Sunday, March 10, 2019

West of the Moon

We left our hero (like a year ago, I’m so sorry guys) alone in the middle of nowhere after her bear roommate/super cute nighttime visitor was swept away by his evil troll mother. A brief recap: if she had slept with mystery man for one more month without curiosity, the spell would have broken and he wouldn’t have had to be a bear anymore. However, her mom convinced her that maybe she should KNOW WHO SHE WAS SLEEPING WITH, so she lit a candle and checked him out in the middle of the night. Now he has to marry his evil troll stepmother’s evil troll daughter, in a land that lies east of the sun and west of the moon.

She decides she’d better go there and rescue him—maybe because she feels guilty, maybe because she’s super cute, maybe both. Astronomy is no help here, so she chooses a direction at random, walking until she meets a little old lady.

The little old lady doesn’t know how to get east of the sun and west of the moon, but she gives our girl directions to a second little old lady, a loaner horse so she can get there faster, and a golden apple. (She always gives her a golden something; the specifics vary but this set seems to be the most common.)

The second little old lady also can’t help us get to the troll palace, but she can help with another horse, directions to another old lady, and a golden carding comb. Old lady number three gives her a golden spinning wheel and sends her to the east wind, and can we all just pause and take a moment to consider the difficulty of lugging around a whole entire spinning wheel made out of solid gold? This poor girl.

The east wind can’t help. The west wind can’t help. The south wind can’t help. Finally she gets to the north wind, who once blew a single leaf east of the sun and west of the moon. He knows where it is, and he’s up for a challenge—our girl is significantly heavier than a leaf, but he manages it with great difficulty.

Girl positions herself outside step-sister troll’s window with the golden apple. Troll expresses interest in the apple, and they make a deal—apple in exchange for one night with the troll’s future husband/stepbrother.

Now it may seem odd that she’s so unconcerned by who he spends his nights with, but troll girl’s got this—boy’s all drugged up. Same thing happens the second night, in exchange for the carding comb. Fortunately, our former bear has some friends among the trolls. Which makes sense since they are is step family. Apparently trolls just don’t care about sorta-kinda-almost incest?

Friends let dude know about his nighttime visitor who’s been sitting by his bed and crying while he sleeps for the last two nights. And about the drugging. He doesn’t take the spiked drink on the third night—the spinning wheel night—and he and our girl make a plan.

(Side-note: the text specifies that his friends are Christians. That’s important in a way we’ll get to shortly.)

Tomorrow is the wedding. And before things get going, our bear-dude issues a condition for marrying the troll.

Sure, whatever, says troll-mom. We got magic, we can meet conditions, no big.

Dude whips out the nightshirt our girl spilled candlewax all over. Wash this.

Turns out trolls really, really suck at laundry. Troll bride can’t do it. Troll mom can’t do it. All the other fancy, royal trolls can’t do it. They scrub and scrub and scrub, and the wax stain just gets bigger.

Now some versions of this story make a point of telling us that the trolls can’t wash clothes because they aren’t Christians. Which is think is just, like, really fascinating. I’ve been thinking about this thing—trolls can’t do laundry—for so long.

I’ve considered a few options. Maybe this was a well established fact about trolls at the time, forgotten by history. Maybe these privileged, royal trolls were so far removed from the daily lives of normal, working trolls that things like chores were beyond their comprehension. But my best guess is that we have a Nothing But the Blood of Jesus situation on our hands here. You know, like, “What can wash my sins away? Nothing but the blood of Jesus”? There’s this big thing in hymns and stuff where stain=sin, and this particular wax stain is essentially a physical representation of our heroine’s mistake. Thus, she can wash out her own stain, because though she sinned, this journey is an indication of her repentance, and the Lord is with her now. The trolls cannot wash out the sin, because they are wicked and do not know God.

(Thus far my research supports the theory that 95% of ridiculous fairy tale occurrences in fairy tales recorded in largely Christian areas after the rise of Christianity can be explained by something I learned in Sunday School. See also: Prince Lindworm.)

So. The troll bride fails to meet the conditions set for the marriage, and all of the trolls are so upset about this that they literally explode.  And everyone else lives happily ever after!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

New Book Out Thursday!

It's another week without the promised "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" update; sorry! Been very busy prepping "Dear Somebody," which is what happens when one decides to create and release a book in the space of less than two weeks.

I discovered this afternoon that I was out of colored ink, so I had to go to an office supply store for ink and a fabric store for thread, but I have eight copies printed, bound, and ready to go.
 You can pre-order "Dear Somebody" from Amazon here.
You can pre-order "Dear Somebody" from Barnes and Noble here.
And you can order "Dear Somebody" from Etsy here!
(I figure it will take at least until Valentine's Day to get books shipped and delivered, so ordering starts now on Etsy; if you order yet tonight they'll go out on Monday, and if you order them tomorrow they'll go out on Tuesday, assuming of course that my somewhat lackluster postman succeeds in actually collecting the mail.)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Dear Somebody

So last week was supposed to (finally) be the second half of my "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" post. And it wasn't. Well, neither is tonight. Hopefully we'll be back on track by next week, but in the meantime I have an exciting announcement.

Dear Somebody is a chapbook consisting of 12 poems about asexuality. It comes out on Valentine's Day. The physical copy will be available on Etsy, hand-bound like thin, and the digital copy will be available for Kindle and Nook. More details, including pricing, coming soon!

