Book fairs are like treasure hunts for those of us who love to read; wonderful places where we can discover books we may have never seen otherwise. A chance for us to search out new and interesting authors.
Do you remember the book fairs they would have at schools (do they do that anymore? I might be dating myself 😀 ) I loved them, and found many hidden gems at those fairs. So needless to say, I was very excited when I had the chance to be a part of the Fantasy Romance Book Fair. Of course, the books there are are not ones you would find at a school book fair. However, if you like fantasy or romance, or stories that have a little bit of both, go take a look here. You will find a buffet of books to fill your summer days with, including Lumina and the Goblin King. It only lasts until the end of June, so go take a look. There are fantastical worlds and compelling characters just waiting for you to fall in love with them.
There are very few things that can compare to the feeling you get when you open your kindle to find the story you wrote there looking back at you. I can tell you, however, that holding the physical book in your hands takes that feeling to a whole other level.
Lumina and the Goblin King is the first full length novel that I have ever done a layout for, so my lack of posting shouldn’t come as a surprise. The process was time consuming and quite the adventure. There were so many things to consider, even beyond the words on the page. I had really wanted the cover to have a classic fairytale feel to it. I also wanted the book to be a good size, comfortable to hold in your hand, and easy to carry in a bag. All in all, I am absurdly happy with how the whole thing turned out. Though to be honest, this picture is actually of the first print proof. I am still waiting on the second to arrive. It seems that even after literally a dozen readings, and two trips to the editor, you still find there are some words that have gone missing or even extra words that have added themselves to sentences. Who knows, maybe goblin mischief is to blame!
Anyway, to celebrate the release of the print edition of Lumina and the Goblin King I am offering the ebook for free on Bookfunnel until the end of May. Or if you are open to writing reviews for free books, go to Booksprout and take a look.
We rarely get frost this far south, but even if you don’t take that into account, Florida is a crazy place when it comes to weather. In just a little over one month we have gone from frost to flowers to fruit.
And the bowl of tomatoes was just the first of many! I have since collected several more and started to mill and cook some of them down for sauce.
I would love to see pictures of the weather where you are, so if you have some, share them. Who knows what new places we might see!
I have mentioned my early reading adventures in several posts now, and recently I have had another come floating up from the depths of my memory… Disney’s read-along books.
They came with a record that slid into a pocket in the back of the book and I loved them! All of a sudden, books became interactive. I remember running through Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood and Maid Marian and escaping with Penny, Miss Bianca and Bernard in The Rescuers. They also helped me to learn to read at a very young age.
When my daughter came along, things had changed a little (and I don’t just mean in my life :). By then, read-along books came with CDs of course, instead of records or cassette tapes, and you could find them much easier. We would play them in the car on our way to school, or at night when she was *supposed* to be going to sleep. If you have ever read my About page, you will know that sleep was an elusive thing for us in those days.
Recently though, I began to learn a second language, and I found that children’s read-along books are still a great way to learn to read. Of course, technology has made it even easier. You can find websites like Reading’s a Breeze that have interactive books for all different levels of young readers. Best thing for me of course, is that they have them in different languages, like English (US and AU), French, Italian and Spanish. And they have plans for even more languages in the works! I would highly recommend you go take a look, especially if you have young readers just learning to read, or if you are like me, an old reader trying to learn something new.
Obviously, I love children’s books (just look at the Books page on my blog), but how much I loved reading them, when I was once again learning a new thing, amazed me. There’s an excitement very reminiscent childhood that sort of pounces on you, surprising you with the enjoyment of something simple and satisfying.
I first read The Swan Maiden by Howard Pyle in those wonderful red books that I had found tucked away in my grandmama’s house. I loved the idea of a young woman who could turn into a swan, a three eyed witch who lived in a house that shone like fire and the barley woman made of honey and barley meal. For some reason, these images captured my imagination as a child, and I returned to read about them again and again. Which probably explains why this retelling, out of all the previous retellings that I have posted, comes closest to the original work. Like “Princess Golden-Hair and the Great Black Raven” it first appeared in Pyle’s book The Wonder Clock, published in 1887.
