Reading · Writing

Happy Tell a Fairy Tale Day!

Cinderella

Happy Tell a Fairy Tale Day? While the origins of this holiday are not very clear, any reason to reconnect with our favorite stories and share them with others, is good in my book!

Today is also my birthday! In honor of both, I’m asking you to share one of my stories with one other person.

Find a complete list of my published stories on the blog here. But if you’re not sure where to begin, I’ve got some suggestions for you!

Like the tale of The Pied Piper? Read Hamelintown.

Here’s Snow Fell, my version of Snow White.

In more of an Anderson than a Grimm mood?

Check out my tale inspired by The Steadfast Tin Soldier and Frankenstein, John Soldier; or if you’re more in a listening than reading mood, you can play the audio version here.

Or my take on The Emperor’s New Clothes, Re-covered.

For stories from the perspective of the princess try:

How He Found a Wife, which tells the story of Godfather Death,

Or Moon Rising, a new story of Aladdin.

For a thoroughly American tale, read my take on The Prince and the Pauper, The Complications of Rule.

The Tale of Anchin comes from Japanese fairy tales, and Like a Preyer was inspired by the Mr. Fox story.

Check here for other ways to celebrate!

And be sure to check out Enchanted Conversation for many more stories, interesting articles, and to watch for my forthcoming tale, Travelers’ Sickness, inspired by the Thai myth of the krasue.

Thanks for reading!

Kiyomi

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

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Being Good

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Photo: adriano7492 via Pixabay

I play a lot of D&D, and one of the drivers of the game is each character’s alignment. Whether your character is good or evil, lawful or chaotic, will guide the way you play and can influence the direction of the game. One of the things I love about it is the co-creative world building around a table with my friends, the actions any of us takes makes an impact, and the ways we interact with each other is almost as important as everything else that’s happening in the game.

There are many guidelines about how to define good and evil, lawful and chaotic, in the game world, and they will roughly agree with one another. Some will have suggestions on how to play a character of one alignment or another, but a lot of that is determined by circumstances within a game, and the experiences of a team.

Inevitably when you get a group of players together, the conversation will turn to where real people fall on the alignment scale, which will begin the debate of what makes an act chaotic instead of neutral, and how many actions does it take to define a person, and what really, after all, is evil?

And that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the last year.

I used to say I didn’t aspire to be good, only decent. Good felt like such a thing to strive for, and so subjective. I was good if people were happy with me, but if I made a choice others didn’t like, they were very quick to remove the designation. When I wanted to be a good person, this could hurt me, so I decided I just wanted to be decent. I was more just trying to do the right thing and get my feet under me than to impress anyone with my relative goodness anyway. And it did seem so relative, too – good as compared to whom? Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Llama? Or the guy holding up the convenience store down the street?- and could you really even say such a person was not good, knowing the research on systemic injustice and cycles of poverty? I don’t know. Sure, an act could certainly be bad, but how many bad acts make a bad person? And how many good acts does it take to redeem an evil one?

In the last year, I’ve pondered that, especially as we watched self-identified fascists and Nazis invade a small southern community, as we’ve seen a steady increase in gun violence – 18 only two months into ’18 – and an overall increase in threats and attacks on minority communities. All the while increasingly deranged and disjointed messages come flooding from our leadership. And people in our community will say those aren’t evil people who should be stopped; they may not agree, they’ll say, but people have the rights to… first amendment… second amendment…

What else?

Life? Liberty? Happiness? The self-evident truth of equality to every other person? I think these things are sometimes lost in the shuffle.

In film, we often see an evil character redeemed by a single valiant act, some symbolic and self-sacrificial choice that wipes away all past sins, because we see now that “really” they were just misunderstood, misguided, a poor broken soul who needed more love. The thing is, aren’t we all?

I’m troubled by a lot of what I see these days. I’m troubled by people no longer hiding their racism and other bigotry; by protections put in place to secure the position of the weak being daily eroded; by people literally arguing for the “nice Nazi.” Remember when it went without saying that Nazis were bad guys? I do. That used to be how we would define evil. And yes, it was a word used too freely, so that it’s lost some of it’s sting and some of its weight. Yet when persons in positions of relative power and authority use that privilege to do harm to those in lesser positions, that is evil; and I don’t think any one gracious act can wipe that away. Because like in the game, the actions any of us takes makes an impact, and the ways we interact with each other is almost as important as everything else.

 

 

You can take a quiz to find out your own alignment here.

 

In case you’re wondering, I used to be good. Now it tells me I’m neutral.

