Monday, March 8, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: My Story

 *This is a repost from 10/8/17 with minor edits*


The curse is broken, but the transition from beast to prince isn't always that easy.

After the lindworm is defeated, Marit expects to go back to her normal life. But two princesses are still dead, and two wars are still brewing, and Marit is (technically) still married to the lindworm. Or Prince David, as they’re calling him now.

The thing about Davey is that he’s hopeless—and who can blame him? He spent the first two decades of his life as a giant snake. He doesn’t know what to do with legs. He doesn’t know what to do with hands. He doesn't appreciate the fact that he has to chew his food now. All of this, in addition to the fact that his dragon instincts have been replaced with a human conscience, leading to overwhelming guilt over the two princesses he ate.

All Marit wants is to go home to her father and sister. But instead she finds herself deeply embroiled in palace intrigue, trying to save a depressed, inept prince from himself and everyone around him.


*You can pre-order my novel Lindworm here!*

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: The Allegory

 *This is a repost from 9/24/17, with minor edits*


I don’t remember the first time I read Prince Lindworm, but I do remember the first time I understood it. It was the spring semester of my freshman year of college, and I was sitting in the left front corner of my British Literature class. As usual, I had two notebooks open—one for class notes, and one for anything actually interesting that I thought of while paying slightly less attention to class than I should have been.

On this particular day, I was neglecting Byron in favor of speculating on why, when the Lindworm’s spell was broken, we just forgot about the dead girls and everything was hunky dory. Then I thought about his mom eating the flowers, and suddenly, the whole ridiculous thing made sense. It’s a Christian allegory. 

You start out with a woman eating something she was specifically told not to eat. Hello, Eve. Nice to see you—it’s been a while.

Because of the mother’s dietary choices, the child is born cursed. Fall of man.

Then along comes our girl, and she’s willing to give her life for the sake of her kingdom, because she rocks. And because of her sacrifice (see: Crucifixion), our fallen man is redeemed, i.e. returned to humanity.  And when this happens, when he is purified by her sacrifice, all of his sins are forgiven. He is embraced by the father and immediately welcomed home.

The basic structure of this story is drawn directly from the basic structure of the Bible.

And of course, it’s not that simple. There’s more, much more, because this story is just a little crazy. There are definitely Prodigal Son elements in the versions where the queen gives birth to a prince as well as a monster, but I’ll let you think about that on your own time, because I’m much more interested in the spell-breaking, and I’m on a tight schedule—this needs to be ready to post in just a couple hours, and I still need to track down some old research.

What I consider the really big revelation here happened a few weeks after that day in British Literature, though it was also related to the class. I was writing an in-depth analysis of Tennyson’s “The Journey of the Magi.” The Catholic sacrament of penance ended up being a major theme. And that got me thinking more about the specifics of the transformation, which had previously struck me as baffling, creepy, and just this side of suggestive.

(And look, I can make it sound all nice and symbolic here, but when you get to actually writing the scene, I just can’t get all the suggestiveness out. Fair warning. It’s in chapter two.)

So let’s review the transformation. Step one: some seriously excessive molting. (Snakes molt, right? Or is it shed?) Step two: whips soaked in lye. Step three: dunk in a tub of milk. Step four: the embrace. However you wanna interpret that.

Okay. Step one. We cast off the old self, the sins, whatever. It’s really hard and it kind of hurts. Step two is, like, well. The lye is purifying, right? That’s soap? The whips are a little…we can call that penance or something, okay? I promised Biblical connections, but not necessarily theological soundness.  Think like hair shirts and whatever. He’s paying for his sins and being made clean.

Not sure why it’s milk, exactly, but step three is obviously baptism. We’re gonna call step four acceptance into the body of Christ, and ignore any sexual undertones we might be picking up.

And then the fallen son is welcomed home with opens arms, easily and fully forgiven, and everyone lives happily ever after.

This leaves us with only two mysteries in this previously completely incomprehensible story. I already told you I’m not sure about the milk, although the google search “milk symbolism”—

Wait. I take that back. It may now be twenty-six minutes after this post was initially intended to go out, but I have an answer to the milk question. Apparently, in Corinthians and Hebrews, it’s symbolic of, like, basic doctrine. So you’ve got baptism and Bible 101. Milk actually has a lot of symbolism attached to it, including purity and, apparently, Nazism, although I vote we discard that one as irrelevant to our current line of inquiry.  Let’s call the milk problem solved.

*Added note not included in original post: the purifying nature of milk also features prominently and disturbingly in the 2nd half of the original Danish version of the story. More on that in a future blog.*

Our last mystery: the flowers. We’ve got the scene in general down as representing the fall of man, but let’s get into the specifics. Eat this one if you want a girl, that one if you want a boy. So the mom eats the girl flower, and then she eats the boy flower. She winds up with a boy lindworm, and in some versions also a boy human.

Note the lack of girl here, despite the initial intake of the girl flower. I’m completely down with the lindworm as punishment for disobedient flower-consumption, but why is it a boy? Just further punishment? Logically, if she’s going to have two kids, the first born should be a human daughter, in line with the first flower, and the second should be a male lindworm due to the forbidden flower. If there’s only one kid, why is it a boy? Did the entire request for a girl get nullified by the second flower?

Why isn't the lindworm a girl? If the lindworm is a boy, why doesn’t he have a sister? Specifically, an older sister? I don’t have an answer. It’s been years and years of intermittent research, and I don’t have an answer.



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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: Cite Your Sources

*This is a repost from 9/17/17* 



I first read Prince Lindworm in a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales illustrated by Kay Nielsen, who, by the way, is awesome. The problem here is that it was a later edition of the book. At some point, I don’t remember why, I got super into finding out the history of Prince Lindworm. See, it was in this book, which was supposed to be stories from Asbjornsen and Moe. Those are the big Norwegian fairy tale dudes, for those of you who don’t know.


