Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rumpelstiltskin Tales

The story of Rumpelstiltskin re-envisioned based on my analysis of the tale, which you can read here.


Rumpelstiltskin has multiple forms, one for each of his different personalities and moods. For this story I make him an overly caring but mischievous woodland spirit so this is his more playful form.



"Rumpelstiltskin and the Fox"
There are multiple short stories which I've written for this project. This is just one of them.

The ancient männlein was so light he left no tracks in even the softest of snow as he kicked his way through the orchard gathering berries as he returned to his spinning wheel with a new pair of scissors.
“Hello little männlein,” a beautiful witch greeted him with a wicked grin.
“Hello,” the männlein greeted her back with a cherry wave and a short bow as he noticed that the bag the witch was carrying kicked and whined. “What do we have here?” The männlein asked her as he cocked his head curiously at the back.
“A young fox cub I found lost in the woods,” the witch told him, “with whom I expect to make a fine hat and dinner.”
“It must be a fine cub indeed for it to be good enough to make a hat that highlights how pretty your eyes are the way the raccoon's pelt you have does,” the männlein told the witch with a bow. “But a foxes flesh is tough and gammy for they eat mice unlike me who eats berries.”
“Indeed,” the witch agreed with a nod both flattered and suddenly hungry as she eyed the tasty looking männlein who was indeed munching on sweet berries. In a heart beat she’d snatched the little man up by his foot and started to dangle him into her bag.
“Wait,” he told her, “if you put me in the bag with the fox it might eat me and than what will you have?”
The witch thought about this for a moment and decided that she’d best let the fox out of the bag before putting the männlein into it. So she shook the bag until the little kit tumbled out into the snow. Sh than dumped the männlein in into the sack and started on her way once more.
Your so light its as if I’m not even carrying anything,” the witch noted as she carried the männlein along.
“Yes,” the männlein agreed as he pulled out his pair of spinning scissors out of his pocket and began to cut through the bag and slipped out into the snow. The witch didn’t even notice that the nearly weightless männlein had run off to join the baby fox who was hiding in a thicket of thorn bushes.
“Hello,” the männlein greeted the tiny shuddering animal with a gentle pat on its head. “We need to run before the witch realizes that I’m gone,” than as if on cue  the witch realized she’d been  tricked and screamed in rage.
“Come on,” he told the fox as he picked her up and ran as fast as he could the witch flying close on their heels. The männlein pulled out a brush and tossed it behind him and it became a thicket of threes but the witch flew over it, he pulled out a rag and tossed it behind him and it became a mountain but the witch flew around it. He went sliding across an icy river and asked it for help so the river pulled him and the fox down under its ice in a pocket of air where the witch could not catch them.

“Thank you river,” the männlein told the water with a bow after he and the baby fox climbed out of it. “Do you have anywhere to stay, a mother or a father?” The männlein  asked the young fox who was shaking herself dry.
“No,” the fox cried, “I have no one.”
“You can live with me,” the männlein told her as they walked through the woods.

Writing Fairy Tales

 Common Characters      Fairy Tale Openings         Fairy Tale Endings

  1-Think about the characters (Reven's Shires guide to Common Fairy Tale Archetypes) 

  2-Determine a Location and Time Period for Your Fairy tale to take place in.

  3-Read Fairy Tales & Write Down Elements of Interest As you read fairy tales you'll find that there are a lot of elements in any fairy tale which are borrowed from other tales. For example in "Hansel and Gretel" the children trick a witch into thinking they are too skinny to eat by pretending that a chicken bone is their finger. This idea is likely borrowed from Eastern Europe where it is present in a Mari-El and a Saami tale. To write fairy tales I would recommend reading fairy tales from many countries, not just the Grimm's Tales, and as you read search for the following elements which interest you;
  • Write down settings and setups that you find interesting. Every story has a beginning, a catalyst which drives all the other action.
  • Write down heroes that interest you. What are they like and what is their 'motivation?'
  • Write down the motivations of the many characters, and points of emotional interest.
  • Write down the villains that interest you.
  • Write down supporting characters, how is it they add to the story?
  • Write down items, and magical events that intrigue you.
  • Write down challenges and goals which intrigue you.
  • Write down interesting endings.
  • Moral: ah yes the infamous moral point. Is it necessary? Of course not, but it could be helpful to think about it. Of course morals are tricky things in old fairy tales because their morality was different from ours. One of the most important morals in fairy tales was that being clever and deceitful are important skills to have. Other stories are just tales, often we get too caught up on making stories moral, a good joke doesn't need a moral it just needs to be funny just as a good fairy tale just needs to be fun in some way.
Now take this list and think about how each of these points might be different, for example there are many stories about poor soldiers who must stay in a run down castle to get rid of the ghosts. Imagine if instead a homeless veteran stays in a haunted modern day factory. How would such a modern story play out?

 4-Put together the plot
 Vladimir Propp, one of the greatest folklorests of all time came up with a list of functions which are often present in fairy tales. These functions can help you write your fairy tales plot structure. Keep in mind that; Only some of these plot functions occur in any one story. The functions which do occur, tend to occur in order of the number provided.

