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fairytales

Book Review: Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott

Hana lives in a remote village surrounded by impassable forest and haunted by a terrible beast. Once a month, the beast claims another victim, from children to the elderly, including Hana’s brother. Since then, Hana has done whatever it takes to keep her parents alive as food dwindles and despite her father’s neglect.

Then the beast chooses her father. He wanders into the forest just like all the others, but this time Hana goes after him and manages to bring him back. Alive, but unconscious, and he won’t wake up. Hana begs for anyone in her village to accompany her into the forest and fight the beast to break the spell on him. No one volunteers, so she goes alone.

There, she fights the beast and while she survives, she is badly wounded. A strange, cloaked man finds her and takes her to his home in the middle of an enchanted garden, tending to her wounds for several days. Hana is intrigued by his kindness and mysteriousness, down to the fact he doesn’t remember his own name.

But he does know about the curse on her village, its origins, and the true monster of the forest. Only by working together and finding the truth of the curse can he and Hana free her father, the village, and themselves.

This is an AMAZING retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Japan. I love Zoe Marriott’s books and this one is one of my favorites. Hana is a tough, determined heroine and the story itself is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Zoe Marriott doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the curse’s backstory. Great book!

Recommended Tea: Jasmine Green Tea

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

“Gretel & Hansel” retold by Amelia Jane

This April, we are posting one of our winning entries from the March Fairytale Retelling Competition every week. Check the blog each Monday for the latest winning story!

Amelia Jane is twelve years old and comes from the USA, though she currently lives in the lush green hills of Asturias, Spain.  When she isn’t using her imagination to write fantastic stories, you can find Amelia up a tree, filling her wildlife notebook with notes & photos, doing ballet, volleyball & karate, and going on all sorts of adventures with her 4 younger siblings (& sometimes mom & dad too). 

Gretel and Hansel

Gretel was six and Hansel was ten.  The brother and sister lived in New York City with their foster parents in a nice blue house in a quiet neighborhood.  They liked their home and school, and they were happy and well cared for, but lately their foster parents seemed worried and stressed.  One night as the children were laying in their bunk-beds, they heard murmuring.

What are they saying?”  Gretel asked her big brother.

The responsible Hansel sat up in bed and listened for a minute, then layed back down.  “I can’t hear” he said, as the murmuring went on.

“I suppose it would be bad to go listen to what they are saying through the door?”  Gretel asked her big brother.

He thought for a moment.

“Eavesdropping is a sin,” he replied.

After another moments silence Hansel dropped from the top bunkbed onto the hard wooden floor.  Gretel slid quietly out of her bed and joined him, and they both crept silently to the living room door.

“I just can’t find another job,” their foster dad said.  “No one will hire me, and with you expecting a baby, how will we cope?”

“What about that gardening place—have you applied there?” questioned their foster mom.

“They don’t want me”

it was quiet for a moment until the mom finally asked “well,… what are we going to do about the kids?”… then the whispering got even quieter.  Hansel and Gretel couldn’t make out what was being said any more.

Gretel turned to her brother sadly…”What about us?”  She asked… “They’re going to put us back in a group home, and we will be separated again!”  She was close to tears.  Hansel thought for a moment then spoke slowly.

“We won’t be separated again.  We can run away.  Let’s pack up some food and we can go live in Central Park.  If that doesn’t work out we will find somewhere else.’  Just as he finished saying this, the door flew open.

“What are you two doing awake?” their foster mother asked.

Thinking quickly, Hansel replied “We were hungry–we were looking for some bread.”

“Ok, go get a snack, but I hope you remember that eavesdropping is not polite,” said their mom.

With one more hug the grown-ups were off to bed and the children went to theirs.  The next day Hansel got the two hunks of break, several sandwiches, cookies, and a bottle of water and packed them into his backpack.  Gretel packed only the essentials; her shiny sequin shirt, fluffy pink socks, and her favorite stuffed duck.  Then they both set off to school.  Only instead of going to school they went to the train station.  Hansel bought two tickets with the change he had brought and they boarded the train bound for Central Park.  Finally, they arrived and got off the train.  It was afternoon, and they walked through the garden paths until Hansel said it was a good time for lunch.  Unfortunately, the sandwiches had gotten squashed.

“Well, at least we still have the bread,” said Gretel, trying to look on the bright side.

As she bit into her bread a hungry pigeon approached and looked at her wistfully…

“Well, hello there!” she called.  She threw it a crumb of her bread and the pigeon ate it up, coming closer for more.  “No more” she said, as she put the rest of the bread back in the bag and placed it on the bench beside her to save for later.  The she and Hansel went to look around a bit.  Central Park was beautiful in the summer, and there was much to see.  When they came back the bread was gone! Pigeons flocked around the bench.

“They’ve eaten it all!” wailed Gretel.

