Jun 072012

by Emerald Lugtu

book of fairy tales, credit unknownIl était une fois…

Era uma vez…

C’era una volta…

Es war einmal…

Det var en gang…

Once upon a time…

No matter what language you speak, all of us can remember those words that begin fantastical adventures. Most of us, too, can remember the fuzzy feeling that settled over us like fairy dust by the time the story ended. Perhaps that is reason enough why fairy tales are important, because they make us happy.

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. — Ursula K. LeGuin

Looking back, I begin to realize exactly how flawed the fairy tale heroes and heroines are. After all, Jack (the one affiliated with the beanstalk) was a thief, and the Princess (the one associated with the pea) wasn’t a very gracious guest by complaining to the queen about her uncomfortable sleeping arrangement.

Yet, fairy tale characters still inspire us to root for them. Why? Because they’re human and because when we look at them, we see ourselves. When we see ourselves in these characters, we see mistakes that we’ve made and the risks that paid off, all without feeling like we’re being overly preached to.

Yes, sometimes fairy tales are the best way to stomach lessons. There are the obvious ones, like don’t take apples candy food from strangers (Snow White), don’t forget to invite everyone to your party (Sleeping Beauty), everything’s not as it seems (Beauty and the Beast), and read the fine print when signing contracts (Rumpelstiltskin). Then there are the less obvious lessons, like always remember to pack snacks when you go into the woods (Hansel and Gretel) and all those hours spent playing charades might not be wasted (The Little Mermaid).

If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life. — Siberian Elder

In return for making us look at our dark side, fairy tales give us a chance to see ourselves triumphant. They let us beat our foe, they let us see that people who have it tough can succeed, and they let us find our unicorn. Fairy tales give us a chance to say ‘I’m brave! I can handle this!’ All of us like to think that, given the chance, we would have tamed the dragon. We would have gone to the ball. We would have been the one to pull the sword from the stone.

What if? Would we? There are so many questions that come after ‘once upon a time’; questions that will stick with you long after the words ‘happily ever after’ have been read.

Not only do fairy tales let us do the right thing, they let us be a hero. Which, in this world, can be the same thing.

“The story does not contain the answer, it is the answer.” — Brian Wicker

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.” Albert Einstein is quoted as saying. “If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Sometimes fairy tales give us good ways to see ourselves. And sometimes they don’t. Sometimes fairy tales let us see ourselves in the less-than-favorable light. We can examine ourselves in each character. How far would we take our hate? (Hopefully not far enough to start poisoning apples!) What would we do to get what we want? How many people do we pass, do we take for granted, without giving them a chance? (Granted, there is a high chance that the old woman you passed is not a fairy, but she could be, say, an eccentric millionaire.)

“At the center of every fairy tale lay a truth that gave the story its power.” — Susan Wiggs, author

Some have brought out the point that fairy tales are ridiculous because they don’t deal with real life; that wishes on stars don’t come true and that people who fall down rabbit holes sprain their ankle instead of having tea parties with mad hatters. That’s a well-made point. But reading fairy tales isn’t a study guide for what to do (or not to do) when a giant beanstalk grows in your back yard. Those parts of fairy tales aren’t true. But some parts are. “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist,” English writer G.K. Chesterton says, “but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Fairy tales give us a chance to escape, a chance to renew our faith, and a chance to conquer whatever we’re fighting. “Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children?” Alfred Hitchcock is recorded as saying, “Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf.”

Perhaps fairy tales are hard to believe, not because of all the Pegasus flying about, but because it’s hard for people to suspend their disbelief long enough to feel that there are such things as happy endings. To many, each day is a constant reminder that good doesn’t always triumph over evil. That the poor-yet-honest don’t always become rich, and there certainly have been no pumpkins being turned into coaches (as far as I am aware).

But maybe happy endings are exactly what people need to believe. They need to have the creativity, imagination, and love to become the artists, inventors, and humanitarians of tomorrow. People need hope; people need hope to have a tomorrow. And while fairy tales certainly aren’t solely responsible for this, they certainly are an inspiration.

Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale of all. — Hans Christian Anderson

I started off this essay talking about fairy tales. But maybe what we really need is a chance to dream. A chance to dare to believe that there’s our very own happy ending somewhere out there waiting to happen; a chance to see that we still have good in ourselves and that good things can still happen to us; a chance to see ourselves as the hero in the fairy tale, and to realize that we are the hero of our own life’s story.

Fairy tales give us these opportunities, which is why they’re important. Fairy tales remind us to dream.

Because everyone deserves their own happily ever after.

…Ils vécurent heureux.

… E viveram felizes para sempre.

…E vissero felici e contenti.

…Und sie lebten glücklich und zufrieden bis ans Ende ihrer Tage.

…Og så levde de lykkelige alle sine dager.

…Happily ever after.

–The End–

Emerald Lugtu is a sixteen year-old student in Ojai, California. She runs her own Young Adult book review blog, ‘Alice in Readerland’ ( She thoroughly enjoys writing, reading, and of course, fairy tales.

 Posted by at 8:00 am

Scheherezade’s Bequest 15

 Our Grim(m)oire  Comments Off on Scheherezade’s Bequest 15
May 302012

Scheherezade's Bequest Issue15As you may have noticed, we are somewhat behind schedule when it comes to releasing new issues of Scheherezade’s Bequest. There has been so much going on for us behind the scenes–where once our staff was based in the US, the UK, and Australia, now we are in the US, Malaysia, and France. At the rate some of us move around the globe, we are lucky to have an issue at all. But we do! And we also have an important announcement to make, so be sure to read all the way to the end of this short editorial or you’ll miss it.

Before we go on, we must offer our congratulations to JoSelle Vanderhooft, whose poem Blood, Snow, Birch, and Underworld, which appeared in our December 2011 issue, was nominated for the Rhysling Award (, given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association for best genre poetry. Well done, JoSelle!

In this issue of Scheherezade’s Bequest we’ve got five short stories and three poems, two of which are by the same author. Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé’s villanelles were too good to pass by, so we’ve opened and closed with his Stone Soup, based on the German folktale of the same name, and Drakestail Sea, from the French folktale Drakestail. In between them, we have tales of a dauntless girl and a curious moon, a steadfast boy and a sister who could not keep faith with her brothers, and in the middle of it all we find ourselves spellbound. We also have one of fantasist Paul Willems’ stories in this issue–The Colors of the World–as translated by Edward Gauvin.

Companion updates to Cabinet des Fées include Germany’s Märchen Straße — An Introduction to the German Fairy Tale Road by Amanda White, who shares images of her travels up Grimms’ road, Planting a Magical Garden by Theodora Goss, who reveals the magical and mythic properties of the plants that might be found in a witch’s garden, and finally, Virginia M. Mohlere has given us audio reviews of Soulless by Gail Carriger and Hounded by Kevin Hearne.

Before we make our announcement, we’d like to remind you that Demeter’s Spicebox is still open to submissions. Please consider joining us in our fairy tale experiment!

We’d also like to let you know that Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes is now available in digital editions from the publisher’s website, and from Amazon. Remember, half of the proceeds from this chapbook are being donated to animal charities of our choice (you can read more about our cause here). Please support us if you can!

So here we are. We are somewhat sad to announce that there will only be one more online issue of Scheherezade’s Bequest following this one. We have been offering fairy tale fiction and poetry online, for free, since 2005, sometimes on a schedule and sometimes not. (Oops!) We remain very grateful to those of you who have been long-time readers, to our new readers, and to everyone who has let us know how much our fiction and poetry means to them. This is not, however, a goodbye to Scheherezade’s Bequest. The real announcement is that we are taking SB into print!

We have decided to temporarily cease the online publication in order to focus our efforts on a three issue print volume of Scheherezade’s Bequest. We are finalising the guidelines now, and will be opening to submissions on the first of July. We’ll be looking for fiction, graphic fiction, poetry, and artwork. These will be themed issues; for our first issue will be looking at the Loathly Lady, and how our perceptions of beauty are shaped. We’ll post more information in June, before opening to subs.

We hope you enjoy this current issue of SB and look forward to the next.

Until then,

Erzebet, Donna, Virginia, Nin

 Posted by at 11:22 am

Drakestail Sea: A Villanelle by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

 Issue 15 (May 2012)  Comments Off on Drakestail Sea: A Villanelle by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
May 302012


Drakestail Sea: A Villanelle
by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

The script of the lucky penny
The script of checking both faces
The script of surrender and sacrifice

The script of a quacking consciousness
The script of ruffled feathers
The script of an ambush by the fox

The script of the well at Nordenau
The script of the ladder lowering itself
The script of jagged walls of slate

The script of climbing into a bonfire
The script of diving into Alme Valley
The script of waterfowl riding the rapids

The script of making it to the Baltic Sea
The script of Dutch Hookbill lookalikes
The script of the swarm of hornets

The script of death and the purpling
The script of suffering fools and angels
The script of the coin in Answer to Job
The script of two bronze bells tolling

(This poem takes the French folk tale “Drakestail” as its premise. The book Answer to Job was authored by Carl Jung in 1952.

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has edited more than ten books and co-produced three audio books, several pro bono for non-profit organizations. Trained in book publishing at Stanford University, with a theology masters (world religions) from Harvard University and fine arts masters (creative writing) from the University of Notre Dame, he is the recipient of the Tom Howard High Distinction Award, Tupelo Press Poetry Project Honorable Mention, Hiew Siew Nam Academic Award, and Singapore Internationale Grant. An interdisciplinary artist, Desmond also works in clay, his commemorative pieces housed in museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

 Posted by at 7:07 am
May 302012


One Good Thing
by Jared Oliver Adams

This is a story about desire. Not anything so weak as lust or greed, but something far more powerful. It is not even about love, though many I’ve told the story to would disagree.

No, this is about the desire, the one desire, the desire that is always there no matter what other smaller desires are piled on top of it, the desire that is rooted so deep inside a heart that it cares not whether the person has the fitness to obtain it.

The story starts with a priest and a discovery. The priest’s great desire was to see the smile of the Almighty, to see God face to face and hear him say “well done good and faithful servant.”

The priest did not have the ambition to rise through the church in power and glory. That was not his desire. Instead, he labored in obscurity, in a small village at the edge of a forest. His church was small, with an earthen floor upon which he slept every night and a cross hewn from the forest by his own hand hanging above the altar.

It was the custom of this priest to walk in the woods every morn and converse with God, and on one such trip he found a baby, left upon a rock to die, blood still on him, cord still attached. He took this baby in for the sake of God’s smile, and for the sake of God’s smile he raised the child as his own, even though it was clear from that first day that the child was slack-witted.

The boy was given the name David, but he could never pronounce it through his thick lips. “Durer,” he would say, and eventually the name David was lost.

Though the priest tried to instill in Durer the same desire that defined his own life, the concept of God proved too hard for the boy to comprehend. The priest tried reading the Bible to the child, tried explaining the cross to him, or the saints, but the boy just smiled dumbly.

