Monday, September 29, 2014

Puss in Boots, By Aliza Faber

By Walter Crane
Editor's note: No, EC is not running new monthly writing contests. In my zeal finish up the contests, I neglected to publish Aliza's wonderful story. Here it is, and you'll be glad to read it! 
There was once a rich marquis who had quite a lot to leave his first two sons in the manner of titles and privileges but naught to leave his youngest but riches and obligations. Despite this, in his life, the marquis had loved his youngest son most and doted upon him regularly. Once he was dead, the two older brothers made the younger one's life miserable, considering him a good for nothing spoiled brat who had not deserved their father's love. They taunted him, reminding him that at the end of the day, their father had not seen him fit to rule over anything but a talking cat shod in leather boots. The youngest brother spent as much time as possible away from the castle, taking refuge in long walks by the riverside with only his cat for company. 

One day, he happened upon a beautiful miller's daughter alongside the river and fell madly in love. After some time of walking to the mill whenever he could and watching her, he finally plucked up the courage to talk to her. Slowly they began to spend more time together and she fell in love with him as well. 

"Marry me,” the miller's daughter said one afternoon after realizing the marquis's son wouldn’t offer on his own.

"I can't,” the boy replied.

"Why not? Don't you love me?”

"Of course I do. But marriage is complicated.” Before she could ask what he meant, the boy left, calling to the cat to follow. 

“What got your fur all tied in a knot?” the cat asked as they returned to the castle. 

“She wants me to marry her, Puss!” the boy cried unhappily, “but my brothers will never allow me to wed a commoner. Just last night I heard them speaking of marrying me off to the daughter of a nearby earl. What am I to do?”

“I have taken a liking to that mill, where there is an abundance of mice for me to catch, and I am getting tired of my fancy boots, so I will help you. Never fear, young master. You will soon be happily married to the love of your life.” the cat replied, removing his hat and bowing mockingly low.

“What’s the catch?” the young master asked, knowing his cat was more devious than he appeared.

“Nothing at all, master. Just be warned that you can not have everything in life. If you are rich in happiness, you will be poor in gold and comforts.”

“All of that does not matter to me. I will gladly live as a pauper for the rest of my days for the chance to be happy,” the boy cried at once.

“Very well,” said Puss, “now you must only do exactly as I say.”

The cat told his master to return to the castle without him. The boy watched the cat walk away in his signature boots into the distance, wondering if it was wise to entrust his fate to the creature’s paws. 

The wise old cat immediately set to work. First he went to a warren where he knew there were many rabbits and spent quite a few hours trying to catch one. When he finally managed he decided that next time he did such a thing, he would remember to bring a sack with him. He then made his way to the earl’s household and told him he had a gift for his daughter from the marquis’s son, who wished for her hand in marriage. 

“Your hopefully to be fiancé thought this would be a fitting gift for such a fine and noble lady such as yourself,” the cat said, taking the girl’s hand and kissing it with his furry lips.

The cat excused himself and came back a moment later holding the bloody carcass of the rabbit which he had hidden in the gardens.

The earl’s daughter shrieked and swore she would never marry the marquis’s son, not even if he was the richest and most handsome man in the entire land. The cat quickly made his escape back to the marquis’s castle.

“The first part is done. Now we must make you disappear,” said the cat to his master.

“How do we do that?” asked the boy.

“Leave that up to me,” Puss said, and for the next few weeks he returned to his normal activity of lazing around putting on shows for the ladies in the castle.

One day, the two older brothers went for a ride besides the river in order to inspect their lands. The cat immediately went to the youngest brother and said, “If you follow my advice, you shall be free from your brothers as you are already free from your engagement. All you must do is go to the riverside to a spot that I will show you and bring a change of clothes and leave the rest to me.”

The boy naturally did as he was told. 

When the brothers came near, the cat told the boy to change into his spare clothes and hide. He then placed the clothes the boy had been wearing in a spot by the river and jumped out right on time to meet the two brothers. 

