Friday Fictioneers : Jenny Wren sings

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook


 

She cast a slim shadow on the glassy lock, wrists and ankles fragile as porcelain. Weaving between the sculptures, she tapped each in turn with her forefinger.

‘… tad-cu, modryb, cyfnither …’

It was the eighth time Idwal had caught her on the grounds. The perimeter wall was tall, impregnable, but still she kept getting in. He watched, enthralled.

She’d stopped by the two tallest stones, one lissom arm resting on each. ‘Mam. Tad.’

Wind rippled the water, hushed through the grass. Somewhere a wren sang.

After the song faded, nothing remained of her but footprints in the damp grass.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Write a tale, share, read and comment on others. See here to do all that.

Work stopped me from join the scribbling party last week. I am therefore, painfully late so if I don’t get round to reading your tale do forgive me.

On seeing the photo I was struck by the sculptures in the foreground and how they loosely resembled a group of standing stones. Most standing stones in the UK and elsewhere have legends attached and those legends often centre around fairy folk and the stones being cursed people. See here to read some interesting British legends surrounding standing stones.

Notes

The wren is called ‘the king of birds’ or ‘the little king’ in many languages. She’s also known as a trickster. Take a look here to learn more.

I found the following words on the Omniglot website. Beside them are their English equivalents.

Cymraeg (Welsh Celtic)         English

Tad                                               Father

Mam                                             Mother

Tad-cu                                          Grandfather

Cyfnither                                     Female Cousin

… and finally, the Welsh boy’s name Idwal means Lord of the wall.

W4W : Scratch

Drawing of child's face

Image : Pixabay

Helen picks up the scalpel, presses it firm between thumb and forefinger. The point digs into the flesh of the paper. Her hand shakes. She has to be careful , follow the outline to the millimetre. If she leaves a scrap behind …

What if she’s wrong?

The print sings from the book, black ink on a discoloured page, the surface sunk  under thick lines where the wood block has bitten. She studies the picture for the thousandth time.

There’s a forest clearing surrounded by fir trees scaly with cones, prickled dark with needles. A tawny owl sits high on a branch, watching. A family of mice huddle at the base of an oak, though she only noticed them after the fourth night poring over the image.

What she always returns to is the clearing.

Ankle deep in clover flowers tiny as rice grains, is a girl in a white dress, stitching crisscrossing her bodice. Helen imagines the thread to be red and yellow, though only black shows on the print. Around the girl’s shoulders hangs a cloak, the hood fallen, exposing pale plaits. The bow unravelled on one hints something is wrong. Will be wrong. Is wrong.

But the face … Dark, fear filled eyes, mouth open in a gasp. From her left hand hangs a stuffed teddy – threadbare through love – with one button eye.

Helen looks up to the wall, to a picture frame hanging there. The same eyes – joyful then – the same plaits, yellow and red diamonds on her favourite party dress.  It’s the photograph the police used for the Missing Person poster, though they focussed on her daughter’s face, Bear only visible in the bottom corner. Helen found his other eye after they’d searched the bedrooms.

She turns back to the book, scalpel shaking.

‘Hold on,’ she whispers. ‘Hold on.’

The blade scratches the surface.

 


 

Here’s a Wednesday Word Tangle – a W4W – with a difference. Today, I’ve used my chosen word as a jumping off point for a story.

The word of the day is SCRATCH, which according to the Online Eymology Dictionary is from the early 15th century and probably a fusion of two Middle English words – crachen and scratten, meaning, well, scratch. Aren’t they brilliant?

Fancy a good scratten? Crachen my back and I’ll crach yours?

To accompany this is the nickname for the Devil – Old Scratch – probably from the Old Norse skratte, meaning goblin or wizard. Similar words for goblins and imps abound in the colder climbs of Europe – such as the German schratt and Polish skrzat.

So, we have scratching, the Devil and my new found love of paper cutting … What else could I write but a wood pulp bound fairy tale?

Thanks to Kat, as always – blogging pal and founder of W4W.

Patient as a stone

Stone cottage and wood carvings

Image: Pixabay

 

 

She waited patient as a stone.

Autumn leaves fell, drifting against her back, filling in the curve of her waist, the hollows behind her knees.

As the air cooled, sharp as a knife in her lungs, frost webbed across her skin, grew needles in her hair. Her heart slowed.

