I adore quotes. You only have to look at the ones I’ve gathered at Goodreads to see how much. I used to look forward to the quotes heading the different sections of White Wolf’s World of Darkness sourcebooks. Everything from Shakespeare to the lyrics of a Berlin song to comments made by characters on TV series might be found in the pages. The right quote can perk me up, energizing me when I feel low.
Curious, considering that one of the greatest sources of inspiration are misquotes.
I remember watching the shadow puppets of the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena putting on a play, re-enacting a myth when every girl was a princess. One of the players said, “All princesses who aren’t saved by a prince become witches.”
Quite the patriarchal perspective, but it got me thinking about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Rapuzel.
I thought about Snow White’s stepmother, her obsession with her reflection in a magic mirror, of being told she was the Fairest of Them All. In the end she lost sight of herself. All she could see was Snow White. She turned herself into a hag, hunting down her stepdaughter, offering her an enchanted apple. If the prince hadn’t come along, what would have happened to Snow White? Who might have kissed her?
I thought of the witch or evil fairy who cursed an infant princess to become Sleeping Beauty. I wondered whom or what she’d been before casting that curse. I wondered what Sleeping Beauty might change into without a prince.
It turns out I’d gotten the quote from Revolutionary Girl Utena wrong, but the seeds for Fairest were already growing in my imagination. What if the evil witch casting the curse had once been a girl as innocent as the one she was cursing?
Nor was this the first or the last time a misquote inspired me.
I recall watching Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman and the Guard on public television as a child. The lyrics of the song “And he sipped no sup/And he ate no crumb/But he lived off the love of a lady” played in my imagination for years later. I started to write about the shadows from a dream realm of a discarded memories taking on individual life on their own. Unable to eat or drink, they drew nourishment from the company, the emotions, the love of others, anchoring themselves to where they were.
Draw upon enough passion, a shadow might pass through the Door, creating life itself, hatching it from a fiery pool of lost color as Christopher does in Stealing Myself From Shadows.
Once again I’d gotten the lines wrong, something I discovered when I went to see The Yeoman and the Guard in the theater years later. Tales of the Navel, a whole series of stories I’ve blogged about at the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration were written because of a misquote.
Has this ever happened to you, dear reader? Have you been haunted by a misquote? Even inspired by one?