June 24, 2021

Throwback Thursday: Fanny's Curse, by Heidi Lobecker

Fanny was a proud and stubborn girl.
Herbert was a brown lump of a troll
with a mouse that lived in his hair...
Editor's Note: Today's Throwback Thursday story is author Heidi Lobecker's version of the "Serpents and Toads" fairy tale, and it's also a lovely reminder of how kindness and love can transform anything...
There once was an outcast from Whisperbad who lived in the forest. Fanny's banishment rankled, forced by her mother to engage with a fairy who tricked her. She sought fortune, but fairies are devious. She was cursed by a fairy, and whenever Fanny spoke, toads and serpents spewed forth from her mouth.

Fanny was a proud and stubborn girl. Alone in the forest, she studied the depths of her power. She practiced and learned to love the snakes she made.

One evening, Fanny glared at the sparkling diamond stars. She rubbed the sharp nose inherited from her mother and pulled at her stringy hair. There was the old defensiveness about her squat peasant body, emphasized by her name, curling in her stomach. She clenched her fists full of resentment for her beautiful sister, a Princess in a far away kingdom.

"Where is my beauty, my gems, my prince?" she wailed. A coin snake dropped from her mouth.

She gathered all the resentment for the life she'd been cursed with into a hard knot of anger in her throat.

Fanny decided to make her final snake.

Sitting up straight and true, she concentrated on the base of her spine. She made her neck long. She took a deep breath in. She pulled up her rage.

She screamed and screamed and screamed forth a long green body, a triangle head. She focused her proud and covetous nature into the serpent. She created the most dangerous, most vicious, most unhinged snake in the world.

As the final segments left her mouth, swaying in rhythm to her heartbeats, she took her soul, her essence, her being, and she put herself into the snake.

The wide, dark sky witnessed the birth of the pit viper. She slithered herself around the husk of Fanny's body and said goodbye. Fanny the snake returned to Whisperbad. She watched and waited for fairies by the well. 
All the snakes Fanny had created went into the world. The small garden snakes that squirmed past her lips when she whispered “shh, shhh, shh”; the fierce yellow rat snakes that slithered out of her mouth when she sang bawdy ballads about soldiers marching on the Brandiwyne Road; the toads she summoned by eating stink cabbage and burping.

One of the gold-speckled skins was found by Herbert the troll. He was a great brown lump of a troll, with a ponderous gait and a mouse that lived in his hair.  Herbert found living in the Mountain stifling and jumping out from under bridges to bellow at goats was a waste of time.

Herbert the herpetologist troll loved snakes. He followed the snakeskins like breadcrumbs, eager to see where they would lead.

“Look at this Perri,” said Herbert to Perri, his stubby-tailed albino mouse with the chewed-up ears, “this will go nicely with the spotted swimmer we found this morning. These are the very rarest snakes in the kingdom.”

Warming to his subject, Herbert groused to his mouse about the general population's lack of love for snakes.

"People need to learn to appreciate a good snake," Herbert said. Perri, the mouse, wasn't so sure about that and continued his hunt for nits and bits in Herbert's large noggin.

The tempting trail of snakes led Herbert’s oversized orange and blue covered wagon into the town of Whisperbad. His strong black horses needed a rest, so Herbert stopped at the well. He lifted his large rump up from the wagon-seat. Perri rode on Herbert's shoulder and picked at the treats in his wild hair.

Herbert lowered a bucket to get his horses a drink. When Herbert turned back, a woman with more wrinkles than hair stood between him and his horses.

"Will you draw water for me?" she asked. "For I am feeble and unable to turn the wheel."

Herbert grunted in surprise; most gentle folks didn't approach trolls. As he reached to turn the crank, he saw a large pit viper resting on the rocks by the well.

"Oh, aren't you a lovely thing," said Herbert, his grumbly voice pitched low so as not to startle the slumbering bright-green snake.

"Oh, she's a beauty, Perri," said Herbert, "just look at her shimmering scales, like a lovely emerald jewel, soakin' up the sun. Like it's all just meant for her."