Just a quick reminder, all these tales are unedited, so there will be typos and grammatical errors. Still, I hope you enjoy reading this retelling.
The Swan Maiden
Once upon a time there grew the most beautiful pear tree. It stood in the very center of a castle garden, surrounded by high walls, and from its branches hung exactly twenty-four perfect golden pears.
The king, whose garden it was, adored this pear tree and took great delight in going out every morning to count the twenty-four golden pears that grew from it. However, one morning when he went to visit his beloved pear tree, he found only twenty-three golden pears hanging from its branches. He spent the rest of his day questioning everyone in the castle, from the youngest scullery maid to the captain of the guard, but no one knew anything about the missing pear. The very next morning it happened again, despite the extra guards that had been set to watch over it the whole night through. Frustrated, the king called his three sons to him and set them a challenge. Whoever could catch the thief would be given half the kingdom, and inherit the rest after the king’s death. The three princes talked amongst themselves and it was decided that the eldest would try first.
So that night, the eldest prince sat beneath the pear tree, gun in hand, and waited for the thief to show itself. But when the morning came, another golden pear was missing and no thief had been seen. Strangely, the prince found that he could not say what had happened the night before. He swore that he did not remember closing his eyes, even for a moment and had been as surprised as anyone to wake with the morning sun on his face. Embarrassed, he urged the second prince to take his turn the following evening.
But the second prince had no better luck than the first. Bewildered, they ceded the next night to the youngest prince.
Now all three princes were handsome, brave and true, but the youngest was perhaps just a little cleverer than his brothers. While the first two princes had taken their turns, he had talked with the palace guards whom the king had first set to watch the pear tree. Most did not remember any more than the princes had, but one old soldier recalled hearing the most beautiful music for just a moment. Then the next thing the guards knew, they were waking up with the cock crowing a welcome to the silvery morn. The story made the youngest prince wonder. So when evening came and it was his turn to watch for the pear thief, he had a plan. He sat at the base of the tree with his gun across his knees, just as his brothers had done the nights before. But, keeping in mind what the old guard had said, he used softened wax to stop up his ears, which meant he was as deaf as a post while he kept his vigil. Which is why when midnight came and the unearthly music began to play, the prince heard none of it. In fact, he was wide awake when a couple of hours later the branches above him began to shake. He saw among the leaves an enormous swan reaching with its beak for one of the golden pears. Slowly he raised his gun, and took aim… only to find a breath-takingly beautiful woman in his sights where once the swan had sat.
Lowering his gun, he removed the wax from his ears so that he could hear what she was saying. “Don’t shoot, king’s son,” she pleaded in a lilting voice, as sweet as birdsong. “I will not,” the prince promised. “Though I will admit, pretty thief, it is mostly for the chance to know you better.” “I am not a thief by choice,” confessed the Swan Maiden. “My mistress is the witch with three eyes, and it is she who sends out me every night to bring her back a golden pear from the king’s tree. And if you want to woo me, then it is she that you will have to free me from.” “Then so I shall,” said the prince, already quite enamored with the lovely woman sitting the branches above him. “She lives far from here. Over seven high mountains, and across seven deep valleys with seven wide rivers running through them. Are you bold enough to go that far?” she asked. “Oh yes,” he said confidently. “I am bold enough, for that and much more.” “And are you clever enough, I wonder?” “I am,” he said assuredly. “We will see,” she said, jumping lightly from the branch to land gracefully in front of him, becoming a swan once more. “Climb on my back then, king’s son and hold on tight.”
Once he had done as she bade him, the great swan spread her wings and sprang into the air. Through the night sky they flew, the stars a blanket above them. Below them rose seven high mountains, which fell into seven deep valleys with seven wide rivers winding through them like silver ribbons. On and on they flew until he saw, in the distance, a dark hill crowned by a house that shone like fire. “Yonder hut is where the witch with three eyes lives,” said the Swan Maiden. “If you are bold enough, knock on her door and when she asks what you have come for, ask her to give you the one who draws the water and builds the fire, for that is myself.” With that, the great swan landed on the top of the hill. The prince slid from her back and she flew off again, over the top of the roof.
