I’m so excited to introduce you all to my NEXT BOOK…
When I was thirteen years old, I read the Lord of the Rings and was disappointed by the lack of female characters in it. So, I decided to write my own epic fantasy that would be sprinkled with plenty of women characters who fall in love, go on adventures, and save the world. Typical thirteen-year-old girl stuff. I wanted to read the story, so I decided to write it.
It was a tale of a kingdom with a new king, a vague enemy threatening the safety of a world, and several romantic couplings playing out against the backdrop.
At the beginning, it was a straightforward story with many plot holes and inconsistencies.
Since then, I have grown. I have found more reasons to tell the story, expanding beyond the superficial need only for more femininity. The story has come out of me, grown with me, and reached beyond me. The protagonists have grown more complex and wonderful over time, and it has taken a full ten years before I finally discovered the wider context of the fictional world living inside my head.
It has truly been a fantastic journey to discover the intricacies of this story over the years, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
I just wrote the climax, and for the first time, I feel like I’m really almost done with it! I’m so excited to finally finish this story!
Just joined Medium.com, and this was my first post! You can read the entirety here.
We see illiteracy as a negative thing because without being able to read, we lack the ability to effectively communicate ideas. But, ironically, our reliance on literacy has actually led to a degradation in our confidence to communicate through the written word.
While any average person on the street can tell you how to pronounce the sounds of the alphabet, or how to spell “Kardashian,” they stumble over writing a basic business email. And most wouldn’t have the confidence to sit down before a room of kindergartners and tell them a ten-minute story about a cat and a ball of yarn.
Yet this is a very simple process, drawn upon everyday experience, with a very simple audience who, if you make the cat fall down or get twisted in the yarn, will be very forgiving of your mistakes. They just want to hear about how a cat responds to the yarn because it helps them understand life. The illiterate children relate to storytelling better than…continue reading
In the Grimm’s version of Snow White, the evil queen attends Snow White’s wedding at the end and receives the sentence to dance in iron-hot shoes until she dies. Snow White gets a happy ending, and the Queen dances to death.
Here, the protagonist is happy and the villain is miserable, and all is right and just in the world, but what about the stories where the main character has a tragic ending, like Hamlet or Gone with the Wind? Why did the author decide to give the protagonists in these stories a pair of theoretical iron-hot shoes? What was the point? Was it just to break the hearts of readers and make them feel betrayed for investing all this time and attention into the character?
Probably not. If that was their only reason, then they’re a terrible writer (Not to mention person).
But allowing for the benefit of the doubt, what would be their good reason, and how can we know when to apply it in our own stories?
There are two endings to any type of story, and we see them to best advantage in Shakespeare’s brilliant two categories: The Tragedy and the Comedy. (All his Histories can fit into one of these two categories)
A comedy ends in rejoicing, marriage, and the promise of a bountiful future.
A tragedy ends with death, suffering, and general doom and gloom.
Every story has a protagonist, a main character. It is the job of the protagonist, throughout the story, to overcome the internal and/or external dangers that come their way. Sometimes they overcome them through brawn, sometimes wits, sometimes unflinching goodness, and sometimes just pure good luck.
All of those reasons are legitimate and popular methods of storytelling.
Luke Cage uses brawn. Adrian Monk uses wits. Emma Swan uses goodness. The three stooges use luck.
These stories explore the meaning of good fortune, and how we can achieve it. Often, the main character begins without believing in the benefits of his/her force for good. They think they are destined for unhappiness, and don’t know how to use their inner strength. The riveting nature of the story is how he/she learns to accept and grow, until they are a major force to be reckoned with, and can overcome great evil.
Sometimes, however, their inner strength is not enough, or they are not able to grow enough to harness it. This is where fallen nature comes into play.
I watched The Informant the other night, a movie wherein Matt Damon plays a man helping the FBI to uncover illegal activities inside his company. However, about half-way through, the story takes an unexpected twist. We discover that, although he has been helping to uncover legitimate corrupt activities and thinks of himself as a hero for doing so, he has been stealing 11 million dollars on the side all along.
And he doesn’t see himself as a villain.
This is significant. We realize that he was actually an evil force all along, and his refusal to see it results in the FBI turning their attention away from the first crime and entirely onto him. He finally ends up in jail because he refuses to see that he was in the wrong.
This is a tragic ending.
The Informant involves an internal evil that Matt Damon’s character was unwilling to defeat. There are a few stories, however, which are fewer and far between, in which there is an external villain the protagonist cannot conquer.
This rears its head in plays, mostly, such as Shakespeare and Aeschylus. There are very few films that deal in this genre.
This particular evil is almost always Fate. Any evil can be overcome, the story tells us, unless Fate is against us to begin with. We cannot see it, feel it, or get our hands around its throat, so our lives end miserably because Life/Fate/the gods had it out for us in the first place.
Tragedy is either about refusing to wage inward battles, or losing battles against fate.
So there you go! This is the difference between a happy ending and a sad. You can choose to end your story happy, but make sure it’s because your characters learned their lessons. Or, you can end it sad, but make sure it’s either on account of fate, or block-headed characters!
Did I miss anything? Did I leave out a genre? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Comedy endings are about people who overcame all obstacles, inward and outward, and have a hopeful future because of it.
Tragic endings involve either the protagonist’s refusal to accept their weaknesses and seek to overcome them, or else involve intangible Fate destroying them from the outside, no matter what they do.
They want to be a writer, always have, but they’ve never gotten their BIG BREAK. Suddenly, something dramatic happens in their lives, and it inspires the great story idea that’s always been just out of reach. In a moment of muse possession, they sit down and spit out the book…
…IN ONE NIGHT.
Forget hard-work, discipline, or road-blocks – all you need is a desire, deep feelings, and a dramatic experience.
….aaand, the pin drops. So that’s not really what happens – EVER.
But even though we all know that, we still feel like it should happen that way. It’d be nice if our life happened in a montage. Wouldn’t it be lovely if meeting the love of your life coincided with creating something fantastic? Everything in life comes together in one fell swoop!
Shawn Coyne, on the storygrid podcast said, and I’m paraphrasing: “When you come up against the ending, you start to get overwhelmed. The closer to the end, the more you psyche yourself out.”
We all get that way. We have our moment when the great “beast,” as Shawn called it, threatens to completely devour our creative genius.
How do we fight this beast and overcome him?
The answer is to just do what you’ve done before… DO WHAT YOU SET OUT TO DO. You had a direction for this story from the beginning, even if you didn’t write out the outline, so write until the characters naturally reach that conclusion. Tell yourself the story, and write it only for yourself.
Just write. Don’t worry too much about the structure of the story – concentrate on getting the story out. Once it’s out, you can rewrite it. But it’s never going to get anywhere if you don’t just write.
Not to mention that, when we are in darkness, it is the worst time to start rethinking and doubting what we had in mind in the first place. It’s like a weaver who has laid out a pattern, but then the lights go out. He can feel the pattern, he knows how to keep going, and it’ll turn out just fine in the end. But in that moment, he instead decides to blindly rethread the pattern. When the lights come on, it’s going to be a terrible product!
Why are you doing this to yourself? Stop!
Remind yourself that YOU CAN DO THIS and keep on going. Don’t let your doubts have a voice in your head. Shawn says, “Go back to the source material that inspired you to begin in the first place.” Plow through, and stop telling yourself you’re not good enough – BECAUSE YOU ARE.
YOU’VE GOTTEN THIS FAR, and you can see this race through to the end. Slay your beasts. It won’t be overnight, but as Shawn says, “you’ve got a sword, and you’re going to cut your way out of the stomach, and you’re going to cut that beast into little pieces, until you’ve solved your story.”
You know, I get a little too caught up sometimes in dissecting books and trying to figure them out from the inside out, piece by piece. But it’s also important to look at them as a whole. Because even if all the pieces are perfect, that doesn’t mean the whole has turned out great.
It’s important, when studying stories, to look at the greats: the old greats, those whose works have stood the test of the ages and still appeals to readers. Because even if all the pieces of their story weren’t perfect, the whole has lasted hundreds or thousands of years.
You can go really old, if you want, to the days of Homer and Gilgamesh.
Or more recent, like Beowulf or Chaucer.
I’m just kidding. (Except not really, cause those books are great) John Steinbeck, Virginia Woolf, and James Barrie are totally fine!
When you read the story, ask yourself these questions:
1. Did the story satisfy me?
2. Was it predictable?
3. Did the beginning catch hold of me, or did it take time for me to get into it?
4. Was the middle boring? If so, why did I stick with it?
5. Was this a perfect story? (The answer is always no! No story is perfect) So then ask yourself, what could it have done better?
6. What was the basic premise?
7. What were the fundamental events?
8. Was the conclusion a natural one that was set up well?
These questions will help you to forget about sentence structure, the use of specific words, or even proper comma use. Forget about those things for a little while, and ask yourself – why is this a great story?
Now draft your own story based on the answers to your questions.
Here are my answers to all 8 questions, using Pride and Prejudice (the ever hackneyed, ever re-gurgitated example! Oh literature gods, praise be for Pride and Prejudice!) as an example.
You could write your own story based on these answers, without ever giving away to your audience that you copied Pride and Prejudice. So I challenge you to take the time today or this week to think of a story you love – a classic that has weathered the test of time – write out the basic events, and invent a story off of it for yourself!
Share your dissection of your favorite classic in the comments – I’d love to see it! 😀
In a village wrapped about with strange monsters and superstition, a new kind of child is born. Half-man half-monster, the villagers fear their own children and, turning against them, burn them at the stake. But a small band of resilient Halfbreeds escape their executioners and take up their home in the wild. In a desperate attempt to find their place in the world, these children question what it really means to be human.
See the world of Halfbreeds through the author’s eyes.
I’ve created a couple of the iconic images from my novel that stick in my mind.
First, here are some I did months ago.
Above: Bobakin, in soft chalk pastel
Below: Dalimi, in soft chalk pastel
I’m very happy with the way these turned out! I feel they get across the essence of their characters. It’s rare that I’m able to do just what I want with art, so I’m proud of this.
2. I keep going back to the barn for some reason – every image looks similar to how I picture it, and eventually, I’ll get one that looks exactly right.
Above is a closeup of my first one that I did in colored pencils awhile back.
Here is an oil pastel I did just the other day. The terrible forest is in the upper right corner. It’s rougher, but has more of the appropriate feel.
I thought I was going to put the barn in this one, but turned into a stretch of the Terrible Forest. The hard copy is very heavy and shiny since it is done in thick oil paint. I was out of blue paint, so I had to be creative with the sky, but I think I like this better. It brings across the true feel of the forest.
3. I wanted to work the title into the wheat field, so here’s the logo in colored pen! I used up an entire blue pen on this one. 🙂
4. Finally, here is a sketch I did of Cornanam a long time ago. I waited to post because I kept thinking I would finish it, but I just never got around to it. I like that he looks more savage than Bobakin – and yet, like he feels deeply.
Hey guys! I don’t usually break the fifth wall – you know how much I love writing a story and just putting it out there. Without commentary, without introduction.
But I’d love to hear more from all of you! So I thought I would share a list of my top ten favorite books, and then ask you to comment and share your favorites! I’d love to read them. 😀
Here are mine:
Pride and PrejudiceThe best written love story of all time!
The Great GatsbyThe imagery of the green light, the eyes of Dr. Eckelburg, and the ridiculous pomp of Gatsby’s parties will never cease haunting me.
The Little PrinceLook up at the stars – and believe!
Go Set a WatchmanWho knew I would like the sequel even better than the first? Harper Lee never disappoints!
The Lord of the RingsArguably the most influential book of my childhood.
Tenant of Wildfell HallThough I love all the Brontes, this is my very favorite!
The Picture of Dorian GrayWith his masterful portrayal of characters, his societal wit, and his flair for the dramatic, Wilde paints a word picture of Dorian Gray!
Through the Looking-GlassAgain, a sequel I love even better than the original! The White Knight, the Red Queen, and the boating sheep – I love them all! And Alice the most.
HamletThe greatest ghost story – if not the greatest story – of all time.
Winnie-the-PoohMy favorite book of childhood – and all these years later, it does not disappoint! The veins of wit, humor, subtle characterization, and innate understanding of childhood simplicity that run like a tapestry all through are utterly charming, funny, and nostalgic!
Tell me about your favorite books! Which of the above did you read? Did you like them? I’d love to hear!
I’m going to take a break today from my usual topics to talk about the ending of one of my favorite TV shows, Star Wars Rebels!
With Kevin Kiner’s Season 2 soundtrack playing in the background, let’s settle in to discuss this masterpiece of Dave Filoni.
My family watched the final three episodes last night, and my, what a finish! It lived up to all my expectations! –except in one thing…
The finale gave us a satisfying ending for each major player. It masterfully completed Ezra’s story arc – reminding us of why he’s fighting, what he’s lost and found, who he has become, and it even – bonus! – gave us his trials! (I honestly didn’t expect that) It brought all the themes together seamlessly – Sabine’s artwork, what they’re all fighting for, what makes it worthwhile to fight, the wolves and Purrgil, the owl painted on Sabine’s armor for good measure (which changes to the Purrgil later), and even the Jedi Temple! And it provided closure on all the existing villains – Price, Thrawn, and the Emperor himself. (Vader’s timeline was already tied up in A World Between Worlds when Ashoka acknowledges to herself and Ezra that she cannot save her master.)
So with all that amazing storytelling, what was the one thing that disappointed me? Dave Filoni and his team crafted a complex narrative with many twists and turns, set-ups and pay-offs that brought so much satisfaction to me as both a Star Wars fan and a lover of stories, but then they decided to throw something big into the very end of the show with absolutely no set-up — Jacen Syndulla.
Now granted, I am very excited about Kanan (or Caleb) and Hera having a child together. That’s pretty awesome, and opens up worlds of possibilities in future stories! But where was the set-up? As fans, we are left to imagine, futiley, where and when this child could have possibly come from? Kanan and Hera were not physically affectionate with each other until just before she left Lothal, leaving Kanan behind. Hera does not say “I love you” to Kanan until five minutes before he dies. (cue heartbreak – it was such an epic death!) Kanan knows, deep down, how Hera feels about him, but he’s not been able to get her to admit it. He’s surprised when she kisses him before taking off. Maybe that’s because she’s doing it in public and Kanan didn’t think she was comfortable with that, you say? Maybe, but now we’re grasping at straws. As an audience member, that shouldn’t be our job, and we haven’t had to do that for anything else in Filoni’s saga, so why for this?
I’m really not sure why there was no set-up for this sudden child. Maybe they wanted to keep the romantic tension tight for the audience, and weren’t considering the awkward timeline, or maybe the child was a last minute addition. Those are the only two options I can think of. The only other option left is to consider that Kanan and Hera had a casual relationship together, purely physical, in which they never talked about the fact that they loved each other. But first of all, that does not at all line up with their personalities, high moral code, and personal self-restraint, and secondly, we are once again grasping at straws and making up our own answers.
But since that is the only route left to us, I will present the answer I like to believe, even though it does not entirely line up with everything.
My Fan Fiction for Kanan and Hera’s Relationship
Sometime around the end of season 1, Kanaan and Hera go on a mission to a distant planet. While there, their feelings for each other escalate, and they wonder why they’ve never been together. Kanan brings it up and Hera pulls back, but then in the course of their mission, Kanan nearly dies and Hera realizes how much he means to her. They have a private wedding according to the laws of that planet and a single night together. But in the morning, Hera tells Kanan they can’t do this. His most important mission right now is training Ezra, and they can’t get in the way of that. “But when he doesn’t need you anymore,” she tells him. “I’ll be here.”
Years go by. Kanan is blinded and draws deep into himself. Hera feels she has lost him and throws herself into the rebellion, renewing her dedication to the cause at the expense of all else. After a long while, they both acknowledge in their hearts that they are further apart than ever romantically, even though they are so close personally. Kanan is a Jedi now, Ezra is able to handle himself, and even Sabine has found peace with her people. But Hera has only one goal in mind – defeat the Empire and protect her family. She is denying herself the strength she needs to see this through, and Kanan can see it. He decides to pursue his wife.
When they return to Lothal, he remembers they’re earlier relationship, what they felt for each other. He starts to get sappy, and to his joy, he finds that she responds. Slowly, she opens up to him, though he feels the walls that still closely ensnare her heart. One night, while on Lothal (after episode 4), she opens to him and they have a romantic evening, but once again, in the morning, she says they should return to camp and they do not discuss their future. Kanan knows she is all he wants and he’s tired of this rebellion that keeps them apart. Suddenly, he accosts her with his frustration.
“When are you going to feel you’ve done enough for this rebellion?” he asks her when she prepares to leave.
“I guess when the empire is overthrown and people are free to live their lives they way they want again.”
“And when that time comes, how do you want to live your life?”
“Hm, I don’t know. I guess I never really thought about it.”
He realizes she does not take their previous marriage into account. “So I guess you never really thought about us.”
“Kanan, we’ve talked about that before.”
“You know how I feel.”
They’re cut off, but later, Kanan brings up their conversation.
“Hera, about what happened before…I don’t want you to think…” He doesn’t want her to think he’s pressuring her. He knows they agreed to not talk about it for awhile – maybe ever. “I just…” It’s just that he’s miserable without her, and he thinks she’s miserable without him, and suddenly, she kisses him and it throws him off guard. He realizes she has let down her walls, and when she returns, they will have a real marriage.
So there you have it, a window in which Jacen came about and Hera and Kanan adhere to their high moral codes, although it’s a bit far-stretched. But it’s romantic and let’s us inside their heads.
The children ran as fast as their abnormally short legs would carry them to the edges of the Terrible Forest and there crouched among the brambles in the thicket. Once down, not a leaf stirred from place—these children were adept at making themselves invisible to Human eyes. Bobakin lay still and silent, watching the townspeople growing larger as they neared, when from the other side, the forest side, something else caught his eye—a boy, quite close and quite conspicuous.
