May 30, 2014

Madame d'Aulnoy: La dame des contes des fees, By Christina Ruth Johnson, Vintage Fairy Tale Sleuth

We hear so much about the famous male authors of fairy tales such as the Grimm brothers, Andrew Lang, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, etc., that we might sometimes forget the female authors who helped just as much to define the genre as we know it today. In fact, it was a female author who first coined the phrase “fairy tales” -- “contes des fées” in the original French.

Madame d'Aulnoy

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baronne d'Aulnoy, better known as simply Madame d’Aulnoy, was born in either 1650 or 1651. We know she married Francois de la Motte, Baron d’Aulnoy at the tender age of 16 in 1666. The Baron was thirty years her senior at the time.

Madame d’Aulnoy’s early years of marriage were marked by scandal and intrigue worthy of HBO. Her husband, often in dire financial straits, was accused of lese-majesty (a crime against the reigning authority, usually considered high treason) in 1669, a claim soon proved false. His two primary accusers were the Marquis de Courboyer and his lover the Marquise de Gudanes. The former was executed, and the latter was exiled to Spain, where she apparently took on the role of royal spy until her death in 1702. Madame d’Aulnoy’s mother was involved in the accusations against her daughter’s husband as well, and she fled France for Spain soon after the verdict. The exact nature of the involvement of Madame d’Aulnoy herself remains a mystery. Never accused by her husband as complicit in the plot, she nevertheless was ostensibly imprisoned for a short time in December of 1669 (immediately following the birth of her fourth child) before gaining her freedom.

The exact events of the next twenty years of Madame d’Aulnoy’s life are also a mystery. She almost certainly traveled quite a bit, first to Flanders and England, with a brief return to France in 1676 (where she gave birth to a potentially illegitimate daughter); then she likely traveled to Spain to see her mother before again going to England. Back in France by 1685, she returned rather forcefully to the French social scene in 1690, overseeing her own salon, which was frequented by aristocrats from both France and England.
Marie-Catherine, Baroness d’Aulnoy was a prolific writer. Her contes des fées were only a minor part of her overall repertoire. “As a skillful polygraph, she had tried various genres: two works of piety, four volumes of historical memoirs, three novels, and one collection of gallant short stories, in addition to the eight volumes of tales published in 1697 and 1698 for which she is now best know” (Raynard 64).

Based on firsthand accounts from this time, we know that Madame d’Aulnoy met Catherine Bernard, Charlotte Rose de la Force, and Henriette-Julie de Murat, all fellow female writers of fairy tales.
Heidi Ann Heider, editor of Sur La Lune Fairy Tales, writes, “In the late 1600s, the French Salons were filled with fairy tale writing, primarily by women writers. Many of the tales were influenced by oral traditions, but most did not end up influencing oral tradition directly.”

The eight volumes of fairy tales written by Madame d’Aulnoy were published in two parts: Contes des fees in 1697 followed by Contes nouveau ou les fees a la mode in 1698. These tales would have been read aloud at her salons years before their physical publication. Her stories include “The White Cat,” “The Yellow Dwarf,” “The Golden Branch” (one of my personal favorites), and “The Hind in the Wood.” A translation of all of her stories may be found online at Project Gutenberg, while a small selection--including the ones I’ve mentioned--is also available on Sur La Lune.

Which of Madame d'Aulnoy's tales is your favorite? Join Enchanted Conversation and let us know!

References:Sophie Raynard, ed. The Teller’s Tale: Lives of the Classic Fairy Tale Writers. SUNY Press, 2012.Heidi Ann Heider. “Marie-Catherine Baronne d’Aulnoy.” Sur La Lune Fairy Tales. http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/daulnoy.html.

*Read all of Madame d’Aulnoy’s stories online at Project Gutenberg:Tome I: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18367Tome II: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18368*Or a select few at Sur La Lune:http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/daulnoy.html

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.

Update: Here are English translations--
The Gutenberg links are to the original French stories (which is only awesome if you read French). If you have a JSTOR account, you can read Buczkowski's translation here:http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/41388901?uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21104251099353
Or you can "purchase" the free ebook of an 1892 translation here:http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Fairy_Tales_of_Madame_D_Aulnoy_Newly.html?id=5qKQAAAAIAAJ
There are also a bunch of Andrew Lang's publications, which include some of her stories, on Project Gutenberg:http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30580/30580-h/30580-h.htm.