 8-VILLAINY or LACK: Villain causes harm/injury to family member (by abduction, theft of magical agent, spoiling crops, plunders in other forms, causes a disappearance, expels someone, casts spell on someone, substitutes child, commits murder, imprisons/detains someone, threatens forced marriage, provides nightly torments); Alternatively, a member of family lacks something or desires something (magical potion, food, a job, a happier life, etc.). This is the 8th function of Propp's list, but I put it first because it is very often the lack of something, a desire for something which drives fairy tales. In Hansel and Gretel for example it was a lack of food which forced the children to leave home, it was also the desire for food that lured the children to the witch, and the witches desire to eat the children that caused the final conflict. So desire, desperation, and or lack of something tend to drive most of the events which occur in fairy tales. Fairy tales tend to be short, often they are the original pieces of flash fiction, so it's important that you begin by explaining something people would quickly have an emotional reaction too, or which helps explain the rest of the story. A lack of common sense for example explains stories about fools, the lack of a happy family, the desire for food, fear of death, etc., drive many fairy tales. Ultimately your story will most often be defined by what your hero wants.

 1-ABSENTATION: A member of the family leaves the security of the home environment. This may be the hero or some other member of the family that the hero will later need to rescue. This division of the cohesive family injects initial tension into the story line. The hero may also be introduced here, often being shown as an ordinary person. Leaving home was fraught with hardship during the era of Once Upon a Time. Remember that despite the fact that women had a lot more children the population didn't grow very fast, because most of these children would die. The challenge of surviving meant that parents couldn't afford to keep their children after a certain point, how soon this happened depended. For some children (Hansel and Gretel) it occurred when they were still very young, but for most fairy tale heroes this occurs quite a bit later. Even for adults, however, leaving home could be a scary prospect. Every year hundreds of people starved to death in London and along country roads. There are a number of fairy tales where the protagonist sits down and begins to weep, or lays down ready to starve to death. Bandits were also excessively cruel at this time, there are records of them cutting off people's hands for no other reason than to laugh at their suffering and pain.

 2-INTERDICTION: An interdiction is addressed to the hero ('don't go there', 'don't do this'). The hero is warned against some action (given an 'interdiction'). Heroes are given warnings that they typically violate. The advantage to an interdiction is that it tells the audience a little bit of what's going to happen in the story, so it's a way to set the stage, like putting clues into a mystery.

 3-VIOLATION of INTERDICTION. The interdiction is violated (villain enters the tale). This generally proves to be a bad move and the villain enters the story, although not necessarily confronting the hero. Perhaps they are just a lurking presence or perhaps they attack the family whilst the hero is away. 

4-RECONNAISSANCE: The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance (either villain tries to find the children/jewels etc.; or intended victim questions the villain). The villain (often in disguise) makes an active attempt at seeking information, for example searching for something valuable or trying to actively capture someone. They may speak with a member of the family who innocently divulges information. They may also seek to meet the hero, perhaps knowing already the hero is special in some way.

 5-DELIVERY:  The villain's seeking now pays off and he or she now acquires some form of information, often about the hero or victim. Other information can be gained, for example about a map a or treasures location.

 6-TRICKERY: The villain attempts to deceive the victim to take possession of victim or victim's belongings (trickery; villain disguised, tries to win confidence of victim). The villain now presses further, often using the information gained in seeking to deceive the hero or victim in some way, perhaps appearing in disguise. This may include capture of the victim, getting the hero to give the villain something or persuading them that the villain is actually a friend and thereby gaining collaboration.

 7-COMPLICITY: Victim taken in by deception, unwittingly helps the enemy. The trickery of the villain works and the hero or victim naively acts in a way that helps the villain. This may range from providing the villain with something (perhaps a map or magical weapon), to actively working against good people (perhaps the villain has persuaded the hero that these other people are actually bad).

 8-Lack

 9-MEDIATION: Misfortune or lack is made known, (hero is dispatched, hears call for help etc./ alternative is that victimized hero is sent away, freed from imprisonment). The hero now discovers the act of villainy or lack, perhaps finding their family or community devastated or caught up in a state of anguish and woe.

 10-BEGINNING COUNTER-ACTION: Seeker agrees to, or decides upon counter-action. The hero now decides to act in a way that will resolve the lack, for example finding a needed magical item, rescuing those who are captured or otherwise defeating the villain. This is a defining moment for the hero as this is the decision that sets the course of future actions and by which a previously ordinary person takes on the mantle of heroism.

 11-DEPARTURE: Hero leaves home;

 12-FIRST FUNCTION OF THE DONOR: Hero is tested, interrogated, attacked etc., preparing the way for his/her receiving magical agent or helper (donor);

 13-HERO'S REACTION: Hero reacts to actions of future donor (withstands/fails the test, frees captive, reconciles disputants, performs service, uses adversary's powers against him);

 14-RECEIPT OF A MAGICAL AGENT: Hero acquires use of a magical agent (directly transferred, located, purchased, prepared, spontaneously appears, eaten/drunk, help offered by other characters);

 15 GUIDANCE: Hero is transferred, delivered or led to whereabouts of an object of the search; 

16-STRUGGLE: Hero and villain join in direct combat;

 17-BRANDING: Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf);

 18-VICTORY: Villain is defeated (killed in combat, defeated in contest, killed while asleep, banished); 

19-LIQUIDATION: Initial misfortune or lack is resolved (object of search distributed, spell broken, slain person revived, captive freed);

 20-RETURN: Hero returns;

 21-PURSUIT: Hero is pursued (pursuer tries to kill, eat, undermine the hero);

 22-RESCUE: Hero is rescued from pursuit (obstacles delay pursuer, hero hides or is hidden, hero transforms recognizably, hero saved from attempt on his/her life);

 23-UNRECOGNIZED ARRIVAL: Hero unrecognized, arrives home or in another country; 

24-UNFOUNDED CLAIMS: False hero presents unfounded claims;

 25-DIFFICULT TASK: Difficult task proposed to the hero (trial by ordeal, riddles, test of strength/endurance, other tasks);

 26-SOLUTION: Task is resolved;

 27-RECOGNITION: Hero is recognized (by mark, brand, or thing given to him/her);

 28-EXPOSURE: False hero or villain is exposed;

 29-TRANSFIGURATION: Hero is given a new appearance (is made whole, handsome, new garments etc.);

 30-PUNISHMENT: Villain is punished;

 31-WEDDING: Hero marries and ascends the throne (is rewarded/promoted).