Herbert's hoary hands mimed stroking her back, which he knew would be warm and soft.

"I won't do that if I were you," warned the crone, "The townsfolk call her Fanny, and she's as nasty and proud as her namesake."

Fanny came alert and coiled up, hissing and darting at the woman. The crone drew back in fear and stumbled away.

Herbert was rapt in admiration. He watched Fanny's darting tongue taste the air for prey. She raised her triangle-shaped head level with his shoulder, where Perri the mouse sat. Perri buried himself in the nest of Herbert's hair.

After his horses had their fill, Herbert casually opened the back of his wagon and said, "Well, if I was a lovely snake named Fanny, and I wanted a nice warm bed for the upcoming cold winter, this nest of blankets would be just the thing." He said this to Perri--but really, to Fanny. He left the wagon open. He took a slow walk to find some lunch.

When he returned, the pit viper was gone. Herbert quietly closed the back and went on his way. He picked up the trail of snakes along the Brandiwyne Road.

After a few hours, Fanny came up behind him and curled around his neck. She gave him a gentle squeeze. He reached up a rough finger to scratch under her chin.

"Ahh, there's my pretty," he said.

Perri moved to ride on the head of one of the horses.

One evening, when the moon was large and heavy in the sky, Fanny reached inside herself. She traced her long, sinuous spine with her infrared sense. She recalled Herbert's admiring words, the way he looked at her like she was the most precious gem is all the world.

She began to molt. Her glorious scales shed off her, and a new body emerged. A human body. She kept her a poisoned tongue for protection. Her skin was the iridescent green skin of her recent snake form.

Herbert was enthralled.

"Oh, my splendid jewel," he said, "may I stroke your skin?"

The old troll and the green-skinned woman, hand in hand, scales and warts, sitting on the wagon-seat, were a striking pair. Seekers of serendipity, they rolled along Brandiwyne Road, just to see where it led.

"Keep the change," Fanny would say after someone offered to pay her in coins. "I kept mine.”
Heidi Lobecker is part mermaid, part pirate. She can tie a bowline, tack upwind and has experienced uncontrolled jibes. She takes her time, loves Shakespeare, and needs lots of chocolate. She puts her pants on and hopes they fit, just like everybody else. Ask Heidi to go for a walk, she’ll probably say, “Yes.”  You can read all about these fascinating topics and more at Sailing in Chester

Troll Painting: Theodor Kittelson
Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff 

June 22, 2021

Solstice Bonus: Seasonal Spells for the Elm Queen


Editor’s note:
The Holy and Oak Kings are probably still locked in battle, as we roll toward the end of the Summer Solstice, but Alicia’s gorgeous poem about all four seasons will keep us in the magical mood. Enjoy this lovely bonus!

 

Winter Requiem


fairy folk gather


beside a fresh grave


snowflakes and tears


glisten on their faces


winged tribe grieves


for the Elm King


 

Spring Equinox


a hillside covered in


bluebells crocus freesia


fragrant blossoms assuage


the Elm Queen’s grief



Sultry Beltane


fairies build a bonfire


the Elm Queen’s mage


tosses herbs on the blaze


smoke smells like magic


and hope they sing ballads


celebrate spring



Summer Solstice


fairy folk link hands


encircle a sacred elm chant


courtship spells songbirds


echo their incantations



Autumn Equinox


fairy folk gather under


a canopy of elm leaves


amidst a storm they paint


symbols on sacred tree


rising gale shrieks a face


appears in the clouds



Lightning Strike


severs the tree trunk


inside the elm a fairy


awakens new Elm King


greets his bride.


***


Bio: Alicia Hilton biography: Alicia Hilton is an author, law professor, arbitrator, actor, and former FBI Special Agent. She believes in angels and demons, magic and monsters. Alicia’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best Indie Speculative Fiction Volume 3, Daily Science Fiction, Demain Publishing UK, Departure Mirror, DreamForge, Enchanted Conversation, Litro, Neon, Sci Phi Journal, Space and Time, Vastarien, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volumes 4, 5 & 6, and elsewhere. Alicia’s website is https://aliciahilton.com. Follow her on Twitter @aliciahilton01.


