Posts Tagged ‘fairy tale’

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Episode 202: Henkie’s Fiddle by Vonnie Winslow Crist


Henkie’s Fiddle

by Vonnie Winslow Crist

 

Stirred by a bone-chilling wind, the lone tree in the unsanctified section of the cemetery rattled its bare branches. Duffy had the eerie feeling that Witchman’s Oak sensed what was to happen today. He chewed on the hard skin left by a burst blister on his right thumb and studied the tree.

By order of the Edgewater town council and with the mayor’s approval, Duffy was to remove Witchman’s Oak before Christmas despite local lore proclaiming the tree haunted. Personally, he thought it was a terrible mistake to cut down the oak if for no other reason than the shade it provided in the summer. Rousted by another cold gust, the huge iron bell hanging from a rusted hook embedded in the tree’s trunk clanked its agreement.

(Continue Reading…)

Wonder Tales – Not Just Fairies


Hi everyone, your editor Marguerite here.

This weekend has been the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. I’ve been following along as various members of my Twitter stream were in attendance.

One of the presentations that caught my attention was the history of the term ‘Fairy Tale’ and its use as an umbrella term for wonder and the supernatural in fiction. Neither concept is unique to Western Europe and the speaker, Cristina Bacchilega, posits that a shift away from using the label generically might help linguistically decolonize non-European based narratives.

I support this idea wholeheartedly: a small linguistic shift in support of greater diversity. In an effort to put Cristina’s theory to the test I’ve revised our submission guidelines to explain our use of this distinction. The relevant section is set out below.

Special thanks to Julia Rios for her livetweeting of Bacchilega’s presentation, and Julia for answering my follow-up questions.


Fairy Tales? Wondertales? Huh?

We use the word “wondertales” as the generic description of speculative fiction stories based on classic and/or historical cultural narratives. Synomyms include fairy tales, folklore and mythology – all academic terms with their own meanings, origins, distinctions and historical connotations.

This is to help distinguish wondertales as a whole from the subset of stories based on Western European ancestry, which we assign the label “fairy tales”. Good examples include Hans Christian Andersen stories, or older Disney movies.

Fairy tales are popular as a genre of young adult fiction to the point where they cross the line into tropes. We receive a lot of them. Unless a story succinctly retells one of these narratives in a new and unique way, we generally decline. A good example of one we liked was “Piper” by Ian Rose – a flash piece retelling ‘The Pied Piper’ from one of the rat’s point of view.

Wondertales, on the the other hand, are under-representaed in short fiction and we’d love to receive more of them. For an example of one we liked check out “The Dun Horse” by Edward Ahern – the retelling of a Pawnee legend.

Episode 99: Little Wonders 3 – Scary Stories


Come With Me

by Beth Hull

Everything about her suggested impermanence.

Maybe that’s why we were drawn to her.

It wasn’t just the ethereal blond waves of her hair, or the goth-pale skin of her slender hands. It was her total, absolute ease at being the new student in our tightly-knit prep school.

She drifted into junior home room on a lotus-scented breeze.

Every guy sucked in a breath, and the girls—we don’t know what the girls were doing because we could see only her.

“Come with me,” she said, singling each of us out. For a day, for an hour, for a week we were her best friends, her lovers, her confidantes. But none of us knew anything about her—not where she was from, not the school she went to before ours, not even her name.

“Call me Beatrice,” she said.

“I’m Circe,” she said.

Morgan. Hermione. Rebecca. Medea. Anne. She was all; she was none.

And because of that impermanence, she felt safe. We could get involved. We thought we knew her type—military brat, probably, accustomed to moving, making new friends, and then saying goodbye. She’d be the perfect girlfriend.

“Come with me,” she said to us, and we went. She threw parties in a grand house just outside of town. September is still warm in California, so we swam in the pool, sipped beer, wine, and champagne in the spa, played foosball and watched independent foreign films in the basement theater until our brains were so addled we couldn’t remember our mother tongue.

“Who are her parents?” our mothers asked. “What do they do?”

We shrugged. We didn’t know any of that. We just knew we loved her and when she said, “Come with me,” we followed.

On a clear day in October, I walked with the girl across the quad at school, her slender fingers cold and tightly wrapped around mine. She said, “Come with me.”

“Where are we going?” I couldn’t believe the question had never occurred to me before. Maybe the sun was different that day, and broke the spell. A pimple was coming to a white head just below her right nostril. The first imperfection I’d noticed.