“Oh, the horror! Your brother, he has drowned, my lords. He was washing in the river but the tide was too strong, he got pulled over the waterfall; there was nothing I could do! If you had come but a moment sooner, something might have been done, but now he is lost forever. See, his clothes are still here, right where he placed them before he jumped into his fate,” Puss cried sorrowfully, and he was so convincing the brothers fell to the ground and lamented their brother’s death, grieving over his short life and how unjustly they had treated him. They searched past the falls for a body, but none was found, so the grief-stricken brothers returned to the castle clutching the boy’s clothes, which was all that remained of him to bury.

Once they had gone, the cat went to fetch the youngest brother from his hiding place, where he had neither seen nor heard any of what had transpired. 

“Am I free of my brothers?” he asked Puss.

“As free as they are of you,” the cat replied, “now all that remains is to convince the miller to accept you as his son.”

So off they set off to complete the final part of Puss’s ploy. 

When they came to a split in the road, the boy began heading right towards the mill. 

“Wait,” said Puss, “do not be too hasty. Her father will never agree to wed you if he realizes you have not a coin to your name and have not worked a day in your life.”

“I must at least try. You cannot expect me to give up now!”

“I don’t, master. All I ask of you is patience.”

The confused boy followed the cat down the left path. 

When they entered a nearby village, Puss led the way to Potter Lane and entered the first shop. 

“Good man,” said Puss, startling the poor potter, “if you do not explain to my friend here how you make your pots, I will chop you into small pieces and eat you for my dinner.”

The potter immediately complied, believing that if a cat was speaking, it would not waste its words on lies. The boy listened carefully and then they left.

Next Puss chose a pottery stall with some very impressive looking pieces.

“Pick one,” he told the boy, who promptly pointed at an interesting looking jug.

Then he jumped onto the counted and said to the astonished potter, “if you do not give me that jug I will chop you into small pieces and eat you for my dinner.”

The potter didn’t think twice, but handed over the jug.

Next they went to Tailor Road and Puss used the same threat to procure simple clothes for the boy.

Only then did they make their way towards the mill. They stopped only once, so that Puss could throw his boots into the river alongside the marquis’s son’s clothes. 

The miller’s daughter was out fetching water. The boy ran towards her and clasped her hands in his. 

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“I thought marriage was complicated,” she replied.

“The complications have been fixed. I will go ask your father for you hand this moment. If you still want me, that is,” the boy said, suddenly wondering if running off so abruptly had been such a good idea.

“Of course I do,” the girl smiled. 

Puss, walking on all fours, meowed and rubbed himself against the girl’s legs. 

“Kind sir,” the boy began, “I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The miller looked him up and down, “and what do you have to offer me in return, boy?”

“I do not have a coin to my name, but I am a hard worker and will be willing to learn the miller’s trade from you. Also, I am a practiced potter and will be able to shape pots to sell once I can get the right instruments.”

The boy presented the miller with the jug and explained to him how it had been made using wheels and kilns. The miller admired the piece until at last he was slightly convinced. Just then, the cat walked in, holding a dead mouse between its teeth.

“Is that cat yours?” the miller asked, realizing how useful such an animal would be in the mice-infested mill.

“It is, sir,” the boy replied, grinning at the cat, who winked at him in return.

“Very well. You may marry my daughter if she wishes to accept you as her husband.”

“I do father,” the girl replied. 

The two were married within in the month. The boy didn’t even need to worry about proving his skill as a potter, since the miller died mysteriously a few weeks later. By then the boy had learned not to question good fortune that came his way. The deceased miller had no other children, so his daughter and her new husband inherited everything in his possession. As Puss had foreseen, they lived happily ever after but worked hard and were as poor as could be. Puss also lived pretty happily on the mice in the mill, but he did not speak again while his master still lived.

There was once a poor miller who had nothing to leave his three sons upon his death but a mill, a donkey, and a cat.

