Monday, April 02, 2007

Flora Annie Steel, "Prince Half-a-Son" (1894)


Poking around some old children's storybooks online today (there are a lot of them from the 19th century, because they're in the public domain, and have wide appeal), I found Flora Annie Steel's Tales of the Punjab (1894), a collection of folktales Steel gathered during her two-decade stay in India as a British civil servant's wife. It's probably no surprise that a collection of folktales from any culture will include some disability themes; check out "Prince Half-a-Son," for example:
...the youngest Queen had only half-a-son—and that was what they called him at once,—just half-a-son, nothing more: he had one eye, one ear, one arm, one leg; in fact, looked at sideways, he was as handsome a young prince as you would wish to see, but frontways it was as plain as a pikestaff that he was only half-a-prince. Still he throve and grew strong, so that when his brothers went out shooting he begged to be allowed to go out also.
This prince uses his unusual body to become a hero against all expectations: for example, he can slip through fences that his brothers cannot (his magic power over rope also comes in handy). His brothers push him in a well, but he's small enough to hide well and overhear a serpent and pigeon discussing their own magic powers. In the end, he wins the hand of a beautiful princess in marriage, and his mocking, jealous brothers are all eaten by a demon.

So there.

[The illustration of Prince Half-a-son above, by J. Lockwood Kipling, is from the original 1894 edition of Steel's Tales of the Punjab, and is included in the online versions linked above. By way of description, it's a line drawing of a woman in traditional Indian clothing and jewelry, seated on the ground embracing a little boy in profile. Illustrator J. L. Kipling was the father of author Rudyard Kipling, whose works he also illustrated.]

8 comments:

Sara said...

Symmetry is overrated!

(Hey, is that already on a T-shirt? If not, maybe somebody should stick it on some CafePress or Spreadshirt merchandise to help fund this site.)

Penny L. Richards said...

Exactly! I looked around a little and I can't find any shirts online with that slogan--huh! But should it be on an asymmetrical t-shirt, then? ;)

(The sentiment does appear with some frequency on knitblogs, I noticed.)

Sara said...

Maybe it can be a "BYOA" (Bring Your Own Asymmetry) kind of thing. That gives you more options.

Speaking of such, check out this line of clothing, which I found following a link from Jeanne Sather's place:

Rebel1in8's Rhea Belle line

Not so much about disability, but definitely on the "symmetry is overrated" track.

Penny L. Richards said...

Oh, those are beautiful garments. Thanks for that link, Sara.

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