***

Image of all for seasons is by Elisabeth Sonrel.





June 20, 2021

The Summer Solstice Issue 2021: Table of Contents

Welcome to EC's

Summer Solstice Issue!

This is the solstice,

the still point of the sun,

its cusp and midnight,

the year's threshold and unlocking,

where the past let's go of and becomes the future;

the place of caught breath."

~ Margaret Atwood


The first day of summer (and longest day of the year) in the Northern Hemisphere arrives with the solstice on June 20, 2021 at 11:32 p.m. EDT, and we here at EC hope you will enjoy this special solstice issue on an afternoon when the sky is an endless blue and summer stretches beyond the horizon.


The EC Team would also like to thank everyone who stops by and reads Enchanted Conversation. Your support means everything to us,


Stay enchanted!

- Kate, Amanda, Molly, and Kelly


FEATURED STORY
Summer Solstice Story Contest Winner
Celebrating summer with
quotes, art, tales & folklore...
MORE
FAIRY TALES
from EC's Archives
He began to untwist the sound,
gently so the strands wouldn't break...
The girl never treated him as a monster...
Perhaps the roar of the waves
would make her feel close to him...
MUSIC
Sharing one of our magical favorites to accompany this issue
FOR MORE MUSIC

Check out

Enchanted Conversation's

YouTube Channel

and listen to the

Classical Music to Write Fairy Tales By

playlist for some writing inspiration!

Wishing everyone an enchanted summer!
ALL COPYRIGHT
to the written works in this issue belong to the individual authors.
Enchanted Conversation
Editor-in-chief Kate Wolford 
Contributing Editor & Artist ~ Amanda Bergloff
Assistant Editor Molly Ellson
Special Projects Writer ~ Kelly Jarvis

 

EC's 2021 Summer Solstice Contest Winner: The Queen of Summer, by Lissa Sloan

Editor’s note: EC is excited to announce Lissa Sloan as the winner of our 2021 Summer Solstice Story contest! The long, midsummer days, the casually imparted wonders, the rivalry between two sisters, and the love, too, are all beautifully interwoven by Lissa in her story. Lissa is an old friend of EC, so we are very happy to have new work from her!

My sister was always the lucky one. If she forgot to bring the washing in, it would be a clear night with no rain. And in the morning, shirts and shifts and petticoats would all be hanging on the line, just as she had left them. If she spent the afternoon daydreaming and burned the only meat we got all week, my father would come in from the mill and go straight to bed, saying he wasn't hungry.

 

She was the pretty one, too. Women at the market slipped her extra sweet pastries, and men gathered around her like cats after a piece of fish. She was the pride of the village and a prize to be won.

 

It was not her fault, of course. Nothing ever was. "It's not like I ask for these things to happen," she told me one year at Midsummer as I wove daisies, honeysuckle, and forget-me-nots into a garland for her hair. She would be queen at the festival that night. Again. She had been chosen every year since her slim body rounded into curves.

 

So of course, last year when the king rode by, it was my sister that Father bragged about. He never would have said I could spin straw into gold. No one would have believed it of me. But of the girl so beautiful the village elders ignored the rules that the Queen of Summer must be a different girl every year? A daughter like that was someone to be proud of.

           

When the king ordered her to the palace to prove my father's claims, I thought I would never see my sister again. Yes, she was lucky, but to do the impossible—to spin three rooms full of straw into gold in the course of three nights? Each room bigger, each night shorter, than the last. Even my sister was not that lucky.

 

On the shortest night, I didn’t go to the village green to see a new summer queen crowned. I didn’t pick seven flowers out of my own garland and lay them on my pillow, hoping to dream of who my future husband would be. I went to bed before the sun had set and lay awake all night, wondering what my sister could possibly be doing in that room full of straw with only a spinning wheel for company. Not spinning, if I knew her at all.