Hope this helps! 

May 17, 2014

The Cell Tower, By Shari L. Klase

                  By Arthur Rackham

Editor's note: Rapunzel and the internet AND a dragon? This fun twist on an old story grabbed me right away.

Locked away in her high tower, Princess Emi sat contentedly among her books. Emi was a lovely girl; her one imperfection being her extreme farsightedness due to eyestrain. The eyestrain came from the hours and hours she spent reading and studying her large library of books, as well as the time spent surfing the Medieval Media. So engrossed was she in her study that she didn’t hear her mother call from the bottom of the tower wall.

“Oh, Emi, dear, could you please let down the rope so I can climb up to you?”

Emi often buried herself in her books to the point where she blocked out all distractions.

“Oh, that girl will be the death of me,” Queen Giselda said. She learned long ago to prepare for Emi’s distractions. She hoisted herself up the tower finding footholds in between the stones here and there. Her hands found greater stability from the vines that grew helter-skelter hither and yon over the face of the tower. Each time she made headway, her body ached with the strain and she cried out, “Oompf”." 
The closer she got to the tower window the more aggravated she became.

Finally, launching her leg up and over the windowsill, she fell, kerplunk, onto the floor. Emi startled at her mother’s entrance.

“Oh, Mother, you frightened me. Why didn’t you call?”

Her mother grunted. “Why didn’t I call? I did call, and you didn’t hear me.”

“I meant on the iPhone, mother.”

“You know I hate to use those gadgets. Oh, Emi, why do you confine yourself to this tower where it is so hard to reach you?”

“You know why, mother. I am protected in this tower. At least, I think I am. You keep climbing it and I’m not sure if an old lady like yourself can climb this tower, maybe someone else could climb it as well. Didn’t you take down those vines over the surface of the tower yet?”

“I am not an old lady! And as for an intruder climbing the tower, I would like some man to scale this tower and take you away from all these books and your dreariness. Don’t you ever want a little adventure, Emi?”

“I have plenty of adventures in my books, mother. Besides, I have great internet reception here. If I wanted a young man I could find him on maidenmatch.com. The world is full of dangers. It could be that some villain would climb the jagged, lofty mountains surrounding our village, get through the sentry guard surrounding the castle and then shimmy up this tower as quick as you please.”

Queen Giselda rolled her eyes. “I don’t see how any villain would even know you are in this tower since you never go out or even make so much as a peep.”

Princess Emi picked up her notebook. “You never know what someone can do if they hack into your account, even with all the encrypted seals I have.”

Her mother pulled the bag from her robe. “Well, you must at least eat. Perhaps, you could be so kind as to throw down the rope ladder when I call tomorrow, so I don’t have to skin my knees on the stones.”

“Of course I will, mother. I’m sorry to be such trouble. Only I feel so much safer in this tower.”

Emi wasn’t being quite truthful with her mother. At least, she wasn’t revealing everything about herself, but what grown daughter likes to feel she is under her mother’s thumb? She actually was on maiden match.com quite a bit. However, she found the assortment of knights, princes and rogues collected there quite boring to be honest.

The princes were all arrogant dowdies that were obsessed with their money and social position. The rogues were more attractive with their devil-may-care attitude but who wants to risk the dungeon for a man? Then, there were the knights.

Their profiles were almost all identical. I slayed fifteen dragons, I rescued twenty-two maidens. Only the numbers varied, as if each wanted to outperform others on the site. “My name is Sir Gallant. I ride a white horse. I am very fond of going on quests. I’m looking for a young maiden who is delicate and comely who will enjoy quiet evenings in the castle after my long day of crusading.” Yuck! Couldn’t be more corny or plastic. She wasn’t interested in even displaying a hanky wave to any of them.

To be truthful, the thing about slaying dragons bothered her the most. Emi studied dragonology since she was a child. She used to collect posters of them until her mother made her take them down. She said it was unladylike and repulsive to fill one’s private quarters with the beasts.

Emi loved the colors of dragons; iridescent green was her favorite. She was sure all that was said about them was not completely true. There had to be a friendly dragon somewhere; one that was not blood thirsty, wanting to rip apart every villager it saw. More than anything she would like meeting a dragon. Of course, locked up voluntarily in a tower it was quite unlikely she would ever meet anyone or anything.

