Friday, 9 March 2012

Goblin Market

The starting point for my forthcoming fairy novel Named and Shamed is the discovery of a very unusual manuscript copy of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. Which is, ostensibly, a narrative poem about two sisters - one who falls for the wiles of wicked goblins and eats their, *ahem*, poisonous fruits, after which she craves MORE AND MORE, and the other sister who rescues her.

She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck’d until her lips were sore;

Written in 1859 (when Rossetti was 28), Goblin Market is a most peculiar work - not least because although it was touted as a children's poem (and was hugely popular as such) it is full of sexually charged verbal imagery.

“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me"

Was this totally unconscious? Really?

And this is not just any old sex - it's incestuous lesbian sex! Which ultimately triumphs over the horrors of drug(/heterosexual sex) addiction!

Christina Rossetti was a very successful poet - she wrote the carol "In the Bleak Midwinter" - but she wrote nothing else like Goblin Market. Her interior life revolved around a particularly masochistic Christianity in which she strove to give up everything she enjoyed, for the betterment of her soul, and longed to be dead and safely in heaven. I think we can safely say her attitude to sex was not one of carefree indulgence:
Lizzie utter’d not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laugh’d in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupp’d all her face,
And lodg’d in dimples of her chin,
And streak’d her neck which quaked like curd.

Goblin Market comes across to me as the last crazed firework display of her libido before she buried it forever. It's a moral fable, warning of how indulging in the "joys brides hope to have" leads to obsession, addiction and death.

But it's also a rollicking good read, full of brilliant rhymes and sumptuous temptations. The full text is here, among many other places - or you can read the poem and a lovely article on it over at Billierosie's blog

To enjoy as my protagonist Tansy does, read it out loud while someone gives you oral :-) But beware ... the themes of Goblin Market come back to haunt Tansy in a very personal and literal way...
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?” 


K D Grace said...

Wow! Stunning words and illustrations! I've never read it, but now I will absolutely have to. Seriously powerful stuff! If this is your inspiration, I can hardly wait to read Named and Shamed!

Jo said...

Wow! How did I never read this?

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh wow - it feels really good to know I've spread the "Goblin Market" word on :-)

Supressed Victorian kinkery at its finest, I think. Rather more overt the way I handle the same themes, in "Named and Shamed."