Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> Folk and Fairy Tale Elements in Guy Rivers >> Page 16

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription Simms takes some background and materials that are not new, and makes
them new to his reader by adding an American twist to traditional elements of
European fairy tales. For Instance, Simms includes his own castle and his own
princess. Although Edith Colleton is the heroine, Lucy Munro's character is more
developed. Living with her uncle because her parents have died, she discovers
that he is a criminal and a friend of Guy Rivers. She fits the stereotypical helpless
princess role at times, but she is also strong, skilled and intelligent. She helps to
rescue Ralph Colleton and save his life. She can not always save herself,
however, and at one point she is locked away in a secret hideaway that Simms
calls "The Rock Castle of the Robbers" in the title of Chapter 31. Instead of an
ancient castle, this is a rock formation in the unexplored regions of the woods.
The description of the castle is the American version of the Gothic; rather than
ancient architecture, the wild, dark woods give a feeling of foreboding to the
reader. Benjamin Fisher explains that in Simms's work "the outdoor landscape at
times, and perhaps paradoxically, carried suggestions of confinement, restriction,
and imprisonment when it seemed to close in upon some character whose mind
was in torment," creating an American Gothic castle.34 Two unlikely characters
rescue Lucy from the Castle: Bunce and Chub Williams. Chub is a clown-like,
simple man who is in love with Lucy. Chub lives in the woods and therefore
knows the location of the castle. He helps Bunce find it: "Having reached a
certain point in the woods, after a very circuitous departure from the main track,
the guide pointed out to the peddler a long and rude ledge of rocks, so rude, so
wild, that none could ever conjecture to find them the abode of anything but the
serpent and the wolf."35
Another set of events that can be explained in light of the fairy tale motif
is the men's disguising themselves as women. Chub, Bunce, and Lucy are
grabbed from behind, blindfolded, and led into the prison; but when the open their
eyes, they see unusual captors: "To his great wonder, however, nothing but
women, of all sizes and ages, met his sight." These women are similar to
giantesses of Amazons: "He had never seen such strongly-built women in his life:
scarcely one of them but could easily have overthrown him, without stratagem, in
single combat."36 Bunce is shocked by the masculinity of these women, who are
actually men in disguise. Chub discovers a way to help Lucy escape, but he
cannot save her from having to testify in court. To make sure that she doesn't
testify against him, her uncle dresses as a woman, comes into the courtroom, and

34 Fisher, Benjamin, "Simms's Bosky Gothic, The `Region of Doubt and Shadow,' Studies in the
Novel 35.2 (Summer 2003), p. 159.
35 Simms, p. 351.
36 Ibid., pp. 352, 353.