One day, the priest decided to try a different approach. He took nine-year-old Durer on a walk with him to his favorite clearing to show him true beauty, for God is the epitome of beauty and he thought if Durer could understand beauty then he could one day understand God. He pointed to the hazy morning light filtering through the branches, the leaves that were a perfect translucent green, and the myriad flowers heavy with dew.

“God,” the priest said triumphantly.

And Durer looked around in wonder, too overwhelmed to reply, for he saw in the pristine beauty of the woods something truly, fully, and marvelously good.

He didn’t know that this thing was created by God, but he did know something else: if he could ever do something as wonderful as that clearing, his life would be worthwhile. Just one thing would do, but it had to be completely, undeniably good. This desire stuck in Durer’s mind like few other things did. To do one good thing.

Though the priest was always kind to young Durer, the other children in the village were not. His slowness of mind showed in his features—a thick brow, bulbous eyes, a fat neck that disappeared into rounded shoulders—and the children mocked him mercilessly.

“Rock baby, Rock baby,” they’d say. “Found on a rock. Dumb as a rock. Ugly as a rock. Rock baby. Rock baby.” And they’d laugh and laugh.

To Durer though, laughter was always a thing of joy, just as tears were always a thing of sadness. And since he didn’t understand the words the other children said, he laughed with them when they made fun of him, and imagined the whole world was made of his friends. But when they tripped him or beat him, he cried, because for those moments his world was shattered. The beatings always ended though, and Durer always forgot about the cruelty of the other boys. Soon he would be laughing again.

Besides the priest, young Durer had only one other friend: the princess. Of the children, she alone had mercy on Durer. She alone spent time with him without mockery.

She was not actually a princess, you understand, but the daughter of the minor noble who governed the village where Durer lived. She wasn’t even the first daughter, hoping to marry a wealthier lord, but the fourth, who would inherit nothing. She had a name too, and she told it many times to Durer as she cleaned his wounds or walked with him in the woods, but to Durer she was always just “the princess.”

The princess possessed a compassionate heart, for her great desire was to be a saint with a statue of herself carved into the stones of a great cathedral. Nobody had told her that women could not be saints, and by the time she found this out, the desire had too great a hold on her to ever be dismissed.

Durer was her mission. She protected him when the other children attacked him, and talked to him like he was a normal person who could understand her. And when she walked or skipped along with him in the woods, she even let him hold her hand. Oftentimes they would play pretend. They would fight invisible foes with sticks, or climb trees like they were high towers and spit down at the ground to keep the enemy from coming up with their ladders.

To Durer, she was the bright light of the sun, or fresh water from the spring, or a butterfly so beautiful that you had to stop what you were doing to follow it. He indeed did not understand her words, but they were marvelous music to him nonetheless. And when she walked with him in the forest and let him touch her hand, the great desire in his heart rose with the music of her voice. To do something truly good.

And he would return to the church, the one he called home, and try to make something wonderful out of wood, but he always failed. Or he would try to put stones one atop another to make a palace for the princess, but they always fell down. And when they fell down he would cry and the priest would come to him and put his arm around him and tell him it was all right, even though it wasn’t.

Durer grew to adulthood, yet his mind did not. Even so, his desire never left him. To do one good thing. He learned words, five of them, and he was sure that they would help him in his task. The words were Princess, Durer, love, help, and good.

And he dreamed, too. And in his dreams he could speak and understand words like everyone else. Many words. More than five. And he was strong, and he had a wonderful sword. He would fight evil creatures in the woods with his sword, and when they chased him up a tree he would spit down at them and his saliva would burn their bodies. And then the princess would be in trouble, so he would save her. And she would smile and hold his hand and he would know that he had done his one good thing.

The princess, however, had been told so many times that her great desire to be a saint was futile, that she started to pretend the desire was not there at all. “Be practical,” everyone said. “A woman is only as good as the husband she acquires.” And she believed them, even though the desire to be a saint was still there, buried underneath all her broken dreams.

So the princess started to court men, but Durer did not understand. He tried to follow her and tried to hold her hand like they used to, and became an embarrassment to her.

He delighted especially to tell her his five words. He hoped that if she heard his words, she would be able to know his dreams, and then she could help him with his one good thing, but it was not so.

“Durer,” he would say. “Love.” But she would stop him before he went further, for she thought he was about to say “Durer love princess,” when in actuality he had been about to say “Durer love good.”

The men she was with mocked him just as they always had as children, and the princess found herself doing it too, even though she hated herself for it. “He cannot understand my words anyway,” she told herself over and over, but still every time she mocked him, a part of her withered and died. She always stopped those with her from doing physical harm, however, so Durer never knew that his friend had turned against him. All he knew was that someone else got to hold her hand now and maybe he would have a turn later.

Eventually, the princess became engaged to the blacksmith’s son, a handsome, muscular, and intelligent fellow whose trade would support them both comfortably. The blacksmith’s son had a deep desire too, to have a family of his own, to raise his children to be strong and handsome and intelligent like he was.

He loved the princess very much, for she would help him achieve his desire, and he eagerly looked forward to the day when they would be wed.

Two days before the wedding, however, the princess went into the woods and didn’t come back.

A great search for her was mounted, and Durer went along, thinking it was nothing more than a marvelous game in the woods with the entire village. A few days later, though, he looked all afternoon for the princess and didn’t find her and then he had his dream again, the one where he saved her, and when he awoke the next morning he realized that the princess was in trouble. Suddenly the game in the woods made sense.

He took a stick as his sword, and went into the woods after her.

Usually, Durer was easily distracted. He often helped the women with their washing down by the river, and it was not uncommon for him to walk halfway there and then follow a frog off the path so that he never arrived. Now, though, he was focused. Many frogs jumped over his path, but he did not follow them. A snake wriggled by once and coiled up, but he did not try to catch it. He even saw a brightly-colored salamander on a tree, but he didn’t care because his heart was on his one good thing, on helping the princess.

Other people of the village were out in the woods as well, and they saw him and asked him what he was doing, and though he didn’t understand their words completely, he knew enough to say “princess” and “help,” and they let him be.

Eventually, though, the forest grew dark and he stopped seeing people. Durer was scared of the dark and he huddled by the base of a tree and clenched his eyes shut and clutched his stick-sword. He cried a little too, because there was the great pain of doubt in his heart, doubt that he would ever be able to fulfill his great desire, ever be able to do his one good thing.

And it grew darker, and as it grew darker, terrible noises came, chirpings and howlings and scratchings and breathings. Durer was so frightened that he lost control of his bladder and ran. He careened into trees, stumbled over bushes. He scraped himself and banged himself. And it hurt so bad that he just wanted to go home, but he knew if he stopped that a monster would eat him and then he’d never do his one good thing, not ever.

At first the idea of a monster chasing him was just his frightened imagination, but then he passed into a certain section of the forest—a part that was alive in a unique and terrible way—and his imagination reverberated among the trees and became reality. This section of forest was never in the same place twice, but people had stumbled upon it before. “The Wandering Wilderness” they called it, a place where dreams gained form. A dangerous place.

A creature coalesced behind Durer, right where his imagination put it. Its shoulders were bear shoulders, corded with muscle under thick fur, but its teeth were a wolf’s teeth, dagger-like. Its eyes glowed orange in the dark and in its mouth was a red light.

Durer ran.

The beast gained.

And even in Durer’s shallow, slow mind he knew that the beast would catch him and kill him. He remembered his stick-sword then, and he decided to fight the beast, to kill it like he killed all those monsters in his dreams. So he turned as the beast rumbled towards him, towering taller than he, and he waved his sword.

And though his mind was too weak to perceive this, his weapon was not a stick-sword anymore, but a real, metal sword. He thrashed at the beast without skill, and though he hit it a few times and wounded one of its great legs, the beast eventually grabbed the blade with its horrible teeth and swung the sword off into the woods behind it.

That had never happened in Durer’s dreams.

He did the only thing he could think of. He darted up a tree, just like he used to do with the princess when they were little and playing pretend. The wolf-bear-beast tried to follow, but it couldn’t. Durer took some deep breaths. His stomach hurt from running and his pants were all wet and his body was sweaty. And the doubt was bigger than ever, eating at his stomach.

The creature milled below, and Durer thought maybe it would go away, but it didn’t. Instead, it started taking great bites out of the tree. When the tree started to shudder at every bite, Durer thought of the men who felled trees with axes. The wolf-beast was trying to cut him down.

But Durer remembered his dream then, how his spit hurt the evil creatures trying to get up the tree, and when the beast came in again for another massive bite, Durer spat at it. The spittle hit one of the beast’s orange eyes, and the creature howled horribly as the eye smoked and went out.

Just like his dream.

Durer spat again and again. And again and again the beast howled and smoked. The smell of burnt hair drifted up the tree with the howls, and eventually the beast collapsed.

Durer sat in the tree branches for a long time before he ventured down. On the ground, the creature that had chased him was a huge stinking heap. Its grey tongue lolled out of its mouth, the red light that had been there before now gone.

Durer felt sad for it and he cried a little. But then he went on, because his good thing was still undone. He had to help the princess.

He passed through a forest populated with all manner of strange beasts from his dreams and from the minds of others who had passed through, but they left him alone, because they’d seen what he had done to the wolf-beast. It was still dark, but here and there moonlight peaked through the leaves above, and Durer could see in grays and silvers and blacks.

The hours went by and his legs grew tired, but he did not stop. Only when he came to a stream did he pause, for his mouth was dry from so much spitting. He bent down and lapped it like a dog, and then dipped his entire head in, feeling the cool water rush over his face, babble into his ears. When he sat back up, the water ran all over his back and shoulders.

“What are you doing here?” asked a voice as he got to his feet. It was a scary voice, deep, shimmering, with multiple pitches all at once, like a hundred hundred voices speaking at the same time.

Durer lurched back, astonished. He understood the words. Understood them clearly. Just like in his dreams. “Princess,” he said. “Help.”

“There is no princess here,” said the voice. “Just a girl.” Durer looked around to see the speaker, but there was nothing but the trees and the stream. A smarter man would have passed right by the obvious conclusion, but Durer was not smart.

The trees were talking to him.

“Help Durer,” he pleaded to the trees. “Princess.”

“Yes,” said the dark, silvery trees. “You want that don’t you? You want it deep down inside, want it so bad you could die.”

And Durer didn’t know the word for “yes,” so he just said “Mmmm,” but the trees knew. They knew. A wind passed through them and the leaves rustled all around Durer.

“The girl, your princess, she has a great dream too. To be a saint in a church. Follow the wind and you will see. She has attained her wish.”

Durer understood all the words that the trees spoke to him. He followed the wind into a copse of trees whose branches interlaced together overhead in an intricate arch. The trunks of the trees were so close together that they formed walls, and along the walls, huge fireflies rested in organized rows, shedding light like candles. There were lines of stools too, for kneeling, and a row between them to the front of the copse.

