Posts Tagged With: Fairy Tale

Book Reviews: Fairy Tale and Fantasy

I usually don’t write book reviews on things I feel wishy-washy about.  There’s an author behind there somewhere, and I can sympathize wholeheartedly with how hard it was to write the thing, even if it was less than perfect.  Which means that I usually admit there were flaws in a sentence or two in the reading list, and then move on to the next book.  But I have vowed to write a review of everything I read in conjunction with the reading challenge.  And I didn’t have to enjoy the book for it to count as part of the challenge.  I just have to have finished it.

Here are two books that I’m counting but didn’t love.  I’ll tell you why, and you can decide whether you want to check them out for yourself, and I’ll also suggest alternatives that I liked much better than these.  I hope the authors aren’t too upset with me (although one is deceased, so…possible haunting?).

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Daughter of Witches by Patricia C. Wrede:                                                                                 (a book filled to the rim with magic)

I love Wrede’s writing.  Her Frontier Magic series is one of the most original and fun things I’ve ever read.  I love the Cecelia works she wrote with Caroline Stevermer, and will happily swoon over Marleon the Magician.

I am, however, not fond of a fantasy book that reads like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign (of any kind).  A D&D campaign is an exercise in shared storytelling, and the disconnected, character-centered thing that results hardly ever feels right when put into novel form.  It feels like the author is trying to share a joke with you that you had to be there to understand: it’s just not that amusing in the retelling.  Usually either the plot is good or the characters are developed, but not both.  It can feel like the characters are being pigeon-holed into a God-driven plot (ala the Dungeon Master) without good reason.  Wrede is pretty forthright about the Lyra novels being based on campaigns she ran, in a universe she created.

Despite my criticism of D&D novels, Wrede does a great job of making the Lyra Collection feel like it should in the later books.  Daughter of Witches is book 2, and Wrede clearly hasn’t hit her stride yet.  It wasn’t quite the confusion of kidnapping and journey with no explanation that Shadow Magic was.  But it was character heavy without much plot, and feels too guided.  The stakes never felt high for the characters, either.  The death is so distant that it doesn’t feel real, and the death that’s in front of them seems unurgent.

The writing was good, I stayed engaged in the world, but ultimately I just didn’t care about what happened to the characters.  I wanted to care, but couldn’t get there.  If you’re looking for something similar to read, I would start with Wrede’s Caught in Crystal and move to The Raven Ring.  Both are excellent, and you don’t need to have read the others in the series to have fun with them.  That way you get Lyra goodness with Wrede’s more developed style to back it up.  Or, you know, just go read Thirteenth Child, first of the Frontier Magic series.

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English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs:                                                                                         (a book with lots of mystical creatures)

My biggest beef with this book was that it proclaimed originality and didn’t deliver.  It was written in 1890, though, you will say.   So who is to judge whether the stories were perhaps new then?

The Grimms were writing books in the 1860s, and these stories are a repeat of those, almost completely, under the guise of being English instead of German.  Even in his time period, he loses originality points…

The book was in the simple folk-writing that fairy tales are often in, with lots of telling and little showing.  They were easy to read, and I did enjoy them some.  It was also a quick read, which I appreciated.  I was expecting much more than a collection of children’s stories that I had heard before, though.  So perhaps it was my expectation that was flawed and not the book itself.

Looking for something AWESOME to read instead?  Try The Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar.  There are 44 tales in there, and she groups them into common themes and discusses similarities between cultures that you can see in the narratives.  That’s good and so is Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Family Tales by Valerie Paradiz, where she discusses how the Grimms used their sister to collect the stories, and the importance of the tales in female indoctrination to society.  Both are fairy tale plus, and an excellent read.  They contain more of the originality that I was hoping for when I picked this book up

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Fairy Tale

This story is on my Clarion website, (go to http://clarionwriteathon.org/members/profile.php, and click “Show/Hide excerpts at the bottom) but I liked it so much that I had to share here as well. It’s a fairy tale from Kwedregiol, the place where my first novel happens.