Bio: Aliza is fairy tale obsessed nineteen year old. She has already been published on EC, and she is trying to introduce herself and others to more fairy tales at taleaday.blogspot.com.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fairy Tale Book Review, By Brita Long--The Books of Jim C. Hines




Everyone knows the tales of sleeping princesses and magical kisses, fairy godmothers and happily ever after. Each princess is rescued by her prince, and the fairy tale ends with a big white wedding.
But as Jim C. Hines writes, “The tales lie.”

In his Princesses quartet, Danielle, Talia, and Snow are better-known as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. But while Danielle really did marry her prince, Talia and Snow are exiles from their own royal kingdoms, working as secret spies and undercover bodyguards to the Queen, Danielle’s new mother-in-law. Aside from her courtly duties, Danielle teams up with the other princesses in service to the Queen.

In battle, the three princesses each exhibit their own unique talent, one that reflects upon their classical fairy tale origins. Danielle fights with a glass sword, a magical reincarnation of her mother. Talia’s fairy gifts from her christening give her extraordinary fighting abilities. Snow practices magic using her stepmother’s mirrors. 

In The Stepsister Scheme, the three princesses team up to save Danielle’s husband from her stepsisters-turned-kidnappers. In The Mermaid’s Madness, the princesses investigate the undine (mermaid) princess Lirea, who has succumbed to madness after the murder of her own prince, at her own hand. In Red Hood’s Revenge, the princesses find themselves back in Talia’s homeland, where she uncovers the true plot behind her curse. Finally, in The Snow Queen’s Shadow, a demon-controlled Snow returns to her kingdom, where Danielle and Talia struggle to save Snow from herself. 

While much of the individual scenes throughout this quartet involve witty banter that left me in giggles or endearing proclamations of love that resulted in audible sighs, the overall mood of these books is a dark one. Hines draws upon some of the more twisted elements of the brother’s Grimm’s “Cinderella” and the Italian “Sun, Moon, and Talia,” including the rape and subsequent pregnancy of Talia/Sleeping Beauty. Yet Hines weaves together multiple fairy tales to make them all his own, as exemplified by Snow’s character arc, an unusual cross of “Snow White” and “Snow Queen.”

As in many fairy tales, “true love’s kiss” is a recurring plot element, but not always in the usual way. Snow receives a curse-breaking kiss from an unexpected character. A curse on Danielle ends when she is lightly scratched by her magical glass sword, a “kiss” from her mother. 

It might sound cliché, but I laughed, I cried. And in regards to the final novel’s conclusion, I ugly-cried with heaving sobs. Hines might not have written the happily ever after I desperately craved, but his heartbreaking ending honored the characters and the world he created. 

I recommend this series for anyone who loves strong female protagonists, anyone drawn to detailed world-building, anyone interested in exciting, action-filled plots. Have you read other fairy tales like this? If you have already read this quartet, what do you recommend I read next? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Brita Long
Brita Long is a francophile feminist living out her own fairy tale with her husband in Ohio. You can find her online at bellebrita.com, where she writes about her faith, books, and her life as a southern belle in the Midwest.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Changes in Book Reviews: Goodbye Lissa, Hello Brita!

Lisa Sloan, who has written many a post and story here, is moving on from her work as a book reviewer here at EC, as her writing career is taking flight! It's not at all surprising that she is finding success. Her work is terrific. Just check out her work by looking for her name in the labels here on EC. You won't be disappointed. Lissa will be sorely missed, but I think we'll still be seeing a bit of her here. She's been a big supporter of Enchanted Conversation for a long time!

The good news is that Brita Long has joined the team. You'll be reading her first review in the next few days. Here's her bio:

"Brita Long is a francophile feminist living out her own fairy tale with her husband in Ohio. You can find her online at bellebrita.com, where she writes about her faith, books, and her life as a southern belle in the Midwest."

