Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Elephant Girl. I’m sharing a guest post by the author with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the blog tour and to Henriette Gyland for writing her guest post!
I think I saw you …
It’s been twenty years, and Helen Stephens has come home to stay. And to get revenge on the person who murdered her mother. If only she knew who it was … But nothing is ever black or white, and when she rents a room in a house full of ex-offenders, the events of that fateful day blur even further, leading her to question her resolve and her memory.
Jason Moody, who runs the half-way house, has his own shame. When he uncovers her intent, he begins to suspect that someone close to him could be involved …
A coincidence? Or is there something else going on?
Henriette Gyland writes about the process of retelling a fairy tale.
RETELLING A FAIRY TALE
I love fairy tales and I always have. As a child and adolescent I’d scour the library for all those classical stories, and would particularly hone in on anything from Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm to Arabian Nights. I soon discovered the “magical formula” in these stories.
The numbers seven and three had a specific significance, as in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and the Billy Goats Gruff. And it was often the last of the three in a row, be it goats, fine ladies or unsuitable suitors, who were rewarded with the prince/princess and half the kingdom.
Many of these books were often beautifully illustrated – I remember my uncle and aunt had a particularly pretty series of books with the Danish translation of Arabian Nights, and which were illustrated by a well-known Danish artist called Bjørn Wiinblad. They would lend me these books one by one, thus holding me in suspense just like Scheherazade (the clever daughter of the grand vizier) held her husband, the sultan, in thrall night after night to prevent him from having her decapitated the next day as he had done with his previous wives.
When she had told him these stories to keep him interested over the course of 1001 nights and given him three children in the process, he spared her and they lived happily ever after(!) But pick that apart, and you have a story of an abused wife living in terror of her husband for almost three years, never knowing if the next day would be her last…
And then there are the stories by the Brothers Grimm, in which the bad people always get their comeuppance, often in the form of a flogging, having salt rubbed in their wounds and afterwards being thrown in the snake pit. Pretty grim if you ask me (no pun intended!)
Hans Christian Andersen wasn’t much better, although with his sad and poignant tales he was less brutal in his storytelling. Still, imagine the poor little mermaid who had to give up her tongue in exchange for a pair of legs so she could walk on land, although in agony because each step was like treading on a knife. She saves a handsome prince from drowning, and because she can’t tell him it was her who saved him (no tongue, remember), he marries another woman whom he thinks saved him, and our mermaid turns into the foam on the waves for failing to secure his affection. What did she do to deserve that?
One could seriously question whether such stories are suitable for children! Yet when they were written, they served as a guiding principle, a benchmark for morality perhaps – if you were bad, you were punished, if you failed, you lost everything, and if you were good (= behaved yourself), all good things would come to you.
Literature for children has obviously moved on, for which I’m glad, and children also question the fairness in these tales.
‘Why was he thrown in the snake pit? He only cheated a little bit. He wasn’t that bad.’
When I was writing The Elephant Girl, the idea came to me that I would do a sort of “loose” retelling of Cinderella, except in my version Cinders in dead, and it’s her daughter who is the main character.
The question I asked my self then was, how bad were the stepmother and the ugly stepsisters really? Sure, they treated the fatherless Cinderella as a servant and ripped her pretty clothes to shreds when she wanted to attend the prince’s ball as an equal, but did their punishment match their crime?
In the original Grimm version (not the Disney one…) the stepsisters resort to some very extreme measures in their attempt to fit the glass slipper – one cuts of a toe, the other chops off her heel. Nasty.
And for what? To marry a prince who has decreed he will wed the one who fits the mould – a somewhat dangerous message to send to young men and women. I think the prince is a douche, and that the stepsisters despite their injuries had a lucky escape!
My “Cinderella” in The Elephant Girl, doesn’t fit the prince’s mould, or any mould for that matter, and is instead a young woman taking charge of her life after a horrifying and emotionally scarring experience. I hope the readers will enjoy my version of an old tale 🙂
The Elephant Girl is available from Amazon.
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