A few more points to keep in mind
There is often more than one villain in tales. Hungarian tales for example, would commonly have a dragon that the hero had to defeat and a false hero who took credit for the heroes hard work.

Many fairy tales seem to have two beginnings. In "The Four Skillful Brothers" for example, the brothers are starving so they set out to get jobs. Eventually they complete this task and are able to return home. However, with their first problem resolved a new problem arises when a dragon attacks the kingdom.

The Fool and the Birch Tree - Hidden Shamanism of Fairy Tales

The story of a foolish shamanistic figure the story of “The Fool and the Birch tree combines to common fairy tale themes, that of a simpleton who finds success and that of shamanistic remnants. You can read the full story here…

In a certain country there once lived an old man who had three sons. Two of them had their wits about them, but the third was a fool. The old man died and his sons divided his property among themselves by lot. The sharp-witted ones got plenty of all sorts of good things, but nothing fell to the share of the Simpleton but one ox–and that such a skinny one!

So he fastened a cord to the horn of the ox and drove it to the town. On his way he happened to pass through a forest, and in the forest there stood an old withered Birch-tree. Whenever the wind blew the Birch-tree creaked. ”What is the Birch creaking about?” thinks the Simpleton. ”Surely it must be bargaining for my ox? Well,” says he, “if you want to buy it, why not buy it. I’m not against selling it. The price of the ox is twenty roubles. I can’t take less. Out with the money!”

The Birch made no reply, only went on creaking. But the Simpleton fancied that it was asking for the ox on credit. “Very good,” says he, “I’ll wait till to-morrow!” He tied the ox to the Birch, took leave of the tree, and went home. 

One can see parallels between this story and “Jack and the Bean Stalk” in which a cow, the only thing of value that the major characters own, is sold essentially on a promise to a fairy/deity like figure. This is representative of a sacrifice, an offering in hopes that the fairy/deity will make the persons life better. And indeed often times such sacrifices were made as part of a bargain in much of Russia. When the Rus for example would travel for trade they would negotiate an offering and an amount with their deities, increasing the offered amount until they finally got what they wanted.

Just as his Russian ancestors the fool in this story negotiates with a tree, after he hears its voice in the rustling of leaves, for in folk religion the rustling of leaves was believed to be the sound of the trees talking. The fact that the fool can hear the voice of the tree in the breeze is why I refer to him as a shamanistic figure, because only they can hear what the tree is saying while the rest of us only hear noise.

On the third day the Simpleton took his hatchet and went to the forest. Arriving there, he demanded his money; but the Birch-tree only creaked and creaked. “No, no, neighbor!” says he. “If you’re always going to treat me to promises, there’ll be no getting anything out of you. I don’t like such joking; I’ll pay you out well for it!” With that he pitched into it with his hatchet, so that its chips flew about in all directions. Now, in that Birch-tree there was a hollow, and in that hollow some robbers had hidden a pot full of gold. The tree split asunder, and the Simpleton caught sight of the gold. He took as much of it as the skirts of his caftan would hold, and toiled home with it. 

In the end the Simpleton must resort to threats and violence to get the spirit of the tree to make good on it’s promise, this too was fairly common in Folk Lore. In another Russian tale (from the Mari-El Region) another somewhat foolish and lazy man threatens a lime tree with his ax, unless the tree can make him rich of course. This sort of carrot and stick approach was common when dealing with the old gods and fairies in lore.

The Diachok uttered such an “Oh!”–then he flung himself on the gold, and began seizing handfuls of it and stuffing them into his pocket. The Simpleton grew angry, dealt him a blow with his hatchet, and struck him dead.

A common them among shamans as well as fairy beings is that they are over emotional and they let their emotions get the better of them far too often as the simpleton does by murdering an important person in his town. It’s possible that this action too is representative of sacrificial actions.

Ideas for Writers

This story has a lot in common with some fairly typical horror stories, an isolated family, a strange person who turns to murder, all pretty typical. However, in these stories there is usually an obsession with demonic forces or cannibalism. In “The Fool and the Birch Tree” however, the murderer is a funny nature lover, motivated by extreme, almost fairy like emotions.

Of course horror stories are not the only inspiration to be had from this story, the idea of a fool who manages to succeed despite all their challenges is also a very popular theme for comedies, and we can always use more fantasy comedies.

Further this story as previously mentioned shows the common idea that a person can negotiate with fairies and deities to gain power and wealth, but people cannot trust these beings and so must often threaten them to get the spirits to keep their promises. Of course once this happens there is a rich and successful person who has a powerful spirit angry at him. This is especially true if, as in this story, the person cut down the tree the spirit was a part of, for the trees ghosts could be very fearsome. There is one ghost of a tree which had long fingers with which he would attack travelers and if he touched a persons head they would go insane, if he touched their hearth they would die.