“Get down!” hissed Bobakin from the brambles. The boy was a Halfbreed, judging more by his ragged attire and mud- streaked face than his stature, which was upright and fearless. Yet the boy, though he heard, did not respond; there seemed an air of defiance about him in his straight back and fiery, orange eyes.
“Get down or they’ll see you!” said Bobakin again, and this time the other boy saw the townspeople, quite near now, and the fire in their eyes, so he disappeared in the brambles as effectively as a magician.
Carl Drax, the leader of the town, was ahead of the others and paused before the brambles where the children hid. He surveyed the bramble patch with his stern, blue eyes and handsome brow, seeming to meet the gaze of each fugitive there, and then turned to look over the wheat field on the other side of the road. It was tall, plenty capable of concealing even the tallest of their band, but the man could see nothing.
He whirled back to the villagers, with their axes and pitchforks and knives, and declared, “Halfbreeds have made their escape! For now.”
Disappointed and grumbling, the people turned back to the village and went away. Carl glanced again over the cornfield and then looked over his shoulder toward the Terrible Forest, knowing wherever the children were, they would see the leer of hatred and resolve on his face and know they were not safe.
Bahia breathed a sigh of relief and picked herself up from the thicket. “Bobakin,” she said—he was the oldest and they all looked up to him. “What do we do now? Where do we go?”
“See here!” broke in the newcomer, pointing an accusatory finger at them. “You can’t expect to escape men if you’re all together. It’s only on your own you won’t get caught.”
Bobakin saw some of the littler Halfbreeds’ eyes fill with tears, and in indignation, turned on the naysayer. “We just did. And we’ll do it again. There aren’t so many of us—only ten or twelve—and it’ll be no use being alive if we’re alone!”
All the Halfbreeds plucked up courage and grinned at each other. Even the newcomer shrugged his thin shoulders; maybe this tall Halfbreed had a point.
“We can’t stay here,” said Bahia, glancing over her shoulder.
The village huts were still in sight.
“But we can’t go too far,” said Nappy, an unusually short Halfbreed—shorter even than the children of the Schumps, but bright for his eleven years. Everyone always listened when he had an idea. “If we keep going this direction we don’t know what we’ll find; it may even be the Schumps. And if we go into the woods it definitely will be.”
“Then what do you suggest?” asked Bobakin, and the newcomer was impressed to see someone so tall deferring to someone so little.
“The lake. There are two of them, and the villagers never use the smaller one on the backend. We’ll need water and the stream nearby is as good a place as any to get it. The buildings are all abandoned, some even say haunted, so not even the children will be out that way, running into us.”
“But it’s so close,” whimpered Fafolio, her brilliant orange eyes filling with tears.
“Would you rather be close to the Schumps?” demanded Nappy, and Fafolio shook her thick brownish-green curls.
“Maybe the Schumps aren’t as bad as you all think,” said the newcomer.
Before the children could rebel at such a suggestion, Bobakin interjected, “Alright, we’ll go where Nappy says. He’s right, you know. We have the best chance there. We’ll go through the wheat field, where we won’t be seen, but stick together or someone will be lost. Once we’re on the other side, we make a break for the Rosenchanz Barn. Everyone take a partner and let’s go.”
As the children paired up, he turned to the newcomer. “Coming?”
“You don’t want me,” he said defiantly.
“You’re a Halfbreed, aren’t you? You belong with us.” Then the tall boy flashed him a smile and said seriously, “Just learn to curb your tongue when the little ‘uns are around.”
And they made their way through the wheat field.
Bobakin was wrong when he said there where ten or twelve in total. He had never counted them all before. There were seven.
Yet if anyone had ever gone missing, he would have noticed instantly, knowing each child by name ever since most were old enough to toddle.
There was Bahia. She had been the first, and they knew each other best of the whole world. She was twelve with dark, straight, brown hair and stubby, bowed legs. Her eyes were the color of the sky at midnight, and her face ruddy and rosy when not drained from hunger.
Next came Nappy, the smart, little one, with his owly- orange eyes and short stumps of legs. His arms, which were just a bit too long for his body, gave him a gangly look despite his short stature.
Then there was Fafolio. She was holding tight to little Kaka as they made their way through the field. They were both from another village, a foreign world it seemed to the others, but were accepted since they too had been ostracized as Halfbreeds. Fafolio was nine, with the orange eyes and green hair of a Schump but the graceful figure of a lady, and Kaka seven with wistful, orange eyes yearning for a mother he still remembered.
The last two were held fast by Bobakin and Bahia and were the littlest of the group: Bebbin and Brine. Bebbin did not look any way at all like a Schump with his yellow curls, brown eyes, and chubby little body not yet rid of its baby fat. But he walked different, almost as if he were bowlegged. But Brine was different and might have been supposed, had he not been witnessed to issue from a Human mother, to be a full-blooded Schump. He had been the first to join Bobakin and Bahia.
They reached the edge of the wheat field, and Bobakin looked out from among the golden stalks. The distance to the barn was only fifty yards; they could make it at a run. So everyone grasped tight hold of their partner and made off.
But then Kaka cried out—two farmers had seen them and were running their way.
“Run! Run! Go faster!” cried Bobakin, but what could they do? If they made it to the barn, they were still discovered. There was no sanctuary and no means to defend themselves.
Then Bebbin tripped, and Bobakin lost hold of his little hand. Bebbin, in blind terror, swerved, making for the animal pens. Bobakin cried out and went after him, but Bahia was faster. With her skirt whipping behind her and her legs pumping like a locomotive, she screamed for Bebbin to stop. But the little boy was flying on the wings of panic and could not listen. He was already closer to the two men than to the other children.
He reached the pens, which rose chest-high to a man, and leapt over them. Even the men did not have the height or ability to accomplish such a feat, and they swerved to circumvent the fences.
Bahia reached the first pen and started climbing it with Bobakin close behind.
The little boy was possessed of a reckless disregard for all and anything that could harm him. He aimed toward the pens on the outer extremity of the fields. These pens were known to the little boy in his rational mind, and normally, nothing would have tempted him toward them. Now he fled there as toward life itself.