If only Emi wasn’t so preoccupied with safety, she could leave these tower walls and venture out into the real world. Emi had good reasons for being afraid. All her family had been killed by an evil sorcerer. Her entire family had been wiped out; her mother, her father, her sister and her brother. The sorcerer took over her kingdom and would have killed her as well if she hadn’t been rescued by Sir Simon.

Sir Simon took her to his kingdom where King Edward and Queen Giselda reigned. They were enchanted with her because they had no children of their own and adopted her as their daughter. They sheltered and protected her which is perhaps why she developed an unhealthy fear of being stolen away or killed by the same sorcerer or a villain hired by him, intent on finishing the job he had started. So at the age of sixteen she took to living in an isolated tower and let the rumor spread that she had moved far away to another kingdom.

Now at the age of 19, Emi should have been enjoying balls and court functions. Instead, her only activity was surfing the net. Queen Giselda up to this point preferred to let nature take its course and hope that her daughter would outgrow this phase of her life, but now she was ready to take matters into her own hands.

She contacted a certain Prince Garett from a nearby kingdom, who had all the qualifications any future mother-in-law would require in a son-in-law; namely he was handsome, brave and rich. If Emi wouldn’t go to the mountains surrounding their village, the mountains would come to Emi. She sent for Prince Garett so he would ascend the tower, swoop Emi off her feet, and carry her away. Not too far away. It was a nearby kingdom she had selected, after all.

“Whose idea was it to put mountains around this kingdom?” Prince Garett grumbled. “A dragon is an easier conquest than this mountain. If it wasn’t that this Princess Emi was a real piece of eye candy…”

“I beg your pardon!” a voice roared.

Prince Garett turned his gaze to the skies. There, hovering in the air was the most fearsome, iridescent green dragon he had even seen.

“Ho, there. Who are you and how did you get here?”

“My name is Percy. This mountain is nothing to a dragon with wings. Do I understand you’re in the business of slaying dragons?”

“I’m not in the business of it, but I certainly have slain quite a few of you. I haven’t run into any talking dragons lately though.”

“So you think dragons are stupid?”

Prince Garett cleared his throat. “Well, as a matter of fact, I mean, well, present company exempted, I have always found dragons to be a bit on the slow side. If you come down here, I’ll demonstrate my techniques of dragon slaying.”

The dragon laughed. “Ha, if I did, I’d be proving your point, wouldn’t I? Besides, this is not why I want to speak with you. I heard you mention Princess Emi. Do I understand you wish to make her acquaintance?”

“What is that to you?”

“I’m also eager to gain audience with her.”

“Ha, that’s a laugh. I’m sure she’d fall into a dead faint if she even caught a glimpse of you. Maidens are so fragile.”
“Shows how little you know about her. She’s actually quite fond of dragons.”

“And you know this why?”

“I read profiles. Obviously you don’t. Not all of us dragons think maidens are just for lunch.”

“Why read when you can look at the pictures. One look at that damsel put my heart in distress.”

“I’m getting a little tired of this. I’d be out of here right now if I didn’t need you. I know everything about Princess Emi except where she lives. Once you take me to her, we’ll see who she chooses.”

“Um, how did you know I was even coming here?”

“Hey, I’m a dragon with a knack for hacking.”

“Whatever. Suit yourself, dragon. When I meet my lovely Princess Emi, I’ll further impress her by slaying you.”

“You haven’t heard anything I’ve said, have you?”

“You said something?”

Percy found following Prince Garett quite tedious. He often stopped to comb his hair or throw a tirade over a torn button. Plus his pace was too slow to a fast flying dragon. Finally he reached the village. Of course, Percy couldn’t reveal himself to the villagers. Townsfolk were so prejudiced when it came to toothy dragons. He had no choice but to hide.

“Are you there, Dragon?” Prince Garett hollered out.

“Psst, I’m in this tree,” Percy whispered loudly.

Prince Garett looked up. “Oh, there you are. I have to check in with Queen Giselda. She is to point out the exact location of the tower and give me last minute info. I will reconnoiter with you presently. You’re not leaving now, are you? I know dragons are cowards at heart.”

Percy rolled his eyes. “Sure, I’ll be right here.”

