By Larry Fyffe
Revealed only by ‘Untold Dylan’, here’s a bunch of stuff overlooked by other examiners of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics.
Like his fellow Symbolist poets – Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine draws inspiration from the wishing wells of Charles Perrault’s reworking of old fairy tales:
(Paul Verlaine: Sleeping Beauty Dreams)
These dark fairy tales usually have happy endings – Sleeping Beauty awakes from her deep sleep after being discovered by a prince; a lost slipper, found by a prince, fits Cinderella; two brothers ride to rescue their sister from the murderous Blue Beard; Little Tom Thumb steals an ogre’s magic boots and escapes though a trail of bread crumbs left for his brothers gets eaten up by birds; a beautiful cook disguises herself in a donkey skin, but a prince, having looked through her keyhole (he’s been diagnosed by a doctor to be sick with love) is able to find out who she after she bakes an expensive ring in a cake, made with salt, butter, and eggs; ugly Prince Tuft is transformed into a handsome prince by a fairy after he helps a pretty girl become intelligent.
Numerous songs by Bob Dylan have a fairy tale-like quality where from dire situations a hero escapes. A reworked version it is, but there’s a clear reference to ‘Little Tom Thumb’ fairy tale in the following verse:
Dylan mangles up fairy tales. In ‘Blue Beard’, Sister Anne stands in a tower to signal if she spots the two brothers approaching on horseback:
Anne’s brothers arrive just in time to save their other sister. The following lyrics make black-humoured reference to the ‘just in the nick of time’ endings of fairy tales read in order to frighten children – like ‘Blue Beard’, ‘Little Tom Thumb’ and ‘Donkeyskin:
Now, if you see Saint Annie, please tell her, ‘Thanks a lot’
Bob Dylan tells a not-so-happy fairy tale about ‘Cinderella’:
(Bob Dylan: Desolation Row)
A variant on Charles Perrault’s ‘Donkeyskin’ is detectable in the following lyrics:
And in the lyrics below as well – with a dash of Ricky Tuft thrown in for good luck:
In the song lyrics that follow, there’s an inversion of the other theme present in ‘Prince Ricky Of The Tuft’:
You might also enjoy: The never ending story of becoming – Bob Dylan and Paul Verlaine
What else is on the site?
You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.
The index to the 500+ songs reviewed is now on a new page of its own. You will find it here. It contains links to reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.
We also now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
And please do note The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews