When I was very small I read an unhealthy amount of myths and folktales in both bawdlerized and original format.
Luckily, I was very small and many of the less edited stories went thoroughly over my head.
There were a few stories, both edited and unedited, that stuck with me.
One thing that we mention when there is a new re-imagining of these stories is how tragic and grim most of the original tales were.
We never really discuss what that means though.
Life is cheap in the land of tales. Honor and dignity are granted by how far you climb, and underneath that, whose blood you carry. There are a few peasants who become king, but many more who fall for them to rise. Your original role and position in life will forever shape your future whether that is as a farmer, a woman, or a mule.
There are exceptions to this, like strange flowers on barren soil.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it was to these stories that I was drawn.
One of the few Grimm stories that I thought and re-thought was The Peasant’s Clever Daughter.
The peasant’s daughter has no magical bloodline or fantastical forest animals or physical power.
She wins, again and again, because of her wit, her courage, and her love.
When I sat down to write a story that took its cue from the best and worst of those tales of morals and rigid power, I thought of her.
Because is that not the most insidious, dangerous moral of all?
To grant that the greatest force in any world is the strength that can be mustered by a smart, fundamentally decent human being.
This is a week about inspirations, both obvious and otherwise.
For the heroine inspired by this story, you can read my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor. It is available here.