As Prince Garett entered the castle, Percy flew from his hiding place and surveyed the area from high above. It wasn’t difficult to spot the tower, or to deduce that a tower would be exactly the kind of place a shy girl like Emi would hide out. His only problem being that he didn’t exactly fit in her tower window. Luckily, the vicinity of the tower was far away from any spies who might be suspicious of a dragon hovering in mid-air.

He flew alongside the open window. He cleared his throat. How does a dragon call a princess? Excuse me, my dear? Yo, yo, Princess Emi? Oh smack, there you are!

In the end, the decision was made for him. He hesitated so long in deliberation at the window that Princess Emi saw him. She squealed in delight. “What a lovely dragon!”

“Thank you, Princess Emi. I’m Percy by the way.”

“Oh, please don’t be formal. Call me Emi. You must be tired, hovering out there like that.”

“I am rather weary.”

 Emi sighed. “I haven’t been out of this tower for years.”

“Perhaps it’s time then. Climb upon my back.”

Emi only hesitated a fraction of a second. She wrapped her arms around his neck and swung aboard his back. “You’re much softer than I would have imagined.”

“Yes, stereotypes are so unbecoming.” He glided down gently like a feather to the ground and Emi slid off him.

“I hardly remembered what the ground felt like.”

“You haven’t had much adventure, have you?”

“Only as an avatar in a RPG game.”

“Hey there, dragon! I thought you were waiting for me,” Prince Garett cried out as he approached them.

“You’re with him?” Emi asked disappointedly.

“Not exactly with him,” Percy replied.

“Excuse me! Focus on me.” Prince Garett pulled out his sword. “I will now demonstrate my prowess and slay this dragon.”

“You will not!” Emi shouted at him.

“Don’t you want me to show you what outstanding qualities I will pass on to our children?”

“No, I do not. I would never even consider having children with an egotistical dragon killing blowhard like you.”

“Why I’m flattered that you know so much about me.”

“I’ve read your profile on Maidenmatch. It disgusts me.”

Prince Garett turned to the dragon. “You see, she loves me. She has found out all about me.”

Percy grinned at Emi. “He never listens.” Pointing to Prince Garett, he asked. “May I?”

Emi nodded. “Be my guest.”

With one swish of his tail he knocked the sword from Prince Garett’s grasp. Then he grabbed Prince Garett with his claw and carried him to the top of the tower, where he deposited him through the tower window with a crash onto the floor.
 

“I believe a cell tower is the place for you.”

Percy landed lightly beside Emi. “What would you say to an escapade with a dragon?”

Emi smiled. “I’d say I’ve met my match.”

Shari L Klase lives in the beautiful Susquehanna Valley with her artist husband and writer daughter and crazy corgi. She loves reading and writing fairy tales and any kind of speculative fiction.


May 14, 2014

Cats-eyes and Carbuncles: How a Merchant's Son Outwitted Old Nick--A Fairy Tale in Thee Acts, By Todd Swanson

"The Ship," by William H. Hunt, artmagick.com
Editor's note: Magical objects, Satan, sibling rivalry--this story has many classic elements of the very best fairy tales. It casts a magic spell on the reader.

I.

Once, not so long ago, there lived two brothers, the children of a wealthy merchant.  On the night before his final journey, the merchant dreamt that his ship would sink into the farthest reaches of the farthest seas.  In the morning, he summoned his sons.

“My beloved sons, tomorrow I sail to seek the Gate of the Moon, for it is said to glitter with gems and jewels that shake from the shimmering moon.  But I fear my dream shall prove truthful, for all who seek the Gate of the Moon disappear into the sea.”

At this, the elder son was most dismayed, for he loved his father dearly.  The younger son was also dismayed, but for a very different reason: He did not want to share an inheritance with his elder brother.

The father read resentment in his younger son’s face and said to him, “My son, though I know what you want is wealth immeasurable, I bequeath what you need instead.”  And the father drew from his left pocket a pendant of lodestone, and said, “Though this dull gray stone seems of little worth, it is priceless indeed, for it possesses the power to bear its wearer home, no matter where he might be. I give it freely, for lusty youths such as you are often wayward and easily lost.”

Feeling insulted, and cheated of his inheritance, the younger brother tossed the lodestone pendant onto the floor and retired to his bedchamber.

With the younger son gone to bed, the father took his elder son aside and said, “My son, I love you both dearly, but be wary of your brother, for he loves naught but wealth.”

“Father,” said the elder, “Travel and trade have made you distrustful.  I cannot believe my brother would cause me harm.  He is merely moody and prone to ill humors.”

