Chapter 8: The Wolf at the Door
A mysterious stranger named Celestia Wolfe appears in Rose Park and is
invited into the Towers. Because she is a beautiful young woman who looks
and dresses like a 1940s movie star, the men are immediately attracted
to her. Two World War II veterans monopolize her time, even when she keeps
saying she’s “looking for the grandmothers.” Like Red Riding Hood, she
has stepped off the path and met the wolf, and she nearly fails in her
mission, which is to deliver a letter.
One reason these veterans are attracted to Celestia is that her 1940s
movie-star glamour reminds them of their younger, more heroic days. Old
men get still excited by pretty girls. Old women still joke about horny
Vivien Leigh (1913–19967) also played Scarlet O’Hara in
Gone With the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in
A Streetcar Named Desire, both on stage and in the movie.
Waterloo Bridge, 1940. She was married to Laurence Olivier. Rent
her movies. They’re always worth watching again. Look up the other actresses
Thrace was the wild area north of civilized classical Greece. It was said
that the witches (including Medea) came from Thrace.
Great Father Juppiter, Great Mother Junon, Mount Olympie—Celestia’s mythological
world seems not to be quite the same as the one we know.
Celestia’s confusion prefigures the madness of the Norns and what happens
to Bertha beginning in chapter 17.
The grandmaman who wrote the letter that closes this chapter will appear
again. Her letter shows how love flows from generation to generation, even
when people are not in touch, how it flows between the worlds. This is
another major theme of
In medieval art, the Virgin Mary is associated with roses and enclosed
cities. The wilderness outside the walls is filled with temptations, wolves,
monsters, and other dangers, including sexual ones. Walls protect her (and
us) from the wilderness.
I love fairy tales and seldom miss a chance to rewrite one. This one is
obviously based on Little Red Riding Hood, a character that also appears
in Sondheim and Lapine’s
Into the Woods. You can read more of my retold fairy tales on
Womens Radio website.
How are fairy tales, folk lore, and mythology related? Do you have a favorite
fairy tale? Folk story? Myth? Why are these stories your favorites? Do
they have meanings beyond the obvious ones?
Do you watch movies made during World War II? Consider the movies about
civilian life like
Since You Went Away (1944) and the wonderful movie musicals starring
Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and Alice Faye. Who are some of the other glamorous
movie stars of the period? Why are these women so appealing?
Think about the love that flows through the generations in your family.
How was this love expressed? Was it ever hidden? Why?
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
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Secret Lives Reader’s Guide for personal use only.