Hi! I'm new here and I'm really glad I found this place. I've loved Bradbury's work for years and now I'm finally getting a chance to do some research on him for a college project. I'm interested in studying the dust witch/fortune teller type that appears in his fiction. I'm thinking specifically of the dust witches in Something Wicked and Illustrated Man, and the fortune teller machine in Dandelion Wine. Does anyone here know of other dust witches or fortune tellers in Bradbury's work? Any suggestions you could give would be greatly appreciated.
The short story "Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds" in "Long After Midnight."
Thanks so much! I'll go check it out!
You might enjoy the painting I Dream the Midnight Midway by Lewis Lehrman.
A very cool picture. I might just order a copy!!
That's a really great picture -- Thanks for the link!
Illustrated Man: the "Skin Illustration ~ Artistic" witch was from the future, 1000 years. Each body illustration told her tales of what would some day be.
I would consult Toupance's book: Ray Bradbury: A Life of Fiction. He may have some discussion of these topics in there.
I'm very interested in tracking down those elements of Ray's boyhood in Waukegan that later fed his literary imagination.
Kris brings up a point I've been thinking about for the two weeks since listening to Ray read "The Illustrated Man" on audiotape.
Does anyone know what the autobiographical inspiration was for Ray's Dust Witch character?
Following "Dandelion Wine," I assume that there was an arcade near the Lake in Waukegan, and that it included a mechanical fortune teller.
Can anyone confirm that this is true? Does anyone have another theory as to where Ray got the Dust Witch image?
Dr. Patrick Mullins
Mechanical fortune tellers were common in penny arcades and traveling carnivals in that era, even as late as the 1970s when I was growing up. More than once I had my fortune told by such a crone, whose hand moved back and forth over a fan of playing cards resting before her, before a small notecard with my fortune would appear out a slot.
Of course, Ray himself would be the best source to answer your question. Otherwise, city directories exist from the time Ray lived in Waukegan, and may show whether a penny arcade was in business there.
In view of your question about the Dust Witch, I thought "why not call the guy who might know best" where the image came from? So I just got off the phone with Ray Bradbury. I asked him where the got the idea from and his response was "I don't know! Why are you asking me?" So in speaking with him further he said that it had to come from his experiences with the carnivals and sideshows and Mr.Electrico.
He sounded strong and said that he shipped "Farewell Summer" off to his publisher last Thursday in New York.
So, there you have it. From the Man himself as best he recalls it.
I couldn't get much out of him, either, on the subject of the carnival lady frozen in a block of ice, an image which appeared in several stories. I had to come to my own conclusions as to how that, and Ching Ling Soo's bullet-catching trick, may have been performed.
By the way, did anyone catch the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" Episode 47, "Helium Football," which explored the age-old question: Are teeth strong enough to withstand the force of a bullet?
Michael, thanks a lot for asking Ray about the Dust Witch. It was worth a shot!
I should take Walloon's thoughtful suggestion, and track down the Waukegan city directory for the late 20s. My bet is that there was a penny arcade--complete with fortune teller machine--at Waukegan's lake front, like the one in Dandelion Wine.
One can still see those fortune teller machines around here and there. You may recall that one of them was central to the plot in the Tom Hanks movie, "Big." You can't tell me the screenwriter wasn't a Bradbury fan!
Cori mentioned "Ching Ling Soo" as another recurring carnival motiff in Ray's work. Ray nicely combined the two motiffs when he inspired Mr. Holloway to treat the Dust Witch to the bullet trick!
If you'd like to read about the life of the real Chung Ling Soo and his death-by-bullet-trick, follow the link below. The online story isn't as evocative as Colonel Freeleigh's version, but I guess you had to be there!
BTW, Sam Weller said that his next book project will be a novel based on the life of Chung Ling Foo, the Chinese magician who was the inspiration for Chung Ling Soo.
Drunk on Dandelion Wine,
Michael related Ray's news that he just sent "Farewell Summer" to press. I forgot to emit a bleat of celebratory glee.
Thanks for the update. I've been waiting for years for this book to come out. What will the book be like? What will Ray have to tell us? What does Green Town look and sound and smell like, when summer winds down and the leaves begin to die?
Waiting for "Farewell Summer" to arrive on bookstore shelves is like digging up a treasure chest. My mind is racing and my palms are sweating with all of the possibilities of what could be in that box. Gotta dig faster!
The book is officially due out on October 1, just in time for Halloween. This year, Ray will be coming to all of our doors for trick-or-treat. Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!
As usual Patrick, your posts are informative and fun to read. They usually take you somewhere unexpected too thats equally fascinating. That was good about Ching Ling Soo. I too am waiting anxiously for this, imagine, it has been almost fifty years since D.W. Wow, not too much longer to wait. Waiting is! My water brothers.
She stood silently looking out into the great sallow distances of sea bottom, as if recalling something, her yellow eyes soft and moist...
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