in through beautiful stained-glass windows.

"Remain here," she said. "What names shall I give the Princess?"

"I am Dorothy Gale, of Kansas," replied the child; "and this gentleman is a machine named Tiktok, and the yellow hen is my friend Billina."

The little servant bowed and withdrew, going through several passages and mounting two marble stairways before she came to the apartments occupied by her mistress.

Princess Langwidere's sitting-room was paneled with great mirrors, which reached from the ceiling to the floor; also the ceiling was composed of mirrors, and the floor was of polished silver that reflected every object upon it. So when Langwidere sat in her easy chair and played soft melodies upon her mandolin, her form was mirrored hundreds of times, in walls and ceiling and floor, and whichever way the lady turned her head she could see and admire her own features. This she loved to do, and just as the maid entered she was saying to herself:

"This head with the auburn hair and hazel eyes is quite attractive. I must wear it more often than I have done of late, although it may not be the best of my collection."

"You have company, Your Highness," announced the maid, bowing low.

"Who is it?" asked Langwidere, yawning.

"Dorothy Gale of Kansas, Mr. Tiktok and Billina," answered the maid.

"What a queer lot of names!" murmured the Princess, beginning to be a little interested. "What are they like? Is Dorothy Gale of Kansas pretty?"

"She might be called so," the maid replied.

"And is Mr. Tiktok attractive?" continued the Princess.

"That I cannot say, Your Highness. But he seems very bright. Will Your Gracious Highness see them?"

"Oh, I may as well, Nanda. But I am tired admiring this head, and if my visitor has any claim to beauty I must take care that she does not surpass me. So I will go to my cabinet and change to No. 17, which I think is my best appearance. Don't you?"

"Your No. 17 is exceedingly beautiful," answered Nanda, with another bow.

Again the Princess yawned. Then she said:

"Help me to rise."

So the maid assisted her to gain her feet, although Langwidere was the stronger of the two; and then the Princess slowly walked across the silver floor to her cabinet, leaning heavily at every step upon Nanda's arm.

Now I must explain to you that the Princess Langwidere had thirty heads--as many as there are days in the month. But of course she could only wear one of them at a time, because she had but one neck. These heads were kept in what she called her "cabinet," which was a beautiful dressing-room that lay just between Langwidere's sleeping-chamber and the mirrored sitting-room. Each head was in a separate cupboard lined with velvet. The cupboards ran all around the sides of the dressing-room, and had elaborately carved doors with gold numbers on the outside and jeweled-framed mirrors on the inside of them.

When the Princess got out of her crystal bed in the morning she went to her cabinet, opened one of the velvet-lined cupboards, and took the head it contained from its golden shelf. Then, by the aid of the mirror inside the open door, she put on the head--as neat and straight as could be--and afterward called her maids to robe her for the day. She always wore a simple white costume, that suited all the heads. For, being able to change her face whenever she liked, the Princess had no interest in wearing a variety of gowns, as have other ladies who are compelled to wear the same face constantly."*

Isn't that just the most amazing thought?
How would it be, to be not only beautiful, but to be able to chose your beauty to match your mood? Can you imagine what your life would be like?

I see you've seen through to why this is a Valentine's Wind Up post.
Yes, sadly, we live in a society that worships youth and beauty.
If you lack one, but have the other, you are tolerated.
However, if you lack both - woe!

Now tell me, have you ever seen a Valentine that lauded kindness, creativity, wisdom or any worthwhile trait? Not at all. They are either childish jokes or offerings on the altar of beauty.

When I think of Valentine's Day I can't help but think of Princess Langwidere, sad sorry creature that she is.

A bit more of the story is in order, I think.

"When Nanda had supported Langwidere to a position in front of cupboard No. 17, the Princess unlocked the door with her ruby key and after handing head No. 9, which she had been wearing, to the maid, she took No. 17 from its shelf and fitted it to her neck. It had black hair and dark eyes and a lovely pearl-and-white complexion, and when Langwidere wore it she knew she was remarkably beautiful in appearance.

There was only one trouble with No. 17; the temper that went with it (and which was hidden somewhere under the glossy black hair) was fiery, harsh and haughty in the extreme, and it often led the Princess to do unpleasant things which she regretted when she came to wear her other heads."*

Oh dear.

That reminds me of something Tolstoy wrote.

"It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness."
- Leo Tolstoy

Here's wishing you a Valentine's without mirrors, except those that you see in the faces of people whom you have touched.

*Excerpts from "Ozma of Oz" by L. Frank Baum. Chapter 6. Courtesy of the Gutenburg Project.


avagdro said...

Thank you Heather for sharing.Great art work indeed.Wish you n all around the globe a joyful Valentine's Day in advance.

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