And at the front, right behind an earthen alter, rose a fat oak tree festooned with fireflies. In the oak tree was a life-size carving of the princess. It stuck out of the bark in perfect detail, her legs together and her arms held out at the shoulder so that it looked like she was on a cross. Durer reached out and touched one of the hands, because he dared touch no other part.

“We gave her the desire of her heart,” said the trees. “And we delight in it.”

But though Durer understood the words, he could not explain how the princess didn’t belong here in the woods stuck in a tree. She belonged back in the village with her blacksmith friend and the people who loved her.

“Help Princess,” said Durer, and he tugged at her hand, but it was just like bark and it didn’t budge.

“But, you see, she has her greatest desire.”

“Mmmm,” said Durer, and this time he meant “no.”

The wind gusted through the copse then, making the fireflies float off the tree a little and then settle back down. “You would take away the desire of her heart?”

But Durer knew that this was not the desire of her heart, to be in this tree. The forest was wrong.

“But close enough,” said the trees, reading his mind. “Close enough to her desire that we can feed on it and stay alive. Close enough that we can take it into ourselves and rejoice in it.”

And Durer knew then what his good thing would be, knew exactly. It was clear and light and beautiful like smiles on the princess’ face, like the clearing the priest had shown to him all those years ago.

“Durer,” he said, and he clapped a hand on his chest, and then pressed it to the tree. “Princess,” he said and he pointed out of the copse, out of the forest, back home to the village and her blacksmith friend.

The wind picked up. It roared around him. The fireflies danced in it, swirled in it. “Yes,” said the trees. “Yes. That is it. That is a true desire. A real desire. We taste its pureness. For this girl we could only offer a shadow of her desire, but for you we can offer the fullness of it. Your joy will be a banquet for us. We accept.”

And the bark sloughed away so that the princess could step out. She looked dazed at Durer.

“What is this?” she said, bewildered.

“Good,” said Durer, and he laughed with joy as he walked into the embrace of the tree, laughed as the bark hardened over his skin. He laughed because to him laughter was always a thing of joy, and joy was bursting from his heart. He was doing his one good thing and it was just as beautiful as he had imagined it, just as wonderful.

And at the last moment, the princess grasped for Durer’s hand, tears in her eyes. “No,” she said. But it was already done.

For a time she sat there on the ground in front of the tree that had encased Durer. And Durer’s joy was squelched at seeing her so sad, even though his heart still raced from his good thing.

The princess stroked the bark over Durer’s face, and he saw it from a hundred different angles, saw it through the eyes of the forest. She whispered his name over and over again, and then, after a long time staring up at the tree, she went back to the village.

“It is good,” said the forest.

“Good,” Durer agreed, and he basked in the truth of his statement, basked in the beauty of what he had done.

And though the wandering wilderness moved of its own accord, it fed off of Durer’s joy, his desire fulfilled, so it made sure to come back near the village often so Durer could see the results of his actions.

The princess had an orphanage built, right beside the church. The unwanted babies for several villages over were cared for here, the broken, the dumb, the unfortunate.

And one day, while Durer watched, a dirty-faced girl hugged the princess’ leg and looked up into her face and said “you’re just like a saint.” A tearful smile broke out on the princess’ face, and Durer rejoiced over that smile.

Another day, many years later, Durer watched the priest in his clearing, praying. The priest was an old man now, and his heart gave out as he prayed. As his heart faltered, a voice came into the clearing. “Well done good and faithful servant,” said the voice, and Durer knew it was the voice of God. He understood God now. He understood many things.

Most of all he understood desires. And as the priest’s life ebbed away, he knew the priest’s desire had been met.

Durer laughed and laughed, and the forest laughed with him. You can still hear the laughter sometimes, too, if you hold your desire close. To some it sounds like wind rustling through the leaves, or the trill of a bird, or the sound of a branch shaking as a squirrel jumps onto it.

To Durer, it sounds simply like joy.

Jared Oliver Adams resides in Tempe, Arizona, where he is a professional elementary school teacher, a semi-professional writer, and an amateur urban explorer. He holds two degrees in music, and is incapable of passing a doorway without checking to see if it leads to Narnia. More work by Jared can be found in Orson Scott Card’s online magazine Intergalactic Medicine Show, and at

 Posted by at 7:06 am

Nettles by Mari Ness

 Issue 15 (May 2012)  Comments Off on Nettles by Mari Ness
May 302012


by Mari Ness

In the end, she had not been able to change them back to men, though her hands still burned from the attempt.

Too little determination, her stepmother would have said. Too easily distracted. It was true: even in that first year she’d often paused at her task, sometimes for nothing more than the call of a bird. But she herself blamed the pain, the endless pain. Not merely the burning stings in her hands, but the ache in her back and arms and legs.

The ache, the hunger for talk.

The caress of a hand on her neck.

She had quivered. Her mouth had parted. And they had come stumbling out, the words, each one burning her throat, until he had silenced her, healed her, with a kiss.

They floated below her now, her brothers.

In the end she had only made two shirts. Even that had gone wrong. The shirts had been locked in a chest–not quite forgotten, no–when the swans finally arrived. She had rushed back to the palace, chased by servants and guards, tripping over her heavy skirts as she rushed up the stairs–the lock, the lock, why did I lock the chest, why–She had sent servants and guards rushing for the key–

The sun had set before she found the key, before she managed to seize the shirts, her hands burning. I could have split open the chest. The guards–the guards had swords, axes, but I wanted to keep the chest, keep its carvings, its beauty, that silver gilt–

Not that it mattered. She had already spoken, and she had only two shirts.

I could have thrown those two, let my brothers fight for the wearing of them, or chosen two to save–


Those three whispered words, breaking her silence. The words only her husband–and perhaps her brothers–had heard.

That was why she had not finished the task. Not the distraction of her husband or children, or of her rich linens and dresses, of the music played for her, of the paperwork and tasks that even a queen must do. It had been too late, and she could waste no more time on this.

No more.

She had ordered a lake built, where she could watch them swim. Some craned their necks towards her; others looked away. Sometimes she tried to guess which was which. Sometimes she even called out their names.

She had never heard an answer.

But they had never flown away.

She watched them now, her hands burning in memory of it all: the weaving. The not-weaving. The returning.

“Majesty–” said a voice behind her.

“Yes,” she said, hardly hearing.

She crushed the shirts in her hands, lifted one and ran it against her cheek. It did not draw blood–not quite. Her vision filled with water. “Yes,” she repeated, before folding up the shirts and leaving them upon a small chair by the pavilion by the lake that she’d ordered built, the pavilion that none but she and her guards were allowed to enter. She touched her cheek with a burning hand, before turning back to the palace, her music and laughter, and the bed of swansdown she shared with her royal husband.

Mari Ness is only slightly less obsessed with fairy tales than her work might suggest. Her fiction and poetry have also appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Goblin Fruit and previous issues of Scheherezade’s Bequest and Demeter’s Spicebox. You can keep up with her writings and other thoughts at her blog,, or on twitter at mari_ness. She lives in central Florida.

 Posted by at 7:05 am

Spellbound by Marina Lee Sable

 Issue 15 (May 2012)  Comments Off on Spellbound by Marina Lee Sable
May 302012


by Marina Lee Sable

Herbs hang in the heady rafters
where aged smokes of incense and resin
coalesce in spells, potions, and dark magic
at the melt of day, the violet wreath of dusk,
when the mind-dragon rises from the hyssop
fire burning through the unlatched night.
Your pillow plumped with thyme and anise
to banish dreams, but still her lips of rowan
bark lure you to the tor and quaking moss,
foxfire lamps in the heather air,
silvered cotton grass, bracken, and
mist-glazed rocks, the enchanted moor
swaying like an ocean, a captive bird in her
cupped hand watching the wind fan through
her rippled hair, shoes lined with mugwort
as she takes to the air, leaving you behind
on the dark path’s flint and brittle shale.

Marina Lee Sable‘s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Unspoken Water, Star*Line, ChiZine, Tales of the Talisman, Linger Fiction, Bull Spec, Sounds of the Night, parABnormal Digest, Bête Noire, Kaleidotrope, and other magazines.

 Posted by at 7:03 am
May 302012


The Dauntless Girl
by Petra McQueen

Wind was in the valley, dancing and pushing, glancing from hillsides, tugging at stone. Corn surrendered, trees bowed low. Sheep huddled in hollows and cows stood by the great oak, nosing their calves close to the bark. In the sties, in the kennels, in the henhouse, and in the barns, creatures cowered in corners, buried themselves in the warm stink of each other. Night came early, pushed through gaps and cracks in the farmhouse, flowed low across the stone flags.

The farmer and the Squire pulled their chairs closer to the fire.

‘I need another drink,’ said Melford, the Squire, peering into the dull silver of his cup. His handsome face was solemn, eyes half-closed. He wanted to be at home, but had yet to fix a price for the gelding.

‘‘My girl will fetch you some,’ said the farmer.

‘Now?’ Melford glancing out of the window. ‘She’d be scared.’

‘Ha!’ The farmer barked. ‘Tully Meadows be afeared of nothing alive nor dead.’

The farmer called and she came. The girl was bonny, fair faced and not yet twenty. She took the hue of the fire, and her curls were golden, her face glowed. She listened without a word, palmed the money and left. Melford stared after her and even when the door had closed held an image of her precise and clear.

‘It’s rummin she be so bold.’

‘Ha!’ said the Farmer, ‘That’s nothing at all.’

‘That so?’ said Melford.

‘I’ll bet you cannot name a thing she would not do,’ said the farmer.

At that moment, Melford remembered his old friend, the sexton. He reckoned that if he planned things right he could name a thing that the girl would not do. And if the farmer would agree to bet him the gelding then he’d be riding once more.

The very next night when the clock struck quarter to midnight, Tully untied her apron and yawned. All day she’d soaped, rinsed, and wrung linens. She wanted now to go to bed, but Squire Melford had given her one last task. She fetched a lamp, lit it and went to the parlour. Melford and the farmer were there, standing with their backs to the fire.

‘A skullbone, Tully, now don’t forget,’ said Melford.

‘Yes, sir,’ said she. ‘And the dead house is unlocked?’

The farmer laughed. ‘See Melford? I told you again and again. She ain’t scared. She’ll finish the task and you won’t be getting that gelding you wanted. You’ll be paying double for the horse like you promised you would. You should’ve set her an even more difficult thing to do.’

Melford’s smile wavered. He turned to Tully. ‘Yes, the door is unlocked,’ he said. ‘I made sure of that.’ They escorted her to gate. When she turned at the brow of the hill, she glanced back and saw them: black silhouettes against the orange glow of the lamps they held.

There was no rain and the wind had blown itself dead. She came to the churchyard. The moon shone dully through a gap in the cloud, and the gravestones were black against the grey. Clicking open the gate, she went direct to the dead house. The key was in the lock as Melford had promised. She pushed open the door, and walked into the blackness.

Close to the entrance lay a village woman, not long dead. ‘How be, Edith?’ said Tully. ‘That son of yours has found some work now, mother, and soon you’ll be safe underground.’ She walked on, lantern high, to the far end of the house where the bones lay jumbled.

