CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 19 . . . . May 27, 2005
The plot of The Paper Wagon is remarkably silly, but it is a Friesian (province of the Netherlands) folktale, and, therefore, must be accepted as a story that has stood the test of time. The hen and rooster are making soup. The rooster clumsily falls into the boiling soup and is fished out in a very bedraggled state by the hen. Then the fox sneaks up and runs away with the rooster. The hen fashions a little wagon out of paper, harnesses two mice for steeds, and proceeds to drive into the forest to rescue the rooster. On the way, she meets a talking needle, brick, cat and spider, and takes them all along on the rescue mission. They are successful in freeing the rooster and return to the chicken coop to partake of the soup. Then the fox shows up - lonely, hungry and unhappy. So they feed him soup, too, and let bygones be bygones.
Cooperation and good deeds are the burden of this story. Never mind that falling into a boiling pot of soup would burn one horribly or that a paper wagon would not hold together. The reader is meant to suspend disbelief, appreciate the foolishness of it all, and get a few laughs.
Martha Attema has been collecting Friesian folktales for years. She lives in Powassan, Ontario. Graham Ross lives in Merrickville, Ontario. The interior illustrations, created in pen and ink, are nor very appealing, but the cover art, done in ink, acrylic and coloured pencil, is more attractive.
Luella Sumner, of Red Rock, ON, is a retired librarian.
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