Read Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales Paperback Online
Authors: Tanith Lee
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New Fairy Tales
ONCE UPON A TIME: NEW FAIRY TALES
Copyright © 2013 by Paula Guran.
Cover design by Sherin Nicole. Cover art by Golda Reyes.
Cover title set in QumpellkaNo12 typeface by Gluk Fonts.
All stories are copyrighted to their respective authors, and used
here with their permission.
“The Giant In Repose” © 2013 Nathan Ballingrud.
“Eat Me, Drink Me, Love Me” © 2013 Christopher Barzak.
“Tales That Fairies Tell” © 2013 Richard Bowes.
“Warrior Dreams” © 2013 Cinda Williams Chima.
“Blanchefleur” © 2013 Theodora Goss.
“The Road of Needles” © 2013 Caitlín R. Kiernan.
“Below the Sun Beneath” by Tanith Lee.
“The Coin of Heart’s Desire” © 2013 Yoon Ha Lee.
“Sleeping Beauty of Elista” © 2013 Ekaterina Sedia.
“Egg” © 2013 Priya Sharma.
“Lupine” © 2013 Nisi Shawl.
“Castle of Masks” by Corry Skerry: this version © 2013 Corry Skerry.
(An earlier version appeared in
Fairy Tales in Split Vision
, ed. Cindy Lynn Speer, Drollerie Press, 2009).
“Flight” © 2013 Angela Slatter.
“The Lenten Rose” © 2013 Genevieve Valentine.
“The Hush of Feathers, the Clamour of Wings” © 2013 A. C. Wise.
“Born and Bread” © 2013 Kaaron Warren.
“The Mirror Tells All” © 2013 Erzebet YellowBoy.
“The Spinning Wheel’s Tale” © 2013 Jane Yolen.
No portion of this book may be reproduced by any means
without first obtaining the permission of the copyright holder.
For more information, contact Prime Books:
For El en Datlow and Terri Windling—
without whom so many wonderful new fairy tales for both
children and adults would never have been written.
Ever After • Paula Guran • 9
u The Coin of Heart’s Desire • Yoon Ha Lee • 21
u The Lenten Rose by Genevieve Valentine 35
u The Spinning Wheel’s Tale • Jane Yolen • 53
u Below the Sun Beneath • Tanith Lee • 61
u Warrior Dreams • Cinda Williams Chima • 95
u Born and Bread • Kaaron Warren • 121
u Tales That Fairies Tell • Richard Bowes • 131
u Sleeping Beauty of Elista • Ekaterina Sedia •151
u The Road of Needles • Caitlín R. Kiernan •161
u Lupine • Nisi Shawl • 187
u Flight • Angela Slatter • 193
u Egg • Priya Sharma • 219
u Castle of Masks • Cory Skerry • 237
u The Giant in Repose • Nathan Ballingrud • 267
u The Hush of Feathers, the Clamour of Wings
• A. C. Wise • 287
u Eat Me, Drink Me, Love Me
• Christopher Barzak • 303
u The Mirror Tells All • Erzebet YellowBoy • 323
u Blanchefleur • Theodora Goss • 337
About the Editor and Illustrations • 383
Where did it start for you? When did you first discover fairy
For me, it was a book titled
Fifty Famous Fairy Stories
: no author or editor listed, only the illustrator, Bruno Frost. Published by the Whitman Publishing Company as part of their Famous Classics
series, the copyright dates are 1946 and 1954. I think the first version was a traditional hardcover with a dust jacket. My edition is printed on cheap pulp paper—286 pages total—and its “hardcover” is printed
in vivid color with a shiny cellophane-like coating over cardboard.
Frost’s line drawings are enhanced with spot color of either aqua
or pink. I still have it: spine replaced with packing tape and pages crumbling.
I have no idea where the book came from or when, but I know
my mother read its stories to me before I could read myself. Then
I later read them myself, over and over. The tales are, of course,
sanitized versions, but decently written in straightforward, never
condescending prose. The selections are a hodgepodge—probably
heavily influenced by Andrew Lang’s fairy tale books of various
colors—of English and Scandinavian folktales, Charles Perrault,
the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Madame d’Aulnoy,
Arabic literature, and maybe other sources.
I don’t care to analyze the origins of the contents or even ponder
why these fifty were selected—this is a holy book to me. It was both magical and very real—it took me away from “real life” but it also
was pertinent to my life in many ways—and it was even revelatory.
• 9 •
• Introduction: Ever After •
Far from turning me into the sort of girl who expected some prince
to save her, fairy tales were examples of people, animals, even beasts becoming who and what they
were. Bad things happened to all kinds of people, but if you were clever and showed others your value, you’d triumph in the end.