Writing Idea - Hansel and Gretel

When I was still a teeny tiny little critter a rain storm swept over the tundra where I lived in a village of only 300 people with no roads in or out. I ran into my friends house to escape the rain and soon were were listening to his mother tell us the tale of two friends who went into the long grass near the river, there they smelled something delicious cooking. Lured by the smell they soon met an old lady… who as you can guess turned out to be a witch. Although in this version of the story one of the two friends dies the other manages to escape across a river with the help of a crane.

Hansel and Gretel were also lured by food to fall into a witches trap and at the end of their story they needed to ride on the back of a bird to escape as well.

Sure we can easily just chalk these stories to the need for cautionary tales, and indeed the Yupik people I grew up with loved to scare their children into avoiding doing dangerous things. (Given how dangerous the tundra was if we hadn’t been at least a little afraid of it none of us would have survived). But I think that there’s a lot more to these stories than that.

A Spirit Journey through the land of the dead

When they are returning home Hansel and Gretel have to ride on a duck over some water to get out of the woods. It was common for the shamans, the witches and the cunning to need to ride on ducks, swans or geese to get into and out of the spirit world, especially the land of the dead. Just as it was common for them to be led in the spirit world by a spirit guide in the form of a white bird, just as Hansel and Gretel were lead through the to the the witches house. Forests themselves were often considered such spirit worlds, or used to represent them in old stories.
It seems extremely unlikely that it is simply coincidence that figures so similar to spirit guides in the land of the dead are present in this story about two children who are starving and on the cusp of death. Indeed it’s quite possible that the white bird and the duck represent the fact that Hansel and Gretel are dead, that like so many shamans before them they must enter the realm of the dead, and find their way back, that is defeat the witch and ride the duck back to the world of the living in order to fulfill their magical, shamanistic calling.

No shaman, no person really enters the spirit world only once, however, rather they tend to go back into the spirit world over and over again, and Hansel and Gretel may go back into the spirit world to save the souls of other children who are on the cusp of death, may journey back to fight the evil spirits which are causing the famine, to negotiate with the rain spirits, etc.
In addition to the shamanistic elements it’s also interesting to note that when Hansel and Gretel return home their mother has already starved to death.
This is interesting because birds also often represented the spirits of the dead. It may be than that the children, nearly dead went on a spirit journey and were lead by their mothers dead spirit to the place where their mother now resided in the woods. For the undead went after their own family members first…

Story ideas
A mother becomes a spirit of the dead and lures their children into the land of the dead in order to try to devour them…

A girls brother dies and she must enter the realm of the dead to free him from the evil beings which now hold him in their clutches

Two children die, but manage to escape the land of the dead and so can now enter the land of the dead to free others.

European Shamanism For Writers

Explore the strange shamanism, spirit realms and fairy worlds of Europe – which were the inspiration for stories such as “Alice in Wonderland” and characters such as Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings.”

Encountering the Fairy World

Take a deep breath but don’t let it out until you close your eyes, take another breath,now hold it for a moment and let it out a little slower this time. For just a moment you feel a sudden calm, a strange and odd sensation as your mind clears ever so slightly. For that brief moment you have almost touched on the world of fairies, almost, but probably not quite. Most of us will never experience the spirit world of the shamans, the witches and the cunning; and yet at one time people believed the spirit world was all around them. For fairies lived not just in the forest, but also under the thresholds and hearths of their houses, in the fields where they farmed, in the rocks on hills overlooking their village. Often times what we find in folk lore is that the spirit world isn’t a place, its a state of mind. Those who have studied shamans call this state of mind ecstasy. It can be entered into by the most skilled shamans with a simple rhyme, a moment of meditation, a whispered prayer. Others must spend hours chanting, must go catatonic, dance and sing wildly, or perform a complex ritual to enter the spirit world. What’s important, however is that people do not enter the Fairy World only one time, they do so often.

Although there are a number of names for those who are able to enter the fairy realm, the spirit worlds in Europe we’ll call them the ‘cunning’ who typically work with good spirits, and ‘witches’ who typically work with evil spirits. Both of these are decedents of a shamanistic traditions and so together can be called shamans, for both would go on spirit journeys and both tended to have spirit helpers, often known in Europe as familiar spirits.

The First Encounter

A few hundred years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire a woodsmen was working in a glade of trees when he was overcome by a swarm of flies. Soon after he retreated into the wilderness for over two years. When he finally emerged from the forest, dressed in the skins of wild animals, he’d grown a bit wilder, more than this, however, he claimed to be the Messiah. To prove this he began to heal the sick and soon he’d gathered a group of three thousand followers. Followers he ordered to begin robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Eventually he was labeled a heretic, and accused of using magic to deceive people. (McCall, 1979)

Within this story we see the remnants of Europe’s shamanistic past cropping up, as it so often does, long after it was supposed to have been stamped out.

The story of this woodsman’s journey to becoming a shaman, didn’t begin in a church, it began in a glade of trees. But these trees were once a church, for the word ‘temple’ derives from a Germanic word for wood as Europe’s pagans believed that the gods dwelled in such glades. These were not the all powerful gods we think of today, for at times woodsmen could threaten to cut down their trees in return for wishes. Among the Mari-El the story of a woodcutter doing this ends with the wood cutter forcing the spirit of the tree to make him rich and powerful while among the English a similar tale ends with the fairy tricking the woodcutter as so often happens.

