Category Archives: Fairytales

Slash is nothing new- Arthurian romance and tragedy

Standard
Slash is nothing new- Arthurian romance and tragedy

The Arthurian legends came about because of an interesting fusion of Southern French cultural values and Celtic/Welsh legends mixed in with a vernacular history of Wales after the fall of Rome, all stewed together in the interesting melting-pot of late 11th century Brittany. French and English writers in the 12th century added onto that inheritance from the folk culture of Brittany/Wales, creating the first true novels in Western literature.

A character called Galehaut shows up in the early versions, especially in the anonymously-written Lancelot-Grail, but he is increasingly sanitized, and then completely erased from later versions of the story.

Galehaut is the Lord of the Stranger’s Isles. He is the son of a great king and a giantess. This only gives him a small advantage in height and strength, and does not show otherwise, although he has conquered more than thirty other kingdoms since taking the crown.

When the story starts he has begun the invasion of Camelot, and he sees Lancelot fighting incognito on the battlefield. Immediately, Galehaut stops the war to find out who this knight is. It is, in fact, love at first sight. He realizes that Lancelot cannot love him, but he abandons everything to be beside him, even acting as chaperone when the great knight and the queen go on romantic assignations. Foolishly, Arthur believes that having a third party along will stop any improper relations.

Lancelot is beloved and desired by all. Arthur, when asked by Galehaut what he would do for his companion, says that he would share anything with Lancelot, except, of course, the queen. Making himself into the ultimate patsy. One of the other knights, by the name of Gauvain (who was a womanizer in the medieval literature) then says, ‘If God were to give me all the health I desire, I would want to be the fairest damsel in the world, in robust good health, as long as he loved me above all others, just as I would love him’.

If anyone reading the story had somehow missed the erotic gay subtext up until then… they probably got it after that one.

In the end, though, Galehaut does what all tragic heroes do… he hears that the one he loves above all has died (even though Lancelot is still fine), and wastes away until he is dead himself. Lancelot doesn’t spend a lot of time mourning this fact, and instead devotes himself completely to Guinevere, which of course hastens the downfall of the kingdom. You really have to wonder if Camelot would have done better if Lancelot had decided to go for Galehaut instead… Then Arthur would have had two legendary knights at his disposal when trouble came, instead of none.

After Arthur is gravely wounded, Guinevere goes to a convent and becomes a nun, telling Lancelot that she will never see him again. Lancelot goes to a monastery. When Lancelot dies he asks to be buried beside his truest friend and companion… Galehaut. Not Guinevere.

Galehaut eventually gets the moral and physical victory, although at great cost to himself. However, if you look at it, nobody really had a great time- not Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Lancelot, or any of the cast and crew of Camelot.

The funny thing is, medieval writers spent a LOT of time saying ‘Oh, these knights love each other MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD! But, they’re not gay. NO!’

I wonder if then, as now, there was a tendency to ship your favourite characters. It seems to be built right into the literature.

The picture featured here shows Lancelot and Guinevere kissing across Galehaut’s lap.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Brittany

http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/TourArtGen.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galehaut

And, for your listening pleasure- Mordred’s Lullaby, by the ever-talented Heather Dale

Advertisements

The Wild Ones

Standard

Crossposted from Cocktails and Hot Sauce

Anne Cain's fantastic cover for my novel.

Anne Cain’s fantastic cover for my novel.

There’s a part of every novel that’s a nightmare to write. In Bound to the Beast there’s little doubt about that part that gave me the most grief – bringing life to the Wild Hunt.

Ah yes, the Wild Hunt. A pack of the undead who maraud across the land, terrorizing the natives and sucking blood! Ghosts! Zombies! The evil dead, with their eyes drooling from their sockets and their flesh hanging off! That’s going to be fun to write, huh?

Well, you’d think so, and it was fun to research. The origins of the Wild Hunt are obscure and diverse, encompassing the Germanic ‘Wilde Jagd’ and the Nordic ‘Ride of Asgard,’ their leaders including Odin, Woden, and in England King Arthur, Sir Francis Drake, and the devil himself, as well as Herne the Hunter, the hero of my novel (see my pictorial history of The Horned One.)

