Short Stories, stories, Writing

Poisoned Fruit & Cursed Futures

I recently finished writing a short fiction piece inspired by poisoned apple folklore and legends, the most familiar being the story “Little Snow-White” published by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in Children’s’ and Household Tales (commonly known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales) between 1812-1814 . There are, of course, countless folklore and folktales surrounding betrayals and murder often delivered through gifting a consumable item. The apple or similar fruit in folklore is often connected with a betrayal which can be symbolised by a literal poisoned fruit, a cursed future and sometimes, by both. In my short fiction piece, I explored this concept through the idea of dynasty, a kingdom dependent on a ruling dynasty who renew their pledge to withhold their birthright, the use of magic except by the Queen in defence of the kingdom. As with many folktales, civil unrest leads to the Queen’s betrayal, in my short fiction, by her own sister where betrayal sets in motion a greater chain of reactions. I wanted to explore the role of the Queen, in seeking retribution for her betrayal how extensive a curse might be when her vengeance is levelled against her sister’s reign.

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Uprooted

Uprooted by US author Naomi Novik explores the author’s polish heritage through vibrant folklore in this Fantasy novel.
Although Uprooted began like many fairytale retellings with a naive village girl from a rural village, who is taken by the Dragon and trapped in a tower. This is the basic synopsis of Uprooted but the story is significantly more than that. The villages of the valley ordinarily offer an exceptional young woman from their villages as tribute to the Dragon, who is actually a wizard, and the tower is his stronghold.
In Uprooted, Agnieszka is unexpectedly taken by the Dragon when she is chosen instead of her friend Kasia, the likely candidate. But Agnieszka unknowingly possesses a unique magic of her own, the type and depth which even the Dragon, the strongest wizard in the realm finds difficult to understand. As Agnieszka begins to learn how to handle her magic, she begins to find Sarkin (the Dragon) not as remote or indifferent as she once thought. Along with this, Agnieszka begins to understand how the valley she grew up in, lies within a shadow of a much larger and darker force than Sarkin. The burden of Sarkin’s position was more than life in the tower, standing sentinel against the real enemy, the Wood. For as the Wood grows closer to the capital city, a corruption leeching from it that destroys everything it touches, consuming the humanity to leaving only darkness and rage behind in a humanoid husk. Sarkin and Agnieszka soon find themselves united in a battle to save their country and the heirs to the throne, both from their own family and the Wood. Although Agnieszka‘s own magic is very strong, she is untrained and her power so unfamiliar to the other wizards that it is baffling to all but Sarkin who manages to work with her, blending her wilder magic sourced from the wandering wood-witch, Baba-Yaga, with his own, organised formulas. In the end, Agnieszka is able to find ways to understand that how the corruption of the Wood spreads from a single source, but her and Sarkin must choose to purge or destroy the source of corruption if they hope to vanquish the Wood and free the country from its grasp.
Uprooted was a rich and wonderful tale of magic and transformation. I enjoyed the detailed folklore and historical depth to the novel which made the characters both unique and fitting for the style of a fairytale retelling. A highly recommended read!

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The Bee and the Orange Tree

I read The Bee and the Orange Tree by Australian author Melissa Ashley. A wonderful historical fiction set during the early stages of the French Revolution but focused on the female literary circles surrounding Baroness Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy established as an author in her own right after successful publication career of several novels and fairytale collections. The darker, more disturbing undertone throughout the novel is that of female oppression during the reign of the French King Louis XIV, where the fairytales of young heroes and heroines overcoming impossible odds is a glittering hope for the oppressed women and subjugated peasants of France.

The Bee and the Orange Tree follows Angelina, Marie Catherine’s daughter, raised in a convent with barely any contact with her mother or father. Angelina is recalled from her only known world of the convent, to aid her ageing mother as an assistant. Soon, Angelina finds herself among the literary salons of Paris, attended by some of the most talented writers and poets but also many wealthy or noble families. Angelina is disheartened to discover the popularization of the craft and art her mother worked hard to establish herself and which Angelina greatly enjoys. Angelina is quickly confined by the existence of a respectable woman, suddenly missing the relative freedom of the convent especially as Marie Catherine has not written a single word after suffering an unusual form of writers block.