“Nonetheless, as your father, I command you: Take this, and keep it with you always,” and from his right pocket, he drew a necklace of cat’s-eyes and carbuncles.  “This charm foresees dangers and wards evils that might befall the wearer.”

“I would wear it without your injunctions, Father, for it shall always remind me of you.”  And this pleased his father, who embraced his son fondly.  And with that the son wished his father farewell.

Now it came to pass that their father’s ship was wrecked in the farthest reaches of the farthest seas, and when the ship did not return at its expected time, the elder son wept rivers of woe, vowing to neither forget nor forsake his father.

The younger son, however, sought a warlock who might broker a pact with Old Nick, the Prince of Mischief.  So in the witching hour, Old Nick appeared in the younger brother’s chambers and woke him, asking why he had been summoned, though in truth he already knew.  In exchange for his soul, the younger brother asked for the power to secretly slay his older brother, so the inheritance need not be shared.  Old Nick happily agreed.  This was a deal he dealt often, and it was easy for him to accomplish.

So the youth gave his soul to Old Nick.  The Prince of Mischief locked it in an iron box, which he placed in a golden trunk.  And from the same trunk, he drew a silver flute, which he gave to the youth.

“This is a magic flute,” said Old Nick.  “Play a tune on this flute, and the winds will obey your commands.”  The younger brother was much pleased, and set about thinking of a way to put the silver flute to good use.

The next day, the younger brother invited his elder brother on a picnic.  The elder brother accepted, eager to mend relations with his moody brother.

They walked for some time, when the elder brother said, “Here on this beach is a lovely spot where we can watch the waves.  Let us sit here to enjoy our lunch.”

But the younger brother shook his head.  “No, dear brother, beyond is a spot more wonderful which I shall enjoy all the more.”

So they continued for some time, when the elder brother said, “Here on this hilltop is a lovely spot where we can see our entire town.  Let us sit here to enjoy our lunch.”

But the younger brother shook his head.  “No, dear brother, beyond is a spot more wonderful which I shall enjoy all the more.”

Upward they climbed until they came to high precipice, when the elder brother said, “Here is a frightful spot where we can see our entire country.  Let us return to the hilltop, or to the beach, to enjoy our lunch.”

But the younger brother shook his head.  “No, dear brother, here is a spot most wonderful, which I shall enjoy immensely.”  Still eager to please his younger brother, the elder brother agreed to take lunch on the precipice.

From a sack the younger brother produced a blanket.  “Help me to spread this blanket, dear brother, so that we may take our repast upon it.”  So the elder brother drew one end of the blanket, though he labored near the precipice.

“Dear brother,” he said, “I am too near the edge to enjoy our repast.  Let us repair down the mountain and return to the hilltop or to the beach.”

But, drawing the silver flute from the sack, the younger brother said, “Very well, dear brother, if you wish to descend the mountain, then descend the mountain you shall.”  With that, he played a tune upon the flute, and a rush of wind tumbled down the mountain. And it would surely have cast his elder brother from the precipice, were it not for the magic necklace of cat’s-eyes and carbuncles.  The magic charm bent the winds around the elder brother, so they did not touch him.  The torrent whorled round and caught up the younger brother instead, lifting him from the ground and hurling him over the precipice, as easily as a breeze lifts a leaf.

So it was that the younger brother was cast to his doom, dashed on the stones below.  His elder brother, who loved his brother dearly, despite his evil ways, wept at this misfortune.  He gathered the blanket and the silver flute, which his brother had dropped, placed them into the sack, and climbed carefully down the mountain to the hilltop, to the beach, and to his house, where he mourned his brother for many months, just as he had mourned his father.

II.

But the elder brother was fated to see his lost brother again, for when the mourning period ended, Old Nick took the iron box from his stores and unlocked it, calling on the spirit of the lost brother, for it now belonged to him, according to their agreement.

“Why have you summoned me, my master?” asked the ghost of the lost brother.

“There is a service you will perform for me,” answered Old Nick.  “You must return to the world to recover my silver flute.”

“This I do gladly, my master,” the ghost replied.  “But I beg of you, while I walk the world again, allow me to take revenge upon my brother who caused my death.”

Now Old Nick knew the ghost would ask this, so he consented that it should be so, for he is always pleased to make mischief upon men.

