14th February 2018
Block 3: Chapter 8: Metafiction and Intertextuality
Use a text that has influenced your writing, (I’ve chosen Angela Carter, her gothic Fairy Stories), and produce an intertextual piece of 500–750 words using any of the techniques highlighted in this chapter. (Anagram, allusion, adaptation, parody, translation, pastiche, imitation…)
The Little Old Man and the House on Heron’s Legs
In a deep, dark wood, where little light squeezed through the blackish canopy, there was a cottage with a thatch so threadbare that even the mice and rats had given up in despair and gone in search of a new home.
The only inhabitants of this decaying cottage were an old man and his two, grown-up children, Handel and Grubelene. Unfortunately, the children were both very lazy. They did little to help their old father, who had spent a life time digging in the dry, sandy soil, taking care not to chop any earthworms in half, and struggling to grow food for his family. But there was never enough cabbage to feed them, and his wife, seeing how the cabbages were scare, had starved herself and died a slow and painful death.
Yet, despite the hardship, the old man was of a hopeful nature, and many an evening, as he dug in the poor soil, he would sing a cheerful ditty to his friends the blackbirds and robins, who accompanied him with their happy chirruping. And he always gave them the tastiest scraps of his cabbage meal, rather than keep the last of the food for himself.
Then one day, when there was only one cabbage left in the larder, and so few left in the sandy soil that even the worms went hungry, Handel said to his younger sister, Grubelene, ‘Our father is old. He can no longer to look after us. There is not enough food left. Let us take father to the middle of the wood and leave him there to die. Then you and I shall not go hungry.’
Now Grubelene was somewhat fond of the old man, and at first did not agree, but feeling her stomach rumbling, eventually told her brother that it was the only solution. So the children gave the old man a couple of cabbage leaves for the journey, told him they were going to pick blackberries, although it was well into December, and set off with him to the middle of the wood.
On the way, the birds flew around the old man’s head, twittering into his ear and telling him that his children meant to take him far from the cottage and leave him there to die. But the old man shook his head at them, for he knew his children loved him. Then the earthworms slithered out of the ground and roared at him to stop, telling him that if he returned home to his sandy soil they would try to eat less of his cabbages. But the old man was deaf and their whispery voices just tickled his ears and made him laugh.
When they had walked a very long way, the old man said, ‘I must rest, I am so tired. Handel and Grubelene, you must go on, pick the blackberries and bring some for me to eat.’
‘Of course,’ said Handel, ‘you stay here and rest. Eat some of your cabbage leaves and we will bring you delicious blackberries. And when we return home, I shall help you to dig in the dry, sandy soil.’
The old man was so grateful to hear this offer of help after so many years – Handel having reached his thirtieth birthday this very week – that a tear ran down the old man’s wrinkled face. He patted his son’s hand, and settled patiently on a rock with a broad smile on his face.
The old man waited and waited. He munched his cabbage leaves, and still his children did not return. ‘Oh, dear,’ said the old man to himself, ‘I am so worried. My children must have lost their way in the deep, dark forest, what am I to do? How can I help them?’
Then he heard a music, a sweet, trilling sound. A robin alighted on the old man’s shoulder and said, ‘Do not despair. You have been kind to us, and so I shall help you.’
He flew off, and it wasn’t long before the bird returned with a soft, dappled deer, who lowered his head and snuffed gently at the old man’s face. The beautiful creature seemed to be telling the old man to come with him, and so the old man stumbled to his feet, followed the deer, and eventually they came to a clearing in the forest.
Here, the old man was very startled, for in the middle of the clearing was the strangest sight…