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Showing posts from March, 2011

Little Rattle Belly, By Mae Empson

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I'm going to die because the King twisted my father's simple pride in my craft and profits into an impossible boast, as binding as a ligature knot. The King will return at dawn for gold or blood. 

At least there's straw here to help pass the time. Bales and bales. I can't make gold from it, but I can shape it for the pleasure and distraction that affords.

I braid dozens of corn maidens and piles of countrymen's favors. I weave a Norfolk Lantern using a cascading 5-straw spiral plait, and then a harvest cross using a 12-straw diamond plait. That reminds me of the handle I made Jane for her wedding day flowers, so I construct an entirely strawcrafted bouquet, a wild explosion of star and floral straw shapes. Jane and Alfred will have their baby soon, and I know I won't live to see it, but I make them an Anglesey Rattle anyway--another spiral plait like the lantern but sealed with dry chips of straw inside to shake.  

I've avoided thinking about what it means t…

The Other End of The Tale, By Gerri Leen

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The walk is long
The covering robes heavy
The child whimpers in her arms
She has women who could carry him
She left them behind

This must be done alone

The forest house
Slowly comes into view
Her legs ache as she climbs the rise
The little man sits on his porch
He smiles at her

As if he knew all along she'd come

"You showed me mercy"
He shrugs
"You could have taken my child"
He nods
"You let me servant hear your name"
He laughs

The child reaches out for him

He is the crown prince
She must keep him safe
She hands him to the little man
who cuddles the child close
and sings softly

She cannot understand the words

He hands her back the child
"I didn't help you for riches
I can spin straw into gold
What need have I for gems?"
She understands

He is kinder than she ever gave him credit for

The king would have killed her
For something her father promised

Something she could not do
This little man saved her
This little man set her free

"I like…

Rumpelstiltskin, By S. Ashley Burns

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He told me his name the day we met--
how else does one begin a conversation?
You exchange names, then small talk,
before coming to the heart of the matter.

I gave him a necklace,
and he spun a room full of gold.
I knew it wasn’t the necklace he wanted,
just as he knew the necklace—-
a cherished gift from my mother-—
was worth more than any jewel.

The king also made a promise:
roomfuls of gold and myself as queen,
or my life cut short.

I asked the dwarf to take my child;
not as payment, but in the hope
he would protect the babe better
than either of us could protect me.
On my wedding night I closed my eyes
and thought of straw-itched conversations,
quiet moonlit laughter, kindness.
It was almost enough to help.

There had to be a challenge.
He had to take the babe openly,
with no blame attached to me.
For two days I laughed inside,
hiding his name and my smile,
and dreamed of how my daughter
would live free of satin-wrapped threats.

But there are only so many names.

It’s true he stamped…

The Queen's Child Comes In, By Mae Underwood

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Dear Rapunzel,

My Dad says you're someone who will understand me. Your father promised you away in a bargain. It must be hard living in a tower all the time. I can't leave our property, but at least I can go outside. But I can understand why it's necessary in your case, with your parents as neighbors like they are. They could snatch you back just like that -- ! --. (That was me snapping my fingers.)

Did your mother.. do you consider her your mother? I bet you do. The witch, though, did she tell you anything about me? She may not have heard the story correctly, so maybe I should tell you from the start anyway. I hope that doesn't sound egotistical, but I can't send you a letter full of nothing but questions, can I?

There. There's one question for you anyway.

So it all started with my grandfather. He wasn't too bad. Not the stupidest or cruelest person in the story. But it did all start with him.

See, he was in a tavern. I'm sure he'd had a…

He Tore Himself In Two, By Kurt Newton

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He tore himself in two.
What was he to do?
She guessed his name,
the Devil he blamed,
there was no other way she knew.

If truth be told,
his youth was stolen
and his height divided by three,
by a witch in a dell
who had cast her spell
when he trespassed her property.

She kept him then
in a wooden pen,
his leg held by a golden chain.
Until one day he chewed
the chain straight through
and escaped the witch's domain.

But little did he dream,
as he sat by a stream,
that the gold was now in his blood.
He was a hideous runt
that no woman would want,
all he had was his golden touch.

