The Snail, The Rosebush, and The Mummy on Mother’s Day

I took this picture of a snail nestled inside a rose at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana on Mother’s Day.  Ethan, Zarene, and I had just spent the afternoon at the Museum’s “Secrets of the Silk Road” exhibit, where Caucasian mummies which had been buried in the Tarin Basin of western China for the past 3,800 years were on display.  One of the mummies we saw is valued for her great beauty.  Archaeologists have crowned her “The Beauty of Xiaohe“.         

When I was a little kid, my dad gave me a large hardcover edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales.  In “The Snail and The Rosebush“, a snail and rose challenge each other about their respective roles in the universe.  The snail fancies himself a philosopher:  he criticizes the rose for coasting through life on her looks without contemplation.  The rose claims that her beauty is a gift she did not ask for; her beauty gives pleasure to those around her and that in turn gives her life meaning.  The rose then suggests to the snail that his mind is a greater gift than her beauty and asks how he will share his gift.  The snail expresses his contempt for the world and retreats to his shell, presumably to think deep thoughts.  Eventually, both the snail and the rose die and are replaced with other snails and roses.  The story ends with the question, “Shall we read this story all over again? It will never be different.”  Indeed.  I wonder if “The Beauty of Xiaohe” was revered for her mind or her beauty when she was alive?

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