As fall pushes to winter here in Alaska, the days grow rapidly shorter. When I go to work in the mornings, it is already dark. When I come home it’s dark yet again. On the shortest day of the year in Anchorage, we’ll get a little over 5 hours of weak sun in the Anchorage bowl. In Prudhoe Bay, the sun sets around November 20th for the last time, and won’t rise again until late January.
This is the time of year that we hunker down and make plans for next summer. My husband and I spend lots of time sitting in front of the fire, drinking wine and reading.
Growing up I spent a lot of time reading. As mentioned in a previous blog post, I grew up in the Mojave Desert, so going outside during the worst part of the day was out of the question. We were trapped indoors during summer vacation. My family wasn’t very well off, so for entertainment (and to keep herself sane), my mother would take us to the public library to pick out books, because she didn’t want us sitting around watching T.V. all day. My mom mandated that we had to pick out at least 3 books. The maximum we could check out per the library rules was ten.
I spent a lot of time in my room growing up, reading and writing. For whatever reason, I really loved to read fairy tales, myths and legends. I can’t count how many times I checked out the Lang’s Fairy Books.
The Blue Fairy book was possibly my favorite. As I grew older, I moved on to darker more complex tales. As I wrote in my blog post about my obsession with Stephen King, I remember sneaking copies of Carrie and Christine under the Blue Fairy book, Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew so my mom wouldn’t catch me–but that’s a whole other blog.
I also loved to tell tales. My family would often go night fishing out at the California Aqueduct or the small artificial lake just outside of town (don’t ask what they caught out of LA’s drinking water supply, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction). After being ordered by our parents to “go away and play.” We would find a quiet spot out in the desert and tell “ghost stories.” I can proudly say that I was often requested to tell my stories over and over, sitting under the blanket of the summer night with a flashlight, telling made up tales of gore that were based on what I had read and learned. I was too young to understand that I was memorizing archetypes and story arch’s: good vs evil, hero vs villain, maiden vs crone, whore vs virgin. I learned all of that later as I read more and more.
This is why I am particularly excited about Kyanite Publishing’s upcoming winter Digest.
The promised offering is a collection of modern fairy tales and fables. I learned about it from an author I follow on Twitter, Hanson Oak, who is going to be featured in this publication. Side note: If you enjoy well written horror and noir tales, he’s definitely and author to follow:
So as I look forward to receiving my copy and reading it by my fire during the darkest part of the Alaska winter nights, I think back to what attracted my to fairy tales to begin with.
The question is, what is a fairy tale, and is it really different from a myth or legend? We know that certain archetypes, like the ones I mentioned, permeated our myths, legends, oral tales and cultures. They evolve with us over time, blending and molding as society changes.
A book I read a few years back illustrated this in what I felt was a very clean and clear-cut way. It utilized one of what most people consider to be the simplest of all of the “fairy tales”: Little Red Riding Hood.
“Today we approach fairy tales with a false sense of their simplicity. Unlike myth or legend which concern the sacred, the miraculous and the heroic, fairy tales are devoted to the mundane: the drama of domestic life, of children and courtship and coming of age. The are not “true”; indeed to tell a tale also means to lie. Thus they seem inconsequential. We believe we outgrow them. Nonetheless, fairy tales provide a unique window into our most central concerns, our sense of social and cultural identity, who we think we are (or should be)–and how we change.”
I know I will never outgrow the tales I read (and wrote). I can still see the storylines and ghosts in the stories that I write now. I can’t wait until my new book shows up in December. Will the authors turn old tales on their heads? Or will they re-tell an old story, archetype in a new and compelling way? Can’t wait to find out.