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Once there was, and once there wasn’t. In the long-distant days of yore, when haystacks winnowed sieves, when pixies played stickball on the cliffs of the Elums, and when I softly rocked my baby grandmother to sleep in her creaking cradle, a man walked the earth. He was a tall man, sleek and muscular, his frame rose bigger than a market stall and glistened golden like a bonfire. The people of the mountains called him Michegua, for he had no name of his own.

Michegua was a wise man. Michegua was a forgiving man. Michegua was a generous man. He gave the people of the mountains many things. First, he gave them the rising sun so their crops would grow hearty and hale. Next, he gave them fire to cook their meat and to give them safety from animals in the darkness. Third, he gave them laws.

Can you recite them with me? The five laws of Michegua? They bind us all, and so we must know them. Here, begin: Do not kill for aught but sustenance. Do not lie and do not steal. Rest one day, of the week to reflect on your blessings. Honor your betters. Strive in all ways to treat others as you would be treated.

Because of the great gifts of Michegua, the people came away from the mountains. They settled in green valleys beneath blue skies. They tilled the fields until the earth turned golden, tassels of corn waving in the wind. They settled by the sea and let the ocean breezes whip their skin into ruddy health. They became the people of the earth.

Only a few of the people stayed in the craggy, gray mountains, because they revered the place where Michegua had come first. For them, Michegua gave a trail of bright blue gentians. The little flowers dappled the mountain sides. This was so the people of the mountains did not miss the sea, for they had deepest blue growing on the hills. This was so the people of the mountains did not miss the waving corn, for the blossoms would wave in the wind. This was so the people of the mountains would always remember that they were the faithful who loved Michegua and the old ways the most.

Michegua stayed among the people for many years, but it came to pass that he had to leave them. In this time when fleas were barbers, and mountain goats were town criers, the people had a custom. They would give a gift to each stranger who came among them. Michegua was not a stranger anymore, but he was also not the same as the people of the earth. He was too tall and too golden. What could they give this splendid man who had already given them so much?

The oldest spoke first. “We will give him our worship,” he said. “We will make a God of him, that we never forget what he has done for us, though all the ages of the world pass by and those who are here have perished.”

The council nodded, and granted that gift.

The youngest spoke next. “We will give him increase,” he said. “We will spread across this world and thrive, because we have followed his teachings well. And everywhere on earth there will be people who know his name.”

The council nodded, and granted that gift.

The wisest spoke last. “We will give him a bride,” he said. “He will choose a woman from every generation. He shall mark her, and she shall be his. This way, he will come back to us one day.”

The council nodded, and granted that gift.

When Michegua heard of these gifts he saw that they were as great as the things he had given them, and he was touched. He called all the people together, the people of the earth, the people of the sea, the people of the mountains, so he could bid them goodbye. They met at the base of the mountains, where the sea and the land and the cliffs came together as one, the place called Kwedregiol. Michegua seemed taller that day than he had been when he lived among them. His skin flickered golden like the flames in the campfire. He took a deep breath, and shining white wings unfurled from his back.

“So you shall know me,” he said, “and also know my bride, by the wings on our backs and the love in our hearts that we both feel for you. People of the earth, go forth in my name and thrive. Multiply yourselves upon this place tenfold.”

His words echoed from the cliff face, and the people watched as he beat his wings upon the air and rose into the heavens. The wind from the down stroke of his wings brushed them all like a kiss across their cheeks. That was his parting.

The people made a white city on the place called Kwedregiol, carving it out of the land and the rocks, and in it they put the woman with the mark of wings on her body. There she waited, the bride of Michegua, for him to come back some distant day.

And as his bride was waiting, three apples fell from the sky; one for our story’s heroes, one for the person who told their tale, and one for those who listened and promise to share.

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The Algonquin Cinderella

This is another story that started as a class excercise.  The assignment was to write a story based on a fairy tale, but to put it in a modern setting.  I hereby present the 2013 version of The Algonquin Cinderella:

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Tallika felt like wax, melting in the corner as the music reverberated through her chest.  She stood and watched the people thrashing all over the vast and modern living room, colored lights washed over their bodies.  The wall of glass windows looked out on a private beach, but she couldn’t see a trace of it.  All she could see was the dancers reflected back at her, purple and green in the lights.  She was a fool to have thought she was ready for this, so soon after the accident.