She heard a noise and stopped.

It was the old sexton, in a corner, shaking. Oh, how he wished he wasn’t there. He’d said he didn’t want to trick the girl, but the squire hadn’t listened and had spoken on and on until the sexton was weary. Eventually, he’d agreed so as to quieten the fellow. And because he’d been promised five florins, a dozen goose eggs and an old rocking horse.

Tully, thinking it was a rat, walked on. She picked up a skull bone. The Sexton took a deep breath and wailed, ‘Let that be, that’s my mother’s skull bone.’

Tully looked at the skull, as though it had spoken. Gently, she put it down and picked up another.

Again the sexton wailed, ‘Let that be, that’s my father’s skull bone.’

Hesitating a moment, she put that down too, then chose another skull, browner than the rest.

The Sexton began, ‘Let that be–‘. But Tully interrupted, ‘Father or Mother, sister or brother, I must have a skull bone and that’s my last word.’ With that she tucked the skull under her arm, left the dead house and locked it behind her.

Coming into the farmhouse, Tully put the skull on the mantelpiece. The farmer laughed loudly, and clapped Melford on the back. ‘What did I tell you?’

Tully nodded. ‘Is that all, sir?’

The farmer roared with laughter again. ‘Yes! That be all.’

‘Wait!’ said Melford. ‘Did you hear nothing, Tully?’

‘Well,’ she said, as though hearing the words again. ‘Some fool of a ghost called out to me, ‘Let that be, that’s my father’s skull bone, and let be, that’s my mother’s skull bone.’ But I told him straight that father or mother, sister or brother I must have a skull bone and that’s my last word.’

The farmer stood with his mouth open. Melford’s brow was furrowed.

‘Oh,yes,’ she continued, ‘and as I was going away after I’d locked the door, I heard the ghost a-hallering and shrieking like mad.’

Grabbing Tully’s lantern, Melford ran to the church, stumbling over tree roots, lurching into brambles. The lantern danced shadows on the graves as he ran across the gravel to the dead house. He turned the key, but could not open the door. ‘Sexton! Sexton!’ he shouted, hammering on the wood. There was no answer. How could there be? The old man was lying at the foot of the door, his heart having stopped from fright. Dead for five florins, a dozen goose eggs and old rocking horse.

Melford did not ride the gelding he’d paid the farmer double for. He stayed at home, sometimes thinking of the poor dead sexton and sometimes of the money he’d lost.

‘I have gold,’ said his mother.

‘Is that so?’ he said, softly, and turned back to the fire. Madness was spreading along the veins of the old lady’s reason. She’d sit down for supper at breakfast time, unpick the threads from her bonnet and cry. That morning, she’d mistaken him for his dead father and cursed like a turnip-picker when he said he was her son.

One cold dawn, Melford found the old woman collapsed by the chicken coop. He picked her up and carried her like a child. It seemed as if she wanted to speak but did not have the breath.

‘Hush, Mother, rest,’ said Melford.

Before he’d got her to her room, she was dead.

Melford wept bitterly and felt his loneliness sharp about him. He wanted a marble mausoleum for his mother but discovering that her jewels were paste, buried her with a plain stone.

One night, soon after, he went to the dining room, to eat his supper. He felt a cool wind, and looked towards the door, thinking he’d left it open. His mother, dressed in her funeral gown, came through the wood of the door, through the chairs, through the table and toward Melford. The ghost held out her hands, as though to touch him.

‘No! No!’ he cried, running from the room.

He prayed for his mother’s soul. But no matter how he prayed, his mother visited every meal. Sometimes you could see all of her, and sometimes just her hands, and sometimes not even her hands but the cutlery would thrum against the table. Melford grew pale and thin and hungry. Every servant ran away.

He thought of Tully and asked to have her. It was arranged. She arrived with a neat bundle of clothes and a silver-backed hairbrush. That evening, the girl laid a place for the ghost. She put bluebells in a vase and a meaty chop on the old woman’s plate. ‘Pepper, ma’am?’ said Tully, but the ghost did not sit, only banged the chair against the floor. Melford ran from the room.

‘Perhaps she needs to tell you something, sir,’ said Tully later. ‘If we sit quietly, she might speak.’

But try as he might, Melford could not stay in the same room as his mother.

He decided to leave for the air of Cromer, and left Tully alone. She was scrubbing the parlour grate when a strong breeze blew. Tully knew without looking that the ghost was in the room. And sure enough, when the girl turned, there was the old mother, skin stretched thin over bones.

‘Hello, ma’am,’ said Tully.

‘Tully?’ said the ghost. ‘Are you not afeared of me?’

‘I’ve no call to be afeared of you, for I am alive and you are dead.’

The ghost cocked her head at that, then said, ‘Come. Bring no light, I’ll shine enough to lead the way.’

Tully wiped her hands upon her apron and followed the ghost. The old woman floated down the passage way and into the dining room. She made Tully move the table and the rug beneath. Tully was out of breath by the time she saw the trapdoor. She lifted it. A narrow ladder led into the dark.

The ghost floated into the gloom, illuminating a narrow room, big enough for two fat priests to hide. Tully followed.

‘Pick that up,’ said the ghost, pointing to the flagstone in the corner of the room. The stone was heavy and Tully grunted a little as she lifted it. At first Tully could see nothing under but dirt, but as the ghost shone brighter, she saw two coir bags: one big and one small. Inside, were gold coins, shining dully in the ghost’s light.

‘The big bag is for my son,’ said the ghost. ‘And the little one’s for you.’

‘For me, ma’am?’

‘Why, yes. You deserve it for being a dauntless girl who ain’t afeared of nothing that’s alive nor dead.’

Then the old woman faded until she was as small as candlefire. With a hiss, all was dark. Tully tied up the bags and put them back under the flag. Then she felt her way out of the cellar and finished scrubbing the grate.

When Melford arrived home, Tully told him she had something to show him. She opened the trapdoor and went down the ladder. When she was at the bottom she shouted for him to join her. Melford, swallowed hard. ‘Need I come? It’s so dark.’

‘I will light your way.’

He crossed himself and went down the ladder.

‘What is this place?’ he said.

Without answering, she handed him the lamp. The flame flickered across the dirt walls as he trembled.

‘Please, Squire Melford,’ she said. ‘Put the light lower.’

He did so and she retrieved the bags and let the slab fall. Untying the smaller bag, she showed him how it was filled with gold.

‘Mother was right!’ he said.

‘The little bag is for you,’ she said. ‘And the big one is for me.’

‘For you?’ said Melford.

‘Yes, sir. For you see, your mother thought me a dauntless girl that ain’t afraid of anything that’s alive or dead.’

Knowing the truth of that, Melford took his small bag and they left the cellar.

That night, Tully was careful to cross the knives and forks so the old lady wouldn’t come and tell her son the trick she’d played on her son. But the lady never came again, even when Tully bought a little farm by the brook, and wasn’t in the house any longer.

Melford often thought about Tully, and her money. He listened out for stories of her in the village, but heard nothing. One day, he woke to the sound of a Great Tit in the rowan tree outside his window, and as he listened it seemed to saying, ‘Tully, Tully. Tully, Tully, Tully.’ A thought, which had been whispering to him since Tully left, came loud into his head and this time he could not shake it out. He saddled his gelding, and went to the little farm.

It was a fine day. Great boughs of May hung over the brook and the air was full of tiny insects and the sound of bees busy in the hazel. Tully was at the front of her house. Hens clucked, fat and red, around her feet as she scattered grain.

‘What ho, Tully!’ said Melford as he rode to her.

Tully looked up. ‘Squire Melford. You took your time.’

‘My time?’

She smiled up at him, then said, ‘I ‘spect you’re thirsty.’

Melford nodded, slid off his horse, tethered him, and followed Tully into her cottage. The copper pots were bright. Red checked curtains were at the window. A kettle was boiling. Tully made tea and put a cup in front of Melford.

Melford felt the blood hot in his cheeks. The voice in his head, the voice that had been whispering to him all these weeks, that had stirred at the sound of the bird at his window, was louder now, insistent, and he felt that if he didn’t listen and say what the voice was telling him he might burst. He cleared his throat, cleared it again, and side-stepped the voice. ‘You must get lonely here at night,’ he said.

She laughed. ‘No, not I.’

‘When it’s winter then? And cold.’

The girl said nothing and took a sip of tea, then sat back in her chair and studied Melford. ‘Sir, I won’t marry you,’ she said.

He opened his mouth to protest, to pretend that he hadn’t heard a voice in his head telling him to do that very thing.

‘But,’ said the girl, rising from her chair. ‘I want you to take this.’ She went to a cupboard, took out her bag of money and put it on the table.

He stared at the bag, then looked at the girl who had her arms crossed and was smiling down at him.

‘It’s yours,’ she said. ‘Your mother meant it for you, but I took it.’

‘Why?’ he said.

‘I needed the farm and wanted to give the sexton a fine headstone, but I’ve done all that and there’s plenty left. It’s yours now.’

He stroked the bag, then furrowed his brow. ‘But what will you do in the winter, or if there’s no rain?’

‘Oh, I’ll be alright,’ said the girl.

And so she would, he thought. For the Dauntless Girl didn’t need him, didn’t need more money and was afeared of nothing alive nor dead.

Petra McQueen is a full time writer and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing. ‘The Dauntless Girl’ was inspired by a class taught by Marina Warner. Petra’s work more usually explores the boundaries between fact and fiction.  Her current project mixes fantasy with biography, and can be found at: Petra is also involved in a project dedicated to showcasing art and literature at her local railway station. 

 Posted by at 7:02 am

The Lunar Child by Melinda Giordano

 Issue 15 (May 2012)  Comments Off on The Lunar Child by Melinda Giordano
May 302012


The Lunar Child
by Melinda Giordano

One night, when the moon was heavy and full, its curiosity got the best of it. It slowly lowered itself through sapphire clouds and rippling twilight…it shouldered its way past bristling stars, past their astronomical arrangements that made the sky a sparkling atlas. Down these gilded maps it flew on its celestial quest.

It avoided the tangles of constellations, the frosted galaxies filled with light and planets. It sank through sediments of discolored atmospheres and foreign gravities. It was curious about the earth, for sometimes a satellite wants to look its owner in the face.

The far-off patterns of continents were intriguing: the broken coastlines cutting into oceans, mountains lying as still as skeletons. For too long the moon had gazed on the distant countries and waters, longing to cool their exotic surfaces, to learn the sun’s warming trick.

But the moon was also reckless. It swooped below the gray horizon, past cars and houses, closely above people–who, if they had only looked up, would have seen an amazing sight. It then came upon a tree: barren and cold, not yet softened by the year’s first crop of blossoms. The tree’s branches caught the moon, like a bright, luminous fish. In the moon’s struggles, the branches pierced its sides, and sluices of light flowed down the trunk until the bark shone like a radiant ghost.