Meanwhile, his mourning done, the elder brother dedicated his inheritance to an expedition to seek his father’s lost ship, to discover whether Fate had saved any sailors, for he was most forlorn at being left upon the earth with no family to share his joys and sorrows.

He chartered three fleet galleons that his father had often hired for merchant voyages, trusting that their captains and crew were men brave and true.  And they were, and the ships were too.  They were stout ships and lucky, for they had been on many adventures and are in many stories before this one.  They were called Wave Splitter, Water Hopper, and Wind Spinner.  After stocking the holds with provisions enough for many months, the elder brother, his captains and his crew set sail for the farthest reaches of the farthest sea.

For three months they traveled over greens seas, when the lookout on the third ship, Wave Splitter, spotted a roiling mist racing after them.  The mist soon overtook them and, perching upon the crow’s nest, became the shape of the lost brother.

“Elder brother,” the mist howled, “surrender the silver flute, lest I sink you into the sea.”

But instead of surrendering the silver flute, the elder brother put it to his lips and played a tune.  Immediately the sails filled with gusts that scattered the ghost like smoke and sent the three ships skipping across the water throughout the night.  By morning, though, the ship that the ghost had perched upon sank into the sea, rotted by his rotten caress, for it is well-known that ghosts wither whatever they touch.

For three more months they traveled over red waters, when the lookout on the second ship, Water Hopper, spotted a roiling mist racing after them.  The mist soon overtook them and, perching upon the crow’s nest, became the shape of the lost brother.

“Elder brother,” it shrieked, “surrender the silver flute, lest I sink you into the sea.”

But instead of surrendering the silver flute, again the elder brother put it to his lips and played a tune.  Immediately the sails filled with gusts that scattered the ghost like smoke and sent the two remaining ships skipping across the water throughout the night.  By morning, though, the ship that the ghost had perched upon had sunk, rotted by his rotten caress.

For three more months they traveled over jade waves, when the lookout on the third and final ship, Wind Spinner, spotted a mist roiling after them.  The mist soon overtook them and, perching upon the crow’s nest, became the shape of the lost brother.

“Elder brother,” said the specter, “surrender the silver flute, lest I sink you into the sea.”

But instead of surrendering the silver flute, again the elder brother put it to his lips and played a tune.  But this time, the elder brother played such a lovely and intricate tune that all four winds came to his aid.  Together they scattered the ghost like smoke, but this time each wind took a bit of him to its corner of the earth, so that the specter could never take shape again.  So in this way, not only was the ghost vanquished, but Old Nick was foiled as well.

III.

“Come,” said the captain of Wind Spinner, the third and final ship, “Play a tune to fill our sails with gusts that send our ship skipping across the water throughout the night.  Perhaps we will discover land before we sink.”  But no sooner had he said this than the lookout spotted the tip of a mast peaking just above the surface of the water.

With a boat hook they fished the flag from the sea and found that this was indeed his father’s ship. 

“Whist,” said the captain, “We have found them.  Let us sail on before we sink.”

The elder brother was about to remind the Captain that they came seeking survivors, not sunken ships, when the morning sun broke over the waves, and the third and final ship that the ghost had perched upon sank into the sea, rotted by his rotten caress.

So the son played such a song on his silver whistle that he summoned a mighty waterspout that drilled a tunnel to the seafloor below.  Then, trusting to the necklace of cat’s-eyes and carbuncles, he leapt into the tunnel.  Slick as a sea otter on silt the son slipped down the sluice ‘til finally his feet stepped onto the deck.  The tunnel held the water at bay, so the son had ample air to breath.  Here he found a skeleton crew.  The skeletons busied away their boredom playing a game of Throw the Bones.

“Ahoy,” said the first mate.  “Who are you who defile our grave?  Can’t you see we’re enjoying our eternal rest?”

“Beg your pardon,” said the elder son, trying to not appear alarmed, “But I come seeking survivors.”

“There are no survivors but our captain and his benefactor, who were trapped in an air pocket in the captain’s quarters.”  The son was overjoyed at this news, for his father was the benefactor who sponsored their voyage.  He rushed to the captain’s quarters and knocked on the door.

“Father, father, it is I, your own elder son, who has come further and farther than any son has sought a father.  I beseech you, open the door.”

And the door was unlocked, and there stood his father, his beard long and his face gaunt, but he was alive, and so was the captain.