Welcome Brita!
Brita Long


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Geography of the Future in Beyond Fate, By Amalia Dillon (And a Giveaway!)


Editor's note: Amalia's Fate of the Gods series is different from what is usually promoted here on EC, but since it's being published by World Weaver Press, I thought readers would enjoy learning about Amalia's third book in the series. WWP is doing a giveaway of four of her books. Look above to see more about entering.

So much of Fate of the Gods takes place in the past, drawing from historical events and myths, but Beyond Fate gave me the unique and really fun opportunity to predict the landscape of the future. And not just what kind of Jetson’s tech was available for Eve’s apartment (who can resist the lure of the irising door?), but the political and geographical landscape, two hundred years from now.

There are a number of factors which contributed to my major remodel of the Western nations we know and love, but the most important was the shift in climate. When the deserts are expanding and swallowing up the formerly rich farmlands, and farming methods reveal themselves as less than sustainable in a world where more than just one town, county, state, or country depends upon the food being grown in a region, it only made sense that some nations might shatter, and others rise. And as the climate shifts and the North warms (which we’ve already begun to see), previously frozen or inaccessible land will become all the more valuable. Which means that countries like Canada and the Scandinavia nations are likely to become incredibly powerful and wealthy.

I decided to keep a lot of the same major players we know today – Russia, for instance, didn’t go anywhere. India and China are alive and well in the East, even if their borders wouldn’t be recognizable to us today. But I made two big changes to the landscape of the West. First, I divided the United States into three new nations: The United East (primarily consisting of the East Coast, but also stretching into the Great Lakes), The Free West (the West Coast and Pacific Northwest, likely including Colorado), and The Republic of Texas (what’s left of the south and Midwest). And second, I united Scandinavia and Canada and renamed them The North Country, or, to those living outside their greatest of nations, The Scandinavian Union and Canadian North.

Since Scandinavia today already maintains a loose union of reciprocity for member nations, it seemed probable to me that those ties would only strengthen, and as for uniting with Canada... well, I won’t pretend that there aren’t other forces at work. Forces which may or may not be named Adam.

And if you want to learn how and why, and just what Adam is up to in the future, Beyond Fate is ready and waiting to answer your questions!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Tree Hugger, By Heidi Garrett



I appreciate the opportunity to join in the Enchanted Conversation. Both Kate Wolford’s blog and her book, Beyond the Glass Slipper, are invaluable resources for the fairy tale aficionado, as well as for those who are simply curious about the enduring and universal appeal of fairy tale. (Editor's note: Thanks Heidi!) I’m especially delighted to be here introducing The Tree Hugger. Set in the future, it’s a dystopian retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Dryad.” In the original tale, a country dryad longs to visit the great city of Paris. No harm in that. There are attractions and flirtations along the way but no love relationship to speak of, and it doesn’t have a happy ending. I protest on both counts and altered the tale accordingly.

In The Tree Hugger, the love relationship between Magnolia and Graham is born of friendship and companionability. In spite of Magnolia’s silent and solitary nature, Graham intuitively grasps and responds to her personality and needs. As time goes on, the roots of their caring for one another extend deep into the earth itself. They truly become a partnership of equals, one of the happiest endings I can think of.

Another popular fairy tale element played with in The Tree Hugger is the loss of the mother. While Magnolia’s mother hasn’t died, she’s absent from her daughter’s life. It’s grandmother who steps in to fill the role of mother replacement/fairy godmother. Although she doesn’t provide her granddaughter with a ball gown or glass slippers, she does provide her with an inner road map which guides Magnolia to the truth of who she is and bolsters her courage as she makes her journey to herself.

The Tree Hugger is the third novella in the Once Upon a Time Today collection.