The prince stepped boldly up to the door, as he had said he would, and knocked with a rap! tap! tap! The witch herself opened it. “And what do you want?” she asked. “I want the one who draws the water and builds the fire,” he answered. The old witch scowled at him (which with her three eyes was a frightful sight indeed). “Very well. You can have what you want, if you can clean my stables tomorrow between the rising and setting of the sun. But you should know, if you fail in the doing, then you will be torn to pieces, body and bone,” she warned him and shut the door in his face. The brave prince would not be scared away by empty words. So, stretching out along the ground, he waited for the sun to rise.
The next morning, the witch came and led him to the stables where he was to do his task. The stable was huge! In it were at least a hundred cattle, and it looked as if it had not been cleaned in ten years. “Here you are,” said the witch handing him a pitchfork and broom, cackling all the while. Then she left him. The prince did not hesitate despite the impossible task, instead setting to his work with a will. But he might as well have tried to bale out the ocean with a pail. Because though he worked harder than any ten men could have, by the time the sun was high in the sky, he had made almost no headway.
At noon he was surprised to see the lovely Swan Maiden standing at the stable doors, beckoning to him. Leaving his pitchfork and broom, he went to join her. “When one is tired, one should rest,” she said taking his hand in hers. She led him to a sunny spot just outside the stable. There she sat and bade the prince to join her and lay his head in her lap. So he did, happy to take her advice. After all, he had gained nothing from working so hard at his task, and perhaps if he were to take a moment, a clever solution would come to him. The prince lay with his head quietly in the Swan Maiden’s lap, watching cloud ships sail across the sky, while she combed his hair with a golden comb. He was thinking so hard of a way to complete his task that he did not even realize that he had fallen fast asleep.
When he woke, the Swan Maiden was gone and the sun was setting. In horror, he jumped up and went to the stable, only to find it clean as a hungry man’s plate. The prince had barely recovered from his shock, when he heard the old witch’s footsteps coming up the path. Swiftly, he set about, clearing away a straw here and a speck there, as if he was just finishing his work. “You never did this by yourself!” exclaimed the witch, her face as dark as a thunderstorm. “That may be so, and it may not be so,” said the king’s son. “But you lent no hand to help. So, now may I have the one who draws the water and builds the fire?” “No,” said the witch shaking her head. “There is more yet to be done before you can have what you asked for. Tomorrow, if you can thatch the roof of this stable with bird feathers, no two being the same color, and do it between the rising and setting of the sun, then you can have your sweetheart and welcome. But if you fail, I will grind your bones finer than malt in a mill.”
That suited the prince well enough. So at sunrise, he took his gun and went into the fields. But if there were any birds there to shoot, he did not see them. By the time the sun was high in the sky, he had downed only two, and those were of the same color. At noon, the Swan Maiden came to see him as she had the day before. “One should not tramp and tramp about all day without any rest,” she said. Taking his hand in hers, she led him a spot where the grass was soft and sweet smelling. There they sat and he laid his head in her lap. Again, she combed his hair with a golden comb until he was fast asleep.
He opened his eyes to see that the sun was setting, and his work was done just as it had been before. When he heard the old witch coming, he hopped up onto the stable roof and began to lay feathers here and there, for all the world as though he were just finishing his work. “You never did that work alone!” exclaimed the witch when she saw the stable roof with its thatch of feathers. “That may be so, and it may not be so,” said the king’s son. “But all the same it was none of your doing. So, now may I have the one who draws the water and builds the fire?” But the witch shook her head. “No,” she said, “there is still another task for you to do. Over yonder there is a fir tree. At the very top of this tree is a crow’s nest with three eggs in it. If you can reach the nest and bring back all three eggs without losing or breaking a single one, and do it between the rising and the setting of the sun tomorrow, then you may have that which you have asked me for.”
