The Economic Impacts of Black Magic in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty
Abstract: Post-Industrial Americans regard the spinning wheel as a quaint prop of a by-gone age. It is not until we grasp its place at the foundation of textile production in early economies, however, that we realize that Maleficent’s curse and the resultant destruction of spinning wheels was an attack not just on the baby princess Aurora but on the economic fabric of the kingdom itself. The sudden removal of wheel technology for yarn production would cripple if not topple the textile industry of a fourteenth century agrarian economy. Through use of computer modeling we discuss the volume production drop caused by a sudden shift from spinning wheel to drop spindle technology and examine the ramifications on the wool trade, the rise in imports to replace lost domestic capacity and concomitant inflation across the economy , the loss of competitiveness among other regional powers, and the dramatic increase in costs accrued for the exotic textiles displayed in King Stephen’s court.
It’s one thing to anger a malevolent spirit—it’s another entirely to anger a malevolent spirit with a thorough knowledge of textile capacities and the creative curses to bring an entire kingdom’s economy to its knees.
Pagan Survivals in Children’s Literature: The Case of “Mr. Brown”
The eponymous hero of Dr. Seuss’s Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?: Dr. Seuss’s Book of Wonderful Noises displays a remarkable ability to evoke a wide range of sounds. Clues embedded within the structure of the text suggest that Mr. Brown is more than he appears to be on a surface level. The climax of the book is a dramatic scene involving weather manifestations. Thunder takes the fore, chiastically bracketed between rain and lightning. While in most of the vignettes Mr. Brown “can sound like” things, here there is a profound shift: Suess writes, “Boom Boom Boom/ Mr. Brown is a wonder./ Boom Boom Boom/Mr. Brown makes thunder!/ He makes lightning / Splatt Splatt Splatt/ and it’s very, very hard/ to make a noise like that!” The crucial shift moves away from onomatopoeic mimesis; rather than declarative speech, Mr. Brown is engaging in performative speech that not simply replicates but produces the very phenomena conjured by its sound. In short, Mr. Brown bears the characteristics of a storm god.
When the rest of the narrative is viewed through this lens, an unmistakable agricultural pattern may be discerned in many of the sounds connected with Mr. Brown: bees (Buzz Buzz)–important pollenators and source of a primary ingredient of most premodern diets, rooster (Cocka doodle doo), grapes and wines (the sound of a cork: Pop Pop accompanied with an image of a wine bottle). The presence of an owl (Hoo Hoo) suggests Mr. Brown may manifest a chthonic form as well. The most telling piece of evidence receives structural emphasis as it is the first sound/image of the book: the cow. Pulling the evidence together, a storm god surrounded by agricultural motifs foremost among them the image of a cow or bull, it seems quite clear that Mr. Brown is a survival of the Ancient Near Eastern Hadad/Ba’al tradition.