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The Little Girl Lost

* Cecil Beaton, Eileen Dunne the Blitz Victim (1940)

( It is a wonder of how Cecil Beaton, a renowned fashion photographer of his time, would tackle upon war photography at the first place. Beaton made no secrets of his obsession with freaks, but rather than a compulsive collector of monsters like Arbus, beauty and aesthetics could be considered or rendered freakish in his photography. That more or less explains why Beaton opted for the traumatic aftermath of the war-stricken victims, than the gilded façades of the flawless models. Beaton had the magic of turning something unpleasant into something beautiful, or something hauntingly intimate, which only permits appreciation in private. )

The little girl has been lost for weeks and not a trace is found despite the effort of all villagers. Also absent, too, but for some days, are the little girl’s parents, who, cloistering in their remote abode, decline all kindness and premature condolences. For sure the aged couple have every right to hold on their hope, dim though it might be, but the lilies before their house grow strong and cheerful, as if such could be an unwritten letter from their lost daughter, reassuring her felicity even though she is far away and nowhere to be seen.

And in the first night of the little girl’s failure of negotiating her way out of the labyrinthine forest, she barely cries but sighs angrily with frustration. She finally resolves in making beds on the lush lawn, since the day is growing dark and chill. A little girl she still is, innocent and without fear, no precaution is needed even when she is in the farthest from civility. Singing herself to sleep as she is habitual to do every day, her songs contain no human fleshes but cobwebs, cone-shaped den, blue puddle glistening beside the trees and everything that is now within her keen observation.

Yet more weeks later the old couple decide to venture out themselves. And stealthily they head to the forest, with a heart eager to hear the calling of their daughter which, crispy as the trembling leaves of spring, catches them off-guard from nowhere and makes the whole incident a merely protracted charade. The two elders’ impractical dream and exciting journey met their abrupt ends, as what stands before them casts its sprawling shadow that shrouds them all. With their heads bowed at this sight of unexpected majesty, the old couple need not to witness themselves to notice what stands in their way.

And it is a tiger that stands judging her. The little girl can feel the tiger’s narrowing eyes and shortening breath, yet in return she stares straight at him the eyes wide and transparent, expressive of no wariness nor astonishment. Even the cruellest monster startles at a sight so tender and artless. When one knows not what is love the immediate reaction is however frustration and fluster, as the tiger tramps the ground and let out a booming cry so wounded. But the little girl budges not, and a slight smile plays upon her lips.

It is with ecstasy that the aged couple finally see their beloved daughter again, yet for the sake of modesty they, with much pain, hold back their intractable emotion. Before her parents the little girl lies rapt in her dream. Moonlight descends upon her and forms a bright disc around the little reclining body. The Holy Circle renders the little girl a star turn, as her parents and the tiger all gaze at her at the rim of the invisible circle, not without much amazement. And before long, while still standing stock-still, the old couple will witness the tiger’s transgression of the hallowed orders. Into the circle the tiger abrasively ventures, and before the seniors’ disbelieving eyes slowly and gently, he disrobes the little girl.


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