At one literary circle, Angelina is introduced to her mother’s protege, a young talented writer named Alphonse. Although unsure of her feelings toward Alphonse, Angelina is soon aware that Alphonse’s attempts to court her are only aimed at gaining Marie Catherine as a potential benefactor. This revelation hardens Angelina’s mistrust of Parisian society, which only deepens further when Marie Catherine’s good friend, Nicola Tiquet is accused of adultery and attempted murder. The subsequent trial of Nicola Tiquet, an independently wealthy and powerful woman without the need of a husband to support herself, becomes a focal point for Angelina’s realization of the oppressive nature of French society and the discrimination against women and any of unequal status. Against this is the greater landscape of the early French Revolution and the the determination of the powerful to hold onto power. Throughout these dramatic social challenges, Angelina learns disheartening truths about both her parents, discovering both are willing to sacrifice for their own aims and Angelina soon finds she has more in common with Alphonse than she imagined.

The Bee and the Orange Tree was an engrossing, complex historical fiction where the stories of each of the characters were as much the focus as the development of the fairytale literature and women’s rights in France during the eighteenth century. A wonderful read and highly recommended!

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South of the Sun winners!

Australian Fairy Tale Society

At last!

The editorial committee putting together the AFTS anthology “South of the Sun” have finally chosen their winners. It was a truly difficult job – we were inundated with talented submissions and we’ve spent many a long hour short-listing, re-short-listing, arguing and finally agreeing on the following. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their entries.

Congratulations to everyone who’s on the list – and commiserations to those who didn’t make it.

·Anezka Sero ̶The Snowgum Maiden

·Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson ̶Jack, the Beanstalk and the NBN

·Yvette Ladzinski ̶The Lonely Mosque

·Melissa Min Harvey ̶The Wild Moon Call

·Clare Testoni ̶The Lyrebird

·Krystal Barton ̶North Coburg to Flinders St Station

·Rachel Nightingale ̶Riverbend

·Jackie Kerin ̶No Horse, No Cart, No Shoes

·Angie Rega ̶The Tale of the Seven Magpies

·Danielle McGee –The Origami Mother

·         June Perkins – Into…

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Spinning Silver

The best-selling US author Naomi Novik returns to her Polish heritage in a retelling of Slavic folktales. In Spinning Silver, Miryem is the granddaughter of a prominent Jewish moneylender in the city of Vysnia. In a small village outside Vysnia, Miryem’s father is poorly suited to his position as a moneylender, with his own family living in poverty while the villagers he lends money, live without fear of repayment. When Miryem takes control of money-lending, she hardens her heart to the pleas of her community and soon regains the wealth her own family should have possessed. Myriem’s growing reputation as a moneylender and her bold statement to turn silver into gold brings her to the attention of the Staryk, figures from Slavic folklore hunting the winter woods with desire for gold. Myriem is soon taken by the Staryk king where her words become a magic truth. Incorporated into Myriem’s tale is that of Irina, daughter of a minor duke and unintentionally embroiled in Myriem’s attempts to placate the Staryk king. Irina’s father pays Myriem gold for Irina’s jewellery made from Staryk silver. Irina’s jewellery contains a magical enchantment which captivates the Mirnatius, the young Tsar who soon marries Irina. Soon Irina confronts a hidden, dark menace lurking within Mirnatius and Myriem must choose between a known safety and an uncertain future. Interwoven with the stories of Myriem and Irina, is that of Wanda and her poverty-stricken family who become loyal servants and Myriem’s friends.
Spinning Silver is a skilful retelling of Slavic folktale and traditional lore where battles between good and evil require sacrifices extracting a high cost from those involved. Spinning Silver maintains the fable-like quality in the retelling where all life-lessons offer benefit, not without risk and always requiring a cost.