That suited the prince just fine. So, the next morning he woke with the rising of the sun and headed off to find the fir tree. Finding it was not hard for it was more than a hundred feet high. Climbing it proved much harder. It would take ten men, standing on each others shoulders, to reach the bottom branches. The trunk itself was as smooth as glass, from root to tip. Despite that, the prince tried his best to scale the fir tree, and for all his trouble he could only make it up a few feet before sliding right back down. He might as well have tried to climb a moonbeam. By and by, the Swan Maiden came as she had done before. “Are you to try and climb the fir tree?” she asked. “Indeed,” replied the prince. “And how are you fairing?” “None too well,” the prince admitted, sheepishly. The Swan Maiden smiled at him. “Then perhaps I can help you,” she said. She unbound her braids until her golden hair hung down all about her and lay piled high on the ground around her. Then she began to sing. She sang and she sang until the wind began to blow. Catching up the maiden’s hair, the wind carried it up to the top of the fir tree and once there tied it to the upper most branches. Quickly the prince climbed up the shining strands until he reached the very top. There was the nest with three eggs in it, just as the witch had said. He gathered them up and carefully went back down the same way that he had come up. Once he was back on the ground, the wind came again to loosen the maiden’s hair from from the fir’s branches, and carry it back to her. She bound it up, just as it was before. “Now listen,” said the Swan Maiden, “when the witch asks you for the crow’s eggs that you have gathered, tell her that they belong to the one who found them. Do not worry, she can not take them from you, and they are worth something, I promise you.”
At sunset the old witch came hobbling along to where the prince sat at the foot of the fir tree. “Have you gathered the crow’s eggs?” she asked. “Yes, replied the prince. “They are here in my handkerchief. And now, may I have the one who draws the water and builds the fire?” “Yes,” said the witch, “you may have her, only give me my crow’s eggs.” “No,” he said firmly. “The crow’s eggs are none of yours. They belong to the one who gathered them.” Realizing that she would not get them that way, the witch tried another. “Come, come now,” said the witch in tones as sweet as honey, “there should be no hard feelings between us. Before heading home with what you came for, you should have a good supper. After all, you have served me faithfully, and it is ill to travel on an empty stomach.” So she led the prince back to the house. There she sat him down, saying that she would set the pot on to boil, before going to sharpen the bread knife on the stone doorstep. While the prince waited for the witch, there came a tap at the door. And who should it be but the Swan Maiden. “Come with me,” she said, “and mind that you bring the crow’s eggs. The knife she is sharpening is for you, and so is the pot on the fire. She means to cook you up this very night and pick your bones in the morning.” The prince followed the Swan Maiden down to the kitchen, and there they fashioned a figure made up of barley meal and honey. The Swan Maiden dressed the figure in her own clothes, and together they placed it on a stool that was sitting in the chimney corner by the fire. There it sat, soft and sticky, but looking much like Swan Maiden in the soft light. The real Swan Maiden led the prince from the kitchen and through the front door, which was opposite the one where the witch sat sharpening her knife. Once they were out under the evening sky, she became a swan again and taking the prince on her back, she flew away.
As for the witch, she came in from sharpening her knife to find the prince gone. Try as she might, she could find no trace of him. In a rage, she stormed through the house until she came to the kitchen and saw the figure that was sitting there. “Where is your sweetheart,” the witch asked the barley woman, thinking it the maiden herself. But of course the barley woman did not answer. “Answer me you ungrateful creature!” she cried. “Or do you hope to protect him by staying dumb?” Raising her hand, she slapped the barley woman as hard as she could. Her hand stuck fast in the honey and barley meal. “What! How dare you hold me!” Slap! – she struck the barley woman hard with her other hand which also sank in deep. So there she stood, unable to get herself unstuck from the honey and barley meal, and could still be there to this day, for all we know.
As for the Swan Maiden and the prince, they flew back over the seven high mountains with their seven deep valleys and the seven wide rivers winding through them. They flew on and on until they came near the prince’s home. There the Swan Maiden landed in a great wide field that lay only a few miles from the king’s castle. It was there that she told the prince to open the first egg. He did as she suggested, and what should he find inside but the most beautiful little castle, made all of gold and silver. He set the palace on the ground and it grew and grew until it covered a whole acre of land. Then she bade him to break the second egg, and out came great herds of cattle and sheep, enough to cover the meadow where they stood. Finally, she told him to break the third egg, and from it came scores of servants all dressed in gold and silver livery.
