by Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide
All quotations from the book in blue text.
This chapter promises to show us how parents can help young women during their wait for Prince Charming. I’m skeptical about this chapter since the King and Queen have provided precious little support or help to their daughter so far in the book.
In the last chapter, we found out that the Princess is now at least 19 years old and is moping about not being married yet. This chapter begins with the Princess crying in the courtyard because she’s become an old maid. The King tells her that God wants her to learn to be happy at home now before she moves into the next phase of her life.
I find the King and Queen’s lack of any empathy or attempts at comforting their daughter disconcerting. I was a high-strung child who grew into an anxious teenager. I remember many times where I was worried or upset about a small issue that seemed huge to me. My parents always attempted to comfort me before helping me put the issue I was worried about in proper context.
The Princess settles down a bit when she remembers that she wanted to ask the King about doing something that would allow her to have a bit more autonomy for a period of time.
“Remember that time we talked about the Spring Fair? You said it was permissible for me to go, but explained how I must be a candle and a rose.”
” Yes, I remember. You met Sir Eloquence there, ” replied the king.
” Um, yes, ” she said, not wanting to be reminded of him. Then she continued with her question. “I was wondering, thinkest thou that I should attend the Merchants’ Fest in Carnalville? I realize it is not the manner of event which we approve– ” (pg. 124)
- I am so sick of the damned “rose and candle” metaphors. The metaphors are not deep or original to start with – but Mally’s staid and heavy-handed use of them in every chapter drag the narrative to a halt each time.
- The King’s not-so-subtle reproach of the Princess’ last attempt at being a normal teenager is trite.
- For those of you who have forgotten Sir Eloquence, here’s a plot summary: Sir Eloquence meets the Princess and likes her. He talks to her when she’s in town. He comes to the castle and asks to marry the Princess. The King scares him off. Nothing terribly remiss happened. The Princess didn’t give a hunk of her heart away let alone do something really scandalous like meet with him alone, kiss him or have sex.
- The King is reproaching the Princess for Sir Eloquence’s behavior – not the Princess’ behavior. I guess that’s the natural outcome in a society where women are held responsible for men’s attraction – but it makes no sense.
- The Princess went to the Spring Fair when she was 16. She is now at least 19 years old. Most 19-year-olds are substantially more mature than they were at age 16. The Princess may not be – but if that’s the case, her parents have a lot to answer for in how she was raised since the Princess seems to be a dutiful daughter.
- Let’s talk about the newest plot hole. The Princess has spent the last few years reaching the level of master craftsman in baking, painting, weaving, candle-making, dyeing and goldsmithing. We know she made these levels because she’s been allowed to teach the other young women of the village these skills. (Who’d of thought the anachronisms still burn every time I read this….). Why is anyone surprised that she’d want to go to the Merchants’ Fest? She’s been working as a merchant for years now! And yet – instead of having the King freak out about the fact he’s been letting his daughter do work well below her station in life – Ms. Mally needs to clobber us with the fact that the real problem with the Fest is that it’s in Carnalville.
- In terms of destroying her marriageability, having her train as a dye master was a far more severe problem than worrying about a potential flirtation with Sir Eloquence.
The Princess concedes that the King told her that the Fest would be dangerous because there would be dancing and evil talk at the big party, but the Princess promises to stay away from trouble and mentions that she thinks she should be meeting more guys. (Personally, I am deeply disappointed that the dangers of CARNALville are dancing and gossip. ) She also mentions that she’s nearly 21 years old.
The King freaks out. He tells the Princess that she has no idea what she’s talking about and implies that if she goes to Carnalville now, she’ll be immediately swept up by an unsuitable guy because the Princess has the audacity to admit she’s lonely.
Personally, the King’s overwrought protection of the Princess’ virtue has gotten old by this point in the book. The Princess wants to go somewhere that may expose her to “adult themes”. Let her go! She’s more than old enough to hold her own.
For the first time in the book, the Princess tries to press her point after the King has expressed disapproval.
“The alligator speaks of the festivities and the social banquets to be enjoyed, ” she continued.
