Many Moons, written by James Thurber for his daughter, is one of my favorite childhood books; so much so that I saved the 1943 copyrighted edition all these years, taking delight in reading it to my own children.
I adapted the tale of the Princess Lenore for a paper I wrote during the early 'Feminism' years.' The surface story something like this, but with a bit of a 1970's slant:
ONCE upon a very long time ago in a “Kingdom-By-The-Sea,” the ten year old, “going on eleven,” Princess Lenore ate too many raspberry tarts and got a royal bellyache. Her distraught Daddy, the King, promised her anything her heart desired, if only she would get well. The Princess declared that if he gave her “the moon,” she would recover.
After much deliberation and consultations with the Lord High Chamberlain (who told him that “giving his daughter the moon was impossible because the moon was 35,000 miles away and made of molten copper”); the Royal Wizard (who told him that “nobody could get the moon because it was 150,000 miles away, made of green cheese and was twice the size of the palace”), and the Royal Mathematician (who said that “the moon was 300,000 miles away, made of asbestos and was pasted on the sky so nobody could steal it”).
Quite depressed by the whole matter, the King sent for his Court Jester (more commonly known as The Fool) to cheer him up. Upon hearing the King’s dilemma, that evening Jester went to see the Princess Lenore, who, indeed, looked quite pale, but nevertheless pleased to see him.
“How big is the moon?” he asked her.
Princess Lenore held her right arm out and made a fist with her thumb pointing up and toward the window where a golden full moon hung in the sky. “See,” she said, closing one eye to see it better. “When I hold my thumb up at the moon my thumbnail just covers it.”
“And how far away is it?”
“Just as high as the big tree outside my window, because sometimes it gets caught in the top branches,” she replied.
“Ah, and what is it made of?”
“Why, gold of course, silly,” she smiled up at him.
So the Court Jester went to see the Royal Goldsmith who made a tiny— “a little smaller than her thumbnail”—solid gold moon which hung on a gold chain. Then the Jester delivered the moon to the King who gave it to the Princess Lenore, and all was well again in the Kingdom-By-The Sea.
Alas, this seemingly simple fable illustrates what Jungian analyst Marian Woodman might have called Everywoman’s Catch 22. Loosely interpreted, if a woman is lucky enough to have had a good and loving father, she will look for him in every man she meets; and if she is not lucky enough to have had a good and loving father, she will be looking for him in every man she meets—so powerful the paternal influence in a girl-to-woman’s life; and until a she understands that the relationship she yearns for is seven heavens above any flesh and blood “Daddy,” she will enter relationships with unrealistic expectations.