Bad Habits - The Christmas Goose - January 20 2005
On fowl choices, letting the ax fall and fairy tale endings
Apparently, you're not supposed to do what a magical, talking goose tells you to do. You'd think you could trust a magical, talking goose who'd just fed you and warmed your chilly little cabin on the farthest edge of the north woods, but you'd be wrong and you'd suffer for it.
Is it only in hindsight that choices can be determined "good" or "bad"? You can choose with the best of intentions, but if it all goes to hell, if the outcome doesn't pan out, then you're left with nothing but nay-saying, I told you so's and general misery. This distresses me. It seems a little unfair that forces beyond my control are going to derail my plans and spank me on the ass.
Even my most harmless choices lately — a trip to see miniature animals, selecting a parking space, ordering a cake for the holidays — end in calamity. I've become almost paralyzed. Should I go out? Should I stay in? Should I eat this or that? Normally meaningless decisions now have me agonizing about the horrifying paths of possibility and probability that spread out before me in a matrix of potential mayhem. All of my choices seem to be wrong, even in fairy tales.
Have I become too practical? Because I, for one, would have killed the Christmas Goose.
But let me fill you in, in case you don't know the story. And let me present my case, lest you judge too quickly: See, there was a lonely, starving, freezing Woodsman living at the edge of the farthest forest. He had a starving cow and some other animal, but he didn't want to eat them because then he'd be even lonelier (sigh). So he goes out in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve in a last-ditch effort to find food for himself and his animals. And he does, sort of. He finds a wounded Goose; he praises his luck and grabs for his gun — just what you'd want in a book for a 1-year-old.
But as he's about to shoot her, the Goose speaks! It promises him that if he spares her and nurses her back to health, she'll grant him a wish.
OK. So they go back to the cabin and she feeds all the animals, lays a feast for the Woodsman and provides a roaring fire. Then she says that before midnight, the Woodsman has to kill her. She further elaborates and says to the Woodsman that if he doesn't kill her, she's going to leave anyway. The Woodsman is sad and doesn't want to harm such a beautiful creature and he agonizes mightily over the decision as the Goose sadly, and oh-so-dramatically stretches out her neck.
At this point, I was like, "Look, Woodsman, you got lucky finding that Goose in the first place; hurry up and drop the ax or you're going to be screwed." I mean, hello, it's a magic Goose. I would assume it could regenerate itself. It's obviously a Christmas rebirth story, right? He kills the Goose; she resurrects, right? Wrong. Oh, how very wrong. Because, of course, there was a curse on the Goose that can only be lifted if the person she is helping — the Woodsman — takes pity and doesn't kill her.
So, the Woodsman doesn't kill the Goose and he's rewarded with bounty. Naturally, the Goose turns into a beautiful woman and becomes his wife. Whereas I would have killed the Goose and the Goose would have had to spend the rest of eternity in the underworld. I mean, come on, can I get a freakin' break here! What the hell kind of soap opera change-up is that? The Woodsman gets everything because he's too paralyzed to act? I was all ready for instruction about the necessity of making hard decisions. Instead I got a lesson that through indecision and paralysis, your dreams can come true. Now that's a story I can relate to.