Heidi Garrett was born in Texas, and now she lives in Eastern Washington State with her husband. Garrett is the author of the contemporary fairy tale novella collection, Once Upon a Time Today. In these stand-alone retellings of popular and obscure fairy tales, adult characters navigate the deep woods of the modern landscape to find their Happily Ever Afters. She’s also the author of the Daughter of Light series, a fantasy about a young half-faerie, half-mortal searching for her place in the Whole.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Twelve Dancing Unicorns

I'm back! You'll be seeing lots of new posts on EC in the next few weeks as I catch up on things after my really awful accident with my finger. It feels much better.



Today, I'm writing about Twelve Dancing Unicorns, by Alissa Heyman. It's a picture book and is illustrated by Justin Gerard. As regular readers know, EC is geared toward ages 13 and up, so picture books are very seldom featured. But the title to the book intrigued me, so I read it, and I'm glad I did.

The story is a charming one, based, of course, on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." But in Heyman's story, the dozen princesses are unicorns, who are chained by a king and gawked at by the populace. The king is puzzled and disturbed when he finds that his unicorns are breaking their chains.

Naturally, he decrees that whomever can discover the secrets of the unchained unicorns will win a great prize. A little girl, our heroine, steps forth and takes on the challenge. The king is skeptical.

What happens next includes a magic cloak, an underground kingdom, fairies, jewels growing on trees, and a happily ever after for the unicorns and the little girl. The story is enchanting and perfect for the very young reader. It's easy to identify with the little girl's love of the unicorns and her desire to help them. The message that we shouldn't cage up wild things is very clear, but not delivered in a preachy way.

The illustrations are very much in the same vein as popular animation and illustration today. It's notably dreamy and soft--sort of bathed in gold. Little girls will love the look of this book and so will grown ups.

If you're looking for a great new picture book with a fairy tale theme, you'll want to buy Twelve Dancing Unicorns. It's a keeper.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

EC and I Briefly Out of Commission


This is the sorry result of an immersion blender, whipping cream, a lost fingernail and seven stitches.

EC and I will be out of commission for awhile--a week or two.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Girl Who Came Back, By Meg Eden

Meg Eden's Chapbook

In 1955, Enchanted Forest theme park opened in Maryland—even though it has been defunct for nearly twenty years, the fairy tales of the park remain and live in generations of park goers. I grew up on those legends, drawing maps of the park and listening to my mother’s stories, which helped her endure her fibromyalgia. The stories of the park became my canon for fairy tales, the park itself becoming a place I could only dream about going to. The poems in the collection The Girl Who Came Back recount the fairy tales of the park, making the characters in the park come to life. They delve into the characters of the park, including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Alice, Snow White and the Gingerbread Men, but also the history of the park’s conception. The collection preserves the mythology of the Enchanted Forest, embodying the spirit of nostalgia that fairy tale lovers will resonate with.

(Editor's note: Excerpts from two works are below.)

*


Visiting Girl Friends
i.

Mom talks about Snow White and Sleeping
Beauty the way girls talk about the friends
they go to the bathroom with,
and who they tell their secrets.

She remembers their dresses, the way
their hair was done in familiar Disney patterns,
how their chests moved to trick us into thinking
they could breathe. There was something real
about them, she said. Like they could be trusted.

*

"The Girl Who Came Back"
Her father built the dragon in the yard. She remembers its ascension to the top of the gate. Perhaps it’s this habitual evidence that makes the offspring say, We thought it was just everyday life.
She left at a young age, I imagine. Perhaps she was bitter at her father for investing in forgotten myths and not in her own story. She was probably wearing a prodigal halter top and broken bangles when she walked out.
Only when she returned years later did she learn the house was gone. In its place, a pile of bricks. The gate was orange with rust. NO TRESSPASSING, read her childhood.
Pulling onto the grass, she split her skirt into strips like factory hands, knelt on the ground and gathered the bricks. And one by one, she placed them in the trunk of her car. This was what was left of her inheritance.


Meg Eden's collections include  "Your Son" (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), “Rotary Phones and Facebook” (Dancing Girl Press) and The Girl Who Came Back (Red Bird Chapbooks). Check out her work at: https://www.facebook.com/megedenwritespoems 

Meg Eden

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams and Aladdin


Last night, we learned the sad news that Robin Williams died of what may have been suicide.