She smiled. “Sevanouir.”

“Where’s that? Some place in France?” I could buy a plane ticket, and I’d go, no question. One pimple was just that—one pimple.

I thought it was a trip for the two of us. I set aside a portion of my trust fund allowance. But then I learned she’d invited everyone—the entire junior class.

“Come with me,” she said, and we skipped school for a Sevanouir planning party.

It was too cold for swimming, but some people swam. I sat in a chair next to the pool, a bottle of beer in my hand, but I didn’t feel like drinking. I’d noticed another flaw in this temporary, impermanent girl: a small, t-shaped scar just below her ear. It was nothing worse than Owen’s forehead scar from field hockey, or Madeline’s mismatched eyes. But why had I never noticed it on her, whom I studied so intently?

I began to notice more imperfections, not only on her person, like the mole on her upper arm or the bright lines of veins on her shins. I saw the rusted outdoor chairs, the cracked tiles edging the pool, the dead leaves on the surface of the water that my friends paddled and splashed through as if they didn’t see them.

And I noticed her—Beatrice, Circe, Morgan, Hermione, Rebecca, Medea, Anne—walking up to each of my friends and placing something small and black in their drinks. My friends peered into the bottoms of their cups in wonderment, but with a light touch and a smile, she distracted them before moving on.

Owen stopped swimming and began to sink.

“Owen!” I tore off my shoes and jumped in the water, struggling to find him among the swirling leaf-sludge at the bottom of the pool. I brought him up, shaking water and decayed leaves from my face. I paddled to the shallow end and turned him around. His eyes were cloudy. Open, they dully reflected a flock of black birds flying overhead. I did something I’d only seen in the movies, and checked his neck for a pulse. Nothing.

Other people sank into the pool around me, collapsed on their chairs, and fell to the concrete steps.

“Stop drinking!” I yelled to the small group nearest me. “She put something in our drinks!”

“Why would she do that?” They drank, and fell.

The girl watched from my lounge chair.

“What did you do to them?”

“We’re going to Sevanouir,” she said. “Come with me.”

“No!”

She took a sip of my beer, then held it up in a salute. “I’ll see you in Sevanouir.” The bottle fell to the concrete and shattered.

She kept her smile even after her eyes clouded over.


Piper

by Ian Rose

He came one day down the northern road, his skin paler than the local men, and his eyes a lighter blue than we had ever seen before. There was a scar above his left eye, and he carried no bag on his shoulder, nothing but his pipes and a flask on his hip. The king had sent word of his people’s need far and wide, sparing a few of his dwindling horsemen to carry the plea. Word had reached the piper, who had dealt with this problem before, and so in time the piper came.

When he blew on his pipes, we followed him without thought or question. My father went first, then my brother, then one by one the rest. They crept at first, then walked, then ran after him, wanting or needing to stay in earshot of the song. I followed the crowd more than the noise itself, my hearing having never quite fully recovered from a bite in the head from the miller’s cat a few months back.

I huddled into a hidden spot that barely fit me, pressed between the reeds. My muscles twitched, my mind and instinct arguing about whether to help or to hide. Chances are that I could not have helped anyway, and I’ve never been particularly brave. So I hid, and I watched. They all went into the dark brown water and for a moment, it looked as if they would simply swim across. My father had taught me young to avoid the creek at all costs, but in their frenzy, their feet could have carried them to the other side. It wasn’t the safety of the bank, though, that called them. It was the piper standing in the center of the creek, and they huddled around him as they fought to keep their ears more than their mouths above water.

When the last of the swimming had stopped, and he waded past them and out of the river, I alone followed him back down the wooded path to town. I was careful to stay hidden and always ready to run, but he barely ever looked back. I wanted to study his face, hoping to detect a sign of regret or maybe just relief. Relief would have been enough, a sort of acceptance of a hard but necessary thing done. When he did turn and I caught a look at his face, he looked pleased. But it was not the kind of pleasure that a man feels on his way home from a job well done. I’ve seen that contented look, in the miller and the cobbler that lived in our house back in town. This was different, more smug and more scary than that. He was thrilled with himself. The face that he made as he cantered back to town – I’d seen that before too, in the soldiers returning from war. A few of them came back so different from the way they had left, with something new and cruel in them. They had tasted blood again and again. They had come in time to expect it, and at some terrible further point, to hunger for more.

I followed him until the palace hedge, and watched him march to the gate, the townspeople in a tight cone behind him. I chose not to blame them for their perverse excitement, because I had seen what they had all been through. The sheer scale of death that had fallen on our town over the last year was staggering, and their faces were marked with it. To have so many of them die in such a short time, when they were accustomed to living so long; it had to be jarring. The miller and the cobbler had lived with us for generations. My grandfather’s father had known them, and I got the sense that they were not even children then.

They somehow knew that we were involved, even if they didn’t understand how. They could not have known that the fleas that often woke us at night with their itchy little bites carried the disease that was killing them all so quickly. They didn’t see the fleas. They only saw us, and where they saw us there was death, and that was proof enough.

The piper passed through the main gate and into the palace, his eyes bright and proud. But to hear the townspeople tell it later, the king must have been even prouder and more sure of himself, because when the piper asked for his payment, the king laughed and refused. “We are in your debt,” he proclaimed, “but what you ask is too much, a fortune for the task of removing a pest.” He offered to pay a small part of the original price; still, the king said, a handsome reward for a bit of fluting. He hadn’t seen what I had, hadn’t noticed the shine in the piper’s eyes. He couldn’t have seen it or he never would have tried to bargain.


The Boatman

by J A Ironside

Soon he would have to row back to the castle. It rose on the opposite bank, a stark, black silhouette against the titian sky. Even from his perch in the stern of his boat he could hear the ravens across the river, prophesying death in their harsh voices, although most people would not have understood them.

The river that bobbed and swelled under his barge felt alien to him. He supposed the Thames was alright in its way but it wasn’t his river. He didn’t know every eddy and shallow of its teasing tides. The Thames was younger, sleepier, less alive. It dreamed and sometimes he watched those dreams.

It flowed through the city and captured reflections – here a scrap of blue velvet – a rich young noble man with a half dressed woman in the wrong part of town; here a skinny child, head to toe in thick mud, ancient eyes in a young face; And here a young woman, cloaked and muffled against recognition, a brief flash of a pearl encrusted slipper.

Time to ready the barge. He pulled his hood closer to hide his death’s head grin. Even the dead had never reacted well to it so he supposed that it probably would disturb the living more. Screaming and swooning seemed excessive in the boatman’s opinion though. At least this work exchange program would be over soon. The truth was when the little scroll of parchment had been delivered to him he hadn’t read the details very thoroughly. It had seemed the opportunity he was waiting for; A change of scenery. He’d had no idea that he would end up half way around the world and 1500 years into the future to boot.

Well he couldn’t argue that the scenery wasn’t an improvement but the rest of the assignment was just downright bewildering. If he had had flesh on his cheekbones he would still be blushing with mortification at the memory of leaving several nobles and a bishop waiting on the tower side of the river despite repeated summons. When he’d finally realized that he was supposed to ferry his passengers both ways on this river and collected them, the bishop had refused to pay him.  

The cloaked woman had reached the barge. He held out a wrapped and gloved hand to help her aboard braced for her to notice the lack of flesh on his finger bones.  She said nothing. Her scarred bodyguard climbed aboard. Not the usual man, the boatman noted. The barge moved smoothly onto the river.

Halfway across the river, the guard stabbed a long knife through the boatman’s back. Without waiting to check on the boatman, he turned on the woman brandishing a second knife. Her face was pale, her lips compressed. The boatman was fascinated. He’d never seen a murder committed, only ferried its victims across the river. The guard’s knife grated against his fleshless ribs. He pulled it out. It clattered to the bottom of the boat. Distracted by the noise the false guard spun, almost losing his footing. Which meant the boatman’s pole caught him full in the face, smashing his skull. Grinning a genuine death’s head grin for once, the boatman hit the guard again knocking him into the cold waters.

“My thanks sir” The woman was a little breathless but composed, “ask for any reasonable reward and it shall be yours”. She pushed back her hood to reveal red hair dressed with pearls.

“No reward necessary, my lady.”

She peered forward into the depths of his hood. He braced himself for a scream but she merely sat back, a considering look on her clever features.

“May I have the name of he to whom I am so indebted.” It was not a request.

“Charon, my Lady”

“Elizabeth” she replied, gazing over the water after her would be assassin. There was not a ripple to show his passing.

