You are probably familiar with the story: A poor miller goes to see the king on some random business, but, in the worst stage-parent manner, tells the courtiers that his beautiful young daughter can spin straw into gold. Of course he is whisked to the head of the line, for what ruler can resist such a story? The king has the daughter brought to court and installs her in a room packed full of straw, with the instruction that she must spin it all into gold before daybreak, or she will be put to death. The poor young girl is distraught, until a strange little man appears in the straw-filled room and promises to take on the task for a reward. This happens for three nights running, with the upshot being that the king wants to marry the girl –the phrase cash cow comes rather rudely to mind– and the prize demanded by the little man escalates to her first-born.
I’ve chosen to illustrate the poor girl locked into the chamber with bale upon bale of straw — a veritable cathedral of straw. (I did, in fact, refer to photos of the Romanesque abbey church of Saint-Philibert in Tournus, France, when I drew the columns and arches.) She is overwhelmed by the volume of straw, and in despair.
I suspect most of us can relate to the feeling of too much to do, being dwarfed by a gigantic to-do list, without the faintest idea of how to get it all done. At least we don’t have a death threat behind it!