It is the flies which point me to Europe’s Shamanistic past, for the souls of the dead and other spirits were often believed to appear in the form of flies (as well as in the form of butterflies, birds, and other animals). So as with many shamans of Eurasia this man was surrounded by a swarm of something which symbolized spirits after which he fled into the woods as if he’d become possessed. At this point he was no longer in control for the spirits had made him theirs. When he emerged from the forest he had strange powers and abilities. As with the shamanistic sorcerers of Russia he soon gathered an army of followers and eventually had to be stopped by the authorities.

This story is in many ways typical of witches and cunning in Europe, for few of them ever seek out their rolls. Instead the shamans roll is most often forced upon them when the fairies and the spirits come. A girl named Ann was sewing in the garden when seven fairies came to her and offered, as much as demanded that she work for and with them. Other people were traveling between towns, driving their cattle out to pasture, or laying sick and dying when the fairies or demons came to them and demanded that they work together. (Wilby, 2006)

This demand could become very intense for the fairies would not take no for an answer, they would often torment a person, driving them into hysteria until they agreed to work with them. For spirits desire to work with humans, even as they avoid and resist contact. In other words, while fairies might live in the woods and the hills, they seek people out. In Russia it was believed that spirits would hide in barns, in the forest, in abandoned houses, old mills and other places; waiting for the shamans to call them.

Familiar Spirits and Spirit Helpers

I summon to may aid the leshie (forest spirits) from the forest, the (Vodianye) water spirits from the water: and you, leshie from the forest, vodianye from the water, come to my aid against my opponent fist fighter, and enable me to defeat my opponent fist fighter with my own fists. And you leshie and vodianye from the water, take the rock from this corpse and place it on the hands, or feet, or head of my opponent fist fighter…. And just as this dead man is heavy from the earth and rock, so too may my opponent fist fighter be too heavy to lift his hand against me…. (Ivantis, 1992)

Prayer/Spells like the above which was intended to help someone win a fist fight were common for people throughout Europe to chant for help with everything from finding treasure to curing tooth aches. But some few, such as the cunning and witches were not only able to call spirits to them, they often had a specific familiar assigned to help them. These spirits would aid them in healing, cursing, stealing, finding thieves, etc. They also helped to teach the witch and cunning many spells and with their journey into the Fairy World. Further the difference between a cunning and a witch, between a good shaman and an evil one was often simply the spirits they used. This is interesting because a person rarely had a choice as most often their spirit, whether good or bad chose them. Evil spirits could just show up to a person and begin demanding work, tormenting the person and those they loved until they gave in and agreed to work with the evil spirits. By the same token a greedy person could have good spirits come and force them to heal and help others for no pay. So in order to understand cunning and evil witches we must understand why it is that fairies would want to work with people and why people might give into them in the end.

The Mischievous Sorcerers

Many if not most evil sorcerers in folklore were mischief makers, much like the people who put tacks on chairs or slash peoples tires for amusement. Its true that people believed sorcerers did many horrible things, such as causing illnesses which killed people, They also blighted peoples crops so that the person might starve to death, and so forth. Still in many cases it was believed that they did this simply for the enjoyment it gave them. Such sorcerers would fly off to their meetings where they would do such silly things and drink their wine from the heads of dead horses, and play music using the feet of dead men. Although evil such behavior strikes one as more the childish activities of a psychopath who can never really mature than those of a brilliant person with a real goal in mind.

European Spirit Journey

The fairies told the girl;

“If you won’t go home to your mother, go forward, go forward; mind you take the right road. Ask Four Feet to carry you to No Feet at all, and tell No Feet at all to carry you to the stairs without steps, and if you can climb that–”

“Oh, shall I be among the stars in the sky then?” cried the lassie.

“If you’ll not be, then you’ll be elsewhere,” said the Good Folk, and set to dancing again.

The “Stars in the Sky,” An English Folk Tale

There are some few people who can send their soul from their body and into the spirit world or fairy land at will. The spirit world of European Lore is conceived of as being very much like our own world, it has an up and a down, mountains and trees, it often even has villages of people who live among strange creatures, but don’t otherwise seem different from you or me. At times, however, the spirit world is a strange place, one very much like the world Alice found herself in when she went to Wonderland, or like Neverland where Peter Pan lived. And as with these tales the purpose of going to the spirit world in European Lore is often to learn something philosophical or metaphysical. Monks, Nuns, and even Pagan priests often explored the other worlds to discover the nature of god, other people seem to gain some other lesson from their experience. A cunning or witch can enter the spirit world at any time they wish by going into a trance and sending their soul from their body. In order to get to the spirit world their soul often rides on a familiar spirit in the form of an animal or uses a familiar spirit as a guide.

Often times the shaman will take a journey to the spirit world for practical reasons, the cunning and witches would go their to meet with others of their kind, to gain new magical items, negotiate deals with spirits and learn new spells.

Others still would go to the fairy realm in order to save the souls of those who had been stolen away. In the tale “Childe Rowland” a knight goes into the fairy realm in order to save someone who walked widdershins around a church and so was drug off to fairy land. To save the person they loved this person went to Merlin who told him to behead everyone they met in fairyland. After beheading a number of fairies they finally battled and defeated the elf king.

In the Baltic Nations there are tales of cunning who would send their souls from their bodies in the form of wolves in order to battle with evil witches who are trying to steal the seeds from their fields or blight their crops.