All rivers dream and remember in dreaming that they are echoes of the great river between life and death; The Styx .The Thames bore the guardsman’s corpse downstream for the mud larks to find and exclaim over.

The Boatman smiled again.


 

JA Ironside. Jules Anne Ironside started writing as a child. She grew up in Dorset in a house full of books, fed on a diet of myths, legends and spooky tales. She particularly likes to take well known myths and turn them on their heads. Jules is a keen martial artist having taught karate for fifteen years now. In her free time she likes to read and add to her collection of dead or little use languages. She has had several other short stories published in the anthologies Reading is Magic and Stories for Homes both available from Amazon. Her next published story will appear in the A Chimerical world; Unseelie anthology. You can follow her on Twitter.

Episode 93: Little Wonders 2

Show Notes

This episode marks the second time Cast of Wonders has aired poetry. Our first was the excellent Eggs Under Moon from Episode 29, where three different narrators brought you their interpretation of the one poem.


Golly

by Laura DeHaan

A girl and a boy stood at opposite ends of a clearing in the woods. As the girl’s family lived nearby, and she felt it was therefore her clearing, she spoke first. “What’s your name?”

He was a handful of years older than her, with knees and elbows and eyebrows he’d eventually grow into. “Raff,” he said. “What’s yours?”

“Goldilocks,” she said, and looked it.

“That’s a dumb name,” he announced without deliberation. “I can’t take you serious with a name like that.” Indignation made her sputter. He went on carelessly, “Want to play?”

Goldilocks’s family was one that had fled the Eastwise Kingdom after the Bad Enchantment had settled there, and she hadn’t met any other children since. “All right,” she allowed. “But I’m going to call you Ruffian.”

“I’m going to call you Golly,” he said, and Goldilocks needed no other enticement to follow his cry of, “Catch me if you can!”


They stopped by a stream and looked for frogs and fish and enchanted princesses, and climbed trees and dared each other to throw rocks at a hornet nest and ran hollering when they were chased by the angry hive. Raff led them further and further afield with a wave of his hand, claiming dominance over the woods.

“Only don’t go that way,” he said, and to Goldilocks it seemed his nonchalant gesture encompassed a good deal of that way. “There’s bears in those parts. Bears are the worst.”

“What do they look like?” said Goldilocks, who had never seen a bear.

“Oh, they’re big — bigger than that tree, I guess,” he said with another lazy gesture towards a mature pine. “They’ve got big blunt faces and big blunt teeth and they sneak up on you when you’re wide awake and POUNCE!” He leapt on her back and they fell in a tangle.

“Get off, dope!” She kicked and pounded with her fists and he rolled off, laughing.

“Anyway, they do,” he said.

“One more game,” she said. “I need to get home soon.”

“We’ll need a flag,” he said. “Hand me your apron.”

It was stained from various trips to collect berries. Goldilocks undid the knot and passed it to Raff.

“Right,” he said. “Let’s play… Capture the Fleeing Flag!”

“Raff!” she yelled. “Ruffian! Come back here!” She pursued, quickly losing sight but following his laughter. “You wait ’til I tell my brother, he’ll skin you!”

“You don’t have a brother!” Raff yelled distantly. “You told me so yourself!”

“Raff!” She was lost and confused. His voice echoed strangely, when she heard it at all. “Raff, tell me how to get home!”

It was getting dark and Goldilocks cast about anxiously for a familiar path while trying to remember in which direction the bears lay. “East? Or, or… no,” she muttered, turning in place.

There were notches in a tree near her, three atop each other. “Someone must have done that,” she said to herself, “to mark their path and keep from losing their way.”

After a quick search she found another tree nearby with the same three notches. Whether they were going to or from she couldn’t say, but she followed them eagerly and soon came upon a little cottage.

“Hallo?” she called. “Please, I’m lost. Could you… could you…” And she trailed off, not quite knowing what could be done.

There was no answer. Goldilocks pushed on the door and found it opened in two sections, top and bottom. “Perhaps the lower one is for the children to run through?” she said, though it seemed doubtful as she still had to stoop down to get inside.

It was one room, with only some supporting beams and a partition to separate the space at all. A fireplace sat in one wall, ashes and embers in its pit. The floor was covered with animal skins, great big ones with coarse, shaggy hair. A few long bones lay scattered in a corner, looking gnawed upon. “They must have dogs,” she said, and laughed suddenly. Of course, the lower door was for the dog to come through! And there was a distinctly doggy smell about the place.