The light of the moon was broken into pieces as the tree balanced the unruly planet. Like a cathedral window, the moon’s color was divided by a disruptive linear world. Suffering in foreign atmospheres, it missed the populous heavens, the pure, glowing night. In its loneliness, it felt the disapproving eye of its mother Diana, who–impatiently adjusting her ropes of stars and her illuminated crown–wondered what she would do with her lunar child.

Harnessed and still, the moon waited. Losing its life’s blood of light, it grew smaller as it began to wane. Eventually the tree loosened its grip…and the moon once again rose into the sky–a half, a quarter or maybe even a crescent of its former self.

Melinda Giordano is from Los Angeles, California. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Lake Effect Magazine, The Battered Suitcase as well as,, and She writes flash fiction that speculates on remarkable things. Melinda is interested in anything to do with Aubrey Beardsley.

 Posted by at 7:01 am

Stone Soup: A Villanelle by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

 Issue 15 (May 2012)  Comments Off on Stone Soup: A Villanelle by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
May 302012


Stone Soup: A Villanelle
by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

The script of the three nomads’ empty satchels
The script of the passing cobbler with his cart
The script of light from the sash window

The script of tending to the dried oak and fire
The script of the prolonged introit in refrain
The script of stuffing bitter melons at home

The script of the butcher in a double take
The script of rock pigeons bound at the feet
The script of the open bottle from Rheingau

The script of scrubbing copper in the square
The script of the glazed look of the widow
The script of cloves and tarragon in a bag

The script of basil and dill in cupped hands
The script of stonemasons tossing in nickels
The script of tulipwood buttons rising to float

The script of sweet potatoes and peppercorns
The script of skipping stones at the bottom
The script of four borrowed bocote ladles
The script of minstrels singing for their supper

(Based on the German folk tale “Stone Soup”.)

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has edited more than ten books and co-produced three audio books, several pro bono for non-profit organizations. Trained in book publishing at Stanford University, with a theology masters (world religions) from Harvard University and fine arts masters (creative writing) from the University of Notre Dame, he is the recipient of the Tom Howard High Distinction Award, Tupelo Press Poetry Project Honorable Mention, Hiew Siew Nam Academic Award, and Singapore Internationale Grant. An interdisciplinary artist, Desmond also works in clay, his commemorative pieces housed in museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

 Posted by at 7:00 am

Audio reviews: Soulless, Hounded

 Reviews  Comments Off on Audio reviews: Soulless, Hounded
May 302012

Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1
by Kevin Hearne
Narrated by Luke Daniels
(link takes you to

by Gail Carriger
Narrated by Emily Gray
(link takes you to

Reviewed by Virginia M. Mohlere

I was slow to come around to audiobooks. I read really fast. In early days, when my mother and my oldest friend (our friendship has been old enough to rent a car for a while now) tried to convert me, my reaction consisted mainly of eye-rolling, snorting, and heavy sighs. It all seemed so slow. Reading turned into drudgery. How awful!

A couple of years ago, on a visit to my parents’ house, I was laid up with a bad migraine, and my mother set me up with a dark room, an ice pack, and the audio version of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife to keep me from thinking about throwing up. As a migraine treatment, brilliant. The distraction was terrific, and I felt so stupid with pain that the slower speed was probably necessary. I cried my way through large chunks of that book, which was very well done but is not the subject of this particular ramble.

Later still, my mother was able to talk me into giving the one-month Audible free trial a go. I got two books: Ian McKellen reading The Odyssey and Rilke’s Duino Elegies read by the translator. I learned something valuable: actors read at a very speedy pace. The Rilke is lugubrious (something I had not thought possible), but Magneto McGandalf flies through Homer with such perkiness that if you’re not paying attention, you might start to think Odysseus was having a good time.

On the strength of my response, I received a short membership to Audible for Christmas, which presented me with a challenge, but at least I had learned to listen carefully to the samples. You must listen to samples! Such trouble they will save you.

What really converted me was a drive to Dallas. I hope you have never made the drive from Houston to Dallas, because a more boring road was never traveled. I say that as someone who once rode in a van across the width of Kansas. The four hours up I-45N have approximately two curves and not one hill. Once you’ve passed the prison in Huntsville, you don’t even see any towns — just a series of exits, twenty miles apart. Music makes it too easy to mark time — most songs are four-ish minutes long. An audio book just keeps going on and on, unfolding into plot twists, and I found myself minding the trip very much less than usual.

I think my mother feels a sense of triumph at my conversion.

Soulles by Gail CarrigerThat particular recording was Soulless by Gail Carriger, read by Emily Gray. Gray is a terrific narrator — good with accents, able to give different characters voices that are distinguishable without any of them sounding goofy. The story itself is ridiculous and entertaining — sort of a steampunk paranormal romance that takes place during Victoria’s reign in a London populated by werewolves, vampires, and the protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti, whose absence of soul renders the other creatures powerless.

There’s a mystery (where are all these new vampires coming from?), plus a bunch of Standing Up to Victorian Sensibilities (making-out in the street!), and the usual leap forward/step back of romance novels (she hates him! she can’t stop thinking about him! etc.). There is even a regina ex machina. There has to be in a Victorian steampunk romance novel, right? It’s like a law. The alt-history bits of Carriger’s world are well thought out, and the plot moves along at a steady clip. This is not a Deep, Literary Book, but there were moments when I laughed aloud.

One cannot skim an audiobook. I find this really highlights the flaws in writing. It’s not a flaw, exactly, to spend so much time describing characters’ clothing, but I found it a little wearying, especially when such clothing includes men wearing top hats in the house. I mean, I don’t even. My trip to Dallas was weeks ago, and I’m still grumbling that Alexia thought of a tiresome dinner companion as a “poor sod.” From about ten minutes in, I became suspicious that the writer is an American — correct. But as a person who makes a living as an editor, I’m disappointed that neither the copyeditor nor the proofreader pointed out (apologies to you if you did and were ignored) that “sod” is short for “sodomite,” so there is zero chance an upper-class Victorian woman, no matter how unconventional, would’ve thought of a gentleman in such terms. There were a few other such examples throughout. Overall, though, I found the listen to be fun and worth the hours I put into it.

Hounded by Kevin HearneThis biggest writing lesson I learned from Hounded, written by Kevin Hearne and narrated by Luke Daniels: to go through all my own writing and purge the words “certain” and “somewhat” and the phrase “a bit” forevermore. After a while, I had a certain suspicion that the author somewhat padded the word count by using a bit of equivocation now and again. Great googly moogly.

But anyhow, our hero, with the unlikely name of Atticus O’Sullivan, is a 2000-year-old Druid who seems to have made remarkably few forays into wisdom or maturity during that time. Maybe the spell that keeps him physically twenty-one also affected his brain? Who knows. You will notice, because it is mentioned about nineteen million times, that he has tattoos all over the right side of his body, and when they are in contact with the earth, he receives Earthly Juju. One of his lawyers is a werewolf, and the other is a vampire. All the ladies want to take his pants off with their teeth, including a bartender who turns out to be possessed. He has a magic sword that he likes to use to kill gods in his own pantheon. Personally, I find that a little alarming. He taught his dog to talk to him. And, as you will be told another nineteen million times, he hates witches.

I dunno. I thought Hounded had plot holes in it big enough to steer a cruise ship through. You may be getting the impression that I did not love this book. Much of this had to do with Atticus, whom I disliked intensely. He’s quick with petty revenges, and his judginess of macho “douches” smacked to me of recognizing kindred. Feh! Atticus roams around Tempe, AZ (giving helpful directions everywhere, in case you’d like to follow in his footsteps), dead bodies piling all around him while everyone tries to steal his sword. The villains were uniformly bad, the ladies uniformly sexpottish (except for a drunken old Irish lady who was … uniformly drunk). Honestly, the best character was the dog.

I was slow to come around to that idea. I am a cat person. I am really a cat person. Even the cleanest dog still reeks of DOG in my nose, and they’re so much effort. But Oberon the Irish wolfhound was frequently the only character pointing out the various absurdities of other characters (e.g., all the ladies wanting to remove Atticus’s pants). As voiced by Luke Daniels, Oberon was funny, enthusiastic in a very doggish way, and often the most grounded being in the room.

I have a Policy of stopping any book I’m not enjoying at page 86. There are too many excellent books in the world (more every day) to try to slog through one with which I have no Reading Chemistry. I am still new enough to audiobooks that I don’t yet know what my cutoff point is. I rolled my eyes all the way through Hounded, but Daniels’ energetic reading and generally good job with characters (if not always with accents, and though I’m no Irish speaker, I’m very skeptical that he was given good advice about some of those pronunciations) redeemed the audio experience in part. Daniels is a name I’ll look for when browsing future audios.

 Posted by at 6:49 am

Planting a Magical Garden

 Fairies and Fairy Tales, Featured  Comments Off on Planting a Magical Garden
May 302012

by Theodora Goss

Once upon a time, there was an event called the New England Flower Show. It took place once a year in a large building that was usually filled with business conventions. But during the Flower Show, the building was transformed into a series of display spaces. The most famous gardeners and garden centers in New England would create displays: Japanese gardens, shade gardens, white gardens, bouquets of roses on stands.

One year, a friend of mine who is also a gardener urged me to go, so I went. It was wonderful, walking through those gardens, although I knew the plants must have been forced. Outside, it was a wet New England spring, and only the forsythia were blooming. But in the Flower Show, it was as though summer had already arrived. I walked through arbors, between stalls selling pots and seeds, looking at the displays. They were beautiful, but I could never imagine having a garden so elaborate, so perfectly designed. And then, I saw a display that was different from the others. At the back of the display space was a small cottage, and growing all around it were herbs and medicinal plants, the sorts of plants you would find in medieval herbals like John Gerard’s Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597) and Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (1653). As soon as you approached it, you could smell the sharpness of mint, the sweetness of lavender. It was labeled A Witch’s Garden.

That was the garden I wanted. I could see myself living in the cottage, smelling mint and lavender every morning when a breeze blew in the window. The New England Flower Show no longer exists (it was one more casualty of the economic recession), and few of us would want the sorts of elaborate Japanese gardens or collections of roses I saw that day. But all of us, if we have space in our gardens, can include plants that were once believed to have magical properties. Some of these plants still have medicinal value, although many of the healing powers associated with them were a matter of folklore rather than fact. (Rosa canina will not, in fact, cure rabies.)

If you want to plant a magical garden of your own, here are some plants that have mythic associations or were considered magical in the past. But be warned: some of them are poisonous and should not be planted where they could accidentally be eaten by children or pets. I have included them simply for those who appreciate the myth and folklore of plants.