The hunters themselves have variously been portrayed as the rotting corpses of condemned criminals, hellhounds, fairies, or the souls of deceased, unbaptised infants (the latter two, of course, sometimes perceived as one and the same.)

And their purpose?

Well, usually the Wild Hunt were seen as harbingers of doom, scourging the land on the eve of great disasters, and that’s the angle I used in my book, where my tortured anti-hero, Herne, has led the Hunt across England on the eve of Viking pillaging, the Norman Conquest and the plague of the black death.

Bad boy!

There are plenty of awesome descriptions of the Hunt too, not least in the romantic literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when so much ‘ancient’ folk lore was (re)invented.

Arguably most evocative is W.B. Yeats, ‘The Hosting of the Sidhe,’ from his collection inspired by Gaelic faery lore, The Celtic Twilight (1893).

The Hosting Of The Sidhe (by William Butler Yeats)

    This illustration by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1872) depicts the Wild Hunt let by Odin, and perfectly captures their menacing glory.

This illustration by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1872) depicts the Wild Hunt let by Odin, and perfectly captures their menacing glory.

The host is riding from Knocknarea
And over the grave of Clooth-na-Bare;
Caoilte tossing his burning hair,
And Niamh calling Away, come away:
Empty your heart of its mortal dream.

The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round,
Our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound,
Our breasts are heaving our eyes are agleam,
Our arms are waving our lips are apart;
And if any gaze on our rushing band,
We come between him and the deed of his hand,
We come between him and the hope of his heart.
The host is rushing ‘twixt night and day,
And where is there hope or deed as fair?
Caoilte tossing his burning hair,
And Niamh calling Away, come away.

Hmmm, a bit of a hard act to follow.

Yes, but I really shouldn’t whinge. Reinventing the Wild Hunt for my own purposes was hard work, but a hell of a lot of fun. The main trouble was representing the Hunt as anything other than a monolithic mass, so I turned, as so often, to research.

I discovered a plethora of colourful characters, including Wild Edric, once a Lord of the Welsh Marches, and his fairy wife Godda, who apparently led the Hunt to terrorize the people of Shropshire before the British campaign in Crimea in the 1850s, and prior the First and Second World Wars. It’s always good for a character to have challengers snapping at their heels, so I made my Herne work hard to keep control of his hunters.

The Wild Hunt, then, has haunted imaginations for centuries, and afterKB_BoundForest_coversmall a little exploration, they certainly took root in mine. When the wind moans and rattles through the trees of the New Forest, it’s hard not to prick up one’s ears, listen for the bay of the hunting hounds and the pounding of the hooves, and shiver at the prospect.

Could it be time for England to fall again?

Well, I bloody well hope not. But I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a fleeting glimpse of Herne and his fairy band…

Fancy a taste of some ancient forest lore, intertwined with sex, magic, bondage, and blood? You can find out more about Bound to the Beast and my first Greenwood novel Bound for the Forest at my website.
Scroll on for an excerpt (featuring the Wild Hunt and –WARNING–some mind fantasy gore) from Bound to the Beast.

If you go down to the woods today…

Standard

October is the month of all things dark and haunted, and for me, there could be only one blog topic. The forest realm. Fantasy literature has long worshipped the forest, from Tolkien’s Mirkwood through to Kenneth Graham’s Wild Wood. Images of woodlands are many and contrasting, as different as slow moving Ents are from Whomping Willows. And like vampires and werewolves and all things ghoulish, stories of the forest realm have a long and fascinating history.

The earliest written accounts of forests construct them as dark,

A water naiad emerges from a woodland brook for some sexy fun with Hylas (J.W.Waterhouse, 1893).

fearful, and often intensely erotic places—much like the ways in which modern western imperialists have described the orient. Following resistance to Roman empire-building in the forests of northern Europe, Tacitus wrote of bestial Germanic Wild Men gnawing the bones of defeated legions, while Julius Caesar and Strabo described the Druids of the British Isles burning sacrificial victims alive in wicker men, images that have resonated through the ages.  Rushing forward to medieval times, the scariest creatures of the forest were the fairies. A far cry from the sparkly wing-wearing, pink-clad kiddies of today, the fair folk embodied the spirits of the dead, feared as child snatchers, shifters, seducers, and even murderers and rapists.