More importantly, there was a bowl of raspberries on the table. “It’s been so long since lunch, and perhaps if I don’t eat very many…” The sound of her own voice was comforting in the quiet room.

Soon her eyelids started drooping. “I do hope whoever lives here gets here soon,” she said. “Otherwise they’ll find me asleep on the floor!” Her eyes went to the partition. “Maybe there’s a bed behind there. It can’t be worse to find me asleep in bed like a sensible person rather than stretched out on the rug!”

She looked behind the partition at the other end of the room. There was one large bed tucked into the corner, with more furs around its base. The bed was neatly made. It would have been hard to not make it neat, as there were no pillows or blankets on it, only a thin sheet. Goldilocks took off her shoes and snuggled under it. It was not warm at all. “I wonder if they have any children,” Goldilocks mumbled. “I hope not. They’d freeze. But perhaps they sleep all piled together…”


The sound of a door being shut woke her up. Goldilocks held her breath, fearful of discovery. “But how silly!” she scolded herself a moment later. “They must be kind people, to sleep together and own dogs. It’d be worse to stay in bed. I’ll go present myself.” So saying was so doing, and she slipped out from under the sheet and peeked around the partition.

Two people were already looking in her direction, a man and a woman. They were middle-aged and lean and watched her with neither frowns nor smiles. “Excuse me,” Goldilocks said politely. “I’m sorry to intrude, but I lost my way and I heard there were bears in the woods…”

The couple’s faces relaxed into smiles. “Right you are,” the man said. “Terrible things, those bears. Are you hungry? There’s a bowl of raspberries on the table… which I see you’ve already found,” he added, pointing at his lips.

Goldilock’s hand flew up to her mouth and she felt stickiness there. “Oh!” she said, but the couple only laughed. The woman joined her at the table while the man put a log in the fireplace and stirred the embers to flames.

“It’s perfectly fine that you’re here,” the woman said. “We’ve plenty of space in the bed.”

“It’s very big, for the two of you,” Goldilocks said. “Do you have any children?”

“We’ve had our share,” the man said, standing up from the fire. “They grow up so fast. Sometimes one of them drops by.”

“And dogs?” said Goldilocks. “Have you a lot of dogs?”

“Just one at the moment,” the man chuckled. “We let him tire himself out before he comes in at night.”

“It is getting rather late,” said the woman. “Perhaps we’d better turn in. You must be tired after today.”

Goldilocks followed the woman behind the partition while the man went outside to call for the dog. They slipped into bed, although the woman stayed on top of the sheet.

“Do you see many bears?” said Goldilocks.

“Oh no,” said the woman. “They know not to come around here.”

“Your dog must be very fierce, to protect you against bears.” Goldilocks yawned. The woman stroked her hair. Comforted, Goldilocks nuzzled her nose into the woman’s thigh..

“Very fierce,” said the woman. “Bears. Nasty creatures, mean things. Why, a bear would gobble you up feet first while you were looking.”

The door opened and closed again. With the partition between them, Goldilocks didn’t see the gangly young wolf trotting cheerfully beside the man, a berry-stained apron in its sharp-toothed mouth.

“A bear would make all sorts of fuss and noise.”

The smell of dog grew stronger as the man dropped to all fours, shook himself, and was replaced by another, larger wolf in man’s clothing.

“Wolves, now,” crooned the woman, and Goldilock’s breathing deepened and her eyes twitched behind their lids, “wolves will wait until you sleep.”


An Alchemist’s Limit

by Brian Griggs

A flick and a flip

then a proton gloms on

with the heat and the flash

of a miniature star.

 

Subatomic junk

push Nickel down the Table

‘til it shifts and it shines

as Palladium’s smile

But the Guild, oh the Guild

takes a chunk of the loot

for the lessons, for protection

of the alchemist’s craft.

I pause and I think

about the Yakuza’s cash.

How long could I run

‘til I’m caught by my Guild?

Split the O from the H

to make flammable blood.

I slump and I sigh – 

You don’t double-cross gods.


Empires of the Red Dawn
by Jack Murphy

He is ancient and wise

Aware of far distant regions

And the treasures there

 

The breeze carries his word

In chariots of golden light

Pulled along by glass horses

 

Towards children of the crown

Who hunt across bright deserts

With intelligent precision

 

Can we unwind this grey mystery?

