Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> Folk and Fairy Tale Elements in Guy Rivers >> Page 17

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription attempts to intimidate her:
A decrepit old woman, resting with bent form upon a staff, which was planted
firmly before her, seemed wrapped in the general interest pervading the court.
The woman was huge of frame and rough of make; her face was large and
swollen, and the tattered cap and bonnet, the coarse and soiled materials which
she wore, indicated one of the humblest cast in the country.37
Later, Munro reappears as a woman in order to ask Bunce for help. This meeting
once again contributes to the backwoods humor in the story when Bunce criticizes
the quality of calico material Munro has used for his disguise:
I see you aint a woman plain enough from your face, and I pretty much conclude
you must be a man; though you have got on —what's that now? It's a kind of
calico, I guess, but them's not fast colors, friend. I should say, now, you had
been taken in pretty much by that bit of goods. It aint the kind of print, now,
that's not afeard of washing!38
Simms presents three cases in which men are dressed as women; they resemble
the haggard witches who play such an important role in fairy tales. The
masculinity of the witches sets them apart from the true example of femininity
embodied in the heroine. For instance, in "Little Red Riding-Hood," a wolf
dresses as the little girl's grandmother and the child believes the trick. Another
example is in the Grimm version of Briar Rose, when an ugly old woman
provides the spinning wheel on which the princess plucks her finger. Often such
-women are masculine in some ways, or appear to be sexless. The ugliness of the
witch serves to set her apart from the most important female in a child's life: the
mother. In The Witch Must Die, Sheldon Cashdan explains that fairy tales center
primarily upon female characters: "Fairy tales are essentially maternal dramas in
which witches, godmothers, and other female figures function as the fantasy
derivatives of early childhood splitting."39 Simms allows male figures to play
important roles in the fairy tale aspects of the drama, but when they enter into the
castle or take on the role of the wicked witch, they must disguise themselves as
women.
Guy Rivers is intriguing for many reasons, but -the inclusion of folk
elements is perhaps one of the most interesting dimensions. Fairy tales are
traditionally deemed stories for children, but they have made their way into the
consciousnesses of many adults. Simms incorporates this important part of
culture into his own fiction, while shaping it into a new, American story. Guy
Rivers demonstrates that Simms was an innovative American writer, that he



37 Ibid., 380.
38 Ibid., p. 419.
39 Cashdan, Sheldon, The Witch Must Die: How Fairy Tales Shape Our Lives, (New York: Basic
Books, 1999), p. 28.


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