‘Don’t worry,” said Hansel, “we’ll find other food, now come on, let’s find some place to sleep.  It’s getting late.”  They walked through the park back to where they thought the path should be, but they couldn’t find it.  The sun was sinking down in the sky, and it was getting harder to see.

“We are lost…” moaned Gretel.  After a bit they came out to a street.  Their eyes were drawn to a brown house with gingerbread trim.  It had big planters in the front with colorful pansies that looked like pin-wheel lolly-pops.  The roof shingles looked like vanilla wafers and the railings just might be chocolate covered pretzels.  The door was a bright licorice red.  The house stood out amongst the drab gray houses around it.  The red door opened.  A woman with a big bumpy nose and a black dress peered out.

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The gingerbread house in Central Park/ original artwork by Amelia Grant

“What are you kids doing out here at this time of night?  It’s not safe,” she asked as she looked at them closely.  “Come in and I’ll give you something to eat,”  she said in a much softer tone.  The children shook their heads.  They knew better than to trust adults, especially strangers.  But they were hungry.

“What do you have to eat?” blurted out Gretel before she could stop herself.

“Pecan pie, plum pudding, pumpkin pie….,” the lady listed off.

Finally, hunger overcame them and they walked inside.  As they sat down at the table Gretel noticed something.

“Look,” she whispered to her brother, “there are bars on the windows.”  Hansel looked.  There were.  A white cat ran across the floor.  The lady stirred up the fire, looking at them from the corner of her eye.

“Let’s get out of here!” Gretel begged her brother.  “I bet she’s a witch!”  They edged towards the door, and Hansel slowly reached out to turn the handle.  It was locked.  The lady walked into the kitchen and they heard her talking on the phone.  She returned with black and brown cat in her arms.  Gretel started to cry.

“Don’t cry, child,” the lady said, “you are safe here”

“But aren’t you a witch?” Gretel asked.

“Goodness no!” laughed the lady.  Then she explained that she had called the police in case they were searching for the children, which they had been.  The police were on their way now to bring the children back home.   Hansel and Gretel were a little worried that they wouldn’t be welcome.  Would their parents be angry with them?  Would they still want them?

They soon realized they didn’t need to worry.  They were quickly embraced by their foster parents who were so relieved to have them back safe and sound.

“Why did you run away?” their parents asked.

“We thought you didn’t want us anymore,” Hansel answered.  “We heard you talking about losing your job and expecting a baby.  We thought you wouldn’t keep us, and we didn’t want to go back to a group home.”  The adults knelt down beside them.

“We love you like our own, and even if money is tight, we will stick together as a family.  We will have a baby coming soon, and we hope that you will consider this baby as your own brother or sister,’ their mother said.  Their father nodded in agreement.   They got pulled into a big hug that lasted a long time.

So, it turns out that the nice lady who was NOT a witch found a job opening in her gardening business for their father.  He designed many more gardens that looked like candy.   Hansel and Gretel loved playing with their new baby sister.  SO, in the end, they all lived ……

happily ever after.

The End.

“In Conversation with Rapunzel” by Loonyloonyvish

This April, we are posted one of our winning entries from the March Fairytale Retelling Competition. Check the blog each Monday for the latest winning story!

“Loonyloonyvish” is a writer & the author of  idlejabber.wordpress.com. She loves reading, especially fantasy, but is less than keen on romance. Besides describing herself as a Potterhead, she is fond of Hollywood movies and Superheroes, as well as food and tea. When not writing/blogging, she keeps herself company by talking to herself (but of course she isn’t mad!).

 In conversation with Rapunzel

It happened some four years ago. I was a reporter with the —- magazine. When I joined, I had been warned that the editor was a bit eccentric but when I met him, I realised that calling him that would be a bit of an understatement. He would shuffle about wearing pink suits and a yellow spotted tie, his nails painted blue, hair a deep shade of green. But this story isn’t about him, or me either; it is about a task he set us.

He was quite fascinated by those princesses of old; they had provided him with quite a lot of material for the magazine when they were young. “The case of the missing shoe”, “Beware of poisonous apples”, “Frogs are good kissers indeed: a new revelation”, etc. But he wasn’t satisfied with all the happy endings. He believed that the public would want to know what happened to them now that they are old and no longer trending. So we were assigned the task of looking for those royalties which was not an easy task given that most of the places they used to frequent are now government property. So, by the end of the month, I was the only one without a story.

I was quite desperate and understandably so. Most of the people on my survey list were either frauds or had severe cases of hallucinations. I could have interviewed them and got it over with but the real princess (if alive) would have sued me for publishing the wrong story. I mean, there was an old woman pretending to be “The Belle”. As a matter of fact, her husband was a passable beast but she was no beauty. So I continued my search for the real princess but in vain, that is, until a few days before the deadline. A few of my trustworthy sources revealed that in a town in the valley (whose name I won’t disclose for protection of her privacy), lives a lady whom the townspeople believe to be the real Rapunzel. I was quite unsure but decided to give it a try. If she was who she claimed to be, I could as well save my job.