That morning when the king woke and looked out his bedroom window, there stood a splendid castle of gold and silver shining in the morning light. The king gathered his people together and rode over to see how such a thing had come to be. On the way, they rode through the herds of cattle and sheep, fat and content where they grazed. And past the rows of servants, dressed all in gold and silver, happily going about their labor. On they rode until they came to the castle gate, where the prince waited for his father. Their reunion was joyful. Only his two elder brothers seemed unsure, thinking that youngest of them, having found the pear thief, was to inherit the whole of the kingdom. But he soon put their minds to rest, he had more than enough of his own and saw no need to have his father’s kingdom as well.
The youngest prince and the Swan Maiden were married and a grand wedding it was. The guests made very merry while they danced the whole night long. As the night grew older and the wedding guests began to depart, the prince sat happily with his new wife and watched them all go. “Despite what I had promised you when first we first met, I can’t say that I did much that was very bold or clever. Save to follow your advice when you gave it,” the prince admitted to his new wife. The Swan Maiden smiled brightly at her husband. “Some may say that is true, and some may say it’s not. As for me, I would say there is no clever thing than that.”
Some of our oldest stories were told in pictures. Even today, there are some wonderful books that tell their stories without any words at all. Their pictures, seeds that take root in the imagination, blooming into a different story each time we look at them.
The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward is one such book. I was pretty young when I first read it, and at first found it so odd that it had no words. The wonderous thing about the book was that a new story emerged each time I looked through its soft gray-toned pictures. The adventure changing just a little as I imagined what it would be like for the boy visit far off places on the back of his silver pony with wings.
Words are wonderful things, but they are by nature defining and sometimes their lack can be freeing.
More recently, I came across Journey by Aaron Becker which I just learned is the first in a trilogy. I found this book to be beautiful! I loved the story and for some reason its lack of words made it even more powerful to me. And the art was not only wonderful, but gave the story exactly the right feel, using color to carry you along on on a fantastical adventure.
So if your mind is feeling adventurous, try a book without words – you may be surprised at the stories you will find.
This post certainly falls into the random thoughts category!
I was going through pictures, looking for ones I can put into a calendar for this upcoming year; however, the pictures that seemed to keep grabbing my attention were the ones of food. Ummmm, food! One thing all of us share in one way or another, whether its in abundance or a lack of, whether you hate it or love it.
I have always found that the description of a meal, of how it looks, of its flavors and scents, is one of the things that can truly draw me into a story. It adds verisimilitude, engaging my senses so that I can more easily lose myself in the tale it’s telling. It also can help if I am having trouble getting into my writing; providing an easy place for my imagination to take that step, from the world I am living in, to one of the many I am imagining.
And now my daughter is asking me “what’s for lunch?” so I guess I’m not the only one whose hungry! 🙂
In a previous post I mentioned how different our memories sometimes paint the stories of our childhood, and that how, for me, the underlying theme of Housmans’ Rocking Horse Land was so much changed between my reading of it as a child and my reading of it as an adult.
Well, one of the pictures I took for Christmas jumped out at me. My daughter’s old rocking horse “E” (short for E,I,E,I,O) was in one of the pictures. He is a little worse for wear, having survived not just her childhood but a number of visiting children who hugged him and hung off his neck when they came to visit. Of course, he weathered all this attention with the stoicism that all well-loved toys do. I can’t bring myself to let him go, so he is now a permeant decoration at Christmas. He was a rescue, like so many other things around my house (such as the wide-eyed cat next to him whose previous home had been the parking lot at my husband’s work). We found “E” at Home Depot where he had already been broken by a couple of larger children who had used him roughly, so he came home with us.
Anyway, I don’t know who to blame, the picture or the post, but a story popped into my head which I am now sharing with you. It is heavily influenced by my memories of Rocking Horse Land, and you will find a number of differences between the original and my retelling, most notable being the underlying theme. Still I hope you will enjoy it!
(Fair warning, this is a first draft. The sketch is conceptual and typos are likely!)