Sending ones soul out in animal form to do battle was a typical theme in European Lore. Even witches would take the form of wolves, cats, dogs, horses and the like in order to attack people. In Germanic legend their were also warriors who could go to sleep in order to send their souls out to battle as giant bears or boars. A soul which has left a shamans body could at times act much like a ghost, having the ability to become invisible, to change shapes, to squeeze through impossibly small cracks (but it couldn’t pass through a solid wall), to fly through the air, and to be stronger and faster than a human could be.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fantasy Writing Prompts

Story ideas that come from different cultures, folklore, and folk religion can help you gain fresh perspective and create richer more engaging fantasy worlds.
Raven's Shires Art Ideas and Insperation






Fantasy Writing Prompts from Micro Fantasy Tales


Spruce Prigs
The spruce prigs were a group of young thieves who were trained in manners so that they could pretend to work as footman and valets for the very wealthy in London, or even pass themselves off as upper class in order to attend balls, operas, art galleries, poetry readings, plays and other events with the richest marks.'

A few odd and interesting points;
During the Early Victorian Era venting of emotions, especially crying became not only acceptable, it became desirable for both men and woman to do so in public. Thus many would seek out art which would allow them to do this which is one reason why poetry, galleries and theatre grew in popularity.
In reaction to the overuse of emotions many went to the opposite extreme and refused to show extreme emotions or ever cry in public.
Because of farming in the United States and Australia the prices of food dropped rapidly. This meant the nobility, the landowners who earned money off of tenant farmers were beginning to loose money and political power, so much so that Edward the VII (Victoria's son) began to spend time with both Jewish and American businessmen which the aristocrats hated.

Additional ideas
Have this take place in a fantasy world where slavery still exists, and have the Prigs free slaves from the wealthy.

Have them be spies for an underground rebellion group, or have them searching for specific items that are magical in nature.

6 Writing Prompts about shepherds in fairyland


Catkən
In the tales of the Mari-El people of Russia the Catkən were people died alone in the forest. They were trapped in the area they’d died until they killed another person. Although they were dead they were much like a person, except they had a cloak that turned them invisible and allowed them to confuse people so that the person would get lost allowing the Catkən to kill them.

Write the story of a person who becomes a Catkən and tries to resist killing for a while but eventually after suffering for a time gives in to the desire to be free.



Fantasy Writing Prompts from Dragon Fairy Tales
Fairy Tales are a great source for writing prompts. Check out some based on tales with dragons.

Escape From Ireland
When he was a teenager St. Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave, after six years he managed to escape and return home. Only many years later would he return to Ireland as a missionary.
What if all the fairies and other creatures of Irish myth had been running around during his escape?
Write a story about a group of children and or fairly ordinary people trying to escape slavery in a distant land. Unlike many fantasy stories this tale wouldn’t be about combat, but about hiding and working to avoid goblins, giants, as well as whatever other dangers might inhabit it. This tale would also involve and receiving help from various good entities.

The Thunder Kami’s Blessing
In one Japanese tale a thunder kami fell from the sky and landed in a farmers field. The farmer realizing that this was an opportunity threatened to kill the thunder kami with his farm implement unless the kami made his prodigy great. So the thunder kami promised that the farmers son would be the strongest person in the world.
Rather than simply fated this mans child was blessed with strength because his father wanted this. Why was his father willing to risk his life to make an unborn soon strong? How would risking his life to gain this gift for his son alter the dynamics of the father son relationship?
More than simply a story about a child who is born strong, or a child who was fated to be something great this is the story of a father who threatened fate and the child which resulted from this. Thus this is about a father who wants to overthrow a warlord, or who wants revenge, or is part of a peasant uprising or lives in a land in turmoil, or wishes he had been a hero or used to be a hero himself but has grown too old.
This is also the tale of a person who had these expectations placed upon them, not because of some obscure prophecy but because their father took charge.

The Sheriff
Write a story about a Medieval sheriff.
In Medieval England Sheriff’s were appointed by the king to keep his peace, especially during the times when he was out of country.
Write the story of a sheriff who is trying to keep the kings peace, this includes dealing with normal criminals such as bandits, it also includes dealing with nobility which conspires against the crown, spies from foreign countries.
In a fantasy world this could also include dealing with real witches, wizards, giants, and so forth.

Whispers After the Kings Death
Write a series of conversations between different conspiring nobles in the corridors of a castle where their king lays dying.

Give your typical fantasy adventure a twist, by turning it into a horror story.


After Waking
Sleeping Beauty and her kingdom had been asleep for centuries. All the kingdoms around them had not only all changed they had assumed that the kingdom Sleeping Beauty's kingdom lived in was really an unobtainable wilderness.
Write a story about this new kingdom which shows up out of nowhere and how it would impact the politics of the region in which it awakens.

The Doctor Who Became a Mage
Nostradamus was a doctor whose family died in the plague. Grief stricken at his failure to save them he realized how little he knew, so he set out to learn forbidden secrets.

The Soldier and the Haunted Factory
A modern day veteran who now doesn't have a job spends the night in an abandoned factory where he encounters an evil spirit that either came from the blight on the city he is in or helped to cause it. In most fairy tales the veteran gets rid of the evil spirit and so gets money or the thanks of the people and lives happily ever after. However, in the modern day the rights to the factory wouldn’t revert to a homeless veteran because he got rid of a ghost and people might not even believe that he got rid of the ghost. So how or even if this tale would end happily ever after is entirely up in the air.

Monday, January 20, 2014

5 Japanese Fairy Tales to Inspire You

In lore Japan is a liminal land, one without a clear divide between the spirit world and the world of humanity. Here poverty can live in people's attics, oni can hide in the corners of their house and overhead the mountains loom, filled with spirits.