Williams' connection to fairy tales and fantasy is pretty strong. Obviously, there's Aladdin. But there's also Hook. And let's not forget Faerie Tale Theatre.

What was your favorite Robin Williams performance, fairy tale or otherwise?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Another Treasure From Great-Grandmother's Trove, By Cristina Ruth Johnson, Vintage Fairy Tale Sleuth

I’ve mentioned before that my great-grandmother collected some beautiful books. Undine, which I wrote about in an earlier post, is one of them. Another is an exquisite edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North, illustrated by the great Kay Nielsen.


 Kay Nielsen was born in Denmark in 1886. His career blossomed early, but the tides of war and of a declining interest in the illustrative arts left a magnificent talent to end his days in poverty. He died in 1957. Posthumously, he was eventually recognized as one--if not the--greatest illustrator of the Golden Age of Illustration.

“The Golden Age of Illustration was a period of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustration. It developed from advances in technology permitting accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art, combined with a voracious public demand for new graphic art. In Europe, Golden Age artists were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and by such design-oriented movements as the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, and Les Nabis” (ArtCyclopedia).

Nielsen’s work is often noted as being inspired by fellow illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and, more generally, the Art Nouveau movement. He was also inspired from a young age by the art of Japan (example, Katsushika Hokusai), especially wood-block prints, as can be seen in his asymmetrical compositions and elements flattened by the use of rich and intricate patterns.

The first volume that Nielsen illustrated to great acclaim was In Powder and Crinoline, published in America as The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a collection of tales retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1913).
 
From Powder and Crinoline, Kay Nielsen

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North was published the following year. Nielsen’s illustrations in this collection of fantastic and unusual stories are without a doubt his best work. (Admittedly, I’m biased, since I’ve seen them in person.) His creations have an oddness to them that catches the eye immediately, but the depth of beauty within this oddness keeps the eye’s attention. They are rich, they are compelling, they are . . . fairy-tale. Perfectly, wonderfully fairy tale.

"The Lassie and Her Grandmother," Kay Nielsen

Old Tales from the North was published by Hodder & Stoughton (1914). The first edition deluxe copies (of which 500 were made) are signed by Nielsen. They are bound in vellum with gilt lettering and decoration. The first edition trade copies are bound in blue cloth and likewise decorated in gilt. The tales within the anthology were mainly culled from George Webbe Dasent’s “Popular Tales from the Norse” (translated from Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe’sNorske Folkeeventyr in 1859) though one tale, “Prince Lindworm,” was actually translated specifically for this anthology. You can read the full text of the book online here.

Nielsen’s publishing career was stymied for the next 10 years by World War I and also by his interests in theater production, though he worked during this period on illustrations for a volume of stories from Arabian Nights, which was never completed. 1924 and 1925 saw the back-to-back publications of his work in anthologies of tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers. The final book to feature his illustrations was the little-known Red Magic, published in 1930.  

Red Magic,  Kay Nielsen

Nielsen and his wife moved to California in 1936, where he spent the remainder of his life. His final illustrative work was done as an employee of Walt Disney Studios. We can see his creations in Fantasia (1940), including the “Night on Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” scenes. He also did early creative work for a proposed film based on Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”--a project which, as we know, would not see completion for another 50 years. The Little Mermaid film still credited Nielsen for “visual development.” 

The Little Mermaid, Kay Nielsen

Which of Nielsen’s illustrations is your favorite? Join Enchanted Conversation and let us know!

Christina Ruth Johnson recently received her Masters in Art History with a focus on the ancient Mediterranean and a side interest in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her other great love is fantasy literature from ancient times to present day.



References:
Link to illustrations
Link to full text
https://archive.org/stream/eastofthesunandw30973gut/pg30973.txt