The valley was quite beautiful: no wonder she chose to stay here. Just to make sure, I asked a particularly old goldsmith (who turned out to be her friend) about how long she had stayed here. He said that she had moved here some 57 years back which is roughly the number of years that have passed since Rapunzel had been rescued by the prince. Satisfied, I headed towards her house which was at the edge of the town, just where the mountains began.

I knocked on the wooden door which was presently opened by a sweet old woman in a lavender night gown. Although her face was wrinkled, her hair was the colour of gold, only shorter than the story goes. I thought that she was yet another fraud and that I could very well give up the dream of becoming a popular journalist. I must have been staring for she raised an eyebrow questioningly. I didn’t want to offend her so I stated the particulars of my business here and asked her if she knew some Rapunzel.

“ You are standing right in front of her, dear. Come on in,” she said, holding the door open for me.

The room was sparsely furnished and airy, the smell of freshly cut grass wafting in through the open window. She bade me sit down on a stool by the dining table which was covered in a patchwork table-cloth. Meanwhile, she disappeared behind a curtained passageway and returned bearing a tray full of tea and gingerbread-men.

“ They are my favourite,” she said. “You know, I never used to get them in the tower.”

I smiled. I still couldn’t come to terms with the idea of a short haired Rapunzel and so I asked her about it.

“Oh!” she laughed. “ I just cut them. You cant expect me to tend to them at this age, can you?”

Sensing my disappointment, she said, “They’ll grow back in a month’s time and then you will be convinced that I am the real me.”

Even though I had a few misgivings, I warmed up to her and even described my not so normal editor.

“Ah men! They are a peculiar lot. Not all of them but all the ones I encountered surely were. Take my father now. He agreed to hand me over to the witch without hesitation. And my saviour, huh! I shouldn’t even call him that. He just made my life all the more miserable.”

“But he was a prince and a rich one at that. Didn’t he take you to his palace and make you his queen?” I asked, intrigued.

“I did run away with him but he turned out to be a peasant without land of his own. When he had rescued me, he had dressed up a prince for a local parade, and I had believed him to be one! Those people who wanted something to gossip about, made up a story of a long haired princess being saved by a valiant prince and their living happily ever after. But no one bothered to check on us after the talks died down and so I had to carry the bulk of my hair everywhere until we stumbled upon a tumbledown cottage which was to be our temporary retreat. He was so poor that he could not even afford to buy a comb!”

She sipped at her tea a while, then continued, “ I hated him. You see, when I had lived in the tower, the witch had given me all I needed but with him, I starved. So I sent him out to look for a job.

“It so happened that while roaming in the streets of a nearby town he came across a tavern and stopped there for a drink. There he heard the story of a poor girl who had been locked up due to her father’s unbelievable claims and had been asked to spin gold from straw if she wanted to see the light of another day. So my fool of a husband decided to visit her and get some gold for himself. When he sneaked into the room, he found that she could do no such thing and she would be executed the first thing in the morning.

“Now however guileless my husband is, I must say that he has got cunning. He exchanged all the straw for a portion of my hair which the king took for golden threads. He was awarded a ring by that girl along with all the straw in the room which he brought home.”

“Wait a minute. Who is your husband?” I asked.

“Well, it’s Rumpelstiltskin, of course. Thought you had figured that out.”

“No… no that cannot be. He cannot…”

“Well, of course it is him. How else would all that straw turn into gold if my hair was not used? What do you think, some fairy godmother helped her?”

Now that I come to think of it, it all makes sense. So I prodded her to continue.

“The king must have rewarded her probably, I don’t care. My husband got the straw home, all right, but he lost the ring. He lost the damn ring!” she cried in exasperation. “What a husband I have got! I really preferred the old hag over him. What was I supposed to do with the straw? So I sent him out again because we had nothing to eat. Well, he set out and did not return for three whole days until life was slowly ebbing out of me. And what does that fool bring me? Nothing but a bagful of beans.

“It so happened that on the second night of his travels, he had come across a monastery. As it was snowing outside, he sought refuge in there. And that is where he chanced upon a few monks talking about a few magical beans which, when planted, would sprout out a huge beanstalk leading straight to the land of giants. Whoever’s heard of such gibberish?” she spat. “Well, even my beloved did not fall for that and brought them home. I thought I should cook the beans lest we wanted to survive the winter on stale bread ..”

“Wait… what! You couldn’t have cooked them! That was a grave mistake!” I told her. Now where would Jack get his beans from?

“You’re right in saying that, my dear. They tasted like a horrible mixture of.. of spinach and shrimp flavoured porridge! So I filled a bag with the remainder of the beans and sent my husband out again.” Here she coughed a bit and adjusted her lopsided spectacles. She is quite an amiable lady now that she is old but I really pity her poor husband. I bet there isn’t a single person out there who has been thrown out of the house these many times.