I. Magical Plants

Angelica archangelicaAngelica (Angelica archangelica): A tall plant with umbels of greenish white flowers, Angelica was believed to have been named after an angel who appeared during a plague, announcing that it could be used to cure that dreaded medieval disease. Perhaps the angel was St. Michael the Archangel, since the plant was said to flower on his day. It was also traditionally used to cure colds and relieve coughs. Nowadays, its seeds are used to make chartreuse, and its candied stalks are used to decorate cakes and puddings.[1]

Balm (Melissa officinalis): As its name suggests, balm was considered a plant with significant medicinal powers. Dioscorides, a Greek doctor who served in Nero’s army and wrote De Materia Medica, the first important pharmacopeia, mentioned that it was useful in healing wounds. Taken in wine, it was supposed to cure the bites of snakes and rabid animals. According to an old story, one night the Wandering Jew came to the house of a sick man. Given beer to drink, he told his host, “In the morning put three balm leaves in a pot of thy beer and drink as often as you will. On every fourth day put fresh leaves into the cup, and in twelve days you shall be whole.” Sure enough, on the twelfth day the man was healed.[2]

Basil (Ocinum basilicum): If you’ve eaten Italian food, you’ve certainly tasted basil, which has a sweet flavor and powerful aroma. However, in the medieval era, basil was associated with scorpions and believed to be able to transform itself into a scorpion. Eating too much basil could breed scorpions in the brain. Its name may come from the basilisk, king of the serpents, whose gaze was lethal. However, in India basil was considered a sacred herb. Hindus were buried with a basil leaf on their breasts, which they showed at the gates of heaven to be admitted.[3]

By A. Masclef (Atlas des plantes de France. 1891) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsBelladonna (Atropa belladona): The Deadly Nightshade was consecrated to Circe by the Greeks. The Romans used it as both an anaesthetic and a poison. In the medieval era, it became associated with the Devil, and its fruit were called “devil’s berries.” On Walpurgis Night, you could gather the herb and make the Devil do your bidding. It was also an ingredient in the flying ointment used by witches. Gerard says about it, “If you will follow my counsel, deal not with the same in any case, and banish it from your gardens and the use of it also, being a plant so furious and deadly, for it bringeth such as have eaten thereof with a dead sleep wherein many have died.”[4]

Bluebell (Hyacinthus nonscriptus): There are few things lovelier than an open woodland covered with bluebells in the spring. In Greek myth, Hyacinthus was a youth loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus, the west wind. One day, Hyacinthus was playing quoits with Apollo. Zephyrus, jealous, blew a quoit thrown by Apollo astray. The heavy metal disk struck Hyacinthus and killed him. In grief, Apollo changed Hyacinthus to the hyacinth, or bluebell.[5] Bluebells are also known as fairy flowers. If you venture into the woods to pick bluebells, you may never come out again.

Butterbur (Petasites vulgaris): Butterbur, also known as coltsfoot, bears low flowers on short spikes. If a maiden wanted to see the form of her future husband, she took the seeds of the butterbur and sowed them half an hour before sunrise on a Friday morning in a secret place. As she scattered the seeds, she repeated this rhyme:

I sow, I sow!
Then my own dear,
Come here, come here
And mow, and mow!

Once the seed was scattered, she would see the form of her future husband in the distance.[6]

By Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsCornflower (Centaurea Cyanus): Vivid blue cornflowers grow wild in the fields in late summer. According to Greek myth, the youth Cyanus loved Chloris, the goddess of flowers, and would gather flowers to decorate her alter. One day, Chloris found him lying dead in a cornfield and turned his body into a cornflower. The cornflower was believed to heal wounds: in a battle between Hercules and the centaurs, the centaur Chiron was wounded by an arrow poisoned with the blood of the hydra. He covered the wound with cornflowers and was healed.[7]

Crocus (Crocus species): Crocuses are a large family of bulbs that bloom in the spring, before most other flowers. According to Greek myth, their name comes from the youth Crocus, who was in love with the shepherdess Smilax. Unfortunately, she did not return his love. He pined way, and the gods turned him into a flower. In ancient Rome, crocuses were used to make a tonic for the heart as well as love potions. Perhaps that is why they were strewn on marriage beds. But one crocus in particular was more useful: the stigma of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) was used to make a yellow dye, and is still used as a spice. King Henry I of England was so fond of the spice that he forbade the women of his court from using it as a hair dye, lest they should use up the entire supply of saffron.[8]

Daisy (Bellis perennis): The daisy’s name comes from the Anglo-Saxon daeges eage, day’s eye, probably because the flower closes its small white petals at night. Its Latin name come from the nymph Belides. While dancing in a field one day, Belides attracted the attention of Vertumnus, the god of the orchards. He pursued her, and in order to escape, she transformed herself into a daisy.[9] The daisy is used in one of the simplest and most common love charms: when a woman wants to know if her beloved returns her love, she plucks the petals and says “He love me, he loves me not” until the last petal is plucked and she has her answer.[10]

Elder (Sambucus nigra): Elderberries and flowers are still used to make cordials and jellies, and elder has been used medicinally for hundreds of years; however, parts of the plant are poisonous. According to folklore, elders are witches and bleed when they are cut, or alternatively, witches live in elders. If the branches are woven into a cradle, the child put in that cradle will have his legs pulled and suffer torment by evil spirits. A child switched with an elder branch will stop growing, and if a man falls asleep under an elder, he will have nightmares.[11] But elders can also protect against fairies and evil spirits. If you stood under an elder at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve, you could see the fairies ride by.[12]

By de:Franz Eugen Köhler [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsFoxglove (Digitalis purpurea): Foxgloves were known as fairy flowers. The spots on foxgloves mark where fairies were believed to have placed their fingers. It was considered unlucky to pick foxgloves or bring them into the house, but the juice of ten foxgloves could cure a child struck by fairy magic. The foxglove was also important in medical history. Foxglove tea had long been used to treat dropsy, or heart failure, and an analysis of the tea revealed the effectiveness of digitalin, which is still the basis for some heart medications. However, foxglove itself should never be ingested, because all parts of the plant are poisonous.[13]

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha): The hawthorn is one of the most magical trees. It marks the fairies’ favorite dancing places, and you should not cut or uproot a hawthorn unless you wish to incur their wrath. In ancient Greece, it was associated with marriage. The altar of Hymen, the god of marriage, was lighted with torches made of hawthorn, and brides would decorate themselves and their companions with its small white flowers. The Romans used it as a charm against witchcraft, and hawthorn leaves were put into the cradles of newborns to protect them from harm.[14]

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus): The final labor of Hercules was to capture and bring back Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the underworld in Greek mythology. As he was bringing the dog back, Cerberus slavered and spit venom: where those drops fell, monkshood sprang up. Since its juice is poisonous, it was used in warfare, both to make poisoned arrows and to poison wells and springs.[15] It was also associated with the Greek goddess Hecate, and used in the ointment that witches rubbed on themselves to fly.

Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885Narcissus (Narcissus species): Narcissus was a Greek youth who fell in love with his own reflection in the water and wasted away until he was turned into a flower by the gods. The scent of the narcissus was used by Hades to dull the senses of Persephone when he took her to the underworld, and Hades himself was crowned with narcissus. The Greek term “narke,” meaning “stupor” (the root of “narcotic”) may come from the narcissus. The Greeks wove garlands of narcissus to ward off the Furies and adorned their dead with the flower to protect against evil spirits.[16] One of the oldest species is Narcissus poeticus, with its white petals and yellow trumpet, surrounded by an orange edge.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): St. John’s Wort was once prescribed for melancholy, and is still used as a remedy for depression. It was supposed to be the most powerful protective herb, healing all illnesses causes by fairies, and protecting against witchcraft and the power of the Devil. However, on the Isle of Wight, it was believed that a man who trampled on St. John’s Wort at night would be carried away by an enchanted horse to invisible realms.[17]

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium): The word Artemisia comes from Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt. Wormwood was once used medicinally to expel and kill parasites and for a variety of other purposes, including as an antiseptic and to combat stomach pains, muscle spasms, and fever. However, nowadays it is best known as in ingredient in absinthe, which has its own magical properties (and has been known as la feé verte, or the green fairy).

II. The Rose and the Mandrake

Photo of Rosa 'Rose Dot' at the San Jose Heritage Rose GardenTwo of the plants most commonly assigned magical properties are the rose and the mandrake. We have all seen bouquets of roses in grocery stores around Valentine’s Day. But the most beautiful roses are the species roses or heirloom varieties that were bred before the first hybrid tea rose, La France, appeared in 1867. Those old roses have the true rose scent, and are still used in the making of perfumes and oils.

There are more myths associated with the rose (Rosaceae species) than with any other flower. One concerns how the rose was created. A Corinthian maiden named Rodanthe was so beautiful that she had many suitors. But she had dedicated herself to Artermis, the goddess of the hunt, and vowed to remain unmarried in honor of the goddess. One day, as she was walking outside, she was surrounded by her suitors, each asking her to choose him. They began clutching at her, tearing her dress. Rodanthe fled into the nearby temple of Artermis. Her suitors followed, breaking into the temple. Artermis was furious. Wanting to avenge the desecration of her temple and protect Rodanthe, she turned the maiden into a rose. The blush on her cheeks became the color of the rose’s petals. Then, Artermis turned her suitors into the rose’s thorns, so they could guard her forever.[18]

Another myth concerns how the rose originally became red. The goddess Aphrodite fell in love with the mortal youth Adonis. Unlike Artermis, who was a goddess of the hunt, Aphrodite did not relish hunting, and would rather have spent her time bathing and adorning herself. But Adonis was a hunter, so she even went on the hunt with him. The god Ares was jealous and vowed to revenge himself on Adonis. One day, Aphrodite left to visit her shrine in Paphos, taking her chariot drawn by swans. Adonis went out hunting in her absence. Seeing his opportunity, Ares disguised himself as a wild boar. He led Adonis’ hounds on a long chase through the forest, then circled back and charged straight at Adonis, goring him in the side. Adonis was badly wounded, and Ares left him to die. But Aphrodite heard his cries and turned her chariot, flying back through the sky to Adonis. When the chariot touched down in the forest, she ran to her beloved. Her feet were torn by the tangled briars that covered the ground, and her blood fell on the white roses, turning them red.[19]

As these myths demonstrate, the rose has always been associated with both love and death. After the battle of Roncesvalles, where the knights of Charlemagne fell, the battlefield is said to have bloomed with roses, and twined roses grew out of the grave of the lovers Tristan and Isolde. Roses were often planted on graves, and modern rosarians have resurrected a number of old varieties after finding them in graveyards. It was once believed that if a maiden scattered rose petals over a tombstone on Midsummer’s Eve, she would have a vision of her future husband; if she kept a posy of roses sprinkled with pigeon’s blood under her pillow, his identity would be revealed in a dream. Roses also made for an effective love charm. If a maiden took three roses, white, pink, and red, and kept them next to her heart for three days, then steeped them in wine for three more days and gave the wine to the man she loved, he would be hers forever. More prosaically, a red rose was considered to be a charm against nose-bleed.[20]

Roses have always been used medicinally. Because the Romans believed roses protected against drunkenness, they put rose petals in wine and scattered them over the floors of banquet rooms. Rose teas have been used to sooth sore throats, and to fight colds and chest infections. Dried rose leaves were used for sore eyes, as in this eighteenth-century recipe:

Take half a pint of Alum Curd, and mix it with a sufficient quantity of Red Rose Leaves powdered, to give it a proper consistency. This is an excellent application for sore moist eyes, and admirably cools and represses defluxions.[21]

Roses were also used for cosmetic purposes. Dew gathered from a rose could be used to bathe the face, creating a beautiful complexion. A gall that grows on roses could be mixed with bear grease and massaged into the scalp to cure baldness. The Roman naturalist Pliny lists more than thirty cures prepared with roses, and by the eighteenth century about a third of all medicines contained some part of the rose.[22]

You may be familiar with the mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) from the Harry Potter books or films, in which mandrake roots look like particularly unattractive infants and have an intolerable scream. Mandrakes were so important, magically and medicinally, that twenty-two treatises on them were published between 1510 and 1850.[23] The Egyptians were familiar with the mandrake, which was associated with the goddess Hathor. Egyptian families would keep a mandrake plant in a corner of the house, with a lamp burning before it, and make offerings to it daily as the guardian of the household.[24] It was also known to the Assyrians, who mentioned it on clay tablets as a cure for toothache. The mandrake was even mentioned in the Song of Solomon:

Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.

Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourishes, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranate bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.

The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.[25]

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIt may have been mentioned in the Song of Songs because the mandrake was believed to be an aphrodisiac. The ancient Greeks called the fruit of the mandrake “apples of love,” and dried mandrake roots were carried as a charm to promote fertility.

Perhaps the most famous lore about the mandrake concerns how it must be gathered. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus, who is often thought of as the first botanist because of his treatises Enquiry into Plants and On the Causes of Plants, says that the person gathering a mandrake should draw three circles around the plant with a sword and cut it facing west. When cutting it, the gatherer should dance around the plant and talk about the mysteries of love. Perhaps all that talk of love has to do with the mandrake’s use in love potions; like the rose, it was also associated with Aphrodite, who was called the Lady of the Mandrake.[26] The Herbarium of Apuleius Platonicus, written between 1000 and 1050, provides more specific instructions on gathering the mandrake:

When first thou seest its head, then inscribe it thou instantly with iron lest it fly from thee; its virtue is so mickle and so famous, that it will immediately flee from an unclean man when he cometh to it not with the iron but thou shalt earnestly with an ivory staff delve the earth.

And when thou seest its hands and its feet, then tie thou it up. Then take the other end and tie it to a dog’s neck so that the hound be hungry; next cast meat before him so that he may not reach it except he jerk up the wort with him.[27]

This is a confusing account, but the iron is probably a sword used to draw the magic circle, and the ivory is likely a staff used to loosen the earth around the roots. Why does the hound appear in this account? The Anglo-Saxon poet Philip de Thaun, in his Bestiary of 1121, makes clear that the hound is there to act as a scapegoat for the gatherer: when the plant is gathered, “Such virtue this herb has, that no one can hear it but he must die and if the man heard it he would directly die. Therefore, he must stop his ears and take care that he hear not the cry, lest he die as the dog will do which shall hear the cry.”[28]

Mandrakes were so important because of the doctrine of signatures, the belief that plants resembling parts of the body could be used to treat those parts of the body. The root of the mandrake can look like a human being. Therefore, it was believed to cure a variety of diseases. Hippocrates thought that a dose in wine would relieve depression and anxiety, although he was aware that if given in large quantities, the mandrake was a dangerous plant, causing delirium and even death. According to Pliny, the root beaten with oil and wine cures “defluxions of the eyes and pains in these organs, and indeed the juice of this plant still forms an ingredient in many medicaments for the eyes.”[29] The Romans commonly used mandrake as an anaesthetic and to put patients to sleep before surgery.

In the Middle Ages, since mandrake roots were difficult to come by, the roots of other plants were artificially shaped and manipulated to look like mandrakes, and sold at a high price. Andrea Mattioli, whose Commentaries on the Materia Medica of Dioscorides was published in 1544, says that a doctor he met in Rome would sell such false mandrake roots: “These false mandrakes he palmed off on childless women, some of whom gave him as much as 5, 20, or even 50 gold pieces for a single specimen, fondly expecting to become joyful mothers of children.”[30] These false mandrake roots, often carved to resemble small men, look much more like the ones from Harry Potter than natural mandrake roots ever could. Since they resembled human children, it was believed that they would aid conception. But they were also believed to bring good fortune. As part of her trial for witchcraft, Joan of Arc was accused of carrying a mandrake root in her bosom in the hope of acquiring riches; of course, she denied the accusation.[31]

III. Imaginary Plants

There are some plants you will never be able to grow in your garden: they exist only in the human imagination. In Greek myth, toward the west at the edge of the ocean that encircles the world, you can find the Garden of the Hesperides, in which there is a tree with golden apples that confer immortality. The tree was grown from branches given to Hera by Gaia herself as a wedding gift. Three nymphs collectively called the Hesperides tend the garden, but it is also guarded by a hundred-headed dragon named Ladon who never sleeps. In the Middle Ages, travelers returning from China told stories about the Upas Tree or Tree of Poison, supposedly located in the islands off the coast. It was so poisonous that nothing could live for miles around: it killed all the surrounding vegetation, and animals and people who fell asleep under it would die. Prisoners were executed by being tied to the tree. Nowadays, there are still trees identified as descendants of the legendary Upas whose juice is used to poison arrows.[32]

But perhaps the strangest imaginary plant is the Barnacle Tree. In the Middle Ages, people would wonder where geese migrating from the north originated. They believed barnacle geese (Branta bernicla) came from Barnacle Trees that grew on the Orkney Islands. The trees would bear fruit that were barnacles, and when they were ripe, the barnacles would drop into the sea, releasing young barnacle geese. Gerard, who claims to have seen the birth of barnacles geese with his own eyes, describes a slightly different process, recounting how in Lancashire, on the seashore, the waves cast up tree trunks and the hulls of sunken ships, “whereon is found a certaine spume or froth, that in time breedeth unto certaine shels, in shape like thos of the muskle, but sharper pointed and of a whitish colour.” These contain “a thing in forme like a lace of silke finely woven,” with one end fastened to the shell and the other end fastened to “a rude masse or lumpe, which in time commeth to the shape and forme of a Birde.” Eventually, the bird comes to maturity and falls out of the shell into the sea, “where it gathereth feathers, and groweth to a foule, bigger than a Mallard, and lesser than a Goose.”[33]

An entire book could be written about plants that have mythic associations or were considered to have magical properties. I have included only a few of those plants here, but I hope they appear in your own gardens, real or imaginary.

Selected Scholarship

Emboden, William A. Bizarre Plants: Magical, Monstrous, Mythical. New York: Macmillan, 1974.

Hollis, Sarah. The Country Diary Herbal. New York: Henry Holt, 1990.

Lehner, Ernst and Johanna. Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants, and Trees. New York: Tudor, 1960.

Mayhew, Ann. The Rose: Myth, Folklore and Legend. London: New English Library, 1979.

Skinner, Charles M. Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants in All Ages and All Climes. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1911.

Thompson, C.J.S. The Mystic Mandrake. London: Rider, 1934.

1. Sarah Hollis, The Country Diary Herbal (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), 30-1.
2. Charles M. Skinner, Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants in All Ages and All Climes (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1911), 58.
3. Ibid., 59.
4. C.J.S. Thompson, The Mystic Mandrake (London: Rider, 1934), 67.
5. Ernst and Johanna Lehner, Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants, and Trees (New York: Tudor, 1960), 63.
6. William A. Emboden, Bizarre Plants: Magical, Monstrous, Mythical (New York: Macmillan, 1974), 69.
7. Lehner, 55.
8. Ibid., 56.
9. Ibid., 58.
10. Skinner, 101.
11. Emboden, 71.
12. Hollis, 50.
13. Ibid., 56-7.
14. Lehner, 59.
15. Ibid., 53.
16. Emboden, 63-5.
17. Ibid., 83.
18. Mayhew, 18-9.
19. Ibid., 22.
20. Ibid., 38-9.
21. Ibid., 42.
22. Ibid., 42.
23. Thompson, 20.
24. Ibid., 45.
25. Song of Solomon 7:11-13.
26. Thompson, 55.
27. Ibid., 108.
28. Ibid., 112.
29. Ibid., 97.
30. Ibid., 123.
31. Ibid., 146.
32. Lehner, 85.
33. Emboden, 197.

Theodora GossTheodora Goss was born in Hungary and spent her childhood in various European countries before her family moved to the United States. Although she grew up on the classics of English literature, her writing has been influenced by an Eastern European literary tradition in which the boundaries between realism and the fantastic are often ambiguous. Her publications include the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting (2006); Interfictions (2007), a short story anthology coedited with Delia Sherman; and Voices from Fairyland (2008), a poetry anthology with critical essays and a selection of her own poems. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List, and has won the World Fantasy and Rhysling Awards.

 Posted by at 6:45 am

Germany’s Märchen Straße – An Introduction to the German Fairy Tale Road

 Fairies and Fairy Tales, Featured  Comments Off on Germany’s Märchen Straße – An Introduction to the German Fairy Tale Road
May 302012

by Amanda White

Germany is the home to rolling hills, winding rivers, and forests so densely wooded they’ve been termed black — in all, the perfect setting for fairy tales to be woven into folklore. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm knew their homeland was ripe for the picking, as if each story was an apple just waiting to be tasted. The brothers mapped out a route within this country, making their way through its heart in order to discover the origins of the stories they had heard since childhood.

Grimms' Fairy Tales

But the Grimm route hasn’t been trodden down as much as other tourist road trips throughout the country. Travel enthusiasts are well versed in the storied landscape of the Romantic Road. A tourist destination in itself, many travelers to Germany will rent a car in this country with the sole purpose of driving the meandering course in search of ancient castles and quaint towns. But the Fairy Tale Road — the mapped out section of Germany that the Brothers Grimm explored in the early 19th century — has sights and stories of its own.

Fairy Tale Road Map

The road itself runs from Hanau — birthplace of the Grimms — and ends in the booming town of Bremen. 600km (360 miles) worth of Germany is dedicated to this route, with over 60 stops along the way. Popular tales such as Snow White and Red Riding Hood are boasted to have their origins in the towns along the road, as well as tales and legends less known to a modern, Western audience.

After spending a month in Europe to research local folklore and children’s book authors, I set my sights on the motherload. Leaving Holland and arriving by train to Bremen, Germany, I hopped in a rented Peugeot and decided to begin discovering this fairy trail backwards.

Bremen Musicians

The week was spent in what some in the fairy tale community might consider the equivalent to heaven. Half-timbered villages were separated by thick groves of gnarly trees as far as the eye could see, allowing my imagination to run rampant with tales of evil sorceresses and talking beasts. With a playlist of soundtracks and classical tunes to count off the miles, I alighted on each town and headed directly for the tourist information center. Each was chock-full of reading material that kept me busy when the main attractions closed for the evening. The locals were friendly to the point of neighborly, even to an American girl who spoke only a handful of German. The food ranged from traditional brats to comforting Mexican, and ice cream shops were everywhere. Perhaps the most loved evening activity was the sampling of various beers, and Bremen provided the kickoff point with its Becks Brewery. One thing is certain; Germany certainly knows how to cash in on vacationing sightseers.