Bahia saw where he headed and tasted tears in her mouth though she did not know she had been crying them. But her whole heart ached with despair for his little life as she saw him vault into the pen of the Manticore.
The Manticore lay in his golden glory at the back of the fenced pen, sleeping. And when Bebbin landed inside, Bahia knew he was doomed. But the beast awakened slowly, and blinked slowly, and slowly raised his head, and by then, Bebbin was through the pen and into the next one. Bahia came to the fence of the Manticore and wanted to cheer when she saw the boy was through, but there were still the men.
And she did not see what was in the very last pen.
When Bebbin landed in the final pen, his only thought—the thought that had driven him across the fields, over the fences, and through the pens—was escape. He must escape. He had run far but never saw what he encountered until he ran up against the giant wall of the barn. It blocked his path, forming an insurmountable barrier and an endless partition to freedom. And so he stopped. Right in the center of the last pen.
Something growled close by. His little four-year-old body, breathless and shivering, quaked to hear it. He turned around and saw the Manticore which was still asleep and in the next pen over. Then he looked around and met the eyes of the Bullbeast.
The Bullbeast was unlike anything mankind had encountered before. Like the Schumps which resembled Humans, the Bullbeast resembled a bull. But ever so much mightier and frightful, with tusks like a boar and a mane like a lion. It was vicious and wild, with a queer, caged look in its eyes. Now, it stared at Bebbin.
He stood a moment, frozen with fear beneath its gaze, waiting for it to pounce. But it only lay still, watching him. The little boy backed up and climbed over the fence on the side with the barn. The men had paused in their chase when they saw him enter the pen of the Manticore, but now that he was safely through, they advanced. And there were more men now, a quarter of the village it seemed, and they were all making their way toward Bebbin.
But then something even more extraordinary happened that caused the men to pause again. The Bullbeast, which had never left its enclosure before, climbed the fence and alighted beside Bebbin. And Bebbin was not afraid. Cautiously, he put forth his hand and stroked the Bullbeast’s muzzle. It licked his face and purred.
In their consternation, the men forgot all about the other children as they watched the beast’s actions. Bebbin made his way around the enclosure—not away from the men as one might expect—but toward them, with his little baby hand nestled in the creature’s mane. Two or three of the braver men advanced, but the Bullbeast raged. They stumbled back in fear, watching from a distance. Then it nuzzled the boy. He accompanied the child all the way up the path toward the barn, turning upon anyone who ventured near. Bahia got off the fence of the Manticore, and she and Bobakin met Bebbin and the beast. The Bullbeast did not endear himself to them but was not savage either, simply handing over his precious charge. After making sure the children marched back on their way to the barn, the Bullbeast returned to his pen.
The village men did not dare follow the children after that. They decided, anyway, to put if off for the time being. The Bullbeast’s actions were peculiar and, in the minds of the villagers, a blessing on the children—or a curse. For, to those superstitious folk, it was the same thing. The children were cursed and so were protected by a demon of a creature. There was no other explanation. If these simple people had known of the ancient Human idea that innocence, when abandoned by mankind, will often receive aid from the most unlikely of sources, they would not have given it proper weight to their situation. The children, for the time being, were blessed by a curse.
Chapter Two — Schumps, Humans, and Halfbreeds
The Halfbreeds had been living in the Rosenchanz Barn for a week, and everything was going well. After the event of the Bullbeast, the Humans left them well alone. Their first night, Bobakin built a fire and everyone gathered around to enjoy roasted rabbit.
The newcomer found he enjoyed the company more than he bargained and was easily accepted by the other children.
Brine sat down and offered his carrot. “Here, I don’s need it so much—I’m liddler.”
“How old are you?” asked Bahia of the newcomer, as she served out the rabbit.
“Truth?” she exclaimed. “I’d have put you for older. You’re just ’bout the Human size for your age.”
“Sure.” he shrugged rebelliously. “But I’m a Halfbreed, all the same.”
“No one’s sayin’ you’re not,” said Bobakin. “What they call you?”
“Some’s called me Pincher. But ’riginally I was called Denmin.”
“What’s pincher?” asked Kaka. “That’s a funny name.”
Denmin-once-called-Pincher answered quickly and dismissively. “Means crook stealer thief.”
“Course yer a crook, yer a Halfbreed. It’s all the same.”
“No, it ain’t. Not where I come from. Only sometimes, when a Halfbreed is cast out. Then he’s reckoned to be a thief.”
Everyone was looking at him curiously, and he realized it was not the same for them. “Don’t you cast out Halfbreeds sometimes? Affer all, you’re all out here, running. You can’t be beggars.”
Bobakin leaned forward, curious and anxious to understand. He explained, “We can’t be beggars, you see. Because we’re Halfbreeds. We’re not supposed to be alive, even. So we run, so we’re not caught, so we’re not killed. That’s the way it’s always been. If you’re a Halfbreed, you’ve no right to live amongst Humans.”
“Sure, I’ve heard that. And course, if you’re a Halfbreed, you’re less than a Human, but that doesn’t mean you’re killed for it. Just cast out, or beggerin’, or vagabondin’. Truth is you’ve got it nasty here, don’t ya? Man, I thought something wasn’t right when every folk I see is trying to kill me, but I just figured they reckoned I stole something big. That it would pass.”
“This here is our life,” said Bobakin, “and we’re the lucky ones, ’cause we’re alive.”
“Truth,” said Denmin, more as an exclamation than agreement; he was a bit overwhelmed with it all. “So…” He leaned forward, trying to understand. “When that man Carl came to our village and started preaching his gospel of ‘Humanity ’gainst Schumps’, and his talk about ‘demons living amongst us’ and all, your village does it?”
“Sure. That’s the way it’s been long as I can remember,” said Bobakin.
Kaka snuggled closer to Denmin. “What’s ‘demons’?”
“I think it means Schumps,” the new boy told him.
“Course it does,” said Bobakin. “And they’re evil, worse than Humans, ’cause Humans are only evil to Schumps and Halfbreeds, but Schumps are evil against everything.”
Denmin looked at Bobakin with respect. There was something inspiring and intriguing about this tall lad with his greenish-brown curls and fiery-firm hazel eyes. “So how come you’re alive?” he asked him.
