I’m excited to bring you a guest post by Shannon McDermott, one of the authors fromthe anthology Circuits and Slippers, which comes out September 29th! You also have the opportunity to win a copy of the anthology. Read to the bottom of this post for details.
Shannon McDermott is the author of The Valley of Decision, a fantasy novel, as well as the Sons of Tryas series. She lives in the Midwest and enjoys coffee, novels, and history. To learn more about her and her work, visit www.shannonmcdermott.com.
I first heard of Circuits & Slippers as a call to authors for submissions. This anthology, I read, would be of fairy tales recast into science fiction. Sci-fi fairy tales. Science fantasy. My two favorite genres, ingeniously blended. Yes, I had to answer the call.
The first step, before uncapping my pen for business, was to decide which fairy tale to rewrite. I quickly thought of “Beauty and the Beast,” because it is my favorite fairy tale. I quickly rejected it, for much the same reason. It is hard to rewrite a story that doesn’t need it.
I turned then to a story that does need it: “The Princess and the Pea.” This fairy tale has annoyed me from my childhood. What sort of person complains about one pea underneath twenty mattresses? And who would want to marry her anyway? How whiny was that princess, and how silly was that prince?
Before embarking on my literary mission to give the princess and the prince some amount of sense, I did a little research. It took only a few seconds to turn up Hans Christian Andersen’s story on Google, and only a few minutes more to realize that either I or my childhood picture-books had done Andersen a disservice.
In Andersen’s telling of “The Princess and the Pea,” I found whimsy and humor that I had never before noticed in the story. It’s in the style – and in the fate of the pea, which Andersen gives: “[It] was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.” I had been taking “The Princess and the Pea” too seriously all along.
But I was still on my mission. I dug deeper and discovered that Sweden has a similar fairy tale called “Princess Who Lay on Seven Peas.” I could not, unfortunately, find the text online, but several writers pointed to the fairy tale as an inspiration for Andersen. Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Andersen, published by the University of Washington Press, summed up the Swedish fairy tale:
The tale … is about a poor girl who, hoping to make her way in the world, takes the advice of her pet dog and poses as a princess. The suspicious queen subjects the girl to several tests, in the last of which she puts seven peas under as many mattresses for the girl to sleep on. The dog tells the girl about it so in the morning she can claim to have slept badly, as a true princess would. (pg. 248)
In other words, the poor girl puts one over on the queen. She is the miller’s daughter, without the miller, and her dog is her Rumpelstiltskin.
Intriguing as this version is, I hewed more closely to the traditional “Princess and the Pea.” Yet I hope that some of the pluck and cleverness of the poor girl made it into my princess.
It is almost the definition of a true fairy tale that it never has just one version. There is Grimms’ Cinderella and Perrault’s Cinderella and all the Cinderella stories that preceded and followed theirs. Fairy tales live a thousand lives in a thousand retellings. In Circuits & Slippers, we have added a small link to this long chain, beginning with the storyteller’s eternal What if …
A big “thank you” goes out to Shannon for writing this wonderful post for my blog. And now, on to the giveaway!
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Thank you, as always, for reading.