And so his life was altered
when the Miller's daughter
became stuck in a horrible bind.
He spun straw into gold
to save her soul,
once, twice, three times.

On the third
he took her word,
a promise of her first born child.
But when he came to collect it,
she cried and objected,
so he gave her one more trial.

Guess my name
and I'll remove my claim,
he offered the young Queen mother.
When she guessed it …

Batul and the Rumpel, By Rumjhum Biswas

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atul was short. His sisters had to reach the top shelves of cupboards for him. His brothers had to hoist him up so he could see the rooster fights in their village square better. The pehelwans and other musclemen of their village mocked Batul, despite his wrestling skills. His parents despaired of finding a bride for him. But Batul despaired the most.
“Can’t live like this. Got to do something,” muttered Batul to himself as he tried to hoist himself on the low lying branch of a tree to get a better view. The girls were at the village pond, hitching their clothes up, getting wet, as they filled their pots and washed clothes, laughing coyly and gossiping with each other.
Batul swung from trees. He ate dozens of bananas and drank gallons of milk. He even swallowed the bitter golis prescribed by Hakimji, who was the most trusted quack in the whole district. But nothing worked. Dejected, Batul went to the forest to pray to Hanumanji, the God of wrestlers. Hanumanji continued …

The Name Of The Helper, By James Hutchings

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There was once a vizier of Baghdad who had such mastery of deception, and flattery, and insinuation, and all the false arts of the tongue, that he was called Abd al-Katheb, or Servant of Falsehood.

Baghdad was ruled by the Caliph Musa al-Hadi. The Caliph was a wicked man, who attempted to poison his own mother, and committed many other outrages. Ever was Abd al-Katheb at his side, whispering cunning and odious sophistries to calm the conscience of his master. For this service the unrighteous courtier was greatly rewarded, and his wealth was piled as high as his infamy.

At last al-Hadi was smothered to death by the women of his harem, and his virtuous younger brother Harun al-Rashid became Caliph. The new Caliph spoke thus:

"O Abd al-Katheb, it is well-known that your master, my late brother, was greatly influenced in his wickedness by your counsel. Many say that your life should be forfeit. Yet you served only as commanded. Further, Musa al-Hadi has died for his crime…

Straw Into Gold, By Elizabeth Creith

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Rumpelstiltskin turned animal bedding into precious metal; for millennia people spun straw into gold when they made linen from flax. Linen is durable and moth-proof, soft and smooth enough to wear comfortably next to the skin, tough enough to make into sails or rope. Until 1780, when Richard Arkwright's spinning machine made a strong, smooth cotton thread possible, linen was the queen of plant fibers.

The Egyptians considered linen the gift of Isis, ritually pure, and used only linen for mummy wrappings. To the Hebrews, fine linen was the fabric of the wealthy. The Phoenicians used tightly woven linen garments for armor. Even in eighteenth-century Russia, transit duty on goods could be paid in linen shirts. What made this fabric so prized?

To spin wool, shear the sheep, then wash the fleece, tease the locks open and card or comb the fleece. If the fleece is very clean and loose it can often be spun straight from the sheep with only a light teasing preparation.

Linen is made from the…

The Duchess's Boy, By Louise Quenneville

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er Grace, The Duchess Stilzchen of the North-East Gnomes, set down the letter she’d been reading. She took off her spectacles and laid them on the desk. Raising a hand, she summoned a messenger. She instructed the messenger:
“Find the human boy Edward and have him meet me in the bramble-garden in half an hour; and tell the Cook to have tea and cakes ready, the kind the boy likes. We are to be alone in the garden, absolutely no-one else is to be there.”
She rose from her chair and taking the letter with her she strode towards the garden, the very picture of gnomish dignity from the top of her ruby cap down to the tips of her claws, and all the wattles and warts in between.
She was sitting on a bench when Edward came into the garden.
“Come here, my boy and sit here beside me – I’m going to have to give you some unpleasant news.” The human boy, Edward, did as he was bid and sat down on the bench with the Duchess.
“I fear, Edward, that you are soon to lose your human inheritance.”
Now the boy…

Table of Contents for 'Rumpelstiltskin' Issue