“Come,” the son said to them, “By grace and by magic I have come far to rescue survivors, and I will not be stopped now.”

And the father embraced his son, but the captain said, “Nay, I shall not go.  I have gone down with my ship, and I may finally die in it, now that my benefactor is saved.”

But no sooner had he said this than the first mate’s skeleton took the key from the keyhole, slammed the door shut and locked it tight.  Through the door he shouted,

Now you are our prisoners three,

Who trapped us here for eternity.

Soon, so soon, will rations fail,

And we shall share this watery jail.”

“This is mutiny,” shouted the Captain. “You shall damn your souls to hell.”

“How can our souls be damned,” asked the first mate through the door, “if Old Nick can never find us in the Salt Jack’s Limbo?”

It was then that the son remembered the pendant of lodestone that his brother had discarded.  He reached into his pocket and removed the pendant.  This he draped round his father’s neck and whispered,

“I beg you, trusty Lodestone,

Take me home,

Take me home.

I am lost and now I roam,

Take me home,

Take me home.”

And with a twinkle and a flash, his father was gone, and you can suppose the Captain’s surprise.  And the elder son chuckled, imagining the astonishment of his father’s servants when they find their lost master sitting in his chair and shouting for his supper. 

“A fine trick,” said the Captain, “but now I’m back to where I began, unable to die until my benefactor’s son is freed or dead.”

"I shall be freed,” said the son, remembering the necklace of cat’s-eyes and carbuncles.   Then, from the safety of the captain’s quarters, he played a short tune on his flute, dismissing the wind that formed the water tunnel, and the sea came crashing down like a tower collapsing on a crowd.  The skeletons were scattered bone by bone, and the door to the captain’s quarters smashed open.  The rushing waters engulfed the elder son, who clung to the necklace of cat’s-eyes and carbuncles as he spun round and round ‘til he was spun senseless.
 
He awoke alone on a beach, dazzled by the glittering of glass sands in the moonlight.  Then he saw the sands were not glass, but were all manner of precious stones.  There were diamonds and emeralds and star sapphires.  There were opals and pearls and pale jade.  The stones reflected many colors onto his hands, the colors blending as their glow rose, until at last they gleamed bluish white, and he knew that it was this light that lit the moon, and not the other way around, as he had always supposed.
 
But being tired and hungry and dizzy from thirst, he decided that this was a delusion.  And besides, what is a weary, starving and thirsty man to do with gems and jewels, which you can neither drink, nor eat, nor sleep upon?  No, not one shard of these stones was as precious to him as food and drink and rest would be.
 
So looking from the strand to the gleaming steeples above him, he saw that the glittering beaches were the shores of a crowded town.  The people there were lonely folk and kind, and they nursed the elder brother back to full health.  As he grew strong, he told them of the miraculous story of his adventures, and of the mysterious power of flutes and lodestones and cat’s-eyes and carbuncles.  And he told many other stories, as well.  As this was the farthest town in the farthest lands, its people were pleased to meet a stranger who could tell them tales of distant places.
 
When at last he was ready to leave that land and return to his father, the elder brother requested only a sturdy straw mat, and this they gave him, but also bestowed rings rich in emeralds, and circlets of sapphires set in silver, and countless pearls placed in platinum medallions in the shape of the blue moon.
 
So it was that, on a throne of pots and chests of precious things, the elder brother played a tune on his magic whistle, and the winds lifted his sturdy straw mat, treasure and all, into to the air and across the seas.
 
In one swift night, he crossed jade waves and sapphire skies to arrive at his home.  There he reunited with his beloved father, who became the wealthiest merchant of all time.

And back in the land of the Gate of the Moon, the people admired a gift the elder son had left behind.  So great was his gratitude, the elder brother gave their mayor the necklace of cat’s-eyes and carbuncles.  These humble stones the people had never seen in that country, so these humble stones were a mighty treasure there, being very rare in those parts.  But the reason he left the necklace was that life in the farthest towns of the farthest lands is perilous, and he guessed quite correctly that those people could do with a bit of luck.
 
Indeed, this soon proved true.  But that is another story.
 
 
Todd Swanson studied Illustration and Anthropology, which he combined in his thesis on ancient Scandinavian artifacts and mythology.  He is a professional technical writer, armchair poet and aspiring storyteller.  He writes fairy tales for his daughters, with mixed reviews.
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