It’s National Poetry Month in the States, so I thought I’d post a favorite poem or two each Wednesday until we run out of April.
Roald Dahl is one of my favorite storytellers, but—as the Oompa Loompas prove—he’s also a poet of the snarky set, and not all his stuff is for children. Particularly his take on several classic fairy tales.
His “Cinderella” cautions girls about choosing men on the basis of their looks, wealth, and foot fetishes, but I prefer the following, as the princess chooses to put her own twist on her story:
Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs
When little Snow-White’s mother died,
The king, her father, up and cried,
‘Oh, what a nuisance! What a life!
‘Now I must find another wife!’
(It’s never easy for a king
To find himself that sort of thing.)
He wrote to every magazine
And said, ‘I’m looking for a Queen.’
At least ten thousand girls replied
And begged to be the royal bride.
The king said with a shifty smile,
‘I’d like to give each one a trial.’
However, in the end he chose
A lady called Miss Maclahose,
Who brought along a curious toy
That seemed to give her endless joy —
This was a mirror framed in brass,
A MAGIC TALKING LOOKING GLASS.
Ask it something day or night,
It always got the answer right.
For instance, if you were to say,
‘Oh Mirror, what’s for lunch today?’
The thing would answer in a trice,
‘Today it’s scrambled eggs and rice.’
Now every day, week in week out,
The spoiled and stupid Queen would shout,
‘Oh Mirror, Mirror on the wall,
‘Who is the fairest of them all?’
The Mirror answered every time,
‘Oh Madam, you’re the Queen sublime.
‘You are the only one to charm us,
‘Queen, you are the cat’s pyjamas.’
For ten whole years the silly Queen
Repeated this absurd routine.
Then suddenly, one awful day,
She heard the Magic Mirror say,
‘From now on, Queen, you’re Number Two.
‘Snow-White is prettier than you!’
The Queen went absolutely wild.
She yelled, ‘I’m going to scrag that child!
‘I’ll cook her flaming goose! I’ll skin ‘er!
‘I’ll have her rotten guts for dinner!’
She called the Huntsman to her study.
She shouted at him, ‘Listen buddy!
‘You drag that filthy girl outside,
‘And see you take her for a ride!
‘Thereafter slit her ribs apart
‘And bring me back her bleeding heart!’
The Huntsman dragged the lovely child
Deep, deep into the forest wild.
Fearing the worst, poor Snow-White spake.
She cried, ‘Oh please give me a break!’
The knife was poised, the arm was strong,
She cried again, ‘I’ve done no wrong!’
The Huntsman’s heart began to flutter.
It melted like a pound of butter.
He murmured, ‘Okay, beat it, kid,’
And you can bet your life she did
Later, the Huntsman made a stop
Within the local butcher’s shop,
And there he bought, for safety’s sake,
A bullock’s heart and one nice steak.
‘Oh Majesty! Oh Queen!’ he cried,
‘That rotten little girl has died!
‘And just to prove I didn’t cheat,
‘I’ve brought along these bits of meat.’
‘The Queen cried out, ‘Bravissimo!
‘I trust you killed her nice and slow.’
Then (this is the disgusting part)
The Queen sat down and ate the heart!
(I only hope she cooked it well.
Boiled heart can be as tough as hell
While all of this was going on,
Oh where, oh where had Snow-White gone?
She’d found it easy, being pretty,
To hitch a ride in to the city,
And there she’d got a job, unpaid,
As general cook and parlour-maid
With seven funny little men,
Each one not more than three foot ten,
Ex horse-race jockeys, all of them.
These Seven Dwarfs, though awfully nice,
Were guilty of one shocking vice —
They squandered all of their resources
At the race-track backing horses.
(When they hadn’t backed a winner,
None of them got any dinner.)
One evening, Snow-White said,
‘Look here, ‘I think I’ve got a great idea.
‘Just leave it all to me, okay?
‘And no more gambling till I say.’
That very night, at eventide,
Young Snow-White hitched another ride,
And then, when it was very late,
She slipped in through the Palace gate.
The King was in his counting house
Counting out his money,
The Queen was in the parlour
Eating bread and honey,
The footmen and the servants slept
So no one saw her as she crept
On tip-toe through the mighty hall
And grabbed the mirror off the wall.
As soon as she had got it home,
She told the Senior Dwarf (or Gnome)
To ask it what he wished to know.
‘Go on!’ she shouted. ‘Have a go!’
He said, ‘Oh Mirror, please don’t joke!
‘Each one of us is stony broke!
‘Which horse will win tomorrow’s race,
‘The Ascot Gold Cup Steeplechase?’
The Mirror whispered sweet and low,
‘The horse’s name is Mistletoe.’
The Dwarfs went absolutely daft,
They kissed young Snow-White fore and aft,
Then rushed away to raise some dough
With which to back old Mistletoe.
They pawned their watches, sold the car,
They borrowed money near and far,
(For much of it they had to thank
The manager of Barclays Bank.)
They went to Ascot and of course
For once they backed the winning horse
Thereafter, every single day,
The Mirror made the bookies pay.
Each Dwarf and Snow-White got a share,
And each was soon a millionaire,
Which shows that gambling’s not a sin
Provided that you always win.
I’ve always thought so.