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Ever-Changing Fairy Tales – in Enchanted Conversation!

My latest article on Enchanted Conversation!

Do fairy tales always remain the same or do they change to suit each generation?

EverChangingFairyTales-GAINES-CoverABergloff

Some people have been very upset recently about the results of a survey that found that parents are changing fairy tales in order to make them more gentle tales for their children. Changing these classic tales, many an argument goes, is nothing but political correctness run rampant.

Yet fairy tales have always been retold, embellished, and otherwise changed to suit the mores and preferences of the current generation. Our current standards of child-rearing, begun with and passed down from the Victorians, is that children should be coddled and protected. What should we expect but that it should include the stories we tuck little ones into bed with? And why not? They’re small and it’s definitely better than the workhouses of yore! However, very few children, even among those parents and grandparents now bemoaning the loss of the “good old days,” ever actually heard the original versions of fairy tales while being put down to bed as tots to begin with.

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Blog

John Soldier – read by my dad!

In honor of Father’s Day, here is my short story, John Soldier, read by my narrator and voice-actor father, Stuart Appleton!

Writing

Someone Else’s Story

My latest short story appears in Enchanted Conversation this week!

SomeoneElsesStory-GAINES-CoverABergloff

Sometimes she woke and didn’t know where she was, stuck in that strange space between dreaming and the rest of her life. The man beside her, wrapped in the rumpled sheets, would seem a stranger, and she would try to piece together just how she had ended up here and who he was. She would either fall back asleep, or struggle to wakefulness, and the familiar would settle over her again.

Day to day passed with little change, but she found she was more or less content. Her home was modest, but clean and orderly. The garden plot was neat, and the animals well cared for. She had a good life. In the distance, on a clear day, she could sometimes see the parapets of the castle, the colored flags unfurled in the wind on their narrow stilts. Sometimes, unaccountably, the sight of them would leave her feeling melancholy, and she would sit inside at her spinning wheel, instead of outside enjoying the good weather.

Strange sensations, like memory, would sometimes come over her when she sat spinning. A room, empty, but for a wheel, and piles of flax. A door barred, walls bare, and only a narrow window, high up, so she could see nothing through it but a sliver of blue sky. The skin of her hands was dry from working the fibrous material. And she despaired of escape.

The man, her husband, knew about nature and humors and the elements that made the world. It was a point of pride for him, but she only felt disgust at the work. Confused, she called it piety. There were some things that it was not for man to know, that were not to be meddled with, she reasoned. It brought in coin, though. They were not wealthy, but they had enough. He reminded her of this, to know her place, that she was no grander than he, and that his work had saved her life.

Yes, that. She did not remember that. Or rather she did, but it was more like a story she had been told than something she truly recalled. Pricking her finger, the infection that followed, a delirious fever, the herbal remedies that cured her. It was all so long ago now. The skin opened up, there must have been blood, and she imagined the long, narrow spindle, stretching up like a stilt overhead as she collapsed to the floor, her dress rumpled beneath her. Yes, that must be what happened. Who had found her? Her father? No, he was long gone. Her mother? Her mother had sent her away… Something nagged at her. Her mother had sent her away. She felt anger at this, mingled with despair.

 

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Blog · Writing

Ghost Stories and their place in Fairy Tales

My latest article in Enchanted Conversation explores ghost stories as a part of the genre!

GhostStories-GAINES-ArtABergloff

I was in a car with my family in Thailand, and to pass the time, asked my sister in law if she knew any Thai fairy tales or folk tales. No, she said, there aren’t any Thai fairy tales. My brother in law chimed in, “Thailand could use some nice happy stories with fairies and happy endings.”

No folk tales? Of course I didn’t believe them.

“We have a lot of ghost stories,” my sister in law said, and I asked her to tell us one.

I spend so much time in these stories and thinking about the shape and content of traditional tales and the stories of the marvelous that we tend to refer to as a body of folklore, or fairy tales, that I forget and am surprised when people still think of them as Disneyfied children’s stories, where the girls are always beautiful and the princes are always charming. Of course, much has already been said to turn this notion on its head, and any cursory perusal of “original” fairy tales will quickly correct that perspective.

Ghosts have always played their role in fairy tales, from the unloved child who returns as a bird to claim justice for their murder, to Cinderella and Vasylissa’s mothers, who guide and protect their orphaned daughters, as godmother, tree, or doll. Dead mothers, a frequent fact of medieval life, are a common thread through fairy tales, and it isn’t a far stretch to imagine their influence in the magical assistance given to their children in other stories as well, even when it isn’t spelled out as such. The selkie, for example, is known to return, secretly and unseen, to take care of her children after she regains her skin and returns to the sea.

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Blog

Ever-Changing Fairy Tales

Cinderella

Some people have been very upset recently about the results of a survey that found that parents are changing fairy tales in order to make them more gentle tales for their children. Changing these classic tales, many an argument goes, is nothing but political correctness run rampant.