When Bobakin was born, he was as normal as any other boy in the village, only rather bald. He had a loving mother and father and knew nothing of the evils of the world. Then one day, when he was four years old, he saw a child burned in the square. When he asked his father why, he told him the boy was evil, “a Schump.” And from the fear in his father’s voice and the shudder of his shoulders, Bobakin knew he never wanted to meet a Schump. As he grew, he heard tales about the Schumps—how they looked with their eyes the color of hell’s fire, hair the rank growth of green weeds, and short, stumpy legs that caused them to waddle and hobble like a lame duck. Some of the villagers told ghost stories to the children, warning them if they weren’t good, they’d change into a Schump for their sins and be burned to death.
When Bobakin was five years old, his hair finally began to grow in; and one day, after he’d had a bath and was combing it before the mirror, he saw to his horror that his hair was green. Only a small tinge of green in the muddy brown color, but it was there. He was transforming into a Schump for his sins and would be burned to death.
He ran out to the garden and rubbed mud all into it to conceal his disgrace and keep alive. Miraculously, this trick worked, and Bobakin managed to keep his secret for three whole years, often forgetting his shame, and even enjoying life. He went to school to learn his numbers and letters and was a bright child— far ahead of all the others in his class, though his teachers always complained of his dirty hair.
Then one day, and this day did not seem any different from any of the others, his mother walked by him and ruffled his hair.
“You’re so dirty!” She laughed at him. “You always are, and no amount of bathing ever seems to get it out of you.” And on an impulse, she grabbed a jar of water and poured it over his head.
There was a ghastly silence, and Bobakin was afraid to look at her. When he did, her face was white. “A Halfbreed,” she whispered, and it was the first time he ever heard the word. “My only son, a Halfbreed. I swore, I swore it was your father’s—I did— I swore you were. But you’re not—you’re a Halfbreed.”
“I will be burned?” he asked with wide open eyes. She did not answer, but he saw the look on her face.
She ought to have sounded the alarm, as they had done with so many children before, but right then she could not move. Bobakin saw she no longer looked at him as a mother looks at her child, but as a woman looks at a frightening thing: a snake or a rat that has wandered into her kitchen. This gave him the courage to do what he must, the courage to turn tail, then and there, and run away from home forever.
“And so I left,” said Bobakin. “I learned to live in the wilderness, on the outskirts of villages. To steal, hunt, fish, trap, anything to keep alive. I was all alone for a long time; until one day, I met Bahia. And then Brine, and slowly we’ve all come together. And now you’re here.”
“Your own mother would have burned you?” asked Denmin, shocked out of his aloofness and defiant independence.
“It was what she needed to do. But I think…I think she didn’t want to. She wanted me to run away because it would be easier than seeing me die.”
Bahia took Bobakin’s hand.
“We are a curse on this earth,” she told Denmin. “A curse on our parents and villages. But we run away because we do not want to die. That’s just the way the world is.”
Bobakin squeezed her hand and then told all the children to go to sleep.
Nappy, who had been Denmin’s partner through the wheat field, offered the newcomer a space beside him on the ground, and they lay down together. They were the same age and drawn together as children often are by ties indefinable and unseverable, instant and lasting.
Nappy gave Denmin a sharp look as they lay down together. “If you’ve been around Human villages before, have you seen Schumps?”
Denmin, his boyish heart relishing the chance to cause a sensation, raised his eyebrows. “Once, a few years ago.”
“What did it look like?”
A thrill went down Denmin’s spine at the awe in the other boy’s voice. “It was at night, from far away, so I only saw his outline. He was large, with fat, short legs that were bent the wrong way.”
“Was he hairy?”
“Naw, don’t think so. Just on his head. I saw him sneak into a village, and pretty soon there was lots of yelling and screaming and bells were making a racket. Then he ran out, carrying a Human woman slung over his shoulder.”
“A woman? Why? Did he kill her?”
“Don’t think so. Lots of women were taken, but they always came back after a few days.”
Nappy rolled onto his back with a sigh of wonder, and both boys grew quiet. Denmin was pleased with the effect of his tale, but presently, his thinking came back around to Bobakin’s story. Reflecting on it sobered him, and finally, he nudged his bedfellow. “Nappy, I’ve been thinking, and the Schumps are evil, right?”
Nappy opened his eyes. “Sure.”
“But Humans are good?” pursued Denmin.
“Well, if we’re Halfbreeds, then we’ve half the blood of Humans and half the blood of Schumps, so I reckon we’re only half evil and half good.”
“Say!” said Nappy. “I never thought of that. Yeah, maybe we’re not all the evil we’re made out to be. Would be a big relief to be good.”
“Sure. And maybe, if we try hard enough, we can be gooder than the evil in us.”
“Yeah.” Nappy smiled. “Maybe.”
Find out what happens to Bobakin, Bahia, and the rest of the halfbreed children by clicking here!
Throughout July, I wrote a three part story called My Wolf Friend. Inspired by a playlist compiled by my brother, it tells the story of a little boy and a wolf named Andrew, who together battle a pack of evil wolves.
My brother Andrew had compiled a playlist full of songs by Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men, and other artists, which mention wolves.
The songs were:
Mumford and Sons: The Wolf
Of Monsters and Men: Wolves Without Teeth and Six Weeks
The National Parks: Monsters of the North
and Warren Zevon: Werewolves of London
The only one I did not use was Werewolves of London. It had a completely different feel than the others.
As I listened, a story began to take shape and each character began to have his own theme song. Eventually, I branched out into other songs, mostly incorporating more Of Monsters and Men.
I Of the Storm
And Little Lion Man and Broad-Shouldered Beasts from Mumford and Sons.
Some of the songs are very clearly related to the story, and some only incorporate one or two lines, or else simply inspired an idea. It was super fun to write, and I encourage you to listen to the songs and compare them to the feel and flow of the story.
Thank you to all the artists for your extraordinary music! Art inspires art, and it is a splendid thing to participate in that.
“Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass.”