Gradually, the earth thawed. Buds grew plump and sticky on the trees, birds plucked moss from her eyelids to line their nests. Mulch vanished under bluebells, azure spears slicing the brown. Her heart beat faster.

One morning came the sound she had waited for – a voice echoing the blackbird’s call.

She rose, stretched, limbs stiff as wood, gazing at the cottage walls, at the faces . Her hands ran over unseeing eyes, fingernails searched gaping mouths. She remembered every one of them: blond haired children lost in the woods, burly shepherds chasing stray lambs, foolhardy youths more brave than clever. Each she had greeted, took as her own, bricked into her walls. They didn’t come often, but she was good at waiting.

The voice drew near, sweet, high – young.

Her mouth stretched into its widest smile.


After reading calmgrove’s wonderful review of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – and after our ensuing discussions on the perils of dealing with faerie folk, I felt inspired to write a tale with ‘Grimm’ overtones. You never know what waits in the deep, dark, woods …

 

Three Line Tales : No more fairy tales

 

three line tales week 17: orange rope

photo by Wynand von Poortvliet – click here for full res version

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She sits on the parapet, looking down to the rocks below. How many times has she unfurled her crowning glory, let the silken rope tumble from her shoulders, down the tower walls to yet another True Love, each hair root a point of agony, pulled until it seems her scalp will moult like snakeskin?

And how many times has that Love proved less than True?

Grey strands silver the golden mane now, a testament to how long she’s waited, how many chances she’s given the Fairy Tale. But no more.

Slowly, she begins to wind the leaden plait about her arm, around one wrist and onto the other until she’s manacled. Only now will she be free.

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Written for Sonya at Only 100 Words’ Three Line Tales. See the pic, write a tale, why don’t you? See here for full Ts and Cs.

Why Rumpelstiltskin could be 4,000 years old

princess-914869_1280

Image: Pixabay

We’ve all heard of the Brothers Grimm, haven’t we?

You know. They were those clever German academics, those collectors of folk and faerie tales who gathered and published many of the dark and twisty stories Disney has gone on to sanitise, romanticise and package in clean, neat merchandising-heavy boxes.

I wonder whether the brothers would recognise their characters in the theme park friendly tales Disney has produced over the years? I’m pretty sure there’s less chirpy cleaning with the help of woodland pals and more hacking up predatory strangers with axes in the originals.

I say ‘orginals’ quite wrongly, of course. I’ve mentioned here before how the brothers altered and edited the stories, omitting entire tales from later editions because their themes were deemed unsuitable for young readers. So, I shouldn’t really condemn Disney for responding to the times exactly as the Grimm’s did years ago.

And yet, as the global theme park mongers seem to be almost solely responsible for little girls wanting to be princesses more than they want to be physicists, neuro-surgeons, architects, democratically elected heads of state and anything else remotely useful, I still bear a grudge.

‘Never trust a movie studio empire that believes we should remove male nipples,’ as my old nan used to say.* 

Well, almost two hundred years ago Wilhelm – the brother who shaped many of the stories’ structure and content – reckoned that some of them dated to the beginnings of Indo-European languages. Many theorists disagreed with this idea, saying the stories developed much later.

But a recent study by a Durham University anthropolgist and a folklorist from Lisbon suggests that Grimm may have been right. They’ve used a technique called phylogenetic analysis (no, me neither) which maps stories through language and geography.

I don’t know how the technique works. I’m no anthropologist and I’m no linguist like Wilhelm Grimm was. But I do know this is exciting stuff.

It means that the roots of Jack and the Beanstalk could stretch back over 5,000 years: that Rumplestilskin and Beauty and the Beast could be 4,000 years old. There’s a folk tale called The Smith and the Devil which could be as much as 6,000 years old.

I love this idea.

It means the best and strongest stories behave like genes, getting themselves passed through generations – orally for centuries until some bright spark thinks to write them down – spreading over time, perhaps mutating a little along the way, honing themselves into the perfect shape to be loved and remembered and handed on.

It shows these yarns are organic : it’s the ‘survival of the fittest’ principle applied to stories.

It’s a beautiful, elegant idea and gives us a direct link to our Bronze Age ancesters, sitting around the campfire, spinning tales that would scare and delight the listeners and reveal a little something about the world along the way.

Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

‘Once upon a time …’ 

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*No, alright, she didn’t say that at all. But it’s true that Disney in their wisdom did not give Aladdin nipples. I know they’re useless, but are male nipples so threatening?