Edited 2/4/19 to add:

Pricing update! Digital copies from Amazon and Barnes and Noble will be $1.99. Hard copies from Etsy will be $3.00.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

East of the Sun

(Repost in Preparation for Part II next week)

There is a peasant in the woods, and his family is large and he is poor and his children are terribly ill.

One day, a large white bear comes up to him in the woods and says, “Hey, man, if you give me your youngest daughter I’ll give you a ton of money and your crops will prosper and your kids will be healthy.”

And the father is all like, “Excuse me? We do not just give people away. Especially to talking forest creatures. She’s a person, not a pair of spare boots.”

He pauses, considering the general financial situation of his family.

“I’ll ask her if she’s interested.”

Initially, our girl is not wildly enthusiastic about this opportunity, and hey, who could blame her? But things are pretty bad at home, and if she can help, well.

The bear comes back and she climbs on his back, and they travel far and far and far away, to a beautiful castle in the snow. And the bear goes off to do bear things, and the girl goes to the fancy bedroom provided. Night falls. Sleep falls.

And then, the door opens. And then, some dude gets into bed with her. And our girl, she just rolls with it. Like, okay, I’m in a magic castle with a talking bear, hundreds of miles away from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and now there’s a strange man in my bed. Whatever.

I dunno. Maybe she’s thinking, well hey, at least it’s not the bear. Maybe she’s just too freaked out to react. Who knows?

But this keeps happening. Night after night after night. And she keeps letting it. Are they lying therein awkward silence? Are they talking? Are they sleeping? Are they having sex?

I mean, okay, they’re definitely having sex, because that’s just how fairy tales work—they never spell it out, but the implication is always there.

Anyway. Most of a year goes by. Girl gets homesick. Talks to bear. The bear is a pretty cool bear, because he’s like, “Yeah, sure, but you can only visit for a month. And also, um, please don’t talk to your mom alone?”

Now me, I’d think that last bit was a little sketchy. But our girl figures it’s a pretty good deal.

Her mom, on the other hand, her mom agrees with me. Sketchy. And of course, she manages to get her daughter alone eventually. And then she fids out about how her daughter is spending her nights.

In a move that will eternally villainize her, as it has countless other concerned fairy tale parents, mom objects.

“You’re sleeping with a strange man every night? You’ve never even seen his face? Are you even using protection? Did you listen to none of my lectures about safe sex and stranger danger? This is not okay. This is really not okay. Here. I’m gonna give you a candle and some matches. And the next time this creep shows up in your bedroom, you’re going to wait until he falls asleep, and then you’re going to light the candle and figure out what you’re dealing with.”

So when she gets back to the castle with the bear, our girl listens to her mom and lights her candle.

And this guy she’s been sleeping with for eleven months? Turns out he’s really, really cute. Like, record-shatteringly cute. Like, my-mom-would-totally-understand cute. Like, I-am-physically-incapable-of-looking-away-from-his-beautiful-face-and-my-candle-is-dripping-onto-his-nightshirt cute.

Then the hot wax gets to him, and the cute guy wakes up.

Turns out our boy is the enchanted talking bear, and he just had to get through one more month of sleeping with this girl while providing no information about himself, and the spell would have been broken and he could be a person full time again.

But now the girl, having exactly zero information about what was going on and what was expected of her, has screwed up. So he has to go to a land east of the sun and west of the moon to marry his evil troll stepmother’s evil troll daughter.

Stepmom comes, boy and castle disappear, girl is left alone in the snow. End Part One.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Wendy Darling

This is Wendy Darling. Named, of course, after Wendy Moira Angela Darling, she of Peter Pan fame. Wendy is a border collie, which means she’s too smart for her own good, and in possession of boundless energy.

She’s fantastic, and I love her. Also, I’m so incredibly tired. My original plan was to use her name to sort of transition into talking about Peter Pan. But you’ll have to settle for cute puppy pictures today.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sex vs. Romance: The Cultural Shift in Folklore

I think it’s fascinating, how we simultaneously sexualize and sanitize our fairy tales. What we’re ultimately doing, of course, is romanticizing. We move all of the sexual elements to a part of the story where they have a point.

Fairy tales aren’t, at their core, romantic. There’s a certain practicality to folklore—these are stories spread and shared among poor, working class people, often women, and they’re about success and survival, not love.

Well, familial love, perhaps, but the unions with royalty are seldom about anything as impractical as romance. Which is why the princes and princesses often aren’t likeable people.

Marriage in modern American culture is inherently romantic. Which is why these stories seem so bizarre to us. He’s going to live happily ever after with the chick who decapitated his brothers?

No! He didn’t win because he got the girl. He won because he got one over on the girl. He outsmarted the snotty princess, and now he has money and power. There’s no love here.

In earlier versions of the story, Snow White may be a prepubescent object of lust and jealousy. But she is not kissed awake—the apple is dislodged by a bump in the road. In earlier versions of the story, Sleeping Beauty is raped, but it is not this that wakes her; it is a splinter being dragged from the finger by a suckling child.

No women, in today’s variants, lose their virginity when asleep or, worse still, dead. No children are lusted after. But we’ve added a new component to the story—true love’s kiss. There’s no more senseless sexual violence. The romantic element serves an actual point.

Understanding the original cultural context is important, sure, but it is in the nature of folklore that the cultural context is constantly shifting, along with the details of the story. I think it’s stupid, frankly, to complain about the Disney-fication or whatever. Oh no! The protagonist gets money and power, AND she gets to spend her life with someone she actually likes! No one even got raped. How terrible! What a betrayal of the great tradition of storytelling!

Get over yourself, man. After four hundred years, these characters deserve a real happy ending.