Let us build crystal palaces

In honor of his eternal hunt

Episode 60: The Swineherd by Hans Christian Andersen


The Swineherd

by Hans Christian Anderson

There was once a poor Prince, who had a kingdom. His kingdom was very small, but still quite large enough to marry upon; and he wished to marry.

It was certainly rather cool of him to say to the Emperor’s daughter, “Will you have me?” But so he did; for his name was renowned far and wide; and there were a hundred princesses who would have answered, “Yes!” and “Thank you kindly.” We shall see what this princess said.

Listen!

It happened that where the Prince’s father lay buried, there grew a rose tree–a most beautiful rose tree, which blossomed only once in every five years, and even then bore only one flower, but that was a rose! It smelt so sweet that all cares and sorrows were forgotten by him who inhaled its fragrance.

And furthermore, the Prince had a nightingale, who could sing in such a manner that it seemed as though all sweet melodies dwelt in her little throat. So the Princess was to have the rose, and the nightingale; and they were accordingly put into large silver caskets, and sent to her.

The Emperor had them brought into a large hall, where the Princess was playing at “Visiting,” with the ladies of the court; and when she saw the caskets with the presents, she clapped her hands for joy.

“Ah, if it were but a little pussy-cat!” said she; but the rose tree, with its beautiful rose came to view.

“Oh, how prettily it is made!” said all the court ladies.

“It is more than pretty,” said the Emperor, “it is charming!”

But the Princess touched it, and was almost ready to cry.

“Fie, papa!” said she. “It is not made at all, it is natural!”

“Let us see what is in the other casket, before we get into a bad humor,” said the Emperor. So the nightingale came forth and sang so delightfully that at first no one could say anything ill-humored of her.

“Superbe! Charmant! exclaimed the ladies; for they all used to chatter French, each one worse than her neighbor.

“How much the bird reminds me of the musical box that belonged to our blessed Empress,” said an old knight. “Oh yes! These are the same tones, the same execution.”

“Yes! yes!” said the Emperor, and he wept like a child at the remembrance.

“I will still hope that it is not a real bird,” said the Princess.

“Yes, it is a real bird,” said those who had brought it. “Well then let the bird fly,” said the Princess; and she positively refused to see the Prince.

However, he was not to be discouraged; he daubed his face over brown and black; pulled his cap over his ears, and knocked at the door.

“Good day to my lord, the Emperor!” said he. “Can I have employment at the palace?”

“Why, yes,” said the Emperor. “I want some one to take care of the pigs, for we have a great many of them.”

So the Prince was appointed “Imperial Swineherd.” He had a dirty little room close by the pigsty; and there he sat the whole day, and worked. By the evening he had made a pretty little kitchen-pot. Little bells were hung all round it; and when the pot was boiling, these bells tinkled in the most charming manner, and played the old melody,

“Ach! du lieber Augustin,
Alles ist weg, weg, weg!”*

* “Ah! dear Augustine!
All is gone, gone, gone!”

But what was still more curious, whoever held his finger in the smoke of the kitchen-pot, immediately smelt all the dishes that were cooking on every hearth in the city–this, you see, was something quite different from the rose.

Now the Princess happened to walk that way; and when she heard the tune, she stood quite still, and seemed pleased; for she could play “Lieber Augustine”; it was the only piece she knew; and she played it with one finger.

“Why there is my piece,” said the Princess. “That swineherd must certainly have been well educated! Go in and ask him the price of the instrument.”

So one of the court-ladies must run in; however, she drew on wooden slippers first.

“What will you take for the kitchen-pot?” said the lady.

“I will have ten kisses from the Princess,” said the swineherd.

“Yes, indeed!” said the lady.

“I cannot sell it for less,” rejoined the swineherd.

“He is an impudent fellow!” said the Princess, and she walked on; but when she had gone a little way, the bells tinkled so prettily

“Ach! du lieber Augustin,
Alles ist weg, weg, weg!”

“Stay,” said the Princess. “Ask him if he will have ten kisses from the ladies of my court.”

“No, thank you!” said the swineherd. “Ten kisses from the Princess, or I keep the kitchen-pot myself.”

“That must not be, either!” said the Princess. “But do you all stand before me that no one may see us.”