She continued with a smile, “He must not have gone too far when he met a boy called Jack who did not surpass him in wits. He persuaded him to trade his cow in exchange of those apparently magical beans, and he readily agreed. He actually bought the tale! He must have got a good spanking when he reached home.

“It went alright for another few days but you can’t survive solely on cow’s milk, right? And then my hubby dear heard about that gold spinning girl’s plight and went off to do some good. He had planned to exchange my hair for some gold but when he heard that she was to marry the king, he asked for her first child instead.

“I didn’t think it was a good plan until he explained that the child could be used to extract money from the king. I must admit it was quite clever of him but then, when the child was finally born and he found that queen-girl in tears, he offered a bargain. If she could guess his name in three days, she could keep the child. True, he doesn’t have a particularly common name but then only a fool would take such chances.

“My hopes did go up when even on the second night that stupid queen could not guess his name. Only a day was left and there were thousands of names left in the world. I’d heard that the queen had sent spies everywhere to intercept him and I did warn him but he had to go to the tavern and get drunk! Now, he is not particularly sane even when he hasn’t touched his drinks so it was not very surprising to hear the next day that he had been singing and shouting out his name for the world to hear.” She snorted.

“So the queen won the game after all,” I finished the tale for her. “But then, what did you do?”

“Um… nothing much. He was too ashamed to come home so he went off someplace else. Good riddance, I’d thought. I would be much better off without him to look after. But a few days later some soldiers arrived on my doorstep with my husband in their hold. His clothes were torn and he had a blackened eye. I think it was his left eye. The soldiers told me that he had ventured into their lands and had heard the news of their princess’s 100 year sleep from which she could be wakened only by a true love’s kiss. And what does my husband do? He sneaks into her bedroom and kisses her. What’s more, she indeed wakes up!”

“ What!” I spat the tea out of my mouth. “She really woke up?”

“Well yes but apparently the news had been outdated and some prince had already done the needful, and she had just been enjoying a good night’s sleep, as if she just hadn’t had enough!”

I smiled at her. I desperately wanted to meet her husband now. The first hand version of his tale would sell greatly. So I asked her about him.

“You cannot expect him to be here unless you believed in life after death,” she said.

Upon my incredulous questions, she nervously smiled and said, “Oh… well he was …uh embarrassing and you couldn’t expect decent married men to go about ogling other women, let alone kissing them. So I poked his eyes out. If he won’t have eyes for me, he will not see any other woman either.”

“But that doesn’t explain his death.”

“ About that… um… he went off strolling in the dark (not that it would matter to his sightless eyes) and fell off a cliff and died,” she ended flatly.

“ But this does not mean I killed him, right?” She twirled a lock of her beautiful hair and looked at me expectantly. “All the same, you mustn’t tell the authorities. You wouldn’t want to ruin the last few years of my life, would you?”

I looked at her awhile, ruminating over the numerous times she had turned her husband out of the house and how he had lost his life to her. If this didn’t work with the public, I do not know what else will. “No,” I replied. “The authorities won’t hear about it but only if you lend me your story.” I looked at the troubled face of that much hyped about lady and added, “The more uncomfortable parts will be left out, of course.”

And so, I saved my job and wrote a marvellous article which pushed me up the ladder to fame and fortune. Rapunzel got to keep her secrets until her death a few days back which provided me an opportunity to relate the few interesting titbits which I had discreetly left out earlier, hence trending more than our beloved heroine. And the old lady has also left in me a permanent impression of the nature of wives chosen in a hurry.

April Greetings!

Happy April! Has spring come to everyone? We are very green and have had some fun (and scary) storms. So it’s one in the morning here in Georgia. Why am I up late? Because there is a Camp NaNoWriMo going on, and I am determined to write at least a little every day, even if it’s just a couple hundred words. Mez is also joining me at camp, so wish us luck!

Fortunately for us, we held a Fairy Tale Competition last month, and to help us out with the blog, we will be posting our top four reimagined fairy tales each Monday, and a quick how we are doing on Friday. Thanks to everyone who participated!! So here is out first one, a reimagining of Goldilocks by Alex Thaxton!

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Goldilocks: The Untold Story

Re-imagined by: Alex Thaxton

    Once upon a time, in a land very far away, there lived a young girl with beautiful golden hair… Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  I’m sure you have, in some way or another, but I’m not here to tell you that she was eaten when the bears suddenly came home to find her snoring in one of their beds, or to tell you that she lived happily ever after; this is the real story.

You see, Goldilocks (for that was the name of the young girl) was my best friend.  We did everything together—rode our ponies, went to school, window shopped in our little village, and went on walks through the woods.  It was on one of these such walks that the incident occurred.

While humming and skipping along, we came across a house in the woods which we had never happened upon before.  Our parents had taught us not to speak to strangers, but they had also always encouraged us to be polite, so we decided we should try to say hello to the inhabitants.  After walking all the way around the house, we still couldn’t find anyone nearby.  I tried to convince Goldilocks that we should be on our way, but she wouldn’t listen.  She always was a stubborn girl.