Anne Cain’s interpretation of Herne the Hunter for the cover of my book, Bound to the Beast.

Fortunately, forest lore provides us with plenty of brooding heroes too, from Robin Hood to the wonderfully tortured Herne the Hunter, a glowering, alpha male bearing the antlers of a stag and whose dark origins lie in the horned gods of Norse and Anglo-Saxon myth. To my glee, my extensive research into forest lore has also uncovered a plethora of historical bondage. The cliché of being blindfolded, bound, and taken to the hidden camp in the heart of the forest can be traced back at least as far as Roman accounts of the tribes of Germania.

The “otherness” of the forest, it’s exclusion from so-called “civilized” societies, has also resulted in one of its most wonderful manifestations: as a place of sexual liberty. The Greenwood has long been the realm to which lovers escaped to break away from the shackles of social and sexual norms – think Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On more modern note, in E.M.Forster’s novel Maurice (originally written in 1913-14, but not published till 1971) the homosexual hero evokes the romantic image of “Sherwood.” The idealized English Greenwood of the past is the imaginative space in which Maurice and his male lover can exist unfettered, in stark contrast to the homophobic reality in which he struggles to fit in.

The Reconcliation of Titania and Oberon–amid much orgiastic fun! (J.N.Paton, 1847)

So, sod being creepy—here’s to the forests of the world! Let’s hope you survive to keep haunting, inspiring, and liberating us, for the next several thousand years.

*****

Kay Berrisford is the author of the two Greenwood m/m fantasy novels, Bound for the Forest and Bound to the Beast (a tale of Herne the Hunter). A third Greenwood novel is in the works.  Her most recent publications are contemporary fantasies Catching Kit and the forthcoming Sex, Simon, and the Solstice Stone. You can find out more about her writing at kayberrisford.com

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Bound for the Forest by Kay Berrisford

Bound for the Forest

by Kay Berrisford

Giveaway ends November 01, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Interview with Jim C. Hines

Standard

Jim Hines’s Princess Series starts with The Stepsister Scheme, in which we follow the adventures of Danielle (aka. Cinderella) after her marriage to the prince of her dreams. After her new husband is kidnapped by one of her evil step-sisters, she teams up with Snow White and Talia (aka. Sleeping Beauty) to go and rescue him. (As I’m writing this, it occurs to me to wonder if using the name Danielle is an homage to the movie Ever After? I just did some looking around, and that’s the only place I’ve seen that name in association with that character.)

The princesses are darker, more complicated, and more kick-ass than the Disney versions. The fact that there are three of them lends an unfortunate air of Charlie’s Angels, but three is a very traditional fairytale number. The tone of the writing is light, and very YA, but due to some of the sexual commentary and situations I wouldn’t recommend the books for anyone under 14.

The character that I’d like to highlight, though, is Talia. She is a Princess with a past, and her fairy gifts, originally intended to make her more graceful and princess-y, have instead helped her to become something like a ninja. As a side note, she’s also a lesbian.

Talia’s story doesn’t become fully fleshed out until the third book in the series, Red Hood’s Revenge, where the three princesses have to travel back to her home country of Arathea. I’m not going to give too much away, except to say that Little Red Riding Hood isn’t exactly like her folktale counterpart either, and it seems like she’s out to kill Talia…

The latest book in the series is The Snow Queen’s Shadow, published in 2011 by DAW.

 

Mr. Hines was kind enough to answer some of my questions by email.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m an author (obviously). In addition to the princess series, I’ve written the Goblin Quest trilogy about a goblin underdog named Jig, and my latest book is Libriomancer, which comes out on August 7 and follows a magical librarian from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as he fights sparkling vampires and tries to keep his pet fire-spider from setting things alight. I’m 38 years old with two kids, I can do mediocre yo-yo tricks, and earlier this year I made a custom LEGO minifig of David Tennant as the 10th doctor.  I’m currently on the Hugo ballot for Best Fan Writer. I like Hot Fudge sundaes.