But I’m a little obsessive about my fairy tales. You may have noticed. And this book wasn’t even mine. It belonged to my grandparents. So of course I had my own Asbjornsen and Moe anthology. Or two. Maybe three. And I kind of kept buying these books because I wanted my own copy of this one wacky story. But it wasn’t there. So I googled the complete works of Asbjornsen and Moe. It wasn’t there.

I took advantage of my university’s interlibrary loan system to request every single book in the country that mentioned lindworms. Or lindorms. Or lindwyrms, or a variety of other spellings.

Have I mentioned that I’m a little obsessive about my fairy tales?

Several other books and authors and random people on the internet attributed the story to Asbjornsen and Moe. Who definitely didn’t record it. The reason for this, as far as I can tell? This book my grandparents had, really nice hardcover, fancy publisher, gorgeous illustrations—it was kind of a big deal. All sorts of people had read the story in this book, and only this book, and assumed the information provided was reliable.

And here’s where the publishers went wrong. There’s an editor’s note in the front. It explains that all but two of the stories in the volume are from one particular translation of the works of Asbjorsen and Moe. What they apparently neglected to mention is that one of those two stories was not only from a different translator, but a different source entirely.

So Prince Lindworm didn’t come from Norway. That’s settled. And, okay, I don’t know what to tell you about the one random outlier in my interlibrary loan adventure that said the story was from Sweden, but I’ve got this worked out.

Really, it could have been worse. When I wanted to read the earliest recorded version of Beauty and the Beast, and I couldn’t track down a translation anywhere, I spent months tearing the internet apart before I found a copy that was clearly printed well over one hundred years ago, given the spelling and lettering, in French, scanned in and saved as a pdf. I still have that saved on my computer somewhere. Given that I don’t know any French, dictionaries only provided modern spellings, and any given character could easily have been three to six different letters in that typeface, the several months I spent attempting to translate didn’t really get me anywhere. I don’t think I even translated the first paragraph successfully.

I did a little better with Prince Lindworm. It still took me a couple months to find the text, and it was still a crappy pdf with outdated spelling. Plus it was in Danish. But the lettering was slightly more modern, and I happen to be much better at slogging my way through Danish than French. A little bit of Norwegian, a little bit of Anglo-Saxon, a tiny bit of German. It’ll get you places. Sadly, my extensive background in Latin was utterly useless to French. (And Spanish. It seems my teachers lied to me. I strongly suspect Romani and Portuguese would also be a bust, but at least I can stumble blindly through basic Italian.)

It was, when I found it, three or four pages of a quite large collection. I haven’t gotten into the rest of it yet—soon, hopefully. Gamle dansk Minder i folkemunde, it’s called.  I’m good at general ideas in Germanic languages, not so much actual translations, so bear with me here, but I’m going to tentatively call this “Old Danish Memories from the Mouths of the People.” Sounds better in Danish, right? This is why I keep my translations to myself.

The compiler of this book is listed as Svend Grundtvig, and he’s generally known for collecting Danish folk songs, but as far as I can tell, in my admittedly spotty Danish comprehension, there’s no music for this one.

And, okay, I know I talk a lot about how stories, especially folk stories, don’t belong to anyone, because they’re so mutable, because a story is really a community, a conversation. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know where the conversation started.

For crying out loud, people, cite your sources! I dedicated months of my life to this. Do you have any idea how many utterly worthless books I had to read in search of some tiny hint of origins? How many incorrect attributions I had to read? How much respect I lost for researchers in this field in general?

Look, sometimes tracking down crap pdfs of source material can be fun, okay? I love pulling random linguistic data from obscure folklore and stuff like that. But really. Really. How hard can it possibly be to say, “hey, this historically and culturally significant story that I’m making a profit on because it’s been in the public domain for a hundred years originally came from Denmark”?

There is no excuse not to give fairy tales the correct attribution. Like, anthology and picture book based fairy tales have got to be the easiest writing to make a profit on.  The story has been marinating in your brain forever, right? Do you even remember a time before you knew Cinderella? Just tell it in your own words, and someone else will come along and slap some beautiful illustrations on, and you’re good to go. It costs five minutes and zero dollars to add in a little note saying, “This adaptation was inspired by the French version of the story as recorded by Charles Perrault.”

But no, that’s too much work for you. Instead you’ll just go and publish a wildly popular book that heavily implies incorrect information, and let it spin wildly out of control until poor innocent college kids are staying up all night on the internet reading languages they don’t understand and enlisting the help of just about every library in the continental United States.

Ugh.

Anyway, Grundtvig is a really awesome dude who absolutely knows how to cite his stories. Kong Lindorm was told in 1854 by Maren Mathisdatter, age 67, in Fureby. It was recorded by Adjunct A. Levisen.

See? Was that so hard?



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Friday, March 5, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: The Story

 *This is a repost from 9/10/17, with some edits for spelling and to reflect my current publishing situation*


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 version 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. Then 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. And on April 13, my novel Lindworm will be released!

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



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Publication Announcement

My first novel, a retelling of "Prince Lindworm," will be released next month! Stay tuned for more information, and if you want to hear it faster, consider supporting me on Patreon!

 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

How to Support Indie Authors When You Can’t Afford to Buy Their Books

1. Share/reblog/retweet their posts about their books.

2. Visit their websites—do this frequently, and refresh the website a few times while you’re there. This will help improve their website analytics and make it easier for more people to find them.

3. If you can borrow their books from a friend or library, do so, and write a review.

4. Ask your local library to order their books! They probably won’t order a book after just one request, but with a few from different people, they’ll at least consider it. And getting your book in a library makes it accessible to hundreds of people who otherwise might never have heard of you.