           

And yet, somehow, she was lucky again. She accomplished the impossible. The next morning, after a night so short it seemed the sun had barely gone down before it rose again, the king announced their betrothal with her at his side. I had to admit she looked beautiful, smiling as if she deserved it all. I choked down the question on my tongue: how lucky was she really? To marry a king so enamored of gold he would put an innocent girl to death if she couldn’t create three rooms full of it at his command?

 

I knew she couldn't have done it. She wasn't even good at ordinary spinning. Surely she would tell me later—how she had gotten away with it. But no. She just sat there in our kitchen, going on about carriages, dresses, jewels, and servants. I couldn't ask her. She would only stare at me, her wide eyes reproachful—didn’t I believe in my own sister? So I said nothing and went on shelling peas. And speaking of servants, I must come with her to the palace to be her waiting woman. She couldn't do without her sister. I would come, wouldn't I?

           

I packed my things.


 ***

It has been a year, or nearly so. The shortest night is almost here again. Everywhere feasts are being prepared and Midsummer bonfires are being laid in village greens throughout the land. Garlands woven for new summer queens.

 

Now, at last, she has told me. I came into her room with some fresh linens, and there she was, clutching the baby to her. Her cheeks were wet with tears. Now I know about the odd little man, and the horrible bargain she made.

           

"I guess that's that," I say. She has been caught at last. Oddly, I don't feel the sense of satisfaction I thought I might. How can I, with her sitting there, clinging to my nephew, her eyes red rimmed. She is not even pretty like this. Her face is blotchy; her nose is red.

           

She asks what I mean, her voice a whisper she can barely choke out.

           

"You gave your word," I say. She looks as if she doesn't understand me. "That you would give him up."

           

“If I lose his son, he’ll kill me.” She holds the baby tighter. Again, I wonder at my sister’s  luck. Married to a man she cannot confide her wretched bargain to. Because he was the reason she made it. Her tears begin again.

           

I don't know. Of course she can't give him up. But this time, she may have to. I say the obligatory words. That I wish there was something I could do.

           

She grabs my sleeve. There is something I can do—if I can guess his name—he gave her three days. I could find her names—all the names in the kingdom. She has hope now.

 

And what do I have? I have the three longest days. Surely I can do the impossible for her this time. And unlike the odd little man who rescued her last time, I will not even ask for payment.

 

I’ve always been the good one, she says. I’ve always been the clever one. I can find his name. She sighs contentedly, as if it is already done, and runs her finger along her baby's cheek. "I can keep him, and no one will ever know." She looks at me. "You will do it, won't you?"

           

I get my cloak.


***

I have walked the kingdom. Up to the mountains and down to the valleys the first day. I came back with my cloak ripped ragged by brambles, and my head full of names. Names like William and Liam and Billy and Bill. James, Jamie, and Jim. Hans, Sean, Ian, and John. But none of them were the one.

           

The second day I went to the ocean; I crossed brooks and rivers and creeks and streams. I came back with my skirt caked to the knees in mud, and my head full of names. Names like Edgar, Edmund, and Edward. Reginald and Archibald and Willibald. Frederick, Francis, and Frank. But none of them were the one.

           

Today, the third day, I crossed meadows and moors, marshes and bogs. I am coming back with my feet rubbed raw and blistered, and my head full of names. Names like Thumbling, Thrushbeard, and Rinkrank. Shorty and Shifty and Handy. Longshanks and Crookshanks and Stumpy. Surely one of these will be the one.


But what if I have failed? Will my sister be unlucky for once? Will her bad bargain come down on her head at last? I do not wish it on her, not really. I am not as bad as all that. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious. 

           

I must hurry on. He will be at the castle at midnight, and my sister will need the names. They are her only chance. But there is a stone in my shoe. It has been there through the last three villages, so I stop to take it out. That's when I smell the wood smoke and see the firelight flickering up ahead. Perhaps, even now, there is one person in the kingdom I have not asked about the names they know. 

