But as she continued and finished her tale, I could tell that her heart was elsewhere, and when she excused herself to go to bed, she left without saying good night. After that, the princesses in her stories were always beautiful. Always.
Fairy tales are about trouble, about getting into and out of it, and trouble seems to be a necessary stage on the route to becoming. All the magic and glass mountains and pearls the size of houses and princesses beautiful as the day and talking birds and part-time serpents are distractions from the core of most of the stories, the struggle to survive against adversaries, to find your place in the world, and to come into your own.Fairy tales are almost always the stories of the powerless, of youngest sons, abandoned children, orphans, of humans transformed into birds and beasts or otherwise enchanted away from their own lives and selves. Even princesses are chattels to be disowned by fathers, punished by step-mothers, or claimed by princes, though they often assert themselves in between and are rarely as passive as the cartoon versions. Fairy tales are children's stories not in wh they were made for but in their focus on the early stages of life, when others have power over you and you have power over no one.In them, power is rarely the right tool for survival anyway. Rather the powerless thrive on alliances, often in the form of reciprocated acts of kindness -- from beehives that were not raided, birds that were not killed but set free or fed, old women who were saluted with respect. Kindness sewn among the meek is harvested in crisis...In Hans Christian Andersen's retelling of the old Nordic tale that begins with a stepmother, "The Wild Swans," the banished sister can only disenchant her eleven brothers -- who are swans all day look but turn human at night -- by gathering stinging nettles barehanded from churchyard graves, making them into flax, spinning them and knitting eleven long-sleeved shirts while remaining silent the whole time. If she speaks, they'll remain birds forever. In her silence, she cannot protest the crimes she accused of and nearly burned as a witch.Hauled off to a pyre as she knits the last of the shirts, she is rescued by the swans, who fly in at the last moment. As they swoop down, she throws the nettle shirts over them so that they turn into men again, all but the youngest brother, whose shirt is missing a sleeve so that he's left with one arm and one wing, eternally a swan-man. Why shirts made of graveyard nettles by bleeding fingers and silence should disenchant men turned into birds by their step-mother is a question the story doesn't need to answer. It just needs to give us compelling images of exile, loneliness, affection, and metamorphosis -- and of a heroine who nearly dies of being unable to tell her own story.
She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, far out to the sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fraulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew nothing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that.
I will tell you, too, that every fairy tale has a moral. The moral of my story may be that love is a constraint, as strong as any belt. And this is certainly true, which makes it a good moral. Or it may be that we are all constrained in some way, either in our bodies, or in our hearts or minds, an Empress as well as the woman who does her laundry. ... Perhaps it is that a shoemaker's daughter can bear restraint less easily than an aristocrat, that what he can bear for three years she can endure only for three days. ... Or perhaps my moral is that our desire for freedom is stronger than love or pity. That is a wicked moral, or so the Church has taught us. But I do not know which moral is the correct one. And that is also the way of a fairy tale.
I've been very influenced by folklore, fairy tales, and folk ballads, so I love all the classic works based on these things -- like George Macdonald's 19th century fairy stories, the fairy poetry of W.B. Yeats, and Sylvia Townsend Warner's splendid book The Kingdoms of Elfin. (I think that particular book of hers wasn't published until the 1970s, not long before her death, but she was an English writer popular in the middle decades of the 20th century.)I'm also a big Pre-Raphaelite fan, so I love William Morris' early fantasy novels.Oh, and "Lud-in-the-Mist" by Hope Mirrlees (Neil Gaiman is a big fan of that one too), and I could go on and on but I won't!
When Eleanor was a little girl, she'd thought her mom looked like a queen, like the star of some fairy tale.Not a princess - princesses are just pretty. Eleanor's mother was beautiful. She was tall and stately, with broad shoulders and an elegant waist. All of her bones seemed more purposeful than other people's. Like they weren't just there to hold her up, they were there to make a point.