I also remember being deeply outraged at foolishness. As much
as I loved the story “Rapunzel,” for instance, I thought the mother—
who so desired rampion she endangered her husband and lost her
child—to be idiotic. Rapunzel herself was a complete lamebrain for
thoughtlessly exclaiming, “Good mother, how is it you are so much
heavier to draw up than the King’s son? He takes but a moment to
climb up to me.”
In my teens, I discovered that wasn’t the question the girl posed
when the tale was first retold by the Grimms. Rapunzel’s query was:
“Why it is that my clothes are all too tight? They no longer fit me.” After living nightly with the prince “in joy and pleasure for a long time,”
Rapunzel was pregnant. If you lock a girl up in a tower and don’t tell her anything about birth control, pregnancy is a natural consequence of “joy and pleasure.” What a relief! She wasn’t stupid, just ignorant.
Nor did I see the prince as a rapist or a victimizer. He was so devoted to Rapunzel he threw himself off the tower when he thought he had
lost her forever. And Rapunzel turned out to be damned resourceful;
after giving birth to twins and living through great misery, she healed the prince’s blindness and saved the man she loved . . . and possibly a whole kingdom. The way I saw it, they’d lived through hard times in
the unsafe, brutal world outside isolating towers and unprotected by royal entitlement. Rulers with such experience would be a good bet
to reign well and serve their people.
I also eventually learned my
/Andrew Lang/Brothers Grimm version of “Rapunzel” was not the only traditional story
about a maiden locked in a tower. There are similar tales to be found in many cultures. The Grimms weren’t even correct in calling it a folk tale. Their source may or may not have known it was a retelling of
a story published by Friedrich Schultz in 1790, who had—in turn—
• 10 •
• Paula Guran •
translated it from “Persinette,” a 1698 French story by Charlotte-
Rose de La Force. “Persinette” was evidently inspired by Giambattista Basile’s “Petrosinella,” published in 1634 in the first volume of his
cunto de li cunti
I came to view the vegetable-craving mother-to-be in a different
light too. The cravings of a pregnant woman can indicate dangerous
vitamin deficiencies, and in many folk traditions fulfilling an
expectant mother’s desires for certain foods is of tantamount
importance. Perhaps it
amount to a matter of having to have the rampion or dying.
The witch? Maybe she was a wise woman or herbalist who had
knowledge that could save both mother and child. Demanding
custody of the child in return seems an extremely unequal deal, but
it may have been in the infant’s best interests if the mother was weak or ill.
Or perhaps the father was thinking only of saving his own skin
or his wife’s life. He might have doubted the chances the child would even be born.
As for shutting a child reaching puberty away from the world—
many parents wish they could do that very thing. Some even attempt
to do so—sometimes with similar outcomes as far as pregnancy.
I have many more—often conflicting—ideas about the meaning
of the story now. And I'm not a scholar or expert in folklore and fairy tales—I'm sure they have even more to say.
But, at the very least, the story said something about how we all
have to grow up and break out of whatever towers we are imprisoned
in. We all wander lost and blind at times; we all hope for a happy
ending or, at least, that our suffering will be worth its cost.
That is part of the wonder of fairy tales: they are simple, intimate stories that are, at the same time, complex and broadly applicable. We experience them and understand them one way as children, other
interpretations arise as we become adults, still more thoughts as we mature further. As children we feel the darkness in the woods and
fear what lurks in its shadows. As adults we begin to understand that
• 11 •
• Introduction: Ever After •
there is no light without the dark; that without the dangers of life, the risks, the difficulties, the hardships, and the monsters, we cannot grow. If we never go into the woods, we’ll never really understand the
“ever after” of our lives.
The old stories were intended for adults or an “all ages” audience
that included children. They began as folk tales told aloud; later they were literary works authored by individuals (although often inspired by or based on the older oral traditions). Eventually shaped into
what was considered a more suitable form for children, adults then
disdained them as nursery stories.
Then in the late twentieth century, while still existing in versions intended for the youngsters, fairy tales re-emerged in literary
retellings as stories for adults, .
“Rapunzel,” my randomly chosen example, has directly inspired
contemporary authors such as Anne Bishop, Emma Donoghue,
Esther Friesner, Gregory Frost, Louise Hawes, Tanith Lee (twice),
Elizabeth Lynn, Robin McKinley, Lois Metzger, Richard Parks, Lisa
Russ Spaar, and others. There are several beautiful picture book
versions in print, and it has been expanded into novels for children with books like
by Cameron Dokey (2006),
The Stone Cage
by Nicholas Stuart Gray (1963), and
Letters from Rapunzel
by Sara Holmes (2007).
by Donna Jo Napoli (1996) and
The Tower Room
by Adèle Geras (1992) are novels intended for young adults; for
adults there is
by Kate Forsyth (2012).
“Rapunzel” has been adapted into graphic novels and for dance,
stage (including incorporation into a Broadway musical), television, video, had its eponymous protagonist turned into a Barbie doll,
(2010)—animated by Disney and consequently