“It will be dark,” said her youngest sister.  “No one will notice the scars on your face and you should come.  You can’t hide forever, this will be good practice.  Besides, you can’t drink on your meds and we need a designated driver.  Take one for the team.”

“We can’t miss an Amos Andrews party,” said her oldest sister. “You have to come with us.”

So Tallika hid her face behind a waterfall of black hair, slipped on impossible shoes, and came.

She could see both of her sisters in the crowd.  One of them had her arms draped across a man’s shoulders, her legs entwined with his as they rocked to the music.  The other struggled to shed her white leather jacket, shimmying her shoulders and sloshing her pink drink across the white rug.  Tallika felt the hard expanse of wall behind her back.  She switched her full glass of water to her other hand and wiped the condensation on her floral print dress.

A couple with their arms moving frantically under each other’s clothes stumbled out of the crowd and into Tallika’s elbow.  Water sloshed across her front.

“Hey!” she said.  The man waved an apology, but did not dislodge his lips from the other girl’s mouth.

What a fool for dressing up for this travesty.

She watched the surging crowd and considered leaving; breaking the girl code and going home to her soft bed.  But her sisters would be stranded.  In a house with strange and drunk men.  Who knows what would happen to them.  She sighed.  The water on her leg was warm now.  She looked at the glass, thought of the ocean, and resolved to find the door to the outside.

Tallika took a deep breath and then plunged into the horror of the light hallway, her head down. She did not meet anyone before she stumbled upon a glass door that led out to the sparkling pool rimmed with hydrangeas, and then down to the beach.  It was quiet here, only the faint sounds of music bumping through the night air.  The blades of sea grass brushed her knees, and her high wedges sunk sideways into the sand.  She kicked them off and carried them.  A breeze whipped her skirt across her legs.

The grass gave way to pure gray sand, stretching out before her.  It was low tide, and she could barely see the glimmer of water in the distance.  Instead, the moon glistened on the dark wet sand, making a silver trail to the sea.  In the sky, the Milky Way blazed another white trail through peppered pinpoints of stars.

Her sisters danced in the house behind her.  In a back room somewhere, the couple that ran into her were stripping off their clothes thinking only of each other.  She would never have that now.  The scars on Tallika’s face felt hot.  She began to cry.

“Surely it can’t be that bad,” said a deep voice to her right.

She turned.  A man in jeans and a white sweater sat against the dunes.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone else was here, it’s just… it’s my first time since…”  Tallika started sobbing outright, gulps of air shaking her body.

“Hey, hey,” he said.  “Are you OK?  Do you want me to call someone?  What happened?”

Tallika struggled to swallow the lump in her throat.  “No, I’m fine.  Really I am.  I just haven’t been out in a while.  I mean, out to a party, and it’s harder than I thought.”

“If someone’s hurt you, we should do something about it.”

“No, it’s nothing like that.” Tallika said.  “I promise I’m fine.  No one has hurt me.  I…” she took a gulp of air.  “It’s, it’s this,” she turned, and pushed her hair away from her face so he could fully see it.

She pictured what he saw.  A pink melted mass of skin that dripped over her forehead and across her cheek, grotesque.  “It happened about six months ago.  My older sister, we shared an apartment.  There was a party one night, and she passed out with a lit cigarette in my bedroom. It was an accident. ”

He shook his head.  “Hell, that’s a tough break.”

Tallika felt a hysterical laugh rise in her throat but she bit it back.  “A tough break?  It’s a lot shittier than that, my friend.”

“Hey, it’s probably not as bad as you think it is.  Your hair covers it, I wouldn’t have known if you didn’t show me.”

“And it’s dark,” she said.  “Yeah, that’s what they tell me. I’m still getting used to not having a face.” She sat on the sand near him. “So what’s your story, why are you out here away from the party?”

“Really it’s because I can’t stand those people.  My sister says that wild parties and girls are good for my image,” he said, “so here I am.  But I don’t have to like it.”