           

I am not good, but I am dutiful. I step off the path and through the trees. And I hear a lone voice singing. Should I make this one last stop? Who would be singing in the middle of a wood? Everyone in the kingdom has gathered in their village greens and squares, decked in ribbons, crowning their new summer queens with flower garlands. They are dancing, singing, eating, laughing, jumping over midsummer bonfires, young people sneaking off into the woods in pairs. The light is fading, my stomach is rumbling, and my feet are aching. I should get back.


I am not clever, but I am thorough. I edge closer, toward the firelight, toward the voice, and look out from behind a tree. I see one extraordinary man dancing around an ordinary fire. An odd little man. He is singing about how happy, how lucky he is. How he will take the baby because the queen can never guess. He is the lucky one because she will never guess that his name is...

           

In the firelight, there is a sweetness to his face. I feel almost sorry for him, because he is wrong. He is not the lucky one. My sister is the lucky one. Again.


***

Bio: Lissa Sloan's poems and short stories are published in Enchanted Conversation, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus, Frozen Fairy Tales, and Skull & Pestle: New Tales of Baba Yaga.  “Death in Winter,” her contribution to Frozen Fairy Tales, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


***

Image is “Dante’s Vision of Rachel and Leah,” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

A Dream of Summer: Quotes, Art & Folklore, by Amanda Bergloff

   

WELCOME SUMMER!

Summer is here, and to inspire you, we've collected some of EC's favorite things about this magical season...so please enjoy the quotes, art, tales, music, and folklore below that highlight this most enchanting time of year!

Suppose for a moment you live in a land, 
Amazed at what happens during summer solstice. 
Very strange things begin to occur, 
Instantly, there is little darkness, 
Night that we are so used to 
Gone; what is left is the brilliant colors.

Daylight from dusk to dawn to dusk again, 
Alight in all its energy and brightness. 
Yes, we are north of the sixtieth parallel; 
Land of the midnight sun. 
I have been here before and seen things, 
Gazed upon the horizon, waiting for darkness to reappear, 
Holding on to summer in all its life, love and beauty; 
To see it ebb once more as daylight fades to night.

~"Saving Daylight" by Davidson Pickett

A wood near Athens. A Fairy speaks:

Over hill, over dale, 
Thorough bush, thorough brier, 
Over park, over pale, 
Thorough flood, thorough fire
I do wander every where, 
Swifter than the moon’s sphere; 
And I serve the fairy queen, 
To dew her orbs upon the green: 
The cowslips tall her pensioners be; 
In their gold coats spots you see; 
Those be rubies, fairy favours, 
In those freckles live their savours: 
I must go seek some dew-drops here 
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear. 
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I’ll be gone; 
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.

~ William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

"Across the open common land
shines glowing purple floral blooms
The bumble bee can hardly stand,
as flowers' scent is rising fumes

And lies there in the summer shade
a resting deer quite joyfuly
for in this beauteous sunlit glade
all's observed by sent'nel tree

This tall oak stands by sparkling stream,
whose water splashes grass and rock,
reflecting in its azure gleam,
the woodland plant and dandy clock

While goes beneath the cloudless sky,
amidst a warm and dreamy breeze,
a squirrel idling, passing by,
past numerous, careless, floating seeds."
~ Stephen Patrick, Sleepy July in Skipwith Common 
Summer Folklore
- July is the seventh month of the year according to the Gregorian calendar.  It was the fifth month in the early calendar of the ancient Romans. The Romans called the month Quintilius, which means fifth. A Roman Senate renamed the month to Julius (July) in honour of Julius Caesar, who was born on 12 July. The Anglo-Saxon names for the month included Heymonath or Maed monath, referring respectively to haymaking and the flowering of meadows.

Be sure to look at your noontime shadow around the time of the solstice. It will be your shortest noontime shadow of the year!

- In centuries past, the Irish would cut hazel branches on solstice eve to be used in searching for gold, water, and precious jewels.

- A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.