We begin our journey to understand the tales of Japan with five fairy tales with quintessential motifs.


Bandit King
There are a number of fairy tales about Japan in which a samurai is banished from their homeland after their father is killed by a greedy rival. Often these samurai turn to being trained by animals or in this case, becoming bandit kings in order to build the army and wealthy they need to retake their land. But this story is more than just the tale of a samurai gaining magical powers and armies to retake their home, it also has one of the most poignant of themes in samurai tales... that of loss. It's a common feature in Japanese tales that beauty comes from the temporary, from loss after a great struggle.

Writing Prompts
A Japanese Sorcerer Aesthetic has come under attack by a number of supernatural enemies and so he or she needs to turn to bandits for help.

Friday, January 17, 2014

World Building: Create Your Own Fantasy World Using Folklore

Like characters settings need depth to strike a cord with readers.

So when creating a world with magical creatures its not just a matter of creating rules, its about creating emotions. It's about understanding how people would interact with the magical world. Folk tales have considered this in their story telling for thousands of years. After all folk religion is about building a relationship with the magical world, so this is often the best place to start understanding fantasy settings.

Examples of Locations:
Wales        |        Shorpshire      |     Kalasha


All folktales have a location and all locations have folktales

When read together the folktales of any specific region create a mood, an attitude.

For example the tales of the Niigata Prefecture of Japan paint a picture of cities and villages, isolated by the
elements and dangerous supernatural powers. As part of this they include a lot of tales about magical kitsune (foxes) and snow spirits seeking shelter from blizzards. A snow boy sneaks into home and eats a meal of miso and boar soup with a family, a snow woman begs a farmer for shelter as she travels.

In the mountains surrounding one town dwells a hag like monster. In most Japanese tales the hag is a dangerous witch which invites lonely travelers to share a meal and than eats them. But here she seems to actually be kind, at least some of the time. There is also, however a sense of isolation created by dangerous denizens in the forest and harsh elements.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

5 Fairy Tales to Inspire Writers

Fairy Tales are the first fantasy stories, the first tales of heroes encountering the magical worlds and coming out on top or being corrupted and destroyed by the evil of the world.

These are five tales you may never have heard of which I hope will inspire your writing and art.

P.S. Please leave a comment and let me know if these tales are helpful and if there is something specific you'd like me to include in future posts.

"Devil and His Grandmother" (Dragon and the Three Soldiers)
Some soldiers are earning so little that they are starving to death. Unable to continue to survive in the military they decide to flee, but are nearly caught.

When they are at their most desperate a dragon comes and offers them a deal. He will make them wealthy for a few years but after that they must work for him. In that moment, starving and desperate they make a deal and then must work to find a way to escape their new 'fate.'


The Serpent Wife - Cossack Fairy Tale

There was once a gentleman who had a laborer who never went about in company. His fellow servants did all they could to make him come with them, and now and then enticed him into the tavern, but they could never get him to stay there long, and he always wandered away by himself through the woods. One day he went strolling about in the forest as usual, far from any village and the haunts of men, when he came upon a huge Serpent, which wriggled straight up to him and said: "I am going to eat thee on the spot!" But the laborer, who was used to the loneliness of the forest, replied: "Very well, eat me if thou hast a mind to!"—Then the Serpent said: "Nay! I will not eat thee; only do what I tell thee!" And the Serpent began to tell the man what he had to do. "Turn back home," it said, "and thou wilt find thy master angry because thou hast tarried so long, and there was none to work for him, so that his corn has to remain standing in the field. Then he will send thee to bring in his sheaves, and I'll help thee. Load the wagon well, but don't take quite all the sheaves from the field. Leave one little sheaf behind; more than that thou needest not leave, but that thou must leave. Then beg thy master to let thee have this little sheaf by way of wages. Take no money from him, but that one little sheaf only. Then, when thy master has given thee this sheaf, burn it, and a fair lady will leap out of it; take her to wife!"


The Deluded Dragon

There was an old man with a multitude of children. He had an underground cave in the forest. He said, 'Make me a honey-cake, for I will go and earn something.' He went into the forest, and found a well.


The Young Sage - Kalmyk Tale

Once there was a young man whose two older brothers teased and harrased him constantly, telling him he would never be married like they were for he was too weak to help anyone. At first the boy ignored his brother but when he had turned fifteen he could stand it no longer so he went to his father and told him that he couldn't tolerate his older brothers insults any longer. "Please let me go out and seek my own happiness." The boy asked at last.


Monday, January 13, 2014

World Building with Fairy Tales: Welsh Folklore

Wales is home to hundreds of fairy tale settings, each lake, each hill it seems has some story about the Tylwyth Teg ( a form of Welsh fairies), dragons, or Merlin which makes it the the perfect place for developing fantasy settings.

Whenever I begin to research the folklore of a location I like to start by scanning fairy tales from the region for specific place names which I can look up on maps and in images. I than begin to search for information on the places around each of these locations, looking for more folktales and pieces of lore.You can read some Welsh Fairy tales here.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Fantasy Setting from Fairy Tales: England -Shropeshire

Shropshire and Cheshire

All around you are kingdoms of the fairies. For even the smallest batch of trees, even the lake behind your house is filled with magic, filled with fairy folk.

Giants roam the land, altering it's geography and terrifying cities.

There are constant wars between the magical beings of fairies, which will still snatch humans away, or devour them.

