Mr Pond in Print

The astonishing Erzebet YellowBoy Carr just told me that the very first print issue of the new print version of Scheherezade’s Bequest (which I had to type several times before I spelled it right) is now available. It’s topic is the Loathly Lady, and if you love fairy tale retellings and fantasy, then you’ll live this project. It’s a great inaugural issue, and I’m happy to say I have an essay in, called ‘The Loathly Lady as Mystagogue’. Here’s a picture of the cover and my introduction to my article, for your enjoyment:


The story begins, the way many do, with a mother. The mother is arguing with her teenage daughter for not doing her share of the housework. It’s when a queen pulls up in a coach and asks what all the shouting is about that things start getting rather odd.

This story from the Brothers Grimm, ‘The Three Spinners’ (KHM 14), may not be the most obvious place to begin a discussion of the Loathly Lady motif (Thompson D732). The story seems to fall outside the pale of the usual classification; Thompson details D732 as ‘[m]an disenchants loathsome woman by embracing her’. The most immediately recognisable appearance of the Loathly Lady is of course in Chaucer, when the Wife of Bath tells her own idiosyncratic version of the tale. And it is easy enough to see what that version of the story has to say about sex and sexual attraction, and how it influences interaction between the genders. But the Loathly Lady, as a figure in folklore and fairy tale, should not be reduced simply to a metonym for gender relations. And there is, I think, an overlapping narrative function of the Loathly Ladies in both KHM 14 and D732; the question is less the disenchantment of the ‘loathsome woman’, and more the role she plays in the initiatory passage of the protagonist into maturity.

Aging, after all, and the fear of aging, is not simply a matter of changing sexual drive, no matter what Hollywood tells us. Aging turns one’s self into the other—first by the growing disparity between the image of one’s self held in the mind, and that seen in the mirror. But, secondly and more insidiously, by distancing the aged self of the present from the youthful self of the past. We forget too easily what we were like when we were young, or what it’s like to be a child. The challenge is, then, not to project our own misbegotten nostalgia on other children and young people, but to reconcile with, and understand, the other that is our self.

The Loathly Lady, then, stands in folk literature as a question and a warning. She represents the person we will all become eventually, the person we’ve seen our parents become, the person always present in every society, sometimes revered and sometimes despised. And she asks us not only how society treats the outcast and the aged, but how we treat ourselves.

advice from Mr Fun

First, a link of note: my colleague the incomparable Dr Richards has just posted a thoroughly challenging piece about writing and retelling fairy tales, at Unsettling Wonder. It’s called ‘Gilt, Alloy, Catalysis’; you can read it here, and if you have any interest in writing or fairy tales and fantasy, and how these things can be understood, then you probably should.

Second, if you like art and good-humour and animation, and especially if you like Disney lore, you’ll want to check out the works of Floyd Norman. He’s an animator, cartoonist, Disney historian and all around nice guy, it seems. Seriously, what could be more fun than Mr Fun’s Blog? It’s always a treat, whether he’s giving anecdotes about cartooning and the ‘Old Maestro’, or discussing depictions of race in Disney films, or—like today—dispensing startlingly pertinent writing advice.

Yeah, I know—writing advice on the internet? No one’s ever done that before. But it’s because there’s so much of it that’s so bad, it’s a treasure to find someone actually giving good advice. Since I guess this’ll  be of interest to you, here’s what Mr Fun had to say about writing today, taken from the link above. Pay particular attention to the closing line:

My story as an author began back in High School English Literature. Eager but intimidated, I looked forward to learning a little bit about writing in my junior year. However, my English instructors thought I was in over my head and thought a “lower level English class” was more my speed. I was hardly delighted with this decision but took it in stride. When it came to the task of writing I decided I would learn on my own. Since that time I’ve come to believe most writing classes are bunk. You learn to write by writing, and no class can ever make up for that. You simply have to do it each day. There are no shortcuts or magical inspiration that will make the words appear on the page. Like most difficult things in life you simply have
to do it.

Getting booted out of High School English Literature was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I never lost my love for books and like most students I read most of the classics. I continued to have only the greatest respect for writers and was lucky enough to meet a number of favorites during my career. Guys such
as Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Douglas Adams provided a fair share of encouragement. While I knew I would probably never do work on their level,
I continued to learn the craft just in case I would one day have to put words
on paper.

a thing of beauty etc.

If you love beautiful books, and you love e-books, and you love folklore and fantasy, then you want to know about this. Papaveria Press has just launched a new online shop, what could accurately be called an ebookstore. It’s the first and I suspect only time I’ve been moved to email a website designer to tell them their online shop was beautiful. Check it out for your aesthetic pleasure, but don’t be too surprised if you find a new e-book you can’t live without.

cfp: wise fools

All you devoted Paradoxes readers might be keen to learn that I just put out a new CFP over at Unsettling Wonder. The theme for the issue is ‘Wise Fools’.

Here’s it is for your perusal and general distribution:
CFP1-2 And here’s a tale of a wise fool, to explain more thoroughly than I could what this issue is about.

One night the Hodja looked into his well and saw there the reflection of the full moon.

“Oh no!” he exclaimed. “The moon has fallen from the sky and into my well!”

He ran into his house and returned with a hook attached to a rope. He then threw the hook into the water and commenced to pull it up again, but it became stuck on the side of the well. Frantically the Hodja tugged and pulled with all his might. The hook suddenly came loose, and the Hodja fell over backwards, landing flat on his back. Scarcely able to move, he looked up into the sky and saw the full moon above him.

“I may have injured myself in doing so,” he said with satisfaction, “but at least I got the moon back into the sky where it belongs.”

unsettling wonder

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and any mutated hamsters that happen to be reading:

As promised, Unsettling Wonder has come back.

Remember how I was doing a read-through of the Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmarchen? Well, the new iteration of Unsettling Wonder is almost completely not at all like that. Except that I got the idea while I was doing the Grimm read through. There were all these strange and funny little tales that no one ever talks about, all these weird little folktale variants.

So I wanted to make a place where the more offbeat, less exploited tales could be re-discovered. And, as other friends and editors came on board, including my long-time blogalectic sparring partner, Jenna St. Hilaire, I thought—making this could be a lot of fun.

The new Unsettling Wonder is a publishing imprint of Papaveria Press that includes both an online journal and various print publications. It lives at, and the website will have not only the journal, but regular posts from the editors and guest writers about folklore and fairy tales—including artist and author interviews, book reviews, and so on.

As the marvellous Katherine Langrish, UW’s folktale editor I’m happy to say, wrote at her blog:

Unsettling Wonder has only just been born, and in the way of fairytale parents we, its founders, are still looking it proudly, scratching our heads and wondering what it will make of life. Has it been born in a caul, or under a lucky star? Will its godmother be the Fairy of Good Fortune, or the sinister black-cowled figure of La Muerte?  Is it even a child, or just a bristly half-hedgehog? Anyway, do come to the christening!

And Unsettling Wonder is accepting submissions. Our first issue is themed on Wonder Voyages; you can find the formal call for papers here.

[Image by Laura Anderson]