Her stomach lurches. She fancies him sooo much - she is powerless to resist. How can she possibly? She knows it's wrong: he has a girlfriend - he lives with her, for goodness' sake - and what they're doing is unfair, cruel. She is not sure what he's said to his girlfriend to wangle a night away and she doesn't want to know. She would hate it if it was done to her - she has never seen herself as the kind of girl who would steal another woman's man. She and Anna have always been most disapproving about women who do that, arguing through college and beyond that there are plenty of available men out there, that it is quite unnecessary to go for those already spoken for. But she has liked Simon since day one, and he is the one who initiated this whole thing. He is the one who blew her away with a clandestine kiss just a week ago, who asked if he could come back and stay at hers afterwards; he is the one who doubtless made unconvincing excuses when he returned home the next day. And it only took that single night to open this Pandora's box of mutual passion, being together was far, far better than it should have been, were it only a one-night stand. Karen senses that he really likes her.
I,uh..." Her face was so hot she thought it would melt onto the floor. Oh you idiot. "My monthly cycles finally came back!"His face suddenly matched hers and he stepped away, dragging his hand through his short hair. "I-if...Then I'll take my leave," he stammered, and bowed. Celaena raised an eyebrow, and then, despite herself, smiled as he left the room as quick as his feet could go without running, tripping slightly in the doorway as he staggered into the rooms beyond.
Cinderella was such a dork. She left behind her glass slipper at the ball and then went right back to her step-monster's house. It seems to me she should have worn the glass slipper always, to make herself easier to find. I always hoped that after the prince found Cinderella and they rode away in their magnificent carriage, after a few miles she turned to him and said, "Could you drop me off down the road please? Now that I've finally escaped my life of horrific abuse, I'd like to see something of the world, you know?... I'll catch back up with you later, Prince, once I've found my own way.
From her handbag she takes a round gilt compact with violets on the cover. She opens it, unclosing her other self, and runs her fingertip around the corners of her mouth, left one, right one; then she unswivels a pink stick and dots her cheeks and blends them, changing her shape, performing the only magic left to her.Rump on a packsack, harem cushion, pink on the cheeks and black discreetly around the eyes, as red as blood as black as ebony, a seamed and folded imitation of a magazine picture that is itself an imitation of a woman who is also an imitation, the original nowhere, hairless lobed angel in the same heaven where God is a circle, captive princess in someone's head. She is locked in, she isn't allowed to eat or shit or cry or give birth, nothing goes in, nothing comes out. She takes her clothes off or puts them on, paper doll wardrobe, she copulates under strobe lights with the man's torso while his brain watches from its glassed-in control cubicle at the other end of the room, her face twists into poses of exultation and total abandonment, that is all. She is not bored, she has no other interests.
Mum was pregnant, then there was Sharron. [...]I wanted to keep him away from her - but for the wrong reasons. In my head he was mine, he was my special person but, of course, as I was getting older, his interest in me was waning anyway. I don't know whether it was because he had lost interest in me, or because the abuse elsewhere was so horrific, particularly without him in my life to make things seem better but, whatever the reason, I soon moved from wanted him to leave Sharron alone for my sake, to wanting him to leave her alone for the right reasons. She was tiny, just a toddler, and the thought of him touching her or abusing her horrified me. I started trying to attract his attention whenever he looked at her. I'd dance, I'd sing, I'd sit on his lap. I'd do a hundred things that were completely out of character - anything, anything to avoid seeing that look in his eye when he glanced at the baby.I knew that he was planing to do to her what he had done to me. I tried to get in the way, I tried to get him to play with me, but once Sharron was about three, the penny finally dropped. I had always thought he wasn't in the same category as the others; they weren't nice, and he always was. But as she began to replace me, it made me face up to things. What Uncle Andrew did wasn't right. [...]Even though I loved my uncle, and craved his attention, the thought of him coming into my bed was starting to repulse me. sharron slept in my bed, too, by then, and I wanted that to continue because I wanted to protect her.Of course, there were plenty of times when I wasn't there. I was still being taken away to be abused. I was at school; Sharon was often left unprotected. Something must have been happening because she started wetting the bed almost every night. This was a sign that even I couldn't turn away from. Sharon was being abused. I was sure of it. But I wouldn't stand for it, not for much longer.p209-2010
She was dressed in white, and her tunic had amazing flared sleeves which trailed on the ground behind her as she glided down the stairs. Her hair was a mass of dark curls tumbling around her face, and she had dark, dark eyes. Jack realized that this was what the chansons meant when they referred to a beautiful princess in a castle. No wonder the knights all wept when the princess died.