“Good for your image to be seen at one of these?” she asked.

“Well, sort of… OK, you told me yours, I’ll tell you mine… uh,” he cleared his throat.  “Amos Andrews, nice to meet you.  My sister thinks hosting these parties are good PR.  I mean, I guess they are too.”

“Nice to meet you.   Yours is much worse than mine.  No wonder you ran away!”

“Oh don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?” she asked.

“I have a brilliant idea.  Let’s just be normal people, OK?  With superficial problems that don’t mean anything.  We can keep each other company.”

Tallika smiled.  “I’d like that very much.”

Hours later, Tallika looked over at him, throwing his head back and laughing in the moonlight.  His curly hair bobbed, his smile was a perfect crescent.  A single star fell out of the sky and streaked toward the earth.

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The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Once upon a time, a hearing king named Joe had twelve deaf daughters, each one more beautiful than the last. They all slept together in one large, splendid room. Their beds stood side by side and every nightwhen they went to bed, the king locked the door and bolted it so he knew his children were safe. Every morning when he unlocked the door, he saw that their shoes were worn out, with holes in the toes and laces broken. The king ordered an investigation, but after, many weeks of trying, no one could find out how the princesses were able to leave the locked and bolted room.
King Joe was very upset that he had to spend so much royal money on new shoes for his daughters, for princesses could not wear shabby shoes. He proclaimed that whoever could discover where his daughters went at night could choose one of them for his wife and be king after his death. If, however, they could not discover where his daughters went after three days and nights, they should be banished from his kingdom forever.
It was not long before a king’s son from the next kingdom came and offered to discover where the princesses danced at night. He was welcomed warmly into the palace with a large feast, and in the evening, was led into a bedroom next the princesses bedroom. He was to watch and discover where the twelve went, so the princess’s bedroom door was left open. Nevertheless, the Prince’s eyelids grew heavy and he fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning all twelve pairs of shoes had holes in them, and he had no idea how. The same thing happened on the second and third nights so he was banished forevermore from King Joe’s kingdom. Many others came after this and undertook the mystery, but none discovered how the shoes got holes in them and all were forever banished from the kingdom.

One day a poor, wounded soldier named Michael found himself on the road to the town where King Joe lived. He met a funny old woman on the road who asked him where he was going

“I really don’t know,” he answered jokingly. “I thought I might discover where the princesses danced holes in their shoes and become king.

That is not so difficult,” said the old woman mysteriously. “The secret is that you must pretend to be sound asleep.”With that, she gave him a little cloak and said, “If you put this on you will be invisible and then you can follow the princesses at night.”

When Michael received this good advice, he decided to try his luck. He went to King Joe and announced that he also wanted to take the challenge. King Joe welcomed the old soldier, and had his servants dress him in royal garments. At the feast that night, the oldest princess stood up and performed an ABC story in sign language for everyone in the hall. Her signing was beautiful and it made Michael want to learn more. It also made him want to succeed more than ever before.
“What is that girl’s name?” Michael whispered to a nobleman sitting next to him.

“Oh, that’s Princess Leah.” The nobleman replied snootily.

Later that evening, Michael was led into a bedroom next to the twelve princesses. He lay down immediately, and after a while began to snore as if in the deepest sleep.

The twelve princesses felt the vibrations of his snoring on his bed and so they got up. They then opened the wardrobes, and brought out pretty dresses and dressed themselves in front of the long mirrors, sprang about and rejoiced at the thought of going to the dance. Because the girls were deaf, they didn’t realize how noisy they were being while getting dressed and dancing about laughing. But the youngest wasn’t feeling joyful and signed to them that she had a bad feeling.

“You’re just being silly, Jessie.” They signed back, and teased her.

When they were all ready to go, they looked carefully at Michael but he had closed his eyes and did not move or stir so they felt themselves quite secure and prepared to leave.

Princess Leah went to her bed and tapped it. It immediately sank into the ground, revealing a secret pathway. The sisters went down through the opening, Leah going first. Michael, who had watched everything, did not wait any longer. He sprang out of bed, put on his invisibility cloak and went down last behind the youngest, Princess Jessie. Halfway down the steps he stepped a little on her dress. She was terrified, and she began waving her arms to get her sisters’ attention.