- The glowing Ruby should adorn
Those who in warm July are born,
Then will they be exempt and free
From love's doubt and anxiety.

- If the first of July be rainy weather,
It will rain, more of less, for four weeks together.

- If ant hills are high in July,
Winter will be snowy.

- A cold and wet June spoils the rest of the year.

- A dripping June keeps all things in tune.

- A dry May and a leaking June, make the farmer whistle a merry tune. 

- If the 24th of August be fair and clear, then hope for a prosperous Autumn that year.

- In July, shear your rye.

- June damp and warm does the farmer no harm.

- Mist in May and heat in June will bring all things into tune.

- St. Swithin's Day, if it do rain, for forty days it will remain.
St. Swithin's Day an' it be fair, for forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

- A Summer fog for fair, a Winter fog for rain.

Looking for some summer wreath ideas?
Then click on the video below:
Tis moonlight, summer moonlight,
All soft and still and fair;
The solemn hour of midnight
Breathes sweet thoughts everywhere,

But most where trees are sending
Their breezy boughs on high,
~Or stooping low are lending
A shelter from the sky.

And there in those wild bowers
A lovely form is laid;
Green grass and dew-steeped flowers
Wave gently round her head.  
~ Emily Bronte
"When the sun is shining
I can do anything;
no mountain is too high,
no trouble too difficult to overcome."
~ Wilma Rudolph
“We might think we are nurturing our garden, 
but of course it's our garden that is really nurturing us."
~ Jenny Uglow

Sunflower Fun Facts
  • The botanical name for sunflower is helianthus annuus.
  • Sunflowers are symbols of faith, loyalty and adoration.
  • Sunflower faces track the sun.
  • There is a sunflower that is totally fluffy – it’s called the Teddy Bear Sunflower.
  • Sunflower seeds are nutritious and make a great snack.
  • The world’s tallest sunflower is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is 30 feet, one inch!
  • Parts of the sunflower have long been used for their healing properties.
  • They are one of the fastest growing plants.
  • A single sunflower can have up to 2000 seeds.
Easy Summer Desserts 
Check out some easy summer desserts 
perfect for any potluck gathering with family and friends!
I saw dawn creep across the sky,
And all the gulls go flying by.
I saw the sea put on its dress
Of blue midsummer loveliness,
And heard the trees begin to stir
Green arms of pine and juniper.
I heard the wind call out and say:
'Get up, my dear, it is today!'
~ Rachel Field, Summer Morning
Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night..
~Mark Twain
SUMMER ART GALLERY
Summer Eve, Edward Robert Hughes,1908
Girl with Cats in a Summer Landscape, Elin Danielson-Gambogi, 1892
Hermia & Lysander, John Simmons, 1870
Woman with a Parasol, Claude Monet, 1875
Spirit of the Night, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Lady in Summer Moonlight, Hilda Cowham
The Bower Meadow, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, 1872
Woman in a Garden, Claude Monet, 1867
The Full Moons of SUMMER
The Strawberry Moon
June 24 2021
This first full moon of summer is named the Strawberry Moon because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year in the month of June.
------
The Buck Moon
July 23, 2021
July is the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur, thus the moon is named after them.
------
The Sturgeon Moon
August 22, 2021
The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of August's full moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes were most readily caught during this month.
HAPPY SUMMER TO ALL!
Share what you love about this season 
in the comments section below
Enchanted Conversation's contributing editor, Amanda Bergloff, writes modern fairy tales, folktales, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including Frozen Fairy Tales, After the Happily Ever After, and Uncommon Pet Tales.
Follow her on Twitter @AmandaBergloff
Check out her Amazon Author page HERE
Join her every Tuesday on Twitter for #FairyTaleTuesday to share what you love about fairy tales, folktales, and myths.
Also, if you like sharing your #vss fairy tales on Twitter, follow @fairytaleflash and use #fairytaleflash so we can retweet!
Cover Painting: "Summer Eve" by Edward Robert Hughes, 1908
Cover Layout & Quotes/Various Graphic Design: Amanda Bergloff
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