She observed the dumb-show by which her neighbour was expressing her passion for music, but she refrained from copying it. This was not to say that, for once that she had consented to spend a few minutes in Mme. de Saint-Euverte's house, the Princesse des Laumes would not have wished (so that the act of politeness to her hostess which she had performed by coming might, so to speak, 'count double') to shew herself as friendly and obliging as possible. But she had a natural horror of what she called 'exaggerating,' and always made a point of letting people see that she 'simply must not' indulge in any display of emotion that was not in keeping with the tone of the circle in which she moved, although such displays never failed to make an impression upon her, by virtue of that spirit of imitation, akin to timidity, which is developed in the most self-confident persons, by contact with an unfamiliar environment, even though it be inferior to their own. She began to ask herself whether these gesticulations might not, perhaps, be a necessary concomitant of the piece of music that was being played, a piece which, it might be, was in a different category from all the music that she had ever heard before; and whether to abstain from them was not a sign of her own inability to understand the music, and of discourtesy towards the lady of the house; with the result that, in order to express by a compromise both of her contradictory inclinations in turn, at one moment she would merely straighten her shoulder-straps or feel in her golden hair for the little balls of coral or of pink enamel, frosted with tiny diamonds, which formed its simple but effective ornament, studying, with a cold interest, her impassioned neighbour, while at another she would beat time for a few bars with her fan, but, so as not to forfeit her independence, she would beat a different time from the pianist's.
We're a couple of travelers!" I called up to her. "I'm Briony, and this is Ella!""Grammy said I ought not to talk to strangers!" she called back."We're not strangers!" Ella shouted. "We're with the union!"I cut her a look and mouthed, Union?, which was silly with this other girl out of earshot. Ella shrugged.There was a pause before the girl called somewhat timidly given we were shouting, "What union?""We represent the Coalition of Self-Rescuing Princesses," Ella replied."But I'm not a princess!""That's fine!" I called, sighing as I prepared to lay on the charm with this ridiculous foible. "We of the Coalition of Self-Rescuing Princesses do not discriminate based on social caste, for we believe that every damsel in distress has the heart of a princess!""Are you feeling subjugated?" Ella continued. "Yearning to be free, wondering when your prince will come and what's taking him so damn long?
That day and night, the bleeding and the screaming, had knocked something askew for Esme, like a picture swinging crooked on a wall. She loved the life she lived with her mother. It was beautiful. It was, she sometimes thought, a sweet emulation of the fairy tales they cherished in their lovely, gold-edged books. They sewed their own clothes from bolts of velvet and silk, ate all their meals as picnics, indoors or out, and danced on the rooftop, cutting passageways through the fog with their bodies. They embroidered tapestries of their own design, wove endless melodies on their violins, charted the course of the moon each month, and went to the theater and the ballet as often as they liked--every night last week to see Swan Lake again and again. Esme herself could dance like a faerie, climb trees like a squirrel, and sit so still in the park that birds would come to perch on her. Her mother had taught her all that, and for years it had been enough. But she wasn't a little girl anymore, and she had begun to catch hints and glints of another world outside her pretty little life, one filled with spice and poetry and strangers.
Her eyes, always sad, now looked into the mirror with particular hopelessness. "She's flattering me," thought the princess, and she turned away and went on reading. Julie, however, was not flattering her friend: indeed, the princess's eyes, large, deep, and luminous (sometimes it was as if rays of light came from them in sheaves), were so beautiful that very often, despite the unattractiveness of the whole face, those eyes were more attractive than beauty. But the princess had never seen the good expression of thise eyes, the expression they had in moments when she was not thinking of herself. As with all people, the moment she looked in the mirror, her face assumed a strained, unnatural, bad expression.
Did I ever tell you the difference between a Northern fairy tale and a Southern one?" she asked him, indulging herself and letting her head rest on his shoulder. God, he felt good. Her man. Where her head was meant to lie, right there, on him. "What's the difference?""A Northern one starts 'once upon a time,' while a Southern one starts 'y'all ain't going to believe this shit.
A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another....One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object -- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.