Snow White Country

And sightseeing I did in abundance. Each town proved to be fiercely proud of their local folkloric traditions. Some had erected monuments to commemorate the stories that made the town famous, while others could boast of actual historic landmarks. Castle ruins were prevalent, as were inns and cottages where fairy tale characters were said to have laid their heads. What each town had in common was their insistence that each fairy tale came from more than an old wive’s tale. They proclaimed that truth could be found within the pages of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and anyone interested in discovering it could simply ask a local.

Marburg Stairs

This fairy tale road helped me to find the hint of reality that lies within lore. Beginning at the end was the perfect way to embark on The Fairy Tale Road. Bremen would prove to be the model for what a Märchenstrasse town should aspire to be — full of stories, sights, and mysteries yet to uncover.

Amanda White is a writer and graduate student in Nashville, TN. She is earning her degree at Belmont University under the Literature and Writing track, and has a personal focus on Children’s Literature and Folklore. In 2010 she traveled abroad for research on a fiction novel for young adults, and completed this work in the Fall of 2011. She is now looking for representation while continuing to freelance and contribute to her personal blog.

 Posted by at 6:28 am

Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes

 Fresh Apples, Our Grim(m)oire  Comments Off on Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes
Mar 122012

Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes One, two, three, four…

Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes can be purchased at,, and our favorite, The Book Depository as well as at other online sellers. Please support independent sellers if you can. Also available in digital editions from the publisher’s website, and from Amazon. All proceeds will be used to support Cabinet des Fées and charities* of its choice.

Cabinet des Fées is very excited to announce the release of Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes, our new twenty-seven page chapbook including seven full page, full color illustrations by Adam Oehlers, who also graciously gave an interview with curator and contributor, Francesca Forrest. She gets right to the point.

You’ve done a fabulous job capturing the spirit of our macabre jump rope rhymes. Can you say a little bit about your mindset as you were creating each painting? Did you see each rhyme as part of the continuing adventure of one protagonist, or did you have lots of alternative Cinderellas in mind?Click here to discover Adam’s answer and to see more examples of his wonderful work, or read on for more information about the book itself.

We quote here from Francesca’s introduction to the rhymes:

Cinderella, dressed in yella
Went downstairs to kiss her fella
By mistake she kissed a snake
How many doctors did it take?
One, two, three, four…

This jump rope rhyme was in actual use in the United States at least as late as the 1970s and 1980s I can remember jumping rope to it, or this variant:

Cinderella, dressed in yella
Went downstairs to kiss her fella
By mistake her girdle busted
How many people were disgusted?
One, Two, Three, Four…

Fast forward to nowadays, and put that rhyme in the hands of speculative poets and short-story writers and their friends. These are people with a lurid sense of humor, a color palette not limited to yellow, and a deep interest in imagining for Cindy some life-changing experiences beyond snake kissing and girdle busting.

Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes

Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes shows you what a childhood pastime looks like when you dial macabre up to eleven. If playground fun got married to the genetically engineered child of Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman, their offspring would be Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes. With contributions from Francesca Forrest, Sonya Taaffe, Samantha Henderson, Erik Amundsen, Rose Lemberg, Nadia Bulkin, Julia Rios, and Kyle Davis, these are not the rhymes you jumped rope to as a child.

Cinderella wearing lime
got involved with corporate crime
her finances aren’t all they seem,
since she runs a Ponzi scheme
don’t expect her to amend
until she’s facing five to ten.

Facing Five to Ten © Adam Oehlers, All Rights Reserved

*In tribute to all of the animal friends and helpers without whom our fairy tale heroines and heros would themselves be lost, CdF has decided to fund animal charities with this publication. Fifty percent of all profits will be donated each quarter, beginning with the quarter ending June 30, 2012. The remaining profits will go toward the maintenance of this website, and to fund Scheherezade’s Bequest planned print volume.

Our first batch of proceeds will be donated to HULA Animal Rescue: Home for Unwanted and Lost Animals. HULA is an independent UK charity with a non-destruction policy for every healthy animal, in service since 1972. From their website:

HULA was started by a concerned vet, his wife and other animal lovers, because a lady brought her young puppy into their veterinary surgery and asked for it to be put down “as I’m going on holiday and can’t afford to put the dog in kennels”. At that time, there were no animal rescue centres in Bedfordshire. The vet refused and Blackie became the first rescued animal.

Our second batch of proceeds will be donated to the Oldies Club, our third to Dolly’s Foundation, and our fourth to The Donkey Sanctuary based in Devon, England. We’ll post more information about those three charities when their times comes.

We thank you for your support of Cabinet des Fées.

 Posted by at 7:00 am

An interview with artist Adam Oehlers

 Featured, Interviews  Comments Off on An interview with artist Adam Oehlers
Mar 122012

Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes Francesca Forrest talks with artist Adam Oehlers about his work in Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes and more.

Francesca: You’ve done a fabulous job capturing the spirit of our macabre jump rope rhymes. Can you say a little bit about your mindset as you were creating each painting? Did you see each rhyme as part of the continuing adventure of one protagonist, or did you have lots of alternative Cinderellas in mind? Or maybe you approached the task in an entirely different way?

Adam: When I first read through the rhymes, I was blown away. It’s rare to be approached with a piece of writing that suits my style and world so well. Each little rhyme, with its separate story and dark humour, instantly got my imagination spinning. I saw each of the Cinderellas as separate characters from the beginning as it seemed that each of them was having their own little adventure. I like to think that these stories are happening to a bunch of Cinderellas which populate the same little world. I ended up having a lot of fun with these pieces, and I’ve ended up with a collection that I’m really proud of.

Dressed in Black © Adam Oehlers. All Rights Reserved.

Francesca: I sense the influence of Brian Froud and Arthur Rackham in your work. Seeing your illustrations for a French edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, I automatically start doing a mental compare-and-contrast with Gustave Doré’s illustrations of the same work. What artists did you love, growing up? And who among contemporary illustrators do you admire?

Adam: You hit the nail on the head there. I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from older illustrators such as Doré and Rackham, and I’ve tried to inject some of that ‘classic’ feel into work. Brian Froud had a huge influence on me when I was younger, and for a long time, I focused my work on a fantasy-based world filled with fairies, goblins and dragons (also inspired heavily by Tolkien).

When I got a little older, my work started getting a little quirkier, I think due to the inspiration I received from Tim Burton’s universe. I think the thing that drew me to these artists was that I really admired the strength and individuality of their worlds. As I matured and my work matured with me, I left that fantasy element behind and set out to start building my own little world.

The biggest influence on my work has been the beautiful illustrations of Edward Gorey. I’ve always drawn, but when I discovered his work, I turned my focus to pen, and before I knew what was happening, all of my work was covered in that lovely gritty texture that’s created by crosshatching. Its not only Gorey’s technique and world that inspired me, but also his way of telling a story, the moments he chooses to capture.

Through the fog it came © Adam Oehlers. All Rights Reserved.

Francesca: Au Fond Du Grenier, the French publisher who brought out The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with your illustrations, also published a new edition of your wordless short story Dear Little Emmie. A version of that story first ran in the English online zine New Fairy Tales. The French version looks like an expansion of the original story. How did it develop and change?

Adam: The original version of Dear Little Emmie, which I was lucky enough to have included in New Fairy Tales, was comprised of 50 black-and-white illustrations. I completed this collection in 2007 for an exhibition I had in Adelaide (southern Australia) in the same year. This collection was originally completed as a storyboard for what I always wanted to turn into a full graphic novel. I printed it into a little self-published book which I took to my publishers in France, and luckily they picked it up.

Dear Little Emmie © Adam Oehlers. All Rights Reserved.

There was plenty of time between completing the storyboard and moving onto the final book. In that time I was able to fine-tune the story and put more emphasis on the scenes that needed it in order to build the atmosphere and world more solidly. I also added on a new ending, not changing the story at all, but adding it on in order to give the piece a stronger conclusion. I think it also gives the entire story a much more uplifting feel (in a strange kind of way).

Dear Little Emmie © Adam Oehlers. All Rights Reserved.

Francesca: Your art has appeared in books and online, you’ve exhibited in galleries, you’ve collaborated and worked solo. What can you share about establishing yourself as an artist and illustrator in the twenty-first century?

Adam: Unfortunately, I’ve never been that good at the promotional side of my work, always focusing more on creating the work than getting it out there. If it weren’t for the Internet, my promotional skills would be about zero. I’ve no idea how people managed it before. For a long while, I didn’t bother with social networking and used mainly my website, and occasionally I’d send my work to publishers. But once I got involved with things like Myspace (to begin with) and then Facebook, I found an incredible network of artists online, and this grew into a community of illustrators, galleries, magazines and publishers all a click away. Most of my work now comes from contacts made online. 

Francesca: What are your plans for 2012?

Adam: Lots of exciting things are coming up this year. I’m looking forward to the arrival of a few more books, including Cinderella Jump Rope Rhymes, and a couple of other projects that have gone to print. I have exhibitions lined up, beginning with one in February, of work from my latest publication and some other stories in Adelaide, titled The Girl That Sank. My two main projects for the year are the adaptation of Dear Little Emmie into an animation, which will begin production early this year, and a second graphic novel titled The Nowhere Lighthouse. It is told in a similar way to Little Emmie, through a narrative of pictures. Its not quite as sequential, jumping around a lot more from scene to scene, and the story is not quite as dark. I’m having a lot of fun with this one, injecting more elements of odd magic and strangeness. All in all, I’m quite excited about 2012.

Nowhere Cat © Adam Oehlers. All Rights Reserved.

CdF: Thank you, Adam! And to all of our visitors, you can see even more of Adam’s delightful work at

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Dec 152011
Scheherezade's Bequest 14

by Brittany Warman

In my mind, prince,
I have woven evergreen branches through my hair
and fallen through worlds like snow.

I have sucked the juice
from red ripe pomegranate seeds
gratefully, with abandon–
I have explored my life inside enchantment.

In my mind
I have been light on a butterfly’s wing,
the shadows on a forest floor,
the ticking sounds of a clock.

I have heard the ocean’s cry;
seen the glitter of the city inside me.
I have built a tower
from the pieces of my spell haunted experience.

In my mind
I have walked inside a cat’s eye,
swam with seals,
and slept beside my own still body.

What right have you,
love and swords,
to end my dreams?

To call it waking,
to call it a kiss,
and say I should be grateful?

Brittany Warman is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and is currently working on her master’s degree in folklore at George Mason University. She has had creative work published in Magpie Magazine, Finery, EMG-Zine, Jabberwocky, and The Sarah Lawrence College Review. Her website is and she journals at

 Posted by at 2:20 pm