The Rocking Horse
When the children woke on Christmas morning they found piles of presents under the tree. There was something for everyone: George had his clockwork mice and Teddy his paint set. There was a working train, complete with bright red caboose, for William; and a silver comb and mirror for Sarah. And for Nell a tea set of her very own, packed neatly in a picnic basket for her to take on her adventures. However, everyone agreed that the grandest gift of all was the great black rocking horse that stood at the far end of the nursery. What a fine proud head it had! And the rippling mane that fell from its high-crested neck was long and full, nearly touched the ground. The tiny golden bells which hung from its saddle and reins chimed merrily with each graceful sway of the rocking horse’s head. A small brass plate afixed to his bridle proclaimed his name to be Roland. The children, one and all, hugged the creature’s beautiful neck and stroked its soft nostrils. They, each one, kissed the broad forehead between its eyes. And what eyes those were! Great eyes the color of fire which shone so wonderfully bright. They seemed as though they must really be alive, save they did not move, but instead stared fixedly ahead.
Each child took turns riding on the great creature’s back; its swaying gate carrying them off bravely into battle, or into the unknown of wild frontiers and landscapes as yet unseen. He was their gallant charger, elegant palfrey, or loyal pack horse. But eventually the children’s interest waned. George returned to his clockwork mice and Teddy to his paint set. William gathered up his train and set off in search of places to set its tracks and Sarah used her silver comb to brush her doll’s hair. One by one they all drifted away, all except Nell. She dearly loved Roland, and all day long she sat upon his back, rocking furiously as she imagined them riding through wildflower meadows and along rainbow streams flowing beneath sherbet-colored skies. In fact, Nell was having so much fun with Roland that she missed dinner entirely. And when bedtime came, she had to be lifted from the saddle, having fallen asleep with her arms wrapped tightly around the rocking horse’s neck. So it should come as no surprise that when she woke later that night, she was hungry. She slipped from her warm bed and padded down the hall towards the stairs that would lead her to the kitchen. As she passed the nursery door she paused, she had a great desire to check on Roland. She longed to see the grand creature with his long rippling tail and great fiery eyes, just for a moment. When she opened the door she was surprised to find the corner where he had been empty. The soft chiming of bells drew her eyes to the other side of the nursery. There Roland stood in front of the large windows, as though he watched the clouds moving across the sky high above. Nell wondered how he had gotten there and went over to see, resting her hand on the soft black nose. When she looked up into the rocking horse’s eyes she found them full of tears. One fell silvery bright onto her hand, were it lay warm and real. “Roland, gentle Roland, why are you crying?” she asked. “Because I miss my home sweet Nell,” Roland answered. “I can hear my mares and foals whinnying to me as they race over the hills.” “Why don’t you go to them?” the girl asked. “Because I am bound here, and so cannot leave,” the rocking horse replied. “You are a prisoner?” Nell said. It broke her heart to see her gentle, patient Roland sad. So even though she would miss him terribly, she opened the window so that he might go back to the home he so clearly loved. “Ah, thank you, kind Nell,” he said. “But I do not wish to leave you either for we have had such a wonderful time together. Search through my mane until you find a silver hair. There will be only one. Pluck it, and wear it round your finger. When the dawn comes, open the window and call my name and I will return to you happily.” She searched through his mane, and found the single silver hair, just as Roland had said. She plucked it and braided it to make a ring for her finger. The rocking horse nodded his head once, then with a joyous ringing of bells, he lifted up into the air. Through the nursery window he flew, racing out across the starry night sky, high up over the moon-silvered clouds, heading towards his home in Rocking Horse Land. Nell went back to bed, her rumbling tummy forgotten. She ran her finger of the silver ring until she fell asleep, and dreamed of Rocking Horse Land. She could see them all racing over emerald hills as smooth as glass. Their proud heads nodding up and down, up and down in their particular way as they strove to go faster. Their shining manes streaming out behind them with their speed. Silvery dapples, coppery chestnuts and golden cremellos, one by one they raced by. And in front of them all, was the ebony figure of her beloved Roland.