Toy is talking and this is why I love her. She can go on about herself ceaselessly and like the scratching of a branch against the window at night, the steady insistence of it is comforting. She has stories without beginnings, stories that trail off, stories that crisscross and contradict and dead end.Toy is the star of her stories. Events orbit her like a constellation.
in your face I seem to read some trouble of mind. When you came in I read it, and that was why I addressed you at once. For in unfolding to you the story of my life, I do not wish to make myself a laughing-stock before these idle listeners, who indeed know all about it already, but I am looking for a man of feeling and education. Know then that my wife was educated in a high-class school for the daughters of noblemen, and on leaving, she danced the shawl dance before the governor and other personages for which she was presented with a gold medal and a certificate of merit. The medal … well, the medal of course was sold—long ago, hm … but the certificate of merit is in her trunk still and not long ago she showed it to our landlady. And although she is most continually on bad terms with the landlady, yet she wanted to tell some one or other of her past honours and of the happy days that are gone. I don’t condemn her for it. I don’t blame her, for the one thing left her is recollection of the past, and all the rest is dust and ashes. Yes, yes, she is a lady of spirit, proud and determined. She scrubs the floors herself and has nothing but black bread to eat, but won’t allow herself to be treated with disrespect. That’s why she would not overlook Mr. Lebeziatnikov’s rudeness to her, and so when he gave her a beating for it, she took to her bed more from the hurt to her feelings than from the blows. She was a widow when I married her, with three children, one smaller than the other. She married her first husband, an infantry officer, for love, and ran away with him from her father’s house. She was exceedingly fond of her husband; but he gave way to cards, got into trouble and with that he died. He used to beat her at the end: and although she paid him back, of which I have authentic documentary evidence, to this day she speaks of him with tears and she throws him up at me; and I am glad, I am glad that, though only in imagination, she should think of herself as having once been happy.… And she was left at his death with three children in a wild and remote district where I happened to be at the time; and she was left in such hopeless poverty that, although I have seen many ups and downs of all sorts, I don’t feel equal to describing it even. Her relations had all thrown her off. And she was proud, too, excessively proud.… And then, honoured sir, and then, I, being at the time a widower, with a daughter of fourteen left me by my first wife, offered her my hand, for I could not bear the sight of such suffering. You can judge the extremity of her calamities, that she, a woman of education and culture and distinguished family, should have consented to be my wife. But she did! Weeping and sobbing and wringing her hands, she married me! For she had nowhere to turn! Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn? No, that you don’t understand yet…
She saw it in her mind's eye like a movie playing, the haunting memories from her childhood she couldn't seem to shake blending together into one raw, aching image. Her mother lying in a darkened room for days, her face swollen with tears. The inevitable ashtray overrun with ashes, the acrid scent of pot smoke in the air. The bed or couch or futon may have been different from year to year as Evie moved them around from apartment to commune to funky cottage, but her mother was always the same. Falling hard for some man, immersing herself in romantic fantasies that were crushed when the guy left. And the guy always left. Her mother's inability to get a grasp on reality had too often left Mischa to care for her younger sister, to care for her mother, from too young an age. She remembered shaking Evie awake, trying to get her to eat. To get up and take a shower, take her and Raine to school. No kid should have to do that. No kid should have to witness the way Evie had allowed herself to be ravaged by love. No woman should allow that to happen.
Fairy tales, fantasy, legend and myth...these stories, and their topics, and the symbolism and interpretation of those topics...these things have always held an inexplicable fascination for me," she writes. "That fascination is at least in part an integral part of my character — I was always the kind of child who was convinced that elves lived in the parks, that trees were animate, and that holes in floorboards housed fairies rather than rodents.You need to know that my parents, unlike those typically found in fairy tales — the wicked stepmothers, the fathers who sold off their own flesh and blood if the need arose — had only the best intentions for their only child. They wanted me to be well educated, well cared for, safe — so rather than entrusting me to the public school system, which has engendered so many ugly urban legends, they sent me to a private school, where, automatically, I was outcast for being a latecomer, for being poor, for being unusual. However, as every cloud does have a silver lining — and every miserable private institution an excellent library — there was some solace to be found, between the carved oak cases, surrounded by the well–lined shelves, among the pages of the heavy antique tomes, within the realms of fantasy.Libraries and bookshops, and indulgent parents, and myriad books housed in a plethora of nooks to hide in when I should have been attending math classes...or cleaning my room...or doing homework...provided me with an alternative to a reality I didn't much like. Ten years ago, you could have seen a number of things in the literary field that just don't seem to exist anymore: valuable antique volumes routinely available on library shelves; privately run bookshops, rather than faceless chains; and one particular little girl who haunted both the latter two institutions. In either, you could have seen some variation upon a scene played out so often that it almost became an archetype:A little girl, contorted, with her legs twisted beneath her, shoulders hunched to bring her long nose closer to the pages that she peruses. Her eyes are glued to the pages, rapt with interest. Within them, she finds the kingdoms of Myth. Their borders stand unguarded, and any who would venture past them are free to stay and occupy themselves as they would.