She signed, “My dress is stuck. Someone is pulling my dress!”

Leah signed back, “Don’t be silly, you caught it on a nail.” They then continued down the stairs.

When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they were standing in a wonderful avenue of trees, all the leaves of which were silver shone and glistened. Michael thought, “I must carry a token away with me” and broke off a twig from one of the trees. Jessie thought she saw something but since her sisters made fun of her before, she decided

not to say anything.

As they traveled deeper into the forest, the leaves of the trees turned to gold, and then to diamonds. Again, Michael broke branches from each of the trees, and each time Jessie thought she saw something move but he was too quick for her to be sure.

They went on and came to a great lake where twelve little boats stood, and in each boat sat a handsome deaf prince. Each took one princess with him and the soldier seated himself next to the youngest.

The youngest prince signed to Jessie, “I don’t know why the boat is so much heavier today, and I will have to row with all my strength if I am to get across the lake.”

“What could be the cause,” she signed, “but warm weather? I feel very warm too.”

On the opposite side of the lake stood a splendid, brightly lit castle, perfect light for signing and dancing. The princes rowed over and entered a silver and gold ballroom. Fancy lights hung above their heads, seeming tofloat in the air, and the walls and floor vibrated around them. Each prince danced with the girl he loved most all night long. The dancers could feel the pulsating music and moved with so much joy, but Michael danced with them unseen. They danced until 3o’clock in the morning, and when they were finished all their shoes had holes.

Leah felt the hole in her toe and gasped. She was enjoying being with other deaf people so much that she had not realized how fast the time was passing. Unwillingly, she flashed the lights to signal to her sister that it was time to go home.

The princes rowed them back across the lake and this time the soldier seated himself by Leah, the eldest, so he could get back to bed without suspicion.

On the shore, the girls took leave of their princes and promised to return the following night. As the girls were saying their long goodbyes, Michael ran out in front, and lay down quickly on his bed. When the twelve had come up slowly and wearily from their midnight dance, Michael was already snoring so strong they could feel the vibrations. They felt confident that he had slept the whole time they were away. They took off their beautiful dresses, laid them away, put the worn out shoes under the beds and went to sleep.

The next morning Michael did not tell King Joe what he saw. Instead, he went with the twelve princesses again to their wonderful dance, and again the next night. Everything happened as it had before, and each night the princesses danced until their shoes were worn to pieces.

When it came time for Michael to give his answer to the king, he took the three twigs with him as proof. The sisters stood outside, peeking through the window, trying to read his lips as he spoke to the king. They noticed the three twigs, and wondered, worried, how he got them. Jessie concluded “He must have followed us.” They knew they had been caught.

When the king asked the soldier “Where have my twelve daughters danced their shoes into pieces at night?” Michael answered “in an underground castle with twelve princes,” and explained how he had found out.

The king then had his court guard get his twelve daughters and bring them in. The king yelled at the girls as he always did thinking that if he shouted loud enough, they could hear him. Of course, it was not until the interpreter signed that they understood what their father was saying. He asked if Michael told the truth. When the princesses saw that they were betrayed many of them closed their eyes so they could not see the interpreter signing However, Leah felt obliged to confess all. Hearing this, the king asked Michael which one of his daughters he would have for his wife.

Michael answered, “I am no longer young, so give me the eldest, Princess Leah.” But he was also thinking of how beautifully she had signed the ABC story on his first night in the palace.

The engagement was announced by the Royal Herald and the whole kingdom was invited to the wedding the following month.  The sisters were saddened and upset that their older sister was marying a hearing man, but eventually he won them over.  During that month, Michael gestured and used pen and paper to communicate with Leah, but he was secretly taking Sign Language lessons.  On his wedding day, Michael surprised everyone by signing his vows to Leah  He immersed himself in their culture and accompanied his wife and her sisters to all their social activities.  As Michael’s sign language skills grew, so did the love between him and his princess, and they lived happily ever after.  The End.

 
 

 

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