She was up before dawn to make sure the nursery window was open, calling Roland’s name out into the pale morning light. And there he was, dipping and dancing through the silvery shadows, until he floated through the open window and landed at her feet. “Did you have fun, my dearest Roland?” “Yes, my sweet Nell, it was wonderful! Thank you,” and with that he was still. His limbs ridge once more as his eyes stared fixedly ahead, just as one would expect a rocking horse to be. Nell returned to the nursery again that night and every night after, to open the window for Roland. Every morning he returned as promised, so that he might carry Nell off on her adventures the whole day long.
Christmas morning came around again, and again the children were greeted with brightly wrapped presents waiting for them under the tree. George got a clockwork cat to chase his clockwork mice, and Teddy finally had an easel to hold up his canvases. William got little houses and stores with people to set up along side his train’s tracks and Sarah finally got the pair of long gloves she had wished for all year, the ones with tiny pearl buttons. But it was Nell’s gift which was the most unexpected. It came in the form of a lovely white pony and from that day on they went everywhere together. Still, every night Nell would remember to open the window for Roland. And sometimes if the weather was foul or if she just had a mind to, she would go to the nursery to sit on his back, rocking to and fro as she told him of her latest adventures. Eventually there were other children; younger brothers and sisters who hugged Roland’s beautiful neck and kissed him between his great fiery eyes. They would ride on his strong back and make up adventures of their own. And they began to leave the window open for Roland at night.
There came a time when Nell realized it had been some time since she had been in the nursery. So she snuck down the hall that evening and peaked in the door. She found Roland standing at the window staring forlornly out at the trees swaying in the night breeze. His bridle was missing a bell or three and his mane and tail were perhaps not as full as they had once been, yet he was still beautiful and his great eyes still shone brightly. “Ah, sweet Nell, have you finally remembered me?” he asked, and though his voice was sad, it held no blame in it. “My wonderful, patient Roland, I am so sorry!” she exclaimed as she hugged his neck and stroked his long soft muzzle. “You gave me so many happy memories, shared so many of my dreams and kept all my confidences. I love you so, but I see now that it is past time I set you free. Be well my dear Roland.” With that she opened the window. The great rocking horse swayed, dipping his head so deeply that it nearly touched the floor, and then with a jubilant ringing of bells, he sprang out into the night sky. Nell unwound the band of silver that circled her finger, and let the evening breeze carry it away to follow behind the one who had gifted it to her. She thought that she could hear the sound of joyous whinnying; a welcoming home to one long lost. Smiling, she quietly closed the window and locked it.
Have you ever gone back to read the fairytales you loved as a child? Were you surprised to find them different then you remembered? Not necessarily the stories themselves, but the parts we take away from them.
When I went back to read Rocking Horse Land by Laurence Housman, I was surprised to find that little Prince Freedling was quite a spoiled brat. And in fact, that was the whole point of the story! Since it goes on to show him becoming a more caring boy.
However, that is not at all like the story I remembered reading as a little girl. For my part, I remembered the prince being more compassionate and with a kinder heart. Of course, that could have been because I often took the stories I was reading and rewrote them in my head.
Stone Soup was another example of a tale whose message changed with adulthood. I will always remember thinking what a wonderful thing it was to make something out of nothing. Having to hunt around for whatever ingredients were at hand, having to make due with what you had and still being able to make something delicious out of it. I still love the idea of taking what food I have, especially when the fridge and pantry are close to empty, and coming up with a tasty meal nonetheless. It wasn’t until I reread the story as an adult that the working together theme became clear.
I can certainly see how the stories I read as a child influenced my interests as an adult (I am sure they had some say in my love of cooking). But not always in the way the stories may have been written to. I remember Saburo the eel catcher and the amazing meal he was going to have after having an incredibly lucky day. And my poor grandmama made me stacks and stacks of pancakes when I was little, just so I could pretend that I was eating them with tiger butter. Yet, none of these stories were really about cooking at all!
It makes me wonder if the meanings and morals that we, as adults, derive from these tales are the same as the ones children do. I guess we can never be sure unless we stop and remember what it was like to look through the eyes of a child.