“The alligator eats the scum at the bottom of the moat, ” the king added drily. (pg. 125)
- This was the point I realized that I was making the book far more interesting by viewing the Alligator as a manifestation of the Princess’ psyche. After all, the Alligator never appears around others. No one else has ever mentioned an Alligator living in the moat. I enjoyed the idea of the creeping insanity that comes from solitude breaking out in the increasing frequency of visits of the Alligator who both comforts and torments the Princess. Then, Ms. Mally ruins it by having the King casually allude to the Alligator that lives in the moat.
- Alligators do not eat scum. Pond scum is a mixture of algae, phytoplankton, zooplankton and small invertebrates. Animals that eat pond scum have mouths adapted for filter feeding. Alligators have large, sharp teeth and powerful jaws. This is because alligators are obligate carnivores and mature alligators are apex predators. The fact that I have to explain this after reading a book written by an adult home-schooling graduate is not a strong recommendation for the Mally’s home schooling methodology.
- Turning the Alligator into an actual living reptile that skulks in the moat causes another gaping plot hole. The King refuses to let the Princess go to any sort of social gathering for fear of corrupting her – but he lets the Alligator act as her sole companion. Is he clueless, negligent or sadistic? I’m starting to lean towards sadistic.
- Random factoid: Alligators are native to two places. One is China; the other is the southeastern USA. This book is clearly NOT located in either place – so why is there an alligator living in the moat?
“The other maidens will all be going, and I will stay with them, ” explained the princess as she began to wander slowly through the courtyard. “They mingle often with the young men in the village. The alligator says such relationships are healthy. “
” But you are forgetting that thou art a princess,” said her father, following her. ” Remember thou also that the alligator has dragon’s blood in his veins.”
“But, others – -“
” Others do not understand that a little foolishness ruins the testimony of one who has wisdom and honor. ”” But others – -“
” Others do not have me as their father. Others do not represent the royal family.” (pg. 125)
- The stage directions in this novel make no sense. In the middle of a conversation with her father, the Princess walks away from him while still speaking as he follows her. That’s not how people interact in the real world. It’s plausible that the two of them would be walking together during the conversation – but having the Princess wander about as the King chases after her is an odd choice.
- The Princess is forgetting that she’s royalty – but we’ve established already that she’s never acted like royalty before in the entire book. This is one of those points where Mally would have been better off having the King reprove the Princess for acting inconsistently as a Christian (well, as interpreted through Christian Patriarchy). Otherwise, the reproof about her testimony makes no sense; royalty have divine right of rule, not testimonies.
- There are exactly two people who care about the Princess’ testimony in the book – the King and the Queen. If their nearly 21 year old daughter isn’t into protecting her testimony, maintaining it through forced isolation is pointless. After all, she’s not a candle shining outwards if she’s maintained her purity by avoiding all interactions with people her own age. None of the young townspeople are going to look at the lonely Princess in the castle and think “Huh. I should totally recreate that in my own life. Let me go sit alone in my cottage for the next few years.”
The King spends a long paragraph belaboring the point that when the Princess chose the way of purity no one said that it would be easy to follow through on. That brings up an important point. The Princess hasn’t chosen the way of purity freely. She might have picked to follow that way at some point in the past, but she’s being railroaded into staying on the path now. If she’s never allowed to leave the path, that’s coercion.
The King walks back into the castle leaving the Princess crying by the moat again. This attracts the Alligator…again. If Sarah Mally’s life is as monotonous as this book is, I pity her. The Alligator tells the Princess that she should go to the Merchant’s Fest since her father never forbade her from going. The Princess replies that her parents have given her good advice all her life so she prefers to obey the King’s advice this time. While I disagree with her choice, this is the first time she makes a choice and is able to coherently describe why she made the choice.
That’s the end of the allegory for Chapter 7. The advice portion is equally brief, thankfully.
Mel is a science teacher who works with at-risk teens and lives on a dairy farm with her husband. She blogs at When Cows and Kids Collide She is also an very valuable source of scientific information for us here at NLQ. Mel is also blessed with the ability to look at the issues of Quiverfull with a rational mind and break them down to their most basic of elements.
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