Cursed by Government

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So I’m reading “Sleeping Beauty” to my little girl. It seems a bad witch puts a curse on this fabulous royal baby that before she turns 16, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. The book then says, as if it is a completely normal thing to do, that the King orders all spinning wheels in the kingdom to be destroyed.

Now, this is clearly a despotic act on its own, though it is never noted as such in the book. All spinning wheels! Imagine that you are calmly spinning some cloth at home, perhaps to use, perhaps to sell, and some tax-paid minion from the castle up the street knocks on the door.

“I’m sorry but I must destroy your spinning wheel.”

“But why?”

“The King believes that a bad witch has put a curse on the royal baby to the effect the child will die before she turns 16 after she pricks her finger in a spinning wheel, and hence the King wants no spinning wheels in the kingdom.”

“And what makes him think his hallucinations should dictate policy? Look, I’m sorry about the girl and ‘bad witch’ but I have children who need clothes!”

“Sorry, the spinning wheel has to go.”

And up in flames it goes, and, house by house, an entire industry is destroyed. Why should the people in the kingdom put up with this? I gather that they did. Sheep! What if the witch had visited a working-class family and said the same thing. They wouldn’t have the luxury of ordering any nation-wide policy. They would just have to live with the curse.

But it turns out that this is typical short-sighted government policy. The bad witch later conjures up a spinning wheel out of thin air, on which the princess pricks her finger. Whoops, the king didn’t think of that.

Meanwhile 15 years of no domestic cloth went by. How many black-market spinning wheels had to be confiscated? How many would-be spinners languished in prison to carry out this despotic order from the king? The princess and the prince who later kisses her seem rather well dressed, so one wonders where they got these great clothes. Perhaps imported from China? Or did they just have the right connections?

Let’s hope the first action of the new prince is to apologize for the egregious attack on the capital markets made by the elder ruler.

10:31 pm on December 8, 2003