Goldilocks found a door that was unlocked, yelled “Hello!” as she opened it, and crept inside.  I followed, hesitantly looking over my shoulder the whole time.

“Goldi,” I whispered, “we really shouldn’t be in here.”

“Why are you whispering?  There’s no one home.  Let’s just explore the place!  Look over here…there are three different-sized chairs.  That seems strange—so mismatched…” she muttered as she marched herself right over to the largest of the chairs.  “Here, give me a boost.”

“We really should go, but I’ll do just this one thing for you, and then I’m going home—with or without you.”

I gave her a boost into the giant chair.  It was large enough for her to lay down without any of her body hanging off of it.  She stood on the edge of it and looked down at me, pouting.

“I think you should stay.  We could both fit up here.  Come on, take my hand,” she said as she knelt down and stretched out her hand.”

“Fiiiiiine.  But then I’m going home.”  I had to climb the leg of the chair as though it were a small-ish tree until I could reach her hand.  She helped me the rest of the way up.  “Wow, this is an even bigger chair than I thought.”

“See!  It’s so fun.  But I also want a chair that’s not so hard to get into.  Let’s climb down, then try the medium-sized chair.”

“Ok…but I still think that one will be too big.  You try that one, and I’ll try the smaller one.  And then, for real, I’m going home.”

“Ha ha, seems like I’ve heard that before,” she said with a smirk.

She hoisted herself into the medium-sized chair, and I sat in the little one with ease.  “This one is just right,” I said.  “Maybe a little bit too wide for me, but at least I didn’t have to climb into it!”

“Let me try it!”

No sooner had Goldi sat in the smallest chair, than she spotted a table with bowls on it.  One of them was steaming.

“Ooooooo I wonder what that is!”

“Goldi, don’t even think about it!  You’ll barely be able to reach the table anyway.”

Unfortunately, I think she took those last words as a challenge.  She clamored into one of the chairs at the table, and up onto the table itself—that was the only way she was able to reach the bowls.

“Mmmm, it looks like porridge.  I love porridge…especially after all the climbing I’ve just done.”  The steaming bowl was, of course, too hot for her to try.  The second bowl she came to had apparently been sitting out for a while.  She dipped her finger into it, pulled out a glob of porridge, and tasted it.  “Well, it’s tasty, almost like they added cinnamon to it, just like I always do…but this one is cold.”

“Goldi, get down here now, and let’s go.  Please!”

“Hold your horses!  There’s one more bowl up here, and I’m hungry.  I just want to try it, then we can leave.”

She moved to the next bowl.  Just as she had done with the previous bowl, she dunked her finger into this one, pulled it out, and tasted the porridge.  “Oh, this one is just right!  And it tastes like cinnamon too!”  To my disgust, Goldi began to use her entire hand to eat the porridge.  She started off slowly, but then a sort of frenzy took over, and she was nearly shoveling it in, until the whole bowl was empty—at which point, she licked the bowl clean, then licked what was left of the porridge off of her hands and arms.

“Well that was one of the most horrid displays I’ve ever seen,” I said.

“Stop trying to be such a grown-up.”  Goldi then climbed back down onto a chair, and down to the floor.  Then, in spite of my objections, she seemed to sort of float towards the back of the house—away from the door we came through.  I tried to grab her arm and pull her back towards the door, but she didn’t even seem to feel it.  She had suddenly grown very strong…and if I remember correctly, her arm felt bigger than normal.

“Leave me alone,” she grumbled (or was it more of a growl?) at me.  “I’m going to take a nap, and I don’t care what you say.  Go home.  I’ll be fine.”

She entered a room with three different beds in it—one giant, one just a little too big, and one that seemed like it was somewhere in between.  With the hand that I wasn’t pulling, she felt each bed, but settled for the smallest of the three.  The first was much too soft, the second was too hard, but the third was, apparently, just right.  I tugged on her arm one more time as hard as I could, but to no avail.  I didn’t know what to do.  I knew our parents would be looking for us soon, and who knew when the owners of the house would return…but as my brain fired off different scenarios, something started to happen.  The golden hair that she was known for seemed to be growing in soft curls on her face, neck, and arms (at least, that was all that I could see since she was under a blanket).  It stopped growing once it reached about two inches thick, but the only “normal” thing that was still visible were Goldi’s eyes.

Then, her eyes started to change too.  They grew farther apart, and became more round.  I was slowly backing away, out of the room, when I noticed that she was growing ears—and not human ones.  These were round and fuzzy, and more on top of her head than human ears.

Snap!  I heard a twig break outside the window.  “Oh no, they must be back!  What do I do now?”  I barely had time to recognize that I had just spoken aloud to myself, when Goldi’s hands shifted on top of the blanket.  Only, they weren’t Goldi’s hands anymore.  They were the hands (well, the paws) of a bear!