The opening lines of this fairy tale immediately set the tone. Reminiscent of fragrance and translucence, Anderson prefigures the ending of his tale, when the little mermaid will become an airy wind, flitting about the earth, and doing good deeps to gain an immortal soul. But in order to reach the heights, he must first bring us to the depths. So he brings us down, down, the height of many steeples stacked one upon the other, down to the depths of that world.
Then he describes it. In vivid, watercolor beauty, he takes four paragraphs (which I will not do) to paint the pristine and intricate image of life beneath the sea. This is a tale Anderson cared for, nurturing it like a mother with her babe, setting it out like a designer for a stage. He tells about the little mermaids living beneath the sea who arrange their garden plots, and offhandedly, gently, he introduces the youngest of them. “She was an unusual child, quiet and wistful, and when her sisters decorated their gardens with all kinds of odd things they had found in sunken ships, she would allow nothing in hers except flowers as red as the sun, and a pretty marble statue.”
This is not a story about a rebellious teenager, or a lover of trinkets and gadgets. This is a careful story, full of meaning, heart, and tender dreams. The Little Mermaid does not merely want a prince to fall in love with her; this desire, for her, is only the beginning of the journey. As her desire deepens, her world widens.
First, she loves the statue. It is beautiful and simple, and represents something she does not have. We can all relate to desire, since we all yearn for something more – something that beckons us to transcend the mundane and traverse the heavens. For her, the world above is what the universe is to us. She explores it and encounters the prince. He is a world beyond her own, and she watches him in his sphere above. But the more she “looks to the stars” in her own sense, the more she learns that there is something even beyond that. “Don’t they die, as we do down here in the sea?” she asks her grandmother, seeking to know more of these creatures, but not possibly imagining the magnificence of the answer.
‘”Yes,’ the old lady said, ‘they too must die, and their lifetimes are even shorter than ours….We are like the green seaweed – once cut down, it never grows again. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, long after their bodies have turned to clay. It rises through thin air, up to the shining stars. Just as we rise through the water to see the lands on earth, so men rise up to beautiful places unknown, which we shall never see.”‘
Now the littlest mermaid knows there is a life even beyond her wildest dreams, and her former desires bow to it in reverence. Her entire being yearns, aches, trembles now for this new idea. “‘Why weren’t we given an immortal soul?'” she cries. “‘I would gladly give up my three hundred years if I could be a human being only for a day, and later share in that heavenly realm.'” Although she has been in love with the prince before now, this is the first time she expresses any concrete desire to be human. Her love for the prince caused her to discover something greater, as any human love ought to do.
Unable to shake free of the desire for an immortal soul, the littlest mermaid decides to go to the sea witch. For the mermaid knows if she can get the prince to love her as she loves him, and if he swears to love her for all eternity while a priest joins their hands in marriage, then she will gain an immortal soul and eternal happiness with her beloved. To make this come true, she endures a harrowing experience.
The witch is no fairy godmother. There is no sparkle and wave of a pretty wand, but a forest of frightening polyps who will strangle you. And the witch herself is hideous, bulbous, and crass. She is gleeful about the mermaid’s suffering, and bargains cold-heartedly for the girl’s greatest treasure, her beautiful voice. She must give it up on the bargain that the prince will love her, or else, if he marries someone else, she will turn into sea foam the very next day. She warns the girl she will endure terrible agony walking above ground: “‘every step you take will feel as if you are treading on knife blades so sharp that blood must flow. I am willing to help you, but are you willing to suffer all this?’ ‘Yes,’ the little mermaid said in a trembling voice, as she thought of the Prince and of gaining an immortal soul.'” The sea witch, despite Anderson’s description which paints her as a hideous and cruel being, perfectly capable of stepping into the role of villain (and indeed, taking that role in the Disney version), is not the antagonist of the story. The Little Mermaid is not Snow White and this is no moral tale warning against selfish witches. For the witch, in the tale, represents more than herself. She is the voice of terror, pain, and ultimately, evil itself. The Little Mermaid is not committing evil to be human, but she is willing for it to exert its influence upon her, so she can gain something greater than mere comfort. “‘Let us leap and bound throughout the three hundred years that we have to live. Surely that is time and to spare, and afterwards we shall be glad enough to rest in our graves;'” thus her grandmother had urged of her, but the little mermaid is not content to be comfortable for three hundred years – she wants more. She would “dare do anything to win him [the prince] and gain an immortal soul.”
If the witch is not the villain, and the mermaid has already gone through so much agony, then the ending of the story seems clear. The prince must fall in love with her, and she must, thereby, gain an immortal soul. But then the unimaginable happens. Though the prince loves her with a great love, he never makes her his bride, but falls for someone else and marries her instead. In her struggle to gain a soul, the little mermaid has sacrificed her voice, her tail, her home, her family, and now her life. She has given up everything for him, and now she will simply fade away, disappear like the ‘green seaweed – once cut down, it never grows again.’
Her sisters are terrified for her, and make their own bargain with the sea witch, and this time, the little mermaid must participate in evil in order to return to the depths. If the little mermaid stabs the prince in his sleep before the sun rises, she will return to the sea, a mermaid again, who can live on in comfort for three hundred years. They give her the knife and she enters the prince’s chamber. But she was never in search of comfort, and she had never acted out of selfishness. She would rather lose everything completely than betray her love, so she hurls herself into the sea and becomes light, frothing foam.
Just as her love for the prince first inspired her to yearn for a human soul, so her love for him redeems her in the end. “The little mermaid discovered…that she was gradually rising out of the foam.” Since the little mermaid has done her best and noblest to gain an immortal soul, she discovers that she can now spend three hundred years as a cool breeze doing good deeds to finally gain one. She can rise above, touch the stars, and live in eternity.
The little mermaid is not a story about the fulfillment of a human love. Anderson, instead, told a greater tale. It is the saga of how a heart, yearning for a deep fulfillment, was opened through human love to the possibility of something greater. Ultimately disappointed, as we all must be by mortals, in the love of a man, the heart finds in eternity that bliss we all seek. And the little mermaid, who through a lack of a soul could not weep before, ‘lifted her clear bright eyes towards God’s sun, and for the first time her eyes were wet with tears.’