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

 

Writing

Like a Preyer

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Danae, Gustav Klimt, Public Domain

The man killed my sister. She was a little thing yet, barely grown. Kit. He chased her down with his dogs, laughing madly, his bloodlust spurring their frenzy. She scrambled into a tree, but there was no escape. I heard her screaming, the gunshot, then silence. Mother was inconsolable, pacing by the door, up the path, calling for Kit, and back again. I didn’t say what I had witnessed, but even then she knew. Still she would pace to the end of the lane with a hope that faded as the days went by. Then she took up such a terrible keening, it frightened me, a sound to summon all the dead and bring worse and more down on us.

I told her not to go by the high manor, always to take the main road, though it was the longer way around. I told her he was a madman, that’s what I’d heard told; with a penchant for red-haired girls like us. I told her girls would go in and never come out, that there had been found heads or feet or other gruesome bits and pieces. I told her the law cares nothing for the likes of us, and a nobleman would never pay for his crimes besides. That’s what holding all those riches means. But our tribe are all sunny coppers and rich autumn reds, and though the high lord would never care to tell one of us from another, he always wanted whichever of us he saw. Still I must have told my warnings too well, for she didn’t believe them, didn’t heed them anyway.

“You worry too much, Vic,” she said, with a flash of teeth and swish of her hips. She was a saucy one, and beautiful, and young. She didn’t understand yet, the way things are, and now she never will.

This is what it means to be a prey animal, to cower in shadow, to take the long way because it’s safer, to hope not to be noticed, to hide your beauty and to swallow your voice. Of course it rankles, it’s as unnatural as it is unjust. But it’s how to survive.

Our mother took pity on me and took me in when I was young, my own mother having also been taken by the man, brutalized and lost to us; and Mother had just lost her own young one, just my age. We needed each other and she fed and cared for me and taught me everything just as if I was her own. I tried to warn my sister. It made her angry.

“Why should we have to live like this? Why should we hide like criminals and cower when he is the monster? Let him hide!”

Mostly it ended with her shouting and running to the woods to burn through her rage. Then she would come home. But that day she must have been in a hurry. She was impatient or distracted or careless. It was a beautiful day. She must have felt safe when the sun caught her red hair. When I heard the bugle and the baying of the hounds, I fought my instinct and ran toward the sound, not away, thinking there would be some way I could save her.

Looking down from the ridge, I saw her pass below. She never looked up, never saw me. She ran for her life, and the dogs were right on her. I tried to follow, tried to keep pace, running along the ridgeline and angling down to try to meet her. I skidded to a stop when I ran into the path of the dogs and scrambled back to hide myself in the brush. This is what it means to be prey. They were so focused on her, they didn’t notice me. I heard her screaming. I heard the gunshot. I told her that he was a madman, and that foxes must be madder still.

 

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Happy Valentines’s Day!

Enchanted Conversation Magazine and its editors would like to wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day with this original tale by Amanda Bergloff, written exclusively for the day. Enjoy!“And what mischief are you up to today, my sweet, my columbine?”Nivall thought the whisper came from inside his own mind, so soft the words were, only…

via A Tale for Valentine’s Day: Tree of Hearts by Amanda Bergloff — Enchanted Conversation Magazine: Folklore, Fairy Tales & Myths

Writing

Save Me

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Albert Lynch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
She felt like she had been here before. The room was like a grand audience chamber, white stone walls and floors. It was burning now. The heat pressed in like a physical force on all sides and she almost staggered in the doorway. But she had to continue forward. Whatever else might happen, the mission came first. The demon came toward her, clawed hand raised for a strike. She raised her bow, aimed, drew back on the bow string. Released. Missed. The creature closed the distance between them and struck, and she fell.

 

She felt like she had been here before. The room was grand, like an audience chamber, white stone. It was burning. The heat pressed in like a force on all sides. She almost stopped at the door, but she had to continue. The mission came first. The demon came toward her. She fired an arrow. Another. Another. The creature took each hit, slowed but still advancing. It raised a clawed hand and struck. She fell.

 

She knew she had been here before, the heat pressing in. The room was white and hot, burning. But she had to continue. The mission was everything. The demon came toward her. She shot it, once, twice, three times. It took the hits and kept advancing. She dropped her bow and drew her blade. It raised a clawed hand and struck. She raised her sword to meet the blow. The demon recoiled and struck again, its claws grazing her shoulder. She could feel the venom weaken her instantly. It struck again, and she fell.

