Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

A Thoreauvian Fairy Tale?

mturer's picture

The genre of my Thoreauvian walk is not obvious. My description of the ecological aspects of Bryn Mawr is very pastoral as I mention feeling "at peace with my surroundings," incorrectly portraying them in an idealized fashion. However, while reading my essay a second time, I noticed that I casually include some elements of the supernatural in a work that is intended to be nonfiction. Trees are able to fight back when humans alter them and a force only named as "nature" is able to guide me, the protagonist, on my walk without my influence. Because of this, I have chosen to rewrite my Thoreauvian walk as a fable or fairy tale.

  Letting nature take me where I should go, I walked to English House, around the back, and back across Merion green, crossing senior row. Here I felt most at peace with my surroundings. I did not have any outside thoughts or interruptions. I noticed someone had carved their name into a tree a very long time ago, probably, because the tree had fought back and nearly swallowed the text. Nature is nature and we are humans, we exist side by side and we cannot claim nature to be our own. It will always fight back. Next I was taken to Rhoads pond, and then all the way to the field next to Brecon. The field has restrictions around it. Once there, there is nowhere to continue on and nature must have me double back. The field, I thought, was one of the boundaries of this campus. The boundaries seem to only exist where a walk will not take me. Roads are boundaries, fences are boundaries, and yards of private homes are boundaries. In these places, I can no longer listen to nature’s guidance. I cannot be taken past these boundaries without my conscious demanding to take over from my unconscious. It tells me I “cannot” go there, for whatever reason. Bryn Mawr is free to be explored. Because of this, Bryn Mawr includes a lot of woods and a lot of nature. Until the woods become a road or a fence or a backyard, the woods are Bryn Mawr. A lot more than I thought is Bryn Mawr. 

Fairy Tale:
 Once, on a mild afternoon in September, a young girl set out to explore a beautiful castle and its enchanted woods. This stone castle was called Bryn Mawr, and the environment surrounding it was nameless, as environments often are, but was allowed to share in the majesty of the name Bryn Mawr when it so desired. In these woods lived a fairy who was also nameless, given the tendency to name was a purely human attribute. On this day in September, the fairy, who humans sometimes called “Nature,” noticed that the girl was unfamiliar with the beauty of her enchanted woods.  The girl was eager to learn, so the fairy guided her, bringing her to magical, self-healing trees that can erase any wounds they may have, across the field shaded by these trees that has the ability to instantly instill calm in its visitors, and to a tiny pond filled with fish that grant wishes and geese that sing opera. Lastly, the fairy brought the girl to a meadow far from the stone turrets of the castle of Bryn Mawr, and told the girl that even though this meadow was far, it still liked to be called Bryn Mawr sometimes. The girl was confused as to why something so far away was still part of this world, but the fairy replied that the fields and meadows and woods decided for themselves what they would sometimes allow themselves to be called. If they wanted to be Bryn Mawr, the fairy would bring the exploring girl to them. If they did not want to be Bryn Mawr, the fairy could not.



rachelr's picture

Ever After

I love that you go outside of the genres that we have considered so far- I think your fairytale fits perfectly. In my methods class we recently read two "re-tellings" of fairytales that have been repurposed to send a different message (in our case they were a commentary on femininity and the agency of women). The argument could be made that taking old, familiar stories and repurposing them allows the reader to feel comfort in the familiarity before taking the content to a new level and introducing the "radical" concept. In your case, this radical concept is our ecological place in nature. But wrapped up in the familiar "once upon a time" it doesn't seem so frightening or new.