Stories where wonderful turns terrible?
April 6, 2010 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of a fairy tale, myth, story, or archetype that involves the hoarding of something wonderful, which causes that wonderful something to turn terrible?
posted by partner to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
King Midas seems like the obvious one, though it wasn't exactly "hoarding"
posted by brainmouse at 9:45 AM on April 6, 2010

This book talks about a pair of brothers who hoarded so much junk, junk that they loved, it crushed one of them to death.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:48 AM on April 6, 2010

If you're not limited to classic tales, then Rabbit might fit the bill (though the kids aren't exactly hoarding in the purest sense).
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:52 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Manna (Old Testament). If hoarded for the next day, it bred worms and stank.
posted by The World Famous at 9:52 AM on April 6, 2010

This might not be what you're after, but here goes:

I heard a story once of a king who had a small bottle of a medicine that could cure any illness. He was approached repeatedly by people wanting to use it, but he always refused. One day, his child was ill, so he went to fetch the medicine, but because he'd had it so long, it had evaporated, and his child died.
posted by Solomon at 9:53 AM on April 6, 2010

In the biblical book of Exodus, God causes manna to appear on the ground every morning, but with strict commands that the Israelites are only to take as much as they will need for that day. They are supposed to rely of God to provide everything they need. The catch is that the hoarded manna will turn to maggots overnight.
posted by gauche at 9:53 AM on April 6, 2010

Aesop has The Boy and the Figs.
posted by chatongriffes at 9:54 AM on April 6, 2010

on preview: d'oh!
posted by gauche at 9:54 AM on April 6, 2010

Here's a retelling of an older story about a guy who sells his soul to the Devil in return for having his boots filled with gold. He decides to trick the Devil by cutting the toes of the boots, so that he will get an endless supply of gold. Needless to say, it doesn't turn out well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:57 AM on April 6, 2010

The name of the character of Plyushkin from the Russian book Dead Souls is used as a term similar to "pack rat," in English.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:00 AM on April 6, 2010

Also, although not exactly hoarding, the Emperor Heliogabalus invited a bunch of people to a feast. At the end of the feast, rose petals began to fall from the ceiling. People thought this was very pretty, until they realized that a) the petals weren't stopping, b) the Emperor had left the building, and c) the doors were locked. Supposedly they all drowned in the petals. Here is a lovely 19th C painting that really doesn't do the story justice.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:03 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis uses this idea as a major piece of character and plot development. It also has one of my favorite opening lines in all of literature:

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
posted by jquinby at 10:03 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Does The Pearl count? I'm not sure if it really involves "hoarding", per se.
posted by Flamingo at 10:04 AM on April 6, 2010

I wouldn't necessarily say that it was hoarding something (that might imply that you're trying to get many somethings), but the keeping and protecting of something at all costs surely can do that. Think of everyone who had the Ring in Tolkien -- it had such a status that it completely ruined the lives of everyone associated with it. I know there are other examples, though I can't think of them.

And (not that you asked for it, but) I can think of some real-life examples, too. Think of the pack rats who have to save things because they think they're valuable, but they don't take proper care of them. I remember an episode of the show Clean Sweep (LOVE that Peter Walsh) where a woman was saving Cabbage Patch Kids in their original packaging, but the cellophane was cracked, there were leak marks all over the cardboard, it was gross and dusty, etc.
posted by Madamina at 10:06 AM on April 6, 2010

If the story of the gold boots counts, then so does Aesop's "The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs."
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:08 AM on April 6, 2010

The ring is arguably wonderful in "The Hobbit", and we only learn of its ability to corrupt its wearer in Lord of the Rings.
posted by ripple at 10:10 AM on April 6, 2010

The children's book "All the Money in the World" is about a kid who meets a leprechaun that grants his wish for "all the money in the world," leading to some some negative repercussions.
posted by contraption at 10:19 AM on April 6, 2010

Monkey's Paw
posted by selfmedicating at 10:24 AM on April 6, 2010

I think it was in Heidi that the girl was so delighted with the fluffy soft white bread rolls while she was staying with her rich friend that she saved them up to take home with her, but they went rock-hard in her closet.
posted by aimedwander at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

There's that book The Chocolate Touch where a boy loves chocolate so much that magically somehow everything he eats or touches with his mouth turns to chocolate. Obviously this doesn't end well.
posted by amicamentis at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2010

The Parable of the Talents may fit the bill.
posted by rjs at 10:36 AM on April 6, 2010

The Gods Must Be Crazy? It's just a Coke bottle, but what begins as a treasure becomes a curse.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:39 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Black-Nosed Buddha (Zen Koan)

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her.

Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.

The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.
posted by Captain_Science at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2010

I'm not sure if this fits the bill, as it's not hoarding that necessarily causes a problem, but hoarding the wrong 'type' of something... in any case, it's a wonderful story.

The Talking Eggs.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2010

Edmund and the Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The story that Blazecock mentioned is also in a children's book with awesome illustrations called Kangaroo and Kangaroo, in which the two brothers are kangaroos and they end up starving themselves in order to leave their homes and then hold a giant rummage sale. Unfortunately, it seems like it's only available for 894 dollars through ABE. So ... never mind?
posted by ChuraChura at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2010

Ducktales - The Land of Tra La La. Part 1. Part 2.

Scrouge McDuck escapes to Tra La La (a land without currency) to get away from the concerns of money. While there, a soda bottle cap quickly becomes a rare and precious item. The rarity causes trouble as everyone in Tra La La fights for the few bottle caps available. The Pilot flies back to deliver and air-drop more bottlecaps, but the order of 1 million is haphazardly upped to a billion! - "Why be chintzy? Make it a billion!"

After the first airdrop of 1 million, the townsfolk collect and horde the bottle caps - but equilibrium is established. All is well. Then the second 1 million gets dropped and trouble begins anew as now too many caps cause inflation. Of course, there's still 998 more airdrops to go and Tra La La would be literally buried in them by then.

The wonderful, precious bottle cap become a terrible, terrible item.
posted by yeti at 11:04 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's a children's book I used to love that I hope someone knows the name of:

There's a king who finds a gemstone on the beach. As his men try to dig it up, they realize it's incredibly large. It turns out to be the biggest gem in the world, and the King wastes all the resources of his kingdom trying to dig it up. At the end I think he has ruined everything he had, and he still can't get the gem.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:18 AM on April 6, 2010

The first part of Lewis Hyde's The Gift talks about this principle that "the gift must always move" using folk tales and anthropology. Google books preview.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:51 AM on April 6, 2010

Also, not so much hoarding as too much of a good thing: at least one episode of the Twilight Zone
posted by kimota at 12:20 PM on April 6, 2010

Chapter 13 of Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat. The woman with no food ends up with crates of rotting vegetables.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2010

Needful Things?. Not all of the cases are hoarding but most all of them involve having/wanting an item of desire to the point of willing to kill over it.
posted by Gungho at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2010

A little different, but there's a beautiful, harrowing chapter in The Once and Future King in which Morgause's children think that a unicorn is so beautiful that it would make a fine present for their mother. They trap a unicorn in the woods, and one of them chops off its head. The previously beautiful creature is a spoiled and disgusting body, and they begin to hate and resent it in their guilt.

“Gawaine particularly began to hate the body. He hated it for being dead, for having been beautiful, for making him feel like a beast. He had loved it and helped trap it, so now there was nothing to be done except to vent his shame and hatred of himself upon the corpse.”

(Thanks, Google Books!) By the time they get it home, the head is filthy and horrible, and their mother whips them for bringing it home.
posted by Clambone at 2:11 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure but Sur La Lune is a forum I found useful for similar fairy tale / folklore queries before. Could check there as well.
posted by MrFish at 5:29 PM on April 6, 2010

Doesn't a girl (Varuka Salt?) in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turn into a blue berry after being greedy with sweets?
posted by marimeko at 6:14 PM on April 6, 2010

I remember a short story about a person who collected these "magic rocks" and stacked them all up around the sides of a well and then finally threw one more down the middle, thereby igniting the nuclear explosion...
posted by The otter lady at 9:30 AM on April 7, 2010

In, the first story in Italo Calvino's Marcovaldo, the title character strives to keep a cache of budding mushrooms secret, with a change of heart and nice bit of poetic justice at the end.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:41 PM on April 8, 2010

« Older Should "della" be capitalized in the middle of an...   |   Excel for Business? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.