 

She had been here before. It was hot. The demon came toward her. She raised her bow and shot, dropped it, drew her sword. She lunged, meeting the advancing creature with her blade, struck again, landed a hit; again, and she missed. The claws grazed her shoulder, and she felt the venom course through her body. She remembered the flask of antivenom attached at her hip. The creature struck again, and she raised her blade to meet the attack. With a free hand, she grabbed the flask, pulled the cork with her teeth, and drank it down. The potion did its work, and she knew she was restored. The demon swiped a clawed hand at her, and she dodged the attack, struck back. A miss, a hit, a hit, miss, miss, hit, hit, hit. The demon groaned and staggered, clutching its middle, and fell. She felt relieved, victorious, but more than that. This moment was significant.

 

She had been here before. It was hot. The body of a demon lay at her feet. She wanted to sit, to rest, to catch her breath, but felt compelled to race around the room, looking for… she wasn’t sure. There was nothing. She returned to the demon. The body was unimpressive, strange, not quite real, though her heart still raced from the battle that she could not quite remember. The creature had a sword. It was huge, but seemed to shrink as she lifted it so it was the size of her own weapon. Intuitively she understood that this sword had magic, that it was stronger than her own. She dropped her own blade into her backpack, where it disappeared neatly, and she swung the demon sword in arcs, testing its weight. Then she ran across the room to another closed door. The mission continued. Another battle awaited on the other side.

 

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A Brief and Ancient History of Mardi Gras

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Mother Goose, Krewe of Bacchus 2015; Photo: I. Jack Gaines

It is just true that Mardi Gras will be cold. This has been one of the colder winters that I’ve spent in New Orleans, but it seems, without fail, I find myself shivering at my favorite parades each year. The only respite is to press up closer to your fellow parade-goers and jump and dance as the floats go by, and cheer for the krewes to throw you something. The thing that is thrown is always a “bead,” even when it’s not.

This year marks New Orleans’ tricentennial. If you are visiting, please keep your shirt on, and don’t wear beads unless it actually is Carnival season. Parade etiquette says that if the person on the float points to someone, the bead they throw goes to that person, even if you catch it. But if you’re a visitor and really just want that thing to take home and remember your trip by, just tell the person next to you; chances are a local will give it to you, and more, and will tell you where to go for brunch in the morning besides.

Different people will have different ideas about how Mardi Gras got started here and not elsewhere – our Spanish past – and where the colors came from – honoring a Russian prince – and what king cake is about – the three kings visiting the Christ. But Mardi Gras has a much deeper history .

Carnival is supposed to have come from the feasting (carne meaning meat) the leads up to the fast of Lent. But the word actually comes from “carrus navalis” which is related to the words for cart or wagon.

All across early medieval Europe, and even into Mesopotamia, we find histories and evidence of basket rituals and cart processions; and we can still see the descendants of these rituals with the parading of saints through communities, usually on an annual basis.

The basket ritual seems most often to be a cthonic rite associated with the worship of an ancient deity. A young woman would carry a basket on her head, a distaff in one hand, and lead a horse with the other, and would walk from a well or stream or other source of water, through the center of town. This vision of industriousness, representing both the industry of the women in the town and their devotion to the goddess who oversaw the work, would bring blessing to the community. This goddess was associated not only with women’s work, but also with the fertility of the land, and these basket rituals would take place at the end of winter. She is sometimes identified as Diana or Artemis, and sometimes Holle or Perchta, and more recently as Mary, but most often the historic record calls her simply the Great Goddess or the Great Queen.

In time this springtime rite may have evolved from a young woman walking through town, to her being carried in a cart. These cart processions seem to be about carrying the goddess of the old year, and winter, and dead vegetation, away from the community, and bringing the goddess of the new year, and springtime, and new seedlings, into the community. The end of winter cold, and hardship, and the resultant illness and death that comes of not having enough to eat, would have been a tremendous cause for celebration. Seeing an end to the hard times would also allow a community to bring out their remaining stores, knowing there would soon be more.

In some places it seems a person would sit in the cart, and in others it would be a statue or other representation of the divine. The cart of winter would be dragged through and out of town, and burned. The cart of spring would be laden with good things and brought into town, and the bounty shared.

Mardi Gras marks a time of transition from winter to spring, from death to life, and is rightly a time of jubilant feasting and indulgence. It carries “the holidays” well beyond December, and imbues the city with a vitality that comes of celebrating the strength to survive the hard times – and perhaps is what gives this City that Care Forgot its enduring resilience to always rebuild and remake itself with an almost defiant joy in the face of tragedy.

Macurdy, G. (1912). The Origin of a Herodotean Tale in Connection with the Cult of the Spinning Goddess. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 43, 73-80. doi:10.2307/282752
Rudwin, M. (1919). The Origin of the German Carnival Comedy. The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 18(3), 402-454. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27700953