 

Do you have a day job as well?

I’m a state employee. I took this job back in 2001, because it was stable and fit well with my writing goals. It gives me a stable paycheck and benefits for me and my family, but doesn’t drain all of my brain and creativity.

 

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I started writing in 1995. Finished my first book in 1996. The first fantasy novel I sold was Goblin Quest, which I finished in early 2001. That book came out from DAW in November of 2006. Yeah, writing is not a fast-moving career…

 

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy, and it just made sense to me that I should write what I love. There are other genres that would probably pay better, but creating these stories and being a part of this genre makes me happy.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Mary Robinette Kowal gave me a magic marionette. Every morning, the marionette types a new story idea. The only problem is that once a year, it demands a sacrifice. It’s messy, and it upsets the cats. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep it satisfied so far by feeding it internet trolls.

 

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I work with multiple outlines. My brain just isn’t big enough to hold an entire book. I create an outline first, then start writing. After about 20,000 words or so, I discover all of the problems with my outline and make a new one. I usually go through three or four outlines before I get all the way through my first draft. It’s not fun, but it seems to be my process.

 

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’d love to! Libriomancer is my first foray into present-day fantasy. (Is it urban fantasy if much of it takes place in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?) Anyway, Isaac Vainio is a librarian with the ability to reach into books and create things from the stories within, anything from Excalibur to disruptors to thermal detonators. He’s bright, but a bit too impulsive. He’s part of a magical organization founded five hundred years ago by the first libriomancer: Johannes Gutenberg. But now Gutenberg has vanished, various species of vampire are starting to act up, and Isaac is caught in the middle of it.

I’m playing with various urban fantasy tropes with this one. For example, the traditional love triangle gets pretty bent up by the time I’m through with it. I also wanted the book to be fun, to show a bit of the joy and wonder of magic, and of books.

It’s my first hardcover with DAW, and I’m really excited about it. Preliminary reviews are good, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly and a very nice blurb from Pat Rothfuss. I’m really looking forward to the release, and to seeing what people think!

The first chapter is posted on my website at www.jimchines.com if anyone’s curious.

 

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

The goblin series draws a little on real life, oddly enough. While I never got stuck on muck duty or attacked by tunnel-cats, Jig’s experiences getting picked on by the bigger goblins echoes some of my own times during Junior High. (Which may be why I took such glee in killing off a few of those other goblins.)

Libriomancer draws a bit more on real life, since I set it in the real world. (More or less.) A lot of the locations are either real or based on real places, like the Michigan State University library and various bookstores. Isaac’s home town of Copper River is made up, but based in part on the towns we visit when we go up north for vacation every year.

 

What was your favorite chapter (or part) of Red Hood’s Revenge to write and why?

I think that would be the scenes with Roudette (Red Riding Hood) and Talia (Sleeping Beauty), whether they’re fighting or working together. They’re two very strong, very determined, very powerful women. They have so much in common, but ended up taking such different paths. I really enjoyed bouncing them off of each other and seeing what happened.

 

What project are you working on now?

Libriomancer II: The Sequel Without a Decent Title.

 

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Jig the goblin had a pet fire-spider named Smudge who was a delight. Bringing him back for the Libriomancer series has been a lot of fun. Isaac’s love interest, the dryad Lena, is another idea I’ve worked with a lot. There was a dryad character in the princess books, Captain Hephyra, who became a bit of a fan favorite. I just really like the idea of this woman who is openly accepting of her beauty and sexuality, but also has the strength and power of the trees. Lena is rather different than Hephyra, but in some ways she’s an evolution of an idea I’ve been playing with for about a decade now.

 

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Write. Read. Write. Listen to published authors, but don’t take their every word as gospel. Write. Take your time, and don’t expect to master this overnight. Also, you should write.

 

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you!