Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lindworm: The Story

Today I’m going to tell you about my favorite story. The story that built this blog. The Danish title is Kong Lindorm. The English is King Lindworm, but it’s often translated Prince Lindworm instead, and that’s how I met it, in a collection on my grandparents’ shelf.

It goes like this:

A queen can’t have children. The literal translation of this is that “nothing was written on their wedding sheets,” which I think is stunningly beautiful, and I want everyone who says that fairy tales are just bare bones, lacking in character development or imagery, to read it.

The queen goes to a wise woman, who tells her about a fancy ritual where she puts a couple of upside-down-tea-cups by the north gate and two flowers come up overnight. Queen eats one if she wants a boy, the other if she wants a girl. She is not, under any circumstances, to eat both.

So she grows her flowers and translations vary, but usually she chooses the girl flower. Then it tastes so good, she just has to eat the other one too.

Sometimes the stupidity of fictional people just makes me want to bang my head against the wall repeatedly, you know?

I have in my possession what I believe is the earliest recorded version of this story (more on that later), and this is the point where it branches off from the one I grew up with. In the first version, the queen gives birth to a Lindworm, which is a Scandinavian dragon/snake monster, usually bipedal with small wings. In my first version, she does this, and then gives birth to a normal human son, as well. Since I started with the brother, I tend to prefer it—it adds to the story, but takes nothing away, so if you want a sense for the original, just quietly disregard a few sentences as I move forward here, assume the Lindworm is speaking to the king instead of the prince, whatever.

Prince grows up, wants to get married, sets out to find a bride. Lindworm, who slithered away immediately after birth and about whose existence their mother said nothing, appears in the road to say, “hey, actually I’m a few minutes older than you, so I’m supposed to get married first.”

A real interesting conversation ensues at the royal family dinner table that night.

They get a princess to marry the Lindworm. The Lindworm eats her right after the wedding. Prince goes bride-hunting again, Lindworm objects again, a second princess is provided. Same thing happens. Prince sets out a third time, Lindworm demands a bride a third time. Wising up, finally, the king recruits some random girl whose parents don’t have the means to go to war against him.

Third girl encounters a wise woman in the forest. Wise woman gives her some seriously wacky advice. Wedding happens, they retreat to the honeymoon suite, and the Lindworm tells our girl to take off her dress.

Only if you take off your skin, she says. He does. She does. She’s wearing a second dress. Same deal. Turns out she’s wearing one more layer than the Lindworm is, so that’s a disgusting mess. Then she whips him with whips soaked in lye. Then she dunks him in a big tub of milk. They she embraces him.

When they wake up the next morning, the Lindworm is a handsome prince. The kingdom rejoices. His bloody history is instantly forgotten. We all live happily ever after.

I was drawn to this story immediately, largely because it was completely ridiculous. For years I have burned with the desire to understand all this craziness. And I more or less do now, but more on that later. This is just the beginning.

Welcome to my new series. Welcome to my new promotional tactics. Welcome to my novel.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be talking about this story in much more detail. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing a draft of my novel Lindworm.

Here’s how it works. I am in possession of an oft-neglected Patreon account. The first chapter will be posted here for everyone to read, on October 1. The rest of the book will be posted on Patreon, one chapter a week. This will be added to the lowest reward tier, so if you support me with just one dollar per month, you can read this story. It’s about fifteen chapters long, so that’s less than four dollars, guys, and you can totally stop supporting me once the story is done. Granted, it’s not exactly publication-ready. It’s not the final draft. But that makes it better, because you get to provide feedback. You get to help me make it better.

I’m really excited about this story, and I’m really excited about sharing it with you.

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