Artwork courtesy of Artpassions.net
Translation of ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Anderson courtesy of Barnes and Noble: The Complete Fairy Tales, 2010 edition.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the fairy tale princesses of Perrault, Anderson, Grimm, etc., were written to be heroines, role models, perfect representations of the perfect woman; an archetype, if you will. Snow White’s habit of lying around in a coffin teaches girls passive acceptance. Sleeping Beauty reminds them that beauty triumphs over any difficulty. And they can clearly see that Prince Charming only marries Cinderella because her self-abasement after the ball is appealing to his male chauvinism. In misreading these fairy tales, modern individuals seek to alter, prune, or explain away the negative elements, reworking the female lead into a strong, independent heroine who will stand for no weakness, no saving prince, and no redemption. But not all princesses were written to be role models, and many of those that were, represented virtues generally overlooked, but by no means outdated, in modern society.
Besides the heroine, there are two other types of Fairy Tale Princesses: the anti-heroine and the victim.
Cinderella is one of the most controversial characters in fairy tale lore. Is she a good woman who exercises virtue, or a passive, weak victim of her abusive family? “If only Perrault wrote Cinderella as a molder of her own future! If only she had defied her oppressors and won respect! Then she would be a proper role model for our daughters.” Thus argue some critics of the tale, but such an argument puts emphasis on the wrong part of the story: on the wrong virtues. Cinderella is much more real and her triumph far more wonderful. Sometimes, we are not masters of our own fate; sometimes, we are trapped in a world beyond our power; and that is Cinderella’s reality. In such an unfair world, despair easily blots out all light, joy, or promise, but not for this Princess. Perrault describes her with a “sweet and gentle nature”, saying that she got this from “her mother, who had been the nicest person in the world.” He says that “the poor girl endured everything patiently, not daring to complain to her father.” Not because she was passive and weak, but because he was. He “would have scolded her, because he was entirely ruled by his wife.” Her actions, then, instead of being weak, are prudent. When the sisters are preparing for the ball, Cinderella offers to help them. This displays the virtue of brotherly love, orliberality, which is remarkable in her situation and shows great maturity of character, “anyone else but Cinderella would have done their hair amiss, but she was good-natured, and she finished them off to perfection.” When they leave, she does something completely human and not at all wrong: she cries. Not in despair or to complain, but from a natural, human heaviness of heart. Finally, Cinderella displays incredible trust in the divine when, over the course of three days, she makes no claim to her magnificence but waits to see how all will come right. Cinderella may not display the typical feminist virtues of action, self-salvation, or emotional strength, but she displays something much greater: trust, patience, and strength of soul.
Snow White, it may surprise you to hear, is not a heroine. She was never meant to be a role model, but to serve as a warning. In the Grimm’s version, wherein she is known as Snow Drop, she is young, innocent, and beautiful, and for this reason must flee for her life. Right from the start, we learn goodness and innocence often lead to oppression. As the story unfolds, the innocent Snow Drop faces cruel reality, evil cloaked in deceitful goodness, and three times she is blind to its tricks. The Dwarfs tell her, “The queen will soon find out where you are, so take care and let no one in.” She tries to rely on her own judgment, disregarding the advice of the seven little men, and all three times, she fails.
“‘I will let the old lady in, she seems to be a very good sort of body’…Snow-drop did not dream of any mischief; so she stood up before the old woman; but she set to work so nimbly, and pulled the lace so tight, that Snow-drop lost her breath, and fell down as if she were dead.”
“Snow-drop said, ‘I dare not let anyone in.’ Then the queen said, ‘Only look at my beautiful combs;’ and gave her the poisoned one. And it looked so pretty that she took it up and put it in her hair to try it; but the moment in touched her head the poison was so powerful that she fell down senseless.”
“‘I dare not let any one in, for the dwarfs have told me not.’… ‘You silly girl!’ answered the other, ‘what are you afraid of? do you think it’s poisoned?’…she had scarcely put the piece into her mouth, when she fell down dead upon the ground.”
As punishment, she falls into a death-like slumber. In a way, she deserves to remain there: she was naive to a fault, and received not only a second chance, but a third, and ignored prudence every time. It is by the mercy of God that she not only receives a fourth chance when the Prince comes along, but a passionate, adoring love. The final lesson, then, from Snow White, is sometimes, through no merit of our own, we get a happy ending.
The last type of Princess is the victim.The victim succumbs not to a witch, or a dragon, or a wicked step-mother, or an evil king, but to something invisible, intangible, powerful. Two examples of such princesses are The Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. The Sleeping Beauty is the victim of fate, and her story asks the question whether we can escape our curses and blessings? Her parents do all they can to save their daughter from her terrible fate, but ultimately there is no salvation. Not, that is, until she has first suffered. Then her salvation finally comes to her in the form of her godmother’s blessing: she is awoken at the end of one hundred years by a gallant prince who risks death for her sake. The final life lesson the story of Sleeping Beauty leaves its reader is the assurance that just because our inescapable fate may lead to years of misery, there is joy at the end.
Rapunzel’s fate, on the other hand, is not external, but self-inflicted. Like Snow White, she is naive. But unlike Snow White, she does not merely make a mistake: she falls into the sin of lust. Both she and the Prince fall victim to sin in this story. The miseries that befall them are in expiation for their failures:
Rapunzel is exiled to a desert to raise her twins conceived in sin, and the prince is blinded (effectually removing the occasion of his sin, sight) and wanders the world alone. This story has been extensively altered from its original version by both the Brothers Grimm and more recent storytellers, but its original conveys the idea best.
Between once upon a time and happily ever after is not always the cute, clear-cut story we pretend it is. Like real life, fairy tales are full of mess, consequences, and human frailty. There are good people, evil people, and then just people, who do their best to be good but sometimes fall low.
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Grimm’s Fairy Tales. 2010, Puffin Classics, New York.
Perrault, Charles. Perrault’s Complete Fairy Tales. 1961, Dodd, Mead and Company, United States of America.
Fairy Tale: A story that pushes the boundaries of the natural world, seeking to raise the reader to a simultaneous knowledge of both the supernatural realities of life as well as an innocent, child-like perception of creation.