Yet fairy tales have always been retold, embellished, and otherwise changed to suit the mores and preferences of the current generation. Our current standards of child-rearing, begun with and passed down from the Victorians, is that children should be coddled and protected. What should we expect but that it should include the stories we tuck little ones into bed with? And why not? They’re small and it’s definitely better than the workhouses of yore! However, very few children, even among those parents and grandparents now bemoaning the loss of the “good old days,” ever actually heard the original versions of fairy tales while being put down to bed as tots to begin with.

Red Riding Hood ranked as the tale most often changed for younger ears. The Perrault version of Red Riding Hood, one of the oldest written versions, was in fact drafted as a warning against young women engaging in sexual activity in the age of Louis XIV’s notoriously libertinous court. Sure you don’t want to edit that a little bit before sharing it with a youngster?

Fairy tales were never initially intended as stories for children, let alone bedtime stories to fall asleep to. Fairy tales were not meant as moral injunctions to “scare kids straight,” as it were, but were often primarily stories women would tell each other to pass the time of spinning and weaving – this is why we talk about “spinning” a tale, “weaving” a good story, or telling a “yarn.” That’s why so many of these old stories feature young women in unlikely situations, and resolve with reinforcing culturally prescribed behaviors for wifehood and motherhood.

Perhaps parents are too cautious. Crime statistics show that we’re living in one of the safest times to grow up in the developed world, yet parents are literally charged with child endangerment for leaving their child to play unsupervised in the park or walk to and from home – things many of us wiled away many hours doing.

We also may very well underestimate what children, even young children, are able to handle. I re-watch movies I saw as a young child and thought nothing of at the time, and now am horrified by the degree of loss, violence, threat, and general darkness that permeates even old Disney standards. This gives me pause to reevaluate my perspective, because as a child, I wasn’t upset by it.

But changing stories to suit current need and preference is nothing new. The old versions of stories are not being done away with, and are still tucked in libraries, bookstores, or are just a query away on the internet for curious young readers to explore. Parents are doing their best in a time when they themselves face considerable real world uncertainty and insecurity. If that means giving Sleeping Beauty consent in that wake-up kiss rather than diving into #MeToo with their five-year-old, I say good job, parents, of claiming your place in the long parade of oral tradition!

But those parents themselves might benefit from digging into their own favorite remembered stories to gain inspiration, hope, and courage from the heroes that reside and triumph in the trying and uncertain circumstances there.

Writing

Talia’s Queen

Talias Queen_Artemisia_Gentileschi,_Dame_assise_de_trois-quarts
Artemisia Gentileschi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
My lord, king and husband,

Though you have put me aside and confined me to these estates, know that I humbly accept your wisdom and obey your decrees in these, as in all matters. I pray only for your Majesty’s health and happiness, and hope that you may yet remember the happiness we shared together so recently. The love I bear you has never waned nor shall. In my clumsy seeking to know more of the young woman brought so recently to court, I wished only to please you, that I might love as you do and extend every warmth and welcome of the good charity that your Highness and your kingdom have always been known for, and in my meager ability, to extend that hospitality of your Grace’s court to all your favored guests.

I see that in your wisdom you have separated me now for this time, though in my smallness of mind I am unable to comprehend your noble thoughts. I mean neither to rebuke nor question your rights, and accept humbly your Grace’s command, but I beg you to educate me in where I have erred. I await your letter with eagerness and affection, and remain your most loyal and loving servant.

The Queen

 

Most noble lord, my beloved husband and king,

I have heard strange reports of the young woman who so recently has joined the court. I do not say that I believe them nor wish to repeat any slander, but only to faithfully report to you and seek your good counsel in the matter.

It has been told to me that in your most recent and successful campaign your company came upon an abandoned tower, and in that tower found an entire court of lords and ladies at table, all in the deepest sleep, covered in dust, and cobwebbed. It has been said, that upon climbing to the top of that tower, one among your number did chance to find a little room, locked, and on opening the door, found a most beautiful young woman, also asleep. This man – it was said, and I seek your instruction on what I must make of these matters – this man was taken by the woman’s beauty and immediately fell upon her in the raptures of his great affection. He was as a man bewitched. No, I forget myself, my dear husband, and know that you will forgive me my feminine weakness. There was no witchcraft nor any mention of it. No, it was told me, though, that the man seemed not himself, and in a daze, and as if he too might slip into that deep slumber if allowed to remain in that tower, and so his companions withdrew and brought him out again.

It was said these occurrences were a year and more ago, as I said, in your last campaign. I humbly beg your advice and guidance in this matter. I ask also that you would have my furs and heavy cloak sent, as the cold is beginning to set in here, though I am ready at your soonest pleasure to return to court, and to your side, where it remains my fondest wish to be. Until then, I remain your most obedient servant.