Thankfully humanity has an ally for Merlin still dwells here, occasionally helping people with gifts and advice.

This is the border land, the frontier. So the people here must be a bit rougher, a bit more rugged than those near the refined' court of England.

This is the Land of Shropshire and Cheshire's folklore.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dragons and Magical Serpents - A few things you probably didn't know

This article considers dragons to be any magical serpent, as this is the simplest and may be the only real
means of classifying them (See the Definition of Dragon) though it does lead to many concerns...


1-In Japan as well as a few other places the land was often originally owned by serpents which had to be defeated in order for people to farm or hunt on it. These serpents would later become the deities of the region, helping and protecting people, thus a defeated dragon could go from feral to domesticated. In Japan these serpents were often water spirits which could appear as beautiful women or handsome men when pacified, with their serpent form often seeming to be the form they took when they were angry. There were also serpents which had horns that would chase people away who were trying to make new farms int he wilderness. If anyone looked back at these serpents while they were being chased they would loose the ability to have children.

Among the Oroqen the serpent that controlled the land and prevented people from hunting on it had iron scales.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 Epic Quests For Inspiration from Fairy Tales

It's rare for fairy tales to be epic adventures as they tend to be peasants tales and so are about people who succeed by working hard, being clever, or just plain lucky (Think "Cinderella"). There are, however, those occasional heroes who go on long, dangerous quests to gain wealth or save a loved one.

As always the challenge with interpreting these fairy tales is that they don't include a lot of details and because many of these stories are based on Shaman's spirit journeys we have forgotten most of the rules regarding them in the modern day. This confusion and lack of details is also an advantage, however, because it gives you a lot of room to interpret the fairy tales, however, you want. In fact it's perhaps best to think of fairy tales as a series of writing prompts which you are free to interpret and spring off of.

1-The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh 
http://zeluna.net/english-fairytaleslaidlywormofspindlestonheugh.html

England

A Princess is turned into a dragon by her wicked step mother. In this form the princess rages about the countryside devouring everything in her path. To save her, her brother must defeat his wicked step mother, yet sadly she is in control of his sister in the form of a dragon, unable to fight his own sister he must first lift the curse with a hug and a kiss while she's trying to devour him. After succeeding in turning his sister back into a human he must deal with his Step Mother.


Monday, January 6, 2014

The Dragon of Loch Ness

A missionary was crossing Loch Ness when he encountered the spirit of the lake - a dragon. This wasn't a physical being, however, not like a bear or a giant, for he was able to banish it with the cross. This story, of the missionary banishing the Loch Ness Dragon is revealing because it's so similar to the tales missionaries, priests and monks would tell to prove their superiority to local deities, which may mean that The Loch Ness Monster legend began with the story of a local deity in the form of a water dragon.

This story certainly means that the belief in a water dragon dwelling in the Loch comes from ancient Scotland. There are three options for the nature of this legend:

1-The Loch Ness Dragon was a benevolent deity.
Eels and fish were common manifestations of the spirit of water in Celtic lore, and so were often some of the most sacred of animals, for Water was among the most important of deities to the Celtic peoples.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Be Inspired


So while most people lose their sense of wonder early, the world's filled with fairies just waiting to burst across our thresholds.

I created Raven's Shire to make your world a little more magical by bringing the world of fairies and fairy tales to you.



My Books


Writers Guide to Fairies, Witches and Vampires



Discover the emotions, personalities, and motivations of the most compelling characters in Fairy Tales. Fairies are some of the most compelling characters in fairy tales, yet few people understand them. From fairy refugees to blood thirsty vampires this book takes you on a journey to discover what drove these characters, where they came from, and what they wanted. Using folk belief and lore to explore the first fantasy stories, which are likely far stranger and more astounding than you ever imagined, this book will help you to understand; Who fairies such as Rumpelstiltskin, The Seven Dwarfs, and Cinderella's 'Godmother' were, where they came from, and what they wanted. What drove vampires to slaughter tens of millions of people, What compelled witches to act both good and evil so that people, both feared and loved them, And much, much more...

From Celtic Fairies to Romanian Vampires





Like a word stuck on the tip of your tongue that you can't quite remember, fairy tales aggravate us with deeper meanings we're almost certain we know, but can’t quite recall. For just enough of the old fairy faiths survive within them to tantalize us with their forgotten mysteries; teasing us with a hidden past filled with dark guardians to the underworld, bright and beautiful fairies, and long winters nights people feared would never end. There is still a mysterious heart to fairy tales, giving us a peek into a primal world, beckoning us to recall old traditions. This book will seek to explore these old traditions, to answer questions about the hidden origins of fairy tales. “From Celtic Fairies to Romanian Vampires,” this book will take you on a journey to understand fairy tales which are likely far stranger and more beautiful than you ever imagined.







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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Battling Dragons in the Darkness

A storm rolls in, blotting out the sun, bringing with it darkness and life.
dragon hunt by chevsy
For a storm brings life giving rain but it also brings winds and floods which would destroy homes and sweep away loved ones.

Storms are the most confusing of natural phenomenon - needed, even desired - yet at the same time, feared.

Nearly everyone has experienced fear as a storm rolls in, the sense of dread as the sky turns dark and the winds howl outside like demons.  In ancient times the storm was filled with dragons, giants, witches and demons. Yet it was also filled by good good spirits

The flash of lighting followed by the boom of thunder came from the gods, from Thor who was battling dragons in the darkness.