Come, Paul!" she reiterated, her eye grazing me with its hard ray like a steel stylet. She pushed against her kinsman. I thought he receded; I thought he would go. Pierced deeper than I could endure, made now to feel what defied suppression, I cried -"My heart will break!"What I felt seemed literal heart-break; but the seal of another fountain yielded under the strain: one breath from M. Paul, the whisper, "Trust me!" lifted a load, opened an outlet. With many a deep sob, with thrilling, with icy shiver, with strong trembling, and yet with relief - I wept."Leave her to me; it is a crisis: I will give her a cordial, and it will pass," said the calm Madame Beck.To be left to her and her cordial seemed to me something like being left to the poisoner and her bowl. When M. Paul answered deeply, harshly, and briefly - "Laissez-moi!" in the grim sound I felt a music strange, strong, but life-giving."Laissez-moi!" he repeated, his nostrils opening, and his facial muscles all quivering as he spoke."But this will never do," said Madame, with sternness. More sternly rejoined her kinsman -"Sortez d'ici!""I will send for Père Silas: on the spot I will send for him," she threatened pertinaciously."Femme!" cried the Professor, not now in his deep tones, but in his highest and most excited key, "Femme! sortez à l'instant!"He was roused, and I loved him in his wrath with a passion beyond what I had yet felt."What you do is wrong," pursued Madame; "it is an act characteristic of men of your unreliable, imaginative temperament; a step impulsive, injudicious, inconsistent - a proceeding vexatious, and not estimable in the view of persons of steadier and more resolute character.""You know not what I have of steady and resolute in me," said he, "but you shall see; the event shall teach you. Modeste," he continued less fiercely, "be gentle, be pitying, be a woman; look at this poor face, and relent. You know I am your friend, and the friend of your friends; in spite of your taunts, you well and deeply know I may be trusted. Of sacrificing myself I made no difficulty but my heart is pained by what I see; it must have and give solace. Leave me!"This time, in the "leave me" there was an intonation so bitter and so imperative, I wondered that even Madame Beck herself could for one moment delay obedience; but she stood firm; she gazed upon him dauntless; she met his eye, forbidding and fixed as stone. She was opening her lips to retort; I saw over all M. Paul's face a quick rising light and fire; I can hardly tell how he managed the movement; it did not seem violent; it kept the form of courtesy; he gave his hand; it scarce touched her I thought; she ran, she whirled from the room; she was gone, and the door shut, in one second.The flash of passion was all over very soon. He smiled as he told me to wipe my eyes; he waited quietly till I was calm, dropping from time to time a stilling, solacing word. Ere long I sat beside him once more myself - re-assured, not desperate, nor yet desolate; not friendless, not hopeless, not sick of life, and seeking death."It made you very sad then to lose your friend?" said he."It kills me to be forgotten, Monsieur," I said.
Roger left the cricket stumps and they went into the drawing room. Grandpapa, at the first suggestion of reading aloud, had disappeared, taking Patch with him. Grandmama had cleared away the tea. She found her spectacles and the book. It was Black Beauty. Grandmama kept no modern children's books, and this made common ground for the three of them. She read the terrible chapter where the stable lad lets Beauty get overheated and gives him a cold drink and does not put on his blanket. The story was suited to the day. Even Roger listened entranced. And Deborah, watching her grandmother's calm face and hearing her careful voice reading the sentences, thought how strange it was that Grandmama could turn herself into Beauty with such ease. She was a horse, suffering there with pneumonia in the stable, being saved by the wise coachman.After the reading, cricket was anticlimax, but Deborah must keep her bargain. She kept thinking of Black Beauty writing the book. It showed how good the story was, Grandmama said, because no child had ever yet questioned the practical side of it, or posed the picture of a horse with a pen in its hoof."A modern horse would have a typewriter," thought Deborah, and she began to bowl to Roger, smiling to herself as she did so because of the twentieth-century Beauty clacking with both hoofs at a machine. ("The Pool")