It was all I could do not to scream.  I knew then that the house must’ve belonged to bears, and that there had to have been something strange in the porridge that Goldi ate.  I heard the front door creak open, and voices coming through—one very low and gruff, one that kind of sounded like honey (if honey could make a sound), and the third was somewhere in between.  I hid under the bed that my friend was sleeping on.  I couldn’t just leave her there—I had to make sure she would be okay.

I heard some grumbling near the table about porridge being eaten, and I heard them shuffling and clomping toward the bedroom.  They took in the scene of Goldi lying in the bed, and I heard them mutter “not another one.”

I peeked my head out from under the bed.  “Umm, excuse me,” I said nervously.  “My friend and I wandered in here, and she ate a whole bowl of porridge, even though I tried to stop her, and then, she, umm, turned into a bear?  I don’t know what to do.  Please don’t be mad.”

The giant Papa Bear turned and stomped out of the room.  The Mama Bear came toward the bed.  In her honey-like voice, she began to tell me a sad story about how they, too, used to be humans.  An evil witch had played a trick on them and given them some cinnamon to use in their favorite meal: porridge.  Years ago, they used it, and the same thing happened to them as happened to Goldilocks.  She explained that the only reason they still used the cinnamon was that it tasted so good, and that they assumed they were the only ones who would be eating it, so it wasn’t doing anyone any harm.  She promised they would look after my friend, if I would promise to one day catch the evil witch and bring her to justice.  Mama Bear knew that no one would listen to a family of bears.  BUT, Mama Bear did tell me that I shouldn’t tell the real story until the witch was finally caught, or she might come after me.

So I came up with the lie to tell Goldilocks’ parents—that she was eaten by bears in the woods, and that I barely escaped with my life.  Now, however, after years of searching and spreading that lie, I am able to come clean.  I am happy to report that the evil witch was indeed found, put to trial, and condemned to a life sentence of scrubbing out bowls of old porridge.

And she did not live happily ever after.

Fairytale Forests: where adventures wait

In case you missed it, last week Bri outlined the “blueprint” of a fairy tale, two of the most important ingredients being, of course, the hero and the villain. But there’s another more subtle character in many fairy tales that plays an equally important part:

The Forest

hansel-and-gretel-nielsenForests and fairy tales go together like tea and scones. Folk have been mythologising the Forest since trees came into fashion! Ancient, mossy trunks, bluebell patches and burbling brooks, tangled briar patches and shadowy caves… the perfect backdrop for a tale of magic and adventure. But the Forest acts as more than just a backdrop to the tale’s action; it’s often what sets story in motion. The Forest is home to fairies as well as monsters. Home to the magic, the danger and the adventure that our hero must face. It is in the red riding hoodForest that Little Red Riding Hood meets the Big Bad Wolf, where Hansel and Gretel are lured into a trap by a witch’s gingerbread cottage, where Belle is pursued by hungry wolves only to be rescued by the Beast.

Forests have been inspiring storytellers through the ages, from the ancient Greek to Tolkien. The Brothers Grimm were particularly inspired by the dark, spooky Forests of their native Germany. The opposite of the town, the Forest was the place where the hero could escape ordinary life and enter a world of otherworldly beauty. Of course one was bound to meet with dangers: conniving hungry wolves, evil sorcery, you name it!

Just imagine some of your favourite fairy tales without the Forest? What if Red Riding Hood visited her grandmother in a beach condo? Or Hansel and Gretel got lost in a shopping mall? What if the witch hid Rapunzel in the top story of a metropolitan high rise?

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These make for interesting retellings, but certainly no other setting carries with it the deep magic and ancient mystery of the Forest. Anyone may lurk just behind the next tree; anything may happen if you walk just that little bit further in…  The Forest is a world of endless possibilities.

Need inspiration for your own Fairytale? Go for a walk in the Woods!

Brimming with ever-changing sights, sounds, smells and textures, the Forest is a storyteller’s treasure chest! If you want to write your own fairytales, I recommend a regular diet of forests. Get to know the trees, observe life under the leaves or up in the branches. Forage for forest treasures, and then write a short fairytale based on those object… what magic might an acorn possess? Who might live in that nook between that tree’s roots? You get the idea! Have fun, and don’t forget… the best ingredients for a fairytale adventure are magic + danger. No better place to find them both than in the Forest!

*REMINDER: Still SEVEN days left to take part in our Fairytale Retelling Competition! Click HERE for details.

 

Maybe you could get some inspiration from the Forest… or you could always tell the metropolitan version of Rapunzel! 😉

What’s your favourite foresty fairytale?

 

 

Fairytale Blueprints

Fairytales are special. We all know that, the way they endure through the years, capture our imaginations, and inspire authors to put their own spin on them.

They also serve as a great blueprint for us writers. Though they differ story to story, many of them have similar elements that can offer us writers guidelines in our own stories. For simplicity sake, I’m going with the most known versions of the tales, and I’m just pulling some generalities. Here we go!