And the court-ladies placed themselves in front of her, and spread out their dresses–the swineherd got ten kisses, and the Princess–the kitchen-pot.

That was delightful! The pot was boiling the whole evening, and the whole of the following day. They knew perfectly well what was cooking at every fire throughout the city, from the chamberlain’s to the cobbler’s; the court-ladies danced and clapped their hands.

“We know who has soup, and who has pancakes for dinner to-day, who has cutlets, and who has eggs. How interesting!”

“Yes, but keep my secret, for I am an Emperor’s daughter.”

The swineherd–that is to say–the Prince, for no one knew that he was other than an ill-favored swineherd, let not a day pass without working at something; he at last constructed a rattle, which, when it was swung round, played all the waltzes and jig tunes, which have ever been heard since the creation of the world.

“Ah, that is superbe!” said the Princess when she passed by. “I have never heard prettier compositions! Go in and ask him the price of the instrument; but mind, he shall have no more kisses!”

“He will have a hundred kisses from the Princess!” said the lady who had been to ask.

“I think he is not in his right senses!” said the Princess, and walked on, but when she had gone a little way, she stopped again. “One must encourage art,” said she, “I am the Emperor’s daughter. Tell him he shall, as on yesterday, have ten kisses from me, and may take the rest from the ladies of the court.”

“Oh–but we should not like that at all!” said they. “What are you muttering?” asked the Princess. “If I can kiss him, surely you can. Remember that you owe everything to me.” So the ladies were obliged to go to him again.

“A hundred kisses from the Princess,” said he, “or else let everyone keep his own!”

“Stand round!” said she; and all the ladies stood round her whilst the kissing was going on.

“What can be the reason for such a crowd close by the pigsty?” said the Emperor, who happened just then to step out on the balcony; he rubbed his eyes, and put on his spectacles. “They are the ladies of the court; I must go down and see what they are about!” So he pulled up his slippers at the heel, for he had trodden them down.

As soon as he had got into the court-yard, he moved very softly, and the ladies were so much engrossed with counting the kisses, that all might go on fairly, that they did not perceive the Emperor. He rose on his tiptoes.

“What is all this?” said he, when he saw what was going on, and he boxed the Princess’s ears with his slipper, just as the swineherd was taking the eighty-sixth kiss.

“March out!” said the Emperor, for he was very angry; and both Princess and swineherd were thrust out of the city.

The Princess now stood and wept, the swineherd scolded, and the rain poured down.

“Alas! Unhappy creature that I am!” said the Princess. “If I had but married the handsome young Prince! Ah! how unfortunate I am!”

And the swineherd went behind a tree, washed the black and brown color from his face, threw off his dirty clothes, and stepped forth in his princely robes; he looked so noble that the Princess could not help bowing before him.

“I am come to despise thee,” said he. “Thou would’st not have an honorable Prince! Thou could’st not prize the rose and the nightingale, but thou wast ready to kiss the swineherd for the sake of a trumpery plaything. Thou art rightly served.”

He then went back to his own little kingdom, and shut the door of his palace in her face. Now she might well sing,

“Ach! du lieber Augustin,
Alles ist weg, weg, weg!”

Episode 53: The Cruel Sister by James Breyfogle

Show Notes

Today we present The Cruel Sister by James Breyfogle. James writes fantasy and Science Fiction from his home in Pennsylvania.

Your narrator is the fabulous Tina Connolly! Tina lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the anthology Unplugged: Year’s Best Online SF 2008. Her debut fantasy novel IRONSKIN is forthcoming from Tor in October 2012, with a sequel in 2013. She is a frequent reader for Podcastle, and is narrating a 2012 flash podcasting venture called Toasted Cake. In the summer she works as a face painter, which means a glitter-filled house is an occupational hazard. Her website is here. Check the shownotes for details.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Narrated by Tina Connolly

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present The Cruel Sister by James Breyfogle. James writes fantasy and Science Fiction from his home in Pennsylvania.

Your narrator is the fabulous Tina Connolly! Tina lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the anthology Unplugged: Year’s Best Online SF 2008. Her debut fantasy novel IRONSKIN is forthcoming from Tor in October 2012, with a sequel in 2013. She is a frequent reader for Podcastle, and is narrating a 2012 flash podcasting venture called Toasted Cake. In the summer she works as a face painter, which means a glitter-filled house is an occupational hazard. Her website is here. Check the shownotes for details.

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.