The Queen

 

My dearest lord and king,

I beg you to remember the friendship of our earlier days, and to recall the love you once bore me, that I continue unceasingly to have for you. You raised me from such lowly estate and laid upon me such great honors as to grant me titles and lands of my own – unsought and unrequested – and to call me lady and to name me queen, and most precious to me, give me the title of your most beloved wife. If ever you have loved the name of your forlorn and sorrowful wife, if ever any humble word or deed of mine has brought you any joy or bestowed any mirth to your noble personage, I beg you now to consider these ugly and vicious rumors in light of that friendship we so recently shared.

Any child of your Grace, even though it be not my own, is precious to me for that noble and beloved parentage. Yet I have not seen the young woman at all these long months of my seclusion, and certainly never have sought any harm or injury to her children. It pains me, I will not lie, to know that her children are also yours. Yet I love them for it, as I love you, and will welcome them at court with all the warmth and affection they are owed as your own when you will have me return, which it is my fondest wish to do.

I know that the tower happened upon by your company had a strangeness about it and I bare you no resentment nor reproach for any happenings on the occasion of battle. But what strangeness has there been here in our own country estates, where we have long walked side by side among our own beloved hills? What strangeness to compel any woman to order a child cooked as meat, as it is so cruelly rumored of me? In your recent absence, may I be judged if I write untruthfully, I never have set foot at court. And though I may have yet some few friends in your company, and though I pray they may remind you of our happier days, they do not write to me. Which I would never desire them to do if it might bring you the least displeasure, as surely their greater duty and friendship are owed to your Grace, whose love and generosity make all our joys complete.

I swear to you that I do not know what has become of the child. I pray for its safe and healthy return to you and to its mother. I pray you remember your faithful and loyal and loving wife, and allow me to return that I may defend myself against the slanderers who have sought to make me odious in your eyes. I pray you put aside the simple desires of the flesh and remember your true companion and friend.

I am ever your most loyal and obedient servant, and your most devoted and loving subject.

The Queen

 

Most noble king and husband, dearest to me of all mankind, my good lord,

You know these things said of me to be despicable lies. You must know the impossibility of such cruelty to be in the nature of one you once held in such affection. Further, you must know the impossibility of my travel from my place here to court and back again, and to undertake such journey unnoticed, and to steal away and murder your young children in secret, and further to conspire to have them served at your table. Your Grace will know the utter impossibility of such an undertaking, even were such not abhorrent to me, and sickening even to write of.

Yet still if I am indeed guilty of such heinous crimes as I have been accused of, let me be brought before the open court and have my guilt laid plain before all. Let the evidence against me be made clear, and my guilt be made known, or let my innocence be proven! Your Majesty will show yourself a just and evenhanded ruler, as I have always known you to be, and either you will see my innocence, and expose those who have slandered the name you have raised up, or my guilt will be established for all to see. I will accept any lawful ruling, only let me stand trial as any faithful and loyal subject might expect. If ever my name has brought you joy, or if you have gained a moment’s comfort from my company, I ask you to grant my humble request.

Only if your heart has been so turned and hardened against me in these long – few though they have been, to me they have been long – months, I pray only that you will not be held to full account for the grievous sin you commit in such cruel usage of your pitiable wife. I am told the young woman seeks my death at the stake. I will not curse the name of Talia even now, for your sake and for the sake of the love we have shared. Only let an archer be brought that my suffering may not be prolonged. On behalf of my household, I seek their wages, and release or good references, as they may prefer.

I await your word, and remain your most faithful, loyal, and obedient wife.

The Queen

 

Read Sun, Moon, and Talia

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Blog · book club · Reading

Happy Women’s Day!

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Photo: Daria Głodowska

March is Women’s History Month, and today is International Women’s Day. This month we will #readmorewomen!

Right now, I’m alternating between Julie Dao’s darkly sparkling fairy tale Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and Martha Hall Kelly’s The Lilac Girls, inspired by true stories of the horrors of Ravensbruck. Both are tales of strong women learning and navigating that strength, and finding their way in a world that seeks to overpower them.

If you’re looking for a shorter read, these are some of my favorite short stories that I’ve discovered in the last few months, all by women!
You can find more great reads at Enchanted Conversation!
Happy 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.
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.

Epiphany of a Swan Wife

Epiphany of a Swan Wife Part II

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Photo: Peter Lewicki

The next segment of Epiphany of a Swan Wife is now live!

Read Part II: Challenges here!

Read Part I: The Owl here!

Epiphany of a Swan Wife · Writing

New Serial – Epiphany of a Swan Wife

swan wife cover
Photo: Rene Bernal

You might notice a new heading across the top of the page!

 

For the next few weeks, I’ll be serializing Epiphany of a Swan Wife. I’ll published the next segment of the story every Wednesday and Saturday between now and Twelfth Night (Epiphany, January 6th) so check back!

Part I: The Owl, is live now!

Thanks for reading!
KAG

 

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.