The Hero

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Kind – It doesn’t sound like much, but almost always the heroes of fairytales are kind people, usually surrounded by not-so-kind people to make their kindness shine even more. Now, I’m not saying our main characters need to be sweet, cheerful, singing princesses, but there does have to be something the readers will like about them. There has to be some reason for us, as readers, to want the hero to succeed and not want them to jump in the nearest volcano. Almost always, when I put a book down, it’s because I don’t like the main character.

Brave – Fairytale heroes are almost always brave. No one wants to read about a wimp who does nothing. They can be scared, shaking in their glass slippers, but heroes have to keep moving despite the fear. It took a lot of guts for Cinderella to step into that ballroom all on her own, or for Snow White to flee into a forest she had no skills to survive in. Our heroes have to move, respond to what is going on around them. Belle could have let the Beast have her father, but she took his place. And we love her for it!

The Villain

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The villains in fairytales are strong, stronger than the heroes. Snow White was against a queen who used black magic. Cinderella had a stepmother who had complete control over her. Giants, witches, evil queens, tyrannical kings, and, of course, Gaston, the narcissistic chauvinist we all love to hate. Villains need to be strong, whether they are human, forces of nature, or whatever you can come up with! The hero should have to struggle to overcome the villain. There should be no chance in a normal world the hero can take on the villain.

The Supportside (2)

 

Snow White had seven dwarves, Cinderella had a fairy godmother and some mice, Mulan had Mushu. Witty, funny, interesting side characters who support the heroes and give them aid when they need it. Good support characters can really make a story and also provide handy ways to keep things interesting. Heroes can argue with their sidekicks (Eugene and Maximus from Tanlged), get into trouble because of them (Mulan and Mushu), or use them as sounding boards (Sherlock and Watson).

The Conflict

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Something has to happen for a story to form. A ball is announced, a queen’s jealousy boils over, a prince is turned into a frog. Something, good or bad, has to change in your heroes life, and that is when the story begins. If war had not come to China, Mulan would never have joined the army. Many fairytales simply have the hero embarking on a journey , usually to find a treasure. Childless couples trying to have children or getting a child and things not turning out right is also very popular. The point is change.

The End

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Satisfying. That is the biggest thing I look for in the end of any story. Fairytales almost always end with a marriage and the villain suffering a suitable fate…sometimes involving nails and a barrel as in the Goose Girl story. And if it’s Disney, a girl in a beautiful dress. Stories need to wrap up, tie off all the loose ends, leave a resounding feeling. Villains get their comeuppance, heroes get their happiness. That seems to be a little more up in the air nowadays; for some strange reason some people like unhappy endings and sometimes villains get off scot-free, but even then, the best books leave you satisfied that everything ended the way it had to end. Tie a bow on it, it’s done!

So there you go, my take on how fairytales can show us how to write! And three and half days until Beauty and the Beast comes out. CAN’T WAIT!!!

What Are Fairy Tales Made of?

When you hear the word Fairytale, what images immediately infuse your mind?

**(By the way, that’s a genuine question- we really do want to know, so please leave us a comment!)

For many folks, the word Fairytale will conjure up an illustration from a favourite childhood bedtime story, long locked away in a mental keepsake treasure chest. Maybe it’s Goldilocks confronted by three disgruntled bears, Little Red Riding Hood facing off a ferocious wolf, or Ariel singing on a rock in a mist of ocean spray.

The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney have all contributed to our notions & mental images of fairytales, whether or not we can put our finger on just what makes a Fairy Tale… well, a fairytale.

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So what is it that all these stories have in common. What makes them a patch in the vast fabric of Faerie? 

A Fairytale is impossible to define academically. Even one of the greatest Masters of Fairy Stories in the English language, George MacDonald, admitted in his “The Fantastic Imagination,”

Were I begged to… describe the Fairytale, or define what it is, I would make answer that I would as soon describe the abstract human face… a fairytale is just a fairytale, as a face is just a face.

If MacDonald couldn’t describe it, I’m sure as anything not going to try! Perhaps it’s easier to say what a Fairytale isn’t. In his essay “On Fairy Stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien clarifies that,

Fairy stories are not in normal English usage about fairies or elves, but stories about Fairy, that is Faerie, the realm of state in which fairies have their being.

Of course by “fairies,” Tolkien doesn’t mean tiny wee, winged folk with flower-pettle tutus and bonnets. Did you know, that picture of fairies didn’t come around until the Victorian period? And that’s really quite recent in the long history of Faerie.

Far from being being a bunch of Tinkerbells, the residents of Faerie include King Arthur, Robin Hood, and many other larger-than-life heroes and heroins. The borders of Faerie stretch far away, and long ago… across time and space. And the laws of Faerie, though formidable when broken, are not the same as our laws – man can speak to beasts, magic enchantments can transform a prince into a toad, or a servant into a princess! And, for those who adhere to the laws of that magical realm, there awaits justice, triumph over evil, a Happy Ending. But be warned! For those who dare to break its laws, it is a Perilous Realm.

So there’s a hint of the ingredients in this Fairytale Soup we’ve all tasted, and all recognise even if we can’t describe it.

But where do fairytales come from?

The fairytales we know and love have their roots in many different cultures: French, German, Celtic, Nordic, Russian… the list goes on.  It would seem the Realm of Faerie dates back further than any of our modern cultures, a sort of common ancestry that knits us all together. As Tolkien points out,

The history of fairy stories is probably more complex that the physical history of the human race, and as complex as the history of the human language. All three things: independent invention, inheritance, and diffusion, have evidently played their part in producing the intricate web of Story. It is now beyond all skill but that of the elves to unravel it.

It’s no wonder we love fairy tales so much! It’s as if they’re in our blood; part of what makes us human. This “Web of Story” connects us across age gaps, cultures, even time periods! Fairytales remind us that we were made for more than the mundane: we were made for the High Romance, the heroic deed, the unexpected & hard-earned Happy Ending. Long live the Fairytale!

What pictures come to mind when you hear the word “fairytale”?
Which fairytale is your all-time favourite?
Don’t forget to enter our Fairytale Retelling Competition happening this month!

Announcing Fairytale Month + Competition

Have you seen them? The first tentative snowdrops lifting their sleepy heads… the first golden daffodils trumpeting out the arrival of Spring! Soon drab, grey England where I live will transform into a Faery Realm of apple blossoms, forsythia hedges and cool, green forests… the perfect setting for fairy revelries!

So Keep your eyes peeled for sprites, leprechauns and the like, and join us here at Brewhaha Book Café as we celebrate our favourite Fairytales all March long!

From the Brothers Grimm to Walt Disney, from Irish Folklore to German old-wives tales, we’ll be exploring the depths and heights of the Realm of Faery… including a look at fairytale retellings through the ages. 

And now for the creme: We are inviting YOU, fellow fairytale enthusiasts, to take part in a month-long competition of fairytale retelling!

Here’s how to take part.

  • Pick your favourite fairytale and give it a twist; retell it as it’s never been told before! Maybe that means setting it in modern day, or telling the story from a different character’s point of view, or imagining what might have happened if… Sky’s the limit here! 
  • Email your submission (no strict word limit, but maybe aim for 1,000 words or fewer) to us at sippitsisters@gmail.com along with your name & any other tidbits about yourself you’d like to share.
  • Bri & I will announce the Winner & Runner Up on 31 March + feature the retellings on the blog!

We can’t wait to read your fairy-retellings! Now go take a walk in a magic wood, pull out your old Disney collection or sit down for an hour with Hans Christian Anderson… whichever portal takes you to the Realm of Faery. We look forward to journeying there with you this month!

Book Review: The Wolf Wilder (Katherine Rundell)

Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there was a dark and stormy girl …”

From that captivating first line, Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder (published by Bloomsbury) blends the fabric of old-favourite fairytales with the unexpected.

The “dark and stormy girl” – Feo – lives with her wolf-wilding mother Marina and three wolf “siblings” in a remote, snowy cabin not too far from St Petersburg, Russia. Though their lives are quiet, private and essentially wild, Feo’s happy family fall under the watch of the Tsar’s Imperial Army, and in particular one General Rakov who’s reputation for ruthlessness has left the nation trembling and helpless to fight back.

But not all the Imperial Army are bad. Feo accidentally befriends Ilya, a young soldier who would rather dance for the Imperial Ballet than fight for Rakov. He is won over by the wolves, and, eventually, Feo is won over by him.

When Rakov attacks Feo’s world, arresting her mother and burning her home, Feo and Ilya along with her wolf pack set out for St Petersburg to set Marina free. Extreme snow, cold and ice are the least of Feo’s struggles as she battles to save her mother. Loss, heart-ache and the relentless evil of Rakov threaten to discourage her from her course.

But then help comes from unexpected places. When Feo’s path crosses that of a young revolutionary a village full of fierce children ready to follow her lead, Feo’s lone quest grows into the most extraordinary revolution, and one Rakov never saw coming: a revolution of of children turned wild. The pack is coming…

I thoroughly enjoyed Katherine Rundell’s characterisations in The Wolf Wilder. Feo is a strong and admirable character, but with believable weaknesses and by no means able to succeed without the help of friends. And I especially loved her profound relationship with the wolves. This book will appeal to lovers of adventures with a dark and dangerous side, the kind that heroes are born out of, as well as lovers of snow and far-off lands. Rundell’s stories always have a classic feel about them, yet her voice is unique, keeping her them fresh and exciting.

And as you’ll see from the photo, this book is Hugo approved. *He thinks he’s a wolf… shhhh!

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Adventure

Recommended Tea: Russian tea (of course) with plenty of sugar

 

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